What a fun day that was. I love America, and it irritates me the bad rap Americans seem to have in New Zealand. Kiwis tend to think all Americans are like George Bush, but over here, they’re so friendly and they sure know how to have fun. I haven’t laughed so much in years. On Friday afternoon we climbed on buses and visited two splended wineries in the Carneros region.The first, Artesa, was breathtakingly beautiful, as you can see from these shots:
They have their own resident artist, Gordon Heuther, who created six sculptures around the pond and stairs leading up to the winery. We had a great time tasting six wines, matched with six cheeses. Americans seem to like ‘hot’ Pinot Noirs, high on tannins, a little different to ours I think. I loved, adored the first wine we tasted, a Spanish varietal I’d never had before called Albarino. This was 2007 Limited Release Carneros Estate, described as “layers of seductive aroma such as lily, honeysuckle, apricot, and lime as well as a hint of orange zest and tarrogon in the nose”. If I lived in the States I would have bought a case. It was perfectly matched with Prima Donna Young cow’s milk Dutch cheese.
Then we moved on to Domaine Carneros, a winery which specialises in methode, founded by Champagne Taittinger. Spectacularly sited on a rise and modelled on the French Chateau, this was one impressive operation. The seemingly endless rows of stainless steel vats – 5150 USgallon capacity each – put our little 2000 litre vat to shame. The guide (I think his name was Jean-Claude, I can’t find it on the website and after so many wines tasted I apologise for forgetting) was really informative and in no way condescending. I think even someone who thinks they know all there is about winemaking would have found this interesting. The photos didn’t come out so well because of the light – the first is Jean-Claude in the room with the champagne riddler where the bottles, still with their ‘coke-caps’ are turned just a quarter so the yeast doesn’t settle against the side of the bottle. Scratching his head, because the process is so complicated, is the QC.
The second photo is the cellar with long rows of huge stainless steel vats.
Then a bus full of snoring people headed back to the Four Seasons Hotel in San Francisco. That night we caught a streetcar down to the Ferry Building where, surprisingly, most restaurants’ kitchens were closed by 9pm but we went into One Market and had lovely dinner – Alaskan Halibut – and, according to the waiter, “the best Chardonnay in California”, 2006 Kistler Chardonnay.