Two Bees Wine

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Wine Country window shopping

Living in Santa Rosa, one can’t help but notice ads, posters, flyers, and newspaper blurbs trumpeting imminent wine tasting weekends. They tend to draw the city and Marin folk looking for a getaway or Bay Area backroad. They range from the still-complimentary barrel tasting weekend in spring, to elaborate soirees with fine chef buffets, silent auctions, and a pricetag to weed in the proper attendees.

The wineries, of course, hope to lure potential buyers with samples. We locals know better than to fall for that trick – delay gratification and shop at the Bottle Barn. Stick to window shopping.

Locals who pay attention also know which events to pick and choose – weighing cost by such factors as number of participating wineries, munchies possibilities, and likely crowd sizes. My neighbors invite me along for the Wine and Food Affair, a post-harvest celebration where wineries pair a dish with a spotlighted wine. Participants take home a cookbook of the feasts. It’s not a bad deal for the Sunday-only pass, at $35.

Here’s a run-down of the day’s noble attempt to hit the 64 possible winery choices. I'd planned to go easy on trials until my friend volunteers to chauffeur; so, I surrender to impulse:

Harvest Moon

At 5 minutes to the 11AM kick-off, I collect my cookbook and glass at Stop #1. Chicken curry spooned onto leaves of endive plus just-thieved viognier jostle my palette. Not yet released, the wine is poured from an unlabeled bottle, shaken and frothy. I blame the early hour for not tasting the zins right – they seem acidic and too thin.


We cross over to this hefty salmon-hued facility and find Sunday brunch: banquet trays of zucchini frittata carved into checkerboards, platters of paper thin soppressata, and my beloved cheese of the moment, Fiscalini. I try a wine or 2, but it still feels too early to appreciate them.

Iron Horse

Tablecloths peeking from a side barn signal that we arm-banded tasters can bypass the standard tasting outpost for a more exclusive venue. A chef doles ice cream scoops of raw ahi onto sesame chips, while a bright-eyed woman with poetic vocabulary explains the chardonnay.

Marimar Estate

Past Graton, up a windy driveway, stands a Spanish-style villa overlooking vineyards – a new find for me. A stately woman, the winemaker, greets newcomers with efficient politician smiles. I prefer the welcome by her spotted dog Chica, who follows after me and my plate of sausage and fava bean stew (a stand-in for the listed paella). She has ties to the prince of Spain, as evidenced by photo-ops at her family winery overseas, blown up onto posters near the tasting bar. A young man pouring wine inquires about the symbolism of my golden Avon bee pin, but my Two Bees story gets cut short by the baroness, who tugs him toward more promising guests. We pass a tipped over metal cow sculpture on the way down the hill and wonder – Halloween prank or intentional?

Taft Street

My friends snap up their only memento for the day – an entire case of Peka pinot, a soon to be extinct label for their higher tier wines. Pressured at the thought of missing out on something big, I buy 2 bottles at their 30% off trade discount.


I’m intrigued to taste at this mega millions winery not open to the masses without
appointment (I was once turned away politely when I showed up uninvited, spoiling a private tasting in progress). It sits on the footprint of a pumpkin patch; a few years ago, I raked their field and stuffed my Jeep with Halloween Eve orphans – their donation to handicapped kids for painting and adornment. Now, I sit in their alfresco living room sipping pinot and overlooking ordered clumps of grasses, vegetable beds with mammoth specimens, and vineyards. A sign announces weekend pumpkin patch hours, but a tasting room attendant says it’s there “for nostalgia sake”.

Dutton Estate

I don’t recall the wine now, though I know my friends and I sipped some at a picnic table on their deck, speaking intimately about the pros and cons of having and not having children.


Last stop. None of us like the wine we try particularly. The soup they ladle seems a cop-out. The staff shows disinterest in us latecomers. We hang out on their patio for a bit, then fold, with 10 minutes to spare before the event weekend’s official conclusion.


  • I enjoy Marimar Estate's wine but have yet to visit. It sounds like an impressive property and I will stop by the next time I'm in the Green Valley AVA. Thanks posting about all of these wineries; I read with a great deal interest.

    By Blogger Ben Bicais, at 10:40 AM  

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