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Girls Getaway to Sonoma, and My Introduction to V.M.L.

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GGD and I went on a girls getaway to Sonoma this past weekend, and we were fortunate enough to have somewhere to stay for free. My manager generously offered his cottage in Kenwood to me, and I graciously took him up on it. So we drove up to Napa on Saturday morning to check out Oxbow Public Market and pick up some stuff for dinner. We then decided to take Silverado Trail all the way up to Calistoga and visit Summers for a picnic tasting in the beautiful, sunny weather. I had tried their Charbono before and liked it, but had never been to the tasting room so I was excited to taste the rest of their collection. GGD and I particularly liked their Checkmate 2007 Bordeaux, and considered buying it, but decided to save our money for the next day when we would be in Healdsburg, my favorite area of Sonoma.

After a relaxing evening of watching rom-coms, cooking dinner, planning our trip to Italy this summer, and soaking in the hot tub while listening to the sound of the creek flowing behind the house, we hit the hay so we could get an early start on Sunday. It was GGD’s first time in Healdsburg so I was very excited to show her some of my favorite wineries, such as Iron Horse and Porter Creek. But she also requested that we visit two places I had not been to: Portalupi and V.M.L. I tasted the delicious wines of Portalupi in November at Vintners Market in San Francisco, but I did not realize they had a tasting room in downtown Healdsburg.

Palm trees with grapes at Iron Horse

Palm trees with grapes at Iron Horse

After picking up some lunch to go at Oakville Grocery, GGD and I walked over to Portalupi and waited about five minutes for them to open their doors at 11am. Once open, we were greeted by the winemaker, Tim Portalupi and his wife. We decided to share one tasting so that we could ease ourselves into the day. He gave us generous pours of their white blend, two different Gold Medal Pinot Noirs from Russian River Valley, their Barbera, (which I previously purchased at Vintners Market), Zinfandel, “Vaso di Marina” (red blend), and their Port. We loved all of the reds, particularly the second Pinot Noir and Port. We also thought the Vaso di Marina – named after the wife’s Grandmother – was very smooth and approachable, and the larger size makes it perfect for big groups or parties. Tim also gave us some great advice on regions to go in Italy, as his whole family is from Italy and he has been making Italian-style wine his entire life. We were both very pleased that we took the time to stop at Portalupi, and we each walked away with a bottle of our favorite Pinot.

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The next stop that GGD suggested was V.M.L., which is right off Westside Road, about a mile from downtown Healdsburg. Upon walking onto the grounds, we were excited to see many tables and chairs set up on the patio for outdoor tastings or picnics. There was also a beautiful garden and fountain, elevating the appearance of the grounds. We walked into the tasting room and were greeted at the bar by a very nice young lady who immediately poured us two glasses of their 2011 Russian River Gewurztraminer. We noticed the beautiful photographs on the walls, and she told us they feature a different local artist every month. We also noticed the intricate and stunning label designs on the wine. Evidently, they hired an artist to move all the way from London to do exclusive design work for their wine labels (it just so happens he’s also dating the winemaker, Virginia Marie Lambrix).


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The Gewurztraminer was fantastic, and so were the 2010 Russian River Chardonnay and 2012 Rose of Pinot Noir. In fact, the first three wines were SO good, and the estate was SO beautiful, that both GGD and I decided to join the wine club right then and there, before we even tried the rest of the wines. There were a few special perks that sweetened the deal; for example, they have an on-premise guest cottage with full kitchen and deck that sleeps four people, and each member is able to rent the cottage for two nights any time out of the year at no charge other than the cleaning fee. Yes, please! The cottage was actually open because the cleaning crew had just finished up after some guests checked out, so I poked my head in and took a look around. Where do I sign up?

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We did of course manage to get through the rest of the wine list, and some of my favorites included a Zinfandel that was off the list and pretty new, as well as the Floodgate Pinot Noir and the Late Harvest Riesling-Chardonnay blend. The addition of the Chardonnay in the dessert wine was perfect because it wasn’t too sweet, but actually had a nice balance of acidity to it. GGD and I grabbed some glasses to sit outside with while we enjoyed our lunch – she opted for the Zinfandel, me the Rose (obviously). We will both be going back this weekend for the club members Pinot & Panini Pick Up Party. Does one need a better excuse to go to Healdsburg two weekends in a row? I think not.

About Kelsey

Kelsey is a food and wine lover residing in Napa, California, where she does marketing for a boutique wine collective. She previously lived in San Francisco for over six years, where her blogging journey began. She loves to cook seasonal meals and experiment with new wine pairings. She has been drinking and learning about wine with her father since she was 14, and cooking in the kitchen with her mother since she was 6. Both of her parents taught her well about seasoning and flavors, and she continues to learn more with every meal that is made.

4 responses »

  1. Aha! Now I know why our trip has been postponed! I don’t know if you have ever been, but you MUST go to Barndiva in Healdsburg next time you want an amazing brunch. Apparently dinner is great there too!

  2. Excellent blog post. I definitely appreciate this website.


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