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Have liver, will travel

Friday, August 12, 2005

Day 1 in Wine Country: Healdsburg

Having arrived rather late on the scene in northern Sonoma County, we found ourselves with very limited time to sample the local beverages. Our first stop was Simi, a winery in the Healdsburg area. The exterior was pretty enough, with some nice plants and flowers surrounding a stone building. Alas, inside, one got the feeling of entering a Wal-Mart: an elderly greeter stood in our path, telling us of prizes to be won by filling out reply cards, of wine chillers to be purchased and so on. We made our way around the woman like we were navigating some nursing home video game, only to be welcomed to the tasting counter by a kindly old man who popped up like the next figure at the shoot 'em up arcade, wanting to tell us all about the wine club. He reminded us of the indelible spokesman on the Empire Carpet commercials, with his slithery chain-smoking whisper. I should have been so lucky as to have had a few quarters and a plastic gun as he went on and on about why we should join, writing his name on the application he foisted across the counter while we sipped wines only slightly above average. I perked up a little only when he said their wine club contained wines form other wineries. Maybe they would be better.

Since it was early into our trip, the Alcotourist and I had not yet polished our strategy and ended up with a bottle of Petit Sirah. At this point our game-day logic was that if we had to pay to taste but the tasting fee was waved with purchase, buy something drinkable and not too pricey. Alas, now we have this bottle of Petit Sirah I hardly remember tasting.

Our next stop was Seghesio, a family-owned winery just minutes away from Simi--but of another breed entirely. Delicious Italianate wines. Yummy Zin. The only old person around was Ed Seghesio himself, and he was affably chatting with visitors, not trying to get you to fill out forms or buy a hat. Things not on the tasting menu were opened, savored. A pleasant Barbera, fine for drinking with a nice pasta dinner. A great Tuscan blend, the 2002 Omaggio, which story goes the younger Seghesios created in homage to their elders like Ed himself. At $45, a price high for that area but cheap in Napa terms, it turned out to be one of the best values for the price we ended up tasting all weekend, and we happily got a bottle to tuck into our wine fridge at home for a great pasta meal. Ed signed the bottle himself with sparkling gold ink, and told us to go get some great Italian food at Santi in Geyserville. We took this advice Sunday eve and were not disappointed--more on that later. If you go, Ed recommends the tripe.

Having dipped our toes into wine tasting, the Alcotourist and I were ready to check in to our hotel before heading out to a dinner revolving around another of our beverage passions, good beer. Bear Republic Brewery in Healdsburg delivers just that, and with a grin. The Pete Brown Tribute Ale I had was nutty and smooth with a lot of body and a hint of sweetness. I also tasted the Alcotourist's Racer 5 India Pale Ale, which was just bitter enough to give a good kick, floral, strong and hoppy. The food was fair (it is mostly burgers and fries) and the T-shirts are great, so it's worth a stop.

Full and fizzy-headed, we called it a night in wine country. We had an ambitious day ahead of us the next morning, with trips to the Alexander Valley and beyond.


Anonymous Christine Swanepoel said...

Great post! Seghesio sounds fantastic. If you ever get a bit farther south in Sonoma County and are in need of great Italian food, try Simply Delicious in Santa Rosa.

10:04 AM  

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