The Traveling Steve's

Red-eye home from Sonoma

It’s now Memorial Day 2015, and we have an overnight flight back to Orlando at 7:10pm from Sacramento (via Phoenix).

We checked out of the Ledson HotelDSC02808 after a wonderful weekend stay there. Since guests at the hotel are entitled to a complimentary VIP tasting, we had pre-arranged (they ask you at the hotel at check-in your preference of appointment times) an 11am appointment at the Ledson Winery.  We arrived on-time, and there was a slight confusion on the room we were to taste in, most likely due to the Memorial Day Holiday.  Bethany (who we later found out was the Assistant General Manager) offered us a complimentary glass of wine during the short wait and we took a few photos of the awesome property while they prepared the proper room for our tasting.IMG_3053 IMG_3052 IMG_3054 IMG_3045

We have been to Ledson Winery several times, and this is by far my favorite vineyard in all of the Sonoma and Napa areas due to ambiance, friendliness of staff, customer service, quality of wines etc.  I first discovered Ledson Winery by accident over 15 years ago when I was traveling to the Bay area on business, and stayed for the weekend in Sonoma to tour a bit. I drove by the Castle, and said to myself ‘Wow’, and literally turned the car around for my first visit to Ledson.

DSC02884 DSC02891Here are a couple pics of us as we arrived at the winery.


After taking a few photos, we went inside the ‘Castle’, and were escorted to our second-floor private tasting room by Bethany, walking up the beautiful (and roped-off) grand staircase.

IMG_5368 Our personalized menu of the wine tasting was sitting on the table amongst the Riedel glasses and complimentary cheese tasting tray, consisting of assorted cheeses, nuts, apple slices, crackers etc to go with our wines. They even presented us with a complimentary bottle of wine for our short wait, which was neither requested nor expected, but a nice touch.  Wow – now that’s customer service and what makes Ledson the ‘Disney’ of wineries; quality, service, consistency, and providing lasting memories.

Once we got started with our tasting, were so busy enjoying the wine and cheese platter pairings, we neglected to take any photos until we were ready to leave.

DSC06149I do have this photo from our last visit in 2013, where we had a very similar setup with menu and cheese platter, shown here.

Dos was the designated driver, so he only had small sips of the quality vinos, and I gladly accepted the rest of his wine samples each time.  We ordered a mixed case of outstanding reds to be shipped back to Florida. Here we are with Bethany, Assistant General Manager, who served us and made our VIP tasting extra special.

Thanks, Bethany!  DSC02882

After leaving Ledson around 1:30pm, we made our way back thru wine country to Sacramento Airport, but made one scheduled (which turned into two) stop along the way.  We stopped at the B Wise Vineyards tasting room, which had been recommended to us by several people we had met on our weekend in Sonoma.  We actually wanted to go to the B Wise caves for the intimate tasting, however it was by appointment only, and not open on Memorial Day, but were quite satisfied with their quiet tasting room.

We were served by ‘Sunshine’ (what a nice name!) whom I had spoken to on the phone earlier that morning inquiring about an appointment for the caves.  We took the $25 premium tasting, which offered top quality red wines, and were not disappointed.  Again, Dos only had tiny sips, so I was treated to a double taste of their deliciously aged full-bodied  vinos.  We met another couple while there, and really enjoyed tasting with them, as it was only the four of us, plus Sunshine in the tasting room.   After pouring I don’t know how many reds of various vintages, including some that were not on the tasting menu, we joined their top level wine club, “The Brion Society” and had a nice boxed set of vertical cabernets from 2002 thru 2007, and several other wines shipped back to Florida.  We also bought a Coravin unit they sold (and poured their premium wines with) to use with our back-home tasting fun.  While a bit pricey at $299, B Wise sold these at the same on-line price as the manufacturer, and even Amazon does.  I had never seen this before at any winery, so I’m assuming it’s fairly new.  Basically it allows you to pour a small amount of wine without actually opening the bottle, via a pin-sized opening thru the wrapper and cork, which reseals itself as you pump in some Argon gas (included with the unit) to keep oxygen from spoiling the remaining wine. The Argon gas cartridges are disposable, and we also bought a couple of those with the order.  Pretty ingenious invention for ‘winos connoisseurs’ I must say, and awesome way to try a vertical tasting or any ultra-premium wine without opening the bottle. (Note: the Coravin unit does not work on synthetic corks due to the resealing process it uses).

Again, we had such a good time tasting we didn’t take any photos at B Wise, other than this pic of Steve by the display case of wine we bought.IMG_3058

Most wineries offer some sort of wine club, and we joined four clubs this trip.   Even though we are on the East Coast and can’t go by the wineries often for their member events, (we go once or twice a year to the area) it’s still nice to get shipments of high quality wines you can’t buy in the store, and delivered straight to your home. Winemakers – how about a party for us East Coast folks somewhere; I don’t know where – hmm, how about Orlando – that would work!  (Actually Disneyworld has the Food and Wine festival every Oct/Nov at EPCOT which we always attend living locally, staying on Disney property for the weekend.  It would be nice to see some of the vineyards we went to represented – hint, hint!)

(Postnote: since you have to sign for a wine shipment that is delivered to a home address stating you are over 21, Dos got a UPS mailbox when we got back. UPS will hold the wines for us and not have to worry about being home to sign for them.)

After our tasting at B Wise, and as we were heading out, Sunshine recommended a quick stop at the winery tasting room next door, knowing what types of wines we liked, and our passion for travel.  (The winemaker is fourth generation from Hungary, where we went a couple years ago on vacation).  Although it was getting late as we had to drive to Sacramento for our evening flight, we did make a quick stop by the En Garde Winery tasting room, which was delightful.

We were served by winemaker and owner, Csaba Szakal, himself, and we related some of our wine touring experiences we had done in Hungary a couple years ago.  We had taken an AMA Waterways cruise, (awesome by the way) and after the cruise were in Budapest for five days. We took an evening wine tour through the Etyek wine region, which took us to 3 micro (i.e. small family wineries) in the region, only about 45 minutes from Budapest.  Our small group tour in Etyek included dinner at one of the wine-maker’s homes.  We thoroughly enjoyed Budapest, and it was nice chatting with Csaba about our Hungarian wine experiences and his heritage and wine-making generational history.

Since we only had space for two bottles left in our two wine cube packages we would check in for the flight, we completed our collection with a  purchase of a 2008 Cabernet and a 2008 Cabernet reserve. We wished we had more time, but had to get to the airport.  Before leaving, Csaba was also happy to pose for a photo with us:IMG_3059So as we said goodbye to our Sonoma weekend, Dos drove us the two hour trip back to the Sacramento airport.  He dropped me and all our luggage and two checked wine cases curbside, while he returned the rental car.

Once checked in, we had a light meal and then were on our way to Phoenix on US Airways (now American Airlines), connecting on the red-eye to Orlando, arriving at 4:51am.

‘Twas an awesome and memorable holiday weekend we had!




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *