Favorites of 2016

The Navigator and I kept pretty busy in 2016. We tasted outstanding wines in Livermore, Clarksburg, Amador County, Avila Beach, Napa Valley, the East Bay, Santa Maria, San Luis Obispo and Paso Robles. We tasted sweet potato vodka in Atwater, mojitos in Cuba and bourbon in Kentucky. We also spent a few days at the Stanford Hospital. The wines there were not so memorable. The best news of 2016 was that the drought really didn’t affect the harvest. It was early, with normal yields and exceptional quality. That’s four consecutive years of excellent wine harvests. Here are some more highlights of 2016.

Best of the Best

This year, my favorite wine-picnic spot was Windy Oaks Winery. Near Corralitos, it’s a slow ride on a narrow road that winds through some beautiful redwoods, but well worth it. If you are a Burgundy lover, Windy Oaks is pinot heaven. After tasting and buying a bottle or two, you can walk up the ridge through the vines for a spectacular view of Monterey Bay. Spread out your picnic (tables and chairs provided) and enjoy your stay. You won’t want to leave.

In May, I wrote about Sutter Creek. At the time, there were eight tasting rooms and now, nearly a dozen. Several wineries in Shenandoah Valley have opened tasting rooms in town and if you enjoy wine walks, put Sutter Creek on your list. It’s my favorite wine walk of 2016. There are plenty of places to eat and plenty of parking. If there is time left after tasting, eating, tasting again and napping, and if you feel lucky, the Jackson Rancheria is just a few miles away.

The Sugar Mill in Clarksburg is my pick for the best-kept secret. Just south of Sacramento, the Sugar Mill was built in the 1930s as a sugar refinery. The grand old brick building now houses 11 wineries. Two must-visit wineries are the Clarksburg Wine Company and the Three Wine Company. Tasting fees are very reasonable and refundable with purchase. The Sugar Mill has a shady picnic area, is dog-friendly and perfect for a day visit.

The best wine experience was the Farm to Glass tour at Vino Noceto. The Amador County winery on Shenandoah Road is a premier sangiovese producer. The 45-minute stroll through the vineyards, while sipping Noceto wine, was my kind of field trip. If you love chianti, make sure you make a reservation.

What’s On Our Table

This week was the 2014 Peachy Canyon Westside Zinfandel ($22). Lush, with black cherry, vanilla and spice flavors, it’s definitely worth the hunt. In the next column I’ll list my favorite wines of 2016. Cheers!