Favorite Winery Experience at Quatro Quatros in Baja, Mexico

(Contributed by Melanie Sanchez) My favorite winery experienced happened at Quatro Quatros Winery in Ensenada, Mexico.  “Quatro Quantros” means “four fours” in English, and refers to the 144 acres on which this winery is located. It also includes a hotel with 19 cabanas, spa and restaurant. What is very exciting about this winery is its location on a hill overlooking the ocean. Also, it is only 80 miles south of San Diego, so you can cross the border and visit for the day.

Ocean View, Vineyards, and Cabanas at Cuatro Cuatros Winery

My family and I drove down from San Diego to celebrate my birthday. They knew I loved wine and so they chose the perfect spot for my birthday celebration. It was my first ever winery tasting experience, and I was pleased that it was a warm spring day with a refreshing ocean breeze.  When we arrived, we parked in a lower parking lot, and then were transported by 4×4 off-road vehicles to the mountaintop winery with an incredible view overlooking the Pacific ocean.

Melanie with Her Family at Quatro Quatros Winery

Wine Tasting on an Ocean View Hilltop

The winery used an open outdoor rustic concept with stacks of hay covered with table cloths serving as tables and chairs. It was functional and comfortable outdoor furniture, but they also had stylish wood tables if you didn’t care for hay furniture. It was so simple yet still very sophisticated.

Hay Bale Furniture at Quatro Quatros Winery in Baja, Mexico

Once we settled around our hay table, the server welcomed us warmly and recommended the 2013 Quatro Quatros Cabernet Sauvignon. We purchased this along with a cheese, meat and nut platter, which paired nicely with the red wine, tasting of semi-sweet red and black cherries. The server was very experienced and explained about all of the grape varietals grown on the estate. Altogether, they have 40 acres of vineyards, with 82% red grapes and 18% white grapes.

The whole experience was very memorable for me not only because the location and ambiance, but because of the excellent customer service where we learned so much about the wines and estate. The ocean view was the cherry on top. I feel so thankful that I got to have this special moment that I will always remember in one of the most beautiful wineries in Baja, Mexico.

Best Wine Tasting Experience at Serego Alighieri Winery in Italy

(Contributed by Gabriele Brusamarello) – My best tasting room experience was at the Serego Alighieri Estate, in the heart of the Valpolicella wine region in Italy. Located just a few miles away from the historic and magical city of Verona and beautiful Lake Garda, the winery estate was establish in 1353. It was a sunny and warm day in spring 2012, and I went to visit the winery with some basketball teammates since we were playing for the Verona basketball team. When we first arrived, we were surrounded by nature, astonished by the historic beauty and uniqueness of the location, and our friend Massimilla (daughter of the owners of the winery) warmly welcomed us and gave us a great tour of the whole Serego Alighieri estate and vineyards.

Estate

Serego Alighieri Estate in Italy

When we first arrived, we were astonished by the historic beauty and uniqueness of the location, surrounded by nature. Our friend Massimilla (daughter of the owners of the winery) warmly welcomed us and gave us a great tour of the whole estate and vineyards.

Tasting the Amarone Wine

After the tour, Massimilla escorted us to the cellar, where grapes used to make Amarone were left to rest during the winter months for hundreds of years. We were welcomed by Massimilla’s family inside the cellar who made us feel like family the moment we walked in. A place with centuries of history immediately became an extremely friendly environment, which made the whole experience even more pleasant and memorable.

Inside the cellar we were offered many red wines that Serego Alighieri produced, including Valpolicella Classico Superiore, the Recioto Della Valpolicella, and delicious Amarone Della Valpolicella of different years. They were complemented by a variety of salame, prosciutto crudo, and porchetta, as well as different cheeses. Pairing wine and food helped wine to release its best flavors and aromas –it was absolutely perfect.

History and Family Linked to Dante

What made this so special is the history and family. In fact, Massimilla’s father told us that the estate was bought in 1353 by the son of the Supreme Poet Dante Alighieri. The fact that we were able to walk around made the whole experience surreal, magical, and breathtaking. I will always remember that special day and to be the experience that made me love wine even more than before.

How I Fell in Love with Wine – A Great Role Model and Exceptional Customer Service at Gloria Ferrer Winery

(Contributed by Brenna Machek) – I fell in love with wine through two memorable experiences. The first time was with my parents, and the second time was when I landed my first big job in the wine industry.

My Dad – The Role Model

I remember every summer coming to Northern California for a vacation with my family. In exchange for some fun boating time with my brother, my parents would make us stop by a couple wineries so they could have their “fun adult time”. I would watch how my dad carefully eyed the wine in the glass, stuck his nose deep in the rim of it and closed his eyes to fully inhale the esters that came from the wine he was about to taste. He would then sip a little, swish it around and make the pitter patter sound with his mouth to embrace the tannins all surrounding his taste buds. I would pretend to copy my dad with a glass of sparkling apple cider and he would just laugh and say, “Soon enough little one”.

Jenna

Brenna Waiting Outside a Tasting Room Door

My First Job in the Wine Industry

Well, “Soon enough” came earlier in the year when I FINALLY turned 21! A couple months after that big celebration I attained an internship over the summer as a Wine Marketing Manager with Brown-Forman. During the internship, I was required to do two wine independent study days where I went on a private tour and tasting of two top competitors for our company.

Visiting Gloria Ferrer Winery in Sonoma Valley

The winery I chose was Gloria Ferrer. I was with a group of people for the main tour of the winery but then brought into a private room for my own tasting and pairing with the manager of the Tasting room. Gloria Ferrer is located in Sonoma County, California and is gorgeous to visit during the spring and summer time, which is when I visited. It has a beautiful view of the vineyards and of the Sonoma region. The tasting room is occupied by a bar area where customers can stand and taste, or indoor and outdoor seating, where waiters attend to you and can bring food or desserts to pair with your sparkling wines.

Gloria-Ferrer-Partners-Event-2015-m.woolsey-48

Gloria Ferrer Winery.  Photo Courtesy of Gloria Ferrer

The Best Customer Service Ever – and Some Amazing Wines!

When I attended Gloria Ferrer, it was the best customer service I have experienced. The tasting room manager personally went over the sparkling wines and food pairing with me in a private room and patiently answered all my interview questions. I was given a complimentary tasting and even sent home with my favorite bottle for an extremely discounted price.

Gloria Ferrer is known for their sparkling wines, but they also carry still wines in their line of products. I was able to taste their Demi-Sec, Royal Cuvee and Blanc De Noirs alongside some food pairings such as a spicy salami, lemon sprinkled crackers, and sweet almonds with a cheese plate. I was lucky enough to taste a variety of their still wines such as the Estate Pinot Blanc, the Pinot Noir Rose, and the Jose S. Ferrer Selection Chardonnay. For being so popular in the sparkling wine category, they acquire some beautifully crafted still wines. My favorite overall was the Estate Pinot Blanc.

Gloria Ferrer Sparkling

Sparkling Wine at Gloria Ferrer Winery in Sonoma County, CA

Why a First Tasting Room Experience Can Be So Memorable

I have visited a wide range of wineries in the Napa and Sonoma regions of California, and have to select Gloria Ferrer as my favorite and most memorable experience, because it doesn’t compare to anything I’ve encountered before. The hospitality of the employees, the breath taking views, the wines, and the history made it the complete package. Gloria Ferrer made my experience one that was unforgettable and made that summer a top ten favorite moments in my year. I highly recommend it to friends and family and visitors in the area and can’t wait to go back soon.

 

My Favorite Tasting Room Series: Stephen & Walker’s, Healdsburg, CA

Stephen and Walker Tasting Room

Stephen and Walker Tasting Room

(By Guest Author Emily Mobley) As soon as I walked into Stephen & Walker’s Wine Tasting Room located in Healdsburg, I knew I was going to have a good time. Enticed with excitement and enjoying the atmosphere of summer, I could not wait to have my first sip of “real” wine. I had recently turned 21, and wine was still a mystery to me. What was so special about it? “Real” wine was everything I didn’t know and was looking forward to experiencing.

It was August and my neighbors invited me to go wine tasting with them in Healdsburg. Because I felt awkward and a bit embarrassed, I invited my best friend Scott to come along. While he tried to be enthusiastic about tasting wine, I knew his wine etiquette was nothing compared to his envious beer attitude. However, I felt relieved that he was tagging along, and excited about what I was going to learn.

As we entered Stephen & Walkers (http://www.trustwine.com/), I was delighted with the smell of wine, the sound of laughter, and the sight of long wooden countertops. The lighting in the tasting room was majestic and highlighted the wine glasses hanging above the wine bar.  The windows were filled with beautiful plants, and barrels of wooden tubs overflowed with sample selections of wines to come.

A tall gray-haired man smiled at us as we approached the bar, and asked how we were doing. We said we were here to taste the specialty wines they had to offer. He laughed and then began to describe the background of the winery, giving credit to Nancy Walker, the winemaker. He was charming, sweet, and hilarious with his stories of how the Stephen & Walker business was established, and how hard they worked to put love and passion into their wine.  We then proceeded to taste through several special wines.

Looking back on the visit, I realize what an exceptional moment it was for me, because I witnessed how people who work in wine want to share with others and make them feel special.  Instead of the uptight and pushy wine server I expected, we encountered a sweet and friendly person who changed my world.

It was then that I realized this was a world I wanted to enter, because I knew that I would never get bored with wine because of all the stories, networking, and connections I could make. It was a career that would challenge me and place me on a path of perseverance and wonderful friends to come, all while enjoying wine and the people who are attracted to it.

NOTE:  This post is part of the Favorite Winery Tasting Room Series, in which Millennial wine business students describe one of their favorite tasting room experiences.

My Favorite Tasting Room Series – Testarossa Winery

Testarossa Winery

Testarossa Winery

(By Guest Author Nicholas Giampaoli)  Growing up in the city of San Jose, I was not very familiar with wineries. I always figured that wine came from Sonoma and Napa County. After coming to Sonoma State and becoming more familiar with wine country, when I visited home I wanted to check out some local wineries. I had no idea they even existed in the south bay until I did a web search.

During my web search I came across Testarossa Winery. It turned out that the winery is very historic and is considered the fourth oldest California winery still in operation. Before the winery was called Testarossa, it was Novitate founded in 1888 in Los Gatos. I love anything with historic significance, so I decided to check it out.  It may be a coincidence being my favorite and most memorable tasting room experience but also my very first winery tasting room experience.

Nestled up against the Santa Cruz Mountains, the property was beautiful with California nature surrounding the winery.  Testarossa had somewhat newer buildings in place for the winey, but also left one of the original buildings from when it was first built. They used the building to store the tanks for the fermentation process.

The tasting room was located in a small cave. This was what I found to be awesome. I absolutely love the idea of being inside the mountain with dim lighting. I don’t know why but I think that is really cool. The tasting room representative was really nice and informative. But what I think sold me was the environment of the winery. If I am ever back in the area I would visit Testarossa again.  (http://www.testarossa.com/)

NOTE:  This post is part of the Favorite Winery Tasting Room Series, in which Millennial wine business students describe one of their favorite tasting room experiences.

My Favorite Tasting Room Series – Pride Vineyards in Napa and Sonoma

Tasting at Pride Vineyards

Tasting at Pride Vineyards

(By Guest Author Daniel Walsh)  It was the middle of January in 2012 with open skies and a beautiful coastal breeze in the air.  Two coworkers and myself had made an appointment a month prior to visit Pride Vineyards and Winery on Spring Mountain.  The tasting room was located on the estate, sitting atop the mountain, which is split between the Sonoma/Napa county lines.  Upon arrival, we entered the tasting room and were greeted with a glass of their estate viognier and the Hospitality Manager, Mike Campbell, who lead us on a tour of the estate and through their wine caves.

Upon entering the wine caves, Mike gave us a brief history of the winery as well as the different viticulture practices used around the estate.  At every corner throughout the wine cave, we tasted barrel samples from different vineyard blocks. To my surprise, no vineyard block tasted the same, and every Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah showed different characteristics unique to its location on the estate.  Never before had I experienced such a difference in varietal characteristics that were all grown on the same estate.

As we turned a corner in the wine cave, we came into a door that lead us into a beautiful lounge area with couches, appetizers and the estates current release of wines for a sit down tasting.  Mike introduced every wine individually and explained the technical aspects from varietal blend, amount of oak used, and the type of meal each wine could be paired with.  My favorite food pairing recommendation was for the Syrah, paired with a pork chop in a fig balsamic reduction with roasted potatoes tossed in garlic/mustard aioli.  I remember it so clearly because I bought a bottle of the Syrah and paired it with the meal a few weeks later.

As we returned to the tasting room, we finished up our tour with their dessert wine; grappa distilled from viognier must and blended with fresh viognier juice.  To this day, that is the best dessert wine I’ve ever had in my life.  Pride Vineyards and Winery is located in one of the most beautiful areas of both Sonoma and Napa Counties and produces some of the best wines I’ve ever tasted.  However, the best part of this experience was the hospitality of Mike Campbell.  Mike was the most educational and professional tour guide I’ve ever had the privilege of accompanying and showed coworkers and myself great hospitality when he sent us home with a bottle of dessert wine, on the house.

NOTE:  This post is part of the Favorite Winery Tasting Room Series, in which Millennial wine business students describe one of their favorite tasting room experiences.