Category Archives: Old Sugar Mill

Random Musings, February 2017

Blame it on the rain. Northern California has been slammed with a series of winter storms, the likes of which we haven’t seen in a years. As much as we need the rain, we’re Californians, and we really miss our sunshine! Or maybe it’s the recent political climate in our country. Nuf said about that. Perhaps most obviously, it could be the life changes I’m going through that, among other things, have caused a change in my wine-drinking habits. The Big D means that most nights, if I’m drinking, I’m drinking solo. A bottle of wine that nicely serves two people in an evening now lasts me 2-3 days; even four days on occasion! Whatever the cause, I’ve been drinking less wine recently, and have also been suffering from a bout of writer’s block.

Don’t cry for me, however. I’ve been active and busy, going to Meetup events, meeting lots of amazing people, and making new friends in the process. Quite frankly, thinks are looking up, and I feel like I’ve got a bit of my mojo back! With that in mind, I thought I’d piece together a few thoughts – blog ideas from the past few weeks that never got off the ground.

Blues Bars, Beer, and Whiskey

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One of the Meetup groups I joined is all about the Blues. They meet several times per week at various bars in the area to listen to Blues bands, dance, and have an all-around good time! Interestingly, I was never much of a Blues fan before. However, I’ve learned that this is because I’d only ever listened to the Blues on the radio. Now I know that Blues is a dish best served HOT! Live Blues is amazing! Where do you find the best Blues? Dive bars. Bars that sell beer by the tanker truck, whiskey, and basic (really basic; 2-3 ingredient) cocktails. These are not establishments that have a well-developed wine program. Who are we kidding? Most don’t have a wine program at all! So this has enabled me to get my beer groove on and explore the wide and wonderful world of brewski! Local craft beer, nationally known brands, and yes, even the occasional, ubiquitous Bud Light. There’s no risk (that I can foresee) of me dividing my loyalty and becoming a beer blogger, but there is a lot of great beer out there, and some pretty amazing people who drink it!

On nights when beer doesn’t appeal, I’ve also become better acquainted to the delights of brown liquor. Whiskey is another pleasing libation that pairs well with live Blues. At a more upscale cocktail bar, I’m generally inclined to order an Old Fashioned (which, ahem, I’ve been drinking since long before Mad Men, so no, I’m not just following a trend!) or a Manhattan. At a dive, Jamie and Ginger is my go-to. (Worried about dirty lines feeding your bartender’s soda gun? Most places don’t run ginger ale through the gun, so you get a freshly opened can from the fridge. Smart, huh?)

Of course, if Blues isn’t your thing, there is plenty of variety in the live music scene in most towns and cities. I hope I’ve inspired some of you to get up, get out, and go listen to some live music!

The Old Sugar Mill: Port, Wine, and Chocolate Lovers

Those of you who are longsuffering dedicated readers of my little corner of the Interwebs may recall my post about The Old Sugar Mill. (<– That’s a link, if you want to pause here to get caught up.) The Old Sugar Mill a wine lover’s fantasy destination, currently housing 13 winery tasting rooms in one location! Last weekend was their annual Port, Wine, and Chocolate Lovers’ Weekend. It’s an amazing event that I’ve missed in prior years. Admission gets you tastes at nearly all of the wineries, plus chocolate samples, live music, and access to some of the region’s best gourmet food trucks! This year I attended with a friend I met through another Meetup group. It was a blast! I was having so much fun; I forgot to take pictures – except this one.

port-wine-and-chocolate

House Parties

I’ve also been attending a few house parties, which is a great way to meet and mingle. One I recently attended was wine themed. Being a wine guy, I naturally grabbed a nice bottle from my cellar. By no small coincidence, it was from one of my favorite wineries at The Old Sugar Mill. The Merlo Family Vineyards Pinot Noir 2012 was a huge hit! It was the first bottle to run dry, of the 20 or more available at the party. Not pricy by Pinot Noir standards, it retails for $27, but Ray Merlo is a strong advocate for wine education, and a firm believer in the notion that if people can’t afford it, they can’t enjoy it. I’ve had comparable Pinot in the $35-45 range.

merlo-pinot-noir-2012

Here’s my review:

Rich, earthy Pinot Noir, in the classic NorCal style. Purple color with a ruby rim. Aromas of ripe plums and spice. Flavors of ripe plum, blueberry, cherry, and earth with a lingering finish of dark fruit and soft earth tones.

4.0 out of 5 stars (88 – 91 points)

What surprised me about the event was the number of bottom shelf bottles that appeared on the wine table. While they will remain nameless, I am familiar with most of the labels I saw and know them to be “meh” wines in the sub-$5 range. Now, I understand that not everybody is a wine geek like me, and maybe the wine they brought is the wine they drink regularly. Still, when I’m bringing a bottle to an event, I like to step it up and bring something special. Maybe that’s just me.

National Drink Wine Day

national-drink-wine-day

Finally, if you were anywhere within 10 miles of Social Media, or your favorite wine geek, you know that yesterday was National Drink Wine Day. I’m still not sure why someone decided we need a special day to celebrate drinking wine, but who am I to question? Always one to follow the rules, I made my way, with a wine-loving friend, to my favorite local wine bar where we enjoyed some good wine and great conversation. You just gotta love holidays!

Cheers!

 

Review: Heringer Estates Barbera 2013

New World Barbera has become a favorite in my home. We are fortunate enough to live in close proximity to both the Sierra Foothills, and Clarksburg AVAs in Northern California. Both of these regions have proven to be suitable for Italian varietals, and many of them thrive here. The latest example I had the pleasure to enjoy was the Heringer Estates Barbera 2013.

Heringer Estates is located in the Clarksburg AVA, specifically at The Old Sugar Mill. I wrote about The Old Sugar Mill a couple of months ago in my Destinations series. Home to 11 wineries, it is a fantastic location to visit if you are in the Sacramento area.

The Heringer family has been farming in the Clarksburg area since 1868, when John and Geertje Heringa arrived in the region from Holland. In 1973, the Heringer family planted their first grape vineyards, and the Heringer Estates winery began operation in 2002. The entire operation of the Heringer Estates winery is located at The Old Sugar Mill, from crush to retail sales. [1]

As good fortune would have it, my parents are members of the Heringer Estates wine club, and arrived at our house on Christmas day with a bottle of this excellent Barbera. We opened it, naturally, and it paired beautifully with our roast pork loin dinner.

Heringer Barbera

Here’s what I wrote about it in my Vivino review:

Delicious New World Barbera. Rich and full bodied with aromas of black cherry and blackberry. Cherry and berry flavors, with notes of cedar, black currant, and clove. The finish is dark berry and spice. Quite smooth and nicely balanced. This paired nicely with roast pork loin.

4.5 out of 5 stars.

Available exclusively at Heringer Estates. Shop Online here.

Retail $30.00

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[1] http://www.heringerestates.com/scripts/cpg.cfm/2

Destination: The Old Sugar Mill


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Located less than 20 minutes from downtown Sacramento, the Old Sugar Mill in Clarksburg, CA, is a wine lover’s dream destination. Take a scenic drive along the Sacramento River to the home of 11 tasting rooms, and several full winery operations. Besides the wine, the venue hosts a number of events including Art Walks, Yoga and Wine, Food Truck Mania, seasonal events, and frequent weddings. This is truly a one-stop wonderland.

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Photo Credit: The Friends of the Clarksburg Library https://oldsugarmill.hosting-advantage.com/osm_construction/04_20_35.jpg

As the name implies, this regional hub for Central Valley wines is housed in an old sugar production mill. But that’s not the most interesting bit about this historic building. Formerly owned by the Amalgamated Sugar Company, it was originally located at Smithfield, Utah. In 1933, the plant was closed, dismantled, and transported brick-by-brick to its current location. It was reassembled between 1934-1936 and resumed operation, processing sugar beets into granular sugar. In 1993, the location closed as a sugar processing plant forever, and remained vacant until 2000. In that year, John Carvalho, Jr., purchased the location and began renovation and conversion into a winery and tourism destination. [1], [2]

Most of the current occupants of the Old Sugar Mill are wineries from the Clarksburg AVA, although other California AVA’s are represented also. These include Fair Play AVA in the Sierra Foothills (Perry Creek Winery) and Trinity County AVA (Merlo Family Estate).

IMG_0424The buildings themselves are worth the visit. The massive, high-ceiling brick edifices are beautiful; the architecture reminiscent of a bygone era.

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When you pass through the main doors, you enter the main building that houses nine of the tasting rooms, and a barrel room that functions as an event hall.

IMG_0425The Barrel RoomIMG_0428

Continue through the building and out the back doors, where you’ll find a large lawn area where Food Truck events and weddings are held. Also out back are the other two tasting rooms. Bring a picnic lunch, or buy something from one of the ever-present food trucks, and make an afternoon of it! IMG_0430

With 11 wineries all in one place, you have plenty of choices and options. In addition to the outdoor seating, many tasting rooms have seating areas for leisurely tasting enjoyment. Most tasting rooms charge $5 for tasting; typically 6-8 pours; but will waive the tasting charge with a purchase. On this trip, we visited four wineries.

Draconis Vineyards specializes in just two varietals: Zinfandel and Petite Sirah, and their wines are excellent. Their tasting room staff is friendly and helpful.

Perry Creek and Draconis

Perry Creek and Draconis

Clarksburg Wine Company has a huge selection of reds and whites. Give their Delta Blanc white blend and the Delta Rouge red blend a try!

Clarksburg Wine Company

Clarksburg Wine Company

Merlo Family Estate produces rich, delicious wines from the volcanic soils of Trinity County. Be sure to say “hi” to their tasting room manager, Djimi. In the summer months, he’ll likely be sporting his kilt.

Merlo Family Vineyards

Merlo Family Vineyards

Heringer Estates operates their winery on site at the Old Sugar Mill. They offer a wide portfolio of wines, including such unusual varietals as Tannat and Teroldedo.

Heringer Estates

Heringer Estates

The Old Sugar Mill is a dog friendly venue. Well behaved dogs on leashes are welcome. Many tasting rooms have water and/or snacks available for four-footed visitors.

Colette the Cavalier King Charles

Colette the Cavalier King Charles

If you are in the area, be sure to stop by for a visit! Here’s a map to help you find the way!

Cheers!!

P.S. The Old Sugar Mill website appears to be undergoing renovation, so the best way to get information is by visiting the Old Sugar Mill Facebook page, where you can find a complete listing of upcoming events.

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[1] https://oldsugarmill.hosting-advantage.com/pages/history.html

[2] http://www.lodinews.com/lodi_living/article_b319ccfa-598e-11e1-b8c1-001871e3ce6c.html