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Tasting with Carla, Touring California Wine


A Week with Carla Rzewszewski

I was lucky enough to spend this last week touring California wine with Carla Rzewszewski, Wine Director of The Breslin, The Spotted Pig, and the John Dory Oyster Bar restaurants of New York City. It was all joy.

Her itinerary included a number of other visits besides what’s shown here while I attended different meetings. Here are photos of some we did together.

Visiting Lagier-Meredith

We were lucky enough to start the morning and continue through lunch with Steven Lagier and Carole Meredith. Their wines carry vibrant fruit with a range of flavors. I’m excited about their newly released Zinfandel, the Tribidrag. Carla loved the lush texture and fruit of the Mondeuse.

Mondeuse Bud Break, Lagier Meredith

Mondeuse bud break on top of Mt Veeder

View from the top, Mt Veeder, Lagier-Meredith

Looking over the Zinfandel and Malbec vines (w an apple tree)

Syrah Bud Break, Lagier-Meredith

Syrah bud break (i love these vines colors)

Carole and Carla

Carole Meredith explaining the appellation to Carla, Mt Veeder

the new rose', Lagier-Meredith

Lagier-Meredith rosé of Syrah, Zinfandel, and Mondeuse

The new Zinfandel, Tribidrag

the first release of Lagier-Meredith Zinfandel, named with its older name, Tribidrag

The Syrah line-up

2010 and 2003 Syrah side-by-side tasting, with 2010 Mondeuse

Precious Bane, Dessert Wine, Lagier-Meredith

Lagier-Meredith 2010 Precious Bane Dessert Wine (brilliant w cheese)

Tasting Massican with Dan Petroski

Dan Petroski was generous enough to taste us on side-by-side vintages of his 2011 Massican whites with the just bottled, not yet released, 2012s, including a brand new Sauvignon Blanc. His whites have a textural quality I love.

To read more on the wines here’s my write up on them from last week: http://wakawakawinereviews.com/2013/03/28/an-early-tasting-of-massican-2012-portfolio-alongside-2011/

Dan and Carla

Dan Petroski sharing the Massican story with Carla

The Annia blend, Massican

the Annia white blend, Massican

the Chardonnay, Massican

Massican Chardonnay

the Sauvignons, Massican

the Sauvignons, Massican

Visiting Ridge Monte Bello and Paul Draper

Paul Draper and Christopher Watkins at Ridge Monte Bello were generous enough to host us for the afternoon. It was an incredible time including Rachel (aka. Jr.) and Bodi, Paul’s dog, falling in love, our getting to blind taste and give feedback on the potential 2011 assemblage of the Ridge Bordeaux Estate blend, and a tasting through the recently bottled, not yet released bottlings assembled at the Monte Bello site. What a treat!

Notes on the upcoming portfolio release to follow!

Jr at the top of Monte Bello

Jr looking down from 2000 ft in elevation at Monte Bello

Carla and Christopher talking at Monte Bello

Christopher Watkins and Carla talking at Monte Bello vineyards

Doing blind tasting trials of the 2011 Estate blend

blind tasting the 2011 Ridge Monte Bello and Estate blends to determine final assemblage with Paul Draper and Eric Baugher

Blind tasting trials of the 2011 blends

the 2011 Monte Bello and Estate blends

Going into the 1880s limestone caves of Monte Bello

walking down into the 1880s limestone cellar at Monte Bello

Looking into the cellars

Tasting the up coming Ridge portfolio

the upcoming Ridge line-up bottled at Monte Bello (not yet released)

The upcoming Ridge chardonnays

tasting the not-yet-released Monte Bello and Estate Chardonnays side-by-side

Tasting Monte Bello

tasting two vintages of Monte Bello side-by-side 2010 and 1995

Visiting Varner Vineyards with Jim Varner

At Varner’s Neeley Vineyards Jim Varner introduced us to the 2012 barrel presentations of each of the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir blocks–3 a piece–then tasted us through bottlings of previous vintages. Rachel ended up tasting and advising on the Chardonnays and winning over Jim with her accounts of “a long manchego finish” and “toasty citrus opening.” So, in exchange, he taught her how to climb barrels and use a wine thief. She was thrilled. The wines were beautiful and fascinating.

Jim Varner explaining the vineyards location

Jim Varner explaining the Varner vineyards in relation to the surrounding open spaces

Looking over the Bee Block

looking over the Bee Block (Chardonnay) of Varner Vineyards

Jr learning how to climb barrels and use a wine thief w Jim Varner

Jim Varner showing Jr how to climb barrels and use a wine thief

Tasting Varner wines

tasting Varner Three Block 2008 Pinot Noir, 2009 Bee Block Chardonnay, 2010 Amphitheatre Block Chardonnay

Touring old vines with Morgan Twain-Peterson and Chris Cottrell

Morgan Twain-Peterson of Bedrock Vineyards does amazing work helping to preserve old vine vineyards throughout Sonoma County and beyond. He and Chris Cottrell work together to restore neglected sites, and enrich others. Together the two of them took us on a tour of several older vine sites in Sonoma County dating to the 1880s, including the Peterson family’s Bedrock Vineyard, the Old Hill Ranch, which is now managed by Bill Bucklin, and the elevation vineyard Monte Rosso.

Besides unlabeled (not yet released) bottles, old vines are my favorite thing. So beautiful and moving.

Bedrock Vineyard

Bedrock Vineyard is owned and managed by the Peterson family.

Morgan talking us through Bedrock Vineyard

Morgan Twain-Peterson telling us about Bedrock Vineyard

Vines from the 1880s, Bedrock Vineyard, Carla, Morgan, and Chris

standing amidst vines from the 1880s, Carla, Morgan, and Chris

Vines from the 1880s, Bedrock Vineyard

1880s vines, Bedrock Vineyard

Old Hill Ranch

Previously established and maintained by the Hill family, Old Hill Ranch is now loved for incredible old vines, including what sounds to be the oldest Grenache in the state. Bill Bucklin manages, and makes incredible wines from the site. He and his wife, Lizanne, are lovely. They have bees! and chickens!

Insectarium flowers for the Bucklin bees

flowers for the Bucklin family bees at Old Hill Ranch Vineyard

Walking into Bucklin Vineyards

Walking into the vines at Old Hill Ranch with the Bucklins

Old Vines at Bucklin

Grenache from the 1880s, Old Hill Ranch

Will Bucklin

Will Bucklin explains the oldest Grenache in Sonoma County to Chris and Carla

Walking back on Old Hill Ranch

Monte Rosso Vineyard

Up at 900 ft in elevation the Monte Rosso Vineyard appears after wretched climbing suddenly full of gnarled tree trained vines surrounded by waist high cover crop, encouraged to enrich the soil. The view is unreal. Imagining the toil the Chinese labor and mules no doubt went through to establish the site in the late 1800s is moving.

View from 900 ft at Monte Rosso

vines from the 1880s at Monte Rosso Vineyard, 900 ft in elevation

The cover crop at Monte Rosso

standing in the cover crop next to 1880s Zinfandel, Carla and Morgan

Monte Rosso

Two wines from the Twain-Peterson Brain Trust

Morgan does good work with old vines–it’s something we need to pay attention to maintaining for the sake of quality in California wine–including make a wealth of them into wine for his label Bedrock. I’m so grateful for what he’s doing.

Joel Peterson, Morgan’s father, stopped me in my tracks with his Ravens Wood 1992 Dickerson Zinfandel. The truth is, I’m a Zinfandel skeptic. If anyone knows what it truly means to be a skeptic, they recognize the genuine skeptic state comes from a sincere love for what is good–the skeptic has high standards and know those can be met.

My love for Zinfandel is so high I only like a small percentage of them. Along with Pinot, it’s one of the over made wines of the world-that is, the most gorgeous examples of wines are made from these grapes, and so are the most over done. The 1992 Ravens Wood drew me back again, and again, and then again another time. I’m so blessed to have had that time with it. Thank you.

Bedrock Rose'

we tasted a wealth of Bedrock wines, here their most recent release, an old vine rosé

Ravens Wood Zin

Looking back to beautiful–the 1992 Ravens Wood Dickerson Zinfandel

Finishing the Week on a Little Boat

To celebrate Carla’s time here, a wealth of her friends in California got together for dinner and wine. We got to taste through a mass of treasured bottles. My daughter started a dance party on the deck before the host could do it himself. I fought through my “there’s a crowd of people” panic attack as I do, and then got back to enjoying myself. And in the midst of it unexpected history appeared…

1977 Mondavi Pinot Noir

we tasted a wealth of other wines through the week, the last night included this: 1977 Robert Mondavi Pinot Noir, all porcini, eucalyptus, citrus umami

Rachel walks down the dock

I love meeting people but the truth is I get uncomfortably shy when I first walk into a party (it will usually go away-ish if I tough it out through that inital “I think I am going to die” discomfort) so, my dear daughter took me outside to sit on the water in a little boat and enjoy a soft rain. I grew up on the water so it always calms me right down.

Sitting at dusk in a little boat

Life is beautiful.

Carla is so lovely. It was a wonderful week of simply, with simplicity, enjoying what came, then sharing in conversation giving heart, thought, care, and openness to what we shared. It’s always an incredible blessing to have time with a kindred.


Thank you to Carole Meredith and Stephen Lagier at Lagier-Meredith.

Thank you to Dan Petroski.

Thank you to Paul Draper, Eric Baugher, and Christopher Watkins at Ridge.

Thank you to Jim Varner.

Thank you to Morgan Twain-Peterson, and Chris Cottrell.

Thank you to Abe Schoener.

Thank you most especially, with love, to Carla. We had such a beautiful time with you. It’s with such gratefulness I discover that we share the world with such a heart as yours.

Copyright 2013 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com.


  1. […] Carla Rzeszewski, Jr, and I first visited Varner together, thanks to the introductory efforts of Dan Fredman, and a further recommendation from Jon Bonné. She and I spent a lot of time talking about their wines after, and those conversations came with me through the other visits and tastings I was able to do with the Varners. In many ways I wrote the article for Carla–she was the original motivation–to celebrate those conversations we shared. Love to you, Carla. […]

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