Some time ago, I interviewed Tobin James and wrote an article about it for Eve’s Wine 101, which you can read here: http://evewine101.com/2012/07/07/michael-perlis-reports-tobin-james-cellars/
Well, the power of wine and the internet being what they are, a great fan of wine (and Tobin James), Ed Leon found my article and contacted me. Since that initial contact, Ed and I have exchanged several emails and are quickly becoming good friends. I am hopeful that one of these days, we will actually meet! And soon!
Here is that first email from Ed that got our friendship going. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Ed called it: Zin Country for You!
I just read your great commentary about Toby and TJ wines on your website! You sound like our kinda guy, my friend! Each year, my wife, Marianne, and I do three weeks of “wine enjoyment” in California. We usually begin on Memorial Day weekend in Plymouth (Amador County) , which is now known as Zin country, but was formerly known for its gold deposits and mining. Our favorite winery there is Dick Cooper’s Cooper Vineyards. Dick is a very cool dude, indeed! We first met him about eight years ago, when he came driving out of a vineyard on his tractor, dressed in old Levis and a tattered white t-shirt, sporting a ragged cowboy hat. He used to be a musician, and had his own band. He is third generation winemaker, and generously advises and consults with other vintners in Amador County. His unselfish goal is to make and keep Amador a fine wine destination.
After 3-4 days in the Plymouth/Jackson/Sutter Creek area, we head over to Lodi (only about an hour away) which, as you surely know, was founded by Germans and Italians, and is known for some pretty good wines, as well, these days. The Lodi Arts Society hosts an incredible wine event in early June. The last time we were there, each attendee got a commemorative wine glass+just about all the wine they could possibly drink from about 20 different wineries for $10.00!!! And the wine was being poured most generously by arts volunteers, who were also imbibing! (We usually stay in an RV park on the Delta, so we had to limit our tasting, unfortunately.)
From Lodi, we head down to Paso Robles, which we LOVE!! We are members of the TJ Gang, of course, but we also love many other wineries in the area, including Halter Ranch, which is owned by Switzerland’s wealthiest man! In addition to the June visit to Paso, we also attend one of the semi-annual TJ bashes (this year, it will be the March 15th one) with several family members. For that we stay at the incomparable Carleton Hotel in Atascadero. It would be great to see you there.
In the Guadalupe Valley (Valle Guadalupe) of Baja California, there are also some great wineries that might interest you. One of our favorites is Adobe Guadalupe, owned by a very classy Dutch lady, Tru Miller. They name their excellent wines after archangels! Their 2009 Kerubiel is to die for! They also have an impressive stable full of the thoroughbred Aztec horses, as well as an inn (they modestly call it a “bed and breakfast”) of the first magnitude. Architecturally, it looks like something out of ancient Persia-just magnificent! You can google them and view their YouTube video on the place with its superb music. We also like to visit L.A. Cetto, whose founder is Italian. We love their Nebbiolo, which recently celebrated its 25th year of production. We especially like the ’06 one!
I could go on and tell you about wines in Ramona (in the hills, just outside San Diego), where you will find the winery of Italian opera singer, Herman Salerno, where you can enjoy live opera every Sunday! Also, a definite ‘must’ is a visit to the vineyerds of French-Canadian Mario Bergeron, formerly of Napa. Mario and his lovely wife, Diana, own the La Finquita Winery on the east side of Ramona. They have about eight acres of grapes, citrus orchards, and horses. Beneath the tasting room and adjacent patio, there is a wine cave that appears to be about 200 years old, which is lined with 1,000 bottles of wine, and has a 20 ft.-long King Arthur-stlye table with long benches and king’s chairs at either end. This “cave” can be rented for parties, weddings, etc. for the paltry sum of $500.00, which includes a case of Mario’s wine!
Then, there is Temecula, with its South Coast Winery, (great wines and beautiful villas)!
Lastly, just for the sake of California wine history, please check out the biography of General Mariano Vallejo (for whom the city of Vallejo is named). You will read that he was the first commercial vintner in California (1840’s). He was the uncle of Juan Bautista Alvarado, third-to-last Mexican Governor of Alta California (1843-45), my great-great grandfather.
I do hope our paths cross at some point in 2013. I’d love to meet you. If you ever plan a trip to San Diego or to Baja, please let us know. We have lots of friends in both places that you would surely find fun and interesting.
In vino veritas! Amici e vino devono essere vecchi! (Friends and wine improve with age!)