April 7, 2008
Passport to Spring

IMGP2817.JPGWhat with the grass getting taller, barns jutting up like Sierra peaks, and vines budding with new life, spring in the Sierra foothills provided the perfect backdrop for this weekend's 17th annual Passport Weekend sponsored by the El Dorado Winery Association.

I'll be reporting on some new wineries in the area in a forthcoming Dunne on Wine column in The Bee, but first a couple of quick impressions:

- The food was never better, with the most impressive fare of the day dished out at Busby Cellars along Grizzly Flat Road of Somerset, home to this grand old barn. Off the Vine Catering Co. of Cameron Park was dishing out smoked pork with a sauce of ancho chile peppers on blue-corn tortillas, red lentils with andouille sausage, and the big surprise, fried white beans scented with sage and spicy with chile powder and garlic. It was tough deciding which Busby wine was the best match, with the sweetly fruity 2005 tempranillo, the firm and spicy 2005 zinfandel, and the peppery and juicy 2005 petite sirah all possessing the build and depth to pair with the hearty foods.

- The two most impressive wines of the day fell at opposite ends of the style spectrum. On the light end was the Iverson Vineyards & Winery 2007 Sierra Foothills Grenache Rose ($18), austere in structure but all refreshing strawberries and pomegranates in smell and flavor. On the robust end was the Holly's Hill Vineyards 2005 El Dorado Patriarche ($30), a jammy, earthy, and complex blend of black Rhone Valley varieties.

- Holly's Hill Vineyards and Colibri Ridge Winery & Vineyard share the award for extra-step hospitality, the former for its complimentary espresso stand, the latter for Garrison Yeandle, who not only attentively directed traffic in the parking lot but quickly opened car doors for visitors and volunteered to take group photos under the oaks. We started the day at Colibri Ridge and ended it at Holly's Hill, and those considerate touches were perfect bookends.

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