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In an effort to increase wine awareness in Alabama, Rush Wines has organized personalized, guided tours of California wine country. The last guided tour – Backstage Pass to Wine Country II: An Escape to California's Napa, Sonoma, and Russian River Valleys – took place between Wednesday, September 6, and Sunday, September 10, 2006. Seven native Alabamians participated in the tour, which featured intimate tours of wineries not normally open to the public. Wineries included the renowned Ramey Wine Cellars, Hanzell Vineyards, Vine Cliff Winery, Cain Vineyard & Winery, Pride Mountain Vineyards, and Behrens & Hitchcock Winery, among others. Needless to say, the tour was a flawless success once again! Special thanks go to the numerous generous winemakers who agreed to be a part of this project; to Leah Shell, of All Seasons Travel; and to Rush Garner – all of whom made this fabulous trip possible!
kick off the tour, guests enjoyed a picnic
at Russian Gulch, a secluded beach nestled at the confluence of the Russian River
and the Pacific Ocean, approximately five miles north of the town of Jenner just
off scenic Highway 1. Here, they observed a colony of harbor seals and myriad
species of birds and other wildlife...
Thursday, participants attended a private, lecture-style tasting with
world-renowned David Ramey, of Ramey Wine Cellars. David tasted guests on eleven
of his current- and future-release wines, before finishing up with a
question-and-answer session. For anyone not in the know, David Ramey’s
winemaking training has included a stint with the Moueix family at Château
Pétrus. His previous winemaking jobs were at Matanzas Creek, Chalk Hill, Dominus,
and Rudd Estate...
Later that day, guests visited the impressive new facilities at Hanzell Vineyards, where they were treated to a private tasting in Hanzell’s wine library. Hanzell’s wine library is the oldest estate-bottle library in Sonoma and features Hanzell wines dating all the way back to 1956...
For dinner, attendees visited winemaker Mac McDonald, of Vision Cellars, at his house in Windsor, where Mac and his wife Lil prepared a yummy barbecue dinner. Friday began with an early-morning tour of Oscar Renteria's property in the rolling hills of northern Carneros. (This 55-acre property is the future site of Oscar’s estate vineyards, winery, and personal residence.) For lunch, guests dined at the elegant new tasting room of Elizabeth Spencer Wines in Rutherford. That night, they enjoyed a special gourmet dinner prepared by a private chef in the outdoor kitchen at Vine Cliff Winery, located above the Silverado Trail in the Napa Valley. On the final day of the tour, participants were chauffeured to Cain Vineyard & Winery, where they took in a stunning view of the northern Napa Valley from atop Spring Mountain...
In the afternoon, a barrel tasting at Pride Mountain Vineyards included stunning samples from two different blocks that will comprise Pride’s 2005 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon...
To finish off the trip, guests attended a barrel sampling at Behrens & Hitchcock Winery...