So many great wines, so little time.
Our current list of favorites is undergoing a “remodeling.” The names here are still on our short list but we have new ones to add. Stay tuned for a full update soon. [03.2017]
The Thirsty Kitten’s Current Favorites
In California’s Santa Rita Hills, Ampelos is owned by husband and wife Peter and Rebecca Work. After an incredibly lucky last minute change of plans kept Peter from being at a meeting in the World Trade Center on the morning of 9/11, the Works left their corporate jobs to pursue their dream of winemaking. Farming organically and sustainably, they make Pinot Noir, Syrah, Grenache and Viogner. A new find for us, the aroma alone of their Pinot Noir can send you into the stratosphere.
Headed by owner/winemaker Deborah Schatzlein and owner/winegrower Cindy Paulson, Bink is located in the town of Philo, in Mendocino County’s gorgeous Anderson Valley. Sadly, they have decided to sunset their wine business and retire. We can’t blame them one bit for wanting much deserved liberation from the day in and day out of running a wine business. But we’ll surely miss them. As of March, 2017, there’s still time to buy wine from them. They’ll continue to sell until they run out. Syrah is their signature varietal but they also make divine Pinot Noir, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and a Rosé. We have always loved that Woman Power is behind this winery and have always adored their deft handling of grapes.
Greg Brewer and Steve Clifton, who each make wines of their own under the Melville and Palmina labels respectively, collaborate at Brewer-Clifton on Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and sparkling wine from the Sta. Rita Hills. Their wines have been lavishly praised by the Big Cahunas of the wine world (Robert Parker and Jay McInerney, to name a couple). We adore both their Pinot and their Chard and look forward to trying their sparkling.
Long a sentimental favorite of ours, Gary Farrell Winery was our first stop on our first trip to Sonoma. The stunning views from the steep hillside tasting room in the Russian River Valley took our breath away. We also happened run into Gary himself checking the fermentation tanks. The winery ownership has changed hands, but the warm and personal touch is still present in Gary’s tradition. We are especially fond of the Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Zin. The winery also produces Sauvignon Blanc and Syrah.
Located in the Eola Hills of Yamhill County in Oregon, iOTA is a small family owned and operated winery that produces hand-crafted lots of estate grown Pinot Noir. We’ve been sipping their wine since their inaugural 2006 vintage was released and adore the elegant, food friendly style they’ve created. We’ve also become huge fans of their Rosé of Pinot Noir, named Phyllis after the mother of one of the owners.
If there’s one winery whose name we always say with a sigh and a smile, it would be Rafanelli. We visited the winery a decade ago and have been adoring their wines ever since. Founder Alberto Rafanelli immigrated from Italy in the early 1900s and settled in Healdsburg. The family has been growing grapes in Dry Creek Valley ever since. Alberto’s grandson Dave owns and runs the winery today with his wife Patty. Daughter Shelly serves as winemaker, Shelly’s husband Craig Fehlman as vineyard manager, and daughter Stacy heads day-to-day winery operations. They make deliciously intense Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon. We can’t count the number of friends we’ve served it to who subsequently beg us open a bottle whenever they are over.
Another Anderson Valley winery, Toulouse has been a household favorite ours for several years now for their Pinot Noir. After retiring from successful careers, Vern and Maxine Boltz decided to explore grape growing as a next chapter in their lives. They found property along Highway 128 in Philo, just a few hours north of Oakland where they had lived previously, and planted their first grapes in 1997. One thing led to another and by 2002 they were making their own wine. In short order, they were receiving accolades from folks like Wine Spectator. In addition to Pinot Noir, they also make Gewürztraminer, Muscat, and Pinot Gris. And, best of all, they have one of the warmest, friendliest tasting rooms around.