Maybe because it’s the last day of most people’s Spring Break, or maybe we’re all feeling housebound with all the recent rain. Whatever the reason, both Napa and Sonoma wineries were hopping today. Our quarterly selections were available at one of our wine clubs, Cult Wine Central,, up in Oakville, so we decided to make a day of it and visit a Sonoma winery as well. As long-time fans of Rhone-style wines, which are generally dry-farmed and have an appealing minerality from chalky soils that exist in France’s Rhone Valley and in isolated spots in California, we seek out California wineries that specialize in those varietals. Mike and I spent a fun week along the Central Coast tasting these and other wines back in February, in celebration of our 27th anniversary, courtesy of my cousins Larry and Karla who were traveling in Asia and lent us their fabulous home overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

Paso Robles has several wineries making Rhone-style wines, including one of our favorites, Tablas Creek Winery, We enjoy joining wine clubs; tasting is free and the wines you want are discounted up to 25%, so we joined the Tablas Creek wine club while we were there. It’s a bit out-of-the-way but once you get there you can stay for hours meandering through the tasting room, gift shop and outdoor spaces, although it rained the whole time we were there. Wine tasting is a great way to learn more about wine in general, the style in which the wines are made and the winemaker’s philosophy. It’s fun to meet like-minded wine fans and compare notes.

Getting back to today, we chose Cline Cellars in Sonoma,, a 350 acre estate just north of Infineon Raceway on Highway 121. We like their Rhone-style wines and appreciate their strong commitment to sustainability. Among others, we tried the2009 crisp, fruity Viognier, and the 2009 Mourvedre, both under $20 and both lovely to drink now. A 1:30 tour was offered but didn’t seem all that appealing in the rain. We’ll definitely go back this summer to take the tour and explore the beautiful grounds and picnic spots.

Despite the weather, this is a good time to visit your favorite wineries—the new releases are coming out in the next few weeks. Wine tasting is fun and it’s just a 15 minute drive to the Carneros region, so even if you just want to get out for a couple of hours it’s very doable. We save money by sharing a tasting glass. We both enjoy the tasting, but one of us tastes and spits so we are safe driving. Appréciez du vin!