Sonoma County Wine Region – Keller Estate

Last on our tour through Sonoma County and the search for exceptional wine tasting experiences was Keller Estate. Located in the southern part of Sonoma County off Lakeville Highway, this Petaluma Gap winery is open by appointment only (although a quick phone call ahead usually gets you in right away, 707.765.2117). When you arrive, expect to be seated, not ushered up to a crowded winetasting counter. The feel here is luxurious and the pace of wine tasting is leisurely. Knowledgeable wine servers share information about the winery and serve popcorn popped in the winery’s estate produced olive oil, with a side of olive oil for dipping. While this might seem like an unusual pairing for wine tasting, the olive oil is quite delicious and the popcorn and olive oil flavors don’t detract from the wines.

Our first visit to Keller was exactly this kind of experience. 90 minutes tasting four wines in the tasting room, overlooking the vineyards and learning about the chardonnays, pinots and the Rotie being poured that day. But our return visit was so amazingly over the top and indulgent that I would happily repeat the experience. Called their Serenity and Wine Brunch, this is a three course, gourmet feast paired with estate wines. For $65 per person or $50 for club members, this is an excellent way to sample the Keller wines.

Brunch is served on the Vineyard Terrace with sweeping views of the vineyards, olive groves and Mt. Tamalpais. Seating is family style at a long, elegantly set table. Be prepared to get to know your table mates as the wine is poured. And, servings are generous! We started with a crisp, dry rose, worked our way through three different chardonnays, sampled a couple of pinot noirs, the Rotie and ended with a sparkling wine.


We even received a special treat at the end. With temperatures hovering around 100 degrees that weekend, Brian, our host, had set up the wine cave earlier in case we needed to sit inside. While we did enjoy most of our meal on the vineyard terrace, Brian kindly invited us back to the cave to cap off the afternoon with dessert and sparkling wine. We parted ways with our new found friends, purchased some favorite wines, then set off on the road wondering how we were ever going to just be able to walk into an ordinary wine tasting room again and belly up to that crowded bar!


So there, dear readers, is the last of our Sonoma County exceptional wine tasting experiences. It was fun. It was indulgent. It gave us unique and up close opportunities to learn more about Sonoma County wines and sharpen our wine tasting skills. Impress your friends or impress your date. Guaranteed that any one of these five experiences will do the trick!

Napa Cellars Napa Valley Chardonnay 2013

I detected a hint of sweet cream, vanilla and oak in the nose. Delicious! The body is smooth, round, soft and creamy. The finish is complex. The color is light gold. This vintage was released in June 2014, and was aged in 89% French oak. 14.2% alcohol.

This wine is so delicious, it is probably best to drink it alone. But, it would work well with petite breakfast brie, or a roasted chicken sprinkled with fresh thyme and oregano, or a butternut squash soup.

Two La Crema Chardonnays

La Crema

Today, I’m tasting two different chardonnays from La Crema, both from the “goodbye wines” that my former co-workers gave me when I left the full time grind to pursue blogging and travel writing (see the picture and story behind the “goodbye wines”).

It turns out that La Crema actually produces eight different chardonnays, something I didn’t know. The two I am reviewing today are the 2012 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay and the 2013 Russian River Chardonnay. Now I know you purists out there would say that is not a fair comparison to pit a 2013 against a 2012 considering how different each year’s growing conditions can be. But, hey, that’s what was in my gift box and I think it’s a good way to see how the Russian River style compares to the Sonoma Coast.

Here are my observations on the two:

2013 La Crema Russian River Chardonnay

  • Body is more complex
  • Style is accessible and clean
  • Acidity is fresh
  • Clean, fresh scent of pear in the nose with hints of stone fruit
  • I taste layers of vanilla, butterscotch, and stone fruit
  • I find it to be rich and complex with hints of oak and hazelnut in the finish
  • 14.5% alcohol
2012 La Crema Sonoma Coast Chardonnay

  • Body is lighter, more delicate, and refined
  • Style is accessible and clean
  • Acidity is lively
  • The nose is clean with a mild bouquet
  • This wine is crisper and higher in acidity, delicate
  • I taste layers of vanilla, coconut, and ripe citrus
  • As it warms it becomes more complex
  • 13.5% alcohol

Both wines were lightly golden in color and neither displayed those oaky, creamy, buttery characteristics that I love so well in a chardonnay. But, with that said, they were both enjoyable and I would happily drink them again, especially the Russian River chardonnay.

The other chardonnays that La Crema produces are the Nine Barrel (La Crema’s high end chardonnay from the Russian River Valley), the Anderson Valley, Arroyo Seco (from the Monterey wine growing region), Los Carneros, Monterey, and Saralee’s Vineyard (also from the Russian River Valley). I’ll be heading to Sonoma County next month for wine tasting and will definitely plan to stop by La Crema. Look for a future review of their additional wines when I return.

Where to Buy La Crema Russian River and Sonoma Coast Chardonnays:

Both wines are available online at the La Crema website. The Russian River retails for $30 and the Sonoma Coast sells for $23.00. However, both wines are also readily available in Northern California grocery stores such as Safeway and Raley’s and wine retailers for a price significantly less than the winery website.

What? No Chardonnay on the menu???

So, I’m sitting in a bar in San Francisco, hoping to order a glass of wine before the Chris Botti concert and I can’t find a single Chardonnay on the menu. We’re in San Francisco, for goodness sake. Glass of White WineSonoma and Napa are in our backyard!

“Seriously, Mr. Bartender, the only white wines you have on the menu are an albillo, an albarino and some kind of chenin blanc/reisling blend? I’m sorry, but your blend does not compare to a chardonnay. It doesn’t even come close”, I protested.

I’m rebelling! I’m standing up for chardonnay and I don’t care if you are a sauvignon blanc lover or eschew white wines altogether because you only drink red wine. You won’t read this blog any further anyway.

I love chardonnay and I’m not talking about the new style un-oaked, steel barrel fermented variety. I love a good old fashioned, oaky, buttery, creamy chardonnay. And that’s what this blog is all about. I’m in pursuit of that old fashioned style that California chardonnay was known for many years ago. Join me on my journey or laugh at me along the way. I’m inspired now and I’m going anyway…