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Amid snowy Rockies, local wine


When asked where I would travel this year, and which country would be number 85 for myself, I started glancing at eastern European wine regions. I was thinking something exotic, far from home. I wanted to discover new wines and, perhaps, make some turns on the snow.

What came across my desk just a couple weeks back was a huge surprise — an invitation to the Taos Winter Wine Festival. Hardly in Europe, this ski town did have huge appeal to me. There were a lot of chalet style bars that were built to feel like Europe and some phenomenal skiing. Moreover, the winter wine festival was there and I could taste among many old winemaker friends from Europe, Napa and Sonoma County.

An inexpensive $200 roundtrip flight out of SFO found me in Albuquerque chasing to change planes within 45 minutes of the Sonoma Coast hustle. No problem. We knew where the wine will be.

A 2.5-hour ride up to the Sagebrush Inn with a buddy of mine, in a town clad and cemented with adobe structures, reminded me of Vallejo’s Home in Petaluma and all the Spanish history in our great town. Soon, we were planning and romanticizing about turning the Adobe into wine country’s most amazing bed and breakfast nestled between the Petaluma GAP and Carneros.

My first thoughts on a wine festival deep in the lower range of the Rocky Mountains harbored some skepticism. Who would be there? What would the food be like? Was this all about making money or would this festival live up my ever evolving and discerning tastes. Afterall, I live among some of the finest wine on earth.

One minute in the door, I was handed a hand-carved roast beast slider dripping with creamy horseradish. I know I should have started with a white but was quickly pulled over to the Pride Mountain Table and was a handed a topped glass of their 2013 cabernet. So full and balanced with dark berry fruits and cocoa notes and violets, there was no way I was spitting this wine. This beautiful Napa gem sunk deep like a treacherous Taos ravine. No problem, 49 more wineries to go.

Just a few tables down, I ran into Justin Peter with his Russian River Pinots. Long and silky with dark and juicy raspberry fruit, it sat well with the tuna tartare from Restaurant Medley.

After several more gracious Italian super Tuscans and even some Brunello, I made it to the upstairs, where I had the pleasure of meeting the winemaker of one of my favorite zinfandels, Sinnean. Peter Rosback and I became instant friends. So laid back and down to earth, I will be visiting him in Oregon this summer.

After a few days of skiing and fine food, I fell in love with Taos. Although I only found one Sonoma County winemaker who purchased some Petaluma GAP fruit to blend into his wine, it was an enriching experience. I imagine, by next year’s festival the Petaluma GAP will be serving wine at one of these tables.

Petaluma vs Burgundy

The Petaluma GAP will be hosting a Burgundy vs Petaluma GAP tasting course/competition on at 7 p.m., Feb. 20 at 113 Petaluma Blvd. North. The cost is $20 for GAP members and $25 for non-menbers. Call 765-1112 for more information.

(Jason Jenkins is the owner of Vine and Barrel in Petaluma. Contact him at jason@vineandbarrel.com.)