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These wineries take you to Europe without leaving Wine Country

Do you miss traveling? Do you dream of seeing the Mona Lisa at the Louvre in France or traveling to Spain to catch a flamenco show in Seville?

If the Delta variant of the coronavirus has convinced you to stay local for the time being, you still can play the tourist and take in the beauty of Europe on this side of the pond by visiting these six wineries with a European sensibility.

France

Jordan Winery in Healdsburg: This ivy-covered chateau, with its wrought-iron balconies and flower boxes, will whisk you off to France — at least in your imagination — while you drink in the architecture.

A statue of Bacchus, the god of wine, in the courtyard seems to be watching over the vision of founders Tom and Sally Jordan. The Francophiles, who adored everything French, were determined to craft a Bordeaux-style cabernet sauvignon that aged well but was approachable in its youth.

Founded in 1972, the winery will be celebrating its 50th anniversary next year. In preparation, Jordan Winery has spent the last couple of years renovating its interiors, including the library filled with a curated collection of old books and the cellar room with its trove of antiques like a 19th-century French wine press.

If you want a sip of France, opt for the Library Tasting, $45 per person. Visitors will taste two chardonnays with food pairings in the library and then move to the wine cellar to taste three cabernet sauvignons, paired with food and a cheese plate.

The best trio of wines appealing to the French palate are the 2011 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon, the 2015 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2019 Jordan Chardonnay.

Set on a sprawling 1,200 acres, the winery has 120 acres planted to vines and produces 100,000 cases each year. Its flagship is its Bordeaux-style cabernet sauvignon, but the cab’s sibling, a Burgundian-styled chardonnay, also has a strong following.

1474 Alexander Valley Road, Healdsburg, 707-431-5250, jordanwinery.com

Domaine Carneros in Napa: The hillside chateau, with terraces overlooking a weave of vines, has a grand staircase and marble-floor salons. In the entryway, there’s a portrait of Madame de Pompadour, who famously introduced sparkling wine to the court at Versailles. She declared it “the only wine that a woman can drink and remain beautiful.”

The chateau, founded in 1987, was inspired by the classic 18th century Chateau de la Marquetterie, the home of Chateau Taittinger in Champagne, France. Claude Taittinger decided to plant American roots with the goal of creating a hybrid, a bubbly that married the best of France and California.

Visitors will likely want to explore a range of options and curate their own experience. You can taste flights of sparkling, still wine or both, ranging from $40 to $60 per person. There are a la carte choices for food pairings, from artisanal cheese and local charcuterie plates to smoked salmon and caviar.

An upscale tasting option, $150 per person, is called the Art of Sabrage. While sipping sparklers and snacking on food pairings, visitors learn the history, legend and technique of the flamboyant sabering practice (opening a bottle with a saber) that dates back to the Napoleonic era.

Three tasty bottlings that will impress Francophiles are the flagship Le Rêve (“the dream” in French) Blanc de Blancs, the Brut Rose Cuvée de la Pompadour and the Famous Gate Pinot Noir.

The winery has 400 acres of vineyards in the Carneros region, which spans the base of Sonoma and Napa valleys. With its proximity to San Pablo Bay, Domaine Carneros takes advantage of the morning fog and breezy afternoons that are ideal for growing pinot noir and chardonnay, grapes that produce the winery’s notable sparklers.

1240 Duhig Road, Napa, 707-257-0101, domainecarneros.com

Chateau St. Jean in Kenwood: With Sugarloaf Ridge in the distance, Chateau St. Jean is a modern version of a medieval French castle. A statue of Jean, the winery’s namesake, stands in the main courtyard near a fountain. On the grounds, lush gardens meander around a towering magnolia tree and a pond, making you feel like you’ve stepped into a scene from “The Great Gatsby.”

Wine-lovers are well aware that the winery’s flagship is the Cinq Cepages, a Bordeaux red blend; Chateau St. Jean was the first Sonoma winery to win the “Wine of the Year” award from the Wine Spectator with its 1996 vintage.

With an eye toward Europe, these two tasting options won’t disappoint. The Taste of Sonoma, at $40 a person, offers a mix of single-vineyard or appellation-specific wines, highlighting different European varietals. The Chateau Reserve Tasting, at $45 a person, features some top-tier bottings, including the Cinq Cepages.

Founded in 1973, Chateau St. Jean is now owned by Treasury Wine Estates, which purchased it from Suntory Ltd. in 1996. The winery has 93 acres of vines in Kenwood and is well-known for its cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, gewurztraminer, pinot noir and merlot.

8555 Sonoma Highway, Kenwood, 707-257-5784, chateaustjean.com

Spain

Marimar Torres Estate in Sebastopol: This winery looks like a Catalan farmhouse or a Spanish “masia” with the statue of St. Michael of the Vineyards, the patron saint of the Penedes wine region in front.

The tasting room is decorated with old Catalan tiles, antiques and many family photographs that tell the founder’s unlikely story. Marimar Torres, 75, said her family has been growing grapes since the 17th century, with the business handed down from father to son since 1870.

At age 29, Torres began dreaming about having a vineyard and, later, about having a winery. She convinced her father to support her ambitions of becoming a vintner in America. She planted her vineyard here in 1986 and built her winery in 1992. Torres will change the father-to-son family tradition when she eventually passes the baton to her daughter, Cristina.

For those who revere Spain, here are two particularly appealing tasting options. The first is Tapas & Wine Pairing, at $55 per person, which features a taste of five wines paired with a cheese plate and a selection of tapas from Torres' cookbooks. The second is A Guided Tour & A Bottle from Marimar’s Cellar, at $95 per person. It includes a walking tour of the Don Miguel Vineyard and a visit to Torres’ house, where guests pick a wine from her library to pair with a cold tapas plate.

The winery property, which spans 81 acres, has 60 acres planted to vines and produces between 8,000 to 12,000 cases per year. Its Spanish varietals include albariño, tempranillo and godello.

11400 Graton Road, Sebastopol, 707-823-4365, marimarestate.com

Gloria Ferrer in Sonoma: The winery, with its arched entryway and tiled roof, offers a taste of Barcelona, Spain. The tasting room is done in warm tones of brown and beige and the patio has a punch of color with a cluster of red umbrellas.

Drawn to the promise of California, Jose Ferrer named the Carneros winery Gloria Ferrer after his wife. The family planted 50 acres in 1984 and opened the winery in 1986.

The best option to imbibe Spain is the Classic Carneros Tasting Experience, starting at $34 per person, with a tasting of four classic Gloria Ferrer wines while taking in the sweeping view of the Carneros.

With 300-plus acres of vines, Gloria Ferrer is best-known for its sparkling wines, as well as for its chardonnay and pinot noir.

23555 Arnold Drive, Sonoma, 707-933-1986, gloriaferrer.com

Italy

Ferrari Carano in Healdsburg: Villa Fiore, Italian for “house of flowers,” is the winery’s hospitality center, an extravagant Mediterranean palace with 5 acres of gardens. In the spring, the gardens boast thousands of tulips.

Terraces look out onto several fountains that make you feel like you’re in Tuscany. Inside, the tasting room has black granite and a mahogany bar and a faux marble floor. A limestone staircase leads visitors to an underground cellar.

Don and Rhonda Carano, both second-generation Italian Americans, founded the winery in 1981. It’s now owned by Foley Family Wines, which purchased the winery in 2020.

Two tasting options will appeal to the Italian at heart. The first is the Terrazzo Terrace Tasting, at $30 per person, offering a sample of four wines. The Enoteca Reserve Tasting, at $50 per person, is in the underground cellar and features five vineyard-designated wines.

Three wines that will particularly appeal to the Italian palate are the Siena, a sangiovese-based red wine, the pinot grigio and the dry rosé.

Ferrari Carano produces 400,000 cases a year and is best-known for its fume blanc, chardonnay, pinot grigio and cabernet sauvignon.

8761 Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg, 800-831-0381, ferrari-carano.com

Wine writer Peg Melnik can be reached at peg.melnik@pressdemocrat.com or 707-521-5310

Peg Melnik

Wine, The Press Democrat

Northern California is cradled in vines; it’s Wine County at its best in America. My job is to help you make the most of this intriguing, agrarian patch of civilization by inviting you to partake in the wine culture – the events, the bottlings and the fun. This is a space to explore wine, what you care about or don’t know about yet.

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