I recently received several emails from readers suggesting I visit Vista Ranch and Cellars.
I always close this column by asking for questions, comments or suggestions, and I make every effort to respond. So I followed my orders and paid a visit to the only winery in Merced County.
The Marchini and DeJager families, who had purchased the former Red Rock Winery on Highway 140, have created a beautiful parklike setting. The owners converted the quaint 100-year-old farmhouse into a unique gift shop and tasting room where 10 wines are offered for tasting.
Outside the farmhouse is a shaded plaza for dining, featuring a wood-fired pizza oven.
Just beyond the plaza are large garden plots of tomatoes, corn, onions, squash, eggplant and peppers. These items are available for purchase in the shaded produce stand in front of the plaza.
The beautiful bell tower structure, part of the original winery, is now used for special events.
Huge oak trees shade the immaculately landscaped grounds and provide the perfect setting for weddings, class reunions or corporate events. Wedding parties can also take advantage of the bridal house, which has been professionally decorated. It is so chic and cool, the bride might consider postponing the wedding and having a private party with her bridesmaids.
The tasting room is open daily from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and features three whites, five reds, a rosé and a sparkling wine. A $5 fee for five tastes is waived if you purchase a bottle.
I suggest you taste, order a glass of your favorite and a gourmet cheese plate. Relax, unwind and remember, you're just five miles from Merced.
The winery is open from 5 to 9 every Thursday and Friday night. Thursday is music night, and this week features local bands, gourmet burgers and the best microbrews in California.
On Friday, the pizza oven will be fired up. I suggest you order the fig and prosciutto pizza and a fresh salad for $10. Add a glass of sangiovese and you'll soon be talking with an Italian accent.
Vista Ranch and Cellars has been open just six months. The dedication and enthusiasm of the Marchini and DeJager families have, in a short period of time, created a first-class farm-to-table food center and winery that residents of Merced County can be proud of. I know I was.
You can find more information at www.vistacellars.com.
What's on our table
I found two wine deals at the local Costco. The 2011 La Cana Albarino from the Rias Baixas region of Spain is just $12.99. Aromas of wet stone minerality and flavors of zinging citrus fruit make it the perfect match for all kinds of shellfish. Deal No. 2 is the Bota Box 2011 Old Vine Zinfandel for $15.99.
That figures out to just $4 a bottle. This 88-point wine is perfect for picnics and camping and, if refrigerated, will last more than a month.
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