Russ Winton: Out on the wine trail

02/25/2014 10:46 PM

02/26/2014 12:00 AM

On a recent trip to Bakersfield, we decided we needed an ocean fix. We headed to Morro Bay. When we arrived, we discovered the sky was blue and the air was fresh, a real treat. Remember how yucky the San Joaquin Valley was in December and January? Morro Bay was the perfect antidote: blue sky, clean air, great seafood and (of course) wine. There are seven winery/tasting rooms on the Pacific Coast from Cayucos to San Simeon. Tasting fees are $5 and refunded upon purchase. If interested, check www.pacificcoastwine

We decided it was time to revisit Sonoma. Our last visit was in 1974 and a lot can happen in 40 years. My hair has turned gray and I can’t dunk a basketball anymore, but the Sonoma town square is still square. There are now more than 23 tasting rooms and about a dozen excellent restaurants. We found a reasonably priced motel one block away so our car remained parked during our stay. We walked, sipped, ate, sipped, napped, shopped, walked, sipped, ate and slept. The beautiful Sebastiani Theatre was showing the movie “Nebraska” but we opted for a dinner reservation at La Salette, a wonderful Portuguese restaurant right off the square. If you enjoy wine walks, downtown Sonoma is perfect. Find more at

In previous columns I’ve mentioned value wines that won medals in the recent 2014 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Tasting. The Lodi wine region normally does well in this competition. I printed out the results and found a Lodi winery that won a double-gold and four gold medals.

Yes, this caught my attention. But the real surprise is that these wines sell for less than $14. I felt obligated to taste these medal-winning wines from the Peirano Estate Vineyards. The wines were excellent, especially at that price point, which is why I bought a case. On the same trip we visited the LangeTwins Winery and Vineyards and the m2 Winery, both of which are in stunning new facilities. They produce excellent wines.

After the three wine tastings, we headed to Heritage Oaks for a picnic and a final tasting. Located on Woodbridge Road, next to the Mokelumne River, this property has been in the Hoffman Family for five generations. This 2,000-case winery is off the beaten path but well worth finding. For more information on Lodi, go to

What’s on our table: The LangeTwins 2013 Sangiovese Rose is dark pink in color and has definite strawberry aromas. The wine has a medium mouth-feel with crisp, clean, light red fruit flavors. The wine is refreshing and finishes completely dry. It’s the perfect Easter dinner wine.

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