On the Pacific

Gloria Ferrer Sparkling Wines in Sonoma County

View of vineyards through arch
View of Gloria Ferrer vineyards through arch - Photo by Yvonne Carpenter-Ross

Part 1 in our Series: Wine Tasting in Sonoma Valley

Inspired by some fabulous wine dinners that we attended in the Midwest, we traveled north of San Francisco to Sonoma.  Join us as we visit vineyards and taste the wines first-hand, learning more about the process of winemaking!

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Outstanding Wine Dinners

Over a period of about eighteen months or so, we had the good fortune to have enjoyed three outstanding wine dinners at a fine restaurant in St. Charles, Illinois.  Executive Chef at the time, Josef Yurisich – a master at creating bold and flavorful dinner selections. He was a genius at paring wines with his creations. The wines at those dinners were some of the very best I have tasted and were from Sonoma Valley in northern California. Our decision to visit the area was an easy one. The only available window for the visit was late December. Unfortunately, the grape harvest was already over – but the trip, tours, and tastings were nonetheless unforgettable. (links to OntheFox.com will be added soon)

  • Rutherford Hill Wine Dinner
  • Chalk Hill Wine Dinner
  • Sonoma Cutrer Wine Dinner

If you have not yet had the opportunity to visit Sonoma Valley, you should make every effort to do so. For those who have been there, you must certainly know that I am not exaggerating when I tell you that this region and venues need to be at the top of your “must visit” destinations.

Chicago to San Francisco, then over the Golden Gate Bridge

San Francisco Bridge Photo
Photo by zoe pappas on Pexels

Departing Chicago’s O’Hare and heading for warmer climes in mid-winter is a delight in itself. Heading to California and the wine country is sheer joy – especially after an unusually cold and snowy start to December in Illinois.

Touchdown at San Francisco International Airport brought bright and sunny skies and mid-fifty-degree temperatures. The slick and fully automated AirTrain people-mover system whisked us off to the rental car center, after which we quickly headed north toward the Golden Gate Bridge and beyond to Sonoma Valley wine country.

marin county civic center
Marin County Civic Center” by Jeff Boyd is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Past Sausalito, Mill Valley and Through San Rafael…

Our flight was a tad late and traffic seemed heavy for a Thursday afternoon, but the air was clear and the view from the Golden Gate was breathtaking as we crossed the Great Bridge.  Heading north past Sausalito, Mill Valley and through San Rafael, we caught a brief glimpse of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Marin County Administrative Center, commenting on the bright blue roof and long, low lines of the structure that was built in 1938. More about the Marin County Civic Center can be found at www.franklloydwrightsites.com.

Gloria Ferrer Wines

sparkling wine flight
Sparking Wine Flight at Gloria Ferrer – Sonoma County – Photo by Yvonne Carpenter-Ross

The heavy traffic finally thinned, and we turned east onto Route 37, skirting San Pablo Bay, and then headed north on Route 121. Our first stop: the Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards in the Carneros wine district (southern end) of Sonoma Valley. My sister first brought me here over twenty-five years ago. I tasted what later became one of my favorite sparkling wines, the Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noirs. A long driveway up a slight rise led to a parking lot. A quick walk up the expansive stone stairs presented us with heavy front doors that opened to a small gift shop and tasting room.

Wine Tasting Options

There were several tasting options available, from single glasses to flights of wines. We selected a flight of four sparkling wines that consisted of – from driest to sweetest:

  • Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noirs (“lush flavors of ripe strawberries, black cherries and vanilla”),
  • a 2000 Royal Cuvee (“Mandarin orange, red apple, and toast flavors, coupled with a long finish”),
  • a 2004 Brut Rose (“Vibrant flavors of wild strawberry, rosehip, and a crisp blood-orange character”),
  • and a 2004 Blanc de Blanc (“Ripe pineapple, juicy pear and lemon zest”).

A 2003 Rust Rock Pinot Noir (“Plum, ripe berry, and toffee flavors through an extended finish”) was also presented in the flight.

The View, the Memory & the Wine

It was the view from the terrace and the re-awakening of the memory of having been to the winery once before that had drawn me here today. But just standing here with a glass of Gloria’s best put a substantial exclamation point on the day. And although the terrace was chilled by the weakness and low angle of the setting winter sun, the view from it was as breathtaking as I remembered it to be.

The sparkling wine and Pinot samples were just as tasty as ever. (I prefer the drier sparkling wines, but all of our samples were excellent.) It was late afternoon and time was a factor today. We could not afford to tarry, but we did depart with a bottle of Blanc de Noirs. Make no mistake – Gloria makes a truly excellent sparkling wine!

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We launched this website in 2004 after getting married on a beautiful bluff just south of Carmel-by-the-Sea, on the patio of a small restaurant called Rocky Point. Since that time, we have returned to the West Coast as often as time and funds would allow, always seeking new restaurants, wineries, beaches, unforgettable memories…“


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