Reservations: Required for Bubbles and Bites Tour, Reserve Tour and Glorious Tour, and for groups of seven or more
Did you know: Winery founder and namesake Gloria Ferrer has a collection of more than 2,000 wineglasses and drinking vessels (some dating as far back as the third century BC). Several pieces are now on display in the new tasting room.
Sometimes, even a good thing can benefit from an update. Such is the case at this heritage Carneros winery, which, after 29 years, recently completed an extensive remodel of its Visitor Center and expanded its food offerings.
The new space is nearly one-third larger, open and airy, with multiple places indoors and out to enjoy a glass or flight—bottle service is no longer available—with a Perfect Food Pairing (more on that in a bit). The fireplace that once took up a large piece of wall space has been replaced with windows, putting the focus on the fabulous Carneros view. Furniture, lighting and the tasting bar have also been updated.
Step outside, and the large terrace overlooking the estate vineyards now features a shade canopy to protect visitors from the elements (and sectioned to create a small, pet-friendly area), while a newly created Vista Room and private terrace welcomes wine club members and VIP guests for more intimate tasting options by appointment.
The Bubbles and Bites tasting includes four Gloria wines (three sparkling), paired with small bites prepared by staff member Danny Banales. The menu changes seasonally to take advantage of the fresh, local bounty. We started with a 2004 Carneros Cuvée sparkling, which paired beautifully with Cowgirl Creamery’s Mt. Tam triple cream cheese, fresh apricot and a Spanish lemon torte wedge. The sweetness of the fruit, combined with the creaminess of the cheese, echoed the wine’s rich, creamy elements, while the torte’s brightness made everything pop.
A 2006 Royal Cuvée, originally created in 1987 for the king and queen of Spain, is a great representation of traditional sparkling wine: toasty and yeasty with a just a little bit of fruit. It’s matched with a fig-almond cake (imported from Spain) and macerated strawberries with local honey—wow. Individually, each element is a lovely match for the wine. But the real fun comes by combining. Ultimately, it’s the honey that ties it all together by balancing all the sweet and earthy flavors.
Moving on to the 2011 Brut Rosé, which is a favorite among wine club members, which is paired with a traditional bite—fresh cantaloupe wrapped in Serano ham with a hint of lime. The wine is light and refreshing and, matched with the sweet/salty food, almost acts as a palate cleanser. We’re advised to try this wine again with summer seafood, spicy fare like curry or Thai cuisine and, especially, with Thanksgiving dinner. I can’t wait.
Our final pairing is 2011 Carneros Pinot Noir (soft and feminine) with sweet onions that have been sautéed and caramelized in estate olive oil, chicken sausage stuffed with jalapeño and mango and a reduction sauce of 2009 estate Merlot. Another home run: The sausage highlights the meatiness in the wine, while the jalapeño opens our taste buds so all the flavors become more potent, and the onions are smoky and sweet (I could have eaten them alone and been perfectly happy). In short, it was a delicious and innovative pairing experience.
Following our Bubbles and Bites, we joined a tour group for an hour-long blend of family and winery history, winemaking explanations (including methode champenoise, the traditional French way of making sparkling wine), and tastes of three estate wines (two sparkling, one still). Our guide is knowledgeable, personable and funny—a terrific combination.
But our day’s not done yet. We enjoy a final experience on the terrace, sharing a Spanish cheese plate (shareable pieces of Montcerda, Manchego and Idiazabal, with quince paste, Marcona almonds, seasonal fruit and crackers) with a final taste of our favorite wines of the day. It’s one of the winery’s new Perfect Food Pairings. Other choices include a local cheese plate (including Cowgirl Creamery, Redwood Hill and Cypress Grove) and a charcuterie selection (served with olive oil, whole grain mustard, caper berries and crackers).
Seriously, there’s no bad choice here. For all the changes happening at Gloria Ferrer, what’s remained the same are the delicious wines and the warm hospitality.
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