Hazlitt Red Cat

1 Lake Niagara Lane, Naples, NY

It is summer and that means I have been spending time in New York State’s Finger Lakes Region. What better way to spend that time than to check out some of Canandaigua Lake’s wineries.


Six generations of the Hazlitt family have been farming in the Finger Lakes Region since 1852. In 1985, Hazlitt Vineyards was born. They produce Hazlitt Red Cat and advertise it as unpretentious and I do agree with them.20180610_155310

On the day we visited, the tasting room was busy – very busy. Kia was pouring for us and she had a great sense of humor and a relaxed friendly attitude. Leandra popped over from time to time to help and to make sure we were enjoying our tastings. There was a lot of energy in the tasting room and it was clear that people were having a great time. This is a fun place!

My friend, Theresa, and I have very different tastes in wine, so as you will see we tasted a wide variety:


2016 Sauvignon Blanc – $15 – Nice dry white – a bit of a rough finish

2014 Merlot – $24 – a good “Tuesday Wine” for the price – maybe good with a meat lover’s pizza

2013 – Cabernet Sauvignon – $24 – Grapes from the 1852 vineyard and a silver medal winner

2014 Cabernet Franc – $25 – This was my favorite wine that we tasted, and a bottle followed me home. Definitely a good choice with red meat.

NV White Cat – $8.49 – Theresa really liked this semi-sweet white – it comes in various sizes

NV Cabin Fever – $8.49 – You have to try it – it is served with chocolate! It is a semi-sweet blush that would be great to drink ice cold in the hot tub!

NV Bramble Berry – $9.49 – Made with the Catawba grapes of your youth – Bramble Berry feels like it should come in a juice pouch.

Hazlitt Red Cat also has a variety of logo’d apparel, wine related gift items and snacks – bread with cheese spreads, cheese and crackers and chips and salsa. There are tours available of the facility and walking trails that you can enjoy. We also tried a wine slushy. It was super cold, and I think you could drink way too many of them on a hot day. If you are not a wine drinker, premium hard ciders beer is available.

Check their website for live music and other special events. And, very important to me, they donate to and do fund raisers for the local Humane Society.


Susan’s Score – Is Red Cat the greatest wine in the world? No. Will I visit their tasting room most times that I am in the Finger Lakes Region – Yes!  The wine is good, but more important the place is fun, and they don’t take themselves too serious. The servers are knowledgeable and have personality plus. Go – you will have a good time.


Chalk Hill Winery

Healdsburg, CA

ch-wineChalk Hill Winery is a bit out of the way and I had high expectations. Unfortunately, our experience shows how much impact the person in the tasting room can have on your experience and your impressions of the winery and the wine.

Chalk Hill Winery is located in a breathtaking setting – nearly 1,500 acres surrounded by woods. The tasting room is set up on a hill with a beautiful outdoor patio. There is an Olympic-size equestrian center that is used for many events. The tasting room has a beautiful outdoor patio, spacious tasting room and a very small gift shop area.

Our tasting started off pleasant with a nice young man who began pouring a 2013 North Slope Pinot Gris. It was cool and refreshing and we were enjoying ourselves and his conversation. Then “Hannah” sashayed in and shooed him away and took over our tasting. Things went south very quickly. I wanted more information on the winery, especially interested in its history. I asked Hannah how long the winery had been there, obviously she misunderstood and said she had been there since February. I clarified and asked if I could take a few photos and she launched into a story about how someone had come in recently and still had her photo from when she worked in another tasting room. Again, I clarified, I wanted to take photos of the winery and tasting room, not of her.

We continued our tasting with a 2014 Mt Eden Pinot Noir, which is made from grapes from Santa Cruz that have been cloned onto grapes in the Russian River Valley – interesting – this is what I was looking for info on grapes, not her personal life. J

We then tried the Cabernet Sav/Carmenere, which is a gorgeous color. This is a delicious wine and even though I was put off by its $85 price, I could not resist buying a bottle to take home. As 4:30 approached, Hannah must have had a hot date because we felt practically thrown out.

Chalk Hill is lovely and the wine is very good. Having a tasting with someone like Hannah makes me appreciate all the true professionals we have met that treat their job with enthusiasm and passion.

ch-3While I enjoyed the scenery and the wine, I would call first to see who is in the tasting room pouring before I spent time with Hannah. The fee was $20 for the tasting and lasted about 15 minutes with three wines.

2013 North Slope Pinot Gris – $30 – This was very refreshing on a gorgeous sunny day.


2014 Mt Eden Pinot Noir – $60 – It was a nice wine but not my favorite of what we tasted.


Cabernet Sav/Carmenere – $85 – Delicious. Gorgeous color. Bold. Would cellar very well.

Susan’s Score – I would try the wine but skip the tasting room until they upgrade their staff.

Murrietta’s Well Estate Vineyards

Livermore, California


Another Livermore winery that is definitely worth talking about is Murrietta’s Well Estate Vineyards. One of the original California wine estates, Murrietta sources all the grapes from the estate.  The vineyard was started with cuttings from the famed French winery – Chateau Margaux in the Bordeaux region and the Chateau d’Yquem in Graves.

Our visit to Murrieta’s Well got off to a rocky start. The day before our visit I went on their website and saw that we needed reservations. I was looking at the various reservation options when I got a pop-up from Cellar Pass. I communicated with “Spencer” who told me that the only way that we could taste at Murrietta’s Well was with a reservation – they do not accept walk-ins. Not True. He also could not answer basic questions about the winery or wine and did not think that we could share a tasting – which we always do.

We arrived at Murrieta’s Well on a gorgeous sunny day and were immediately greeted by Kayla who gave us each a glass of Muscat Canelli as a “welcome wine”. It was very welcome – a light refreshing wine perfect for a summer’s day. We explained our confusion with Cellar Pass and they made it all good. They found us a table on the patio and we ordered a delicious charcuterie board as well as the mac and cheese (recommended by Ben who is a self-proclaimed mac and cheese aficionado.


Ben, a charming fellow from Yorkshire, England, took over for Kayla and served us lunch as well as our wine tasting. He had a great sense of humor and a good knowledge of the wines that we were sampling. He was our “wine ambassador” He had us save a little of the white (chardonnay) to try with the mac and cheese and the tempranillo was excellent with the fattier meats and cheeses. The Zarzuela 2015 was a big favorite for us.

During our delightful lunch, Lindsay, the General Manager, stopped by to give us a bit of history of the winery, which traces back to 1884 when Luis Mel built a gravity flow winery into the hillside and planted the vineyard. In 1922 the property was sold to Ernest Went and became part of the Wente Family Estate.(Check out the previous blog about Wente Wines).  In 1990 Philip Wente partnered with winemaker Sergio Traverso and they named the winery Murrieta’s Well after Wakene Marietta who was a sort of Robinhood of that era. He would rob the rich and then ride on stolen horses to take the riches back to the poor in Mexico. There is an artisan well from 1884 that is dedicated to him and the day we visited there was a wedding being set up in front of it. Truly a gorgeous spot for a wedding.


tasting-rmWhile we enjoyed lunch and a tasting on the patio (I would really recommend this) you can also enjoy the indoor Tasting Bar.  It has gorgeous views and also a very knowledgeable staff. Tastings are a bit pricey at $25 for 4 wines. Members can enjoy the Club Lounge, A special area that includes wine and a food menu.


Here are the wines that we tasted during our visit:

Muscat Canelli – $35 – This was our “welcome wine. Crisp & refreshing – ideal for a picnic.

2015 Sauvignon Blanc – $35 – It went nicely with the Mac and Cheese.

2014 Tempranillo – $48 – This was ideal with the charcuterie board – nice long finish.

Zarzula – $60 – this is a red blend that includes Tempranillo, Souzao, Touriga, Counoise and Petite Syrah. Very nice. I am told it is a favorite of the winery regulars.

This is a charming winery with a genuinely nice staff. It is obvious they work hard to make their Guest’s experience as pleasurable as possible.

Susan’s Score – A great spot for a warm day. I would recommend lunch as well as the tasting.




One Wine – Exceptional Wine

One Wine has a sleek and modern tasting room in downtown Chelan.

One Wine has a sleek and modern tasting room in downtown Chelan.

Last weekend was my second visit to One Wine in Chelan. This visit was just as terrific as the previous one. The tasting room is very different than most tasting rooms. Located in downtown Chelan (I think they are the only one downtown) there are no murals of rolling grape vines or plastic grapes hanging from the doorways. It is sleek and modern and gorgeous. There is also a terrific patio beside the building where the four of us kicked back and enjoyed our wine.

one wine guyThere is not really just one wine, but three. A Bordeaux-style red that is yummy but would benefit from a bit of time in the cellar. A Pinot Gris that I have bought a couple of times and I claim that I don’t like white! And a rose’ which is 70% Cabernet Franc – this was my favorite – again a big surprise as I don’t consider myself a rose person but it is sold out so I am very glad I bought my share on our first visit.

One wine patioJo and Greg, the owners/winemakers, are a lot of fun. On the first visit Greg inscribed our purchased bottles with Ogham inscriptions. It looks very cool and makes each bottle very special. You can visit the One Wine website for a complete description.

On our second visit, Jo broke out her collection of candy – quite impressive – Bit of Honey, Big Hunks, Dove Chocolates and we were able to pair them with our wine. There is a set of treats that comes with each $5 tasting – dark chocolate covered fruit and lemon wafers, but if you get Jo wound up out comes the “big stash” of candy!

one wine candyOne Wine is delicious and fun. It is worth a visit just to see the stylish tasting room, but stay for the great conversation and the award winning wine.

Ventimiglia Cellars – A Hidden Gem in Walla Walla

We are always looking for that hidden gem of a winery that most people don’t know about yet. Must be our pioneer spirit. On a recent visit to Lake Chelan, our friends, Leslie and Chip, took us off the beaten path to discover a wonderful new winery – Ventimiglia Cellars.

Ventimiglia Cellars is a Recent Addition to the Lake Chelan Wince Scene

Ventimiglia Cellars is a Recent Addition to the Lake Chelan Wince Scene

It really is off the beaten path, located on Howser Rd behind some fruit storage facilities. You travel down a gravel road complete with chickens and then you are rewarded with this small tasting room. What the tasting room lacks in size is made up for with the winemaker, Ron’s, larger than life personality. We were greeted like old friends and made to feel right at home at the tasting bar. When Leslie found out Shawna (Ron’s wife) wasn’t there, she had Ron call her and invite her over to join the party – which she did.

And what a party it was…. We started by tasting a crisp white Pinot Gris and Viognier blend. But the party really took off for me when we got to the reds. Ron makes a fabulous Bordeaux blend that he calls, “Amalgamarsi”, which in Italian means to unite or meld. It is really delicious. I especially liked the fact that Ron is so knowledgeable about wine-making and eager to share that knowledge. I feel I learned quite a bit listening to his stories.

Ron Ventimiglia is the Friendly and Knowledgeable Wine-maker.

Ron Ventimiglia is the Friendly and Knowledgeable Wine-maker.

We also decided that we needed the Merlot and Syrah to go into our cellar. While very drinkable now, they will really shine with a few years of cellaring. We also purchased a bottle of Port. Having been in Portugal earlier this year and making an effort to taste as many ports as possible, this is a big compliment to Ron.

If you are visiting Lake Chelan and want to have a great time tasting, Ventimiglia Cellars, is the place for you. Definitely a boutique winery producing about 250 cases per year, friendly, family owned with lots of warmth and hospitality (and fabulous green olives).

Mille Gratis Ron and Shawna!

Efeste was a “Final Final” Visit for Me

A good friend of mine recently discovered a reasonably priced wine that she really liked. It is called “Final Final” from Efeste. Since we were heading to her home for dinner, we made a quick stop by the Woodinville tasting room to pick her up a bottle and check out their other wines.
The tasting room is roomy and attractively decorated. We were met at the door by a cashier who “checked us in”. We proceeded to the tasting bar and eventually did our tasting on some comfy sofas.
The wine was good. The tastes were quite small especially considering the tasting fee is charged unless you spend a minimum amount or purchase multiple bottles. The atmosphere was a bit different than most tasting rooms I have visited. The winemaker’s (?) mother was badgering a couple sitting across from us to join the wine club. It was obvious this young couple was extremely uncomfortable with her pushiness. My friend had also asked if we could see what the case discount was (she really did like this wine) and I was surprised that there is no volume discount. The only discount offered is for club members. The cashier was a bit snippy as she told me this.
I would recommend enjoying a glass of Efeste wine at a restaurant or wine bar and visiting a tasting room that is more relaxed and more fun. There are so many in Woodinville that this one did not make sense for us to plan a return visit.