Thursday, November 7, 2019

Five Days In The Southern Rogue Valley
Ashland, Oregon

Ashland, Oregon, less than 20 miles north of the California state line is easily accessible by flying into Medford, Oregon.  This small town, possibly most well-known for the annual Shakespeare festival, boasts a small, friendly community where you will discover art, music, beauty, culture, food, wine, parks and Pacific Northwest friendliness.

DAY #1

After arriving at Medford Airport, driving into Ashland, Oregon, our group of wine, food and travel writers were greeted with the beauty of fall colors.  Becoming acquainted over lunch at the Brickroom, this newer restaurant (opened in 2016), is located in an historic 1866 building, adjacent to Lithia Park.  Featuring culinary creations by Chef Skye Elder (2017 Ashland Culinary Festival Top Chef), and bar creations by Blake Henry (2016 Ashland Culinary Festival Top Mixologist and 2018 third place honors), this was the perfect way to begin our five days of exploration.

Following lunch, walking off the calories we had just consumed, we were treated to a tour of Historic Downtown Ashland and Lithia Park—an urban park, bright with Fall Colors, streams, fountains, numerous walking paths and even a duck pond (of course, for the Oregon Ducks)!  Strolling through this bucolic park, you truly become immersed in the beauty of nature.

Sated by food and wine, energized by our tour of Historic Ashland and Lithia Park, we then checked into the sophisticated Ashland Springs Hotel.  This boutique hotel in downtown Ashland, is walking distance from just about anywhere you want to go.  Built in the early part of the 20th century, The Ashland Springs Hotel resonates old world charm, and a bygone era.

Awhile later, our group re-convened at Lark’s Restaurant, inside the hotel.  Welcoming and unpretentious, the menu features choices that are a combination of eclectic creativity, and comfort food.  Beautifully presented, Lark’s prides themselves of fresh, farm to table ingredients, and local wines. Each dish, individually prepared-showing off the bounty and taste of Oregon.  

As the saying goes:  Sharing (dessert) is Caring
and we did care!

Following dinner we were off to the Angus Bowmer Theatre…..for a performance of Hairspray!  Fun and high energy, this was a perfect way to end the day.  Depending on time of year, there are up to about a dozen performances that may take place every day….ranging from Shakespeare to comedy, music and of course musicals!  Open from March-October, through its 80+ years of putting on performances, The Oregon Shakespeare Festival receives national and international acclaim.

Arriving back at our hotel about 11:00pm…..we had time to finally unwind, lay back, and get a good night’s be continued

Friday, July 19, 2019


I figured it was time to get back to some blog yesterday afternoon at NAPA VALLEY GRILLE in Westwood Village....with the LA Wine Writers....was.....simply TOO GOOD NOT TO SHARE!  So yummy, with the menu created by General Manager Brian Cousins and Chef Extraordinare:  Chef Kenny!  

8 wines accompanying 4 mouthwatering, paired courses, ending with a dessert wine course...WHAT a treat!

So don't ask me how to pronounce these wines, they're Austrian to me....but, get your napkin in your lapin (as my mother used to say) and enjoy course #1:

Lobster Carpaccio-compressed apple, fried capers, micro dill
……..accompanied by:  Ludwig Neumayer Riesling Engelgarten 2016 AND Der Pollerhof Vom Loess 2017-a blend of primarily Sauvignon Blanc and two other varietals I've never hear of...but...OH so GOOD!

Course #2 was a Chicken Milanese-mitzuna, red onions, orange citrus vinagrette
…...with:  Lichtenberger Gonzales Muschelkalk 2017 and Ebner Ebenauer Gruner Veltliner Burstig 2016----can't pronounce it...but it went PERFECTLY!

Ready for course #3?:  Santa Barbara Channel white sea bass---summer squash, plum sauce, arugula-fennel salad
…..and wine of course!  a 2016 side by side with a 2018 Umathum Rosa

Last course coming up!  6 hour braised short rib-sweet potato gnocci, mushrooms, thyme, braising jus
…..and sipping alongside that savory delight:  Rose SchusterBlaufrankisch 2017 and Boric Blaufrankisch 2017

and then...and THEN:  DESERT!  a Zantho Gruner Veltliner Eiswein-2017

That's just a hint of yesterday's lunch.  Yummy food, amazing wines, perfect pairings, lots of fun, laughter and learning about and being exposed to a phenomenal lineup of Austrian wines!

 SUFFICE TO SAY:  A good time was definitely had by ALL!
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Thursday, March 7, 2019

Vezer Family Vineyards...and Lorenzo Lamas!

I guess I've been so busy visiting wineries, up and down "the Ventura Highway," from Ventura to Napa.....that I just don't have lots of time to post about my personal wineventures!  I'll hope to fit that in....and get back to that even sporadically.....

Meanwhile, it is lots of fun to meet such great people, wines and wineries and be able to tell a bit of their story!

Enjoy this one from Wine Country This Week.


Sunday, April 2, 2017


WOW!~  WHAT a view!  WHAT an afternoon!  WHAT an enthusiastic crowd of supporters to welcome Stanley Barrios and Elena Martinez officially into the world of WINEMAKERS!

Years in the planning,  preparation and making, TOP Winery introduced their inaugural release high atop the Santa Monica Mountains, overlooking the hills and Pacific Ocean with a million $ view.

The late afternoon and early evening couldn't have been more spectacular.  As guests arrived and were checked in by Elena's sister Judy, they were directed to Elena, being handed a glass of TOP's Rose, a perfect start to the afternoon of sampling TOP's line up, paired with amazing appetizers and small bites.

The light ocean breeze, sinking sun, hypnotizing vista, along with perfectly paired appetizers accompanying the selection of wines, was nothing short of the definition of Shangri-La.  Smiles all around, ESPECIALLY on Stanley and Elena's face, heralded in another young, vibrant, creative winemaker to the Paso Robles wine community.  As the saying goes, pictures are worth 1000 words, and if YOU want to taste and experience the magic that Stanley and Elena have bottled, don't hesitate to contact them for a tasting appointment.  Email: or phone (805) 975-0704.  Tastings are held in the barrel room of  Nicora Wines in Tin City, Paso Robles.  Cheers!

 Elena greeting guests with a sip and bite
 Stanley enjoying the reception
 Just some of the food, charcuterie and cheese board
Sipping while enjoying the view
and the surrounding flora
as the evening draws to a close

Monday, December 19, 2016

2016---A YEAR OF WINE AND GOOD TIMES terms of wine and friends and experiences and family was a very good year.    I (my wife and I) are fortunate to have so many wonderful friends who share like interests.  We don't get to see them as often as we wish, but every time we do it is special.

We are so fortunate to have so many wonderful friends in the wine industry:  Winemakers, winery employees, wine writers, etc.   And again, we just don't see enough of you often enough.

                                             Finally!  My New Wine Cabinet..Now Filled
The View From Daou Vineyards

I am so pleased to be associated with some very special publications and the people involved with those publications:

The San Luis Obispo Visitor's Guide
The Paso Robles Daily News
Wine Country This Week
Wine Country This Month
Very Napa Valley.....
and soon to be announced...another very exciting writing project I am so honored to be taking part in.  It is SO MUCH FUN and such a pleasure to be able to visit so many wineries and restaurants, to meet and sit with so many winery owners and winemakers, and be able to bring the stories of these places and people to the public.  Being able to write about so many wineries on the AMAZING Central Coast, from Ventura up through Santa Barbara, Santa Ynez, Edna Valley and Paso Robles is just an incredible ongoing adventure.

I love the wines I taste everywhere.....and the differences between them.  However, one thing is certain:  I have a Paso Palate!  And I love Paso---the people, the wines, the everything.

Many years ago I was fortunate to meet an incredible with a vision and a passion to prove to the wine world that Paso Robles, long recognized as producing world class Rhone Varietals, was up to the challenge to produce a Cabernet Sauvignon that would stand shoulder to shoulder with any cabernet in California.  This was his dream and his passion.....he was forefront in forming the Cabernet Collective and has received top ratings and awards for his Cabernets.  You all know who I'm talking about:  Daniel Daou---a man of dreams, passion and a vision.

Last night a group of us went to a brown bag holiday party.  We were asked to each bring a California Cabernet for a blind tasting----and to rate each wine.  After all the wines were rated, we opened them up-----There were 5 from Napa---there were 4 from Paso Robles.  ALL the wines were wonderful---expressive---there was not a mediocre bottle in the bunch (well, what do you expect from a group of wine geeks).

When I looked at how I rated the FIRST three were from Paso Robles,
In fact, MOST of us had the first favorite 3 wines rated from Paso Robles.

Does this mean we all just have "Paso Palates"?  Over 20 people picked Paso Cabs over Napa Cabs----
Or.....does this prove in some way that:  Paso Cabs are as good as any Cabs produced in California....or beyond!   I know what my friend Daniel would say!  And I know what our palates said!

Wishing you all a wonderful Holiday Season...a grand New Year, with lots of wine, food, friends, laughter, and health during 2017.

Don and Lynn Sonderling

Thursday, May 14, 2015


Having the opportunity to write for a few different publications has forced me to move out of my wine comfort zone....and explore new (to me) wineries, wines and wine regions along the Central Coast.  And a very good thing!

The Central Coast is just replete with great areas....from Santa Barbara all the way up to Paso (still my passion, but being challenged)!  Santa Ynez, Santa Maria and the Edna Valley to name a few are producing such vibrant and different wines reflective of their specific climate and terroir.

A few recently visited included the Byron** tasting room in Los Olivos where I was graciously hosted by Pati Wilkinson (Estate Manager) and Lucio Uribe (Tasting Room Associate).  Their line up of Santa Maria Valley Pinots is nothing short of amazing...reflecting the dirt, weather and special conditions of this area. Touting themselves as a "Pinot House," they certainly are!

A few weeks later I had the pleasure of interviewing Stephen Ross**, of the winery that bears his name, in his San Luis Obispo tasting room.  Again, a region with a special climate for Pinot and Chardonnay.  Stephen's wine education and experience and travels has brought him to the apex of his small production boutique winery. Single vineyard designated wines, specializing in Pinot Noir....yummmy

Lastly....I have to say SOMETHING about a new discovery in Paso!  Not a "new" winery, but new to me.  CALCAREOUS!  Recently having 4 of their wines named in a article:  "9 powerful reds from Paso Robles"....these 4 wines certainly give you a WOW factor!  Anna (tasting room manager) and John (Hospitality/Sales manager) just exude passion and friendliness when walking through the Calcareous line up. Add the comfort of their modern, beautifully designed tasting room and view and you have a piece of Paso heaven.   The winery and wines are NOT to be missed!

So....there you have a quick recap of my recent wine experiences!  ** ( certain to pick up a copy of Wine Country this Month, July edition, to read about Stephen Ross, winemaker, and the Byron Tasting room)!

Cheers to more travels and more new (to me) wines coming up.  So much wine and so little time!


Sunday, April 5, 2015

Our Family Passover Seder
Sonderling Style
Paso Style

Passover Seder in our house is always a very special event, with family and friends.  It is steeped in family history and tradition, and as meaningful and important as it is, it is also:  FUN!  We try to make it that way for all:  From the 5 year old to the 93 year old.  It's more than just "telling the story" of The Exodus. It's about blending together family, friends, history and....WINE! Because...on Passover, you are commanded to drink (a minimum) 4 glasses of wine.  At least, in our house!

So, for my friends and followers, fellow sippers, wine lovers, winemaker and winery friends, following is a re-cap of this year's story of Passover, Sonderling style...Paso Style---with some help from some of our best friends.  I hope you enjoy our journey.

The leader of the service would be me, also referred to as The Maven, who 

(Torrin, 2011)

tells the Epoch story of the Israelites flight from bondage, in the land of Egypt.
(Zinfandel, 2010)

Moses, as we all know, in a Brash move, tells Pharaoh "Let My People Go!"
(ONX, 2011)

When Pharaoh relents, Moses then leads the People of Israel on the Mother of Exiles, out of Egypt, towards the Promised Land.
(Denner, 2010)

The Israelites, after being slaves for centuries, were Euphoric to be free.
(Nicora, 2011)

Journeying through the desert, Moses heard G_D Speak, commanding him to go climb up the Toasted Slope of the highest mountain
(Alta Colina, 2009)

Where Moses then received the Sagacious Law (2010)  from G-D.

Upon descending the mountain, Moses saw his Cohorts worshiping a golden calf..
(Caliza, 2011)

And in a fit of rage, threw the tablets of law to the ground, shattering them into Broken Stones.
(Saxum, 2011)

Alas, the Jewish people were now destined to wander the desert, praying there Comes a Time, for Peace on Earth (Paix Sur Terre, 2013).

And that my friends, is the story of Passover, or PASOver....In Style...Sonderling Style! With prayers and wishes for all of you, and blessings, for love and health and happiness, and of course, good wine, for all of humankind.

And yes, we fulfilled the commandment to drink at least 4 glasses of wine, in fact, we manged to drink many many more than 4 glasses....which included ALL of the special Paso-ver bottles shown above!  Sharing special wine with special friends for a special event....and THAT is what wine and celebrations, is all about.
The Before, During and the Aftermath and the Damage we did!
                                                  Before...the Plagues!     

    The table is set....Everything in its place
                              Eating, drinking, and telling the Passover Story
                         The aftermath
                                                    and...the final count!
                                  Our 101 year old Family Heirloom Seder