Melanie Hoffman

When I first moved to California 15 years ago, and may I say wow 15 years, but I digress… When I first moved here, Healdsburg was where my heart found its home. I have lived in Healdsburg the majority of my time spent in California. Healdsburg has a quaint artistic appeal that I was drawn to. I remember exploring the side streets and passing Camellia Inn, the beautiful pink Victorian that seemed so inviting to me then.

Late last fall I enjoyed the Front Street Wineries Open House. That is where I had the pleasure of meeting Bruce Snyder, very real and down to earth. The wines of Camellia Cellars intrigued me so much, I promised Bruce I would come back to delve a little deeper into what their wines were all about. This week I finally made my way back to the tasting room. The wines are amazing, then and now.

The Lewands have a passion for excellence. In 1981 Ray and Del moved to Healdsburg and started renovations on the Camellia Inn that is located at 211 North Street, just steps off the historic plaza. The quaint and welcoming inn offers a variety of options for families and individuals alike. In addition to the Victorian Inn, they also offer All Season Vacation Suites that are located minutes outside of town near the Russian River for those who like their privacy, and Downtown Apartment Suites for folks who want to be in the thick of culture and shopping!

So now that you have a place to stay when you visit Wine Country, let me give you a place to visit for an amazing wine tasting. Camilla Cellars offers rich, robust and well balanced wines. The wines are mostly from the Dry Creek Valley region. The warm weather for that region allows for decadent harvests and the wines reflect the superb quality.

Camellia Cellars, 2007 First Kiss * Sauvignon Blanc, Muscat Canelli and Viognier blend | 880 Cases, $22.00 ~ Delicate aromas of lemongrass and white figs open the bouquet of this wine. Added peach blossoms and cantaloupe round out the fresh and fruity nose. The refreshing palate exhibits a hint of residual sugar, more of a fruity nature than sweet. Palate follows nose with more lemongrass flavors and citrus notes upfront. Long and lovely finish showcases Mandarin oranges.

Enjoy this revitalizing quencher with lighter fares. Oysters on the half shell with a shallot migonette sauce, or Endive leaves stuffed with candied pecans, blue cheese crumbles and cranberries, drizzled with balsamic and white truffle oil dressing.

Camellia Cellars, 2005 Sangiovese, Merlo Vineyards, Dry Creek Valley | $25.00 ~ Smooth and buttery nose reveals cranberry and cassis with added notes of black peppercorn spice. Soft oak and leather with a hint of mint and blackberry jam waft enjoyably at the close of the bouquet. D-licious palate, rich and robust. A well balanced quaffer, smooth, with nice round tannin structure. Lingering raspberry and red currant finish.

Camellia Cellars, 2004 Riserva Sangiovese, Merlo Vineyards, Dry Creek Valley | $ 32.00 ~ Earthy aroma exhibits leather and cigar box with additional scents of dark cocoa powder and blueberry jam. After my first sip, all I could say was WOW! Amazing fruity flavors present more blueberry with added mulberry jam and cedar spice notes. Lengthy and languid finish takes it’s time.

These Sangioveses deserve a hearty pasta dish, I would drink either wine with Shrimp and Scallop Paella Italiana.

Camellia Cellars, 2005 Bountiful Zinfandel, blended with touches of Petite Sirah and Carignane | $ 30.00 ~ Fresh raspberry bouquet, I love this wine! Brick red aromas in the nose; red currants and bright cherries. Subtle sweet oak and anise at the end of the bouquet. Good structure on the palate, nice tannin, well balanced. Red fruit flavors follow through to the satin mouthfeel. Strawberry jam, bing cherry, and fresh raspberry remain in the rich finish. Smooth.

A wine this good needs something decadent to pair it with. Try this Zin with grilled lamb pita pockets stuffed with a sautéed mix of arugula, chantrelle mushrooms, and toasted pine nuts topped with a blood orange vinaigrette.

Camellia Cellars 2002 Lencioni Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Dry Creek Valley | $45.00 ~ Boysenberry jam aromas dominate the nose upon first sniff. Rich bouquet engages the senses with subtle oak, cocoa powder and saddle leather. Fragrant blackberry rounds out the nose. I take my first sip and all I can do is say mmmmmmm… Rich jammy fruit envelop my palate, more boysenberry flavors with added notes of lavender and violets. Pure dark chocolate flavors and nutmeg spice are displayed in the extended finish.

Pair with Portobello mushrooms stuffed with roasted duck, apples and dates. Top with crushed herb croutons and goat cheese crumbles, bake until golden and bubbly.

Camellia Cellars 2004 Kristen’s Folly at Gipson Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon, Dry Creek Valley | $45.00 ~ This small 1/2 acre vineyard produces intense and flavorful fruit. The bouquet on this vintage is beautiful and complex. Earthy leather, vanilla bean and milk chocolate truffles are displayed upfront in the nose. Black and red fruit fragrance show up mid-bouquet. A toasty close to the nose also shows traces of cardamom and cedar spice. Palate is well balanced and follows bouquet with more rich raspberry and blackberry flavors. Long and jammy finish shows excellent aging potential.

Try this Cab with a hearty soup like traditional French Onion topped with a toasted crostini and lots of melted gruyere cheese.

Camellia Cellars 2005 Labyrinth Vineyard Syrah, Dry Creek Valley | $30.00 ~ My kind of Syrah; smoky, meaty aromas upfront. The aromas of this wine make me hungry! Red currants and black pepper with a touch of licorice are added to the delicious smoky bouquet. Palate displays rich and full bodied flavors that follow the nose. More red currant with added notes of tobacco. Long, lingering finish leaves you wanting another sip.

The perfect match for slow cooked lentils with lots of meaty pork pieces. This wine begged for this rich and hearty dish to compliment it’s perfectly balanced flavors. Yummy!