Getting out to visit a winery is always a rare treat. We moved to California from Maine, because of the opportunities. Once embroiled in work within those opportunities, however, visits are now mostly for appointments, in order to get more work accomplished.

This past week, Jose and I segued back to my former place of employment… Kendall-Jackson Winery. It’s always a special time, when I do return. K-J hires the best people, and so work never felt like work. This was mentioned to me by their employee Katie Williams. Katie greeted us, and became our joie de vivre, during our K-J experience.

I was going to strike a low profile. I wanted to see if any Petite Sirahs were on their tasting menu. Hearing what others think about Petite Sirah is ever enlightening, and it lets me craft better and more to the point messages about the variety. Alas, no Petites in house… But out of house…  Edmeades and Field Stone do have Petite Sirahs.

Once I learned that there was Petite in the house, I no longer needed to be a faceless visitor. When Katie learned that I was also in the business of wine, she shared that she’d grown up in this industry… Her last name of Williams is from the Williams family… Of Williams Selyem. Yeah, THAT one. Yes, she surely had grown up learning about wine. And she’s a wonderful hospitality educator. For anyone thinking about visiting Kendall-Jackson, if Katie is your educator, you’re in for a real treat. Honestly, all of the educators there go out of their way to make a visit the best experience possible.

When we arrived, I was also looking for periodicals that serve as local wine guides. When I told Katie that I first wanted to find local periodicals, she went and got them for me. (Above and beyond; she could have just pointed them out to me.) Next we tasted and talked quite a bit. I shared how my days working at Kendall-Jackson were so much fun. She confided that she could be anywhere else – and I KNOW she could – but she loves the people at K-J. I knew exactly what she meant.

Will Alexander (VIP Estate and Trade Educator) did a pop in, because he recognized us from the taping of Undercover Boss. We all had a good laugh about that one, Rick disguised as a rambling cowboy.

Katie took us through a comparative tasting. She poured two different wines of each variety, like these two cabs, side by side. One from the valley floor and the other one is from elevation vineyards. A comparative tasting is so much more interesting. It also avoids having to pour out great wine in the process of tasting. We began with Chardonnay, segued into Pinot Noirs, then a Merlot and onto Cabs, including their Stature. Jose and I both wanted to bring a wine home, and we were deciding on which Pinot, when Katie said, “Oh, wait a minute. I bet that I’ve got just the one for you.” We had discussed the wines as we went along, so she had come to get a sense of my palate…

She came back with Kendall-Jackson’s Jackson Estate 2014 Seco Highlands Pinot Noir. She popped the cork, poured us each a taste, and she hit a Bull’s Eye. This Pinot Noir is how I love my Pinots… Gentle and kind… A lovely translucent, garnet rose color poured into the glass. Soft aromas of Bing cherries filled the air, it was pure Pinot. This wine comes from Monterey’s cook climate, at an elevation of 250 to 350 feet, on the Western slope of the Santa Lucia Mountains in the Arroyo Seco region. Soils, which are gravel and sandy loam, give it soft flavors, too. It was aged in French oak, with 45 percent of it being new, and a medium toast. The barrels were so well made that the oak didn’t interfere with the flavors of the wine in any way at all. It has just a slight vanilla on the finish, which is what I also love.

This Pinot Noir is like a velvet moment on a day when you give yourself permission to segue into a break… in wine country. Perhaps one day I’ll retire here, to reap all of the benefits. For now, living and working in the middle of it all ain’t too shabby, either!

This wine is a knock-out! If you love a translucent Pinto, instead of a heavier bodied opaque Pinot, look NO further. This one comes highly recommended for not only enjoying with a great meal, but I’m thinking afternoon sipping, when I want another mini break.