I went up to Sonoma last weekend, largely to pick up some futures I had bought at Topolos last year - the 2000 Rossi Ranch Zinfandel and their new Vintage Reserve Zinfandel Port.
Of course, I had to stop and do a bit of tasting along the way!
I am in no way a wine expert, and can't really comment on whiffs of tobacco or vanilla, but enjoy drinking wine a great deal and do it plentifully and often. :-)
We started at Ridge/Lytton Springs, which is just a hop off 101/Alexander Valley exit. The tasting room is just completed in the last few weeks - you can smell the new wood. It's a very pleasant space with even more pleasant tasting staff. I tasted their 2001 Chardonnay (I never knew they even made Chard!), which was extremely tasty, not too sweet and fairly dry. Then the parade of Zins - Pagani Ranch, Buchignani Ranch, another one I can't remember, and a nice Merlot. I bought a bottle of Buchignani Ranch and Chard and am looking forward to enjoying them soon! I think Ridge makes wonderful wines.
Next, Martinelli's thanks to a chowhound rec. I agree, their gewurtztraminer is quite good! However, I have to give the staff poor points for what I call "age-ism" at wineries. I am turning 30 this year but due to genetics which I keep hearing I'll be happy about in 10 to 20 years, can easily pass for 18 (no joke, I get carded for cigarettes!). I have no problem being carded at wineries - I know I look young. However, there are some wineries where looking young seems to make people think that I'm not going to buy any wine, or whatever it is that makes them ignore me completely while ushering in and fawning over older folks. When I finally do get any attention, it's a bored, irritated look with no background information that is freely being shared with all other patrons. It really bums me out. Anyways, this happened at Martinelli's. I still bought the gewurtraminer though because it was good.
And then to Topolos. I never see their wines around but greatly enjoy their better Zins (they used to have Pagani Ranch before Ridge) and now this Vintage Reserve Zinfandel Port. I am a big port fan in general and I am already rationing out my case in my head. Deep and chocolatey, it's dessert all by itself. I heartily recommend getting some!