Wednesday, August 6, 2014

My twin sister? Yes, she's into wine as well!

1.  either of two children or animals brought forth at a birth.
2.  either of two persons or things closely related to or closely resembling each other

Pretty self explanatory...unless?

Just off Hwy. 49

On a recent hot, lazy, Saturday afternoon, I realized that it had been a long time since my twin sister and I had seen one another. Oh, you didn't know that I had a twin? You are not alone in this well kept family secret.

Heading to yet another gas station, I teased Kenji's belly with a whopping $20 worth of sustenance. I seem to have a propensity to deprive Kenji of a full tank of gas, lest I starve myself. (For you new followers of this blog, my car is named Kenji, and he plays a significant role in my travels.) Belly teased, we head up Jackson Highway(CA.16) to the ever so small, bustling town of Sutter Creek where my equally passionate, wine loving twin sister, manages a small winery.

The drive seems longer on this day...probably because the outside temperature is rapidly approaching the triple digit mark, and Kenji is doing his best to conserve the precious snack of $20 worth of gas. Doing everything to avoid using the AC, I drive as fast as the speed limit allows, for this is CHP country, and officer Bubba and his cousins enjoy nothing more than pulling over hapless motorist who are unfamiliar with unmarked speed traps.(They don't do a good job of disguising themselves, just look for the front end of a cruiser poking out from a large bush or tree on the opposite side of the highway.) Anyhoo, we arrive at our destination about an hour or so later.

Sutter Creek had grown since my last visit about two years ago. There were now at least four winery tasting rooms, and I would have to visit again to sample their wares. On this day though, it was all about my twin, and I wanted nothing more than to visit and enjoy her company. The wine would have to come second...which was initially the plan.

Chink-Wah! Yep, that's how it is pronounced. As I entered the door of this five generation owned and operated rare gem of a tasting room, there was no one to greet me! Boo, hiss! Not good! I wasn't expecting a red carpet or a confetti laced parade...okay I was, but it caught me off guard that the tasting counter was devoid of a human presence. Fortunately, before the big girl panties bunched up in a knot, my twin had it all under control and quickly surfaced to greet me with a huge hug and a even bigger radiant smile.(Turns out she was handling some business only a few feet away and would NEVER ignore or allow a visitor to be left unattended. We were raised right...ya know!)

Foyer at Cinque

My twin, Alicia, is one of the most thoughtful, warm, intelligent and genuine people in this realm. Her infectious, upbeat demeanor is truly appreciated in the world of pretentious wine snobbery, and visiting her always results in a few unpredictable pranks that only twins can play. This visit would provide yet another "Gotcha" opportunity.

Five in Italian
After settling in, Alicia produced a wine glass and expertly directed and encouraged me to sample the plethora of wine available from this facility and its' sister winery located a few miles away. Being the older sister, I duly complied, and was taken on a wine journey that involved not only a great selection of all things grape, but also included a few surprises in the form of hard ciders.(Going to have to return for a visit to describe these gems)


Beginning with a Pinot Gris...and my twin knows that this is NOT my favorite grape, I take in the atmosphere of the tasting room. Save for a few microscopic water spots on the entry door, the room is immaculate! Seriously, there isn't a speck of dust anywhere! The displays are neatly filled with an assortment of wine, wine stuff, and wine goodies. The signage is written in an easily readable font..(Lord, I can't stand weird fonts!) and, the temperature is near perfect to preserve the precious life of each bottle of wine. (Considering that the outside temp has arched over the century mark...impressive!)

Alicia by now has a few more customers, so I amble over to a simple plate of patriotic treats she has laid out for guests.

Strawberries, cream cheese, and blueberries paired well with the wine that I am sampling, and Alicia did not hesitate to keep my glass wet with the next selection of wine as she multi-tasked between guests and myself. What was also impressive is that despite being a family member, she only poured the requisite one to two ounce samples of wine.(I,m so proud of her!)

To secure my place at the next family holiday meal by not forgetting to mention that my niece, Desiree...whom I had just met (We are a slightly dysfunctional family) also works in the tasting room. Like her mother, Dez (I think I can call her this) was a natural at customer service. Taking cues from Mummy, Dez was enthralled to finally meet her full monty auntie.

Sauvignon Blanc
As we laughed, talked, hugged and imbibed, Desiree could not help but laugh out loud at our antics. She had heard the stories of how her mother and myself would dupe unwitting customers with our near identical appearance while we worked for two single owner wineries. This and other pranks were a daily ritual for my twin and myself and reliving these happy moments made the visit that much more special.

Let's talk wine...after we introduce the Scotto Family
Rare White Blend

The name Cinque means five in Italian, and five generations of the Scotto family have been sharing their passion for winemaking. Beginning in 1903, when Dominic Scotto emigrated to the United States from Ischia, Italy. Settling in Brooklyn, New York, where he worked as a ship's caulker, he taught his sons to make wine. The wine was then stored in gallon crocks and sold from a horse drawn wagon. A few years later, Dominic opened Scotto's Liquors, a small neighborhood business, which is still open today.(The Scotto Family Story)

The current superstars of Cinque and Serafina wineries, Natalie, Michael, Anthony, Paul and Anne Scotto, are the grandchildren of Anthony Scotto Sr. who began his wine career in 1940 selling gallon jugs of his fathers red wine from a pushcart.(This method of selling wine was common among Italian emigrants) Eight years later, he and his brothers created "Villa Armando," and Italian style rustic red wine. Today, Villa Armando is one of the oldest U.S. wine brands and has filled more than 200,00,000 glasses.(The Scotto Family Story)

The Wine

Visitors at Cinque are treated to one of the most diverse selections of wine from the Scotto family portfolio. Labels include, Sera Fina Cellars, Dancing grape, Scotto Family Cellars, Villa Armando, Nightfall, Regio, and Rare Bubbles. Each has its' own unique flair, and I can honestly say that my favorite was...uh, the, uh, okay, we will talk about that later.

There is definitely something for every palate in this tasting room, and visitors would do well to stop by more than once. Alicia was an expert at fielding questions on each of the labels offered. After three tastes of different white wines, she reminded me that there were a few surprises lurking in the small refrigerator and that she would be sure that I sampled them.
One of two hard ciders

Dark and Naughty!
Perusing the tasting menu as the room began to fill with anxious and familiar customers, I noticed that a young man who happened to be African American had entered the room. Mind you, Sutter Creek is not exactly the urban hub of the lower Sierra foothills. With a 2012 population index consisting of 86% white, 8.3% Hispanic and 2.4% Asian, it was good to know that the remaining 3.3 percentage of inhabitants contained at least one African American.(Rumor has it...there may be more!)

Being mindful of his presence and nonchalantly slipping into research mode, I began a series of innocent questions about his experience living in Sutter Creek. He told me that he loved living in the area, and that he valued the peace and quiet of small towns. He also thoroughly enjoyed learning about the local lore and said that he had not experienced any issues that made him feel uncomfortable.(Boo yeah!) This not only put a smile on my face, but I knew that my twin with all of her wisdom, charm and warmth had made his visits to the tasting room all the more special.(Btw, she does this for everyone!) Cinque was definitely scoring high points from the way he spoke of his experiences while visiting. I was proud to be standing in a tasting room where I could see first hand how an African American was being treated with kindness, dignity, respect and appreciation.

More About the Wine

As the young man retrieved his wine club order, we bade one another farewell and promised to keep in touch. Alicia by now was also in a hurry to get to her next gig. Realizing that I had only sampled a few red wines, She grabbed a bottle of cider laced with Pinot Gris white wine. I refrained from tasting this and asked for more of the Serafina Barbera. I love Italian varietals, and Barbera is a popular grape. The hot climate, hilly slopes and extended growing season lend character to this otherwise nondescript blending grape. The Serafina Barbera was phenomenal.


Because I am a fan of blends, the Regio Dark Red wine began to speak volumes. I might add here that the Scotto family has roughly 35 additional wine labels in their portfolio. For the novice to the expert, this family owned winery clearly has something for everyone.(I know...I'm repeating myself)

Let's Talk Dessert Wine

For those who prefer the sweeter tastes of dessert wine, the Scotto family does not disappoint. Included in their vast portfolio of wine are nine...count them folks, NINE dessert and specialty wines! Though I am not a fan of the sweet stuff...this place is the go to for those who are. (Call ahead to be sure which ones are available for tasting) Alicia knows this is not my forte, but she did insist that I try the bubbles!. Lord, I am not a bubbler, and I graciously declined.

So, you wanna know what my favorite wine was?

It is unfair to say which wine I enjoyed the most as I was very picky...lest I not make it home safely. I would give the Nightfall Tempranillo two slaps upside the head...and that's a good thing! Again, Tempranillo is not one of my favorite grape varietals.(Too light...I like them chewy) However, this particular offering revealed in it's earth characteristic one of the most exciting aspects of wine tasting. If you allow yourself to have an open mind...and an open heart, the experience can be a blessing in disguise. By never criticizing a wine grape that you may have not previously enjoyed, you remove any preconceived ideas of what you do not like. I have been humbled numerous times by saying that I did not like something only to discover that I was fervently drinking whatever it was that I said I didn't like. Be open to new opportunities and allow yourself experiment.

Time to go!

By now, Alicia is frantically trying to get to her next gig.(She hides this well. No one would ever suspect that she is in a hurry) She passes the torch on to Desiree, and bids me farewell with a big sisterly hug. We promise to hook up in the next few weeks before I return to the droll of graduate school, and slip in another big hug before she closes up shop. I have to say that this experience was one I will never forget, and has contributed strongly to my research. Cinque Winery is by far one of the nicest tasting rooms that I have visited. The atmosphere was genuinely warm and inviting. The wine selection was conducive to nearly any palate and my twin sister is an expert in treating folks right. I give this little facility three slaps upside the head...and that's a good thing for being a true destination worthy of a visit. And on a final twin and myself will always have the last laugh.

Twins...who happen to be 11 months apart!

Until next time,



83 Main Street

Sutter Creek, CA



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