Central, Sunny and Sentimental: Sunnyside on Lake Tahoe's West Shore is a Wine-Lover’s Choice

Since the 1950’s, Sunnyside Steakhouse and Lodge has been an attraction for visitors to Lake Tahoe. With its warm and romantic ambience in the winter, to its summer-favorite West Shore lakefront dining area, thousands of tourists and locals flock there each year for panoramic views, a relaxed style, great food and a terrific wine list. Located at 1850 West Lake Boulevard in Tahoe City, Sunnyside is open every day. Call them at (530) 583-7200 for more information.

Jeff “Ox” Oxandaboure, Sunnyside’s managing partner, has spent over 20 years exploring the Napa and Sonoma valleys, searching for rich and full-bodied wines. He’s compiled a wine list called “Ox’s Picks” that features wines to be enjoyed with fine food. Many of the selections are limited in supply, sothe list is ever-changing. To take a peek at a representative wine list, click HERE

Recently, Sunnyside hosted an event that will reverberate in wine glasses all around the Lake Tahoe area. This was a tasting organized by Inertia Beverage Group, featuring 20 small production wineries with interesting wines that are sometimes hard to find. These “Sierra Selections” were tasted by wine shop owners, restaurateurs and wine bar owners from the Lake Tahoe region. I know you will find some of these fine wines being served and sold all over the region this summer!

B Cellars, a Napa Valley winery, produces fewer than 4400 cases of their wonderful wines. Winemaker Kirk Venge works with what nature gives him from the vineyard, and produces some delightful blends from. Their 2005 Blend 24 is fondly called a “Super Tuscan” and is a blend from vineyards in Rutherford, Oakville, Oak Knoll, Pope Valley and Cappelle Valley. It is 43% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 20% Sangiovese, and the final touch is the 7% Petite Syrah content which leads to a wonderful, deep black/blue color. You’ll enjoy its layered complexity of black cherry, cassis, strawberry-jaminess and minerality, with a bit of smokiness from firm tannins. 14.8% alcohol. Approximately $38 at retail.

Penché Winery, located in the Oak Knoll district of Napa, produces fewer than 300 cases. Proprietor Pauline Asbill and her husband bought the vineyard in 2000 and decided in 2005 to make their own wine. Featured at the Sunnyside tasting was their Penché Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2005, a blend of 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Cab Franc, 4% Malbec, 2% Merlot, and 2% Petit Verdot. Although this wine is still a bit young to reach its optimum flavor, this marvelous Bordeaux-style wine has a dark garnet hue, and layered aromas of cassis, black cherry, and with a toasted oakiness that manifests a bit peppery on the back palate. It was recently given a rating of “92” by Wine Enthusiast magazine. 14.8% alcohol. Approximately $75 at retail.

The wines from Carabella in the Willamette Valley of Oregon are the result geologist/winemaker Mike Hallock’s 12-year search for an outstanding vineyard location. He makes 5000 cases of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris, as well as a Late Harvest Pinot Gris. I particularly liked the Carabella Willamette Valley Chardonnay Dijon 76, Chehalem Mountains 2006. This is a burgundian style of Chardonnay, with tones of grapefruit, and minimal oakiness. The fruit is complex, and the crisp acidity is in the tradition of the chardonnays of the Cote d’ Or. 14% alcohol. Approximately $32 at retail.

VM Vineyards in Lodi poured their vMv Lodi Merlot 2005. This is an elegant and flavorful wine, aged in French and American oak barrels to add texture to the rich fruit characteristics. 14.2% alcohol, approximately $15 at retail.

A few other noteworthy wines to look for:

From Chateau Bianca, the 2006 Willamette Pinot Noir, Cellar Select. A 100% Pinot Noir with lots of spice, and tannin. 14.5% alcohol, approximately $20 at retail.

From Work Vineyard, their 2007 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc. A characteristic Sauvignon Blanc with mineral-laced qualities. 14.1% alcohol, approximately $28 at retail.

Another tasty Cabernet Sauvignon from Ackerman Family Vineyards, Napa Valley. The Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 is produced organically and only 40 cases were made. It has a complex, bold and luscious flavor and balance on the palate. 13.5% alcohol, approximately $75 at retail.

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© 2009 Barbara Keck
Photo Credit: Alan Gauld

For more information on dining and the wide range of activities around Lake Tahoe, see the online version of The Tahoe Weekly. This article appeared in my column "It's Grape" in May 2009.


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