We traveled throughout northern Sonoma County last weekend during the 2013 Winter WINEland, tasting fantastic wines and celebrating the end of a lengthy cold spell in the Bay Area. The weekend culminated in a joyous combination of sipping Stuhlmuller Vineyards’ delicious red wines, savoring DL Catering’s outstanding Coq au Vin, and watching the 49ers finalize a trip to Super Bowl XLVII on the tasting room’s TV with a final score of 28-24 over the Falcons.
Before the Winter WINEland weekend began, we had two goals: to enjoy wines at places we were already fans of, and to find some new favorites (as with 140 wineries participating we were planning to try some locations we’d never been to). Luckily, we were wildly successful with both strategies.
2013 Winter WINEland: Confirming Some Old Favorites
Scoring great wine at known favorites was easy at the 2013 Winter Wineland. If you aren’t already familiar with these wineries, please change that. We have consistently enjoyed their wines over the years and of the ones they were pouring last weekend, these are the wines we preferred the most:
Inman Family Wines – 2008 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, 2008 Thorn Ridge Pinot Noir (3900 Piner Road, Santa Rosa, 707-293-9576)
Mauritson Family Winery – 2003 Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon, 2009 Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon, 2010 Rockpile Cabernet Franc (2859 Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg, 707-431-0804)
Mueller Winery – 2010 Late Bottled Chardonnay, 2010 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, 2010 “Tempi” Russian River Valley Pinot Noir (6301 Starr Road, Windsor, 707-837-7399)
Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyards – 2009 “The Cutrer” Chardonnay, 2010 Les Pierres Chardonnay (4401 Slusser Road, Windsor, 707-237-3489)
Stuhlmuller Vineyards – 2011 Estate Chardonnay, 2011 Summit Five Chardonnay, 2010 Estate Zinfandel, 2010 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon (4951 West Soda Rock Lane, Healdsburg, 707-431-7745)
Taft Street Winery – 2011 Russian River Valley Chardonnay, 2011 “Garagistes” Russian River Valley Chardonnay (2030 Barlow Lane, Sebastopol, 707-823-2049)
2013 Winter WINEland: New Discoveries
During the 2013 Winter WINEland event, we hit the jackpot in discovering new wineries (well, at least new to us). We were pleasantly surprised, and definitely impressed, by the following wineries and these wines:
Greg Bjornstad studied viticulture and enology at Davis, and his work experience has included Chateau Lafite Rothschild, Newton, and Joseph Phelps Vineyards. He also served as the Vineyard Manager and Assistant Winemaker for Flowers Vineyard and Winery. In 1999 he started an international vineyard consulting business with clients in Russia, South Africa, Australia, and the United States. He has now launched Bjornstad Cellars, home of small production, single vineyard Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines from appellations throughout Sonoma County. All of the grapes are farmed sustainably or biodynamically and carefully fermented with traditional Burgundian techniques. Greg’s intention for these wines is to represent their terroir, and the annual production is 800 – 1000 cases. (PO Box 519, Sebastopol, 888-256-7696)
Calluna Vineyards – 2009 Calluna Vineyards Cuvée (Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Petit Verdot)
After selection of the site and detailed soils work, winemaker/founder David Jeffrey planted 10 acres of Bordeaux varietals at Calluna Vineyards in early 2005. His mission is to capture the qualities of great Bordeaux (balance, intensity, and longevity) in the context of the property’s Chalk Hill terroir. Calluna is the botanical name for Heather, the plant, as the property is named in memory of an extended family member who is still missed by many. Each of Calluna’s bottles features an embossed stencilling of a heather plant. (11450 Brooks Road, Windsor, 707-239-1325)
Forth Vineyards – 2010 Rebecca’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
Gerry and Jann Forth, co-owners of Forth Vineyards in Dry Creek Valley produced their first vintage in 1998. Gerry, the winemaker, grew up with a farming background. The Forths’ small, family-operated winery has a production of about 2500 cases per year. Their vineyards include six acres of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, divided into three main blocks bearing the names of their children – Rebecca, Joshua, and Benjamin. You can taste their wines at Family Wineries Dry Creek. (4791 Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg, 888-433-6555)
Frostwatch Vineyard & Winery – 2011 Bennett Valley Kismet (Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon)
From Brett Raven and Diane Kleinecke, Frostwatch Vineyard & Winery is a small family owned operation committed to making high quality, hand crafted wines primarily from grapes grown in their 15-acre Bennett Valley vineyard. Their goal is to produce powerful, fruit driven wines that are stylish, balanced and food friendly. Brett has literally learned the winemaking process from the bottom up while working at Alderbrook Winery, Matanzas Creek Winery and Ramey Wine Cellars. (5560 Bennett Valley Road, Santa Rosa, 707-570-0592)
Gustafson Family Vineyards – 2009 Estate Heritage Tree Zinfandel
At 1800 feet above sea level, Gustafson Family Vineyards represents a unique terroir as the highest elevation estate vineyard and winery in Sonoma County. This former sheep ranch has rich, red volcanic soil known for producing superb wine grapes and the vineyard is sustainably farmed with respect for the vines, the land, and the wine-making process. The property was originally purchased in 2002 by Dan Gustafson and his wife Phyllis, expanded to 247 acres in 2006, and the vineyard plantings are now complete at 20 acres (the balance of the land will remain as an ecological preserve). The integrated home and winery merges in with the landscape and offers a spectacular view of Lake Sonoma. (9100 Stewarts Point Skaggs Springs Road, Geyserville, 707-433-2371)
Lattanzio Wines – 2009 Manchester Ridge Vineyard Pinot Noir
In 2005, Justin and Hillary Lattanzio took the leap and created Lattanzio Wines where they believe that great wine is made in the vineyard. Their objective is to seek out a handful of unique, cool climate vineyards on the West coast and hand craft small quantities of wine from those sources. Only the right combination of location, soil, aspect, varietal/clone selection, yield, and sustainable farming practices make a vineyard suitable for their program. After harvest, the wines are fermented with indigenous yeasts, subject to minimal handling, and bottled without fining or filtration. (3358 Coffey Lane, Suite A-1, Santa Rosa, 707-495-4959)
Lauterbach Cellars – 2011 Pinot Noir
The Lauterbach family purchased 15 acres in Russian River Valley in 1992, planted 8 acres of Pinot Noir in 1996, and another 3 acres of Syrah in 1998. Stew Lauterbach made his first batch of wine from wild grapes during his college years in Ohio. Now, he and his wife Barbara run Lauterbach Cellars out of what is literally a converted garage, focusing on Pinot Noir and Syrah based wines. Since 2006, all of their wines are estate bottled. (3420 Woolsey Road, Windsor, 707-578-0537)
Olson Ogden Wines – 2008 Stagecoach Vineyard Marsanne “Margaret’s Mandate,” 2008 Unti Vineyard Syrah
The primary goal at Olson Ogden Wines is to produce balanced, complex and tasty wines that express the terroir and vintage from which they come. Owners Tim Olson and John Ogden prefer hillsides to valley floor, organic farming to agro-chemical approaches, and they feel the most important variable is the attitude of the grower and their commitment to excellence. Tim has been a winemaker in Northern California for more than 21 years and his wines have garnered numerous awards including “Best of Show” at the California State Fair. John manages the marketing, sales and business operations for Olson Ogden Wines and has overseen numerous initiatives for a range of businesses. Their friend, Richard Haake (owner of Winery Chefs), has also developed custom recipes that pair with Olson Ogden wines (including Crimini Mushroom, Swiss Chard, and Goat Cheese Tart; Goan Pork; and Wild Mushroom Risotto) that can be found through their website. (3358 Coffey Lane, Santa Rosa, 415-689-9894)
Philip Staley Vineyards & Winery – 2011 Alexander Valley Chardonnay, 2011 Vino Tinto (Grenache, Tempranillo, Mourvèdre, Carignane)
Philip Staley was a founding partner in Alderbrook Winery and served as its winemaker for thirteen years. In 1988, Philip and his wife Pamela purchased 21 acres in Alexander Valley, built a home, and planted ten acres of vineyard: the beginning of Philip Staley Vineyards and Winery. Philip is committed to constantly fine-tuning his vineyards, then using these carefully-tended grapes for the production of small lots of exceptional wines. You can taste the wines of this small, family-owned grower/producer at Family Wineries Dry Creek (4791 Dry Creek Road, Building 11, Healdsburg, 888-433-6555)
Trattore Estate Wines – 2010 Roussanne, 2011 Viognier, 2011 Grenache
Tim Bucher, owner of Trattore Estate Wines, fell in love with tractors at the age of eight and “Trattore” comes from the Italian word for tractor. Tim’s passions align on 40 acres of steep rolling hillsides on the eastern side of Dry Creek Valley, planted with vineyards and olive trees. Much like the Côtes Du Rhône region of France, the diverse soils here produce luscious fruit from varieties including Petite Sirah, Grenache, Syrah, Viognier, Marsanne, Mourvèdre, Roussanne, and Zinfandel. Trattore Estate Wines’ commitment to rich farming traditions in the vineyard and attention to detail in the cellar come together to produce their high-quality collection of wines. They are currently building a tasting room at their winery a few miles north on Dry Creek Road, but for now you can try their wines at the Dry Creek Olive Company Tasting Room. (4791 Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg, 707-431-7200)
During the 2013 Winter WINEland, we were able to enjoy tastings from several of our new discoveries above (Bjornstad, Calluna, Frostwatch, Lattanzio, and Olson Ogden) all under one roof at Vinoteca, a collective tasting room in Santa Rosa. They are a custom crush winery, regularly open Friday to Sunday, and are sometimes available during the week by appointment. (3358 Coffey Lane, Suite C, Santa Rosa, 707-542-3292).
So, if you aren’t familiar yet with the wineries above, please check them out. You can follow the links to get more information about the wineries, tasting hours, and options for online purchasing. Or, you may be able to find their products at local restaurants or wine stores.
In addition to experiencing excellent wines over the weekend, we also benefited from deliciously prepared food at some destinations. We particularly enjoyed both the Crab Cakes and the Certified Angus Beef Mini Sliders with Zinfandel Au Jus and Horseradish from Baci Café & Wine Bar (336 Healdsburg Avenue, Healdsburg, 707-433-8111) at Gustafson Family Winery, the Sheboygan Brat and Detroit Polish Sausages from The Wurst Sausage Grill & Beer Garden (22 Matheson Street, Healdsburg, 707-395-0214) at Mauritson Family Winery, and the Coq au Vin from Dan Lucia, Chef-Owner of DL Catering at Stuhlmuller Vineyards. Once again, this represented a combination of old favorites (Baci, DL Catering) and new discoveries (The Wurst) for us.
We had a very enjoyable weekend at the 2013 Winter WINEland. Obviously, we didn’t make it to all 140 wineries so please let us know if you had a noteworthy experience we should know about. For information about the 2014 event, other Wine Road events (including the 35th Annual Wine Road Barrel Tasting Weekends in March 2013), and/or to get onto the Wine Road’s mailing list, please go here.