Last week, I published my first of four recommendations for the Winter Wineland event, the multi-winery event this weekend that anticipation on social media venues Twitter and Facebook is building to a not so dull roar. For Simple Hedonisms, Winter Wineland like an extended Christmas.
I am frequently asked to make winery recommendations, especially in the 4 appellations of the Wine Road. In my previous article I made mention of some of the newest member wineries. Also see my last article on the Wine and Food event.
With now 160+ wineries in a 30 mile radius, spanning 4 different wine regions, there are many ways to skin a cat in where to go. In my next article I will discuss using the Wine Road’s great tools and make suggestions to plan out your day. Some make it a marathon and see how many they can motor through in one day, other enjoy themselves at a leisurely pace.
People get very passionate about their favorite wineries, which is great! I have visited many, but there are still some on my list to visit. Each event I mix in new ones with faves. A big event isn’t always demonstrative of a winery’s best food forward, especially if crowded, but its certainly a good test of their hospitality mettle, and some shine despite the added stress.
The following and buzz of Simple Hedonisms is really picking up, however I often visit without mentioning the blog, or downplaying it, trying to experience what any person off the street would. An experienced, attentive pourer, should be able discern someone who appreciates wine, if they pay attention to the comments, questions. Despite occasional gifts and samples, I buy a LOT of wine. Treat me decently and it’s rare I leave empty handed, indeed usually with multiple bottles.
Ok enough blab, on to my recommendations. These are wineries I have visited, some repeatedly. Some hold an extra special place in my heart, but all are sincere recommendations I’d stand behind, and would like to hear if your experience is bad. Just because one isn’t mentioned doesn’t mean it isn’t great. And if you like it, that’s all that matters. I am always approachable for a visit most weekends. Keep in mind not all wineries participate in Winter Wineland, so check the list.
If you go to one of the places because you read about it here, please help Simple Hedonisms continue to increase its visibility; Tell ‘em you read it here.
This is a long list,so I am not going to embed URLs for this many, if you use the Wine Road’s list, you can find them all.
Russian River Valley (RRV)
Acorn - Generally open by appointment only outside of events. Bill & Betsy are great hosts, and are a template for how to use space to keep things not overly crowded instead of jamming into one small tasting bar. As an extra bonus, Zin restaurant is catering their event. Great wines; zinfandel, sangiovese, and my favorite, the Acorn Medley. Say hi to Betsy and Bill from William.
Battaglini – a charming stop, run by a charming Italian gentleman. Look out for his fiery habanero grappa, if he takes a liking to you.
Carol Shelton – Carol is renowed as one of the pioneers of female winemakers, and her lineup of zins, including Wild Thing (native yeast) capture the hearts (and palettes) of many.
Copain – Copain has been opening its doors more to events. This is a beautiful, simply appointed winery staffed by people passionate about their wine. The views are gorgeous, and their Tous Ensemble label continue to win awards for high quality, moderate pricing. Their viognier is one of my local faves. Great pinot, syrah, and others. Their higher end Copain label is usually on allocation, so buy while there if you like it.
Freestone - A bit off the beaten path, a great stop for you Pinot hounds, in a cozy, home like setting.
Harvest Moon - I finally just visited Harvest Moon this year, and what a great find, doubly so if you are a Zin fan. (Other varietals too.) Owner, winemaker Randy is as nice as they come, and can often be found behind the tasting bar, working it, and mingling with the crowd, sharing his passion for producing great wines. Say hi to he, or bubbly Hospitality manager, Erin, for me.
Kendall Jackon Wine Center -Yes, you can buy many KJ wines almost anywhere. It’s the ones you can’t that are especially worth checking out. Their Fulton center (not downtown Healdsburg) is offering seminars and tastings (additional fee) of their Highland Estate, 92+ point vineyard designate wines at Noon, 1 and 2 pm. The KJ crowd is always welcoming, and the Wine Center is a good place for learning about wine.
Korbel - Another veteran of the region, come discover some of their bubbly offers you won’t see at Safeway, paired with great food combinations. A great stop to start or end the day on – bubbles! (No Iron Horse this event, so this is your place for bubbles, and worth the stop.)
La Crema, (Windsor Location) This isn’t the downtown Healdsburg tasting room, it’s the production winery, not usually open for pouring to the public. Besides the massive case lots of pinot and chardonnay you see everywhere, ask about their smaller lot production Pinot and Chardonnay, many under 20k cases. I tasted a number of these smaller lots this summer at this location, and won me over.
Lynmar One of my favorite wineries in the RRV, as much for their exemplary service and focus on their customers as their great pinot, and beautiful gardens. Some of that can be hard to capture at a big event like this, but owner Lynn Fritz works hard to make sure everyone who graces his doorstep has a quality experience.
Thomas George It has been awhile since I visited Thomas George when I discovered it a year ago. (Are the caves done yet?) Great pinot! And a very friendly staff.
Windsor Oaks Generally open for select events, this is one of your chances to visit, taste their wines.
Woodenhead Newer winery, I discovered a year ago. Great small producers of pinot, syrah, zin.
Downtown Wines: Hobo and Branham: Head to Downtown Wines, right off the Healdsburg Square to taste the great wines of Kenny and Lynn of Hobo, Folk Machine, and Gary Branham. (Wonder if Kenny and Lynn will bring their newest future wine maker – Lynn gave birth to her 2nd daughter, Christmas week.) If it’s not too busy, take time to talk to Kenny, he is great guy, easy going, and very knowledgeable. Tell him hi from William. You won’t be thrown out. (I think.)
Holdredge: I wrote last week about the Hudson Wineries joining the wine road. You can park it here and make a full day. Make sure you go around the back and visit Holdredge, an excellent small Pinot producer.
Longboard: Surfs up! Check out this fun winery, with a love for surfing and wine, off the edge of Healdsburg..
Topel: Donnis Topel is a great lady, passionate about wine, food, and dogs, and produces a dog calendar each year for Healdsburg Shelter fundraiser. My (rescued) Aussie, Flash, is Mr. September this year. Her Birdsong, white Rhone blend, is one of my faves. If you see Donnis, wish her well from me.
Amista – Friendly service, great wines, nice tasting room. I am overdue for a re-visit.
Bella – Bella has quite the growing following. They hold great events during the summer, and their wine caves are always a hit. Expect crowds, go early.
Dutcher Crossing Boisterous owner Deb doesn’t send me as much Facebook love since I went back to work; she works tirelessly often seven days a week connecting with her customers, whom love her. Deb, and her staff here greets their regulars by name, and wine club events feel more like a big family gathering. Stop by for a variety of great wines, and usually a fun, outgoing group of people.
Frick – I met Bill Frick this summer at Zintopia. A one man small winery, I immediately liked Bill, and his wines. In a world of extracted new world wines, he produces interesting varietals, old world style, including cinsaut, grenache, counoise, grenache blanc. Sunday will be my first visit to the Winery, only open weekends.
Fritz – I made my first stop there last month, dropping in on the Crab feed, club event. Small cozy winery, with warm people, good service. A little off the beaten path, at the end of Dry Creek, worth a stop.
Kokomo This small, newer winery was another great discovery of 2009. Great wines, good people, and dog lovers to boot!
Michel-Schlumberger I re-aquainted myself with M-S this year after years of absence. Always a class act, and a beautiful property. As a extra treat this year in addition to food pairings with their great wines, be entertained by Olympic Stars. (I want to see ‘Tonya Harding’ and the ‘Jamaican Bobsled team’ myself.) My part time blog editor, Deb is pouring on Sunday. (I have been too busy to use her recently, if you can’t tell from my writing lately, usually hammered out in wee hours.)) Say hi to her and tell her you are a blog fan.
Mounts: One of my favorite wine families in Dry Creek, 4 generations of down to earth Wine Growers in DCV, who expanded into making small lots of wine 5 years ago. Its a passion for David, and he makes great zin, petite syrah, syrah, cab, and his special, small production grenache. Give Lana a hug from me. Stick to a handshake with David.
Preston – Every visit I make to Preston, the more I love it. Small, quirky, charming, quasi French. Interesting Rhone varietals, which don’t seem to last long once released, so buy one if you like it I learned. No buses!
Quivira – A leader in DCV in biodynamics, Quivira’s grounds are beautiful, their staff warm, and they make some great, interesting wines, especially their Rhone varietals.
Unti – Love their wines, this will be my first time visiting. Lots of buzz about Unti, don’t know why its taken me so long to get here. (I mean there only 160 member wineries, what a slacker.)
D’Argenzio – I visited this gem for the first time last weekend. They have been at their present location for over 16 years, yet below radar of many, yet has a great local following. (Haven’t done a blog article yet, but my Yelp review is here.)
Siduri - normally open for tasting by appointment, and a few select events, if you call yourself a Pinot lover, and you haven’t been here, you may have your Pinot-phile card revoked.
Alexander Valley & Geyserville
Hanna (2 locales) – Hanna has two tasting rooms, one off Hwy 128, and one off Occidental Road. Both are featuring food and wine pairings, library releases, and a Flashback to the 50′s with poodle skirts and Elvis impersonator. I hope to stop by this locale for the first time.
Stryker Sonoma: Great views, awesome wines, enthusiastic people, this is on my Sunday list. Brian (hospitality, marketing) is a great guy, tell him I said hey.
Terroirs: this warm, elegant tasting room is a great stop in downtown Geyserville, and pours wines from a select number of very small wineries who don’t have their own tasting room.
Trione: Rich in history, passionate about wine, this is a must stop in Geyserville. Food and wine pairings (love their Syrah!), and Hog Island Oysters to boot. Say hi to Jess for me, the Queen of Geyserville and active Social Networker. Actually I will see her Sunday, but tell her Sonoma William sent ya.
Still here? Thanks for reading all the way through. My final two pieces will be my personal itinerary for the weekend, and an article on more tips on planning, tasting. Your comments are always welcome.
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