Siduri Chardonnay 2019

Yes, you read that correctly.  Siduri has released a chardonnay.  Grapes are from Willamette Valley.  It’s pretty good and, as we expect from these folks, interesting.

White flowers, orange blossom, and a hint of mango on the nose.  The palate is lemon backed by pineapple with hints of banana and vanilla, with a long, succulent finish. $35 from the winery, $28 to club members.  Unique and easily worth a try to see if it appeals to you.

We are of two minds about Siduri’s chardonnay history.  One of us remembers a chardonnay being served at a Siduri dinner in the distant past.  The other, older, reviewer does not remember this.

RN Estate 2015 Chardonnay Solomon Hills Santa Maria Valley

RN Estate 2015 chardonnay

(click for larger image)

This is Roger Nicolas’s first chardonnay and it sure is a winner. Aromas of wet slate and lemon curd lead gently to more minerality on the palate with hints of lemon and tropical fruit. A long finish with a slight butter tinge. We rate the $49 as a fair price for a wine this subtle and varied.



Pinot Noir and Chardonnay at Artisan

Friday, August 8, we were thrilled to attend a very special tasting of pinot noir and chardonnay at Artisan Wine Depot in Mountain View. 

[pullquote]This tasting was just for you two.[/pullquote]

As co-owner James Tran said to us, → 

We nodded happily in agreement.

There were five chardonnays and eight pinot noirs from twelve different wineries. We obviously won’t be able to discuss all the wineries. This review will instead focus entirely on the tasting. All prices are at Artisan not including any case discount.

Five Chardonnays



The first chardonnay was a 2013 Etre “Sonoma” ($24). This was unusual in that it was 90% chardonnay and 10% marsanne, roussanne and vermentino. Oak and citrus aromas followed by dense fruit palate including mango and fig. This was too heavy for us. This wine was not available for sale at the time of the tasting. Check the Artisan website for availability.

Next up was Luli’s 2013 Santa Lucia Highlands chardonnay ($20). We’ve reviewed Luli’s pinot noir very positively in the past and were looking forward to the chardonnay. This is a major bargain. The wine was aged half in stainless steel and half in neutral barrels. No oak, no malolactic, just pure fruit the way we like our chardonnays. This chardonnay exhibits lots of minerality with citrus and yellow peach aromas and flavors.

The 2013 Liquid Farm “Golden Slope” from Santa Rita ($45) seemed overpriced to our palates. Subtle aromas lead to, frankly, nothing. The winery tasting notes say, “Smoky minerals, iodine, lemon curd, heady orchard fruit, ginger tea, liquid sunshine.” Iodine? Really?

Poseidon’s 2013 Carneros chardonnay ($23) was another bargain. Very light lemon aromas with a hint of ginger, more citrus on the palate with a touch of pineapple. Nice stuff.

The final chardonnay was a 2012 Saxon Brown Carneros “Hyde Vineyard” ($44). Oaky-dokie both aromas and palate. Any respectable beaver will like this. Not as buttery as some of the others. And not one of our favorites.

Eight Pinot Noirs

First three pinots Pinot Noir and Chardonnay at Artisan

First three pinots (click for larger image)

First up was a 2013 from Banshee ($20). With 82% of the grapes coming from the Sonoma Coast AVA, this wine was quite enjoyable and another major bargain. Aromas of black cherries and rose petals lead to chocolate, cassis and a bit of forest floor on the palate. Nice, long finish, completely integrated tannins, what’s that price again?

Another bargain was from Alexana in Oregon. Their 2013 “Terroir Selection” Willamette Valley ($27) features aromas and flavors of red raspberries and bing cherries and a touch of butterscotch on the finish.

But the real bargain was a 2013 San Luis Obispo County “Edna Valley” by Fossil Point ($15). There are hints of smoke aromas, with tannins on the palate and a nice finish. Not complicated, but what do you want for fifteen bucks?  Fossil Point is the affordable label from Center of Effort.  We’ve linked to the Center of Effort website but as far as we can tell you won’t find anything about Fossil Point there.  We did taste both labels in Pomona last February, but found the Fossil Point offered there was flawed.

Last five pinots Pinot Noir and Chardonnay at Artisan

Last five pinots (click for larger image)

Ken Wright offered his 2013 “Bonnie Jean Vineyard” Yamhill-Carlton District ($50). Over the years Ken has been about as consistent a winemaker as you can find. But his wines aren’t really to our taste. Aromas of red raspberries and rose petals lead to a disappointing palate that’s too big with dark fruit and an excessively acid finish.

Instead of Ken’s pinot, we recommend spending a few more bucks for Freeman’s 2012 “Keefer Ranch” Russian River Valley ($52). This is a fruit bomb from beginning to end. Aromas of shiitake mushrooms followed by an explosion of black cherries and raspberries on the palate. The Wine Enthusiast says it has “compelling character.” We agree.

We first ran into August West at a seminar sponsored by Greg Walter, known for his monthly PinotReport. August’s 2012 “Graham Family Vineyard” Russian River Valley ($40) is up to his usual standards. Like Ken Wright, his wines are consistent. And, like Ken, his wines are not really to our taste. Aromas of earth and leather are followed by tannins and more forest floor. The Wine Spectator says, “Ripe and chewy, with a candied edge that folds into the red berry fruit. Shows some tannic flex on the finish, moving toward blueberry flavors. Drink now through 2021.” We’re willing to believe them.

Saxon Brown made a repeat appearance with their 2011 “Glass House Vineyard” Sonoma Coast ($36). Nice aromas, nice palate, finish moves into swamp moss. We thought this wine was flawed by that finish.

Closing the tasting was Loring’s 2013 “Cargasacchi” Santa Rita Hills ($45). We’ve written about Brian and Kimberly Loring before. The Cargasacchi vineyard has never been one of our favorites no matter who makes the wine. But Brian has done the best work possible with these grapes. Aromas of forest floor followed by a palate of red raspberries.


Artisan remains our favorite wine shop with an unbeatable combination of variety, quality, and price.


Still Zinful After All These Years

Atop the Santa Cruz Mountains at the end of a long, winding dirt road you’ll find Ridge Vineyards. They have been around as long as we’ve been in California. In fact, their website says the winery began its modern incarnation in 1962. Known for their monster zinfandels in decades past, we abandoned them when our aging digestive systems grew, um, less tolerant of zinfandel tannins and oak. But when Artisan Wine Depot invited us to a tasting of Ridge wines, we couldn’t resist.


And we were pleasantly surprised. Ridge has updated their winemaking techniques to accommodate our somewhat more mature tastes. We tried two chardonnays and six zins. Every one was eminently quaffable. While we liked some better than others, Ridge has been added back to our list after a 20 year absence. They are still zinful after all these years.

Ridge Winery Still Zinful After All These Years

Hors D’oeuvre: Chardonnay

The two chardonnays were the 2012 Estate ($40) and the 2010 “Monte Bello” Estate ($60). The 2012 Estate begins with aromas of wet dog. Bypass the sniffing and proceed directly to the flavors. You’ll discover an explosion of tastes, lush and rich, with flavors of white peaches and a touch of pineapple. The Monte Bello is lighter with more pineapple and citrus, as well as a creamy aroma and flavor. Both are out of our chardonnay price range, but if this is what you like, you won’t find anything better.

[portfolio_slideshow include=”3893,3897,3899,3898,3892,3894,3896″ showcaps=true autoplay=true size=large]

Entrée: Zinfandel

All the grapes in these wines are from Sonoma County. If you’re familiar with that area, you’ll recognize the cities and other geographic designations. If not, we’ve included a map with locations marked at the end of this article. (The map is from the Ridge website. On that site the map is interactive and animated.  Highly recommended.)

Some of these zins are blended with the “mataro” grape. Everyone seems to agree that this is mourvedre. According to wine-searcher.com, mataro is the name used in Australia and California. We’ve been tasting California wines for decades and this is the first time we’ve heard that name.

My comment early in the tasting: “This is not what I remember from Ridge.” A good formula for survival in this business is adapting your production to market changes. We suspect, however, that Ridge has a number of zins that we did not taste that appeal to their historical audience.

The 2012 “Three Valleys” ($20, BARGAIN) is a blend from three Sonoma County valleys: Geyserville (Dry Creek Valley), Lytton Springs, and the Russian River AVA. The blend is 79% zinfandel, 12% carignane, 8% petite sirah and 1% alicante bouschet. Spaghetti wine, simple, with some zinfandel character. Oddly, this was the only zin that had the characteristic spice we’ve associated with zinfandel. (We bought a couple of bottles.)

Also from 2012 is the “Pagani Ranch” ($30). This wine is 90% zinfandel, 9% alicante bouschet, and 1% mataro. Intense aromas of earth and leather, but a little too acid for our taste.

The Dry Creek Valley is the source for the 2012 “East Bench” ($27). No blend here — 100% zinfandel. Vanilla on the nose, more vanilla flavors, not much zinfandel character (a tiny bit of spice) — and not one of our favorites.

“Geyserville” is the designation for the next 2012 ($30). The blend is 71% zinfandel, 19% carignane, 7% petite sirah, 2% matara, and 1% alicante bouschet. Aromas of earth and leather, followed by tannins and spice on the palate.

If you know Ridge, you probably know their “Lytton Springs” zinfandel from the Dry Creek Valley. (In fact, Ridge acquired this vineyard in 1991.) Our hosts were pouring the 2012 ($32) and 2005 ($50) vintages.

The 2012 Lytton Springs is a blend of 70% zinfandel, 21% petite sirah, 7% carignane and 4% matara. Musty, earthy aromas with a touch of tannins. This wine is very drinkable today.  We liked it, especially at this price.

The 2005 is on the verge of being over the hill. If you buy this one, don’t wait to drink it. The blend is 77% zinfandel, 17% petite sirah, and 6% carignane.

Dessert: Some History

While Ridge was founded in 1962, their first zinfandel release was in 1964. This year is the 50th anniversary of that first release.

Ridge Winery Still Zinful After All These Years

Ridge Winery

But the history of that terroir goes back much further. 

In 1885 Osea Perrone, a doctor who became a prominent member of San Francisco’s Italian community, bought 180 acres near the top of Monte Bello Ridge. He terraced the slopes and planted vineyards; using native limestone, he constructed the Monte Bello Winery, producing the first vintage under that name in 1892. This unique cellar, built into the mountainside on three levels, is Ridge’s production facility. At 2600′, it is surrounded by the “upper vineyard.”

In the 1940s, William Short, a theologian, bought the abandoned winery and vineyard just below the Perrone property; he replanted several parcels to cabernet sauvignon in the late 1940s. From these vines — now the “middle vineyard”— new owners Dave Bennion and his three partners, all Stanford Research Institute engineers, made a quarter-barrel of “estate” cabernet. That Monte Bello Cabernet was among California’s finest wines of the era. Its quality and distinctive character, and the wines produced from these same vines in 1960 and ’61, convinced the partners to re-bond the winery in time for the 1962 vintage.

The first zinfandel was made in 1964, from a small nineteenth-century vineyard farther down the ridge. This was followed in 1966 by the first Geyserville zinfandel. The founding families reclaimed the Monte Bello terraces, increasing vineyard size from fifteen to forty-five acres. Working on weekends, they made wines of regional character and unprecedented intensity. By 1968, production had increased to just under three thousand cases per year, and in 1969, Paul Draper joined the partnership. A Stanford graduate in philosophy—recently returned from setting up a winery in Chile’s coast range—he was a practical winemaker, not an enologist. His knowledge of fine wines and traditional methods complemented the straightforward “hands off” approach pioneered at Ridge. Under his guidance the old Perrone winery (acquired the previous year) was restored, the finest vineyard lands leased or purchased, the consistent quality and international reputation of the wines established. Cabernet and Zinfandel account for most of the production; Syrah, Grenache, Carignane, and Petite Sirah constitute a small percentage. Known primarily for its red wines, Ridge has also made limited amounts of chardonnay since 1962.

Paul Draper is the CEO and winemaker. As noted above, Paul learned winemaking by doing it. Not bad for a guy with a degree in philosophy! Paul works with Eric Baugher (Vice-President, Winemaking – Monte Bello), John Olney (Vice-President, Winemaking – Lytton Springs), and David Gates (Vice-President, Vineyard Operations).

Judgment Of Paris Still Zinful After All These Years

Judgment Of Paris

You probably know about “The Judgment of Paris,even if only via the movie Bottle Shock.  What you may not know is that Ridge’s 1971 Monte Bello cabernet sauvignon finished fifth, behind Chateau Haut-Brion 1970 and ahead of Chateau Leoville Las Cases 1971. Most stories focus on Stag’s Leap and Chateau Montelena. But no winery on this list was a slouch.

Coffee: Conclusion

Ridge was a pioneer in zinfandel. Paul Draper and company deserve the utmost respect for maintaining the tradition and quality for half a century. Please join CaliforniaWineFan in congratulating them.

To see an animated map of Ridge’s locations, click here.  To work with the interactive map on the Ridge website, click here. (Warning: uses Adobe Flash, may not play on mobile Apple devices.)

Pali Wines at Artisan Wine Depot

Our favorite local wine shop, Artisan Wine Depot, hosted a tasting of Pali wines on June 21.  We hurried over in anticipation of a delightful event.  We were not disappointed — Pali put together an interesting, varied selection of two chardonnays and seven pinot noirs.  Here we’re only going to review our four favorites among the pinots.

View Temporary map in a larger map

Hosted by the delightful Joanie Hudson (Western Regional Sales Manager), the setting was the tasting room at Artisan.  We were pleased to see that the sales counter at the front of the store was mobbed. What’s good for them is good for us. But we’re here to talk about Pali Wines at Artisan Wine Depot.

The two chardonnays were both 2011 Sonoma Coast varietals.  The “Charm Acres” ($21 but sold out according to the website) opened with delightful, unexpected roasted pear aromas.  The grapefruit-citrus flavors served as a palate cleanser.  The “Durell Vineyard” ($30 according to the tasting notes) opens with aromas of ripe melon, followed by honeydew and pineapple.

The first pinot was the “Riviera” 2010 Sonoma Coast ($21).  The color has brownish tints, but that should not put anyone off.  This is good stuff.  Aromas of damp earth, forest floor and mushroom.  Concentrated ripe black berries explode on the palate, moving into nuances of fresh raspberries. A long, amazing caramel – butterscotch finish closes the show in spectacular fashion.

Up next was the “Huntington” 2011 Santa Barbara County ($22.50). We rate this the bargain of the tasting. Aromas of crushed rock,  pepper and cherry followed by flavors of blackberries and plum held with a peppery finish closer to a zinfandel.  We brought home a bottle to have with our spicy dinner Friday night. (Chicken in lime-chipotle marinade for anyone who is interested.)

The “Summit” 2011 Santa Rita Hills ($29) begins with aromas of fresh crushed raspberries, and nuances of white pepper. Flavors feature more white pepper, limestone and minerality.

The “Bluffs” 2011 Russian River Valley ($22.50) presents aromas of earthy mushroom, black cherry with nuances of cedar. This is a straightforward pinot noir with no pretensions. On the palette, lush tannins give way to red fruits.

The Pali website has an unusual organization.  To find 2011 vintages that are not single-vineyard designates, click here. For single-vineyard wines click here.

Two Wine Bargains from Fresh and Easy

Two wine bargains from Fresh and Easy: a chardonnay and a pinot noir.  Plus a somewhat new business model.

A couple of weeks ago, a Fresh and Easy supermarket opened near us.  While checking out the store we noticed some unusual wine labels.  Brought ’em home and found two clear winners.

The label is Cloud Valley, but don’t bother looking for it on the web.  It’s produced and bottled as a private label exclusively for Fresh and Easy.  More on that later.

The pinot noir is labeled “California 2010.”  That’s it.  The back label description is, “begins with graceful aromas of sweet cherries, strawberries, and a slight hint of earthiness, followed by soft flavors of vanilla, light oak, and ripe raspberry.”  That’s as honest a description as we could give.

The chardonnay is also also labeled California 2010.  I don’t need notes because we’re drinking this one right now.  It opens with aromas of green apples, followed by a mouth-filling explosion of honey and butter.  The back label is equally effusive, but I can’t agree with their exact description.  This wine is so good it probably should be illegal.

But what about the bargain?  Through Valentine’s Day (2012) Fresh and Easy is offering these two at $5.99 a bottle.  The regular price is $7.99.  Highly recommended.

One final note on the business model.  The back label says “Vinted and bottled by Terravant Wine Company, Buellton, California.”  Until now, Buellton was mainly known as the home of the original Pea Soup Andersen’s.  Terravant is exclusively in the private label – custom crush – tell us what kind of help you need and you can buy it from us – business.

According to their website, Fresh and Easy only has locations in California, Nevada, and Arizona.  I apologize to the rest of the world, but I’m afraid you’ll just have to persuade the company to open in your neighborhood.

Pinot Noir Winery Crawl – Sonoma, Russian River, Dry Creek

Stryker Tasting Room on a lively weekend

What better excuse for a three-day crawl through Sonoma on July 20 – 24 than to observe our four-year wedding anniversary and to continue our search for the perfect pinot noir? Our wanderlust took us to several wineries that were new to us. The wineries we liked best among all the ones we visited included the Hartford Family Winery, Zichichi Family Vineyard and Winery, Stryker Sonoma Winery and Vineyards, Acorn Winery, Selby Winery, and Copain Wines.

In the Russian River area, the Hartford Family Winery, with it’s lovely, tasteful chateau-like winery and grounds, is making pinot noir and chardonnay wine the way we prefer it — fruit forward, not much tannin or oak, and drinkable now (but also ageable for a year or two). Their yummy 2004 Three Jacks chardonnay ($45/bottle) features a citrus nose with a lemon-vanilla finish and is sourced 100% from three different chardonnay grape vineyards. Unfortunately, this chardonnay is in limited quantity and is available only at the winery. (We’ve bought a enjoyed a couple bottles since the visit.) The 2006 Fog Dance pinot noir ($45, Green Valley of the Russian River vineyard) has black cherry aromas followed by cranberries, red cherries and allspice on the palate. (We’ve bought and consumed about six bottles of this elegant pinot noir since our first winery visit.) Finally their 2006 Dina’s Vineyard zinfandel($50, Russian River Valley) is a big, chewy wine that needs at least two years in the cellar. I can give no better description than the winery’s own tasting notes, “deep, dark colors along with highly focused blackberry and blueberry aromas and flavors with a broad multi-layered texture and wet stone finish.” (We’ve put aside a couple bottles in our basement.)

Update on Hartford, April, 2009. After enjoying our initial July 2008 bottle purchases at home over the summer and fall of 2008, we decided to join their wine club (reds) on a visit in late 2008. We have been very happy with our quarterly shipments and have used the member discount to load up on special favorites – like the 2006 Fog Dance pinot noir.

Truett-Hurst Vineyards and Winery is one of the newer wineries in the Dry Creek area.  The new owners bought the former Martin winery and renamed it  They’re also revising the production model; when we visited there were about 20 acres outside the tasting room that were growing weeds.  Jim, the winery manager, explained to us that the land was lying fallow for three years and would be farmed biodynamically when grapevines were planted.  They intend to move toward zinfandels and petite sirahs.  Truett-Hurst actually has two other labels in addition to their own.  They still own the Martin label, although that will be retired once they sell off the remaining inventory.   The other label is Stonegate, an ultra-boutique wine from the Napa Valley.  Truett-Hurst is using telemarketing to sell the Stonegate label, unusual in the industry.  (April, 2009 update: the winery web site is a single page.  It appears that progress may be slower than they had anticipated.)

Zichichi Family Vineyard and Winery, Dry Creek ValleySonoma, is a new hill-hugging winery with an unpretentious, contemporary, rustic wooden architecture building for tasting, featuring a charming family-sized deck with a view of a vast expanse of vineyard below. Owner Steve Zichichi is a New Orleans refugee from hurricane Katrina, a physician, and father to vivacious coed triplets and also to a new younger brood. (Busy, busy, busy.) He bought his 22 acre Sonoma ranch in 2000 well before Katrina and was planning to retire to Sonoma at the usual age. However, when Katrina devastated New Orleans, he decided to leave the city with his family rather than stay and try to rebuild his business. Steve’s misfortune is our good luck. He has hired a wine maker (see picture) who has a real knack for producing the kind of traditional Zinfandel wines we like.

Zichichi winery has stumbled into an unusual business model. They only produce two or three wines and you usually can’t even buy the bottles in the tasting room. That’s because Zichichi fans so love the wine, that most of their (small) production is pre-sold in the futures market. Fortunately the minimum futures order is six bottles, so it’s at least a somewhat affordable. Even though the winery was begun in 2000, they have been producing estate wines for only the last two years. We were fortunate to try a barrel tasting of their 2007 “Old Vine” estate zinfandel. We immediately bought a six bottles future, our first purchase ever in a wine future. This wine promises to be very fruit forward with soft tannins and exceptionally mild spice for a zinfandel. The wine will be bottled in November, 2008 and shipped in March, 2009. We can hardly wait.

Update on Zichichi, April 2009. It’s early April 2009, and we are drooling with anticipation of delivery of our six bottles sometime this month … we hope.

Update on Zichiichi, July 2009.  We received our six bottles and sampled one.  Our futures baby has turned out to be a very big berryiful wine, almost viscous in texture, yet still dry through all the fruit. At 16% alcohol, we expect to consume it as an an aperatif rather than as a table wine.


Stryker Winery Architecture

Stryker Sonoma Winery and Vineyards, Alexander Valley, is another hill-hugging winery. It has a very exciting, very stylish modern glass & steel tasting room overlooking the entire north valley – this is a really spectacular view. (picnickers welcome). There is also an unsual “view” from an interior glass wall in the tasting room which looks down into the murky winery aging room with its hundred of bottles and fork lift trucks racing to and fro. Opened in 1999 Stryker has an extensive list of over 50 wines, mainly reds and predominately zinfandel and cab. On any day, they have 12 or so open for tasting with fees for the “reserve” wine flight. Quite popular, their room can get crowded on weekends, but the pouring hosts remain efficient, friendly and knowledgeable, so you’ll have a good time.

On this our first visit we found an intriguing 2005 100% petite verdot ($32, Speedy Creek Vineyard, Knights Valley). My notes say, “Too much verdot, not enough petite.” But if you like big, brawny red wines give this one a try. Wines that we preferred included the 2005 Martinelli Vineyard Russian River Valley chardonnay ($25). My notes say “candy.” The winery’s notes say “elegant yet playful, with an inviting nose of honeysuckle and vanilla. When chilled, flavors of melon, pineapple, and pear unfold on the palate and then give way to subtle notes of oak and vanilla in the finish. At warmer temperatures, the wine exudes hints of crème brulee, lemon, and honey.” Either way we liked it a lot. The 2004 Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon ($24) includes soft tannins and oak, probably needs 6 months to a year in the cellar. But our find of the day was the Alegria Vineyard, Russian River Valley, Zinfandel 2005 – fruit forward, yet with some characteristic spice, medium-bodied (aka no jam).

Update on Stryker, April 2009. We enjoyed the Alegria so much that on a return visit we decided we trusted Styker’s “taste” enough to join the wine club (reds only). We’ve been happy with our shipments and have used the member discount to buy another six bottles of the Alegria 2005 Zinfandel.

Acorn Winery & Alegria Vineyards, Russian River, is a small gem, producing only 3.000 cases annually. We decided to visit them because we had just tasted the Stryker Sonomia wine-maker’s version of zinfandel using 100% Acorn- Alegria Vineyards grapes. We were quite curious about what the original grape sourcer might produce with the same grapes.  At Acorn, we found that winemakers Bill Nachbaur & Alison Green Doran offer tasting from a small, utilitarian converted store room. Think garage, very real, very rustic, a real farm. You need to call for an appointment because Bill and Alison are busy doing real chores. Bill was a very congenial host, providing valuable snippets of information about the wine business, viticulture, and local competition. Bill also pointed us to Selby wines in downtown Healdsburg.. We especially enjoyed the 2005 Alegria Vineyard “Heritage Vines” zinfandel ($34). Whereas Stryker used 100% Alegria grapes for their Alegria zinfandel , Bill and Alison have added 10% each of alicante bouschet and petite sirah to the Alegria grapes (which themselves are actually a “field blend” of 9 varietals among the mostly zinfandel) to produce a wine with “aromas of ripe blackberry, vanilla, and toasty oak. Smooth luscious layers of plum, black raspberry, cocoa, and spicy black pepper mingle with the essence of strawberry from the Carignane and Cinsaut. The Petite Sirah and Alicante provide subtle tannins and structure and add to the lingering flavors of dark-skinned fruit.” (from the winery’s tasting notes). Much to our surprise, because we don’t usually like sangiovese, we bought a bottle of the 2005 Alegria Vineyards Russian River Valley sangiovese ($26). This wine was aged in Hungarian oak with one barrel out of every 40 smoked. Again I can’t do better than excerpts from the winery’s tasting notes: “Smoky aromas of dusty tannins mingle with hints of vanilla, mocha and black pepper. … luscious, toasty center through to the broad spicy finish… . Creamy mocha and vanillin oak notes join classic flavors of plum and dark cherry.” All these wines say Bill and Alison know what they’re doing.

Selby Winery, located in a small shopfront one block off of the Healdsburg town square, was recommended by wine maker Bill Nachbaur at Acorn. Selby had been on our “should visit sometime list” after discovering them on the web. But Bill’s recommendation was the little push that got us to go there at last. Owner-winemaker Susie Selby says, “I’m lucky. Since I only make wines I’d like to drink, I get to choose my favorite varietals and use time-honored techniques to achieve wines that are accessible now – but can be laid down for later.” Our particular favorite was the 2006 Russian River Valley “Dave Selby reserve” chardonnay ($40), named after her late orthopedic surgeon dad … and only bottled in years where the chardonnay is good enough to really honor him. This wine has a surprisingly delicate, fine structure. Susie describes this wine as “soft flavors of apricot and pear expand to a honeyed, rich flavor with broad mouth-feel and hints of spicy oak.” We can’t argue with that. While we recommend trying all Selby’s wines, a second favorite was the 2006 Sonoma County “Old Vines” zinfandel ($28). My notes say “approachable, berry nose, spice and berries on the palate.”

Selby April 2009 update: We’ve just pulled the Dave Selby 2006 chardonnay out of the basement and are looking forward to consuming it at home sometime this month.

Copain Wines was our last stop on this crawl, and a bit of a drive out into the country going south on Eastside Road.  Definitely worth the effort of a side trip, this new “rustic chic” winery is up a hill with lovely views of the river below. The grounds enjoy the same view and would be a perfect venue for a wedding or other event. Copain opened their new facility last year with the first crush in the fall of 2007. Their 2007 Mendocino County “Tous Ensemble” viognier ($20) stands out as the bargain of the trip. Blended with 10% roussanne, the wine exhibits aromas of peach and honey with added flavors of lychee and apricot. We just thought it was delicious. A second find was the 2005 James Berry “Les Copains” Rhône-style red blend ($40). Blending 42.5% each of grenache and mourvedre with 15% syrah, Copain has produced an amazing wine. My notes say “rich blackberry on the nose, berries, spice and soft tannins on the palate. Age one year.” Norma actually thinks two years would be more like it.

Winemaker – owner Wells Guthrie served his apprenticeship at Chapoutier in the northern Rhône. He has brought excitement and style to this new venture. By the way, if you happen across any wine from Chapoutier in your local shop, give it a try.  We’ve been pretty happy with the couple of bottles we’ve tried.

Copain April 2009 update: We’re getting the travel itch and will certainly revisit Copain sometime this summer … after our upcoming April “wine tasting school” at UC Davis and after our June 2009 crawl in Palo Robles.

Contact information:

Hartford Family Winery, 8075 Martinelli Road, Forestville, CA 95436.
Phone: (707) 887-8010 Fax: (707) 887-7158
Email: hartford.winery@hartfordwines.com
Tasting room hours every day except July 4 10 am – 4:30 pm

Lynmar Estate Winery, 3909 Frei Road, Sebastopol, CA 95472
Hospitality Salon: (707) 829-3374 x 118 Reservations: (707) 829-3374 x 102
Fax: (707) 829-0902 Email: info@lynmarwinery.com

Truett-Hurst Vineyards & Winery
5610 Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg, CA 95448
Voice: 707-433-9545  E-mail: info@truetthurst.com

Zichichi Family Vineyard and Winery, 8626 W. Dry Creek Rd., Healdsburg, CA 95448.
Phone: (707) 433-4410 Fax: (707) 433-6358.

Stryker Sonoma Winery and Vineyards, 5110 Highway 128, Geyserville, CA 95441.
Toll Free (800) 433-1944 Local (707) 433-1944 FAX (707) 433-1948
email info@strykersonoma.com
tasting room open 10:30 am to 5:00 pm daily.

Acorn Winery by appointment only.
12040 Old Redwood Highway, Healdsburg, CA.
Phone (707) 433-6440 Fax (707) 433-7641
E-mail: nachbaur@acornwinery.com

Selby Winery, 215 Center St., Healdsburg, CA 95448
(707) 431-1288, (707) 431-8902
Open daily 11 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.

Copain Wines by appointment only.
7800 Eastside Road, Healdsburg, CA 95448.
(707) 836-8822 x 104, (707) 836-8877 (fax)