Woodenhead is a small winery off River Road in Sonoma County. I definitely recommend a stop if you are the neighborhood and like Zinfandel or Pinot Noir. My disclaimer of purchasing this wine continues ;). On the nose I get cranberry, dark chocolate, blackberry jam and a touch of cedar. Flavors include the dark chocolate bordering on mocha with more cranberries followed by strawberry and blackberry jam. It finished with soft tannins and notes of earth. Quite a wine with a good bit of complexity though also a hefty 15.8% alcohol content (though I don’t taste it) and price tag at $45. If you like Zin this is definitely an interesting wine if the price point is within reach.
This is a wine or at least a winery that people should be able to find. Joseph Swan is one of ye olde California wineries and if you ever see a Pinot saying they use the Swan clone, yup Swan was one of the first Pinot producers in the state. If you haven’t been, I would definitely recommend a visit to this unpretentious winery just off River Road outside Santa Rosa. This is a 2006 Saralee Vineyard Pinot Noir. The color is an amazing light brick red with a hint of brown on the edge showing a touch of age. The nose is just wonderful. To be sure there is cherry and strawberry but there is a lot more including hints of cinnamon and black licorice. Quite complex and a joy to smell. On the palate there are berries with currants now and the licorice persists into the finish. To me a very nice wine for $25. I definitely recommend it.
One of our guests on Saturday reads my blog and gave me a hard time after my last party when I said I wasn’t able to provide wine reviews. She came to the party with several bottles of wine and a notebook with pink trim :). She thought I could use it to take notes during the meal for the blog. So I dutifully took some notes and here they are.
Carpene Malvolti Prosecco $? This was one of the wines my friend brought over. It was a delightful way to start the evening and brought a lot of citrus, especially pronounced orange and lemon, to the nose. One the palate it is crisp and refreshing with a flavor reminiscent of a creamsicle. For those not familiar, an American frozen confection of orange and cream.
Elizabeth Spencer Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 $? This was yet another bottle my friend brought over. For those not familiar Elizabeth Spencer is a charming little winery whose tasting room is right off the main drag (route 29) of Napa just south of St Helena. Definitely worth a stop if only because their tasting room is open later than most ;). I decanted this wine and later found a nice mixture of kir, cherry, strawberry, and a touch of menthol on the nose. The palate followed the nose with nice red fruit and the tannins which were stiff on opening mellowed with decanting though could still be felt on the inside of the cheeks.
Wind Gap Syrah Coast 2008 $36. Wind Gap is a recent discovery and personal favorite of mine. First, a confession. I was pretty down on Syrah for a long time. It always came across as overly alcoholic, too big, and too gamey for my palate. Then I started finding wineries like Wind Gap and Drew who specialize in cool climate Syrah. This is an entirely different beast. Wind Gap is named after a portion of Sonoma California where the cool wind off the Pacific blasts through the coastal range. Instead of fruit bombs you get balanced wines, especially with the hands of Pax Mahle, Wind Gap’s winemaker. I first heard about them at the Wine and Spirits Top 100 which led to a visit when I was in the hood. To say their Forestville tasting room is not presumptuous would be quite an understatement. When we pulled to the back of the non-descript warehouse in “downtown Forestville” we were greeted by Pax himself and had just a wonderful time tasting their wine. What I find amazing about this Syrah is the distinct aroma of black olives combined with dark cherry and pomegranate , just a wonderful nose. Not the typical California fruit bomb. On the palate the olives, cherry, and pomegranate continue but are joined by a hint of cinnamon and black licorice and finish with something that closely resembles black tea. A great food fine that will match all manner of cuisine. I highly recommend it or at least trying a similar cool climate Syrah if you too had given up on “hot Syrah.”
Sunday was Mother’s Day. After a last run to the Bouchon Bakery we packed up and headed for the Petrified forest. Connor was a bit disappointed but I have to say it was pretty darn cool to see trees that had turned to stone. After a long pause in the gift shop we headed down the west side and into Sonoma to hit a few wineries “on the way home.”
After some negotiations with the “family” (wife), who clearly understood how painful it was to be in Napa and not visit a winery, we opted for the extended day and point the car toward Quivira just North of Healdsburg. We had seen the pigs and solar panels on the last trip but hadn’t had time to stop. It had been some time since I had tried Quivira so I didn’t know what I was in for but I figured it was “family friendly” so I would take it as it came. It is only now, a few days later, that I realized I should have kept notes of my tastings that day. If only to legitimize my stacks of wine boxes in the dining room but maybe even to help figure out how I too can get people to send me wine to try! Next time. I promise to review the wines I purchased as I open them but the short of it is the Quivira wines impressed me (especially the Rosé) and I would recommend a visit or a purchase.
Next up was pickup at Williams-Selyem whose mailing list I’ve been on for a few years. Again, didn’t take notes but the cement fermented Pinot Gris was good enough that I got a few bottles. The stainless Chardonnay was also quite good but its price point was a touch too steep. I will admit the Vin Gris was a bit disappointing given the Quivira Rose. Next was the Sonoma County Pinot Noir (excellent!), Russian River (a bit closed), Westside Neighbors (not ready but still delicious), and the Bacigalupi was the picture of a hedonistic Zin that could be the anchor for a terribly fun evening!
We headed down the Westside Road and I asked about stopping at one last winery which I had wondered about for quite some time, Porter Creek. I had first heard of Porter Creek when we stayed at The Farmhouse Inn and was intrigued. Because there was in fact a creek I was able to cajole the family to one last stop. The staff there was a lot of fun and the wines are quite good. I have to say that the Pinots are very floral on the nose which is not my favorite but they are very well made. I did enjoy the Syrah and Zin quite a bit though and will review them soon. Annabelle and I ran up the hill and some fellow tasters snapped this photo.