Sonoma

Moshin calculates exceptional biodynamic Pinot Noir

Moshin calculates exceptional biodynamic Pinot Noir

You could say that Rick Moshin (above) is a calculating fellow. Before the proprietor and winemaker at Moshin Vineyards (10295 Westside Road, Healdsburg, 707-433-5499, moshinvineyards.com) got into the business, he was a math instructor at San Jose State. The skills have served him well. He keeps the big picture of winemaking in his head like a blackboard full of calculations while still managing to pay attention to every detail. His wines are like elegant solutions to complex problems. They have a kind of Pythagorean grace. “Biodynamic is the wave of the future,” he said when we visited him in November. He's not doctrinaire about it. The most important principles, he believes, are those that treat the soil like a living organism that constantly recycles whatever...Read More
Healdsburg’s Journeyman gets to the meat of the matter

Healdsburg’s Journeyman gets to the meat of the matter

No one would ever accuse Peter and Cathy Seghesio (above) of mailing it in, even if their new salumeria, butcher counter, and wine-tasting shop opened in Healdsburg's former post office back in August. Journeyman Meat Company (404 Center St., Healdsburg, 707-395-MEAT, journeymanmeatco.com) has swiftly become the source for charcuterie in Sonoma County, and that's hard work. Peter Seghesio (right) spent much of his adult life overseeing the Seghesio Family Vineyards wine operation, bringing its old-vine Zinfandel to national prominence. When the winery was absorbed by Crimson Wine Group, he threw himself into learning traditional Italian butchery and charcuterie. “You see a salumeria on every block in Italy,” he says. “It was something we felt our area lacked.” Peter and Cathy also launched Journeyman wine company....Read More
Jordan captures the luscious bounty of Sonoma

Jordan captures the luscious bounty of Sonoma

You can be forgiven if you rub your eyes at first sight of Jordan Vineyard & Winery (1474 Alexander Valley Road, Healdsburg, 707-431-5250, jordanwinery.com). It looks like a mirage. Tom and Sally Jordan established the 1,200-acre Alexander Valley estate in 1972 as an homage to Bordeaux. True to their vision, the ivy-covered manse overlooking gardens and vineyards appears to have been transported whole from the gently rolling hills of Entre-Deux-Mers. Now their son John Jordan (above) continues the tradition of crafting Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and Russian River Valley Chardonnay in the Old World style. Producing two superb wines—one modeled on Bordeaux's Saint-Julien, the other on Burgundy's Montrachet—gives Jordan Winery a clarity of focus. But following the model of Napa, Jordan is a destination winery....Read More
Thomas George evokes Burgundy in Russian River

Thomas George evokes Burgundy in Russian River

Westside Road in Healdsburg is the cool end of the Russian River Valley. That's just fine by Thomas and George Baker, founders of Thomas George Estates Winery (8075 Westside Road, Healdsburg, 707-431-8031, thomasgeorgeestates.com). When geography gives you cool vineyards in this part of Sonoma, you focus on the stars of Burgundy: Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Since launching the winery in 2008, the Bakers have assembled four select vineyards to grow both varietals. These small-lot artisanal wines tend to spotlight individual vineyards, although the winery does make one blend from each grape. The winery tunnels into the hillside beneath the Baker Ridge Vineyard. Although the operation does have some stainless steel tanks and oak barrels, the dominant vessels are concrete eggs. The vessels have been gaining...Read More
Trattore: a little bit of Rhône, a whole lot of rock and roll

Trattore: a little bit of Rhône, a whole lot of rock and roll

Walking into the tasting room at Trattore, it's easy to expect that the sound system might be blasting Kenny Chesney's 1999 country hit “She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy.” A beautifully restored 1967 Huber tractor greets visitors as they come in the door. Tim and Mary Louise Huber have about a dozen tractors, half of which work the land. And their Trattore Farms (7878 Dry Creek Road, Geyserville, 707-431-7200, trattorefarms.com) is simply named after the iconic farm vehicle. The Hubers' 40-acre operation sits on the steep hillsides of the Dry Creek Valley just over the line from Healdsburg in Geyserville. Those hills look a lot like the Côtes du Rhône, and Rhône varietals dominate in Trattore's vineyards. The other prominent grape in the 4,000-case annual production...Read More
Sonoma Cider stands out in heart of wine country

Sonoma Cider stands out in heart of wine country

The 20 or so downtown wine-tasting rooms in Healdsburg are almost an embarrassment of riches. Sometimes there's just too much of a good thing. That's what the folks at Sonoma Cider thought when they opened Taproom (44F Mill Street, Healdsburg, 707-723-7018, sonomacider.com) in a former warehouse about a block south of the plaza last October. There's a no-nonsense air to the building that houses several 3,000-gallon and 6,000-gallon fermentation tanks, a bar with a giant screen TV, and a casual restaurant. Father/son duo David and Robert Cordtz launched Sonoma Cider in 2013. They take their cider seriously, but Taproom is free of pretense. “This is less upscale than wine-tasting,” says Taproom manager Kole Christen. “People can try something crisp and fresh. This is a place...Read More
Comstock embodies Sonoma wine country living

Comstock embodies Sonoma wine country living

The success of the 2004 film Sideways made California Merlot unpopular for a while. But the dip in that red's reputation might have made helped clear the way for the winery and tasting room at Comstock Wines (1290 Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg, 707-723-3011, comstockwines.com, tastings $20-$50). The photo above looks out the back of Comstock's tasting room to old Merlot vineyards. (That's a blue heron flying over the vines.) Many more vines were sacrificed to clear ground to build the winery, tasting room facility, and wine club residence. But not too many. Founded in 2012 using much older vineyards, Comstock still makes an outstanding Merlot that shows the restraint of the cooler Dry Creek Valley climate but bursts with black currant and violets. Currently producing...Read More
Aptly named Bella fashions lovely Zinfandels

Aptly named Bella fashions lovely Zinfandels

Coming up the driveway to Bella Vineyards and Wine Caves (9711 West Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg, 866-572-3552, bellawinery.com, tastings $15), two things are immediately evident. The wine caves tunnel into the side of the hill, and the vines planted above them in the Lily Hill vineyard are squat and gnarled and twisted. Like so many vineyards in Dry Creek Valley, they represent old-growth Zinfandel. In fact, much of the vineyard was first planted in 1915. Although Bella has a few plots of other grapes, mostly for blending purposes, the winery focuses on handcrafted small-batch Zinfandel. It also purchases some grapes from equally obsessive growers. Bella's Zinfandels often earn mid-90s scores from Robert Parker, and it's easy to see why. These opulent wines are undeniably powerful...Read More
Kokomo Winery lets grapes do their thing

Kokomo Winery lets grapes do their thing

The small red industrial building on the Timber Crest Farms property that houses Kokomo Winery (4791 Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg, 707-433-0205, kokomowines.com, tastings $10-$25) is deceptively modest. The winery was founded by Erik Miller in 2004, who named it for his Indiana hometown. The vineyards date much, much farther back. Some Zinfandel plantings on the estate are more than 150 years old. Partner Randy Peters, a fourth-generation grape grower, has tended other vineyards here since 1974. He grows about 70 percent of Kokomo's fruit in all three Healdsburg appellations: Russian River Valley, Alexander Valley, and Dry Creek Valley. We say the building is modest because the wines are anything but. Miller's philosophy of winemaking is terroir-driven. “The special thing about wine is that it showcases...Read More
Wine country wildfires skipped Healdsburg

Wine country wildfires skipped Healdsburg

We had planned to visit Healdsburg in California's Sonoma County long before the terrible wine country wildfires broke out in early October. We settled on the town because it sits at the junction of the Russian River Valley, the Alexander Valley, and the Dry Creek Valley wine regions. Among them, they produce some of California's leading Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, and Sauvignon Blanc. The Russian River Valley subregion of Chalk Hill is also famed for its Chardonnay. And where there's good wine, there's also good food. After seeing the dramatic news coverage of the wildfires, we considered canceling. But prevailing winds spared most of the area around Healdsburg while scorching other parts of Sonoma and Napa. Healdsburg pitched in by housing and feeding the firefighters who...Read More