The theme of this year’s 20th Anniversary Winter Wineland was “Wine ~ Art ~ Education”.
Coordinated and designed by the Wine Road of Northern Sonoma County, Wineland is one of three major events held annually by Wine Road. This event has proven to be a great opportunity to meet wine makers and get educated about the wines and vineyards of some of the premier wines of Northern California. Over 140 of the 150+ wineries that belong to Wine Road participated and despite the distractions of 49ers football (Yes….on to the NFC Championship game!!) there were good and happy crowds at many of the wineries visited.
Open from 11:00 am – 4:00 pm both days, the participating wineries typically offered food to pair with their wines and some, more than others, offered educational exhibits or demonstrations about wine, winemaking, and/or vineyard management. Other wineries advertised art exhibits with the artist on site to describe their works or sell them if a buyer came along. A happy coincidence for all parties when that occurs.
Wine Road covers a huge area and includes 3 Appellations – Alexander Valley, Russian River Valley and Dry Creek Valley. The participating wineries offer a wide range of varietals as one would imagine with the various elevations, soils, weather … the terroir (that special sense of place embodied in geography, geology and climate) represented in this diverse geography. Some of the soils are volcanic while other locations have alluvial soil. Some of it is rocky while elsewhere clay or sandy soils proliferate. All of these variations result in an amazing array of flavor profiles especially combined with the unique wine making philosophies of the talented and eclectic collection of wine makers crafting wines along the Wine Road.
Planning the route is a logistics challenge if you are trying to maximize your visitations, again, because of the vast geography. The well advised hired drivers and limos or buses to handle the driving chores. This approach is clearly much safer (no DUIs) and also offers an opportunity to visit more wineries with parking and departing facilitated by the designated limo driver.
With the distances involved and the desire to enjoy the wines and learn from the experts, we only made it to 8 wineries in the two days. Some of there were very small production and don’t have tasting rooms or regular tasting hours. Others are huge production, large tasting rooms and regular daily tastings.
Siduri and Novy Family wineries: Adam and Dianna Lee emigrated to CA from Texas in the 90s. 1994 was their first Pinot Noir release and it didn’t take long for them to achieve notoriety. Siduri is a Pinot House with amazing wines and famous vineyards contributing grapes. After becoming successful, Dianna’s family jumped into help establish Novy (Dianna’s maiden name) Family Winery. Siduri/Novy offered over 20 wines to taste and took a crack at offering educational displays and information. They are only open by appointment: 10:00 am – 3:00 pm, 7 days/week. Call: 707-578-3882 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Carol Shelton Wines is one of the first 10 female wine makers to graduate from UC Davis (in the 70’s). Recognized as ‘Winemaker of the Year’ numerous times, Carol remains a passionate, friendly and fun person which is reflected in her winery, among her staff and ultimately, her personally. Zinfandel is still her favorite although her ‘Port’ offers a wonderful opportunity to sit back and sip. Carol sources grapes from: Dry Creek Valley, Rockpile (a mountainous appellation adjacent to Dry Creek Valley), Russian River Valley and Mendocino and, believe it or not, Cucamonga (a desert area in southern California). The cork exhibit offered very useful information for enthusiasts. Open by appointment daily from 11:00 am – 4:00 pm, Call: 707-575-3441.
Valdez Family Winery is perhaps the penultimate American success story. Ulises Valdez emigrated to the US from Mexico in the mid 80s. Beginning as a vineyard worker for Florence Vineyard Management, Ulises listened and learned and ultimately bought out his mentor, Jack Florence. Valdez Vineyard Management now manages about 900 acres of vineyards for some of the most prominent boutique and larger wineries and growers in Sonoma. His family winery is composed of his wife and sons and part-time by his daughters. Great Zinfandel and Syrah reign supreme. The tasting room in Cloverdale is open Saturday 11:00 Am – 4: pm and by appointment on Friday and Sunday. Call 707-894-3710 for appointments and information.
Wine Road was established 30 years ago as an association of wineries and lodgings in the Alexander, Dry Creek, and Russian River Valleys of Northern Sonoma County. It has grown into a constellation of more than 150 wineries and 50 lodgings.