There are so many wineries in Sonoma County that one has to approach them in small numbers to be able to remember where you have been and differentiate among the various wineries, styles and show cased varietals. Sometimes you have to go back after a few years to recall why you liked a winery, or maybe, see if you still do. It’s also possible the converse was true. You didn’t particularly enjoy it at the time and you want to see if the winery or the wine has changed to your liking.
In the case of Christopher Creek Winery, it was one of the usual suspects for the many Barrel Tasting weekends or other Wine Road events I frequented over the years. I had always enjoyed their wines but this last visit was special. To begin with, it was Winter Wineland and the traffic, Saturday 49er’s game, was not overwhelming so the wineries had time to visit with you.
The owners of Christopher Creek, Fred and Pam Wasserman, purchased it from a British owner who had actually named it Christopher Creek after his son. He also adorned the label with a Scottish thistle to remind himself of the United Kingdom. Prior to Christopher Creek, the winery was actually named Sotoyome Winery and it remained so for about 20 years (Sotoyome was established in 1974). The winery and the estate vines are in a beautiful northern Russian River Appellation setting with delightful views from the picnic area right outside the rustic barn which is both production facility and tasting room.
Fred and Pam have been farming for about 36 years but grapes for only the past 15 years. They started in the central valley in the mid ’70s with oranges and olives until moving to a vineyard they purchased in Dry Creek Valley (Finlay’s Vineyard) about the time they purchased Christopher Creek. They were both in the tasting room this day along with other staff and they were so much fun and clearly passionate about their wines. They exuded warmth and earthiness that complements and is complemented by their wine!
The winery has traditionally been a Syrah house but has broadened its offering to include Petite Sirah, Cabernet, Zinfandel, Chardonnay and Viognier. They are very well-known for their Zinfandel (both RRV and DCV) but their Estate and Reserve Syrah remain highly awarded and amazing to taste. Todd Crowell, formerly assistant winemaker at White Oak Winery in Healdsburg, is the winemaker at Christopher Creek. He earned his degree in Horticulture, with an emphasis in Pomology – a branch of botany that studies and cultivates stone fruit not the study of the Pomo Indians who inhabited the Alexander Valley in times past – and Chemistry from Texas A&M University. Aggies can’t be too shy and Todd is not as he is quick to point out the source of his grapes and the secrets of his winemaking success.
One special treat is the blend of Russian River Zinfandel and Petite Syrah that they call “Deux Barriques”! Todd allows the different varietals to age separately in barrel for 18 months. The Zin is aged in American Oak and the Petite Syrah in French Oak. After blending they allow the blended wine to age in the bottle for another 18 months! The current release, the 2007, is exceptional. A wonderful creation with balance, structure, wonderful aromas and a velvety mouth feel!
Don’t miss this small production winery, about 4 K cases a year, the next time you are in the vicinity of Healdsburg. Worth a return visit if you haven’t been recently. It’s charming and impressive and Fred and Pam Wassermann are just plain nice people!