On the Wine Road – Russian River Valley

RRVSaturday the Wine Road was celebrating Wine Tourism Day and since Green is their new Red, I loaded my Honda hybrid with a recyclable water bottle and set out to visit a couple of the Wine Road Russian River Valley wineries.

If you are more ambitious, many of these wineries are also bicycle friendly and will gladly ship your purchases home for you.  Many of Sonoma County’s fabulous wineries have beautiful picnic spots, so be sure to take along a sandwich or picnic lunch to enjoy during your visit.  Think about what kind of wine you plan to taste and bring food that you think will be fun to pair with it for the best experience ever!

Wine Road is an association of wineries and lodgings in the Alexander, Dry Creek, and Russian River Valleys of Northern Sonoma County (currently more than 150 wineries and 50 lodgings). The Wine road describes itself saying “It’s not actually a “road” in the sense of a single, continuous stretch of paved highway, but more of a treasure map to the many jewels nestled among the hills and valleys of a region where fresh air, fine wine and exquisite cuisine await those who traverse it.”

To traverse this expanse of wineries, will require multiple trips, so this is only my first in a series where I will continue to explore these wonderful gems.

Siduri20aI started my journey at Siduri, who was celebrating their 20th Anniversary having gone from warehouse winery to the White House holiday tables. For this special milestone, Siduri was offering tastings of select past vintages plus special appearances by famed Pinot Noir growers presenting their current releases.  Siduri was also offering futures (and barrel tastings) for the 2013 Siduri Bucher Vineyard Pinot Noir.

Adam and Dianna Lee, owners and winemakers, create every Siduri wine with an emphasis on expressing the unique characteristics of the vintage and the terroir.  Their restraint in winemaking manipulation has led to many accolades over the past 20 years and will surely continue long into the future, because of the relationships they have developed with each of their growers.  You will definitely find a wine perfect for you in their expansive offering of single vineyard designate Pinot Noirs.

SiduriVintageYou can join Siduri’s mailing list or visit their “urban” winery by contacting SiduriI am sure you will enjoy these knowledgeable, friendly people who love to talk pinot noir and share their fabulous wines.

Siduri Winery
981 Airway Court, Suites E & F 
Santa Rosa, CA 95403
TEL: (707) 578-3882

The second winery on my journey was appropriately the eco-friendly Inman Family Winery. Kathleen Inman, owner and winemaker, describes her passions as elegant pinot noir and the beautiful Russian River Valley.  Inman Family Winery sits on their organically farmed estate vineyard, Olivet Grange. As I drove in amid wandering chickens, an electric vehicle had just pulled into the first privately owned public charging station for electric vehicles in Sonoma County.

grapes2

In addition to Kathleen’s OGV (Olivet Grange Vineyard) and Thorn Ranch Pinot Noirs, the Inman Family Winery also produces a Sparkling Brut Rosé and their Endless Crush Rosé of Pinot Noir, the later of which just won Sweepstakes Rosé Class at the Riverside International Wine Competition.  “An addictively bright and refreshing rosé with notes of strawberry and watermelon.”
– Daryl Groom, Wine Judge. This wine sold out in six weeks last year.

PicnicMichelle works with Kathleen in the tasting room creating an inviting venue to learn about their commitment to elegant pinot noir and significant environmental practices. They have a picturesque living room and picnic table set outside the winery for you to enjoy your lunch with a bottle of their lovely wines.  Additionally, they rent the farmhouse on Olivet Grange which makes a great base for your explorations of the Russian River Valley.  Tasting Room Hours: 11am – 4pm Thursday through Monday.

Inman Family Winery
3900 Piner Road
Santa Rosa, CA 95401
707.293.9576

RRV Home RanchMy third stop was Hanna Winery’s Russian River Valley tasting room.  Hanna maybe better noted for their majestic location in the Alexander Valley, but this tasting room sits amidst Hanna’s original “home ranch” chardonnay and pinot noir vineyards.

Dr. Elias Hanna founded this winery in 1985, but it has been run for the past 20 years by his daughter, Christine.  She embodies the Russian River Valley love of wine paired with food and has written “The Winemaker Cooks.”  To help you understand this passion, Hanna offers an array of wine and food experiences in both of their tasting rooms.

TastingRoomChristine Hanna with winemaker, Jeff Hinchliffe, are known for their Russian River Valley Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, as well as their Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. They make a number of other varietals as well, but are announcing this week the release of their 2012 Hanna Malbec from Alexander Valley which will be a first for them.

Patrick Shockey generously shared with me his 13 years of experience in Hanna’s wines, including his current favorite a 2007 Merlot which is only available to visitors at the winery – another good reason for a road trip!  Patrick says to pair this wine with another local favorite Cowgirl Creamery’s Red Hawk  cheese. Tasting room hours are daily 10am-4pm

HANNA Winery, Russian River Valley
5353 Occidental Road
Santa Rosa, CA  95401
(707) 575-3371

winepressMy fourth and final stop, was a new winery for me, although it has a long history of family farming in the Russian River Valley. Dutton Estate is owned by Joe and Tracy Dutton.  Joe’s parents purchased their Green Valley ranch before he was born and Tracy parents have been farming Kozlowski Farms since 1949. Tracy says “Joe is a true farmer and enjoys the fruits of his labor.”

Today, Dutton Ranch (co-owned by Joe and Steve Dutton) farms 1300 acres of grapes and 250 acres of apples, all within the Green Valley-Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast appellations. Steve Dutton with Dan Goldfield own nearby Dutton-Goldfield Winery.  The Duttons work with other grape growers to foster sustainable farming and Joe Dutton is a board member of the Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District.

chardonnay2The history of this family is evident throughout the winery beginning with the vintage wine press at the tasting room’s wooden door entrance.  The tasting room is housed in a converted farm house and inside you find a stagecoach wheel table holding souvenirs and antique furniture from the family everywhere.  But the best part is that you also find that old-fashioned kindest in the greetings of a knowledgeable staff who not only know the wines and winery, but the community as well. 

Outside the doors is one of Dutton Estate’s Chardonnay vineyards which is included in their VIP Tour of this working winery.  The VIP Tour progresses to the barrel room to taste wines during their fermentation and ends with the piece de résistance, an alluring wine and food pairing created by winery chef, Cynthia Newcomb.  The tasting is created specifically to enhance the distinct characteristics of each wine. Dutton Estate wines include Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnary, Pinot Noir, and Syrah that are hand-crafted from many small vineyards.

picnic

Multiple picnic areas are available on the grounds which overlook vineyards or beautiful garden settings. Wine tasting is offered daily 10am-4:30pm

Dutton Estate Winery
8757 Green Valley Road
Sebastopol, CA 95472
(707) 829-9463

 

I would highly recommend a visit to any of these excellent Russian River Valley wineries.  The Wine Road offers custom tour maps and trip planning assistance as well as one (1) and three (3) day tasting passes.  Check out their website for additional information.

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