A Divine Day in Dry Creek
It’s barrel-tasting time in Sonoma. The last couple months are the quietest of the year up here, so everyone welcomes the bustle of crowds arriving to taste the barrel samples from the many participating wineries. It’s a chance for the wineries to show off the progress of this year’s harvest, and to generate some income by selling “futures” on the wine still in the barrel. Selling futures helps the winery generate additional income during the leaner months. It also offers the consumer a price break on the wine for buying early and guarantees that they will actually get their hands on the wines that are either made in small quantities or are in demand. I was lucky enough to have off work on a Saturday, and I got to enjoy the day with one of my good friends from high school and his new sweetheart. It was a stunning day so we decided to take the opportunity to drive north to the Dry Creek region of Sonoma, best known for zinfandel (the red kind, thankfully). We started our day at Lambert Bridge, a visually striking winery that produces some really delicious wines. Since there was so much activity with barrel tasting everywhere, I thought it would be a good idea to make reservations for their wine and food pairing in the beautiful barrel room.
We were greeted by 3 huge winery dogs and Andy, the tasting room manager. We were seated in a private room next to the main tasting area, which was filled with the barrels. Kelly, our charming guide, talked us through the pairing of little bites and small pours of selected Lambert Bridge wine. I came to discover that she too had moved her life and family out to the area from NYC, leaving the comforts and stimulation of urban life for the completely different joys of country life. I suddenly understood why we clicked immediately.
The food was very tasty, and the two of my favorite pairings included beets and goat cheese in a lettuce wrap paired with chardonnay, as well as a delicious aged Oregon cheddar with the merlot. Kelly talked us through what made each wine choice work so well with each of the bites. They change their menu regularly so you never know what you’ll get! We bought some of our favorite wines from the tasting and then headed to Unti.
The Unti tasting room is reservation-only, and they weren’t participating in barrel-tasting, we were successful in our goal of crowd-avoidance. The tasting room is small and humble but the wines were on the other side of the spectrum. I really welcomed the juxtaposition of experience, going from the elegant Lambert Bridge to the no-frills Unti tasting room. George Unti, one of the owners, poured the wine for us and talked to us about the winery. It was clear that they had an old-world sensibility about wine-making. The winemaker is French and many of the grapes that they grow are Italian, including some that you rarely see in this neck of the woods, like Montepulciano and Mammolo. The wines all have a good acidity level, making them very food friendly, and the fruit was vibrant but not overdone. The wines that made the biggest impression were the Grenache (which is blended with some syrah), Zinfandel and the Syrah. I had heard good things about the rose, which was just bottled, but they weren’t tasting it. We left happy, with a case of their wines between us.
We were all feeling in need of a good meal to coat the tummy after all of the imbibing, so we popped over to Geyserville. This is one of the most charming little towns ever, and it happens to be the home of my favorite Sonoma pizzaria and salumaria: Diavola. I look for every excuse to eat there when I’m anywhere near it. They have a wood-fired oven and the ingredients are top-notch. All of their food, from the pencil-thin housemade bread sticks served with red hot pepper oil, to the thin crust pizzas, is divine. They also carry Hawkes wine in carafes as their house wine. I adore everything about this place. Really, I could go on.
I can’t leave Geyserville without saying hello to the Mercury gang. They weren’t participating in barrel tasting but their new neighbor in the space was, Rammozotti. The place was JUMPING, with everyone laughing and feeling no pain. We sampled some of the new wines, scrubbed Freddy, the winery lab, and headed home blissed out.