After some great wine in Napa, we headed up to Healdsburg for our maiden visit. We stayed there at the H2 Hotel which we really enjoyed (read my review on tripadvisor). Our visit yielded some wonderful Pinot Noir and some other great finds too. Sonoma County has a very different personality than Napa both in its wine and overall feeling; I recommend doing both.
- Dutton Goldfield: This was our first stop and the tasting room is relatively new. We started with a Chardonnay and as I expected, I wasn’t a fan which isn’t anything against DG, I just don’t really like Chard. The Pinot here is what brings in the rave reviews and you can see why. Also, Sarah in the tasting room was very helpful and provided some great vineyard and lunch suggestions as well. We visited most of the spots she recommended which proved fruitful.
- Merry Edwards: They welcome you into the winery version of a board room to do the tastings here. While they suggest reservations, we didn’t have one and they accommodated us completely. Their website suggests that you’ll receive an abridged tasting without reservations, but I can’t imagine trying anything beyond what we had. Either way, they are known for small production Pinot and offer many styles from relatively fruit forward to more dry and earthy. It’s hard not to find one you like. Their staff is friendly and is happy to answer your questions, but doesn’t shell out much information without inquisition. Definitely worth a stop.
- Marimar Estate: This quaint estate has a small tasting room pouring a nice variety of Pinot. Marimar Torres, the owner is from Spain where her family is also in the wine business. She’s been surrounded by it all of her life which is evident in the finished product. Their Pinot we enjoyed showed a wonderful balance throughout the palate. Their tasting room is pleasant, but had a bit of a strong push towards their wine club. Beyond that, it was a good spot.
- Arista Winery: Along a curvy road and up a hill, you’ll find Arista. This picturesque spot has a cozy tasting bar with space for about 10. The staff is welcoming, knowledgeable, and outgoing. Their wines were very enjoyable across the board and provided a nice variety of options throughout their tasting menu. Their small production allows them to keenly focus on their craft, yet still provide a reasonable price/value in comparison to other vineyards. A must go.
- Iron Horse: There was significant rain leading up to our visit, so we had to enter Iron Horse through their back entrance. This took us past their stables and down a single lane, unimproved road to a hilltop with a spectacular view. Their tasting room is completely outside with some propane heaters (like you’ll find at restaurants & bars) for the colder months. On our visit, it was pretty chilly and the single staffer struggled to keep up. She provided little information beyond the name of the champagne and minimal tasting notes, adding little value to our visit. Their claim to fame is that their bubbly was served during the Reagan-Gorbachev summit and hopefully it tasted different then. I’ve had my share of bubbly and this wasn’t my favorite or terribly remarkable – it was the one stop we made where we didn’t buy anything.
- Gary Farrell: Go for the view and stay for the wine. Gary Farrell produced a somewhat mass market Pinot that you may find at home, but the juice they pour (with a sensational view behind them) is unique to their tasting room. From a light Sau Blanc to their Zin, each choice showed the personality of the winery. Scott in the tasting room was great and also provided some solid restaurant recommendations in the Healdsburg area. More on our dinner soon.
- Bartholomew Park: A visit to wine country isn’t complete for us without a visit to Bart Park. We stopped here on our way to the airport the following day and bought 1 more bottle than we had spaces in our wine packer for. We found Bart Park originally on a recommendation from another winery who told us that “Bartholomew Park has the best Zin in the valley”. We couldn’t agree more which is why we stop by to try each Zin vintage. Their staff is great and each visit is always educational. Beyond Zin, their Cab, Syrah, and Merlot are also wonderful.