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Venturing up Dry Creek Road on the northwest side of Healdsburg was probably one of my favourite parts of my Sonoma trip. I really enjoyed that area, particularly venturing off the main road onto winding roads lined with vineyards, olive trees and with the mustard in full bloom. I visited a handful of the many wineries in the area, and kept wishing for more time to spend there.20160226_163814

The first winery that I stopped at was Papapietro Perry. It is part of a complex that houses several tasting rooms, spread out in various buildings around a common parking area. Papapietro Perry started out as a true garagiste winery back in the 1980s, and opened commercially in the 1990s, with a focus on Pinot Noir and Zinfandel. The current offerings include ten different Pinot Noirs, a Pinot Noir Rosé, a Chardonnay, and a Zinfandel.

I began my tasting with the 2015 Rosé of Pinot Noir. It is pale salmon in colour with light aromas of strawberry and some floral notes. It is dry with medium acidity, light body and flavours of citrus, red plum and strawberry. The 2013 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir is pale ruby-garnet in colour with aromas of cherry, raspberry and spice. It is dry with medium-plus acidity, light tannins and body with flavours of raspberry and strawberry. The 2013 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir is pale ruby in colour with aromas of raspberry, strawberry and a bit of earthiness. It is dry with medium-plus acidity, light tannins and medium-minus body with flavours of cherry and raspberry.20160226_151707 The 2013 Russian River Valley Leras Family Vineyard Pinot Noir is pale ruby in colour with aromas of red fruit, mushroom and earthy notes. It is dry with medium-plus acidity, medium tannins and medium-minus body with flavours of cola, raspberry and spice. The 2012 Dry Creek Zinfandel is pale ruby in colour with a rich nose of blackberry, cocoa and spice. It is dry with medium-plus acidity and tannins, and medium body with flavours of baking spice, brambleberry, pepper and blueberry. It is elegant with a medium-plus finish. Just as I was about to leave, some beautiful barrels were being delivered as part of a local art project – a great idea!

While at Papapietro Perry, it was suggested that I stop in at Sbragia Winery, a few minutes up the road to taste the wines and particularly to check out the views. The tasting room was pretty busy when I arrived and I didn’t have a lot of time so I didn’t end up tasting but I did snap a few photos of the views. I can imagine that it would be particularly lovely on a blue-sky day.20160226_153827

I made my way to Amista Vineyards toward the end of my day of touring and was amazed to find many of the vines already in budbreak. It seemed so early, although I suppose Sonoma and Napa are typically around 6 weeks ahead of the Okanagan.IMG_3623 I was offered a couple of sparkling wines to start my tasting. The Sparkling Blanc de Blancs had lovely citrus and toast on the nose and palate and a nice mousse. The Sparkling Syrah was a nice change to some of the Sparkling Shirazes that I’ve had before from Australia. I was prepared for something dark and rich and verging on sweet. Instead, this Sparkling Syrah has a lovely berry nose, is crisp and dry with a nice creamy mousse. A very pleasant surprise. The 2012 Chardonnay Estate spent 16 months in neutral French oak. It is pale lemon in colour with fresh aromas of apple, light tropical fruit and floral notes. It is dry with medium acidity and light body with flavours of apple, tropical fruit, some creaminess to the palate and a medium-plus finish.20160226_160000 I got to try two single vineyard Zinfandels side by side. The 2012 Hill Block Zinfandel is medium ruby-purple with a lighter nose of plum and a bit of spice. It is dry with medium acidity, tannins and body with rich flavours of dark fruit, spice and earthiness – tasty. The 2012 Gene’s Block Zinfandel is medium ruby-purple with a ripe nose of dark berries. It is dry with medium-plus acidity, medium tannins and body with flavours of cherry, dusty notes and blueberry with a long finish.

I next got to compare two vintages of Syrah (their flagship). The 2011 Syrah is medium purple-ruby with a fresher nose or dark berries and floral notes. It is dry with medium acidity, tannins and body with flavours of cherry, red berry and blueberry. The 2012 Syrah (currently available to wine club members only) has a smoky, meaty nose. It is dry with medium acidity, medium-plus tannins and body with a richer palate of smoky bacon and dark berries.20160226_161120 The 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon is medium-plus purple-ruby in colour with aromas of chocolate and hints of green bell pepper. It is dry with medium acidity, tannin and body with flavours of cassis, green bell pepper and spice. I finished with a Port-style fortified wine made of Zinfandel and Syrah, called Ilusion. It has aromas and flavours of rich ripe dark fruit and a bit of spice. It was quite nice – not too sweet. I had a great time at Amista, chatting with the tasting room staff.20160226_162248

The following day I went back to The Barlow in Sebastopol to meet a friend for coffee and to pass along some BC wines to her that I had brought down with me. I arrived a bit early and decided to do a tasting at Marimar Estate’s tasting room. Michael was a wonderful host at the tasting bar and gave me history on the winery while pouring through their lineup. I began with the 2014 Albariño with its lovely aromatics. It is dry with medium acidity and a rich mouthfeel. It has flavours of peach, pear, apple and floral and is crisp and clean.

The 2013 La Masia Chardonnay (Russian River Valley) is pale gold in colour with fresh aromas of citrus, toast and peach. It is dry with medium acidity and body with flavours of citrus, apple and spice – nicely balanced. The 2013 La Masia Pinot Noir from Don Miguel Vineyard is pale ruby in colour with clean aromas of red fruit. It is dry with medium acidity, medium-minus tannins and body with flavours of cherry, raspberry, strawberry and spice – very fresh.

The 2012 Mas Cavalls Pinot Noir from the Doña Margarita Vineyard in Sonoma Coast is pale garnet in colour with aromas of spice and red fruit. It is dry with medium acidity, medium-minus tannins and body with flavours of dried raspberry, cranberry and cherry with a long finish. The 2013 Cristina Pinot Noir is made from select barrels. It is pale ruby in colour with a complex nose of baking spice and red fruit. It is dry with medium-plus acidity, medium dusty tannins and medium-minus body with flavours of cherry, red currants and hints of spice. It is elegant, balanced and has a long finish. The 2013 Método Antiguo Pinot Noir is from the Doña Margarita Vineyard in Sonoma Coast and undergoes carbonic maceration. It is pale ruby in colour with aromas of bright fruit and some herbal notes. It is dry with medium acidity, light tannins and medium-minus body with flavours of red fruit, floral notes and a hint of earthiness.

The 2012 Syrah from Don Miguel Vineyard in the Russian River Valley is medium ruby with a fuchsia hue with aromas of dark berries. It is dry with medium-minus acidity, medium tannins and body with flavours of dark berries and baking spice with a medium-plus finish.

I think that my favourite Sonoma winery of my trip was the last one I ended up visiting. After tasting their Grenache at Thea’s place, I could not head over to Napa without taking a bit of a detour back up Dry Creek Valley to stop in at Mounts Family Vineyard. Not only was it a beautiful drive to get there, the tasting space was simple, no-frills farm tasting and I loved each of the wines that I sampled.IMG_365120160227_141833IMG_3653IMG_365620160227_142136IMG_3661IMG_3665IMG_3666IMG_3669 The 2014 Viognier has a lovely nose of apricot and honeysuckle. It is dry with medium acidity and flavours of citrus and apricot.

The 2013 Old Vine Zinfandel is elegant with flavours of dark berries and pepper. The 2013 Verah is a blend of 53% Mourvèdre, 24% Grenache and 23% Syrah. It is medium-plus purple-ruby with aromas of dark fruit and floral notes. It is dry with medium-plus acidity, tannins and body with flavours of juicy red and dark fruit and spice. It is well-balanced with a long finish.

The 2012 Cabernet Franc is medium ruby with aromas of dark fruit and chocolate. It is dry with medium acidity, ripe tannins and medium body with balanced flavours of dried dark red fruit and spice and a long finish.

As much as I’d hoped (and planned) to visit Jordan Winery for their Taste of Healdsburg event before heading over to Napa, I simply ran short of time. It will be top of my list for my next trip.IMG_3682_crop

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