ViciVino.com was very fortunate to receive two complementary tickets to the 2011 Winter Wineland Weekend. This is a weekend in which over 140 wineries in the Russian River Region, from Santa Rosa through Russian River Valley, Alexander Valley, Healdsburg and Dry Creek Valley get together to let wine lovers experience the different wineries. The theme this year was “Education and Art”. Some of the wineries are not normally open to the public, some by are by appointment only but on this weekend all the participants are open and ready to receive you. More wineries than not offered food to be sampled with their wines. Larry and I went through the map and listing and tried to locate wineries that we either haven’t been to or haven’t been to in a long time.
Day 1 – Saturday January 15 – We started off the day by leaving our house in the East Bay, San Francisco area around 9:30. We got to the first winery just past 11:00, which is when it opened.
Martin Ray – Their parking seemed limited, but it is a small winery with a nice tasting room. They have merchandise to sell. Their staff is very friendly. They offer picnic benches and have a beautiful view of their vineyards. They were pouring their Angeline ’09 Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and their ’04 Santa Cruz Cabernet.
Martin Ray Winery Martin Ray Winery Tasting Room
Graton Ridge Cellars – Another small winery right on the 116, Gravenstein Highway. I liked this tasting room. There was a nice large bar, plenty of room to wander inside and look at all the gift items they have for sale. Here they had made homemade chili that they were serving. They have a nice outdoor bocce ball area with comfortable chairs to sit at while either having a picnic or playing. They were offering their Chardonnay at 25% off.
Graton Ridge Winery Graton Ridge Bocce Ball Court
Dutton Goldfield Winery – Also on Gravenstein Highway, this winery is one of our favorites for Pinot Noir. They have been written up several times, been the Winery of the Year and have received above 90 points on over 4 of their wines. We met our daughter-in-law and granddaughter here. We tasted ’08 Dutton Ranch Chardonnay, ’08 Dutton Ranch Pinot Noir, and ’08 Devils Gulch Pinot Noir and a ’08 Syrah. As we enjoyed the wines we sat out on their front deck and ate our picnic lunch. They have good parking and a very well informed, educated staff. They have nice art and a fireplace indoors which is perfect on those cold days.
Dutton Goldfield Winery Kim and Elliana Lapides having a picnic
Red Car Winery – This winery is right next door to Dutton Goldfield. They had just opened up their tasting room recently. They don’t have any picnic benches but they have a very art deco tasting room. They were pouring a Chardonnay, and two ’09 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noirs from different vineyards. I would definitely go back and try them on a day when it isn’t so crowded.
Mueller Winery – This is a nice winery in a very remote location. We had to drive through rolling farmland with cows on one side and vineyards on the other. Here we tasted their Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel, which we liked very much. They had a live band, the Surf Brothers, playing soft rock and roll songs. They also had Claudia Sanchez, an artist, who displayed her cat art. The tasting room is in the cellar. They purchase all their grapes.
Mueller Winery Tasting Room Surf Brothers performing
Russian Hill Estates – Here they were pouring their new releases. Their Viognier is what stood out to us. But more importantly, the views from their backyard are amazing. They have a few tables and chairs and welcome you to relax and take in the view while sipping their wine.
Russian Hill Winery Views from Russian Hill Winery
Sonoma-Cutrer – Known for their Chardonnay we tasted a few different vineyards of Chardonnay. Their building is beautiful with African animal art displayed; they also have photographs of different vines growing in different soil. They were pairing their wines with a black bean/corn salsa on a corn chip. The backyard is enormous and would be perfect for an outdoor function. They have two full-size croquet courts with immaculately groomed lawns.
Sonoma-Cutrer Winery Sonoma-Cutrer Croquet Court
Inman Family Wines – Here we met the winemaker and owner Kathleen Inman. She was very nice. They just recently opened up this tasting room. They will be making their Chardonnay here soon. They are very popular for two things. One is being very organic. The building they have their tasting room in, is made by using all re-used products. Second, they use screw caps for all their releases. They are firm believers that this keeps the wine from going bad and makes it easier to open.
Inman Family Wines Tasting Room Inman Family Wines Barn
Benovia Winery – Known for their Pinot Noir, they were pouring their wines in the barrel room. We tasted a Pinot blend, two different Pinot Noirs and a Zinfandel. All of their grapes will eventually be harvested from their own vineyards. They are open by appointment only and have a beautiful visitors center with a fireplace, dining room table, and a very nice outdoor deck overlooking their vineyards. Here they had an educational video on how oak barrels are made.
Benovia Winery Cellar Room Views of Benovia Winery Vineyards
This day of wine tasting ended about 4:30. We were pretty tired. Larry spit out all of his tasting so he was able to drive us around safely. I however, just took little sips all day long. Needless to say we didn’t have any wine with dinner that night. The day ended up being about 70 degrees! In the middle of January! Wow! We needed to go to bed early this night so we would be ready to go to more wineries the next day.