I’ll talk about our
Healdsburg tasting experiences in a not-too-distant future post, but I’m
starting with the non-Healdsburg wineries we visited. We’ll start with Armida,
because it’s first alphabetically, and because our Winemaker B (Brandon
Lapides) is the winemaker at Armida.
And he makes great wine there, and the view from the deck at Armida,
southeast across the Russian River Valley, is just fantastic, as you can see for
yourself below. The first wine of
the day, in the barrel right now, tasting great, is the 2012 Armida Chardonnay,
Stuhlmuller Vineyards. This is not
your stereotypical California Chardonnay, with oak and butter. Nor is it really like a white Burgandy,
with more acids and minerality.
This is a Chardonnay, grown in the Alexander Valley, and it tastes like
Chardonnay, grown in the Alexander Valley. Which tastes different than Chardonnay from the Russian
River Valley. (See Brandon’s 2010
Armida Chardonnay, Dutton Ranch.)
At this point in time, the Stuhlmuller has more stone fruit flavors,
like a bit of peach in it. The
second wine I tasted from the barrel was their Il Campo estate blend of
Zinfandel and Petite Sirah.
Brandon is still working on the final blend, which will probably end up
somewhere in the range of 15-20% Petite Sirah. Tasting really good right now, and should only get
better. The last point about the
tasting experience at Armida is that the winemaker is there greeting all the
guests, introducing himself as the winemaker and making himself available to
answer questions about the wines.
With many of the other places you go to on a weekend like this, the
winemaker isn’t there, and while others know about the wines, the winemaker can
tell you exactly what happened with each and every barrel. A better tasting experience for
The Armida deck is a great place to enjoy the wines and the view.
Next on the list was Dutcher
Crossing. When we first
visited, and I
wrote about our visit, I said that we’d be back. Well, too many new wineries to visit, not enough time, and
it’s been nearly 4 years. I’m
almost embarrassed about that.
Beautiful winery, also with great views, and a nice arbor under which
are some nice picnic benches. (We ate our lunch there.) They were serving a mushroom bisque to
go with their barrel wines, which were 2012 Pinot Noir and Zinfandel. The Zinfandel was from Maple Vineyards
grapes, in the Dry Creek Valley, which is one of the top Zinfandel growers in
the area. We also tasted the 2009
Dutcher Crossing Maple Vineyards Zinfandel, to see how we might expect the
barrel wine to evolve. Very
nice. Hopefully it won’t take us
another 4 years before we return.
Last for this post is Limerick
Lane. Limerick Lane was once
one of the standard bearers for Russian River Valley Zinfandel, with a well
deserved reputation for great Zins.
And then there was the reputation, but it wasn’t so well deserved. Not quite sure why. And then there was new ownership (Jake
Bilbro), taking over right before the 2011 harvest. And then there was the new winemaker, Jake’s brother Scott,
taking over the winemaking reins at the same time. Scott was able to do the final blending on the 2010 wines,
but his influence is really noticed on the 2011s. There was a marked difference tasting 2010 and 2011
Zinfandels and Syrahs side by side.
The difference was more than just the vintage, because neither vintage
is “great”. One of the truly great
things about California though, is that there is rarely a poor vintage, so the
winemaker should always have at least good to very good grapes to work with. The 2011 shone bright in our tasting,
like the winemaker put some TLC (tender loving care) into the wines. The 2010, well, I’m sure they’ll be
able to sell those bottles. Looks
to me like Limerick Lane is well on its way to once again deserving their
reputation for great wines.
Limerick Lane tasting room and estate vineyards.