We had some friends visiting us last week, and as we like to do with visitors, we took them wine tasting. This was winter wine tasting, with gloomy skies and temperature not much warmer than 50 F. We didn’t let the weather slow us down.
We started off at Soda Rock Winery; thought we should support them after the damage they took in the Kincade fire a few months back. Soda Rock had one of the most memorable buildings in Sonoma County, but the fire took care of that. The brick front and the wild boar statue are still standing, as is their barn-like building. The rest is gone, with just twisted metal and ash still remaining. They’ve moved their tasting into the barn, added some space heaters and some lights, and it’s like they’re a startup winery with the tasting being done in the barrel room.
Soda Rock is in the Alexander Valley, and as such focuses on the Bordeaux varietals that grow best in that area. We tasted through wines that employed the five primary grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petite Verdot. The single varietal wines and the blends were quite good, and the help in the tasting room was great. Knocked down by the fire, but Soda Rock is roaring back.
From there we went to Healdsburg, and had lunch at an old favorite, El Farolito. Great food, an impressive collection of Tequilas, and the ability to make those into great margaritas. However, there was another winery to go, so we held off on the hard stuff.
It was a short trip within Healdsburg to Leo Steen Wines, located not on the square but in the southeastern part of the town near the Russian River. Leo Hansen, the proprietor of Leo Steen Wines, joined us for the tasting. He has an interesting perspective on wines, wanting to make unique wines at reasonable prices (less than $35 per bottle). It’s also a nice place to sit and relax and taste. We spent about 1 1/2 hours there enjoying the wines and ambiance and good company.
In particular, he is focusing on Chenin Blanc, with three different versions of this varietal, sourced from three different regions. One was from Mendocino County, one from Dry Creek Valley, and one from Santa Ynez Valley (Santa Barbara County). All good, all interesting with layers of flavor. There was also a Riesling, which was wonderful: tasted like a Riesling, smelled like a Riesling, but with just enough differences to let you know that you weren’t in Germany. The last wine we tasted was a Grenache (100%). There are starting to be a few solo Grenache wines made in California; this was one of the best we’ve tasted.
No reason not to go tasting in the winter, and many good reasons to head out to the wineries.