Tuesday, June 14, 2011

3 Russian River Valley Wineries to Visit

A couple weekends ago, Nick and I went up to Sonoma County to celebrate our one-year anniversary. If you're looking to do something a little different in the wine country instead of the wine train or the big-named tasting rooms along the main highway road that goes through Napa, I'd definitely recommend hopping among small wineries farther west. We even had to cross this rusty one-lane bridge—something I thought only existed in movies.

We'd set out to visit Hawley Winery because we loved the 2008 Viognier we'd served at our wedding and we'd visited their tasting room in downtown Healdsburg during our honeymoon. This is a photo of some of the crazy signage we encountered while weaving our way through the smaller wineries tucked in Russian River Valley. At that point I felt less like I was in the wine country and more like I was in Tulgey Wood.

(I'm going to disclose right now that I am in no way an expert of wine. I simply know enough about what I enjoy in wine to articulate what I like and don't like about the wines I taste. I look for whites that are crisp without being too tart, smooth while still having structure, and not super dry. I don't like reds as much but will be drawn to ones that are not too tannin-y and have a creamier finish. My advice to regular people when buying wines is to ask yourself whether it tastes good, or you think it would taste good if you knew more about wine. Don't buy wine that doesn't actually taste like something you'd enjoy drinking.)

Hawley Winery I think at this point I've tasted enough of what they've put out in the past three years to say that this is my favorite winery. It's run by a father and his two sons, one of whom conducted our tasting. We were the only ones there, so he even gave us a sneak peak of their next batch of Pinot from the barrel. It was really cool to know that the relatively small, barn-like building full of barrels was literally the entire stock if their next release. What we bought there: 2009 Zinfandel, 2010 Viognier, 2010 Sauvignon Blanc.

Nalle Winery Austin Hawley recommended that we go here next if we were interested in another father-son production. Apparently Dad Hawley and Dad Nalle went to school together before settling in Russian River Valley to make wine. This one had quite a few more visitors, but we were still welcomed by Andrew Nalle for a laid-back tasting. What we bought there: 2008 Chardonnay, 2009 Pinot Noir.

Porter Creek Vineyards While at Nalle, we met a lovely couple who coincidentally live in the same zip code as we do, and they recommended Porter Creek. Porter Creek has a cute little shack that they use for a tasting room and lots of big, pretty roses. There was a friendly and inclusive vibe even when the room got a little crowded. What we bought there: 2008 Zinfandel, 2009 Chardonnay.

Here are more photos from our rainy trip.

| Photo Credit: Me. |

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