Tuesday, August 30, 2011

An afternoon in Healdburg (and visits to Skewis, Davis Family Vineyards and Roadhouse Winery)

Skewis pinot noir
During my recent trip to California, I stopped in Healdsburg to wander the streets. On my way into town, I saw Holdredge Winery, and decided to stop because of a few recommendations on Winberserkers.com but they were closed. Just next door was Skewis. Despite the broken air conditioner, boy am I glad I made it in there. Hank and Maggie Skewis have been making vineyard-designated pinot noir since 1994. They recently opened a new tasting room in Healdsburg and I was lucky enough to taste through some of the current releases with Hank. All of the pinots were quite tasty. I tried the 2008 North Coast Cuvee, the 2007 Montgomery Vineyard from the Russian River Valley, the 2008 Salzgeber-Chan Vineyard from the Russian River Valley, the 2008 Peters Vineyard from the Sonoma Coast and a rosé from an unknown vintage as I did not write it down! All the wines are under 200 case production and very light and Burgundian in style. People accustomed to drinking Napa cabernets might even think this lineup borders on being a bunch of rosés! I quite enjoyed the Salzgeber-Chan for combination of meaty spices and bright red fruit with a finish that seemed like it wouldn't ever stop. The Peters Vineyard was equally impressive with its tart cherry pie flavors with a sprinkle of cinnamon, cloves and sweet tobacco and equally long finish. Not on the list, but definitely one of my favorites from Skewis was the rosé. A mix of juice taken from all of the barrels (known as saignée), this is not your mother's rosé. Just slightly lighter in color than the reds, this wine is full of dark cherry, strawberry and cranberry flavors. This is a big rosé with and unbelievably long and spicy finish. Next time you're in Healdsburg, definitely seek out the Skewis tasting room; I'm sure the air conditioning will be working by then!

Davis Family Vineyards tasting room
As I was leaving Skewis, Hank recommended that I try Davis Family Vineyards across the street. I tasted through an assortment of very nice wines. Starting with two whites, I preferred the 2008 Cuvée Luke Rhône blend of roussanne, marsanne and viognier over the 2008 Chardonnay. The blend showed good apricot and honey flavors despite being a bit alcoholic. I enjoyed the following flight of four pinot noirs more than the whites. I tasted a vertical flight of their 2007, 2008 and 2009 pinot alongside the 2008 Horseshoe Bend pinot. The Horseshoe Bend was the biggest of the bunch, but I preferred the 2007 PinnaCole slightly more than the renamed 2008 and 2009 Soul Patch. The 2007 Pinnacle was full of bright raspberry, tobacco and a good kick of spice. It was the most complex of the three estate wines, but all three were nice lighter style pinots. It is always nice to try wines that show the vintage differences and are not manufactured to be the same year in and year out. My favorite wine from Davis was the 2008 Russian River Valley, Guyzer Block Syrah. This is a dynamite syrah! Big yet smooth, the nose is full of violets, cracked black pepper and dark fruit. This syrah fills your mouth with rich black fruits, black pepper and bloody meat and wraps your tongue with a long and interesting finish. Definitely the standout of the tasting and will easily impress even the most discerning of syrah lovers. To finish, both the 2007 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2006 Barn d'Or were decent but nothing special. Both could probably use a few more years in the bottle before they really begin to open up. As it happened, this past weekend, I was over at a friend's house in Denver and they opened up a bottle of the 2006 Old Vine Zinfandel and another of the 2008 Guyzer Block Syrah. The syrah was still excellent, and the zin was equally as tasty. The luscious zin was full of big raspberries and plums with just a little bit of spice. I think that the estate bottlings from Davis Family Vineyards are something to keep an eye out for!

Lineup of similar labels
Finally, I went to Roadhouse Winery. The first thing I noticed about the wines was that they all had the same label, only differentiated by color. Sure, the grape and vintage was on the label, but no identifiable information to distinguish the Black Label from the Yellow Label or the Purple Label is apparent. You have to personally contact the winery because the website and online order form do you no good either! Unfortunately, I did not take very good notes as I just happened to stop by, but I would be remiss if I did not note the quality of the pinot noir. I tried the sauvignon blanc, the grenache and the zinfandel blend, but didn't think much of them. All four pinots that I tasted (yellow, purple, black and orange) were very good, but the yellow and black labels stood out has being superior. Both showed a good balance of fruit and spice and had decent length finishes. Despite having some good wines, I was a bit put off with their over the top display of scores. I understand that wineries use critics' scores to proudly market their wines, but big 93s and 94s all over the place is a bit much. Having only numbers and colors differentiating two wines is not going to get me to buy them. Though, with those high of numbers (and deservedly so) someone will!

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