Monday, September 12, 2011

Dry Creek Valley day

Thursday morning, after a walk to Starbucks for some exercise and caffeine, we headed to Mauritson Winery for our first appointment of the day.  We had a wonderful visit - it was one of our favorites of the week.  Mary did our tasting and then Jessica gave us the full tour.  It was great.

This was so cool.  So most big wineries have a space like this - a lab.  You can't really see her but there's a girl in the chair in the left corner...that's Emma, the assistant wine maker.  She was tracking things from different grapes in the different vineyards that they source for.  They had been out looking at grapes that morning, testing sugars, acidity, and a couple of other things, and tracking them just in a regular spread sheet.  They test several times and compare the differences to help determine perfect picking time.

You can see on the right side what looks like high school chemistry - that's exactly what it is.  They have a girl who's great and was doing all these tests and boiling things and doing fancy lab tests.  It was really cool.  Also hard to see (sorry, I didn't want to stalk them with the camera) - on the island are glasses of the current vintage of their wines.  Behind and beside those glasses are baggies full of grapes that were just picked that morning, and beakers of their juices.  We tasted a couple of juices and they are so different!  The juices were brown/tan in color and were tight and sour.  The grapes still have a few weeks to go on the vines before they can be picked.  The weather in 2011 has been very challenging, and harvest is looking to be 3-4 weeks behind most years.

After a walk through their tanks, lab, and on site vineyard, we went into their barrel room to do some barrel tasting.  Jessica was great - we tasted a few different wines straight from the barrels...and then went back into the tasting room to taste the last wine of the list, comparing the barrel to the finished product.

After spending too much time at Mauritson, we were late and raced to Unti for our tasting.  They were in the middle of bottling, and were very busy.

Most wineries don't have their own bottling lines.  They are huge, expensive, and require people who can run them and fix them.  You saw Wild Hog's mini-line from the day before.  This is a little more traditional.  They bring this big tractor trailer, back it up to the tanks, and bottle.  Most of them bring their own team of people...and go from wine in a tank to bottles sealed and boxed.

We had their wine at dinner the night before and were really excited to visit because of all of the great things we'd heard.  They were just a little too busy, I think, to have visitors there.  The wine was great, but the experience was a little disappointing, especially after the first stop was so welcoming and extensive.

We were starving after Unti, so we stopped at the Dry Creek General Store for sandwiches.

We ate lunch on the porch, looking out at beautiful vineyards.  The sandwiches were delicious, and exactly what we wanted - fresh, light, and yummy.

We had to get in some dog love!  This adorable pup was just hanging out in the truck, greeting all of the customers.

After lunch, we stopped at Quivera.

It was nice, but we are learning after so many visits and trips that we really enjoy the smaller production wineries.

We were right down the street from Bella, one of our favorite Zin producers, so we stopped in.

It's a beautiful property on West Dry Creek Road.  We visited them on one of our past trips and loved tasting in the caves - the entrance is in the curve of the hill on the left.  It was awesome - they were picking grapes from that hill while we were in there, and the winemaker was unloading grapes when we left the cave.  This time, the tasting fees had increased, they were offering a new line of Pinot Noirs, and were very sales-y.  The Zins were still great, but otherwise we were a little disappointed.  Sometimes you just need to be really good at what you're really good at.

Then, we made our final stop at Woodenhead.

Up high on River Road in Santa Rosa, the small rustic tasting room has a great view.  The wines were wonderful.  We'd had a couple before, and had been hearing over and over how great all of them were, so we had to stop.  And everyone was right - they're great.  So great that we joined their wine club!  We're really excited to get our first shipment this fall.  We decided on the Pinot-Zin combo - they're all great!

We finished just in time for dinner in Santa Rosa.  We had plans for Petite Sirah, followed by our traditional stop at Russian River Brewing Co.


  1. We loved mauritson! did you get to visit with their two sweet labs?

  2. We were in the Russian River Valley at the end of August before everything was gearing up and we did a lot of the same drives you did. We had an appointment at Bella however and Russ (son of the vineyard manager) took us around for close to 2 hours, tasting the old zin grapes above the cave entrance, etc.
    Next time you are there you should try Hook & Ladder and Harvest Moon (both very small vineyards) near Sebastapol.

  3. @Mimi Mimi, Sounds like your Bella day was wonderful! We didn't make an appointment this time as we weren't sure if we'd have time to sneak it in. Thanks for the recommendations - we'll definitely put them on our list for our next trip!