In my previous article, I suggested that visiting with Mike Officer of Carlisle made a fitting end to our trip to Northern California before heading down to Paso Robles for the Garagiste Festival, as I consider Mike to be the ultimate garagiste success story. But, I was taking a certain amount of poetic license, as we had another commitment that afternoon.
Awhile back, we ran a guest post from Rick Fraga of www.gatewaytowine.com about his dinner at Marche Bacchus in Las Vegas and our meeting him there. At the time, Rick and I discussed that if we made it up to his neck of the woods we would try to get together. Well, that was where we now found ourselves.
Karen and I met Rick for lunch at Restaurant Charcuterie in Healdsburg. Over a great lunch, we got to know Rick better, learning about the wine classes he has taken, the wineries he has worked at, and his experience as a judge at the 2011 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.
But all that talk made us thirsty, and Rick graciously offered to drive us up into the Dry Creek Valley to visit a couple of wineries.
In just a few minutes, we were driving up Dry Creek Road, and I was excited to see signs for wineries that I had previously only read about and tasted, but never visited – Mauritson, Unti, Rued, Nalle, etc.
Knowing my fondness for Zinfandel and since the Dry Creek Valley is definitely “Zin Country”, Rick picked out a couple of great places to stop…
Zichichi Family Winery
This small [4,000 cases] family-owned winery produces Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petite Sirah. Rick was very disappointed there was no Petite available, as he said it is incredible, but the two Zinfandels [2008 Estate Zinfandel and 2009 Old Vine Estate Zinfandel] and the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon were all excellent, so we were happy. In addition, owner Steve Zichichi barrel-tasted us on his 2010 Estate Zinfandel and 2010 Old Vine Estate Zinfandel, which were tasting very good as well. With production so small, I doubt you’ll find their wines anywhere but the winery, so get on the mailing list.
Talty Vineyards and Winery
Talty only makes Zinfandel, really excellent Zinfandel from their 6 acres of 48-year old Zinfandel vines, along with grapes from the Filice Connolly Vineyard in Napa Valley [we tasted the 2009 and 2008 vintages] and Dwight Family Vineyard in Dry Creek Valley [we tasted the 2009 vintage]. All were very good, but I was especially fond of the 2008 and 2007 Zinfandels from the William Talty Estate vineyard. These were excellent.
We also had the great pleasure of tasting the Syrahs of MacLaren (www.maclarenwine.com), which are also made at Talty. Both the 2008 Dry Stack and the 2009 Drouthy Neebors were terrific.
Our short visit to the Dry Creek Valley was over, although I know we will be back. As I drove back to Napa for the last time, I reflected not just on the great wines we had tasted that day and earlier in the week, but on the wonderful people we had the pleasure of spending time with. All of our hosts were terrific, but I really want to especially thank Christina Turley of Turley Wine Cellars, Scott Turnnidge of Silenus Vintners, Robin Williams of Hill Family Estate, Mike Officer of Carlisle Winery & Vineyards, and Michael Talty of Talty Vineyards and Winery. And what can I say about Rick Fraga? A chance encounter at a Las Vegas restaurant has turned into what I hope will be a great friendship.
Michael Perlis provides outsourced controller services to businesses that do not need a full-time controller. He balances this with his interest in wine: reading and writing about it and, of course, drinking it. He is still trying to figure out how to combine these two pursuits. Feel free to contact him about either at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.