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Jul 17, 2007 10:09 PM

Old World Wine in Sonoma

I'll be in Sonoma in a few weeks for some wine tasting. Can anyone please recommend any old-world style wine producers in the area? We're staying in Santa Rosa and plan on visiting Healdsburg and the Russian River Valley.

I love floral and spicy pinots, leathery syrahs, and fresh/grassy or citrus/honey mineral whites of any stripe. I'm particularly interested in hearing about wineries that are small production and don't typically export to NY and those experimenting with atypical (for California) varietals.

Please no cherry-cola Cabs, fruit-bomb Zinfandel or oaky-buttery Chardonnay.

Thank you!

ETA: I've visited Napa before, but have never been to Sonoma. We plan on staying on the Sonoma side for this trip.

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  1. Pinot: Freeman and August West (both made by Ed Kurtzman and located on the same property); Dehlinger are the ones that immidiately come to mind. Merry Edwards, Rivers-Marie, and Peay are all also great and have a bit of an old-world sensibility to them, but are all deffinitely new world style fruit.

    Zin: Rafanelli

    You might also like Landmark's wines.

    1 Reply
    1. re: whiner

      Thank you! I'll get in touch with these and see if they offer tastings. I've never had any of them, so I'm looking forward to giving them a try.

    2. For zinfandel, try Pedroncelli, Foppiano, Preston & Dry Creek. The first two have been in business for 40-50 years and the later two have been in business for at least 20 years. Foppiano is well know for its petite sirah. Noveau wineries they ain't!

      These wineries (except Foppiano) are all out along Dry Creek Road, a beautiful wine valley west of Healdsburg

      8 Replies
      1. re: DavidT

        I don't think any of those zins are Old World in style. Relatively restrained by contemporary California standards.

        The only zinfandel I can recall that has something of an Old World style is Galleron's, but he's in Rutherford.

        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          Since zinfandel does not, for all practical purposes, exist in the old-world, I am not sure what an "old-world style" zinfandel would taste like. I was simply recommending several of the more established and more traditional Sonoma wineries. Perhaps I should have referred to them as '"old-school" rather than inferred they were "old-world."

          1. re: DavidT

            Primitivo is the same grape as zinfandel, Italian-style, so I guess that's old-world zin :)

            Thanks for the recs -- I'll check them out!

            1. re: oolah

              Primitivo is a close relative of zinfandel, but it's grown in such a hot flat region that the wines are usually high-alcohol and flabby, not what people typically have in mind when they say "Old World."

              Plavac mali, a Croatian cousin, is what I imagine an OW zinfandel would taste like. There's also some South African zinfandel that's made in a very OW style.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                Interesting. I'd always heard they were identical, not just related. I imagine that explains some of the extreme flavor differences. I've had a few decent primitivos (mostly while in Italy), but yeah, I agree that most are cheap and flabby.

                Never had the Croatian version -- will definitely look out for that. Thanks also for the Schug rec. I do like the Carneros Pinots.

                1. re: oolah

                  Latest I've read is that zinfandel, primitivo, and crljenak are genetically identical, but Z and P don't taste the same. Who knows what C tastes like, nobody's made wine from it in many years, it was almost extinct when they found it.


                  Plavac mali is a cross between crljenak and dobričić. Blue Danube imports several.


                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    It tastes similar to a dry Zinfandel, but I think that Zin is better. It all depends on who is doing the growing as to how it tastes.
                    There are a number of vines that are starting to yield in Croatia. Due to renewed interest in Crljenak, it's actually being replanted and harvesting. There will indeed be a Croatian "Zinfandel" soon thanks to the fact that modern is allowing the root stocks to take better now. And yes, Zinfandel, Primitivo, and Crljenak are all genetically identical while Plavac Mali is a a child of Crljenak. My wife and I had a long conversation with one of the Croats who did the originally research while we were working on a book about the wines of Dalmatia.

            2. re: DavidT

              Those are definitely some old-school wineries.

              Here's a topic on what "Old World" and "New World" mean to some of us:


        2. Schug, particularly the pinots.

          Schug Carneros Estate Winery
          602 Bonneau Rd, Sonoma, CA 95476

          2 Replies
          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            Schug's Pinot is particularly OW-style, almost like a Burgundy with its minerality plus fruit. Tasted it three weeks ago and was delightfully surprised.

            1. re: maria lorraine

              Walter Schug learned his trade in the Rheingau and studied viticulture and enology at Geisenheim.


          2. Big second on A. Rafanelli for zins -- but call ahead for an appointment: 707.433.1385.

            While Ridge might not necessarily be "old world," you're bound to find something you love; plus they beat the French, again!


            1 Reply
            1. re: asc339

              If you don't like New World-styled wines, Ridge probably won't be to your taste. Definitely not to mine.

            2. Go to Porter Creek in the heart of the RRV on Westside road. Inside a tiny, shanty looking shack i.e. tasting room you'll find superb wines crafted in the style you're looking for...

              1 Reply
              1. re: vinosnob


                Porter Creek Vineyards
                8735 Westside Rd, Healdsburg, CA 95448