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Aug 28, 2007 12:18 AM

Small wineries in Napa and Sonoma

My wife and I will be in the area in October and want to do tastings and purchase wines that we would have trouble getting in NJ. My problem is that when I read about a highly rated pinot or chardonnay, I contact the winery either by phone or e-mail and find out that they are not open to the public. Some of them have waiting lists. Such wineries include Kosta Browne, Rivers-Marie, Radio-Coteau, Tor, Kistler, Kongsgaard, William Selyen, Chasseur, Hollywood and Vine. Has anyone have any suggestions for smaller, more exclusive wineries that make pinots or chardonnays that I can buy wines from that I can not get esaily at home?

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  1. Freeman, Kutch, Merry Edwards (may be wait-list only) all come to mind.

    4 Replies
    1. re: whiner

      We just got back from a trip to Healdsburg, I'd suggest -

      Porter Creek - Healdsburg, Westside Road
      Gary Farrell - ditto
      August Briggs - Calistoga

      A couple we didn't get to but which I'd suggest calling for an appointment (appt only) -
      Siduri - Santa Rosa
      Brogan - Healdsburg, Dry Creek

      I recently had the Brogan RR Valley Pinot which was nice, very soft and velvety style. Winemaker is the daughter of Burt Williams (of Williams-Selyem).

      Pretty sure Merry Edwards tasting room is for mailing-list folks only.

      1. re: Frodnesor

        Don't know about that, but here's the link on Merry Edwards website for scheduling a tasting,

        1. re: Melanie Wong

          It was Williams-Selyem I was thinking of.

          1. re: Frodnesor

            Yes, I did call and put myself on their wait list. They did offer me a tour but have no wines to sell.

    2. Siduri makes several PNs but keep in mind that it's a winery only at an industrial park, but the wines are really good. Other good PN wineries that I like are Dutton-Goldfield Winery, Sapphire Hill, Holdredge, and Woodenhead.

      1. Limited to pinot and chard, as requested:

        Open to the public: Rochioli, Lynmar, Joseph Swan (no chards)

        Appointment required: Freeman, Peay, Walter Hansel Wines, Siduri (no chards)

        6 Replies
        1. re: Paul H

          Joseph Swan makes a chardonnay from the Trenton Estate vineyard, but quantities are miniscule, on the order of one barrel or so (25 cases) each vintage. When some of the estate vineyard was replanted about 10 years ago, most of the chardonnay vines were uprooted. However, a small section with the best chardonnay vines was saved, where the most intense and flavorful fruit is grown. These have tiny berries, much different than the modern Chardonnay clones. The Chardonnay is very long-lived, needing a decade to show its stuff. Very minerally, floral, and with piercing acidity even though it usually has a full malolactic fermentation to soften the mouthfeel, plus battonage.

          Disclaimer: I'm acquainted with the principals at these wineries.

          Here are the links.

          J Rochioli Vineyards & Winery
          6192 Westside Rd, Healdsburg, CA 95448

          Joseph Swan Vineyards
          2916 Laguna Rd, Forestville, CA 95436

          Lynmar Winery
          3909 Frei Rd, Sebastopol, CA 95472

          Freeman Winery
          1300 Montgomery Rd, Sebastopol, CA 95472

          1. re: Melanie Wong

            Not to discourage a visit, but don't get overexcited about Rochioli being open for tasting. They only pour the "base" Pinot and Chard - all of the other wines remain mailing list only.

            1. re: Frodnesor

              I have been there a couple of times and have never even tasted a pinot. Only whites and rose. Timing must be everything.

              1. re: wally

                Suppose I should consider myself lucky rather than deprived then!

              2. re: Frodnesor

                I went to Rochiloi last year and they had a rose and a blend of syrah/zinfandel. I agree, it is not the place to go for a tasting.

                1. re: pof

                  Not if you go expecting to try a real variety of their wines. On the other hand, they were quite friendly and have a very nice Maine coon cat there.

          2. In the Napa Valley, Failla is an up-and-comer with a tiny production of very good wines and a charming little tasting room.

            In the city of Napa, you should visit the Vintner's Collective, which pours wines from several small wineries. Just tell the staff behind the bar that you want to focus on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and they can guide you to their favorites. Make sure to try the Longfellow Pinot Noir.

            Enkidu Winery in Sonoma is another newish winery. They don't have a tasting room but sometimes if you call ahead the winemaker will meet with you. They make a lovely Pinot Noir, but it may be sold out at the moment.

            Also, once you are out here and start finding wines you like, ask the winery staff to suggest places. There are so many tiny, under-the-radar, off the map wineries out here that often you can only find them through word of mouth.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Ruby Louise

              In Napa, my choice is HdV (in a tiny facility with no sign just off Trancas in the city of Napa) for it's Burgundian style Chardonnays and delicious Syrahs. The "H" in HdV is for the renowned grower, Hyde Vineyards, which co-owns this very small premium producer. Their Carneros Chardonnay ($55) was rated 93-95 (I can't recall the exact number) by Wine Spectator. Their $30 Chardonnay is slightly less complex but nonetheless wonderful for its crisp minerality.

              Tastings are by appointment only and generally on Friday afternoons. They are conducted by the winemaker himself (a charming young winemaker from Burgundy with experience in France and New Zealand). You're in the warehouse with him and can taste and buy all four of their wines (2 chards, 1 syrah and and a merlot blend). Very personal, fun and delicious experience. Highly recommended.

            2. Yes-try Hagafen in Napa. Not sure of availability in NJ. This wine is kosher, and regularly beats out other Napa wineries for awards, so one hardly keep kosher or even be Jewish. See: for more info.