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Sonoma Zinfandel Tasting

Hello all,

I am planning our vineyard appointments now...

This is what I have for our Pinot vineyard visits....not in any particular order...
Davis Family

I am looking for Zin vineyard bests. Any help is appreciated.

Thank you!

btw...we are staying in Healdsburg, if it matters and we are going to spend one day in Napa.

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  1. Sonoma:
    Rosenblum (right in Healdsburg)

    Hartford (also good for Pinot and Chardonnay) although maybe not quite up to the others, imo.


    BTW, nice to see Davis on your list. It really flies under the RADAR but it is a quality production, imo. Also, their olive oil is amazing.

    1 Reply
    1. re: whiner

      unfortunately we may not be able to get into davis, they are not around on mon/tues, she said maybe to wednesday, we have to just call on wed morning :(

    2. It depends upon style, but I'd prefer going to Ridge, Rafanelli, Carol Shelton*, Carlisle, Unti, Tedelschi -- among others. Keep in mind, too, that Siduri has Zinfandels under their Novy label, as does Davis Family.

      Carol Shelton isn't open to the public, but her Zins are superb, and it's worth keeping an eye out for.

      1. Whiner has great suggestions below; I would also add Seghesio for zins.

        Also, know that Rochioli rarely has any pinot available to try in their tasting room.

        1. Some good suggestions here, I would definitely second Seghesio (super-close to downtown Healdsburg in any event) and Ridge, and would add (from our visit there this past summer) Bella, Preston (both in Dry Creek and very close to each other) and Porter Creek down Westside Road. Preston also does a lot of other rhone and other "oddball" varietals very nicely. Just opened a Barbera last week which was very nice. Porter Creek also has nice pinot and syrah.

          If you're down in the town of Sonoma and are a zin fan, I think Ravenswood is worth a visit (even though their quality has been inconsistent of late). They always have multiple different county designations available for tasting and it's nice to be able to compare different regions in one tasting room.

          One side note - I believe Unti is appointment only, though I've been told this basically just means calling ahead to make sure someone is there.

          5 Replies
          1. re: Frodnesor

            thanks for all the great suggestions. should we plan to taste our pinots & zins on separate days or just choose our vineyards by location?

            1. re: cleopatra999

              It's a neat thing to be able to "focus" your tastings that way (that was one of the things I most enjoyed about doing Oregon wine country - because it's basically all Pinot, you really get a sense of the variations from one to the next) but I think you might waste a lot of time and travel attempting to do so in Sonoma. Turns out many of the top producers do both. You'd be better off just focusing on regions and finding wineries that are relatively on the way to each other (i.e. Dry Creek Valley one day, Westside Road another, etc.)

              1. re: cleopatra999

                Cleo -- the object here is to HAVE FUN! Don't overthink this . . .

                1. re: zin1953

                  ha....you don't know me well! LOL, I can have fun once my ducks are in a row, which they are pretty much now, I have all the vineyards, hours, contact and addresses printed up that we want to get to, plus i have them all on a google map....and yes my sock drawer is color coded, and spice cupboard is alphabetical VBG, But trust me, I will have fun now that all the planning is done :)

                  1. re: cleopatra999

                    For me the planning is half the fun. OK, maybe not half - but fun. Google mapping is helpful for route / visit planning so you get a better sense of which places really are close or even en route to each other.

                    As for Ridge and Seghesio -

                    Seghesio is really easy to do if you're staying in Healdsburg, it's literally no more than 3 minutes out of town. Yes it's pretty widely available now but the new releases may be at the winery before they're at your local shop, and they also have some varietals other than zin that are not as widely distributed - I usually love their Barbera, and their Sonoma Coast Pinot is improving (and, I believe, only available through the winery).

                    I've only been to Ridge's tasting room once but thought it was a great experience.When I was there I think the building (an interesting structure) was still under construction and the tasting was done right in the barrel storage room. They were pouring about 5 wines including some "library" selections from older vintages and really made a point to have it be a learning experience rather than just a sales opportunity.

            2. On Dry Creek Road there are 2 producers that share the same building (It is actually a tin barn) Wilson Winery and Deux Amis Winery. Wilson won the best overall red at the Sonoma County Fair in 2005 with their Tori Vineyard Zin and they have a great line up of wines. If you get to Deux Amis (a 2 person operation) tell Jim that Jeff & Sue from CT. sent ya!!

              4 Replies
              1. re: jp62

                Mazzocco, which is a Wilson-owned operation, right near Ridge, in Dry Creek, is wonderful. The Zin is top-notch, the hospitality is terrific. All in all, a can't miss.
                Ridge & Rosenblum, Seghesio & Rafanelli (appointment only!) are also no-brainers.

                1. re: rruben1

                  Thanks for the advice Frod. I have been thinking that as well.
                  ruben those are all on my list, although I am debating Ridge and Seghesio, just because I can get there wines up here, and have had them. Would enjoy trying new wines.

                2. re: jp62

                  "Wilson won the best overall red at the Sonoma County Fair in 2005"

                  This may be a wonderful wine but winning a medal at the Sonoma County Fair means
                  diddly-squat. Medals in general mean diddly-squat. Contests are revenue-generators for the sponsors and marketing badges for the wineries. The best wines are never entered into contests; they have enough acclaim already.

                  1. re: maria lorraine

                    Fair comment......but have you tried the wine?

                3. Hey Cleo,

                  Just to echo/add...

                  Taste by region, not varietal... Lots of these places have Pinot AND Zin. Spice variety is the spice of life!

                  Of the other places people have mentioned, it was a complete oversight for me not to have included Carlisle on my initial list. Carol Sheltons also be very good, although I sometimes find them a bit pricey for what they are. Ridge is a completely different style of Zin and may be interesting to you -- personally, I tend only to like the Lytton Springs bottling and I have never been to a tasting there. Seghesio, to me, is the classic Zin. I always like them, but they don't have as much personality to me, as some of the others.

                  In Napa I forgot to mention Robert Biale. I would deffinitely put it second to Outpost, but it is certainly a place to consider.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: whiner

                    Whiner, I second the Robert Biale suggestion. His Zins are extracted, but great. If one has the opportunity to spend a few minutes with him, it will be worth the trek. The love comes out with every word that he speaks.

                    In Sonoma, I have also enjoyed the Limerick Lane (Collins Vineyard) Zins & Syrahs. The vineyard is just south of Healdsburg and worth the little drive down.



                  2. For Zins
                    Seghesio - good wine, good food
                    Rosenblum - good wine
                    http://www.ferrari-carano.com/ - beautiful location
                    Ravenswood - fun tour
                    and Pedroncelli http://www.pedroncelli.com/

                    18 Replies
                    1. re: dmfnole

                      Rosenblum has a tasting room right in Healdsburg town center.

                      1. re: Frodnesor

                        This is my list now...
                        Siduri (emailed for appt)
                        Davis (maybe, they may not be around :( )
                        Peay (emailed for appt)
                        Martinelli (no appt needed)
                        Hartford (no appt needed)
                        Holdredge (emailed for appt)
                        Rosenblum (no appt)
                        Wilson (no appt)
                        Rafenelli (maybe, need to phone)
                        Seghesio (maybe, although we seem to be encouraged all other the place0
                        Ridge (maybe)

                        we'll see how many appointments we can actually get then go from there, this is WAY too many for 2 days unfortunately, so we may need to narrow it down further.

                        We scratched Rochioli as they are sold out of their pinot & Kosta Browne is not open

                        1. re: cleopatra999

                          Forget Martinelli and Rafanelli- no way is it worth the "tude they provide IMO. Rosenblum, Seghesio and Ridge offer lots of zins and have been making zins for a very long time.

                          1. re: Tom Hall

                            I did not detect any attitude at Rafanelli, and have not been to Martinelli (or Seghesio), but do agree with Rosenblum, and Ridge, though I've only done the Santa Cruz Mtn. "branch" of Ridge. Maybe I was tasting too late in the afternoon to pick up on vibes around me. Now, I HAVE encountered the most "attitude" in Sonoma, of all the CA AVAs, and this includes all of Napa. I guess that I've mostly been lucky.


                            1. re: Bill Hunt

                              I likewise experienced no attitude whatsoever at Martinelli. Quite to the contrary, had a very welcoming friendly experience there. They're not pouring any Jackass Hill Zin or Blue Slide Pinot, though, if that's what you mean. But what they have available for non-mailing list customers they are very happy to pour.

                              I've generally found Napa to be much snootier than Sonoma in my experience.

                              1. re: Frodnesor

                                are they pouring any type of zin or pinot that you are aware of?

                                1. re: cleopatra999

                                  Cleo, Martinelli always has at least 5 wines to try with at least 2 of them being red. As far as reds go, they only make Zin, Pinot and Syrah (and their Syrah is very good, too). The gripe about Martinelli is not that they don't open good, expensive or rare bottles of wine. (They don't open the $75+ super rare stuff, but they do open the $50 rare stuff.) Rather, the gripe is generally that the pours are too small to really get a full understanding of the wine. And the older women there, while well-intentioned, are, well... dumb. Despite this, I would urge a visit. Martinelli is VERY well respected in much of the wine community and I don't think that it can be debated that their winemaker, Helen Turley -- think of her what you will -- is the most famous winemaker in Sonoma. The other thing about Martinelli is that nothing else tastes like Martinelli. I know a few people who don't like it, most people I know do like it. But there are only about 5-10 wineries in the world that I feel relatively comfortable that I could guess in a blind tasting. Martinelli may be the #1 on that list for ease of picking out.

                                  1. re: whiner

                                    That's a pretty good assessment though I didn't find the tasting room staff dumb at all. Also didn't notice the pours being short. As I recall when we were there they were pouring the Sauv. Blanc, the "base" Chardonnay, the "Bella Vigna" pinot, the "Vigneto di Evo" zin, and one more. May have been the Giuseppe & Luisa zin.

                                    1. re: Frodnesor


                                      The 'dumb' comment relates mroe to individual experiences I and my friends on the wine list have had with them. Not so much in the tasting room, more relative to sales. (I have a friend who is on their list 4 times, each one with a different spelling of either his first or last name, and he has tried to correct the problem 7 times to no avail.)

                                      As I said, I think Martinelli is such a unique winery, it is a deffinite must in a first time visit to Sonoma. I don't want to downplay its strengths by focusing upon its faults.

                                      1. re: whiner

                                        thanks whiner, and frodnesor, i will definitely go. I am not too concerned about the higher end bottles anyway. i am looking more for quality for price.

                                        1. re: cleopatra999

                                          QPR sort of leaves out Martinelli, IMHO.

                                          1. re: zin1953

                                            Well... I think it depends on your deffinition of QPR. For me, I have had $50 Martinelli Pinots that I thought ran circles arouns almost all other New World Pinots in their price category. That said, there is no such thing as a Martinelli red wine that costs less than $35 (or maybe it is now up to $40)

                                            For me, I would say that the 1999 and 2003 Martinelli Reserve Pinots (btw, the vineyard no longer exists) were two of the best QPR Pinots I've ever tasted. They weren't cheap, but they were just SO good, they more than justified their price. The same could be said about the 1999 and 2002 G&L Zins.

                                            1. re: zin1953

                                              I think they do a nice gewurtz for $20. The basic Russian River chardonnay is also very nice for around $30.

                                              I have not been wowed by the Bella Vigna pinot at $40 but the Vigneto di Evo zin for around $30 is not bad for a "baby" Martinelli zin if you like the style.

                                              1. re: Frodnesor

                                                its something i have not really thought of to be honest. i sort or assumed that most places would have under $30 bottles, am i way off base with the places we want to go? although it is great to taste the more expensive ones, we just have not moved into that level of wines yet. a $50 bottle is a pretty special bottle for us, and we would like to bring stuff home with us. now i do realize that for a good pinot it is going to be over $30 but i am hoping to find some 'gems'. for zins though, i am expecting to be able to find some good less expensive examples?

                                                1. re: cleopatra999


                                                  Between Rosenblum, Rafanelli, Hartford, etc, you deffinitely have the best $20-$30 Sonoma Zins on your 'to try' list. Between the upper-end Rosenblums, Hartfords, and Carlisle, Martinelli, and perhaps others, you've got the best Zins Sonoma has to offer, as well. And they are all north of $30. After tasting, it will be up to you to decide what to purchase and what you think really constitutes the best 'value'. But isn't that the beauty of the trip?

                                                  1. re: whiner

                                                    yes definitely, I agree! I am just glad that we have some less expensive options :)

                                                  2. re: cleopatra999

                                                    Most wineries' "basic" zin bottling will probably be under or around $30 though they are generally getting more expensive. Used to be $15-20, now I find the range is more like $20-25 and up. Single vineyard bottlings will generally be $30 and up.

                                                    Pinot has always been relatively pricey b/c it's a finicky grape and most will run $30 and upwards.

                                            2. re: whiner

                                              Whiner, just think - he/she gets 4x the normal allocation! No, in seriousness, I do loose patience, when trying to correct a small clerical error, and it just cannot be done. I am still WilliaN Hunt with Hyatt, and I've tried to get the N converted to an M for about 20 years, to no avail.


                          2. We just were in Sonoma and tasted some great Zins. I highly recommend driving Dry Creek Valley Road. There is a collection of family wineries, and Pappa Pietro had nice zins. At the end of the road was Bella, with tastings in caves, which was fun. One of our favorites was this place with a beautiful deck and lots of great Zin--Passalacqua. Several places had wines from Maple Vineyard, and it was nice to taste different winemaker's use of similar grapes.

                            1. I am partial to Woodenhead---they make excellent Pinots & Zins:


                              3 Replies
                              1. re: baron45

                                Baron -
                                We saw this place on our drive down Westside Road and I was later kicking myself for not stopping in. Can you be more specific on what you've had that you like?

                                1. re: Frodnesor

                                  I was just emailed by Andy Peay from Peay vineyards, they only do tastings for mailing list clients. I guess we will have to taste his wines at one of our dinners out, too bad I was looking forward to that. I did email back trying to change his mind, hopefully he will take into account that we cannot get his wines up here in Alberta. I hope we don 't run into this more. Not that there are not a plethora of places that you can go. I guess some small vineyards do not want you to come if you are not going to buy, which we will be, as long as we like it!

                                  1. re: Frodnesor

                                    Actually, everything they make is top notch, but my favorites are the Zin from Braccialini Vineyard and the 2 Pinots from Humboldt County and Morning Dew Ranch.

                                2. Just returned from Healdsburg. It is wonderful. Some suggestions

                                  Raffanelli - but call for an appointment
                                  Unti - also call ahead

                                  Try the Maple Zin at these next two. It is excellent
                                  Passalacqua - great place for a picnic lunch as well
                                  Dutcher Crossing -

                                  Mauritson - and meet Uncle Bob
                                  Ferrari-Carano - beautiful setting
                                  Michel-Schlumberger - a very nice tour is included but call ahead

                                  Gary Farrell - pinot

                                  1. On Dry Creek Rd, I would add a stop at David Coffaro, just past Yoakim Bridge Rd., on the left.

                                    1. I feel Ridge is a must-stop for Zins. However, I have been a club member for a long time, so I am partial. I just think they do a fantastic job and you'll get a chance to compare vineyards, etc.

                                      I also love Seghesio and Limerick Lane for zin. Rosenblum is also good, but I prefer going to their Alameda location and never want to give up a spot on the itinerary for the Healdsburg location.

                                      I wasn't that keen on my visits at Holdredge and Unti, but they are fine. I completely support your plan to visit Siduri - great pinot place. I love the Pinot at Lynmar and Gary Farrell too.

                                      1. And you saw Zin suggestions that began in the original thread, didn't you? Such as


                                        1. Lots of good suggestions on the Zin, but how could they not mention Meeker in Geyserville?

                                          1. To my knowledge Novy- Siduri do not make Zins, but do make some great Syrahs and Pinots from these two labels located in a warehouse setting in Santa Rosa- well worth a visit- call ahead and get times for tastings.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: zinfanatic

                                              Siduri does exclusively Pinot I believe, but sister winery Novy does zins and syrahs as well as a grab-bag of other stuff. Novy's website has several current-release zins.