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Aug 3, 2011 08:21 AM

"Obscure" wineries for Sonoma/Napa Tasting Trip

A good friend andI are taking a trip to Sonoma and Napa in late October, staying in Healdsburg. Both of us have been a number of times before and found many favorites, but each time it gets a little harder to get out of the rut of going back to the ones I loved on a previous visit.

By "obscure" I mean smaller properties, places that probably require appointments and might not be in guidebooks, and that are almost totally focused on wine rather than the "tasting room experience."

One example I can think of is Siduri/Novy, whose wines I love, but whose "tasting room", as those of you who have been know, is just a garage in a nondescript Santa Rosa strip mall. Similarly, if say, Scholium had a way to taste their wines, or Thackeray, those would be the kinds of things I would be interested in doing. (Although, to give a counter example, I also love Chalk Hill's tasting room, which is quite dramatic. But I still feel like it's a bit 'off the beaten path').

As to what I want to taste, I usually aim for diversity. I would say I am more interested in Syrah than the average person, less interested in Pinot than the average person. Primarily I want to try wines that are interesting, either unusual takes on the prevailing style, or unusual combinations of varietals.

We don't have a problem driving a bit further, making appointments, or paying fees. Really, we just want to taste interesting wines made by interesting people.

Any suggestions would be welcomed. Thank you in advance.

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  1. Morgan Twain-Peterson is the son of Ravenswood winemaker Joel Peterson and his Bedrock Wines kick ass. I did a tasting at the winery at his home. I'm not sure where he does them or if he does them. The rose was especially good.
    Not obscure, but make sure you've tried Unti wines.
    There's a waiting list to get on the Carlisle mailing list, but I'm guessing you can get in for a tasting. Nice across the board. I'm a fan of Two Acres.

    4 Replies
      1. re: SteveTimko

        I agree with Arnot-Roberts. They share a space/garage in Forestville with Wind Gap Winery (the winery of Pax Mahle). In July, we met with all the owners/winemakers -- Duncan Arnot Meyers and Nathan Roberts along with Pax Mahle -- and tasted very good syrahs and cabs from both wineries. This is definitely off the beaten path but well worth it. We also are members at Williams Selyem and visited their new wine facility on West Side Road. Great facility, great wines, but I think it is only available to members, but probably worth a call to find out.

        1. re: stevenmargolis

          My favorite winery is on West Side Road, also... Vision Cellars. They make stellar Pinot Noir. (not to mention the only blend of Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc that I know of.

          You need to call ahead there.

      2. re: SteveTimko

        Unti Vineyards is a great call. This is one of our favorites. We stop by whenever we are in town and recommend this to all our friends. A very nice family operate this small winery. Great Grenache, Zin and Syrah. Our first visit in 2004 the tasting room was very low key. Just the way we like it. It was a folding table in a small warehouse and very personal attention. It has been upgraded some in recent years, but it is not like those big commercial tasting rooms. We can thank a nice waitress who recommended this wine at The Girl and a Fig in Sonoma. The Unti Grenache paired with duck was unbelievable. She told us to call them and they will tell you when you can stop by.

        Unti Vineyards
        4202 Dry Creek Rd, Healdsburg, CA

      3. I would suggest visiting Smith-Madrone in Napa Valley (Spring Mountain, above St. Helena). They only do tasting by appointment and our tasting was conducted by Charles Smith, one of the two brothers who co-own the winery, at his desk! Not a beautiful or fancy tasting, just a lot of great conversation with him about winemaking and the wines (which are terrific).

        1. Go visit Bill at Frick winery, one of very few (if not the only) that bottles a 100% Cinsault, along with some interesting Rhone blends.

          Anthill Farms and Papapietro Perry wineries at 4791 Dry Creek Road, north of H'burg.

          2 Replies
          1. re: PolarBear

            Love all these suggestions so far... I've been to both Unti and Papapietro - both definitely along the lines of what I'm looking for. FWIW Kokomo, in that same complex with Papapietro, makes what I've found to be some very good wines, and their pricing is quite reasonable.

            1. re: jonasblank

              I'll have to try Kokomo next trip, absolutely loved the Anthill Farms wines.

              If you can find them, try some of Ramazotti's wines, lately I've had his Sangiovese and really pleasantly surprised with the Chardonnay (not usually a fan of CA efforts). Might check the Locals tasting room in Geyserville to see if they are pouring or would accomodate you.

              21023 Geyserville Avenue
              Geyserville, CA

          2. Ceja Vineyards in the Carneros chardonnay ever. The tasting room used to be at the I think it may be in downtown Napa.....darn. Worth a try though.

            1 Reply
            1. re: msb

              Also had an interesting appointment only tasting here: It is near where you will be staying.....

            2. If you like Zinfandel, over in the Chiles Valley (East Side of Napa VAlley) is Nichelini Winery, the oldest family run winery in the Valley. They are only open on weekends or by appointment. And even tho you've probably never heard of them, they've beaten the "big boys" with their Zins.