The newest tasting room in Healdsburg’s Plaza can’t miss for many reasons. One is the winemaker got his experience at Crushpad making all different varietals from different regions into the stylistic preferences of his many clients. Another is their story of three friends breaking out on their own to start a small company, using their vastly different yet compatible skills.
Then, there’s the wine. BANSHEE rose reaches that slender balance between tangy and slightly tart with rich body and texture. Their Sauvignon Blanc leads with mellow melon characteristics and follows with just enough acidity for a crisp finish. Their unique Chardonnay has a crisp lemon and pepper quality with tropical fruit that make you wish you had a salami and cheese picnic. Their first Pinot Noir has a warm luscious bounty of dark cherry berry with spice and smoky vanilla while the second marine layer has more bright fruit and dry earth. So, they have one for each Pinot palate. Finally the Cabernet Sauvignon has lots of dark cherry with a little pepper and nice crisp acidity. All are well crafted wines.
The elegant and stately Cyrus restaurant has become the casual Chalkboard dining experience with the same exquisite bar. It is worth grabbing a bite just to see what happens when you grill a lime wedge on an open flame.
It oozes…in a good way. And it has a mild smokey flavor that went really well with this corn salsa and aioli. This was the best starter for their Chicken Tinga Taco.
One of the newest tasting rooms in the Healdsburg plaza that’s worth a try is Hawley. Family winemakers with years of experience have honed their palates so they know how to capture the best juice from any grape. Their Sauvignon Blanc is bursting with crisp green apple and honeydew with a little minerality and vanilla on the crisp finish. It begs for a seat by the pool, crisp rich salad, or saucy seafood. This one is a refreshing change from the grapefruit Sauvignon Blancs elsewhere.
Their Viognier is equally unique with its round supple orange blossom, peach, and apricot flavors. The overwhelming floral fragrance is replaced by a hint of white pepper. With no aftertaste and a long finish, it is a lovely sipper.
Both the Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon are certified organic and each contains a blending of the other. The Merlot ends up having that rich cherry cola plum with vanilla and spice. Vanilla and cherry is always a good match! As you can imagine, the cab has that cherry cola and plum with a bit of berry flavor and a long velvety finish.
It’s only been 12 months since I “lived” in Headsburg. OK, I was only living here for a month so I guess you cannot call that living. I was hanging out in this lovely town 12 months ago but the entire landscape of my favorite eateries has drastically changed in that short period. I haven’t even visited my old favorites yet because I’m so excited about my new BFFs (Best Food Finds).
Bravas tops the list…not because they have a wonderfully cool patio…or because they always have the Giants game on…it’s not even their deliciously creative cocktails. The bartender at Bravas can defy the laws of science; my drink went higher than the rim of my glass! It’s really because of their food. They serve food that is hard to find yet perfectly spiced and prepared. My most recent meal started with this Escarole salad with apples, Hazelnuts, and a rich Spanish cheese that was similar to blue cheese.
Then, sausages. Yes, many different sizes and spices. I kid but I’m not kidding. First, you cannot go wrong with cider braised chorizo with padron peppers. Then, sobrasada sausage in a red sauce with manchego cheese was full of rich salty goodness. And another came with stewed chickpeas, Marcilla sausage, and fennel sofrito. Maybe not all at once but all are worth trying.
If you like a good dry rose, Alderbrook has one that smells like a Grenache yet finishes like a Syrah. It’s got that tart strawberry flavor with a creamy body and a hint of white pepper on the finish. Because it was barrel fermented, it has that tangy flavor without real tart acidity. This means it can stand up to rich barbecued and cured meats as well as rich salads and pastas.
They’ve also taken on the bold task of making a Carignane. Theirs are from old vines with those haunting tart juicy blueberry flavors and a body like mocha. The strong acidity in this wine makes it great for tri tip summer sandwiches. If you get there soon, this wine is at a remarkable $70 a case. If you can’t find a friend or two to split a case like this, go get some more interesting friends!
Small handcrafted family winemakers are more than happy to recommend others nearby. Kachina recommended Nalle, so it was no surprise that we were happily greeted by the entire family. Their history dates back farther than most in the valley and stories like how grandpa was born in the house at the front of the property are captivating.
Nalle has a simple natural winemaking style. Their field blend of head trained vines shows you they let the grapes do what they do best. Their low alcohol wines bring out the bright flavors you may be missing in other wines. But, while the trend is turning toward wines of this style, Nalle has been doing them the same for generations. I guess that makes them pioneers.
Healdsburg has become a vibrant wine destination now crowded on the weekends by those that got tired of the tourist traps and overpriced wines in Napa Valley. A natural byproduct of this emerging growth is the prevalence of more large scale corporate wineries. But family wineries like Kachina are staying true to the Dry Creek roots in producing deliciously smooth hand crafted wines and keeping the small town hospitality tasting room experience.
They pour a delicious flight of wines by appointment only. That’s only to ensure you get the attention and outdoor vineyard experience that makes coming to wine country worth the trip. You’ll love the Russian River Valley Chardonnay for its tangy bold yet elegant creme brulee flavor and body. Their rich complex Cabernet Sauvignon full of plum, cherry, and berry characteristics might spoil you for all others in the valley. But you’ll want to return for more when you remember Dry Creek Valley as it should be.
Stonestreet may sound like an interesting name for a winery but its namesake is even more interesting. You may have heard of the famed wine mogul, Jess Jackson. Well, his name is actually Jess Stonestreet Jackson because the doctor who made the house call when his mother went into labor was Doctor Stonestreet. Paying homage to those who treat us, Jess passed this unique middle name onto his son, Christopher.
Stonestreet equally pays homage to the land, planting vineyards on untamed ground that develop complex and concentrated grapes. Their Terrace Ridge is a crisp refreshing change from the usual Sauvignon Blanc you see all over town. Theirs has more Semillon that Sauvignon Blanc, giving it a bigger stronger texture and mouthfeel with the same lip smacking tart fruit flavor of a Sauvignon Blanc. Its still got that lemon curd but a larger body with minerality and stone fruit. Next, their Broken Road Chardonnay is unlike any other. It’s burnt vanilla creme brulee on the nose made it alluring and seemingly huge. But the fruit is light and crisp with medium body. It’s got that lemon curd flavor you seek in a Chardonnay but this one has creamy lemon. Outstanding with rich foods or on its own.
Their Monument Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon had that tart berry with black cherry we love in a cab but a hint of match stick smoke on the nose. Next, the Bear Point Cabernet Sauvignon was also unique with ripe red cherry and easy tannins and acids that roll off your tongue. It has some slight white pepper and green herbs in its body but they do not overwhelm. Very balanced. Finally, Christopher’s Cabernet Sauvignon has a little pepper and soft supple cherry with a really long finish. An ideal closer to this game, Christopher’s keeps you thinking about it.
I know I already raved about this restaurant. But got to rave some more and partake some more when it is just this good. It’s also pretty healthy too!
My meal started with a Point Reyes fresh Mozzarella salad with preserved lemon, Summer squash and Castelvetrano olives. The tangy lemon and salty olives blanketed the rich soft moist cheese so that every bite had all those flavors working in wonderful symphony with the rich creamy Chardonnay.
Then, the most unique French fries you’ll ever see. They start with white potatoes but soak them in Cabernet Sauvignon until they acquire this brick red color. After frying, they serve them with a homemade ketchup that also incorporates the Cabernet Sauvignon. Bet you can guess what they pair with it…
I know what you might be thinking. “K-J” probably equals EEEWWW corporate winery with no soul. You’d wonder why you should go there in a town full of small producers with mom and pop attentiveness to their wines. Well, you SHOULD taste wines at mom and pop family wineries. But stop to eat at Partake afterward.
Stop for a sip at Selby and you’ll see why the White House pours their wines. These well-crafted wines have appeal across a wide audience and go well with lots of dishes. For starters, their Sauvignon Blanc has lots of big citrus without the severe grapefruit that can harsh your mellow. It’s got the grassy minerality that is the hallmark of a Sauvignon Blanc with the tangy lemon and even orange flavors, probably from 5% Muscat in the blend. But their Gewurztraminer will lift your spirits even if you cannot pronounce it and is one you should always have in your kitchen for spicy Thai, Indian, or Korean cuisine. It’s not a necessarily sweet wine. Theirs is a dry white with even a bit of white pepper. But the stone fruit flavors of apricot and pear make it a delicious pairing for spicy dishes or sipping standalone. Their Chardonnay will also impress with a whiff of warm buttery popcorn on the nose. But it finishes long and lean with big Summer fruit wrapped in a warm buttery corn taco. Why doesn’t anyone make a fruit taco!? This wine is proof it would be a great combo.
Their gold medal winning Petite Sirah first meets your nose with a soft chocolate mint scent but big cherry and blueberry follow in the deep sides of your mouth. It’s body is medium with lots of caramel yet softer tannins than you’d expect from a Petite Sirah. They even do a Malbec right here in Alexander Valley. It has all the luscious cinnamon spice and smoky leathery tobacco box flavors characteristic of Malbec but berry plum overwhelms with a bit of lavender too. Finally, their Old Vine Zinfandel has big berry and pepper with a little acidity and earth to round out the medium body. The spice is big enough to pair it with barbecues and spiced beef or lamb. Yum!