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.