We had one main mission today – to taste wine at Pezzi-King in Healdsburg. We plugged it into our maps app, which finally loaded once we were nearly there. But when we arrived, it was nowhere to be found. We drove around and around, and not a clue, so I went on the website, and discovered that a reservation was required to taste – pay in advance, please – and that it was actually in a building we had passed, but without a name on the front. Oh, and no reservations were available for the rest of the day. So we booked on for Wednesday, our last day in Sonoma, and cruised into town, looking for Williamson Wines, recommended by friends.
On the way, we saw Longboard Wines, so we took a longshot, and stopped in. They had a small, pleasant tasting area out front, and a large event-type area inside with the casks of wine making 30 foot tall walls on three sides. There were several wines to try; none were bad, but none of them were able to get my wallet out for anything but the tasting fee. On to Williamson Winery.
Street-side tasting areas built over parking spots are the norm in Healdsburg; we were happy this one had a roof, as a brief shower passed over us. Angie was quite knowledgeable about the wines, and the winemaker, Bill Williamson. Holding three degrees, he started and later sold a software company in Australia, then moved to San Francisco to start another very successful one. He owns at least 10 vineyards throughout the Sonoma – Mendocino area, at least two restaurants, plus dinners for 10 guests available at his home (he has four top chefs working for him). And, he has a line of cheeses and condiments, which are paired with the wines we tasted.
First off, Tickled Pink, a delicious Rose’ blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot! This was paired with a cheddar cheese with a Beet and Horseradish Mustard; spectacular! We are coming home with a bottle of each. From there we went to Pinot Noir; I must admit, with all the wineries offering this grape, I’ve been very disappointed that none came close to meeting my expectations, including theirs, the Rapture. The cheese pairing was great, though. Onto two Red Bordeaux style wines; the Allure and the Entice, paired with a gouda. They were both good, but the Entice DID entice me to get a bottle. Finally, the Indulge, a wonderful Cabernet Sauvignon, with a Gouda and pepper and bacon jam. Terri HAD to have a jar of that to bring home!
We had so much fun there that we took Angie’s suggestion, and booked a late lunch at their restaurant tasting room for Wednesday. We can’t wait! Then I asked Angie to recommend just one winery we couldn’t miss no more than 10 miles away, and she recommended Ferrari-Carano. It will probably end up being the highlight of our trip here.
The ‘tasting room” turned out to be a gigantic, Italian style villa with wonderful gardens, and expansive views of hills laden with vineyards basking in the sun. The tasting was done on a very large patio complete with boxwood shrubbery carving out individual areas for tables. Reservations were required, and we didn’t have one, but fate smiled kindly on us, and we were able to be seated at a small table tucked up next to the villa, with great views wherever we looked.
We were immediately given a taste of Fume’ Blanc as we were seated, which I quite enjoyed. Eventually we were greeted by Harry, a slight, unassuming man with a bit of a speech impediment. We started off with a Chardonnay which was better than average. I moved on to reds; a 2018 Middle Ranch Pinot Noir from Anderson Valley. Yes! THIS was the Pinot I’d been looking for the entire trip! Harry appreciated my approval of the wine, noting that most others were looking for an entirely different expression of this grape. Couldn’t pass it up.
Next on the list was a 2018 Merlot from Sonoma County. While it was just a bit light for me, I commented on the nice structure and some potential for aging. Harry told us that one Merlot he bought for $32 is now worth at least $1,000! At one time he had owned over 600 cases of wine; When he “liquidated” his holdings due to a dissolution, the net proceeds were over $100,000
On to the 2016 Tressor Bordeaux Blend, also from Sonoma County. A very non-traditional Bordeaux, 71% Cab Sauv, 10% Malbec, 8% Petit Verdot, 6% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc. Very, nice, could not pass it up. Our last taste was a Cabernet Sauvignon; good, but we left some for the next visitors.
But this was about so much more than just the wine. The setting was idyllic, sunny, comfortable temperature, amazing views, spoiled only for a short time by a narcissistic Instagram influencer putting on a bit of a show for her photographer/partner. As we left, Harry looked me in the eye and gave me the most interesting compliment. “You know more about wine than you think you do.”
Then, just for fun, right before we got home, we stopped off at Russian River Brewing and tried a Belgian Quad (a double Doppel Bock?) and a Stout. Being in California, I’m thinking that the Stout had gone on a diet; not as stout as I like a Stout. The Belgian was 9.5% and wonderful. Terri let me have a sip.
Up next: tasting at Pezzi-King and a late lunch at Williamson Winery.