The Wine Guy - Greg Walter


Wineries off the beaten path… south of Sonoma edition

In my quest to find interesting wines and wineries to write about in this space, I often venture outside the confines and easily walked dimensions of the Sonoma Plaza. Today, I want to share two wineries with you that are located south of Sonoma along different stretches of Highway 121. Both of these wineries are terrific in their own ways and perfect destinations for some summer wandering.

Larson Family Winery is located at the base of Broadway where it runs into Highway 121 in Schellville.

The winery sits on a historic piece of property along Sonoma Creek for both Sonomans and for owners Tom and Becky Larson. Back in the 1800s, the site was the landing point for steamboat passengers and cargo destined for Sonoma from San Francisco and points south. Tom Larson’s great-grandfather, Michael Millerick, bought the property, later to be known as Millerick Ranch, in 1899. In the first half of the 20th century, the Millerick Ranch was home to the Sonoma Rodeo and then in 1977, Tom and his father Bob Larson planted Chardonnay on the property; 10 years later, the winery was established.

Larson Family Winery produces wine under three labels: Larson Family, Three Lab (named for the family dogs) and the Millerick Road label. Wines produced include Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Grigio, Gewurztraminer, sparkling and dessert wines. Most of these wines are priced reasonably and available only at the winery tasting room.

The winery is as its name implies a family run and family oriented winery and tasting room that is a fun, casual place to visit with your family in tow on a sunny summer day.

Larson Family Winery, open daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 23355 Millerick Road, Sonoma, 707-938-3031, Larsonfamilywinery.com.

If you like extremely focused, interesting red wines sourced from killer vineyards in and around the Sonoma Valley, you may want to block out some time to visit the Keating Wines tasting room located at Cornerstone Sonoma, just across Highway 121 from Gloria Ferrer.

Eric Keating, owner and winemaker, grew up in Santa Rosa and after graduating from Santa Clara University, went to work in the as a securities trader in the financial world. Concurrently, his interest in wines and his connection to Sonoma County were calling him back and a new career path began to take shape in his mind. He began to learn all he could about wine, vineyards and winemaking working at VJB vineyards & Cellars in Kenwood. He eventually made the decision to go out on his own and Keating Wines was born.

Eric produces two bottlings of Cabernet Sauvignon, one from Napa’s Beckstoffer’s Georges III vineyard and the other from the Montecillo Vineyard in Sonoma Valley; a Merlot from Sonoma Valley, a Malbec and a Petite Sirah from the Rockpile AVA in northern Sonoma County and two bottlings of Zinfandel, one from Dry Creek Valley and the other from Sonoma Valley. He also produces a “best barrel” blend of his two Cabernets called Encomium.

The Keating wines are big, rich wines that are not shy or reserved but they are well balanced and really worthy of your attention.

Keating Wines, open daily from 10 a.m to 5 p.m. 23564 Arnold Drive, Sonoma, 707-939-6510, Keatingwines.com.

As always, you can email me with questions at gswalter@pinotreport.com.

Greg Walter, a Sonoma resident for more than 20 years, has been in wine and food publishing for more than 30 years, 15 of which were spent as a senior editor and later president of Wine Spectator magazine. Today he writes the PinotReport newsletter (Pinotreport.com) and publishes books through his Carneros Press imprint (Carnerospress.com).

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