Off the beaten path… southeast of Sonoma edition
In my quest to find interesting wines and wineries to write about for you in this space, I do often venture outside the confines and easily walked dimensions of the Sonoma Plaza. Today, I’ve got four wineries located near the southeast borders of Sonoma Valley. This list represents a great mix of what Sonoma has to offer – from historic and iconic to new and small. All are pretty close to one another and worth some weekend wandering.
I have to say that after a long time absent, I went back to the tasting room at Gundlach Bundschu recently and was really impressed at the vibe, the wines and the people working there—definitely one of my favorite tasting room experiences in a while. The winery traces its winemaking heritage back to the mid-1850s when Jacob Gundlach and Emil Dresel purchased 400 acres of land east of the town of Sonoma. They called the vineyard Rhinefarm and the first wines were produced from Rhinefarm in 1861. In 1868, Charles Bundschu joined the company. Charles Bundschu’s great grandson and current family patriarch Jim Bundschu revived the winery and vineyards in 1973 and worked hard to bring the winery back to prominence. Today, Jeff Bundschu is in charge and runs the winery as president. Keith Emerson is winemaker. Wines produced include a really remarkable Gewurztraminer (that I’ve mentioned here before), Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Syrah and Zinfandel, as well as some terrific proprietary blends like the Mountain Cuvee and the Vintage Reserve.
Gundlach Bundschu, open daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., 2000 Denmark Road, Sonoma, 707.938.5277, Gunbun.com.
How many times have you driven by the property on Napa Road just east of Denmark Road where all the old, decrepit turkey barns used to be and have seen the small white sign with black lettering with just the word “Scribe” and wondered what it meant? Scribe is the wine venture of brothers Andrew and Adam Mariani that seems to be as much about great food, wine and fun as it is about creating a serious, sustainable wine estate. The site has a history in wine for sure — the land was in and out of vineyards since the mid-1800s when it was born as part of the Gundlach/Dresel partnership mentioned above. Still very visible is the very distinctive hacienda at the end of the line of palm trees that was a brothel and a speakeasy during Prohibition. Today the turkey barns are mostly gone, replaced with more vineyards, vegetable gardens and beehives. Wines produced include some really interesting Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah. Worth checking out.
Scribe, open daily by appointment, 2300 Napa Road, Sonoma, 707.939.1858, Scribewinery.com.
Nicholson Ranch Winery
Nicholson Ranch Winery is located on 160 acres at the junction of Highway 121 and Napa Road at the base of the Sonoma Valley. Standing on the balcony of the winery, you’d think that the estate was located in the Carneros region, but in the mostly insane world of AVA boundary-drawing, Nicholson Ranch is actually not in Carneros (to the west, east and south), nor is it in the Sonoma Valley (to the north and west) – it’s in the Sonoma Coast AVA. In 1996, they planted their first vineyard and by 2000 they had broken ground on a gravity-flow winery in top of a knoll in the middle of the vineyard with 10,000 square feet of caves underneath. Ramona Nicholson and Deepak Gulrajani developed the winery on her family’s property and it’s a great place to visit. Wines produced include Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Syrah.
Nicholson Ranch Winery, open daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., 4200 Napa Road, Sonoma, 707.938.8822, Nicholsonranch.com.
Homewood Winery is another winery here in the Valley that I have not visited for some time. One of the really great things about wine in Sonoma County is that you don’t have to be a big, fancy wine estate to make good wine. In many ways, Dave Homewood epitomizes that spirit. He has a small operation, producing about 3,000 cases per year, and says that he intends to stay that way. The winery and tasting room are located on Burndale Road just off Highway 121 near the Fremont Diner and offers some interesting tasting options for visitors and groups. .Wines produced include Albarino, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Mourvedre, Petite Sirah, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Viognier and Zinfandel.
Homewood Winery, open Monday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., 23120 Burndale Road, Sonoma, 707.996.6353, Homewoodwinery.com.
As always, you can email me with questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Greg Walter has been a Sonoma resident for more than 20 years. Greg 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).