Sunday, May 15, 2011

ON THE ROAD AGAIN IN SONOMA - Part 2 - Healdsburg & Thumbprint Cellars

Part Two
Healdsburg and
Thumbprint Cellars Artisan Winery

Fortified by a “to die for” cheeseburger (made w/ Fiscalini raw milk cheddar, no less) at the Healdsburg Bar & Grill, Richard and I decided to explore the picturesque little hamlet of Healdsburg.  You know those places you visit and say “I could live here?”  Well, I really could live here!  Really! 

As we strolled...

...around the green grass town square (yup, it has a town square!)...

peeking into shop and restaurant windows to see what wonders we might discover, we made this wonderful discovery: Thumbprint Cellars Artisan Winery Tasting Room & Art Gallery.
Thumbprint is a “boutique” winery.  Its owner, Scott Lindstrom-Dake, started making wines in his garage some years ago.  He and his wife, Erica, loved fine wines, but like many of us, they had champagne taste and a beer pocketbook.  As the inventory of his garage-made wine increased, he decided to give some bottles to friends.  To make these gifts personal, Erica gave him a special gold paint pen so he could autograph each bottle.  But as he was signing… you guessed it… the gold paint began running down the side of the bottle.  Scott quickly used his thumb to stop the flow and inadvertently pressed his thumb in the paint, leaving a perfect gold thumbprint.  A “eureka” light bulb flashed over Scott’s head and a wine name and logo were born.   

Word of mouth spread creating a demand for that thumbprint wine, so in 2000, Scott decided to put his thumbprint (literally and figuratively) on the market and went commercial.

The winery’s tasting room (one of the first to open its doors in Healdsburg) is unlike any other Richard and I have visited.  More than a room to taste wine, this one had a Manhattan nightclub/lounge feel w/ rich fabrics, deep colors, custom-made furniture and colorful art. 

But taste wine we did.  And the tasting flight was free!  An appreciated added bonus... that beer pocketbook again.

Dan Weber was our barista.  Charming and knowledgeable, he made us feel right at home in the ‘lounge.’

First up was the 2009 Arousal (why “Arousal?” – I haven’t a clue as I was afraid to ask), a white wine blend (60% Reisling-40% viognier) from Dry Creek Valley ($49 – Wine Club $39.50).  I could smell the honeysuckle and taste the honey.  Dan told us it pairs well w/ Thai food which immediately triggered a craving for chicken satay.

Our next pour was the 2009 viognier, Janice & Brian Schmidt Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley ($32 – Wine Club $25.60) aged in French oak for one year.  This wine had nice body w/ a peachy, vanilla flavor.

Our tastes turned to reds… 

Dan started us off w/ the 2008 pinot noir, Schneider Vineyard, Russian River Valley ($49 – Wine Club $39.20), made from dry-farmed grapes from the Pommard Clone vineyard.  Dry-farming, Dan told us, allows the grapes to find their ‘natural balance.’  More and more California vineyards are becoming pesticide and chemical fertilizer free, but dry farmed vineyards go even further.  The land is not irrigated and is consistently tilled, allowing the roots to grow deep down into the soil, making them more resistant to disease that irrigated vines might get, thus making the grape richer in flavor.   I liked the water conservation principle and I liked this wine which had a nice, smooth, shall I say “rich” finish.

Our next taste was the 2007 syrah, Ramazzotti Vineyard, Alexander Valley ($45 – Wine Club $36), a bold wine w/ a rich finish (there’s that “rich” word again – but it was rich!) and would definitely hold its own w/ any “rich” food.

The 2006 cabernet sauvignon, Gallaway Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley ($45 – Wine Club $36) had a lovely cherry flavor w/ a hint of cedar and blueberry (really, I could taste the blueberry).  I liked this wine and I liked that Brian Gallaway is using sustainable practices in farming his grapes… something that’s becoming more and more important for small, local farmers and businesses to survive.

Dan then gave us a pour off the tasting menu of Thumbprints’ 2007 cab-franc ($41), my favorite wine of the day so far.  Smooth as silk.

Last, but not least, we sipped the 2006 petite syrah port, Russian River Valley ($59). This is definitely a find for port lovers.  Dense as fog and velvety smooth.  Mel Torme in a bottle.

Our Thumbprint tasting was over. And how did we rate the wines?  Definitely two thumbs up.

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