One of my favorite visits during the Morrison Family Wine Weekend was to a spot I hadn’t been to before, but came highly recommended to me by the folks at Barrique (perhaps because their brother is assistant winemaker William Weese). MacPhail Family Wines is tucked back along a dirt road off of Westside Road in Healdsburg, and they host groups of up to 12 people by appointment only for $20 per person.
My parents and I had a 1pm appointment but were running a little late because our tasting and tour at Ridge went over two hours (no complaints!). I called Lauren in the tasting room to let her know we were running a bit behind schedule, and she nicely said it was not a problem and she would see us soon. (Take note, dear readers. If you’re going to be running late to an appointment, even just 10 minutes, always call in advance to let them know.)
My mom was thrilled to see a winery dog on the premise when we arrived – a friendly Bernese mountain dog named Zuni. As my mom played with the dog and my father looked at the wines, the tasting room manager showed me the plans for the new tasting room at The Barlow in Sebastopol. After a few minutes, Lauren led us over to the tasting table, surrounded by fermentation tanks and barrels of wine.
We started off with the 2012 Gap’s Crown Vineyard Chardonnay from Sonoma Coast, a creamy yet fruitful wine with hints of honey and green apple – a great balance of oak and fruit. Next was their 2012 Rose of Pinot Noir from Sonoma Coast, which was simply sublime. The strawberry fruit flavors mingled with the acid perfectly, making for a dry Rose that would go perfectly with spicy Asian food – or by itself! Immediately my parents suggested buying three bottles – two to be paired with our Saturday night dinner at B*Star, and one for keeps. They’ve since moved on to their 2013 vintage, and I can imagine it will taste just as amazing!
Onto the reds… Lauren poured us four side-by-side glasses of a selection of their Pinot Noir: 2012 Wightman House Vineyard Anderson Valley, 2011 Dutton Ranch Russian River Valley, 2011 Gap’s Crown Sonoma Coast, , and 2011 Rita’s Crown Santa Rita Hills. All the wines were great, but my personal two favorites were the Dutton Ranch Russian River Valley and Rita’s Crown Santa Rita Hills. I loved the ripeness of the Dutton Ranch, while the Rita’s Crown was very unique with it’s flavors of cola, tart cherry and a bit of licorice.
Lauren served the wines left to right in the order above, which also happens to be from North to South in terms of the vineyard locations. This was a great way to taste through the wines because it really showcased the range of terroir that the winery is utilizing. For example, Russian River Valley is known for blackberry-like, ripe Pinot Noirs; in part due to the fog layer that blankets the valley, as well as the cool ocean breeze coming over the Sonoma Mountains. The Santa Rita Hills in the Santa Ynez Valley (Santa Barbara county) are also affected by fog and cool breeze, but the soil is more rocky and the elevation is higher so the wines that come from here have more layers and natural acidity.
MacPhail had several other Pinots from various vineyards in Sonoma Coast, Russian River Valley, and even Oregon. We only tried the four, but I look forward to tasting some more of their excellent wines when their tasting room opens at The Barlow. Until then, be sure to make an appointment at their Healdsburg tasting room. This is a great small, family-owned winery and the customer service is exceptional – and so is the Pinot Noir!