Wine tasting in Healdsburg

During our short trip to the wine country last weekend, we hit a couple of wineries in the city of Healdsburg proper. The city features a dozen (OK, I’m guessing) tasting rooms from wineries in the area. Most of them charge a tasting fee, generally around $5.

Kendal Jackson is one of the largest producers in Sonoma, with about 3 million cases a year (compare that to the 1,500 cases Kaz produces). They have a wine center near Windsor, and a tasting room in Healdsburg. There is a tasting fee of $5 for a classic tasting (chose 4 of 8 wines), or $15 for a reserve tasting (4 set wines). You can get a coupon for a complimentary classic tasting for two, however.
I tried the 2007 Grand Reserve Malbec Rose ($18), because I’m always curious as to how American winemakers do malbecs (answer: not as good as the Argentinians and at about 3 times the price). I found it to be dry and more floral than fruity, it was very refreshing. Their 2005 Grand Reserve Pinot Noir ($25) was made mostly from grapes grown in Santa Barbara and Monterey. It was smooth and oaky. Mike liked the 2005 Meritage ($30), which was balanced and had medium tanins and a medium to full body – I thought it was too bitter. I also wasn’t crazy about the 2004 Highland Estates Hawkeye, which lacked smoothness and oak. Mike thought it was nice.
I wouldn’t recommend that you go to the Gallo Family tasting room. The tasting fee ($7 for 3 wines) is too high, and the wines are not special enough. I found the 2004 Gallo Family Vineyards Frei Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon ($36) to have a full body and medium tanins, but it didn’t really convince me. I did like the 2004 Winemaker’s Signature Semillon ($40), a fruity, sweet dessert wine. It had a wonderfully sweet aroma, and a very pleasant taste. I tasted one other wine, but failed to write what it was.
On Sunday, after some wine tasting in the Russian River Valley, we ended up in Healdsburg for lunch, and after lunch we went to Souverain for some wine tasting. It has a tasting fee for their current releases of $5.
I liked their white wines (a 2006 Alexander Valley Sauvignon Blanc – $16 – and a 2005 Winemaker Reserve Chardonnay – $30), more than their red ones. The sauvignon blanc was very fruity and neither sweet nor acidic, a very easy wine. The chardonnay was oaky and dry.
The 2005 Pinot Noir ($25) was nice for a pinot, fruity and oakey it was good by itself, but I don’t think it would stand up to hearty food. The 2005 Alexander Valley Merlot ($18) was drier and well balanced. The Home Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon ($35), meanwhile, had a powdery start and wasn’t really savory, it had a medium body and light tanins.
Mike really liked the 2003 Alexander Valley Chateau Souverain ($24.50, on sale from $30). I thought it was bitter, tanic and heavier than the previous Cab. It reminded me of the BV cabs he so likes. He bought a bottle (they did not refund the tasting fee). He also tasted their 2004 Chateau Souverain Syrah Port, which he liked.
Their Chateau Souverain wines were all at 30% off regular prices, because they are discontinuing the line.
That was it for our wine tasting on Healdsburg proper. Latter entries will include wine tasting in the Russian River Valley and the Lake Country.

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