A belated post from our trip to the Russian River Valley at the end of January.
My mother has long claimed the best wines come from Russian River, a wine-producing region north of San Francisco. Closer to the coast and cooler than Sonoma and Napa, it's mostly known for its Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
We decided at the last minute to get out of town and booked an AirBnB cottage in Sebastopol, one of the corners of the Russian River Valley, along with Guerneville and Healdsburg. We could have driven straight up 101 and gotten there faster, but the Pacific Coast Highway is much more fun.
Taft Street Winery, got its start in Oakland in the 1970s. There wasn't much of a view, but the tasting room was nice, and we bought a bottle of Zinfandel. The pourer did a good job of talking up their 2010 Russian River Chardonnay, which they weren't sampling that day, so we're hoping to track that one down soon. We also learned the difference between primary and secondary (or malolactic) fermentation. All wine undergoes primary fermentation to convert the sugar into alcohol. With malolactic fermentation, malic acid is converted into lactic acid, which is richer than the tart-tasting malic acid. It is this malolactic fermentation that gives many California Chardonnays their buttery taste.
Then we drove up to Joseph Swan Vineyards, on the recommendation of a friend. It's a small family-owned winery and the tasting room is also where they barrel and bottle their wine. The tasting included one Pinot Gris, two Pinot Noirs, one Zinfandel and one Syrah. We bought a bottle of the 2010 Cuveé de Trois Pinot Noir, which was the brighter and more acidic of the two we tried and one of their best-selling wines.
The real payoff, however: the giant expanse of ocean that materialized below us.
We passed some sheep before we dead-ended at Route 1, at Sonoma Coast State Beach, where the waves were huge.
The ride back to San Francisco from there is one of our favorites and we were happy to sit back (figuratively) and enjoy the scenery.