They say life comes full circle and I am starting to believe that. When we first started coming to the Russian River area of Sonoma County 15 years ago, one of the very first wineries we visited was the appropriately named Russian River Vineyards. I would be lying if I said it was the wine that first brought us there. In truth, it was the food served at the winery’s restaurant, Corks. Way back when, when our kids were younger, whinier, and did not drink alcohol, nothing was greater torture for them than when we stopped to taste wine. Since we had already been to one, the backseat chatter was starting to get persistently grinding on our nerves. So we decided it was best to feed them . . . and quench our wine thirst. We enjoyed the food quite a bit – the restaurant serves some very nice dishes – and the wine was quite nice too. Perhaps one or two more times we visited and then drifted away as we explored other wineries.
Cut to almost a decade and a half later – you remember the part about life coming full circle? We recently bought a little fixer-upper cabin on the Russian River in Forestville and decided we wanted to have a local winery where we could become members and support a business close to home. One day John wanted to get out and start exploring the local wineries, but I really wanted to explore the local walking trails after several days of rain. So we jumped onto the Westside Regional Trail in Forestville and started walking south, towards Graton and Sebastopol.
A couple of miles along the trail, we saw a gate with a sign on it. As we got closer, I heard John say “oh my God!” At first I thought there was something wrong, but he looked too excited. “It’s an entrance to the winery,” he said. “Russian River Vineyards! Where we used to taste wine way back when.” And that’s when the walk ended – at least the walk south; we still had to walk home. John barreled ahead, opened the gate, and we walked up to the winery and asked for a seated tasting. After a fantastic lunch (they still have great food!) and a lengthy tasting, we joined the wine club. If you have followed us for any period of time, you know that we have a rule: “No wine clubs.” This rule was implemented out of sheer necessity after our move to Napa Valley and our almost weekly joining of a club. We eventually quit all of them and agreed not to join any. Ever.
But we couldn’t resist. Great wines, great food. And close enough to walk or ride our bikes! After our first visit we bought wine and were able to hand carry it home! How convenient is that? So we hope you’ll excuse us for breaking the “no wine club” rule.
Since our first visit back to Russian River Vineyards, we have been back now many times, as members, and love the experience. If there is one positive element that has emerged as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is the push by wineries to move tastings outside. For some reason, so many of them have historically shied away from using their beautiful outdoor spaces. They insist on having tastings inside, in the dark, so you can marvel at the impressive faux antique barn look that they paid Howard Backen or some other skilled architect to come up with. All the while, they have an outside space with vineyard, mountain and forest views!
At Russian River Vineyards, all tastings are now of course outside and we have had the pleasure of sitting all over the property.
Each visit, we try and expand our tastings to include wines that we have not tasted previously. We have tasted through maybe a third of their sizeable portfolio of wines. Most visits, we will simply combine lunch with that day’s 5-wine tasting menu.
John is a bigger fan of the RRV red wines – particularly that 2017 Barbera.
– I gravitate more to the whites: Sauvignon Blanc, Gewürztraminer, and their Bacigalupi Chardonnay.
Oh, John wanted me to add that he also loves the Petit Sirah and most of their Pinot Noir as well.
So – nice wine, nice food, and close enough to walk or bike. Now do you understand why we joined the wine club? It really is great fun to have a “home” winery – a place we can visit regularly and get to know everyone and have them get to know us. It sounds corny maybe, but we like it.
If you find yourself in Russian River Valley, give Russian River Vineyards a try. We think you’ll be glad you did.
February 12, 2021
If you would like to check out some of the wines we sell, visit our web wine store: http://www.topochines.com