Ever since I started working in Hopland, I’ve been making new friends. One of the newest is Amie Bunch, the gal who does everything at the Hopland Inn. Amie and I both had the day off today, and we chose to spend some of our time visiting Saracina Vineyards, a winery just a bit north of Hopland.
Upon arriving we were met by owner John Fetzer and tasting room manager Nance Billman. John is a local icon, and is helping to rebuild downtown Hopland. Nance and I serve together on the board of Destination Hopland, and are working on the subcommittee involved in producing Hopland Passport events. John graciously wished us a good visit, as he headed off for bottling new wines, and Nance led us to the caves where wines are barrel aged for a tasting and tour.
Saracina is a 620 acre ranch where grapes are grown both organically and biodynamically. Organic grapes are farmed without synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides. Biodynamic grapes are raised organically with other fruit and/or vegetables, not in a monoculture, with animals present. Saracina has 700 olive trees, a mix of 6 different Italian and Spanish varieties, and sells it’s own olive oil – I fell in love with their olive oil over a year ago and have purchased it from the tasting room several times, it is far more “alive”, flavorful and delicious, than typical store brands. Additionally, 3 million bees on property make a delicious local honey for guests of Saracina. Chickens, sheep, and goats round out the biodynamic menagerie.
I think Saracina is beautiful, peaceful, comfortable. I have always loved visiting Saracina. Sharing Saracina with Amie, and her beautiful dog Ingemar (named after the 12 year old boy character in the Swedish film My Life s a Dog) was fun, getting to see a winery anew through fresh eyes is always good. Sharing a visit with a cute girl, woman really, but younger than me, so girl in my mind, is terrific.
Nance poured us through her wines. We tasted:
2009 Saracina Sauvignon Blanc $23 - Grapes grom the estate, and from the nearby Redwood Valley. A grassy Sauvignon Blanc with wet stone minerality, pear and citrus against nice acidity.
2010 Atrea “The Choir” $20 - Roussanne and Viognier, a Rhone white blend. Nice for being unique. Bright, clear, drinkable, a little zing of youth, floral honeysuckle and pear.
As a bonus, we got to meet Patty Rock, John Fetzer’s wife, when she came into the cave to provide Nance change for the tasting room register.
2010 Saracina Chardonnay $18 - Unoaked and zero malolactic. Tropical banana, pear, pineapple, citrus. Fruit driven, round, nice soft acidity showcases the abundant fruit. The clearest expression of banana I’ve ever experienced.
2009 Saracina Pinot Noir Klindt Vineyard Anderson Valley, $38 - the grapes come from the Klindt vineyard, right behind Handley. My first reaction was an expletive, which usually means a wine has taken my breath, and words, away. Great beautiful nose, lovely mouth. Smooth strawberry jam flabor, light oak, rose petal, dried raspberry. Smooth soft tannin.
2007 Atrea “Old Soul” Red $25 - Zinfandel, Syrah, Petite Sirah, and Malbec. Think Coro Mendocino-esque. Drinkable multiberry blend with cocoa notes; raspberry, blueberry, strawberry, blackberry. Soft, but a little punch.
2009 Saracina “Pick & Shovel” Zinfandel $28 - the vines for this wine are grown right atop the caves. Bright, raspberry, herb, tannin and acid.
2007 Saracina Syrah Rogers Creek Sonoma Coast $32 - This Syrah comes from the Petaluma Gap portion of the Sonoma Coast AVA. This is a muscular Syrah, pepper jerky nose, meaty smoky blackberry flavors.
2003 Saracina Syrah McDowell – Library – $35 - Old vine? Planted 1889. Soft mouth, soft fruit expression.
My favorite Syrah tasted anywhere last year was a (now sold out) 2005 Saracina Syrah with grapes coming from both the Eagle Point and Potato Patch (high elevation) Vineyards. Until today, I thought of Saracina as a Syrah house. Nance bristled the first time she heard me say that a week ago. Today, while I enjoyed the 2007 Sonoma Coast Syrah, I also really enjoyed the 2010 Chardonnay, and bought a bottle of the 2009 Klindt Vineyard Pinot Noir. I have absolutely no room for more wine, I don’t have temperature controlled storage, there are many reasons I shouldn’t have bought even one bottle, but the Pinot was just too delicious. It waved its hand in front of my face, pulled the Jedi mind trick on me, “you will buy me” I heard it say into my head, and there I was picking up a bottle.
Amie picked up a bottle of wine, and a bottle of olive oil, and a bottle of honey. Ingemar was not allowed in the caves, but resting in shade outside enjoyed water and dog biscuits provided by Nance.
I had never traveled the caves before, after all, a cave is a cave, right? Well, I was wrong, there was a winery version of an Army of Chinese Terra Cotta Soldiers on display. Vessels, previously buried, had been artistically transformed.
Outside the caves, Saracina was just as beautiful as ever.
Not pictured is the gorgeous Saracina “barn” where a morning Hopland Passport meeting was held. Absolutely beautiful in all respects, it provides John and Patty the opportunity to host a special meal, or entertain, featuring their wines of course.