A few months ago when launching this column, I said I would try to limit my use of the words love and adore, because with the way I feel about the area’s wines and people I could easily overuse both.
Well, I have been sparing enough that I hope you’ll forgive me now. I absolutely adore Deanna Starr.
Deanna and her husband Ted own Milano Family Winery at the south end of Highway 101 in the big old hop kiln. Deanna is also the winemaker at Milano.
I worked with Deanna when we were on the board of Destination Hopland together. Deanna is intelligent, funny, patient, thoughtful, and a joy to work with. Deanna is also a gracious hostess; last year, I attended a group meal Deanna hosted at Milano for tasting room folks from a number of local wineries in the middle of Hopland Passport after the first full day of pouring.
Milano Family Winery can’t be missed. Although it sits back off Highway 101, it’s the only big wooden hop kiln building with the word “WINERY” in giant letters posted on the side facing the road.
After parking, you can climb the stairs to the tasting room, or take in the menagerie on the south side of the winery.
I always visit the animals first. On my last visit, I saw chickens, turtles, ducks, pygmy goats, geese, sheep, and a llama. There are probably more, but I especially like seeing the giant turtles. Seeing them doesn’t make the wine taste better objectively but, since it always puts me in a good mood, the turtles may make the wines taste better subjectively for me.
The first thing you notice after climbing the stairs to the second floor and entering the tasting room is how well it is stocked with fun wine themed merchandise. After tasting wines at McFadden, I often send our guests who ask about particular wine accessories onward to Milano because of the incredible range of products offered.
There were 22 wines on the list when I visited. There is a modest tasting fee which Dawn, my tasting room host, waived for me. I tasted six wines. Here’s my notes:
2009 Chardonnay $16 Caramel notes from oak, butter from malolactic fermentation, nice light apple fruit.
2009 Sangiovese, Palisades Vineyard $24 Enjoyably drinkable. Cassis, plum, cedar. Approachable, not the spiced tannin edge of some Sangiovese. Nicely balanced with just enough acidity to provide structure for the fruit.
2006 Carignane, Hidden Hawk Vineyard $22 Nice, rich, forward fruit notes of cherry, raspberry, and strawberry.
2006 Neese Merlot $24 Sherry like vanilla and sweet fig, sweet tart cherry, tannin, tapering finish.
2006 Echo, Bells Echo Vineyard $37 – I (forgive me) love (there, I said it) this wine. Didn’t want to spit. Blackberry, cherry. Great mouth feel. Long lingering finish.
2006 Orange Muscat $29 This was Dawn’s favorite. Honeyed apricot meets lovely citrus, wonderfully balanced. 15.2 percent alcohol.
Deanna holds her wines longer than many local winemakers, so you will find older vintages available at Milano Family Winery than at most – if not all – other local winery tasting rooms. The extra time gives her wines a chance to fully age, both in barrel and in the bottle. You have undoubtedly heard of people laying wines down, cellaring them, aging them; Deanna and Milano Family Winery do that for you so the wines you purchase are how Deanna would like you to taste them.
In addition to the varietal reserve, premium, and dessert wines available for tasting, Milano Family Winery produces some wine bottles that are blends with fun names such as Sunshine, Mistero, Big Ass Red, and Disaster Relief Red.
Wines are sold by the bottle, but Milano Family Winery also sells wines by the glass, which is perfect if you want to head back outside and enjoy a picnic lunch (BYOP: bring your own picnic) with wine at a wooden picnic table under a grape arbor next to the animals. Milano has a terrific spot for picnics.
The Milano Family Winery tasting room is open daily from 10 a.m. 5 p.m.
A Taste Of Redwood Valley will be hosting a winemaker dinner Friday, June 14, followed by their 21st annual special weekend of wine tasting on Saturday and Sunday, June 15 and 16. Participating wineries include Barra of Mendocino/Girasole Vineyards, Cole Bailey Vineyards, Frey Vineyards, Germain-Robin, Giuseppe Wines, Graziano Family of Wines, Oster Wine Cellars, Silversmith Vineyards, and Testa Vineyards. For more information, or to purchase tickets, visit ATasteOfRedwoodValley.com
John Cesano is twice the man he was in high school. Literally, John weighs exactly twice what he once did many years ago.