Sonoma: Down in the Valley(s) Part 3 of 3

Sonoma – Part 3 of 3: Down in the Valley(s)
by L.M. Archer, FWS

Welcome back to binNotes’ Terroirist Tuesday, an  Part 3 of 3 on Sonoma, as binNotes meanders through Dry Creek, Russian, and border of Alexander Valleys in the search of perfect pour.

Dry Creek Valley: Michel-Schlumberger Benchland Wine Estate

Michel -Schlumberger Benchland Wine Estate
4155 Wine Creek Road . Healdsburg CA 95448 . 800.447.3060 |

Nothing like getting benched at Michel-Schlumberger Benchland Wine Estate. Michel-Schlumberger’s elegant mission-style winery fronting Wine Creek rests upon 88 acres of select benchland vineyards (narrow strips of land) surrounded by rolling hills on three sides. Michel-Schlumberger encompasses nine different soil types spanning a variety of elevations, plus a lake and an olive grove. The estate also boasts 16 acres on the tip of Bradford Mountain looking out to the Pacific Ocean.

Director of Winemaking Bryan Davidson and Consulting Winemaker Kerry Damskey address soil and elevation challenges adroitly, as evidenced by the wines sampled. They also believe in sustainable farming practices.

Tasting Associate Ryan Leonhardt – a gracious, personable, and professional young man and 12-year wine industry veteran, proffered a panoply of pours, including:

  • 2012 La Bise Pinot Blanc $24 Pale straw color, crisp apple, white blossom notes. Stainless steel tanked.
  • 2010 La Brume (Fog) Chardonnay $32 Pale lemon color, aromatic, apple/apricot notes, clean, bright acids. 80% Neutral oak. binNotes Fave.
  • 201 Maison Rouge $20 – 30% Merlot, 10% Petit Verdot, 10% Malbec, 10% Cabernet, 10% Cab Franc, 8% Syrah. Ruby color, med. body, peppery nose.
  • 2010 Le Sage Merlot $35 – 90% Merlot, 10% Cabernet – Scarlet color, fine clarity, light body.
  • 2010 La Cime Cabernet Sauvignon $45 Long legs, deep ruby color, floral nose, age-worthy.

Russian River Valley – Acorn Winery/Alegría Vineyards

Out of little acorns great oaks grown. Betsey Nachbaur and husband, 23-year veterans of the Russian River Valley vineyards, run a lean, mean Acorn Winery/Alegría Vineyards winery machine, specializing in field blends.

Betsey holds court in the tasting room, while Bill oversees all things vines and wine. These winemakers put their heart, soul, and spirit into every bottle.

Acorn WInery/Alegría Vineyards
By Appointment Only – T: 707.433.6440 |

2009 Dolcetto $32
2009 Cabernet Franc $30
2009 Sangiovese $29
2009 Axiom Syrah $34
2009 Acorn Hill $45
2009 Medley $38 binNotes fave.

Bordering Alexander Valley: Mozzocco Wine & Ridge Lytton Springs

As the sun set over the vines between Dry Creek and Alexander Valley, binNotes sidled  in to these two adjoining wineries for some final tastings.

Mazzocco Winery
1440 Lytton Springs Road . Healdsburg CA . 800.501.8466 |

Thanks to Mazzocco Wine Club members Troy and Deanne Butler for the heads-up on small-case  Mazzocco Winery, specializing in Zinfandels.

Interestingly, they had me at their 2012 Gewurtztraminer. That’s right – Gewurtztraminer. Get over it.

Tasting Room libations included:

2012 Gewurtztraminer $26 (New Release) Aromatic , dry, obsession-inducing.  ☂☂☂binNotes pick of the trip.☂☂☂
2012 Sauvignon Blanc $22 (New Release) Clean
2010 Warm Springs Ranch Zinfandel $34 (Members Only)
2010 West Dry Creek $38 (Members Only) Gold Medal Winner – peppery
2009 Briar Petit Sirah $35 (Members Only) Red fruit
2009 Warm Springs Ranch Petit Sirah ($35Members Only) Dark purple color, chocolate aromas.

Ridge Vineyards – Lytton Springs
650 Lytton Springs Road . Healdsburg, CA. 95448. 707.433.7721 |

Paul Draper’s recent “2013 Winemakers’ Winemaker of the Year’ Award at Prowein merited a ring-kiss to Ridge – Lytton Springs. Kudos to the  well-honed tasting staff, who tamed throngs of thirsty tasters bellying up to the sleek bar with aplomb. The expansive vineyard views alone merit  a visit.

Ridge-Lytton Spring Tasting Staff trotted out the following tasty tipples:

2011 Estate Chardonnay $45
2008 Mazzoni Home Ranch Red $30 Purple-red color,chocolate, black fruit, spicy secondary notes.
2009 Buchignani Ranch Zinfandel $28 Red fruit, young, bright.
2011 Paso Robles Zinfandel $30 Raspberry color, dill, pepper, raspberry, accessible. binNotes fave.
2011 East Bench Zinfandel $28 Green, tight, tannic.
2011 Geyserville $38
2008 Lytton Estate Syrah $34
2006 Petite Sirah Dynamite Hill Award Winner (Special tasting) Price N/A
2010 Merlot Montibello (Special Tasting) – Price N/A
2010 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon $45
2007 Monte Bello $160

All good things must come to an end. In summary,  Sonoma’s success seems to stem from a shared belief that “Great wines begin in the vineyard’.” In other words, grow the best grapes possible, and then get out of the way. A simple, straightforward approach to winemaking – just like the people.


Part 1 of 3: Sonoma 

Part 2 of 3: Sonoma

Click here for a link to my upcoming in-depth feature.

Copyright 2013. All Rights Reserved.


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Thank you to Ryan ‘The Lionhearted’ Leonhardt.

Thank you to Betsey and Bill Nachbaur of Acorn Winery/Alegría Vineyards.

Thank you to Tracy Logan, Lynn Thomas and the staff of Wine Road Northern Sonoma County.

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