Monday, October 19, 2009

Come for the wine, stay for the garden.

On our Wednesday in Sonoma, Jeremy had arranged for a tour and tasting at C. Donatiello Winery in Healdsburg. Five of us bundled into one of the rental sedans haunting the driveway and drove north to Westside Road, a gorgeous, slightly winding street that follows a ridge perched alongside the Russian River.

C. Donatiello is a relatively new winery, founded in 2006. Chris (the C. in C. Donatiello) started his career in wine and spirits marketing & sales, moving west from New York to start this boutique winery three years ago. They specialize in Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, two of the Russian River region's most popular grapes. The winery estate itself has a few vineyards; additionally, Donatiello sources grapes from several vineyards around the valley.

Our tour included a look into the entire process, including the harvest, de-stemming, pressing and fermentation - but the highlight, for me, was a visit to the garden planted down the hill from the winery's tasting room. Designed to echo the flavors and aromas found in Donatiello's wines, the garden is planted with fruits, herbs and aromatics representative of Pinot and Chardonnay. Even the steps are planted - each tread is lined with mint, rosemary, and the like, so that their scents follow you as you scuff your shoes against them.

After poking our noses in all around the estate, we headed into the tasting room for a different sort of tour: an extensive tasting of Donatiello's Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays. Most of the wines we tasted were single vineyard wines (meaning the grapes in that wine all came from the same vineyard), and there were a few that really grabbed me.

The Branley Chardonnay was slightly spicy and citrusy, with hints of apple. It's one of the few oak-aged Chardonnays I tasted and liked on our Sonoma trip. My favorite, though, was the Hervey Pinot Noir. It was full of different fruit and berries, but still smooth and round in the mouth - sometimes I find Pinot to be a bit too dry, but this one was creamy and soft.

Chris had joined us for the tasting, and mentioned that the Hervey would be even more perfect for drinking in about 15 years. My brother and sister-in-law conferred, and decided (Very generously!) to buy me a bottle for my 30th birthday, not to be opened till my 45th.

I'll keep you posted on how that turns out.

C. Donatiello Winery
4035 Westside Road
Healdsburg, CA

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