It’s the stuff Sonoma County wine country is known for. It’s the reason visitors flee from Napa County, from pomp and circumstance, and come to the other side: to hear the folksey tales of farmers, ex-technology executives, and garage wine makers who delve into a passion, called wine making. The new Wineyard in Santa Rosa offers a retail space for these boutique wine makers to showcase and sell their wine, and tell their stories.
Located on Cleveland Avenue, and open since January, The Wineyard is the newest member of Santa Rosa Vintners Square, along with Krutz Cellars, Sheldon Wines, and D’Argenzio Winery. Living close by, I saw this place slowly being constructed under the direction of owner, Dino D’Argenzio, a Santa Rosa native. It went, slowly and meticulously, from a bare and gutted space, to posh and sophisticated, with mahogany wood, stainless steel bar, surrounding windows, and lots of urban touches.
As Dino calls it, it’s a space for small brands that cannot have a full on tasting room, a collective, a space to launch and build their brands, an “incubator” of sorts. Winemakers are encouraged to be part of the process, pouring in the tasting room and being part of the selling and networking process. The Wineyard is currently home to four small wineries, Atascadero Creek, Flocchini Wines, Jazz Cellars, and Shone Farms.
Atascadero Creek is the work of garage winemaker, Bob Appelby of Graton. He was urged by his friends to begin a winery after his homemade attempts, and began the winery in 1989. He produces 400 cases: The Sauvignon Blanc from Russian River Valley is his largest production, and like the apple producing region its grown in, exhibits green apple, bell pepper, and strong acidity. The Sangiovese grown in Alexander Valley, is light, chianti leaning, and smooth. A Pinot Noir and Zinfandel are among his line-up.
Flocchini Wines bears the story of long-time dairy farmers from Petaluma, who decided, after almost 100 years of raising cattle, to transition their production to grapes; and in 2001, planted their first vines. Their 30-acre vineyard is situated in the vast Sonoma Coast appellation, coming close to the Carneros region, so has the added benefit, and influence of the San Pablo Bay, an ideal region for production of Pinot noir, and cool-climate Syrah. They produce Rose of Syrah with depth; smooth, round, and subtle Pinot noir, and Syrahs that exhibit dark fruit and aplomb.
Jazz Cellars is the tale of two jazz aficionados, Bob Smith and Joe Lazzaro, who every year attend the jazz festival in New Orleans, thus Jazz Cellars. Also two ex-technology executives, and neighbors in Foster City, they decided to put their (wine) passion into reality, and delve into wine making. They swing mostly in Rhone varietals, with a special passion for Zinfandel. Their Syrahs and Petite Sirahs are rich, complex and full bodied, uniquely capturing the area they are sourced from.
Shone Farms is the Russian River Valley vineyard home to the Santa Rosa Junior College viticulture and wine program, and one of a few not for profit wineries in the state. They farm 80-acres in the valley with winemaker Chris Wills guiding the viticulture students. Their wine is entered into professional competitions each year to ensure a high quality of winemaking. At the Wineyard, they offer six wines, from Rose of Syrah, to Zinfandel and Syrah, all from the estate. They also maintain a 10-acre organic garden, and beginning May 1, will sell their seasonal produce at the The Wineyard.
As the newest wine tasting venue in downtown Santa Rosa, The Wineyard offers a comfortable and elegant, urban and non-pretentious space to taste wine, and experience some of Sonoma County’s fabled charm. The Wineyard offers a retail venue for small wine producers to showcase their product, grow their brand, and to take off. With the opening of The Hopyard in the same building, a beer garden featuring boutique brewers, The Wineyard has become a venue for artisonal style wine and beer making.
You can visit The Wineyard at 1305 Cleveland Avenue, Santa Rosa, 95401. They are currently open Thursday through Monday.
Visit my Food and Wine Page for Weeknight Gourmet featuring Shone Farms Chardonnay.