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Wine Banter February 2013


Wine Banter February 2013
Three new wine tasting rooms for Western Sonoma County

by John Haggard

If you are considering going to all three of these tasting rooms, and three in a day is plenty, why not start your day at the Fort Ross Winery in the Sonoma Coast. The newest AVA (American Viticultural Area) in Sonoma County is the Fort Ross Seaview AVA – located in the middle of the Sonoma Coast appellation. Fort Ross Vineyard is the first winery to open a tasting room in this AVA.  The tasting room has been beautifully designed to fit into its surroundings, and offers spectacular views of the Sonoma Coast. Fort Ross specializes in Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinotage all grown on their estate. The Pinotage honors the South African owners’ roots, as pinotage is primarily grown in South Africa, though our Sonoma Coast is also an ideal location for this thick skinned grape to thrive. For more information on Fort Ross Vineyards, visit (Fort Ross Tasting Room:  15725 Meyers Grade Road, Jenner, CA 95450.) As you’re heading South from Fort Ross you’ll pass one of the many perfect lunch spots on this tour, River’s End Restaurant in Jenner (

Head inland, on the 116, through Duncans Mills (where I’d be happy to see you at my new wine tasting room in the historic town of Duncans Mills) and head East towards Guerneville, where another you’ll find many perfect lunch spots including, Boon ( Continue on the 116 towards Forestville where, opening in March 2013, is a new tasting to for two wineries:Atascadero Creek and Cahill Winery.  The construction has started and there are some progress photos at (search for Atascadero Creek Winery). Bob Appleby, the winemaker for Atascadero Creek makes my number #1 selling Sauvignon Blanc. He just released the 2011 which is even better than the 2010.  Cahill’s 2008 Petite Sirah won a Double Gold at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition in 2011. The tasting room hours have not been finalized yet, but it is located at 6542 Front Street, Forestville, CA. To follow their progress, check online or

Meander further East along Hwy 116 (where you’ll make a right on Mueller which will become Graton Road) to find the much anticipated new Paul Mathew tasting room, managed by winemaker Matt Gustafson’s wonderful wife, Barbara. I say much anticipated, as the interior designer, Irene Turner, had a following of 40,000 on Pinterest ( as she put her design together.  The design was ultimately a true homage to our “Sonoma County GoLocal”, with retail fixtures and table-top items sourced locally, and of course, all Paul Mathew Wines are locally produced. There is a dining table cut and milled sustainably and locally at Sturgens Mill which can seat 18-26 persons, enabling the Gustafsons to host wine tastings for larger groups.

Matt Gustafson is one of my favorite winemakers, his Russian River pinot noirs are exquisite. Matt is often in the tasting room on weekends, and if you particularly want a tasting with the winemaker, you can call for an appointment.  If you’re into food and wine pairing as I am, the new Paul Mathew tasting room is hosting foodie seminars each month, most recently, one on olive oils and an upcoming one with one of my favorite local cheesemakers, Cowgirl Creamery. For more information about upcoming events, or to make an appointment for a group or private tasting, (Paul Mathew Tasting Room, 9060 Graton Road, Graton, CA 95444, Hrs: Thu-Sun, 10:30am – 4:30pm.) In Graton there are two further wonderful lunch stops, Underwood ( and Willow Wood (

Barrel Tasting

The 35th Annual Barrel Tasting is taking place over two weekends this year, March 1-3 and March 8-20, 2013, 11am – 4pm each day. Barrel Tasting is not a food pairing or themed event. It's all about the wine...many wineries offer "futures" on their barrel samples. This is a chance to purchase wine now, often at a discount.  For more information and a list of participating wineries,  For information on where to stay, visit


John Haggard is owner of Sophie’s Cellars, Sonoma Wine Tasting in Duncans Mills, California. Sophie’s Cellars is open Thu, Sat, Sun and Mon: 11am – 5pm, Fri:  11am-7pm (Happy Hour Friday, 4-7pm).