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Take a wine walk-about in West County's Graton

This month’s theme is Sonoma County Wine, so even though I’ve got a bunch of other questions to answer (thank you!), I’m going to focus on Graton’s enormous contribution to the industry.

If there are too many vineyards in West County, you can blame it on Graton! It all started here- or more specifically along Purington Creek off Graton Road. That’s where Russian agronomist Yegor Chernyk planted the first vineyard north of San Francisco bay in 1836.

Then for a century and a half we grew other stuff, mostly apples for the last hundred years. But vintners began to discover the great climate and soils of the Graton environs in the last part of the 20th century- and now you have what we are known for.

And we really are known for it. Depending on how you define our geography since we aren’t incorporated, there are 11 tasting rooms or production facilities (wineries) within walking distance of downtown. Every one of these produces nationally recognized and award winning wines, attracting knowledgeable wine tourists from around the world. Having visited them all (tough assignment) I have much to say about each one, but no space to say it. They all produce predominantly Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Let’s take a walking tour.

Starting downtown we find the 11-year-old (!) Paul Matthew tasting room run by celebrated winemaker Mat Gufstafson and his wife Barb. Up the street is Bowman Cellars, owned by Alex Bowman and his wife Katie- both are West County scions, he of Bowman Electric and she the granddaughter of Andy Skikos (Andy’s Market).

Now we need to walk up Graton Road to the corner of 116 coming first to Red Car tasting room. This wine has a great story from a garagista start to acquisition of premier high elevation vineyards leading to an almost cult like following. Next door is Dutton-Goldfield. The Dutton is Steve who is the farmer, and the Goldfield is winemaker, Dan. Their Pinots have a national following.

Cross 116 and go south for a block to Merry Edwards Winery. Merry was the first woman winemaker in the county and although no longer hers, this winery is world famous particularly for its signature Sauvignon Blanc. Just a bit further south is Emeritus Winery founded by Brice Jones (now run by his daughter, Mari). It owns the entire former 115-acre Hallberg Ranch, which makes them Gratonites. Along with their own wines, they source their various Pinot clones to premier wineries throughout the county.

Go back now to Frei Road and walk down to DRNK winery started by Ryan and Katie Kunde with her parents Dale and Nancy Doherty (of O’Reilly fame)- hence the first names of DRNK. They have the only cave in West County and Ryan, scion of the Kunde family, makes a lot of different varietals beyond the usual.

Next door is Lynn and Anisya Fritz’ Lynmar Estate with one of the most spectacular tasting rooms plus seasonal gardens in Sonoma County. The wine is all estate (they control all the vineyards) and is superb.

Backtracking up Frei, across from Harmony Supply you’ll find Paul Hobbs winery and vineyards. You need to be on a list to visit, but it is worth it. Paul is world renowned as a winemaker and is credited with starting the wine revolution in Argentina. Next door is Furthermore Wines successor to the Paul family’s Graton Ridge. Their Pinots are continuously best of class and show and come from vineyards up and down the coast.

Steps away at Green Valley is Dutton Estate Winery. This is the other Dutton brother, Joe and his dynamic wine partner and wife, Tracy (of the Kozlowski clan). They have been at it for almost 30 years, and with great properties and talented winemakers, they continue to express the best of the Green Valley AVA.

While off Ross Road are 3 other wineries, Ektimo Wines, Scherrer Wines and Ron Rubin, I’m running out of space so will cede them to Forestville- but you can walk to them!

Finally, while walking along Graton Road to her winery would be dangerous, Marimar Torres’ eponymous winery was where Graton’s wine history began with the Russians. Her wines are as good as her cooking.

Wow- I didn’t really know what I was getting into when I made this list. If you feel that you can’t get away from wineries, now you know why.

Graton Flower Show- April 21-21

Best plant sale in West County! Last year I got an early start on my tomatoes, thanks to these great people!

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