Can You Keep A Pinot Secret?

The meteoric rise of Pinot Noir’s popularity in recent years has led to some misguided efforts with the wine world’s most temperamental varietal.

Consequently, the good stuff is hard to come by. Mostly because Pinot Noir is notorious for its intolerance. To make premium quality Pinot requires nothing short of perfect growing conditions. That means that finding the ideal site for a vineyard is like striking gold.

IMG_9319For decades, Sonoma County has attracted its fair share of prospectors searching for the mother lode. Some wine producers were lucky enough to have staked their claim early, long before the rush of recent years. Those producers’ names are known the world over, but good luck getting your hands on any of their coveted fare. They all tend to share one thing in common: they’re tiny. When you find a great one that’s yet undiscovered, don’t go writing about it on the internet if you plan to keep some for yourself.

Take Fogline Vineyards for example…

The team at Fogline launched their label in 2009 and only recently opened their tasting room in northern Santa Rosa on River Road, a stone’s throw west of Highway 101 (just past the Vintner’s Inn). You won’t find a well-appointed chateau there, but you will find the Pinot Noir you’ve been looking for. Don’t tell anybody.

Each one of their offerings is distinctive, ranging from elegant and bright, to complex, structured, and earthy. They focus on single-vineyard Pinot Noirs and produce just around 1000 cases annually, so there’s not a lot to go around. They have a beautiful Chardonnay and a rich, ripe Zinfandel as well, but the Pinots are the highlight and the reason to keep going back.

zzdata-FogSiteLOGO2_BRANDCOLOR_SM0If you must share this find, feel free, but know that once word gets out about Fogline, we’ll be fighting to get on that list. Best to go soon and get ‘em while you can.


Little Italy is alive and well and making great wine.

A palatial French chateau of the Entre-Deux-Mers, flanked by the Dordogne to the east and the Garonne to the west. Not so much.

D’Argenzio Winery is a classic Italian American winery of Santa Rosa, flanked by Highway 101 to the east and an abandoned railroad track to the west. It is urban wine country at its finest.

If your wine country dream was to see impressive architecture, then go to Napa and stare at the walls. If, instead, your dream was to experience handcrafted artisanal wines of distinction and quality, then D’Argenzio Winery is the place to start.

paigegreenSantaRosa82213-0053There’s something about this place that harkens back to the days when this area, just down from the Santa Rosa Depot, was known as “Little Italy”. The welcoming is warm, the wines are as fun to talk about as they are to drink, and there’s the sense that the tasting room crew (many of whom are D’Argenzio family members themselves) would be heartbroken if you didn’t leave happy. In a nutshell, it’s pure Italian hospitality.

paigegreenSantaRosa82213-0049Even though the setting is decidedly urban, the winery is nothing to shrug about. It’s a spacious and beautiful working winery, with tables inside and out if you want to relax and enjoy pizza and antipasto served by Cibo Rustico Pizzeria just across the way. On the back patio, surrounded by olive trees, is a bocce ball court where they host their weekly “Wine Down Thursdays” with live music and bocce ball, and serve wood-fired pizzas with some of the more exclusive wines from their portfolio.

paigegreenSantaRosa82213-0043And then of course there is the wine. The family is as committed to making world class wines as they are to playing hosts. The wines at D’Argenzio are the kind that would be impossible to make at a large scale winery. It’s obvious these wines are carefully and meticulously nurtured from vine to bottle into something displaying true handcrafted character. Each of their wines has its own unique complexity and structure, and yet they all share a common rustic elegance. Despite their micro-winery level of production (just 3000 cases a year) the wine list ranges from Mendocino Sauvignon Blanc, vineyard-designated Russian River Pinot Noirs, and old vine Zinfandels, to classic Italian varietals like Sangiovese, Barbera, Aglianico, and Sagrantino. When you visit, plan on staying awhile.

paigegreenSantaRosa82213-0038For more details on wines and happenings at the winery, check out their website at

Paradise Ridge Winery Is Picnic Perfect

If Santa Rosa sits smack dab in the heart of Sonoma Wine Country, then Paradise Ridge Winery is in the left atrium.

It’s right here in our backyard, and it is breathtaking. The winery and vineyards are situated up along the ridgeline (hence the name) at the eastern edge of the Russian River Valley. Of the 156 acres that comprise the estate, only 15 have been planted to vines, making the property a picnicker’s dream. With rolling hills and ancient California oaks teeming with wildlife, it’s easy to forget you’re a stone’s throw from downtown Santa Rosa.
040-small1Visitors taking the short drive up to Paradise Ridge will wind through the eclectic sculptures of Marijke’s Grove, featuring “an annually changing exhibit where art, ideas, and nature converge”. The tasting room features sweeping views of the valley and stellar wines from talented winemaker Dan Barwick.
During regular business hours (11am to 5pm daily) you can taste through wines ranging from aromatic whites, to elegant Russian River Valley Pinot Noirs, to bold Cabernets, and take guided or self-guided tours of the grounds.
Beginning May 13th, and running thru October 28th, the winery will feature “Wines and Sunsets” every Wednesday evening. It’s become a huge draw for locals in recent years due to the great live music and great wine and food paired with a perfect sunset. These Wednesday night gatherings run from 5:30pm to sunset and buying the $8 ticket in advance is recommended.
Visit Paradise Ridge Winery online at

Custom Crushing It

You hear about these “garagistes” going from plonk obscurity to ultra-premium winemaking superstars, but you have to wonder, “How does this happen, and why can’t it be ME?!”

So, if you've ever sat swirling a budget blend and wondering to yourself, "How do they do it?," here's how. In fact, there are two ways. The first is to start with a ton of money. They say the best way to make a million dollars in the wine industry is to start with two million. So let's dismiss that option out of hand. The other option is to start small at one of these communes for starry-eyed hopefuls known as the “custom crush facility." To make it big here all you’ll need is unwavering passion, some naïve friends (no really, bottling is a BLAST), and the patience of an oyster.


If you don’t have several million dollars burning a hole in your pocket, then custom crush winemaking is your stepping stone to fame and glory. Santa Rosa is home to one of the most respected custom crush facilities in the industry. Formerly Copain Custom Crush, Punchdown Cellars has helped launch boutique local wine producers like Cartograph Wines, Lioco Wines, and Dirty & Rowdy Family Winery.

Then, who knows? With a little luck, some hard work, and red toes, you may find yourself rubbing elbows with the Sonoma vinerati.