Rochioli’s Riches

The wines and vines are the real stars at Rochioli Vineyards and Winery, but the unpretentious tasting room is worth a visit the next time you’re winetasting near Healdsburg. Click here for a video tour.

This immensely popular winery has earned a reputation for outstanding pinor noir.  The 161-acre estate is divided into multiple blocks of vines that produce grapes with differing qualities. Grapes from specific blocks are bottled separately and it’s those bottles (with $100+ pricetags) that are most highly prized by collectors.

For access to these special wines, which are always in short supply, you can sign up for the waiting list for purchases direct from the winery. Don’t expect immediate satisfaction. The list is several years long!

But, there is a family secret. Their estate-grown sauvignon blanc is a killer wine at a reasonable price. And the Rochioli estate chardonnay is great, too. You can taste the current releases of both wines at the winery, along with the Rochioli’s entry-level pinot noir — a blend made from grapes from several different blocks. The sauvignon blanc retails for about $30; the chardonnay sells for $50 and the pinot blend goes for$70-$80.

Rochioli Vineyard Map

Rochioli Vineyard Map

The Rochiolis started as farmers on this property back in the 1930s.  They grew grapes, but didn’t get into the winemaking part of the business until after another  Sonoma County winery, Williams Selyem, gained national acclaim with wines made from Rochioli grapes.

First Sip a Winner

I first tasted a Rochioli pinot noir about 15 years ago at Evan’s, a top-rated South Lake Tahoe restaurant with an excellent wine list.  I was eager to order a bottle of Williams Selyem, but the sommelier suggested I try something from the grower of the grapes, Rochioli, because it was just as good as the Williams Selyem at half the price! He was right and I’ve been a fan ever since.

The Rochiolis still sell some of their crop to other wineries, but it is their own special wines that routinely command a premium price (think three figures). Some of the other top-shelf producers with access to Rochioli pinot noir grapes  include Williams Selyem and Gary Farrell.

Runway Red?

If your summer travel involves airports, look around for a wine-centric oasis where you can relax with a good glass of red or white before continuing the journey.

It’s not hard to find decent beer and booze in most major airports, but fine wine not so much. I normally wouldn’t recommend an airport wine-tasting experience, but Vino Volo proves there an exception to every rule.

Vino Volo Sacramento

Vino Volo Sacramento

Vino Volo operates a string of wine-tasting bars/retail stores at nine U.S. airports. The nearest Vino Volo outpost to the Bay Area is in Sacramento. There are two more airport shops in Seattle and San Antonio plus locations in Detroit, Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Newark and New York’s Kennedy International.

Vino Volo divides its wine list into four categories — bright, rich, brooding and light — and patrons can mix and match categories in special tasting flights. There’s a pretty broad selection of wine, heavy on imports, at decent but not great prices.

If you’ve ever had a really good, or bad, travel-related wine experience, drop me a note and I’ll share it with our readers in a future blog.

Next Weekend Wine Tasting

If you can’t attend the ultra-hot Auction Napa Valley events next weekend, there’s another cool wine tasting opportunity next Saturday (June 6) in Lodi at Ripken Vineyards where they’ll be serving up a Full Moon BBQ and concert by Mitch Woods and his Rocket 88s.  Tickets are $40 for the 6-9 p.m. event. Ripken is a small family-run winery specializing in Rhone-style wines, but their petite sirah is my favorite and their port-style wine is really good, too. A neat place to stay in Lodi after a night of dancing and wine drinking is the Wine and Roses Country Inn.

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