Today, I’m writing about two wineries in Marin and Solano — a pair of Bay Area counties that aren’t generally known for winemaking, but should be.
Scenic Root Winegrowers is a husband-and-wife affair in Marin. Susan and Jonathan Pey took their combined wine industry experience (she is a restaurant wine buyer and he worked for some of the world’s largest wine brands) and applied it to their family operations.
The resulting wines, especially their pinot noir grown in western Marin, are wonderful. I really enjoyed the Pey-Marin 2006 Trois Filles ($39), which is named for the couple’s three daughters. This pinot is a blend of juice from three vineyards located within a few miles of the Pacific Ocean. Grapes from this cooler growing area can give wines an enjoyable balance and smooth as silk finish that is hard to resist.
They also make an excellent dry riesling (the 2008 Shellmound is $24) from Marin County grapes and a Marin merlot. Rounding out the lineup are syrah from Sonoma, another pinot from Monterey and a Napa cabernet sauvignon called Textbook.
Marin actually has a long history of viticulture. The first grapes were planted here in the early 1800s by Spanish clergy who built the San Rafael Mission. Several commercial vineyards were developed and vines were a common site until 20th century residential real estate development pushed Marin grape-growing into less-hospitable areas.
There are about a dozen wineries in Marin. Pey-Marin has a tasting room at the Olema Inn, but most of the other winemaking operations are private and open only by appointment. To learn more, check out this list of Marin County wineries.
So Good in Solano
I’ve wondered about the winegrowing part of Solano County for quite a while. I’d tasted a few regional wines, and some were pretty good, but nothing that really screamed delicious until I ran across Vezer Family Vineyard. This winery is in the beautiful Suisun Valley appellation, which is off I-80 about halfway between San Francisco and Sacramento.
Vezer is the brainchild of Frank and Liz Vezer, Canadian immigrants who decided to get into winemaking in 2001 as a sideline to their successful industrial contracting business.
There are 10 wineries in the appellation and most are within a few minutes drive of Fairfield. It’ s hard to imagine that just a few minutes from the whizzing traffic on the interstate you’ll find Suisun Valley’s backroad wineries flanked by rows and rows of lush green vines set alongside rolling hills.
The Vezer reds are most impressive. The 2006 cabernet sauvignon (smooth and delicious) and 2006 petite sirah (moderately spicy) and 2006 zinfandel (tasting of blackberry and pie crust) were very good. The star of the lineup, however, is a proprietary blend called La Salette ($85).
This mix — 65 percent petite sirah and 35 percent zinfandel — is opulently smooth. It coats the mouth with rich, red flavors that persist on a long finish.
The winery is on the family estate, which is only open for private events. The main tasting room is at Manka’s Corner with a second tasting facility called the Blue Victorian. Both are open to the public.