September is California Wine Month, and an excellent reminder to explore all things wine. The Wine Road winery members offer a vast array of varietals and blends to help you with your exploration.
Varietal Specialty by Appellation
Each of the three appellations—Alexander, Dry Creek and Russian River—within the Wine Road is well known for producing exceptional wines, and each has its own niche varietals. Alexander Valley is renowned for Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. Dry Creek Valley is the king of Zinfandel and also produces remarkable Sauvignon Blanc, while Russian River Valley is famous for its Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. However, each of these appellations produce many other varietals as well.
Let’s explore some of the other many varietals, which might help you adventure further into the options along the Wine Road.
Digging Deeper to Discover Rhônes
Rhône varietals and blends continue to grow in popularity, and can be found in several locations along the Wine Road. Syrah and Viognier are found Dry Creek Valley and Russian River Valley, with an occasional siting in Alexander Valley as well. But what about some of the lesser-known varietals like Rousanne, Marsanne or Mourvèdre, which is also known as Mataro? If you click on the varietal names, you’ll find a list of wineries that produce the wine as a single varietal, and the number continues to grow.
Rhône blends like GSM (which stands for Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre) are also growing in numbers with the Wine Road wineries. Last count, at least two-dozen wineries along the Wine Road produce a Rhône-style blend. Having tasted many of them, I can attest they are worth seeking out.
Maybe you would rather not explore Rhône blends. No problem, the Wine Road wineries have a lot of other options as well. There are almost twenty wineries that make Carignane (sometimes spelled Carignan) as a single varietal. Planted by the early grapegrowers because of its vigorous nature and ability to blend well with other varietals, Carignane was once considered not worthy of being a stand-alone varietal. Fortunately, between changes in farming practices and a new generation of winemakers, the beauty of this delicious grape was rediscovered more than a decade ago.
Two other wine varietals that are growing in popularity are Malbec and Petit Verdot. Both grapes are Bordeaux varietals, and are often part of Bordeaux varietal blends. (The traditional grapes used in Bordeaux blends are Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot.) When last counted, over 25 Wine Road wineries produce a Malbec, and we know Soda Rock, Peterson Winery and deLorimier Winery produce a Petit Verdot even though they aren’t currently listed on the Wine Road’s website. And, if you like Bordeaux-style blends, there are over 30 wineries through the Wine Road that produce these blends.
This is only a dent in the fun varietal options along the Wine Road. I’d suggest you might also explore Barbera, Dolcetto, Muscat Canelli, Pinot Grigio (also called Pinot Gris), Sangiovese, Tempranillo, and more. You can do your own research by going to the Wine Road website, under the tab Wineries you’ll find a terrific database that will let you search by winery name, wine type (which is what I did), region or by amenity.
California Wine Month Goes On
Although September is California Wine Month, you can explore along the Wine Road every month of the year. Find those hidden gems waiting to be discovered in tasting rooms out among the vines, or in the towns—Cloverdale, Geyserville, Healdsburg, Windsor, Santa Rosa, Graton, Forestville, Sebastopol, Freestone, Occidental, Rio Nido, and Guerneville—scattered throughout the Wine Road.