There are numerous tasting rooms within blocks of the Healdsburg town square. (Courtesy photo)

Wine tasting around the square in Healdsburg

Quaint downtown Healdsburg is always an enjoyable visit, especially during this season. Exceptional galleries and shops, award-winning restaurants and boutique hotels add to its natural charm.

There are numerous tasting rooms within blocks of the town square. On the first day, I sought out neighboring wineries that optimize the diversity of wines produced in Sonoma County.

Since the early 1990s, the Hartford Family Winery has been producing mostly single-vineyard chardonnay, pinot noir and zinfandel from top Sonoma County vineyards. Although the winery is located in the nearby town of Forestville, their sleek Healdsburg tasting room includes an outdoor patio for relaxation during warmer times.

Hartford produces more than 25 wines each vintage and, although some were sold out, most current releases are still available. Tasting Room Supervisor Bekah Schloss poured a select few that highlighted the breadth of terroir and styles in their wines.

We began with two chardonnay, one from the far eastern portion of the huge Sonoma Coast appellation and the other, two ridges inland from the Pacific Ocean. Both vineyards are influenced from by rock and fossils.

The 2015 Stone Cote Vineyard Chardonnay ($65) comes from a block within the Durell Vineyard and its steely, mineral elements are influenced from a nearby river bed. In contrast, the estate 2015 Fog Dance Vineyard Chardonnay ($65) originates from the Green Valley of Russian River Valley appellation, near the coast.

Although the flavors were a bit rounder with hints of citrus and stone fruits, the mineral finish prevailed.

We followed the same program with diverse pinot noir releases from the Carneros to the coast. The 2015 Sevens Bench Vineyard Pinot Noir ($65) from Carneros, was lean, but earthy with expressive fruit flavors.

The 2015 MacLean’s Block Pinot Noir ($70) comes from a small estate vineyard in the Russian River Valley that is surrounded by a redwood forest. Thus, there are forest floor and dark berry qualities on the nose and complex flavors with spice on the finish.

From vineyards at higher elevations near the town of Annapolis, the 2015 Far Coast Vineyard Pinot Noir is the boldest and highest ranked among those produced by Hartford. Acute aromas open for earth driven flavors of fruit and spice that linger.

The 2015 vintage of the Russian River Vineyards Zinfandel was awarded 94-points by Wine Spectator magazine and placed #21 on their 2017 Top 100 list. The 2016 Russian River Vineyards Zinfandel ($40) blends grapes from all but one of their six vineyards and delivers integrated flavors of black cherry, berry and spice.

From special 100-year-old vines in the Russian River Valley, the 2015 Hartford Vineyard Zinfandel ($60) offers the elegance and complexity that is typically sought out in a good zinfandel.

Always open to syrah, I requested a taste of the 2013 Outer Limits Vineyard Syrah ($55). As a part of the coastal Far Coast Vineyard, the “Outer Limits” comes from a cooler climate. I found a balanced, tightly structured wine with floral laced aromas and dark fruit and spice on the palate.

Stonestreet Estate Vineyards manages over 5,000 acres of vines in the Mayacamas Range, high above the Alexander Valley in northern Sonoma County. They focus on cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay, but also create impressive Bordeaux blends including the 2013 Terrace Ridge Semillon /Sauvignon Blanc ($35) that Bekah from Hartford raved about. A traditional white Bordeaux blend that sits well with my palate, the semillon adds roundness to the crisp sauvignon blanc.

In addition to estate cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc that combine grapes from multiple vineyards, they produce five quality single-vineyard cabernet sauvignon and six chardonnay releases, all expressing distinct terroir within the Alexander Valley.

Of note, Stonestreet’s two red blends mix different degrees of the same Bordeaux varietals and each delivers different nuances. The 2015 Farrier Mountain Blend ($85) combines 54 percent cabernet sauvignon with cabernet franc, merlot, malbec and petit verdot that is aged 20 months in 35% new French oak.

In contrast, the 2014 Ridge Walk Mountain Blend ($85) consists of 74 percent cabernet sauvignon mixed with the other varietals and aged in 48 percent new oak.

Within steps from the Healdsburg Town Square, tasting at Hartford Family Winery and Stonestreet Estate Vineyards provided fine examples Burgundian, Bordeaux and Northern Rhone Valley style wines along with extraordinary zinfandel, all from Sonoma County.

Lyle W. Norton is a wine enthusiast and blogger in Santa Rosa who has written a wine column for 15 years. Visit his blog at www.lifebylyle.com or email him at sfewine@gmail.com. He is a guest columnist.

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