Davis Family Vineyards is my kind of winery. That would be: a boutique winery that produces small batch, high quality wines from grapes that are grown organically and with love by an owning family who are passionately hands-on. This preference applies not just to the California Wine Country, but to any wine producing area, including my native Italy. As it is, while, if you asked, I could give you a good list of Italian wineries that match this category, here in California I am only just discovering them: slowly, one by one, usually by recommendation, sometimes serendipitously.
In my previous life, when I was a chef at my own restaurant in Italy, through my own wine list (which was notable, if I say so myself), those of my restaurateur colleagues, various wine tasting events, visits to vineyards et such, I had constant access to the best of the best. As a result I used to drink, or at least taste a lot more glorious wines, grappas, cognacs, marcs and other related libations. Until one day I just did not want to anymore. This happened around the same time that I changed my life, but that is another story. Suffice to say that, for several years after that my consumption of wine was negligible, limited usually to the glass of whatever was being poured at parties, and the occasional great bottle by a known (to me) Italian winemaker discovered at the specialty wine store, which I would share only with friends who I knew would appreciate it.
Moving from Honolulu to San Francisco almost three years ago (has it been that long already?!), however, brought me in contact with some truly excellent California wines, and I have been discovering some real gems. Here I have to thank the Boston Globe because, by sending me to photograph the lovely town of Healdsburg, and specifically Davis Family Vineyards, they facilitated one of such discoveries.
The word Family is intended literally in this case, as Guy and Judy Davis are the wizards behind this winery, joined by their sons Cole and Cooper as well as Cole’s little boy, Luke, a young but very eager future winemaker. Both Guy and Judith carry one of those change-of-life stories, the kind where they started out in a whole other line of study and work, and then switched to follow their hearts. You can read more of their story at this page. Their vineyards are all located in the Russian River Valley, with Soul Patch being their Estate Vineyard as well as their home. And isn’t that a lovely name?
In these images, you get to see their tasting room, which is located on the edge of Healdsburg town by the river. The space is intimate, and the wines are outstanding, and have the many, many awards to prove it. Can they get a Hell yeah!? Oh yeah!
When I am out photographing I do not usually stop to wine taste, as I need to keep my focusing abilities and my driving straight. But on that day I was done photographing, and I had come from a fabulous, impromptu lunch at SHED, so I thought I would treat myself.
On their tasting flight that day were six wines, which I will try to briefly describe at best, given that I have not done a serious wine tasting in some years. That said, in the end it is what brings a smile to your face and makes you go “mmmm…” when you drink it that matters. I smiled and mmmm-ed with each of these wines.
2013 Rosé De Noir Sparkling (100% Dutton Ranch Pinot Noir): a fine bubble brings up fresh, fruity and floral layers that certain to make you go mmmm…;
2014 Cuvee Luke (48% Roussanne, 35% Marsanne and 17% Viognier): a fragrant white blend named for Cole’s son, Luke, that carries floral notes with a touch of peach;
2013 Throne (53% Grenache, 35% Syrah, 12% Mourvedre): an earthy red blend in the style of Cote du Rhone, which carries tones of red fruits;
2011 Soul Patch Syrah (97% Soul Patch Syrah, 3% Viognier): a Rhone-style red that is beautifully balanced, with tones of tangy berries, finished by subtle spice;
2013 Starr Ridge Pinot Noir (100% Pinot Noir from Starr Ridge Vineyard): luscious with ripe berry flavors, has mellow tannins and finishes smooth with a touch of spice;
2013 Zinfandel Old Vine (100% Zinfandel): I am partial to Old Vine Zinfandels, and this one was as deeply complex and rich in berry/cherry flavors that expand as you roll it in your mouth as I was hoping for, with soft spice to finish.
The tasting fee at Davis Family Vineyards is $10 per person, which is refundable with purchase. And you definitely want to purchase, like I did, and possibly even join their Wine Club, like I will as soon as I have a home base again, as these are not wines you will find in grocery stores.
Outside the tasting room you can find tables and chairs under the trees, and also on a covered deck by the organic vegetable garden, where you can enjoy a carefully curated Davis wine & local cheese pairing, or even a boxed-lunch, both of which you can pre-order. On Friday, Saturday and Sunday during the summer months Chef Duskie Estes of Zazu Restaurant brings her food truck, called Black Piglet, to the Davis tasting room, offering delights such as black pig bacon BLTs, pork belly poutine, maple & bacon donuts, Sebastopol strawberry & Davis Family rose sorbet and more. Then, for a bit of gentle exercise, you can play a game of bocce on the Davis’ court.
Davis Family Vineyards also organizes and participates in several wonderful events throughout the seasons. You can view their scheduled events at this page, but as a heads-up I am letting you know that they will be participating in the Sonoma Wine Country Weekend over Labor Day weekend with a Winemaker Lunch at their Garden Lounge, and Taste of Sonoma at MacMurray Ranch.
Tasting room hours: Thursday-Monday 11:00 am – 5:00 pm, or by appointment at 707-433-3858.
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