Taste of Wine travel writers Scott and Nancine Hagner at the Sonoma Dry Creek Passport event, with a stop at Truett Hurst and their ’60s Memory Lane celebration. Courtesy photo
Columns Taste of Wine

On the road again with Taste of Wine’s roadies

Taste of Wine’s travel writers, Nancine and Scott Hagner, are indeed a happy dedicated couple with a lot of time for wine and the open road. When they launch into their plans for their next wine country journey, I want to break out the Willie Nelson classic “On the Road Again … just can’t wait to get on the road again,” then open a Zinfandel or Syrah, two of their favorite reds.

This time, the wine country of Sonoma was in their sights and off they went from their base in San Diego in their posh motor home. Their wine event was the 29th annual “Passport to Dry Creek Valley,” three days of celebration, fantastic wines, music and food.

Dry Creek is in Northern Sonoma county just up Dry Creek Road from Healdsburg, the hottest town with the most tasting rooms in Sonoma.

But the rest of Dry Creek is much more rural than other parts, a different vibe where the owners are winemakers or on site pouring their wines. You find 41 wineries with microclimates that cast a complex thread of weather conditions, from fog to relentless sun. 

The Hagners love to snug up to the backcountry wineries on roads less traveled. As Dry Creek Road narrows, they discovered Truett Hurst Winery and their ‘60s theme passport party. Among tasting favorites were the 2016 Three Vineyards Old Vine Zinfandel, close to rocket fuel but oh so “yummy,” Nancine’s favorite descriptor. The other Truett Hurst memory maker was “Lucy,” a well-balanced red blend Zin at a great price point ($42).

deLorimier is another well respected winery on the Dry Creek trail, pouring a 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon ($42) and a 2015 Italian Primitivo which some say was the genesis of Zinfandel ($36).

By happy accident, our “roadies” happened on to a rustic old winery on a ratchety one-way road, with the old world Italian name of Patroni Winery. It’s just a few miles north of the city of Sonoma. The amazing wine caves are enough to drive wine lovers into the tasting room. Once in, the 2011 Tuscan Sangiovese should keep you there. Lorenzo Petroni somehow managed to import a Brunello varietal and make it a great wine in Sonoma soil at 800 feet and extreme rock and stone.

Niner Winery is a Paso Robles standout on the west side of Highway 46 near the 101, three near-perfect properties of some 223 acres in Paso and in Edna Valley close by. Our “roadies” were privileged to meet top hand Andy Niner, CEO and president. Niner emphasized the winery’s focus on “sustainability and high quality wines.” They are known for their estate grown wines like Cabernet, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. 

My personal favorite of the blends is the 2014 Niner Fogcatcher from two of their vineyards, Heart Hill and Bootjack Ranch ($100). In it, you’ll find 37 percent Cab Franc, 29 percent Petite Verdot, 28 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 5 percent Malbec. Now that’s a full house of rich and glamorous wine. And 28 months in new French oak seals the deal. Congratulations to winemaker Patrick Muran on a masterpiece. See more at ninerwine.com.

Wine Bytes

• North County Wine Company in San Marcos features Cellar 33 along with a special guest at 4 p.m. June 22. Give them a call at (760) 653-9032.

• Seasalt Seafood Bistro is presenting Justin Wines and Landmark Wines at 3 p.m. June 23. Big time wines pair up with legendary Seasalt cuisine, all are flavorful and expressive.  Cost is $70 each. Call (858) 755-7100 to secure your seat.

• Pala Casino has Storm winery in a dinner and tasting at 7:30 p.m. June 28. It’s in the underground cave, a perfect setting for this Santa Barbara rustic winery. A five-course dinner will cap it off. Cost is $85 per guest. Call (877) 946-7252.

• Grgich Hills, the pioneer Chardonnay winery in Napa Valley, will be pouring at the Firenze Trattoria in Encinitas. Master winemaker Kevin Vecchiarelli will preside. Price and menu by calling (760) 944-9000 for reservations.

Taste of Wine will return in July. Some health issues need attention, then recovery time. We’ll return with a special Napa/Sonoma edition.