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Lying at the heart of Sonoma Valley is a winery that has won the prestige award of “Winery of the Year” by Wine & Spirits an unprecedented nine times since 1993. It is renowned for aromatic whites and rich reds that have been the forefront of quality wine production since its earliest days. This winery is the Geyser Peak Winery, which was founded in 1880 as California's 29th bonded winery.
 
Geyser Peak Winery has well over 135 years of experience in winemaking with their original winery being built in 1882 on a hillside across from Geyser Peak Mountain. This gives them the view of the thermal steam clouds that billowed from the mountain summit, where pioneering winemaker Augustus Quitzow recognized the potential of using these naturally occurring steam reservoirs in geothermal wells, that are 8,500 feet underground and bring heat, water, and minerals to the surface of the earth, that allow the region to produce world class wines that speak of their terroir. Because of this for over a millennia the geothermal activity of this special and unique place creates the diverse soil profiles that make the region exceptionally well suited to wine grape cultivation.
 
The creation of Geyser Peak Winery starts with the grapes being sourced from prime vineyards that capture the very essence of Sonoma, particularly from Alexander Valley and Russian River Valley. Wines are crafted from small lots fermented separately and then blended to achieve full expression, balance and character. Blending plays a key role in producing these distinctive wines, weather they are designed as blends of multiple varietals or single varietal expressions.

 


Stylistically Distinct Tiers of Wines

The Geyser Peak Winery winemaking team has four distinct tiers of wines that they produce.

The Appellation Series is the heart of the production, with an expression of the complexity of site-specific winemaking throughout the various AVA's spanning Sonoma County's Russian River and Alexander Valleys. The wines produced under this series are two from the Russian River Valley, the River Ranches Sauvignon Blanc, SRP $22, and the Pluto's Fury Pinot Noir, SRP $36, two from the Alexander Valley, the Tectonic Red Blend, SRP $30, and the Walking Tree Cabernet Sauvignon, SRP $30, and one from the Sonoma County in the Water Bend Chardonnay, SRP $26.

The California Series is a tier of wines marked by a great quality to value ratio; the wines compare favorably to those costing many times more. The series consists of traditional varietals with whites including Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blac and Chardonnay and reds including Pinot Noir, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon all priced between $8 to $14.

The Reserve Series is crafted from the finest vineyard sources, these wines represent the pinnacle of winemaking. Starting in the vineyard with a rigorous selection process, the very best grapes are fermented in small-lots and continue through blending and aging. During this process each lot is continuously and meticulously evaluated, so that, the final wine may be a combination of literally dozens of lots. The result is a highly seductive and boldly expressive wine that is the world class in every respect of the winemaking process. This series includes wines made from Cabernet Sauvignon and other Bordeaux varietals all priced between $50 to $55.

The Winery Exclusives are highlight varietal / appellation parings where the winemaker is inspired by the unique or distinctive signature of the site. These are limited release wines that can only be purchased directly from the winery. This series includes the Geyser Peak Winery's hallmark varietals, Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon, with the addition of winery exclusive of wines made from Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec in styles ranging from sparkling to late harvest sweet wines all prices in the range of $22 - $75.

 

Two Examples of the Heart of Geyser Peak Winery

We will take a drink into two of the Appellation Series wines that lie at the heart of Geyser Peak Winery. The first one is the 2014 Walking Tree Cabernet Sauvignon from Alexander Valley and the 12th in the series of the Walking Tree Cabernet Sauvignon was released in the summer of 2017. Grown in the Benchland vineyards, which has a long proven to be a favorite place when it comes to growing top quality red wine grapes, had its fourth consecutive year of dry weather with a mild warm season that brought few surprises during the early summer. The rapid accumulation of sugars with ideal ripening weather in late summer caused the winery to start crushing the grapes a full 10 to 14 days earlier than expected and with the lack of winter rain coupled with steady warm temperatures throughout spring and summer led to uniform ripeness, healthy fruit chemistry, and rich, luscious flavors and tannins. With the combination of diverse soil types and solar aspects lead to complexity in flavors and subtle variations in ripening that added layers and dimension to the wines. Abundant sunshine and liberal shading ensure that ripening is physiological and not due to dehydration. This allowed the make of the Walking Tree Cabernet Sauvignon be an abundant juicy dark red fruit profile accented by the earthy complexity of a small percentage of Syrah creates a long-lived and multi-layered versatile wine that captivates with accessible fruit and then charms with undertones of spice and mineral. The make follows the traditional fermentation with pumpovers twice daily, and 100% secondary malolactic fermentation, the wine was aged in small French oak barrels fro 21 months in medium plus and custom toasts.

The taste of the deep blackish-purple 2014 Walking Tree Cabernet Sauvignon features aromas of black fruits, cassis, mint, and chocolate with spicy oak. This gives a sumptuous and darkly delicious with supple tannins on the entry that firm-up on the mid-palate and finish. This is a richly textured wine with a core of rich sweet fruit notes, overlaid with notes of maple, smoked meats, and coffee bean. It is a wine that will truly complement and enhance a variety of cuisines.

The second wine that will be discussed is the 2016 Water Bend Chardonnay from the Sonoma County and was released in September 2017. The growth of this vintage started in an “almost two perfect” weather conditions that included beautifully mild weather and ideal growing conditions during flowering and blooming stages. Which allow Geyser Peak Winery to start early and finished nearly two weeks ahead of a typical year of production of wine. This also allowed the berries to be perfectly sized with abundant natural acidity and full opulent flavors making for a great vintage. The vineyard source for this wine sits on the gravely bank of the Russian River, with warm and even temperatures throughout the season. The cooling influence of the Russian River creates an alluring profile in the grape that shows both its approach-ability and refinement. 

The name of the Water Bend Chardonnay is actually taken from the making process of the wine itself with the use of the wide bend in the Russian River and from the use for water bent barrels in the fermentation and aging process. With the water bending barrels, this allows for an exquisite extraction of oak flavor that integrates early into the wine and contributes a soft, rounded texture to the palate. With a bright acidity from the fruit brings textual elements from the oak into balance and the abundant pome fruit, floral, and creamy elements add layers of complexity to the wine. During toasting a barrel, when the oak staves are wet creates an aroma profile reminiscent of pastry dough and a floral / spice character similar to that of petunia or marigold blooms. This wine is a perfect marriage for the luscious Chardonnay grape.

The taste of the 2016 Water Ben Chardonnay delivers the freshness of a white wine with the substance of a red wine allowing it to flexibly pair with a wide range of food. The pale golden straw in color presents a nose of pear and lemon fruit, honeycomb and toasted brioche. With a taste lifted and bright on the palate, delicate yellow fruit flavors of quince and green plum mingle and delight with a roasted pumpkin seed nuttiness. The finish is a medley of tangerine, apricot and mineral flavors, is long and rich and delicious.

Geyser Peak Winery wine making team has produced many award-winning wines over the years, and the two example follow the skill of this award making team, that reflect the distinct terroir of distinguished California appellations. As they invite guests to their new location outside of Healdsburg to experience the welcoming atmosphere of the tasting room and enjoy a glass of wine on the veranda overlooking the breathtaking vineyards.