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01.14.09

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Phaedra

De La Montanya Vineyards & Winery

By James Knight

Not surprisingly, I'm charged with furnishing the wine for family holiday gatherings. I've learned to bring a white to my sister's house, where the red/white divide is roughly demarcated from the vegetarian gravy boat to the bread basket. This year, I scored a hit with Alsatian Pinot Gris, the first bottle ever emptied on the other side of the mashed potato/drumstick line.

Although my brother-in-law is the recognized red-blooded sports fan of the family, white wine is his preferred potable, and then only rarely. So when out of the blue he invited me to visit the De La Montanya tasting room, I recalled that their Pinot won sweepstakes at the 2007 Sonoma County Harvest Fair, and wondered if he would warm up to the light, cranberry jelly-toned, earthy 2006 Tina's Vineyard Pinot Noir ($32). Yet he resisted even the gorgeous raspberry-perfumed, satiny 2007 Christine's Vineyard Pinot Noir ($36).

Anyone could appreciate the sweet floral and papaya charms of the 2007 Felta Creek Solstice ($28), served cold on a hot day. But in an unexpected hitch in the usual arc of taste, the deeper we got into the reds—like the 2006 Felta Creek Syrah ($28) with cracked pepper, twigs, plum-grape black fruit and brisk finish—the broader his approving smile. "Now this I like!" Go figure. Maybe it was just that we got deeper into the wines generally.

Meanwhile, I liked the 2006 Fumé Blanc ($18), which is barrel-fermented yet retains sizzling acidity and grapefruit zest. Speaking of sizzling, De La Montanya's PinUp series of labels sports black-and-white photos of some of their saucier wine club members in fishnet stockings and cocktail dresses; toasting, posing, rolling over barrels, even getting tangled in pallet-wrap. It's a cheeky sideline for a winery that's partly in it for kicks and giggles. Real estate and vineyard developer Dennis De La Montanya couldn't have been more efficaciously positioned when he founded the winery in 2003. After all, three of the most important fundamentals in winegrowing are location, location and location. The winery turns out 30 small lots of diverse varietals in an attractive little building tucked under Westside Road, affectionately called "the barn."

Taking a look around the tasting room, crowers and crooners round out the collection of curios. Roosters perch around and above the bar, and rockers Journey and Eddie Money appear on limited-edition bottles. And what did the brother-in-law come away with? The biggest Zin in the house. Alas, he was only on a gifting mission for his father, who unwittingly delivers this enthusiastic review: De La Montanya—red—is pretty much the only wine he drinks.

De La Montanya Vineyards and Winery, 999 Foreman Lane, Healdsburg. Monday–Friday, 11am–5pm. Tasting fee $5. 707.433.3711.


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