By James Knight
After parking the car at the end of a lane that dips and winds around saffron-hued hills, my friends immediately began snapping pictures—this rustic little bodega is anything if not picturesque. The tree line was still banded with morning's mist, the gnarled vines' leaves glowed like New England maples and the decrepit water tower leaned precipitously above us on Owl Ridge.
The hospitality team greeted us in front of the garden-cottage tasting room; on cue, winery dogs Maddie and Lucia had stationed themselves in the middle of the drive, tails lazily flogging. There's something about big, goofy dogs that inspires a warm first impression, the way that no wine brand manager could hope to match.
Frick wines are not widely distributed, but I never fail to notice the label wherever they are sold. "Frick," the bold white script announces emphatically, with a splash of color to dot the i. Frick is Bill Frick—owner, winemaker, sales manager and vineyard worker. It's an all-in-one proprietor winery of the kind that writer Idwal Jones idealized in his mid-20th century chronicles of the California wine road. Frick, however, has only been at it for the last 32 years.
Inside, the tasting room manager—Bill Frick—was still warming up with a mix of tunes he calls KFRK. Perhaps preferring that the wines to speak to us first, he didn't offer up much while we perused the list. It's no surprise that Frick is a member of the Rhône Rangers' new North Coast chapter. The trade group promotes Rhône-style wines like Syrah and Viognier, and cuvées that typically contain Grenache, Mourvèdre and others with great potential for making exciting California wines.
Frick's 2006 Estate Counoise ($26) is one of only several local examples of this grape, important only to France's Châteauneuf-du-Pape appellation. It's pleasantly bright, light-bodied with strawberry conserve and a light touch of smoky wood. The 2006 "C3" North Coast Red Wine ($21) is a lively, spicy blend of Carignane, Cinsaut and Counoise—a good foil for coconut curry tofu, Frick says. The 2003 Estate Syrah ($22) is redolent of liqueur of dark bramble berries, with a mouthful of earthy chocolate on the serious, chewy finish.
Besides wine, the tasting room contains more stories than saleables: awards, memorabilia and artwork intimately related to Frick's winery. The porcelain souvenirs from the old Italian Swiss Colony winery, for instance; it was during a family visit there that the eight-year-old future winemaker became inspired. As yet, there is no ribbon given for handmade, old-fashioned authenticity—crowing always seems to take a little of the sap out it—or it would surely be found on these walls.
Frick Winery, 23072 Walling Road, Geyserville. Open Saturday–Sunday, noon–4:30pm. Tasting complimentary with purchase. 707.857.1980. For info on the Rhône Rangers, go to [ http://www.rhonerangers.org/ ]www.rhonerangers.org.
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