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Madrone Vineyards Estate

Author: Alexandra Russell
July, 2015 Issue

Madrone Vineyards Estate
777 Madrone Road
Glen Ellen, CA 95442
(707) 939-4500
Hours: Open daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Tasting fees: $15 to $50, depending on experience
Wines offered: Madrone Vineyards Estate old vine Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Barbera, Sangiovese, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and rosé; Stewart Family Reserve Chardonnay, Barbera, Petite Sirah, old vine Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon; and Valley of the Moon Pinot Blanc and Blend ’41
Reservations: Recommended for large groups and some tasting/tour experiences
Picnics: No
Pets: No
 
Did you know: Madrone Vineyards Estate, which recently returned to its original name, is the longest-operating winery in Glen Ellen (since 1863).
 
Known for the last 70 years as Valley of the Moon Winery, the newly rebranded Madrone Vineyards Estate is embracing its historic past while looking forward with a new, small-lot winery added to the existing barrel cellar and new guest experiences. The turnaround started with the 2012 purchase of the property by the Stewart family, which has a three-generation wine legacy that includes more than 50 years farming vineyards and crafting fine wines; holdings include Quail’s Gate in Kelowna, British Columbia, but this is its first North Bay property.
 
Both rustic and modern, the remodeled tasting room is bright and open, with multiple seating sections, a small retail area and a long concrete bar. Using locally salvaged wood and metal elements alongside the uncut fieldstone walls of the historic barrel cellar (built in 1887), designer Richard Von Saal intended to “trace the history of this winery through all the eras it’s experienced.” Decorative elements include historic photographs, a collection of wine jugs and bottles bearing various labels and names the winery has used over the years, slabs of estate oak used as table bases, and a “family tree” that traces the property’s many iterations.
 
A large, umbrella-shaded patio invites lingering, while a nearby bocce ball court borders Sonoma Creek and offers just the right amount of “activity” (because, really, any game you can play with a wine glass in your hand can’t technically be called a sport—can it?).
 
Tasting options range from a traditional sampling of five small-lot estate wines to in-depth, historical estate tours (walking or via golf cart). Wine and food programs, available daily, include an artisan cheese pairing (featuring the delectable creations of local cheese maker Laura Chenel), a “Savor the Senses” experience (discover how wine changes when paired with bitter, sweet, salty and sour accompaniments), and Sonoma Small Bites, which is what we chose.
 
Estate Chef Peter Roodhouse partners with local chefs to create seasonal dishes inspired by Madrone Vineyards Estate wines and the bounty of the North Bay. We started with a 2014 Sauvignon Blanc paired with spring pea soup with ricotta gnudi and garden sorrel (Chef Ari Weiswasser, Glen Ellen Star). The soup was dreamy, creamy and super fresh, bringing out the wine’s bright, crisp elements. Together, it was like a taste of spring.
 
A 2014 Chardonnay was perfectly complimented by a white corn sformato (Chef Catherine Venturini, Olive & Vine). Winemaker David Marchesi ferments the Chardonnay in stainless to prevent it from becoming over-oaked. Post fermentation, a small percentage of the wine is then put into barrel before blending. The result is lush but with less California-style oak and butter. Similar to a soufflé but not as airy, the sweet, buttery sformato matched the wine’s expected flavor profile without overemphasizing it, letting fresh fruit and floral notes shine through.
 
Restaurateur Sondra Bernstein (the girl & the fig, fig café) created lamb, pork and ricotta meatballs with roasted tomato sauce to accompany a 2010 Barbera. Initially meant to pair with a Sangiovese, says Roodhouse, “The chefs work collaboratively with our winemaker to find the best match for each dish. In this case, it was all about the sauce. We realized the Barbera was a better choice.” Smooth, silky tannins, dark fruit, chocolate and leather make this Italian varietal a great match. Finally, Aventine Chef Adolfo Veronese’s arancini di riso brought out the earthy, spicy depth of the 2012 old vine Zinfandel.
 
Marchesi, who brings international experience to his role at Madrone, is responsible for all winemaking, cellar and vineyard operations. He’s passionate about “capturing what it tastes like in the field,” and views each vineyard block as a puzzle piece to be fitted together to form a complete picture. To this end, everything is fermented in small lots, then blended.
 
The winery and estate vineyards (60 acres) have recently been certified sustainable. Clearly, choices are being made in all aspects of the operation to ensure this heritage Sonoma Valley winery remains sustainable for generations to come.

 

 

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