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Sbragia Family Vineyards

Author: Alexandra Russell
December, 2014 Issue

Sbragia Family Vineyards
9990 Dry Creek Road
Geyserville, CA 95441
Hours: 10:30 a.m.-5 p.m. daily
Tasting fees: $15-$25
Wines currently offered: Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Merlot, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel Rosé and six wine club exclusives
Appointment necessary: For a seated terrace tasting or “The Ark” reserve Cabernet tasting. Walk-ins welcome for a standard tasting room experience.
Picnics: Yes
Pets: Dog friendly
 
Sbragia family patriarch, Giulio Sbragia, arrived in Healdsburg from Tuscany in 1904, and he and his descendants have been farming in Dry Creek Valley for more than 100 years. “In the 1930s, he tried to start a winery, but he wasn’t successful,” says Ed Sbragia, Giulio’s grandson and founder (with his own son, Adam) of Sbragia Family Vineyards. “He was a farmer for the rest of his life.
 
“When I was growing up, [this area] was all prunes,” he remembers. “I planted our first vineyard in 1966, when I was a senior in high school. A few friends and I did it over spring break. It was reallyhard, physical work. I made sure to go to college after that.”
 
After earning degrees in chemistry and oenology from UC Davis and Fresno State, Ed joined Beringer Vineyards in Napa, where he remained as winemaster for 35 years, earning top accolades for his Chardonnays and Cabernet Sauvignons. “This is my retirement,” he laughs. “I could have walked away. But I made a promise to my father [Gino] and my grandfather that I would put our family name on a wine label.”
 
In 2001, the promise was fulfilled when Ed and Adam harvested fruit for their first Sbragia Family Vineyards vintage. In addition to the family’s 50 acres in Dry Creek Valley, which had been gradually transitioned to winegrapes over the years, they now source from prime vineyards in Napa and Sonoma counties, owned by growers whom Ed has known for years through his days at Beringer.
 
The resulting wines are distinct, (mostly) single-vineyard snapshots. Tasted side-by-side, multiple Chardonnays, Zinfandels or Cabs, for example, each have a unique profile despite their common varietal. Standouts included the 2009 Gamble Ranch Chardonnay (smoky and toasty with a hint of honey; this wine is aged two years in new French oak barrels), 2012 La Promessa Zinfandel (a signature Zin with spice and ripe fruit; the vineyard takes its name from the promise Ed Sbragia made to his father and grandfather) and 2012 Home Ranch Merlot (which is from the estate vineyard Ed and Gino planted at the family home in the 1960s and blended with a small amount of Cabernet Franc for a rich mouthfeel and a long, smooth finish).
 
Sbragia wines are available in limited national retail locations and restaurant wine lists, as well as online and through its 1,800-member wine club. Winemaker Adam has also begun developing a “black label” series of wines exclusively for club members; so far, these include a Zinfandel Rosé, Bordeaux blend, Petite Sirah and a Sienadale dessert wine, with more to come.
 
A visit to the winery, at the far western end of Dry Creek Road, is another way to enjoy Sbragia’s amazing wines. Located up a short, steep driveway, the window-enclosed tasting room and large, surrounding terrace provide sweeping views overlooking all of Dry Creek Valley. Visitors can choose among three tasting options. Walk-ins are welcome for a standard tasting that includes five wines at the tasting bar; offerings change seasonally.
 
Weather permitting, seated terrace tastings are also available. Sit outside, enjoy breathtaking views of Dry Creek Valley and have the tasting experience brought tableside; an artisan cheese plate that serves two can be added. Or book some time in The Ark, an exclusive salon (named for the family’s now-closed, Healdsburg riverfront restaurant), for a private tasting flight of single-vineyard Cabernet Sauvignons from Dry Creek, Sonoma and Napa valleys. Reservations are required for these two options, though fees are waived for wine club members.
 
Guests can bring their own food or purchase deli items at the tasting room, and friendly dogs are welcome. Sbragia is also available for private events including weddings on the terrace or in the vineyards—check the website for details.
 

Did You Know?

Ed Sbragia is the only winemaker to earn Wine Spectator’s Wine of the Year honor for both a red and a white wine (1986 Beringer Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and 1994 Beringer Private Reserve Chardonnay).

 

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