During the heat of summer, gusts and gales from Petaluma often sweep over the Carneros region in Sonoma. As they encounter warm surface temperatures on steeper slopes and drift upward, they transform into anabatic winds, a gift from Mother Nature that usually occurs on clear sunny days. The name anabatic stems from the Greek word anabatos, which means moving upward. These anabatic winds are the inspiration and magic behind Anaba Wines. Or, as proprietor John Sweazey puts it, “Wines kissed by the wind.”
“The wind cools the grapes and allows them to develop a little further, which slows down maturation, giving the fruit a greater concentration of flavor and less sugar,” adds general manager John Michael Sweazey. A relatively new Sonoma winery that focuses on Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and RhÔne varietals, Anaba is a hidden gem in the Carneros region, which is already receiving critical acclaim for its classic, elegant wines.
The story behind Anaba Wines begins during the ‘60s when John, originally from Chicago, attended Stanford University and took getaway trips to Napa Valley. Later, in his early 20s, he withdrew his savings and spent nine months traveling Europe in a Volkswagon camper, learning about wine culture. Once he returned to San Francisco, he continued his study of wine production, but put his dream of becoming a vintner on hold. Thirty years later, he purchased a 16-acre plot of land just as his youngest son, John Michael, set off to college. Like his father, John Michael withdrew his savings to take a trip to the Old World, traveling with his future wife, Anna Ofstein, in a Fiat 500. Together, they tasted wines in as many regions as possible. Falling in love with the winemaking process and culture, John Michael returned home and asked to join the family winery. In 2018, the father-son team broke ground on a new production facility and hospitality center.
Located on Bonneau Road, the winery offers an Old World-New World experience. The wines are inspired by those of the French growing region that captivated John and John Michael during their travels, and the experience is decidedly New World at the Vintner’s House, which serves as an extension of the Sweazey family home in a modern setting where guests can sink into the experience and relax in a comfortable chairs fireside, or outdoors. And for guests who want to linger at the estate and make it more of a wine-tasting excursion, box lunches are available and there’s also a bocce ball court. A paddle tennis court will open this spring.
Though a classic tasting experience is available at the counter, the winery mostly features seated tastings. We begin with a 2018 Rosé of Grenache from Sonoma Valley, which is made in the same tradition as the wines in the South of France and received 91 points from Wine Enthusiast. Delicate, yet lush, it offers an inviting floral bouquet with delicious fresh flavors of wild strawberry, grapefruit and peach.
Next, we try a splash of the 2018 Grenache Blanc from Sonoma Valley. Grenache Blanc is a variety of white wine grape, related to the red grape Grenache, mostly found in RhÔne wine blends in Southern France. “It’s a little known spicy white,” says John, taking a sip. “A stand alone wine that sells quickly.” The Anaba take on this RhÔne-styled wine, is dry and crisp with bright citrus notes and honey tones that give it a lush mouthfeel.
The 2016 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay is a vineyard blend that’s distinctive with notes of citrus, lemon cream and brioche, which gives it a slightly lower acidity than most Chardonnays and just a touch of oak on the finish.
The winemaking team, Ross Cobb and Katy Wilson, joined Anaba during the 2014 harvest, collaborating on winemaking and viticulture. Anaba sources grapes from its own estate as well as from other local vineyards. Rootstocks and grape clones are carefully selected based on each vineyard’s soil to ensure that each variety is suited to its environment. The vineyards are handpicked and Cobb and Wilson are hands-on winemakers, paying careful attention to the growers they work with and the vineyards where they source fruit.
We move to the reds next, tasting the 2016 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir. For those who love Pinot Noir, this is made in the classic Sonoma style. A silky smooth wine with layered aromas of dark berry, stone fruit and cherry, this is an exceptional Pinot Noir.
And finally, we finish with the 2015 Sonoma Valley Turbine Red, a RhÔne -style blend, sourced from the Landa Vineyard, located at the foothills of the Mayacamas. A unique wine with flavors of dark fruit, dried herbs and mulled spices, it’s elegant and silky with structured tannins.
Next time you’re looking for a unique experience in the windy heart of the Carneros region, book a reservation at Anaba Wines and experience the elegant, classic wines kissed by the wind.
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