4353 Westside Road
Healdsburg, Calif. 95448
Hours: 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily
Tasting Fees: $20-$35 per person
Wines Offered: 2017 Rosé of Pinot Noir, 2016 Chardonnay, 2016 Russian River Pinot Noir, 2015 Petit Sirah, 2017 “Stellina” Late Harvest Muscat
Reservations: Required for private tastings. Walk-in’s welcome.
Pets: Dogs on leash, outside.
Did You Know? Bacigalupi Vineyards supplied 40 percent of the fruit from their Russian River Valley vineyards to Chateau Montelena’s winning 1973 Napa Valley Chardonnay in the Paris Wine Tasting of 1976, also known as the Judgment of Paris.
In the northern corner of the Russian River Valley lies a petit tasting room, tucked between acres of vineyards and old oak trees. Quaint and serene, Bacigalupi [Bah-ChEE-ga-Loop-EE] Vineyards on Westside Road is old school Healdsburg.
In 1956, Helen and Charles Bacigalupi purchased 121 acres of land in Healdsburg. At the time, he was a dentist and she was a pharmacist. First, they planted vineyards, then, they began making wine from 1979 to 1986 in a partnership with Belvedere Winery.
Their son, John Bacigalupi, married his wife, Pam, daughter of Paul Heck and former vice president of Korbel Champagne Cellars. They had twin daughters, Katey and Nicole Bacigalupi, third generation at the vineyard and head of sales and marketing. They launched the tasting room in 2011, working with winemaker Ashley Herzberg who helps produce 11 different wines and more than 2,500 cases. The winery also supplies grapes to 25 different local wineries and only gives designation approval (the family has to give written approval to any winery that wants to use the Bacigalupi Vineyard designation on their label) to so many.
At 93 years old, Helen lives on property and attends vineyard events and also participates in occasional leaf trimming at the vineyard. Her husband, Charles, passed away in 2013.
On this hot afternoon in the valley, the sisters along with Ace, the white French bulldog and charming greeter, welcome guests to the outdoor patio, shaded and set for a comfortable tasting.
I begin with the 2017 Rosé of Pinot Noir. Made Saignée style, a French term meaning "to bleed," the Pinot goes to the tank, macerates for 10 hours and is then drained just enough to decrease the juice and increase the concentration of the skin. The result is a full bodied, richer style of Pinot.
“People go crazy over it,” says Nicole. Almost sold out, this rosé of Pinot Noir pairs well with just about any food, and is a perfect accompaniment for a Thanksgiving turkey dinner with cranberries.
Nicole pours a splash of the 2016 Chardonnay. “This is the wine that molds our history,” she says, and what makes it even more special, it’s made from grapes grafted from the vines sourced from the winning 1973 Chardonnay at the Judgment of Paris. Bacigalupi only grafts from their vineyards. “It’s a modern-style California Chardonnay with oak, but hands off in the production end,” says Bacigalupi. The process uses native fermentation in oak, and the result is an unfiltered, slightly cloudy wine with a creamy mouth feel and notes of fruit from beginning to end. “If you use the right balance, you get the oak, which lifts the fruit to the front of your palate,” she explains.
Next, I taste the 2016 Pinot Noir, representative of the middle reach, sub-appellation northern portion of the Russian River Valley. A blend of two estate vineyards, the Goddard and Frost Ranch, on opposite ends of the property, it’s opulent with a layered texture and fruit characteristics. “We make small amounts of Pinot Noir, and they go fast,” says Bacigalupi.
One unique treasure the winery offers its 2015 Petit Sirah. “Since we’re in the northern end of the valley, we’re warm enough for Zinfandel and Petit Sirah,” she says. A dark purple hue and a fragrance of stone fruit and fresh herbs, it’s feminine and approachable. Mild acidity and lightweight on the palate, this wine is an absolute treat.
To finish, the sisters pour a splash of 2017 Stellina, which means little star in Italian and named in honor of Nicole’s 5-year-old daughter, Stella. A Muscat, this dessert wine is floral, pungent and fruit driven. Only two rows of Muscat are planted on property, producing one bin, so be sure to get it before it sells out.
The sisters also make a dessert wine called Diavoletti, meaning little devils, due to release this fall, in honor of their three young sons. “We can have more fun with labels on our sweet wines,” the sisters say, displaying the pointed devils tail in gold that makes up the label.
A hidden gem in Healdsburg, Bacigalupi is a rare find and an iconic family winery. Visit this winery next time you’re on Westside Road.