2859 Dry Creek Road
Healdsburg, Calif. 95448
Hours: 10 a.m. 5 p.m.
Tasting Fee: Wine Library Tasting $50
(includes cheese and charcuterie)
Wines Offered: 2017 Mauritson Sauvignon Blanc, Dry Creek Valley; 2015 Mauritson Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley; 2016 Rockpile Zinfandel, Jack’s Cabin Vineyard; 2016 Rockpile Zinfandel, Rockpile Ridge Vineyard; and 2015 Rockpile Cabernet Sauvignon
Reservations: Required for groups of 6 or more
Pets: Well-behaved pets welcome
Did You Know? Born and raised in Dry Creek Valley, Clay Mauritson, a sixth generation proprietor, was destined for the wine business. But in college, Mauritson played outside linebacker for the University of Oregon Ducks in the 1995 Rose Bowl and the 1996 Cotton Bowl. He graduated in 1997, and in 1998 produced his first bottling of Dry Creek Zinfandel under the Mauritson label, and has been passionate about Zinfandels ever since.
Founded in 1868, the roots run deep for Mauritson Wines, a sixth generation family business in Dry Creek Valley. The Mauritson family story began 150 years ago when S.P. Hallengren, known for his enterprising spirit, staked claim to a parcel of land and planted vines. Later, he expanded the family acreage piece and parcel by working the land of other area homesteaders, eventually paying them $1 an acre.
Family records indicate Hallengren began producing wine in 1884, and shipped every ounce of wine that year to Sweden, his homeland. Why he exported that first vintage is still a mystery. “I suspect it had more to do with pride,” says proprietor Clay Mauritson. “He wanted to return to his homeland as a successful businessman. Records indicate he only exported once, so apparently it wasn’t successful or profitable.”
Over the years, the family’s Rockpile homestead and ranch grew to 4,000 acres, but the family experienced its setbacks along the way—Prohibition and then the loss of land in the 1960s. The Army Corps of Engineers acquired most of the family’s property to develop Lake Sonoma, except for 700 ridgetop acres, forcing the family to sell at a significant loss. “We had difficult times,” says Mauritson. He credits the longevity of the business to the women of the family. “The stewardship of women kept us focused and financially viable,” he says. “We’re proud of our family heritage. Pearl, was my great grandmother, and her philosophy was always onward and upward.”
Today, Mauritson runs the family business, along with his four siblings. “Everyone is involved, and we love what we do. We’re passionate about growing [grapes] and making wine.” The winery has a rustic, contemporary feel. There’s a picnic area on the side of the winery with bright red umbrellas, which offer a welcoming splash of color and shade, but family photos on display in the tasting room serve as a reminder of just how far the family business has come over the years.
Seated tastings take place in the wine library where guests sample Mauritson Wines. We begin with a splash of 2017 Sauvignon Blanc from Dry Creek Valley. Bright, fresh and beautifully fragrant, this is a classic Sauvignon Blanc with nuances of citrus, yellow peach and white magnolia.
Next, we move to the reds. Dry Creek Valley is known for producing world-class Zinfandels, and it’s a varietal Mauritson is especially passionate about. “I love the challenge of Zinfandel—it’s big berried with a thin skin, ripens unevenly and is prone to rot,” says Mauritson, who also serves as winemaker. The challenge of producing great Zinfandel appeals to Mauritson’s competitive nature. “I’m a Zin fanatic.”
We begin with the 2015 Mauritson Zinfandel from Dry Creek Valley. “This isn’t 100 percent estate grown; my dad [Thom] is proud of the relationships we’ve forged with other growers.” This wine has luscious dark berry aromas and flavors with notes of vanilla. “A great wine to pair with food,” he adds. “There are tertiary herb notes on the palate and an iron composition, which gives it a rustic nature.”
The 2016 Rockpile Zinfandel is from a parcel of land that the family still refers to as Jack’s Cabin Vineyard, though the cabin is no longer there. This is a single-block wine, where the fruit is still farmed by hand.
Next, we try the 2016 Rockpile Zinfandel from Rockpile Ridge Vineyard. This wine has flavors of dark fruit and ripe raspberry, and is savory on the palate. “A perfect wine for grilled meet or Kansas-style barbecue,” says Mauritson. And finally, we finish with a 2015 Rockpile Cabernet Sauvignon. With notes of concentrated ripe black fruit and a toasted crisp, this is a decadent and distinct wine, which pairs well with lamb or ribeye and is perfect for holiday celebrations.
As the Mauritson family celebrates 150 years in the industry, it’s business as usual this harvest season as they continue the family tradition of sustainable farming practices. “When we look at the business, we’re always asking ourselves if we’re making the right decisions for the next generation.” Mauritson leans back in his chair and smiles. “Being in business for 150 years, that’s the epitome of sustainability.” In the meantime, this new generation of Mauritsons is committed to producing its elegant, distinctive wines from the valley. “Our job is to capture the place in the bottle.”
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