Friday, August 03, 2007

Wine Shopping in Healdsburg: The Wine Shop

If you are traveling in the Sonoma wine country and are making a stop in the charming town of Healdsburg, make sure to leave some time to visit The Wine Shop. When I stopped in recently, owner Mark Friedrich was there and it was one of the most enjoyable wine shopping trips that I've had in some time.

The Wine Shop is a wine shop lets you taste before you buy, just like Hillaire Belloc advised in 1935. There is a small tasting bar, and Mark had an array of about a dozen wines up on the bar. Four pours were $10, and you could take your pick from among the wines on offer. I really liked having the opportunity to mix and match the wines I wanted to taste, and decided to focus on local bottlings, along with a wine I've been wanting to try.

Here are the wines I chose:

2006 Leo Steen Chenin Blanc Saini Farms ($17) A dry, dry wine with crisp acidity, loads of citrus, and a bracing finish. Good QPR.

2006 Saxon Brown Semillon Cricket Creek ($20). Melon and peach aromas and flavors with citrus notes make for an excellent dry semillon that is far less flabby and has more focus than many domestic bottlings of this varietal. Excellent QPR.

2005 Cep Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast ($29). Extraordinary aromas of blackberry, chocolate and a tinge of coconut are the leading edge of this rich, blackberry-flavored wine. Dusty tannins are still fairly evident, so it may be even better in 6 months time. I liked this wine a lot, but it won't be to everyone's taste. Very Good QPR.

2004 Niepoort Douro Vertente ($29). Aromas and flavors of bitter almond with smooth red fruits, lots of structure from a good backbone of acidity. Will get even better with age, but it is drinking very well now. Very Good QPR.

After tasting I had a browse around the store, which was full to the brim of great Sonoma County bottlings that you just aren't going to see everywhere. They come from small production wineries, and are picked with real care. There was a great selection of syrah, pinot noir, and zinfandel, which is understandable given the local growing trends, but the shop also has a wide selection of high-end cabernet and chardonnay, too. The imported wine selection is small, but a store that stocks Portuguese table wine is doing just fine in my books! They also have some wine accessories like Wine-Away (in the handy pocket size, perfect for traveling in the wine country), cans of inert gas, and corkscrews.

The Wine Shop is located on Healdsburg Avenue just as you reach the square, which makes it a perfect spot to stop off after having lunch or doing a bit of shopping. The store ships wine to states that allow it, so you won't have to schlep your wine on the plane. You will enjoy talking to Mark as I did, or his associate Pedro Rusk. Sitting at their wine bar, listening to the conversations as folks chose their wines, and learning about Sonoma County wine was a real pleasure. I know I'll be back there soon.


Orion Slayer said...

This sounds like a cool wine shop. It's great that you can choose the wines you want to sample, but how does the owner make a profit operating this way. Are there only certain bottles you can choose from?

I really like Portuguese wines. I looked up the Nieopport wine at their website and read that the blend consists of Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca, Tinta Amarela, Touriga Nacional and others. Do you know if these are some of the grapes that go into Port?

I'll have to visit the shop and try this wine for myself!

Anonymous said...

glad you made it there. I have always enjoyed it and they always seem to have some gems that aren't available anywhere else, like secret second labels or super-small producers.

Dr. Debs said...

Hi, Orion Slayer. Oh yeah, there are about a dozen bottles to taste from so it's only a selection of what he has on offer. I had no idea what grapes were in that wine, so thanks for the link. Are you going to start blogging yourself soon? This link action makes me hopeful that you are!

And Jill, thanks for the tip. Healdsburg is kinda overwhelming for a first-timer, but the Wine Shop was tops on my list after your rec. And yes, the secret second labels thing was FUN! And full credit to me: I kept them secret, too.

Anonymous said...

do they still have the maranet pinot noir?

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your comment on my blog. It was most helpful as I begin to learn more about Sonoma, as is this post. I am hoping to make a trip out there in the next year. Great blog!

Dr. Debs said...

Hey, Jill. I was in pursuit of an unoaked chardonnay so I didn't pay huge attention to the pinot selection. I don't remember seeing the Maranet. Chris, welcome. You'll enjoy the Healdsburg store if you have a chance to drop by. Have fun learning about Sonoma County wines. There are so many AVA differences in microclimate. It's like a whole country inside a single county.

Andrew said...

one day i WILL make it across the pond to explore all these wines we never, ever, get over here.

Unknown said...

Hey, I'm going to be in Healdsburg this Thursday. I'll definitely check out the shop. Thanks for the tip.

Gabriella Opaz said...

Great post Dr Debs! It sounds like a great wine shop with fun wine to sample. How was there Portuguese wine selection? Were there any Portuguese wines in particular that looked interesting to you? Catavino's Virtual Tasting this month is all about Portuguese wines and we would really love your input as to what Portuguese wines are available to you, and of those that are, which you liked! I look forward to hearing more about your discoveries.

Dr. Debs said...

Andrew, you are in for a treat. California wines are much better over here than they are over there. And have fun, d2, in Healdsburg. Let me know how you like the store. Gabriella, the Portuguese wine selection was very small, but I got that great bottle, which is a nice introduction to wines other than port for me.