With the many so-called "destinations" in California's Wine Country, it's easy for visitors to miss the forest for the trees. Traveling from one big-name spot to another, the itinerant wine taster regularly passes blissfully by unearthed gems that could make them richer for the experience.
One such gem is Geyserville, a small, unassumingly quiet town settled on the banks of the Russian River and shoehorned between the Dry Creek and Alexander valleys. That it happens to exist in one of the great American appellations (Alexander Valley) is a bonus not just for the winemakers who populate the area, but also for the wine aficionado who prefers a more relaxed pace with his world-class tasting experience.
Geyserville is still a small town, the kind of place that would make Andy Griffith feel right at home. But it is emerging as well, and with the recent acquisition and transformation of a local winery by Francis Ford Coppola (Rosso & Bianco, and the Francis Coppola Winery, formerly Chateau Souverain), the klieg lights on the town will only brighten. Yet a homespun appeal still prevails. And the wineries that flank Hwy 128 in the heart of the appellation continue to welcome guests with a familiar embrace and a selection of wines that rivals the best from anywhere.
Stop 1: Geyser Peak Winery
Why not begin a North-to-South trip through Geyserville than at a namesake winery that has beginnings dating to the 1880s. Known for its increasingly respected and always approachable wines--including a popular Sauvignon Blanc--Geyser Peak offers a beautiful, friendly tasting facility whose spacious bar is flanked by a selection of cookbooks and picnic supplies. Additionally, the Reserve Tasting Room offers a more personalized experience, with café-style private service. Peruse the barrel cellar and lounge on the patio to complete the experience.
Tasting Room: 22281 Chianti Road, Geyserville, Open daily 10am-5pm.
Tasting Fee: No charge for tastings in main room; reserve room tastings $7-$10.
Stop 2 Meeker Vineyards
From Chianti, get over to 128/Geyserville Rd., the main drag through Geyserville, where the Meeker Vineyards is located in directly in town. Built into an old bank, complete with teller windows and a counter that acts as the tasting area, Meeker is a scaled-down experience designed to be intimate and enlightening. Though they do not grow their own grapes, they make impressive work with the grapes they puchase, producing exceptional small-lot zinfandels and cabernets the likes of which have made their wine club quite popular. The casual, friendly tasting room is always playing great music and greeting guests with a knowing smile.
Tasting Room: 21035 Geyserville Ave (Hwy 128), Geyserville, Open daily 10:30am-6 pm, Mon-Sat, noon-5 Sun
Tasting Fee: $5
Stop 3 Trentadue Winery
Further south along Geyserville Road, the Trentadue Winery is an extremely popular spot for special occasions and weddings. It's not uncommon, especially during summer months, to encounter a grand affair in progress when you happen to stop by. The expansive grounds, with picnic areas and even conference facilities can handily accommodate it all. The winery produces some 35,000 cases a year, including reds, whites, and port. The main tasting room offers free tastings every day of the week ($5 for ports). The Reserve room is available for groups as large as 20 and offers tastings of six varietals in sit-down style ($20/person). For a more immersive experience, make a reservation for a tractor-pulled gondola tour through the vineyards and grounds ($5).
Tasting room: 19170 Geyserville Ave., Geyserville, Open daily 10am-5pm
Tasting Fee: Complimentary