Olivet Road, our nearest neighbor to the east of our own Laguna Road, is a long road with long views over vineyards that have been around for decades and wineries that are family owned. More often than not, the winemaker will be pouring for you while his dog takes a nap at your feet. Olivet Road is the epitome of welcoming yet unpretentious Russian River Valley. On Saturday, April 12, nine wineries will celebrate their road with the Taste of Olivet. Wine enthusiasts will get a chance to enjoy award-winning wines, food pairings, entertainment and that awesome, laid-back friendliness that only Olivet Road can offer.
If you’re traveling along Olivet from Guerneville Road to River Road (which is how we do it), and ending up in Santa Rosa for the Inspiration Vineyards tasting room and a well-deserved long dinner, here’s what you’ll find:
De Loach – You’ll start with the grande dame of Olivet Road, De Loach Vineyard, which Wine and Spirits named a top 100 winery in 2012 for the twelfth time in the winery’s history. The De Loach’s were instrumental in putting the Russian River Valley AVA on the map, and in 2003 the winery was purchased by Boisset Family Estates. De Loach is known for its organic and biodynamically produced Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Zinfandel, and Taste of Olivet participants will receive a logo glass and wine discounts.
Sunce Winery and Vineyard – Our first experience with Sunce, which is Croatian for sun, was on the Fourth of July, when we played a couple of games of bocce on their court while eating the free hotdogs they offered with a tasting. What fun! You can try the Zora’s Estate Pinot Noir made from the vineyards you are looking at or other single-vineyard varietals made from the Russian River Valley, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma Valley and Clear Lake AVAs.
Inman Family Wines – Kathleen Inman – winemaker, grapegrower, salesperson, accountant and forklift operator – will almost certainly be in their charming, barn-like tasting room Saturday to pour your wine. Inman is known for her organically grown Russian River Valley Pinot Noirs, and the Chicago Tribune named her 2009 Olivet Grange Vineyard Pinot Noir one of the best wines of 2013.
Battaglini Wines – You’ll not regret the right turn you’ll take to get to Battaglini Wines on Piner Road, where winemaker Joe Battaglini celebrates the heritage of the area by making old vine zinfandel from vines planted in 1885. Joe or a family member will be pouring for you in their small yet inviting tasting room, giving a nod to their Italian roots (Joe moved from his native Italy in 1956) by serving pizza and foccacia to Taste of Olivet participants.
Hook & Ladder Vineyards and Winery – What Cecil De Loach began at De Loach he continued at Hook & Ladder, where he focuses on making wines from the incredible cool-climate grapes of their Russian River Valley vineyards. The winery will have lots of fun extras for Taste of Olivet: a photo booth, chocolate and wine pairings from Truffle Gateau and the DJ offerings of Mike “Civilian Sound” Fraher.
Harvest Moon Estate and Winery – The easygoing nature of Harvest Moon Estate’s tasting room is such a pleasure that sometimes we’ll stop in just to chat with owner and winemaker Randy Pitts, whose family has been growing grapes in the Russian River Valley since 1976. Harvest Moon’s focus is Zinfandel, but they also produce popular sweet wines, like an Ice-Style Gewürztraminer and a Late Harvest Zin.
Tara Bella Winery – Tara Bella makes 100 percent estate-grown, single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, aged in French oak for 22 months. They only make one wine per year, only 700 cases, and with 95 percent sold through their wine club, the Taste of Olivet gives participants a special opportunity to try a coveted wine. They will be serving meatballs to pair with their 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon and offering barrel tastings of their 2012. Their house band “Dougie Mac,” will be playing fun classics.
Gamba Vineyards and Winery – The Gambas had six generations of winegrape growing under their belts before Agostino Gamba Jr., and his wife Paulette begin producing old vine Zinfandel under their own label in 1999. For Saturday’s event, they will be serving Old Vine Zin and Petite Syrah with chocolate pairings, and they will be spinning vintage vinyl of classic jazz favorites.
Inspiration Vineyards and Winery – You’ll head east into Santa Rosa to try Inspiration Vineyards at their tasting room located in the Pinecreek Business Park. Inspiration produces a variety of wines from Russian River Valley, Dry Creek Valley and Sonoma County.