It’s no secret that the wine industry has not escaped the financial distress brought on by the Covid-19 virus. Wineries have had to shut their doors to visitors, which especially hurts the small, family wineries who rely heavily on exposure and sales to visitors as their lifeblood. Right now, it is more critical than ever to support these smaller independent producers who every year put the livelihoods of their families on the line to hand-craft exceptional wines and deliver intimate home-spun service. The passion and sweat of these producers is what Napa and Sonoma were built on. Although their visitor rooms are closed, most are still able to ship to most states in the country.
And, let’s face it, with families in such close quarters, we all need to make sure our wine supply is sufficient.
Below are six California wine country family wineries that I enthusiastically and wholeheartedly encourage you order wines directly from. They all share three important things in common: fantastic families making outstanding wine at affordable prices. And all are shipping right now. So get to their websites and treat yourselves to a delivery of love in a bottle. Trust me. You won’t regret it.
Matthiasson Winery: Steve and Jill Matthiasson are two of the most creative and inspirational winemakers and owners in Napa. The quality of their wines is undisputed. Steve was recently name the winemaker of the year by both the San Francisco Chronicle and Food + Wine magazine, and he was a James Beard finalist in both 2018 and 2019. Every one of Steve’s wines are amazing. There isn’t a bad bottle in the bunch. In addition to the wonderful gift packs, four good options are the refreshing Rosé, the White Wine (an interesting blend that is Steve’s vision of the archetypal white wine), the rich Michael Mara Vineyard Chardonnay, and the ripe and delicious single vineyard Dead Fred Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. https://www.matthiasson.com/wines
Bacigalupi Vineyard: The Bacigalupi family has been growing grapes in Russian River since 1956 and are an integral part of the history of California wine country, including the first documented planting of Pinot Noir in the Russian River Valley. Most notably, their Chardonnay grapes were a substantial portion of the Napa Chardonnay that bested the French in the 1976 Judgement of Paris. They also happen to be one of the nicest families you will find anywhere. Three generations of the family continue to grow grapes that are sold to others as vineyard designate wines and also produce their own gorgeous label. Their Rosé of Pinot Noir is stunning in both color and flavor and the Bacigalupi Chardonnay remains one my favorites from either Napa or Sonoma. The Pinot Noir is juicy, ripe and delicious. For those seeking a bolder flavor, the Petite Syrah is plump and lush. These are all delicious, food-friendly wines that won’t disappoint. https://bacigalupivineyards.com/collection/wine/
Hendry Ranch Wines: You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to make wine, but it sure doesn’t hurt. George Hendry moved with his family as a toddler to the current site of Hendry Ranch in 1939. Although he grew up at the ranch, he went on to design cyclotrons (a particle accelerator used in medical imaging), while still working at Hendry Ranch on the side. The vineyards at Hendry Ranch were replanted in the early 1970s and George began making Hendry label wine in 1992. I’m so glad he did. George’s mission is to craft outstanding Napa wines while keeping them affordable. He now produces an impressive variety of outstanding wines and continues to personally work the fields and give tours today. Wonderful options from Hendry include the incredibly crisp and refreshing Albariño, Block 7&22 Zinfandel and barrel fermented Chardonnay. The Red (red blend) is delicious and an incredible value as well. https://www.hendrywines.com/wines/
Smith Story Wine Cellars: In 2014, I was Kickstarter contributor number 150 for the initial vintage of Smith Story Wines. Their story and vision intrigued me and background was impressive. Alison (a DFW native) and Eric met while working together at a California wine merchant and decided to start their own winery on their honeymoon. Not upstarts in the wine world, they bring more than 30 years of combined wine experience to the venture. Their Goldendoodle Lord Sandwich has become the lovable furry face of the brand and even has a couple of wines names after him. The incredible wines the Story’s produce and the environment they have established led Sonoma Magazine to name Smith Story the winery where “The Cool Kids Go.” Although every bottle is worth ordering, my favorite Smith Story wines are the Helluva Vineyard Pinot Noir and Pickleberry Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. The German Rosé of Pinot Noir is fantastic and the Sauvignon Blanc is also exceptional. And the Lord Sandwich red is always a great value. All of their wines are fairly priced with reasonable shipping costs. https://smithstorywinecellars.vinespring.com/purchase
Corison Winery. Cathy Corison is a Napa icon. She began crafting her own wines in 1987 and moved into her current location just south of St. Helena in 1995. Along with her husband, Cathy has built the Corison Winery into one of the most consistently decorated producers in the country and has personally amassed a collection of accolades, including recently being named as one of the 20 most admired winemakers in North American and named a James Beard finalist in both 2018 and 2019. Corison’s focus is in producing a small number of high quality Cabernet Sauvignon wines that show the time and place of the grape with minimally invasive and sustainable farming and production practices. The Corison wines are the most expensive in this group of 6 families wineries, but a worthy splurge for a true hand-crafted St. Helena Cabernet during these unique days. As an introduction the Corison Wines, the Napa Valley Cabernet is a highly rated wine that reflects the care Cathy puts into all the wines she creates. The floral Heios Cabernet Franc and delightfully dry Gewurztraminer are also fantastic options to try. https://corison.com/purchase/
Pedroncelli: The Pedroncelli family has been growing grapes in Dry Creek Valley since 1927. Until the end of Prohibition in December of 1933, the family were home winemakers while selling other crops to pay the bills (prohibition didn’t make it illegal to produce alcohol, only to sell it). After the repeal of prohibition, the family started making wine commercially and nine decades later continue to produce a wide variety wonderful wines at really affordable prices. Robert Parker wrote of Pedroncelli: “Dollar-for-dollar, the Pedroncelli wines consistently offer both character and quality for their prices, something consumers should never forget.” I have to agree. They also are a certified sustainable California vineyard and winery. To start, you can’t go wrong with the Friend’s White or the crisp and refreshing Eastside Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc. My favorite white is the F. Johnson Chardonnay, which is tropical and creamy. Among my favorite reds are the Mother Clone Zinfandel, an amazing value for such a rich and spicy zin, and the Bench Vineyards Merlot. https://www.pedroncelli.com/wine-store/fill-your-wine-cellar/
Though this might be a perfect time to order wines directly from these family wineries, it always will be a good time to order from them. So bookmark these sites for when you are ready to replenish your original supply.