Healdsburg County, along the Russian River.
Jack ( forkandbottle ) had told us that he was going to show us a family winery with the least pretentious tasting room in the region. He was right.
The Russian river area lies between Healdsburg, Guerneville and Sebastopol and benefits from fog-cooled nights which suit particularly well to its Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Jack says that Porter Creek makes the best-valued Chardonnay in California.
We drove south on Westside Road from Healdsburg and turned right on Porter creek's driveway. On the other side of the road, a vineyard, the Russian river, and a wooded hill.
This is a bright summer day and we enjoy the beauty of the place. The tasting room is indeed very humble, a wooden shack in the back of the house.
The vineyards was purchased in this bucolic setting in 1977 by George Davis (his son Alex, who worked in Burgundy with several winemakers, is in charge of winemaking since 1997). At the beginning George thought he would only grow grapes (Pinot Noir, plus the additional Chardonnay he planted) but he soon wanted to make wine himself and created the winery in 1982. His vineyards are strictly organically farmed and he follows the biodynamics principles. The vehicules and machines in the winery are even powered with biodiesel fuels.
Life is cruel and ironic sometimes. Think to this organic winery with its vineyards in the bucolic landscape nearby : One day, the unthinkable happened and Gallo bought the adjoining hill, cut the redwood oaks and planted vineyards right in the face of the tiny organicly-farmed winery. And that's why the view from the tasting room's back window is now the big-player's vineyard. It also poses problems, with a non-organic farming being practiced right near the Porter Creek organic vineyards .
In the tasting room, Michael is our host and the tasting begins. He says that this tasting room is a former garage built in the 1920's. He also says that that the winery's production is about 3000 cases a year with a vineyard surface of 22 acres altogether.
__1 Porter Creek Chardonnay 2003. Organicly grown with biodynamics, like the Pinot Noir (other grapes are just organic). fermented in cask (16 months) with elevage on its lees. Lemon aromas. Richness. Minerality. 24 Dollars.
__2 Porter Creek Pinot Noir 2003. Fiona hill vineyard, named from the owners' daughter. 13,9°. Nice Pinot Noir, round, ample and generous. Fermented in old oak and 40% new oak. 32 Dollars. Jack says that he tasted 4 different Pinot Noir cuvées here, but alas two are already sold-out. The wines are basically sold only here, in the tasting room. The basic Pinot Noir cuvée is priced 24 Dollars, which is cheap. The restaurants of the area took it all (too bad, we'll not taste it).
__3 Porter Creek Pinot Noir Reserve 2003. 14,1°. More intensity on the nose. Complexity. Smoothness and substance. The grapes come from a vineyard at the edge of the hilltop where the vines suffer much. 2004 and 2005 were also a perfect millesime for this plot.. Fermented in old french oak and 20% new oak. Michael says the terroir in the area has a metamorphic clay soil. About the vinification, it is entirely natural. No external yeast, no micro-oxygenation. Their biodynamic farming is certified by Demeter.
__4 Porter Creek Carignane 2004. Old vines. Angeli vineyards (the grapes were purchased from another family winery).13,7°. Animal nose. Nice sugary mouth. B. Does not like too much, it is not her style.
__5 Porter Creek Syrah 2001. Timbervine Ranch. Bought from an organic farm. 14,2°. Nose : fruit plum. About Porter Creek's farming, Michael says they make thir own compost, which is a long process (5 years). And the tractors and machines use only bio-vegetable oil as fuel. 5 people altogether work in the estate.
__6 Porter Creek Zinfandel 2004. Old vine. 15,1°. From 2 plots, one is 25 years old, the other 50 years old. Both are blended. Michael has a strange but beautiful way to aerate the wine in the glass : he rolls the glass (with the wine) on the table. Great idea, I love that... He says there is no filtration for the reds, except for the Zinfandel.