When in Russian River Valley wine country, I like to start my wine tasting adventures along sleepy Olivet Road. Only a few minutes from the Santa Rosa airport, Olivet Road meanders between River Road and Guerneville Road, and is, somewhat dare I say, “undiscovered”. A small collection of artisan wineries serendipitously line Olivet Road, producing everything from Sparkling Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir to Zinfandel, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon.
First stop is Harvest Moon Estate, where the good times definitely roll! Winemaker and Owner Randy Pitts is frequently on hand to zealously greet guests and pour his award-winning cool climate Zinfandel. Less conventional but more approachable than some winemakers, Randy is known to “sabrage” a bottle of bubbly now and then, much to the amusement and surprise of the assembled wine devotees.
The atmosphere at Harvest Moon is always fun and relaxed and the tasting menu is quite diverse and literally “over the moon”.
Wet your whistle on the bubbly 2013 Estate Dry Sparkling Gerwurztraminer, a peppery 2011 Pitts Home Ranch Zinfandel or if you’re feeling “a little Randy,” try the 2014 Randy Zin, a zippy blend of Zinfandel and Sangiovese.
Next, look for Hook & Ladder‘s bright red fire engine parked on Olivet Road.
Virtually impossible to miss, turn in here for a taste of Hook & Ladder’s 2014 Estate “Third Alarm” Reserve Pinot Noir, 2014 Los Amigos Ranch Estate “The Tillerman” Red Blend or perhaps the 2014 “Station Ten” Red Blend. Naturally, there’s a few interesting back stories at this winery, one being that the founder, Cecil DeLoach was a San Francisco firefighter turned vineyard owner in the 1970s, which explains the interesting monikers of some of Hook & Ladder’s wines.
And, to the keen observer, rows of t-shirts sent from fellow firefighters and wine aficionados hang ceremoniously from the rafters in the tasting room for all to see. The DeLoach family name may also ring a bell. Cecil and his wife Christine established the original DeLoach Vineyards over three decades ago, which sits at the other end of Olivet Road. It’s a small wine world after all.
Just a few clicks down Olivet Road, by appointment only, Inman Family Wines is a real gem and not to be missed. Kathleen Inman, Winemaker and Owner, strictly adheres to “sensitive farming” techniques, using organic compost as fertilizer, permanent cover crops and 100% solar energy to fuel her winemaking operation. Very green, and impressive!
As a third-generation Napa Valley native, vine roots grow deep for Kathleen in her 10 acre Olivet Grange vineyard. Inman Family Wines‘ approach to handcrafted Pinot Noir is simple and pure, allowing the natural yeast to ferment the wine, which in turn, reflect the true sense of place, or terroir of this very special vineyard.
My experience here was wonderful to say the least, poised next to the flowering vineyards on a warm sunny Spring afternoon sipping fabulous wines. My gaze often drifted toward the charming vintage farmhouse in the middle of the vineyard, which is available for winecations. Problem is, who would want to leave?
A few highlights from the private seated tasting were the 2016 OGV Estate Pinot Gris, the 2017 Endless Crush Rose of Pinot Noir OGV Estate (earning 94 points from Wine Enthusiast) and the 2014 Pratt Vine Hill Pinot Noir, a true expression of the Russian River Valley.
Olivet Road was a well-kept secret….until now.