Arriving at Hop Kiln Winery in Russian River, I was awestruck. Upon closer look, a brass California Registered Historical Landmark plaque (No. 893) read, “This structure served the important hop industry of California’s north coast region, once the major hop-growing area in the west. Built in 1905 by a crew of Italian stonemasons, it represents the finest existing example of its type, consisting of three stone kilns for drying hops, a wooden cooler, and a two-story press for bailing hops for shipment”.
Prior to the Walters Ranch Hop Kiln, the 250-acre property was known as Sweet Water Springs, which originally served as a stagecoach stop. Visiting the Hop Kiln homestead is like stepping back in time to the early 1900s. There’s a stately, but weathered, plantation house complete with a covered veranda and a few abandoned outbuildings all which overlook a scenic pond and the vineyards in the distance.
Today, over 100 acres are planted with Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, perfectly suited for the Russian River Valley’s westside microclimate. The tasting room is warm and welcoming and resembles an old packing factory with massive timber beams with a wall of windows to take in the panoramic view. The classic tasting bar is reminiscent of the old west days and runs the length of the room.
Hop Kiln Winery features five varietals ~ Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Rose of Pinot Noir, Sparking Rose of Pinot Noir and Pinot Noir. For starters, the 2011 Estate Chardonnay is delightfully crafted in the classic Russian River Valley style ~ light in body with tropical notes of pineapple and pear. Another great summer wine is the 2013 Rose of Pinot Noir, reflections of crisp mango and citrus rind with cherry and strawberry. Hop Kiln Winery is best-known for its amazing Pinot Noir wines. Rated 91 points by Wine Enthusiast, the 2011 HKG Pinot Noir, Twin Corners is an earthy aromatic sensation of raspberry and strawberry, while the 2011 HKG Pinot Noir Russian River Valley sends lavender and leather to the nose and cassis and blackberry across the palate.
Hop Kiln Winery offers food and wine pairings daily and has an authentic Italian chef on staff for special events. The gift shop is one of the best in Russian River Valley, with over 20 artisan mustards, vinegar, specialty sauces, and oils and an interesting array of wine collectibles. Visit www.hkgwines.com to book your tour of the historic hop plantation or stop by for a glass of their infamous Pinot Noir.