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June 6-12, 2007

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Wine Tasting

Timber Crest Farms

By James Knight

The reader may be familiar with those dreams in which one opens a hitherto unnoticed door and discovers new, hidden rooms beyond. In dream symbolism, the books say that this may signify "developing new strengths and taking on new roles." That's hardly relevant to the charter mission of this column, until we substitute the phrase "repurposed fruit processing plant" for "room." It's not visible from Dry Creek Road, but turn up a tree-shaded driveway, and one emerges amid the myriad enterprises of Timber Crest Farms. Formerly producing Sonoma Brand dried tomatoes, the facility is now home to an olive press, gourmet sauce maker, several wineries and tasting rooms representing yet more wines. Here you can spend half a day discovering new doors.

Sometimes the old and familiar pops up in a new location. Formerly of Lytton Springs Road, Peterson Winery has relocated to Timber Crest, where they pour on weekends right at the cellar door. I like Peterson's general down-to-earth bent and their focus on Zinfandel, and you can't go wrong with totemic animal labels.

I'd like to say their wine is pretty good, I'm sure that it is, but to be honest, it was hard to tell. Could have been a lingering sinus infection, or the breeze that stole the sniff from my swirl. A contributing factor, at least: the pours were as tiny as the tears of a jackalope. At least the hazelnut and orange fragrance of the 2005 Muscat Blanc ($30) got my attention.

Check out the grand opening of their tasting room on June 23. Maybe they'll flow a little more brambleberry love your way. A long black limousine, symbolizing enormous potential (to disrupt your tasting-room experience) disgorged a flock of tourists. Pecking around for lunchables, they wandered toward Papapietro, so we headed for the shack opposite, which houses six Family Wineries of Dry Creek. Here, one can still purchase a few Timber Crest products and dip pretzels in olive oil, chocolate Cabernet sauce and tasty Cuban Mojo mustard. The bar was well-staffed with personable gentlemen and women who juggled bottles with aplomb.

Dashe Cellar's signature imagery--a monkey riding a whale--would certainly seem to emanate from the subconscious depths. Among Oakland's urban winery pioneers, Dashe crafts mainly powerful Zinfandels and other reds, their 2006 Potter Valley Dry Riesling ($22) being an exceptional exception. Grapefruit and pineapple radiate from the glass, while notes of dill and cucumber waft tentatively at perception's edge. It tastes rich on the palate, not bone-dry. A more exciting California Riesling might only be found in your dreams.

Mietz Cellars' 2004 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ($30), can be described as the dusky hue of a fog-shrouded sunset (for the right brain) or approaching the neutral point in an acid test (for the left). Whichever, this Pinot smacks of strawberry-chipotle jam--just keep the pretzels out of it. Lago di Merlo's NV Vino Rosso ($19), with a solid fruit core, is a sturdy red, felled only by a slightly bitter aftertaste. Collier Falls' 2004 Dry Creek Petite Sirah ($36) is an opaque blueberry bomb, deeply textured with warm tannins that loll over the palate like a boozy purple tongue, signifying either Daliesque surrealism or that it's time to go.

Timber Crest Farms, 4791 Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg. Tasting rooms generally open daily, from around 10:30am to 4:30pm. Tasting fees vary, $5–$10. 707.433.0100. Peterson Winery is open weekends only. $5 fee. 707.431.7568.

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