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Swirl n' Spit

Ledson Winery

By Heather Irwin

Lowdown: During the late 1990s, Sonoma County architecture-watchers were abuzz about the building of that hulking grey "starter castle," as my grandmother liked to call it. For years, the enormous Kenwood building was in various states of construction, and it was anyone's guess as to who was building it and, well, why?

The mystery was resolved as construction finally came to completion and the Ledson family decided to turn what was to be a family home--a really, insanely big family home even by wine country standards--into a winery. Spurred on by the quality of the Merlot grapes growing in their front yard and Steve Ledson's own admission that maybe, just perhaps, he'd bitten off a little more than he could chew in designing the family home, the winery was born.

Mouth value: Merlot is what Ledson is most known for. Its pricy 1997 Estate Merlot Reserve ($425) has been repeatedly lauded in the wine press. But the far more affordable 2002 Estate Merlot ($38) isn't at all shabby, with a complexity and character found all too rarely in Merlots. The Sonoma County Pinot Noirs ('02, $32; '01, $28) are also strong contenders, exemplifying the softness and subtlety that is characteristic of nearly all the Ledson wines. And while subtlety is agreeable in a Pinot, it's less so in a Cabernet. Or the somewhat flabby '04 Sauvignon Blanc. Ledson's whites are saved, however, by an unoaked '04 Chardonnay that is crisper than a new $10 bill and twice as entertaining. Finishing up with the '04 Orange Muscat ($18) is a requirement during the summer months--cool, clean and dripping with flavor, yet without the cough-syrup quality of so many dessert wines.

Don't miss: Sneak a peek at the details of the home as you walk through. From the vaulted ceilings to the intricate wood carving and mosaics, no detail went unnoticed by the contractor/designer owner.

Spot: Ledson Winery and Vineyards, 7335 Sonoma Hwy., Kenwood. Open daily, 10am to 5pm. $5 tasting fee. 707.537.3810.

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From the June 8-14, 2005 issue of the North Bay Bohemian.

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