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Swirl 'n' Spit
Tasting Room of the Week

Clos Du Bois

By Heather Irwin

Lowdown: Let's face it, Geyserville is a bit of a haul. Located about as far north as most North Bay residents are willing to go without a tent and a cooler of beer, Clos du Bois sits just off the freeway, surrounded by vineyards and, well, not much else. The winery, however, is something of a compound, with massive production and barreling rooms dwarfing the small, modern tasting room in the center. And although the wine country tchotchkes take away a bit from the clean lines the architect probably had in mind, the lack of formality is appealing.

In fact, despite a fairly busy Thursday afternoon tasting room and some nine pours for each customer, the staff members are fast, efficient and friendly without being overbearing. Anyone who's been to a tasting room and been accosted--or interrogated, rather--can attest that there's a fine line between friendly efficiency and someone trying to make the hard sell. Plus, they have a great little picnic area.

Mouth value: Crack that wallet and pry out a $5 bill, because the free tastes are barely worth the visit north. However, a fiver will get you a parade of some nine wines, several of which are worth the money all by themselves. For the most part, I can easily tell you to breeze past the "classic" varietal wines (I tasted the 2003 Chardonnay and 2001 Merlot). If anything is classic about them, it's the fact that you've probably had them at just about any party you've ever been to, because your host bought them at Costco along with his toothpaste for the year. Both are perfectly acceptable wines, but they lack any real allure and frankly belong in a plastic cup next to the potato salad and barbecue-flavored chips.

From the Appellation Reserve Series, the 2002 Alexander Valley Fumé Blanc ($16) is a surprisingly oaky light white wine with only a gentle amount of apple and pear and none of the usual floral flavor of Sauvignon Blancs. The 2000 Alexander Valley Shiraz ($20) left me cold, but the 2002 Temparnillo ($20), a Spanish varietal, is a unique wine that has a spicy, fruity character somewhere between a Chianti and a Zinfandel.

The must-taste is a pour from the highly regarded Marlstone series, an annual Bordeaux blend that varies each year according to the harvest's best grapes. The 2000 ($55) is an almost equal mix of Merlot and Cabernet, with a hint of Malbec. The Merlot dominates slightly, but the balancing tannins of the Cab give it body and strength. If you're a sushi fan, try the 2002 Malvasia Bianca ($16), a lightly sweet wine that has tons of peach and flowers that makes a nice pairing with raw fish.

Don't miss: Grab some barbecue to go at the nearby Geyserville Smokehouse (21021 Geyserville Ave., Geyserville, 707.857.4600). The Texas-style brisket will bring you to your knees and have you jonesing for more.

Five-second snob: Deadheads now have their own wine--uh, in a bottle and stuff. It turns out that Jerry Garcia was a fan of Clos du Bois and his estate gave the winery the rights to bottle a series of J. Garcia wines featuring his super-trippy artwork on the label. Right on.

The spot: Clos du Bois Winery, 19410 Geyserville Ave., Geyserville. Open daily, 10am-4:30pm. 800.222.3189.

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From the October 20-26, 2004 issue of the North Bay Bohemian.

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