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Swirl 'n' Spit
Tasting Room of the Week

Stryker Sonoma Vineyards

By Heather Irwin

Lowdown: In wine country, there's always another gem to be found just when you least expect it. Speeding down Highway 128 toward something entirely different, it's easy to blow past Stryker Vineyards winery, rising like an ultramodern log cabin out of the Alexander Valley vineyards. Built with widely spaced redwood-hued slats, a sweeping roof line and floor-to-ceiling windows, it's an expansive building that stretches out casually on the property. There are few, if any hints at the award-winning wines housed within. But this country retreat is well worth a stop.

Mouth value: The folks at Stryker don't brag much, but if you get 'em talking, they're pretty proud of the fact that their red wines won a coveted five gold medals at this year's Sonoma County Harvest Fair, with an astounding four of them honored as Best of Class. For the most part, the whites are better off skipped. Aside from the 2002 Russian River Gewürztraminer ($18), which is peachy and gentle in the glass, the other two available for tasting are hot on the palate.

Stryker prides itself on its Bordeaux-style blends, with Zinfandels leading the pack. The 2002 Alexander Valley Sangiovese ($22) has great fruit, a nice taste of tart cranberry and easy tannins. The 2002 Sonoma County Merlot ($23) is unusually big and ripe with lots of sweet fruit and chocolate. The 2001 Sonoma County Cabernet ($24) is the best of the tasting-room reds, with intense flavors of cherry, vanilla and currants. But, as is usually true, the best stuff is behind the bar and worth asking for.

I got a sneak sip of the 2002 Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel, which has tons of spice and vanilla, is an amazing value at $22 and recently won the Best of Class and Gold medals in the 2004 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. Also incredible is the 2002 Monte Rossa Petite Verdot ($35), which was aptly described to me as "purple velvet." With a nose of violets, chocolate and plum, I was savoring the memory of this amazing find for miles down the road.

Don't miss: Stop in for a sandwich and a cup of mushroom soup at the nearby Jimtown Store (6706 State Hwy. 128, Healdsburg, 707.433.1212). Though the days are getting nippy, they'll turn on the heater outdoors if you're chilly. Sit, slurp and savor the joys of peaceful rural living--and the occasional barking of the dog next door.

Five-second snob: The tasting room opened in 2002, winning the 2002 Architectural Design Award for Northern California. With sweeping views of the Alexander Valley vineyards, the winery is a worthy off-the-beaten-path stop.

Spot: Stryker Sonoma Vineyards, 5110 Hwy. 128, Geyserville. Open 10:30am-5pm, Thursday-Sunday, or by appointment. No tasting fee. 707.433.1944

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From the December 8-14, 2004 issue of the North Bay Bohemian.

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