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Swirl n' Spit
Tasting Room of the Week

Thumbprint Cellars

By Heather Irwin

Lowdown: Thumbprint is all about having fun and raising your glass in a funky, comfy, lounge environment. Plop your rear in a plush, overstuffed sofa, and toast to the good life. Located just off the Healdsburg square, Thumbprint's tiny wine lounge opened just this month with a kicked-back style that's a refreshing departure for the sometimes stuffy vibe often happening around town.

Run by a local couple who started the wine business out of their garage, wife Erica Lindstrom-Dake works the tasting room most days, and is happy to chat about the wines, the business or pretty much whatever else is going on. The bottlings at this artisanal winery are exceptionally small, with 300 or fewer cases of most of their varietals, so if you like something, stock up. If you're the first customer of the day, she'll open whatever wines you're pining for. Which makes drinking at 11am all the more fun.

Mouth value: Calling its output "micro-wines," Thumbprint has a lock on Pinot Noirs, garnering a Best Pinot Noir accolade for its 2001 Russian River Pinot ($32) from Bohemian readers and a gold medal at the Sonoma County Harvest Fair for its 2002 Russian River Pinot ($36) this year. Start out with the '02, a bright, briary smack of a wine. Still young, the fruit kicks out most of the notes, but don't let the nose drive you away. Despite a little funky barnyard smell (normal in many Pinots), the taste is pure cherry and raspberry. The '01 Russian River Pinot ($36) is a more Burgundian-style wine with more earth and tannin. The oak has had time to mellow more, giving it a smokier, more mature stature. The '02 Sonoma County Cabernet Franc ($35) was a surprise favorite with a lovely fruit nose and layers of cocoa and fruit with plenty of high notes on the finish. Unlike many other wineries, Thumbprint isn't afraid of fruit. All of its wines are brazenly fruit-forward with only a nod to oak. This leads to better aging, with the fruit mellowing gracefully into a ripe wine, rather than big oaky monstrosities that age into musty old farts. The '02 Ladi's Vineyard Cabernet ($27) from the new Bennett Valley appellation has the depth and complexity of a good Cab with the easy drinkability of their signature fruit-forward flavors.

Five-second snob: Owners Erica and Scott Lindstrom-Dake are vegetarians, which is why you'll find most of their wine pairing suggestions with things like "nut loaf" and tofu. At last, a great wine to pair with Tofurky! The thumbprint you'll find on the bottles belongs to Scott, who accidentally smeared his finger on an early bottle after writing in gold ink and liked the results. He still marks each bottle individually.

Spot: Thumbprint Cellars Tasting Lounge, 36 North St., Healdsburg, 707.433.2393. No tasting fee. Open daily, 11am to 6pm.

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From the December 15-21, 2004 issue of the North Bay Bohemian.

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