On our recent trip to California, we spent a day in Sonoma and visited a small family winery that makes wonderful wines that sell for reasonable prices. Some are a little more expensive than my stated price range for everyday wine, but some others fit right in. They are well made, delicious and true to type. In addition, we got to spend some time with owner Peter Wellington and Manager Toby Germano. 8 acres of Wellington's 21 total go back as far as 117 years. The picture below shows some of the vines from a block that goes back to 1912. These old vine parcels are planted mostly with Grenache, Zinfandel, Alicante Bouschet, Syrah and Carignan. These varietals are mixed together in "field blends", the thinking back then being that if one or two didn't fair well in a particular vintage, then the others would pick up the slack.
Now however, Wellington is bottling the Syrah, Zinfandel and Grenache separately, as well as Marsanne, Rousanne, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and several bottlings of Cabernet Sauvignon. In the above photo, Janet gets a pruning lesson from owner Peter Wellington. The really old vines produce less fruit and thus more concentrated, more complex juice. These vineyards are cultivated in a sustainable manner, just a step shy of certified organic. Sulfur dust is occasionally used to control powdery mildew but insecticides and herbicides are never used.
3 of Wellington's everyday reds are readily available here on the east coast, the Cabernet Sauvignon from the Mohrhardt Ridge Vineyard, a Sonoma Merlot and a Sonoma Zinfandel. The Cab has all the good primary fruit you expect from a from a California wine with a good bit of that herbal Cabernet character. It's balanced and finishes long and smooth with soft tannins. It sells for $16.99 at my local store. The Zinfandel is also wonderful, giving forth all the peppery dark fruit flavors you expect from this uniquely American varietal in a nicely balanced format. Though coming in at 15.5% alcohol, there is enough acidity to keep this brawny wine fresh tasting. It sells here for $12.99. Last but not least, the Sonoma Merlot hits all the right notes. And despite the movie "Sideways" and it's famous Merlot line, this grape still outsells Pinot Noir. Wellington's Merlot has all the bright cherry fruit you expect from this varietal with notes of chocolate and brown spices. It's soft and smooth and has none of the "weedy" characteristics you sometimes get from a hot climate Merlot. It also sells for $12.99. Cheers.