David Coffaro Winery, Zialena Winery, Pech Merle Winery and more.
Discovering boutique wineries with unique stories is something that my wife and photographer partner, Linda, and I love. We lived in Northern Sonoma County for nearly 15 years, where we explored and wrote about our favorites. To build our knowledge we became Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET) certified and joined various wine, food and travel writing associations. Ultimately, I have been honored to work and judge wines at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition and the Sonoma County Harvest Fair Wine Competition for several years.
In light of all of that we have had the opportunity to become intimately familiar with so many wonderful winemakers, winery owners and their teams. What follows is just one angle, favorite boutique wineries, to share some of these wonderful wine people and their stories.
David Coffaro Winery, Geyserville
David and Pat Coffaro, native Californians, purchased their 13 acres in the Dry Creek Valley in 1979 and became grape growers in Geyserville. Their vineyards contain a variety of Italian and French grape varietals, including Zinfandel, Cabernet Franc, Petite Verdot and Pinot Noir. In 1994, they established David Coffaro Winery.
Since then, they have used a small portion of their boutique winery for a tasting room and event space with a large screen and dope sound system where Dave projects his favorite classic rock concerts for his guests. Dave’s wines are 100% estate grown and he and Pat insist on a no frills and fair price approach. Their wines have had screw caps since day one as Dave believes they provide the best way to preserve wines. They have created a beautiful wooden deck event space to provide an idyllic venue for their guests.
Pech Merle Winery – Geyserville
Founders/proprietors Bruce and Cheryl Lawton established the Pech Merle (pronounced Pesh Mel) boutique winery around 2010 with their tasting room in Geyserville. We quickly learned that this fun-loving couple were here to stay. They have a great team with winemaker Gio Balistreri leading the charge to make their events unique and immensely enjoyable. Their wines are vineyard driven and they source grapes from some of the best. Well known for their Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Rosé, these wines are delicious and worth a visit or a few.
Sometimes everything old is new again. The Mazzoni’s (Mark and sister Lisa) trace their lineage in northern Sonoma County back to their great grandfather, Giuseppe Mazzoni who left Italy in the early 1900s to join the in Asti (just north of Geyserville). It wasn’t long before he, like so many, became a wine grape grower and a winemaker.
Known for growing great grapes for over 100 years, today, Lisa and Mark’s dad, Mike Mazzoni, is still in that business. The siblings decided to reestablish the family winemaking legacy. They built a state-of-the-art winemaking facility including a modern tasting room with a great outdoor space surrounded by their father’s vineyards.
They named their boutique winery Zialena in honor of their Aunt Lena. They specialize in estate grown Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon. Nestled in the heart of the Alexander Valley and just east of Geyserville they have created a do-not-miss experience.
Small Vines Boutique Winery, Sebastopol
Paul and Kathryn Sloan are passionate about everything they do whether it is rock climbing, mountain biking or creating a small Burgundian style wine on their own property. That is what they have created at the Small Vines boutique winery in Sebastopol, CA. Kathryn and Paul (an experienced viticulturist) personally planted 100% of their vines, organically farm them and hand craft their Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and a crisp Rosé of Pinot Noir.
They and their children live on the property in their 100-year-old farm house and walk the talk about sustainability and quality. The name of the winery comes from the style of grape growing employed in Burgundy where the vines are kept small and the fruit clusters are also small. Paul and Kathryn fervently believe that this leads to especially noteworthy wines. We think they are right.
Idlewild Wine, Healdsburg
Sam Bilbro, one of three Bilbro brothers in the Sonoma County wine business, grew up in Geyserville and hanging out in his father’s winery which was a converted old cow barn. He and his brothers walked the vineyards and learned about wine making by, tasting blends with his dad.
Through his work in the restaurant business Sam learned to love the wines of Piemonte, Italy. He decided to specialize in Italian varietals and sources his grapes from three vineyards that provide him Barbera, Cortese and Nebbiolo among a few others.
Helping make the front of house experience both welcoming, educational and very unique, Sam has partnered with Thomas DeBiase, who he refers to as his resident encyclopedia of Italian wines. It is true, Thomas leads the uniquely fun event they call Sunday School which occurs periodically but always on a Sunday evening.
We have been fortunate to attend numerous Sunday School events and have learned about and enjoyed truly fantastic Italian wines that Sam and Thomas source from Italian wine importers. Sam’s Idlewild Wines Tasting Room is just off the Healdsburg Plaza.
Clarice Wine Company, Windsor
The last two boutique wineries to highlight do not have tasting rooms but they do have a pedigree. Texans Adam Lee and Dianna Novy Lee started Siduri Winery 25 years ago. After several highly acclaimed vintages of Pinot Noir from vineyards ranging from Santa Barbara to Oregon, Siduri became widely recognized for an amazing array of vineyard designated Pinot Noir. Fast forward to 2015 when Jackson Family Winery purchased Siduri from Adam and Dianna, the next chapter began with Adam starting his Clarice Wine Company honoring his grandmother.
Clarice is unique in that Adam continues to purchase fruit from his friends in the Santa Lucia Highlands, the famous Garys, Pisoni and Franscioni, and their fabled Garys’ Vineyard.
Equally fascinating is that Clarice is a subscription-based wine club. Members (we are one of 650 members) pay monthly and at the release, in December, receive our one case of Pinot Noir divided among four bottles each from Garys’ Vineyard, Rosella’s Vineyard and a blend Santa Lucia Highlands.
The game changer is that Adam hosts quarterly events at boutique wineries owned by his friends, such as Limerick Lane, Carlisle, Copain, Roar and Odonata to offer members intimate and unique tasting at no cost other than your membership. We have met people from across the country who follow Adam and Clarice.
Domaine Della, Santa Rosa
The second boutique winery with a pedigree but no tasting room is Domaine Della. David Hejl was the CEO and GM for Kosta Browne during its heyday producing world class Pinot and Chardonnay. When he left KB, he turned his passion to Domaine Della.
He and his co-founders, sister Lee and brother-in-law Ernie LeRoy focused on Domaine Della which was named after their mother. They source grapes from some of the original KB vineyards but have expanded their vineyard designates to some amazing properties.
Each of the seven wineries highlighted are special in their own right. What remains to determine is if you have a similar experience visiting these unique Sonoma County boutique wineries.