I'll bet that more than a few winery visitors have wistfully slurred, after a few (or many) splashes of strong and heady Zinfandel, "Oh, I wish I could live here!" Well, click your heels three times. Plunk down a fat card, and Soda Rock Winery can be home to you, for a night or two.
Soda Rock is one of eight Wilson Artisan Wineries, the wine empire helmed by Ken and Diane Wilson. The Wilsons bought the historic site in 2000, but did not open the hospitality complex (winemaking happens at sister wineries Mazzocco and deLorimier) until 2011. The place required a lot of renovation. Although the stone facade looks very much like a historic winery, it was actually built in 1869 as the post office for the town of Soda Rock. When the P.O. moved to nearby Jimtown, the "town" was no more. This rentable town has been restored in old-timey fashion, with the happy amenity that, unlike in actual old times, folks aren't turned away on account of ethnicity or marital status. In fact, the place is geared to weddings, which often take place in a photogenic, rickety old horse barn. Guests may stay in four furnished king suites complete with kitchenettes, the most popular of which is the water tower. Rates start at $185 for club members.
"This is adorable," a visiting tourist recently exclaimed upon strolling in the tasting room. It's spacious and rustic enough, and features the big, heavy wood bar rescued from the old Geyserville Smokehouse. Six wines are offered for a modest $5. I like the 2012 Mendocino Sauvignon Blanc ($16)—zippy grapefruit and bitter melon balance. Fermented in stainless steel but with partial malolactic, the 2012 Alexander Valley Chardonnay ($24) seems awkward—what is the point of a "no oak" Chard if it's got a cheesy, oaky aroma nevertheless? But the 2012 Dry Creek Valley Gewürztraminer ($24) redeems the white slate with classic, spicy aromas and an eminently quaffable, dry palate of lychee fruit. But that's the last dry wine, it's not much of an exaggeration to say, as we move from Gewürztraminer to the reds. It's a Wilson thing.
From the 2010 Meeks Merlot ($28), with blackberry liqueur leaping from the glass, to the chocolate liqueur notes of the sweet, tongue-coating 2010 General Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($50) and the vanilla-and-graham-cracker-with-blueberry-jam of the 2011 Marshall Alexander Valley Zinfandel ($32), which might almost be poured over a pancake, these wines might not win points with the restraint and balance crowd. But, hey, while you're on vacation—if just for the afternoon—indulge a little.
Soda Rock Winery, 8015 Hwy. 128, Healdsburg. Daily, 11am–5pm. Tasting fee, $5. 707.433.3303.