Lo! Have you not heard, of the hoary-looking wine-palace that towers high and horn-gabled 'neath Hood Mountain, a voguish Valhalla in the vale of the moon? This gothic grandiosity looks late of a long gone epoch, but new-built arose in 1990-something; across where the aged their after-days spend, adjacent where adolescents recompense archives of misdeeds. What warlock, many high-way travelers wondered, within those stone walls broods? Local folks fielded a host of fey rumors, but whether nettlesome or noble you name it, the gaudy gambit did gain the county's go-ahead. Today tourists by the dozens toddle up, to construction-king Steve Ledson's "Castle of Kenwood," gawk and gambol, and fill their goblets with wine.
Builder of homes and high-end inns for well-heeled persons, his designs drafted in the fashion of days of yore, Ledson's clan is not late-arrived to Los Guilicos rancho; only lately has he wended his way as wine-artificer.
No gargoyles glower from the gabled roof, some surprise when seen up close; it's less than foreboding in fact, on a scale faintly human. A walk 'round finds it wanting of wine vats; that operation is found over in yon Oakville town. Inside: Marble fire-hearths, fine wood-work and great staircases sweep past coffered ceilings to connubial suites. Hundreds may be seated at the manor's mead-benches, and there's more: A food-feast, short of roast pheasants only. From salads to smart water, gourmet curd and smoked meats, batteries of balsamics and black tiger prawns; in variety of victuals is this deli verily not outdone. Sadly, scarcely floor-space remains for cheesy tchotchkes and glittery tees; "Wine Chick" for one.
Ledson's black-clad retainers proffer tasting for "Knights, Nobility and Royalty"--none for knaves of course, fain to fork over a fiver or more. "Have you found something that was looking to tickle your fancy," oddly offered my awesome bar-host, her voice verily remindful of Victoria Jackson (of SNL days of yore)--in between rote recitation of the roster however, schooling in wine-prowess and wisdom this young woman revealed. The 2006 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($26) seemed scented like a sweet, white peach, while the 2005 Sonoma Valley Chardonnay ($32) shimmered like a clean cellar floor--no shend meant--with golden apple acidity and accents of cream.
A dark draught of 2004 Diamond Ridge Petite Sirah ($36) was of black licorice and purple felt pen redolent, chock-full with chewy black cherry fruit. Happily, Ledson's wine-wizard is a Zinfandel zealot, making 10 from the zaftig grape. The 2004 Russian River "Bacigalupi" Zinfandel ($44) brims with both grape and berry jelly, while white pepper wafts nose-ward.
Suddenly--zounds! A live gargoyle burst from the breast of a man, doggedly devouring a disgorged cork. Would the walls crumble, wailing now, the castle of Kenwood otherworldly, cursed after all? Nay--only of those puny pooches, a pocket-sized Chihuahua, a guest's ghastly small beast gadarening about the bar. Barbarians.
Ledson Winery and Vineyards, 7335 Sonoma Hwy., Kenwood. Open daily 10am to 5pm. Tasting fees vary. Fourth of July celebration June 30 and July 1, 11am to 4pm. 707.537.3810.