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Red October

No reason to panic at UPTick Vineyards

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It's a lovely afternoon for financial panic. The sun warms the air just so, the vineyards are speckled with yellow and red, and don't all the really great stock market crashes happen in October? If it isn't exactly October, 1929 or 1987—and who can forget the Panic of 1907?—I can't take my eyes off the live electronic stock ticker above the bar at UPTick Vineyards. Today, every big-name stock that flashes by is in negative territory. On the plus side, there's drink.

Just having a passion for wine is really great, but it will not build a brand-new tasting room on Westside Road with ample parking and furnish it with a baby grand piano. When owners Steven and Robin Black founded UPTick in 2007, they rather candidly themed it after the heaps of money that Steven Black made in the New York financial-services industry, having started in the mail room at Merrill Lynch at age 18.

But it's not all no bull at UPTick. In one corner, a sculpture inspired by the Wall Street "Charging Bull" snorts and stomps under a 9-11 memorial flag. Like a hyperinflated market, the bull's not solid—it's convincingly spray-painted styrofoam and can be lifted with one finger, as tasting room host David Day demonstrates. Until they step out from behind the bar, the people here appear in bizarre silhouette against the vineyard—almost as if, say, an invisible hand were pouring the wine. Day, who is also assistant winemaker, explains that the tasting room was designed that way, to showcase the view, not the people. But it is actually Day's knowledgeable and honest talk about the winery that turn this visit from a curiosity-seeking whim into a favorable impression of their efforts.

Wines are 100 percent varietal, single vineyard, and are custom-crushed in Sebastopol. The 2012 Hilda's Rosé ($22) is crisp and steely, with strawberry highlights. The 2012 Dry Creek Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($30) has that classic Sauvignon cat-pee nose, but a nicely rounded, oak-aged body. Also well mannered, the 2011 Estate Russian River Valley Chardonnay ($30) shows barrel aging without malolactic fermentation—juicy, golden raisin and baked apple flavors linger without undue sweetness or tartness.

A diverse portfolio of reds fills out the roster: juicy Pinot Noir, toasty Syrah, old vine Zin and requisite Cabernet. Since all bubbles must pop, a light, yeasty Sparkling Brut ($25) is poured at the end to refresh the palate. Give this place a chance next time you're joyriding in the area; although past performance is no guarantee of future results, the opportunity cost is low.

UPTick Vineyards, 779 Westside Road, Healdsburg. Open daily, 11am–5pm. Tasting fee, $10. American songbook piano, Saturdays. 707.395.0864.

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