I'm cycling down a narrow, pothole-party of a country lane against a fierce afternoon southerly, sweating harder than Nixon under klieg lights in my day-glo commuter jacket. Thankfully, traffic is light on little Wood Road, and the occasional motorist passes with a charitable buffer zone. Winetasting isn't usually this much work—I'm just trying to get in the spirit of this weekend's Grape to Glass. If I knew that a cold glass of Sauvignon Blanc awaited, I might pedal harder.
Sponsored by the Russian River Valley Winegrowers, Grape to Glass offers much more than the typical taste fest. Participants pick and choose from a dozen different activities, some of which are like intimate seminars which explore the topography, people and grapes that earn this region renown, one of which is a serious cycling tour from Healdsburg to Green Valley and back.
At a more leisurely pace, with no added lycra, chef Duskie Estes of Zazu and Bovalo Restaurant leads a "Slow Food ride" through town. Meanwhile, a kayak flotilla cruises down the Russian River toward a winetasting via amphibious landing. Whether it's their taste buds or quadriceps that got worked, everyone can cap off Saturday at "Hog in the Fog," a grand tasting plus barbecue, auction and live rockabilly music.
For its part in the event, Robert Rue Vineyard hosts a closer look at the historic vineyards of their neighborhood. Before Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, there was Zinfandel, mixed with a medley of red and white grapes. "That might be Palomino," Bob Rue says about some green grapes that show no sign of coloring up toward purple. When Bob and Carlene found this ranch, all around them people were ripping out Zinfandel. An Italian-American neighbor taught Bob how to prune and care for his vines, and left him with this prescient advice: "Bob, whatever you do, don't pull these vines out. There will always be a market for old vine Zinfandel." Soon, a new wave of Zinfandel specialists like Ravenswood helped to revive interest in the varietal and kept small vineyards like this in production.
Looking for a refreshing white to complement their estate Zinfandel, the Rues decided on Sauvignon Blanc. Purchased fruit from the area lends the 2009 Sauvignon Blanc ($22) a whiff of cashew and clean flavors of lime, understated tropical fruit and lychee; a big pour of this dry and crisp wine was most welcome. With cedar and fig spicing up deep olallieberry and early blackberry fruit, the 2006 Wood Road Reserve Zinfandel ($32) finishes with chunky layers of dark cocoa, tannic and robust without the heat. While it wasn't really necessary to bike against the wind for this tasting, I'd say it's worth the ride.
Robert Rue Vineyard, 1406 Wood Road, Fulton. Tasting hours Friday to Sunday, 10am to 5pm, or by appointment. Tasting fee, $5; waived with purchase. 707.578.1601. Grape to Glass runs Friday–Sunday, Aug. 20–22, at various venues. www.rrvw.com. 707.521.2535.