Can't wait for the acclaimed 2007 vintage? Sonoma County's Barrel Tasting Month affords early birds the opportunity to sip the new wine straight from the barrel. The Sonoma Valley version is called Savor Sonoma; expect a wide variety of miniature culinary delights that add up to a meal the more spots you hit (bringing a designated eater is always a good idea). Meanwhile, the Russian River Wine Road's barrel tasting, including Dry Creek wineries, is too big for one weekend. The event, which started last week, continues this Friday through Sunday with tastings, futures for sale and barbecues aplenty. If you haven't been, I highly recommend it; it's become quite a popular crowd-drawing event. Not being in the mood for crowds last weekend, I headed exactly in the opposite direction.
Homewood Winery sits on a quiet country lane just a few doors down from busy Highway 121. It's in the flat farmlands of the Carneros but doesn't include much vineyard land. The small tasting room adjacent to the crush pad is guarded by a vociferous canine; the main caution to exercise around Lily is not to step on her while she's sniffing one's shoe, as she's roughly the size of a shoe herself. Homewood offers tasting in a small, somewhat disheveled indoor office or an outdoor deck. Indoors is where the tasty black olive and bread samples are, and the folks are low-pressure and friendly. Free tasting, anything you like. That works for me.
The 2006 Russian River Sauvignon Blanc ($18) was initially pungent with musty dish towel, but poured into a fresh glass it was golden, dude; this is a high-pitched, citrusy-tart sipper that would be a lot better with white fish in a lemon cream sauce, but I'm just guessing. The 2005 McHugh Vineyards Pinot Noir ($18) intrigues with bay leaf and cherry, but lets down with a bit of a bitter finish.
The 2005 Russian River Zinfandel ($18) and the 2005 Dry Creek Zin ($20) seem switched at birth; the former is brambly and dry while the latter is bright, with soft, juicy cherry. Upon closer inspection of a bottle later that evening, it's confirmed that this light, pleasant Dry Creek Zin has only 12.5 percent alcohol by volume—just the kind of table-friendly claret everybody says they want to take home.
Homewood Winery, 23120 Burndale Road, Sonoma. Open daily, 10am to 4pm. No tasting fee. 707.996.6935. Russian River Wine Road Barrel Tasting continues March 7–9, 11am to 4 pm. $20. www.wineroad.com. Savor Sonoma is March 16–17, 11am–4pm. $55. [ http://www.heartofsonomavalley.com ]www.heartofsonomavalley.com.