A too-cursory review of a press release led me to believe that Murphy-Goode's brand-new tasting room is a "green" structure—solar panels, sod roof, that sort of thing. Turns out the downtown Healdsburg location is a keystone in a "green tourism" strategy. It purportedly saves wine tasters some 75 gallons of gas per week as compared to driving to their Alexander Valley winery. That's laudable, applaudable. (Of course, every conscientious wine taster taken off the road will be replaced by three yuks who come to simply drink and throw away their green at the casino.) I'm not saying that the gambling-themed winery, which has earned its down-to-earth, straight-talking image, is bluffing its hand. I'm saying: fire up the gas grill and bring out the reds and the whites!
Because I can't be content to just read a press release, I ambled down to the new tasting room and learned some other things I didn't know about Murphy-Goode:
• Murphy-Goode has farmed huge quantities of grapes in the Alexander Valley since 1985, but grows none of its own Zinfandel, one of its most successful varietals.
• Minnesota Chardonnay is not an appellation. It's aged in American oak barrels that are sourced from the great state of Minnesota, from whence also originate the winery's founders.
• Jackson Family Wines has owned M-G for two years.
• The purple color scheme is a tribute to home favorites the Minnesota Vikings. (Does the whole Minnesota-purple thing explain anything, I mean at all, about Prince?)
Once there, I also learned what's good about Murphy-Goode:
• The sparkly, retro style bar is made from shards of recycled glass that has the appearance of abalone shell.
• An oversize photomontage above the tasting bar features regular folks, like the cellar crew and other staff working and horsing around.
• The owners have retained the winery's focus on reasonably priced, high-quality Sonoma County wines with no attitude added.
And most importantly, I learned the wines that I like at Murphy-Goode:
The hands-down bargain is the 2007 "The Fumé" Sauvignon Blanc ($11.50), perfect for anyone who doesn't mind a mild whiff of eucalyptus on the way to a full, only mildly oaky mouthful of barrel-fermented goodness. Summer party wine? Chardonnay lovers and haters can make peace on this one as Meyer lemon and butterscotch dally in a cool sip of 2006 Minnesota Chardonnay ($18). The simple, exuberant, warm brambleberry fruit of the irrepressible 2005 Liar's Dice Zinfandel ($21) upstages the greener, spicy but more refined 2004 Snake Eyes Zinfandel ($35). An initial suggestion of fresh bread and raspberry perfume belies the serious dark violets of the 2005 Petit Verdot ($28), finishing with a brief tannic thud, like a leather football in an iron glove.
What's green, yet purple, a toss of the dice, but always a sure bet? Murphy-Goode Winery, 20 Matheson St., Healdsburg. Open daily, 10:30am to 4:30pm. Tasting fees, complimentary or $5 for reserve. 707.431.7644.