The following is an excerpt from Wildsam’s latest book, WILDSAM Napa & Sonoma, which leads travelers into the heart of California’s wine country with guidance from trusted locals and wine experts. Check recommended venues for COVID-19 updates before visiting.
Exploring Olivet Road
While Exploring Olivet Road, four wineries offer diverse entry points into the world-class Russian River Valley grape-growing region.
Founded by fireman Cecil DeLoach in 1975, DeLoach Vineyards helped create the Russian River Valley American Viticultural Area, now one of the nation’s brand-name wine territories. Pinots soar, as do dry riesling and beautiful gardens (and goats!).
At Harvest Moon, winemaker Randy Pitts is known for zins, but also makes beautiful dessert wines from late-harvest gewürztraminer. The down-home estate hits hospitality high notes while remaining amiable–a family- friendly, drinks-by-the-pool feel. Yes, the name is a Neil Young callout.
The grandson of Cecil DeLoach helms Hook & Ladder Winery, producing from estate-grown fruit. Go for the chardonnay, stay for the fire department memorabilia.
Iron Horse Vineyards, located on Ross Station Road about twelve minutes from Olivet, began as a pinot house but is now renowned for sparkling wines, served at the White House for six administrations. (Reagan and Gorbachev toasted with Iron Horse.) CEO Joy Sterling is a political activist and industry force and the hilltop tasting room is not to be missed. Finish the day with handmade pasta at Canneti Roadhouse in Forestville.
“Wine is just fruit,” says Andrew Mariani, vintner at Sonoma County’s acclaimed Scribe. “But it can give you this strange, mysterious feeling.” The feeling definitely grows as one heads deeper into the lands of Napa and Sonoma, exploring these valleys ripe with history. It may start with the pursuit of wine, but the journey can be defined differently for everyone.
Zach Dundas is an editor for Wildsam, where he’s led the charge on books about the Grand Canyon, Seattle and—tough duty!—Napa and Sonoma. Based in Portland, he’s the co-creator of the history podcast Death in the West and author of two books.