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Wine Tasting Room of the Week 

Ty Caton Vineyards–Muscardini Cellars

Sometimes, the road to Dry Creek leads to Carneros and the road to Carneros leads back to Kenwood. I'll explain. Planning to hit Dry Creek, I was foiled by one of those weekend events where the valley is messy with gaggles of stumbling wine tasters. (I know you are but what am I?) Researching an alternate foray into Carneros, I found Ty Caton Vineyards-Muscardini Cellars, finding also, by happy accident, this shared tasting room's grand opening.

A local who attended Sacramento State University and did a brief tour in the real estate theater, Ty Caton returned to his family's Sonoma Valley property in the mid-'90s to develop a 40-acre estate vineyard. Caton is both a hands-in-the-dirt winegrower who planted much of the vineyard himself and savvy entrepreneur. He started up a whimsical sideline with a lower price point called Racchus (rhymes with Bacchus; the white is called Rollus—Racchus and Rollus?) and, on a whole new level of fun and sun, a small-batch Tahitian rum brand. Michael Muscardini is a neighbor of the Caton's who comes from the building trade and focuses on Italian varietals. Current releases were made at Wellington Vineyards, but Caton and Muscardini now have their own tasting room in Sonoma's new Eighth Street "winery condo" park. That's the Carneros connection.

Located in the Kenwood Village Plaza with a convenience market and a post office, the tasting room is already a new candidate for local favorite among cross-county commuters, and it's open 'til 6pm. Thanksgiving dinner alert: Muscardini Cellars 2006 Rosato di Sangiovese ($18) is a great choice for folks who are on the fence over serving a red or a white with the good dead bird. It's a dry rosé with a touch of rose petal and strawberry, with a full body that makes it a contender.

Muscardini also offers a red Sangiovese, Barbera and a Super Tuscan. The 2005 Unti Vineyard Syrah ($38), however, was a standout for bright white pepper that seems to focus the fruit at the top of the palate. The star of Caton's estate is really the Cabernet. Little wonder, it's next door to the esteemed Monte Rosso vineyard. The 2004 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon ($42) confounds expectation—it's got the softest, most integrated tannins of wines tasted. Smokey plum and leather add background to signature blackcurrant Cab flavors.

The chocolate mint notes of the 2004 Tytanium ($46) hint at its roots in volcanic soil, and the warm mouth-feel rides the middle of dusty and velvety tannin. The choice that highlights the on-the-way home location may be the 2004 Ty Caton Estate Field Blend ($20), a kitchen-sink cuvée that is about all you'd want on the dinner table.

Ty Caton Vineyards and Muscardini Cellars, 8910 Sonoma Hwy. (in the Kenwood Village Plaza), Kenwood. Open daily, 10am to 6pm. 707.833.0526.

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