On the subject of nascent head colds, there's a school of unscientific thought that says burn it out. So I had planned a vigorous 10-mile bike ride (yeah, yeah—but with no spandex and a cold coming on, a fine workout for the rest of us). The other school avers that the best medicine is to take it easy and drink plenty of fluids. What a happy coincidence that I chose instead to go to Family Wineries, where my host endorsed the latter view, to hydrate myself with a flight of cycling-themed Tandem Wines.
Like its twin Dry Creek location, Family Wineries Kenwood is both more than ready for the tourist and friendly to the local. The shelves are stocked with olive oils and sundry wine country snackery, the wine shop with grab-and-go chilled white wines. A collection of seemingly innocuous wooden ducks are irresistible for a surprising number of tipsy visitors. If all that was not enough, a model "wine train" circles above the horseshoe bar.
The setup is a win times two: small wineries don't have to devote extra time and expense on a retail outlet, and tasters get variety. The staff is relaxed and fun, reasonably informed about the product and didn't even mention the wine club to a couple of out-of-towners until they inquired.
First, there's a multiple choice quiz—select six wines from a menu of 22. But limited releases migrate easily from the other side, and before long unlisted vintages pop up from under the bar.
Tandem Wines is a Sebastopol-based joint venture of winemaker Greg La Follette and growers and unnamed other partners with a single-vineyard mission. The 2004 Porter-Bass Vineyard, Russian River Chardonnay ($42) is tandem in motion: the caramel nose and mildly buttery, sweet body in front is propelled forward by an engine of lean grapefruit. By this time, the bug's attack had likely reached my olfactory epithelium's sensitive Pinot receptors, so I noted only the 2005 Sangiacomo Vineyard, Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir's ($48) bright grape and plum jelly fruit and a finish as soft as a Persian cat. But even so, I could taste that the big 2004 Aldine Vineyard, Redwood Valley Zinfandel ($32) was still breaking away with feral Himalayan blackberries, stewed fruits and veggies in the middle, dusted with savory thyme.
Blindfolded, I'd have guessed by a whiff of the 2006 Peloton, California Red Wine ($25) that it was Chardonnay, which accounts for only 2 percent. The light-bodied red is 58 percent Pinot Noir, with Zinfandel and Carignane adding raspberry pep, and a dash of Gewürztraminer bringing up the rear. Peloton might have originally been a kitchen-sink blend of leftovers, like many are, but in this vintage each varietal works together in unison, like the tight formation of racers for which it is named.
Family Wineries Kenwood, 9380 Sonoma Hwy., Kenwood. Also represented are Collier Falls Vineyard, David Noyes Wines, Macrae Family Winery, SL Cellars and Spann Vineyards. Open daily, 10:30am–5pm. Tasting fee, $5–$10. 888.433.6555.