On every attempt to visit to this winery, some limousine or touring van pulls up and a big group swarms the tasting room. It's either bad luck on my part or an indication of the winery's critical success and popularity. Perhaps people just find it pleasing to say "Papapietro-Perry Pinot."
Founded in 1998, the boutique winery is the fruition of a decades-long passion for wine. Ben Papapietro and Bruce Perry met in the newspaper business, made premium garage wine for some time and went commercial starting with 75 cases, picking up gold medals ever since. Named among the top 30 Pinot Noir producers by the Wine Spectator, Papapietro-Perry consistently score in the 90s. And they produce Zinfandel. Tasting here looks like a promising prospect.
So this time, after taking a walk around the Timbercrest Farms block, we brave the crowds to stand for a while at the oak barrel stave and copper-topped bar, behind which glimmer the distinctive bronze-printed bottles. Upon receiving a taste of something unnamed, I fetch my companion who, not one for chattering crowds, is enjoying the afternoon sun and Dry Creek Valley panorama on the patio. The tasting fee is $5 for four pours of four wines, making it easy to choose among them. A fifth, the 2005 Russian River Valley, Pommard Clones Pinot Noir ($68), was tantalizingly offered to look at. It's available for tasting if one first signs up for the wine club, the three tiers and other details which are explained at length. Pours are slim, and comparing my notes to theirs on the 2005 Leras Family Vineyards RRV Pinot Noir ($48), I am puzzled. I had scribbled, "Tight, clean and varietal, feral vegetation; astringent, with little fruit center of interest"; their notes read, "Velvety on the palate with rich flavors of cherry, cassis and hints of strawberry giving way to earthy minerals, spice and toast . . . with a long, persistent fruit-driven aftertaste." But none of the verbiage matters; this and most of the 2005 Pinots are sold-out.
Papapietro-Perry makes Zinfandel in the style of its Pinot, and the tart and spicy cherry aspects of the 2005 Russian River Valley Elsbree Vineyard Zinfandel ($36) show a refreshing restraint and balance. Our host explains that this is the result of their vinting practices, something about cold soaks replacing high-temperature fermentations that result in those high-alcohol big Zins. While that is complete nonsense, understand that they are naturally a bit frazzled by the crowds at the end of the weekend. It's all just words, anyway, and words, as we learned from another tasting room this year, are funny things. I won't eat my words–but I will swirl and spit them. All in all, we weren't particularly partial to Papapietro-Perry Pinot, although it is clear that the wine is well-crafted and fine. Everybody says so.Papapietro Perry, 4791 Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg, at Timbercrest Farms. Tasting room open daily, 11am to 4:30pm. $5 fee. 707.433.0422.