The name seems like fitting wordplay for a man named John Hart with a passion for wine, and the come-hither cast on his labels only play it up. Ah, but he founded the winery with his wife, Desire. Is not life sometimes surprisingly perfect? Hart can either be found both hobnobbing with jet-set vineyard owners or out in the fields, picking entire lots of grapes as his own crew.
Swirl ‘n’ Spit last saw him in Cloverdale, pouring at the opening of a—now-shuttered—bright, white art gallery and tasting room for which Cloverdale was apparently not ready. Now, he’s set up at the Waterfront tasting room, part of the Old Roma Station collection of wineries by the Russian River, sharing the bar with Christi Vineyards and J. Keverson Winery.
There’s art on the exposed brick walls of this giant space, too, and visitors can paint their own square on a guest’s canvas. There’s a candy-colored jukebox, and works by the artist Loreta Hornall, who provides Hart’s earth-toned, sensual labels depicting bedroom-eyed vixens, amatory couples and, on his 2007 Grenache Rosé ($18), an ardent devil in form-fitting red spandex making a brash play for an angel. The rosé has herbal thyme and pine aromas, a nose of candied-strawberry and rhubarb, and is sweet-bodied but finishes nice and dry.
Hart’s 2008 Russian River Valley, Ritche Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc ($20), softened in neutral oak barrels, has a candy-lime, tropical fruit nose, and the sensation of a fat raindrop on the tip of an outstretched tongue puts the crisp acidity in balance. This is a classy Blanc from a vineyard that lends these attributes to a few other Russian River wineries’ product. J. Keverson’s light-bodied 2006 RRV Labyrinth Vineyard Pinot Noir ($38) serves up classic cherry cola flavors, with clove and allspice while fern, allspice and orange peel characterize Hart’s silky 2007 Eastman Lane Pinot Noir ($36). With an air of fresh dirt after rain, gorgeous cherry-plum fruit and flannel-soft tannins, Hart’s 2007 Rockin H Ranch Pinot Noir ($35) sways the senses.
Long a source of Hart’s Desire vintages, the Ponzo Vineyard provides the 2007 Old Vine Zinfandel ($25) with aromas of blueberry danish and layers of chocolate and blackberry flavor. The 2008 Late Harvest Zinfandel ($25) delights with a clean, sticky raisin aroma and a plush, porty palate—not too sweet or hot, more like fur on the tongue. Nightcap-sippers looking for a bit more of a “kick” can move to the end of the bar for a less subtle salve—Christie Vineyard’s late harvest Zinfandel, which is actually called “Panty Dropper.” Just watch out where that kick is aimed.Hart’s Desire Wines, 53 Front St., Healdsburg. Open Thursday–Monday, 11am–5pm. Tasting fee $5. Old Roma Station hosts a special event on Feb. 14, Valentine’s Day. 707.433.3097.