Swirl n’ Spit

Swirl n’ Spit

Mauritson Family Winery

By Heather Irwin

Lowdown: It’s a story that’s been repeated many times in the Dry Creek Valley. For years–six generations to be exact–the Mauritson family has been producing grapes that end up in other people’s wines. Companies like Gallo have, for years, bought much of the fruit produced in the Dry Creek Valley. Under the shadow of industry giants, many independent family growers simply left the task of large-scale winemaking to others.

Over the last few decades, that’s all been changing, as growers increasingly get into the winemaking business. Like many of their neighbors, the Mauritsons have suddenly found themselves known for more than just their grapes. Their first vintage was produced in 1998, with twenty-something son Clay Mauritson at the helm. An airy, contemporary tasting room opened last spring, featuring the family’s wines.

Mouth value: Zinfandels are the hallmark of this fledgling winery. Reserve vintages routinely sell out, including the much sought-after Rockpile Zinfandel. The 2001 Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel ($18) blends the grapes of seven vineyards, and has a surprisingly soft, supple complexity not usually found in young Zins. The ’02 ($24) still needs some time to mature, as does the Cabernet. Mauritson also makes a puckery ’03 Sauvignon Blanc that’s, er, tart but kind of intriguing in a Sour Patch Kids kind of way.

Five-second snob: There’s a lot of buzz about wines from the Rockpile Appellation. All vineyards in the appellation must be higher than 800 feet above sea level, making it a drier, rockier outcrop with intensely-flavored fruit.

Spot: Mauritson Family Winery, 2859 Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg. 707.431.0804. Tasting room open daily, 10am to 5pm.

From the September 14-20, 2005 issue of the North Bay Bohemian.

© 2005 Metro Publishing Inc.

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