Wine Tasting Room of the Week

A foodie bazaar in a gourmet ghetto, Plaza Farms lives up to its agricultural intimation in at least this respect: tenancy is highly seasonal and subject to change. On the south side of Healdsburg Plaza, the open space is a deconstructed boutique mall, the several storefronts delineated by posts and beams. Bellwether Farms once offered sheep cheese samples here, but has since roamed on to other pastures. At the tasting bar, a crop of wineries has come and gone. Shelf space currently devoted to Bradford Mountain and Starry Night Winery will only last through the month, as Plaza Farms recently announced its intention to close. Time, she is short.

Bradford Mountain”s Grist Vineyard turns out a characteristic Dry Creek Zinfandel that, like its location some 1,000 feet above the Valley, may be just a notch above. A dusty layer of white pepper coats the 2005 Grist Vineyard Zinfandel”s ($34) sweet bramble berry fruit, which in turn envelopes the prickly tannin—a unified, warm wine. The 2005 Grist Vineyard Syrah ($34) is another sweet mouthful with a dry finish. Susceptible types, perhaps prompted by Bradford Mountain”s wild boar logo, may wander to the back of Plaza Farms for a pork cheek sandwich at Bovolo (where “slow food” is served fast).

The light of day seldom sees a Starry Night winetasting, so it”s nice to catch up before they wink out. No tasting is scheduled at the stealth winery located in a Novato industrial zone. The former Frosty Acres frozen foods warehouse is even more anonymous with its old 1976 patriotic mural now painted over, and its Frosty Lane street sign is regularly absconded with around Christmas time. The mini-mural on the Starry Night label is a vineyard-y take on Van Gogh”s high-recognition classic.

Starry Night is a specialist in hearty Zin from the old school. The 2005 Tom Feeney Ranch Zinfandel ($28) is a toothsome brew of overripe black fruit, a juicy, raisiny, redwoody classic. Hugely appealing at a recession-friendly price point, the 2006 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($14) has got a truckload of ripe honeydew melon and assorted tropical fruits in each glass. A little on the sweet side, but unlike hot and austere Sauv Blancs, the tasty fruit just keeps rolling in. Enjoyed recently on a frosty night, it might pair even better with a warm afternoon when sunflowers are in season.

Plaza Farms, 106 Matheson St., Healdsburg. Open 10am to 6pm daily; no fee for wine tasting. For more information, visit [ ]

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