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ZinfanZinfandel wasn’t out of the question but it had long been forgotten as the easy answer to pairing with burgers. After other varietals that will often show more balance—in terms of alcohol—I’ve been guilty of putting Zinfandel (my first wine romance) on the back burner while seeking obscure wines that would also pair well, until last week, when I had a rare steak dinner—the steak itself being odd, but not rare.

Rummaging through my cellar I found a bottle of 2007 Seghesio “Home Ranch” Zinfandel, cooling comfortably in the depths that was a fitting candidate for that random repast.

Six ounces apiece were shared into stems the while dinner materialized.

When everything was plated, we cheersed (sic) to an opaque garnet Zinfandel redolent of blackberry and licorice with minor developing notes of leather. On the palate, it had married that opulent black fruit bramble with vanilla and coffee on a marvelously long finish. The Zinfandel packed a Stephen Segal-like punch, swiftly striking with seamlessly integrated HIGH ABV (15.5%), and before I knew it, we were both buzzed.

It fit the occasion, taming the beef like a ranch hand. Seghesio was one of the first wineries I fell in love with after spending a lot of time in Sonoma County, and after seeing this bottle of 2007 Home Ranch Zinfandel in action I still see the appeal.

Another wine trip concluded, leaving me with a bevy of bottles in my trunk as I made my way home this weekend. Reflecting on all the wineries I visited during this trip—the familiar lot of winemakers I visit each year dutifully and the wineries I am introduced to—sometimes new is refreshing. With choices abound it is hard to come to Sonoma and only select a few wineries to visit when they are all of such a high caliber and the valleys and coast are replete. The difficulty choosing is made that much harder if you are traveling from Southern California (or somewhere outside the wine realm)—where the best wines shops cannot even begin to scratch the surface of the small lot productions.

These “boutique” wineries are shrouded by the successes of their brethren; names like Ridge, Seghesio Family Vineyards, Jordan and even Silver Oak of Alexander Valley might be high on your list but look further and see the value and beauty of the vineyards of Sonoma.

After stopping at Hawkes winery in Alexander Valley—a winery I look forward to visiting each time I arrive in Sonoma—I was told about a new winery from the tasting room manager, located about five miles from Hawkes.

Mercury Geyserville, taking its name as an ode to how the area was initially settled, quicksilver mining. It is the vision of Brad Beard—a family friend of Jake Hawkes—who hopes to have a more comfortable and inviting aesthetic for people who want to try new wines and keep it casual in the tasting room.

Brad Beard’s tasting room is open and spacious, equipped with a record player dedicated to Mercury vinyl (although when I walked in Johnny Cash was spinning). This room was co-created by Jake Hawkes and Beard and is the perfect environment to enjoy a taste of wine.

The winery is incredibly new, opening its doors in January—the dead of winter. This time might not be hospitable to shops or new businesses in a town that thrives on tourism but it has been kind to Mercury—instituting a push to enthrall locals by extending discounts to them for their purchases.

Beard currently offers only reds, from Bordeaux blends to Pinot Noir. He offers a little twist on the usual bottling practices too, which make his wines more marketable like offering a 1700’s Bordeaux bottle that has a squat frame akin to a fire hydrant still retaining those broad shoulders. That bottle houses “The Messenger” a sensitive blend of mostly Cabernet Sauvignon.  Also on the menu are little jugs—that contain 500ml (2/3) of an actual bottle—which are for everyday drinking.

The Mercury jug wine acts as a chameleon because it is a blend; the flavors are pulled out with all different fare offering a really affordable and diverse food companion. At $125.00 per case (that includes a wooden crate to store the wines) this is a wise miniature purchase.

Next on tap are the whites, which will be available for tasting soon.  He wants to keep the tasting room fresh by constantly tinkering with the tasting menu and adding to his production of these smaller wines.

So here is to Mercury Geyserville, an emerging stalwart wine producer in an area that is chock-full of great choices. Amend your list of “must try/visit” wineries to include this small lot producer and you will not be disappointed.

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