The phenomenon of the Two-Buck Chuck can hardly be ignored. There are a lot of people who like to drink huge amounts of affordable wine. The über wine snobs who frequent the multitude of wine-based chat rooms refer to this practice as quaffing. I have long been on the fence about the production of such wine and their overall attraction. The friends and family I have who are just learning about wine are put off by the overall expense of the proposition of learning on $50 cabs… It is understandably difficult to learn about different varietals at even $10 or $20 a bottle. With that in mind, it is incredibly easy to recommend Wooden Valley Winery.
Located just a two miles from the Napa county line, the winery does require a bit of a search as it lies well off the beaten track, on a back road in the farm country of the Suisun valley. The winery has been in business for over a half-a-century, producing 18,000 cases a year. Having almost 20 different wines to try, not charging a tasting is pretty unusual. These are uncomplicated, affordable wines.
The tasting room is incredibly expansive. Visiting there mid-day and mid-week, I was still surprised at the crowds that gathered along the 30- to 40-foot long bar. There are historic artifacts from the Lanza family who have owned and operated the winery from the beginning. The pouring staff and laid back to the point where you have to actually ask about buying — nothing is forced whatsoever. While I might not drink these wines on a daily basis, I would not hesitate to bring Dad here and let him loose.
2002 Chardonnay – 100% stainless steel. Green entry, some green apple. Thin finish. $7.00
2002 Sauvignon Blanc – Sweet, bright aromas with a sweet entry that suggests residual sugar. Grass and kiwi flavors that are smoother than I thought they might be. $7.00
2001 Viognier – Skunky aromas masks a sweet entry which turns a bit astringent. $8.00
2003 White Gamay – Salmon color with candy shop aromas. Slightly effervescent that produces a classic old-world penny candy flavor in the mouth. $6.00
2002 Valdiguie – Intensely bright red colors demonstrate fresh cherry with secondary smoke and herbs on the nose. Smooth entry is slightly acidic. A candy shop feel that is even and smooth but fails to thrill. $7.00
2002 Pinot – Slightly green, smoky bouquet which subsides to show more dark berry and vanilla tones. Astonishing aromas give way to some sweet, candy cherry aromas. Slightly harsh entry expands to more strident and metallic flavors that thins on the finish. $11.00
2001 Estate Merlot – 87% Merlot, 5.6% Petite Sirah, and 7.4% Syrah. Dark ruby color producing green bell pepper and berry notes on the nose. Hot. Medicinal flavors expand to produce a green herbaceousness with a dry, tannic finish. $13.00
2000 Cabernet Sauvignon – Green bell pepper aromas that do not anticipate the bright berry mouth feel. A bit thin. $9.00
2000 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon – 18 months in American oak shows surprisingly dark, elegant fruit with some greeness. There are hints of spice in the entry but turns a bit green on the finish. Pretty decent for the price. $13.00
2001 Estate Syrah – Ripe, warm cherry bouquet. Medicinal, camphor-like entry with overt smoke in the mid-palate. An herbal finish is a tad dry, but an excellent example of the varietal for the cost. $9.00
Some Sweet Wines
2003 Riesling – With a residual sugar of 5.4%, this intensely sweet wine was almost syrupy in consistency. Hints of apple, best served very cold. I bought a bottle for my brother-in-law who adores very sweet, easy-drinking wines. $8.00
Doce Dorato – A blend of Muscat and Canelli grapes. Not as sweet as the Riesling but still pretty intense in sugars and fruit flavors. $5.00
Wooden Valley Winery ~ 4756 Suisun Valley Road ~ Fairfield ~ CA ~ 94534 ~ 707-864-0730