Madrone Vineyards Estate Review
Address: 777 Madrone Rd. Glen Ellen,California 95442.
Phone Number: 707-939-4510
Tasting Hours: 10:00-5:00
Region: Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley AVA, California
Reviewer: Anthony Marocco
Review Date: 5/2/2014
Reviewer: Anthony Marocco
A local wine shop in our neighborhood in Northern Virginia by the name of Swirl & Sip often hosts winemakers from every corner of the Earth to pour and discuss the wines that they produce on a regular basis. We had the pleasure of meeting Dan Zepponi, proprietor of Valley of the Moon, at a recent tasting at the wine shop and really enjoyed some of the varietals that he brought for pouring purposes only.
We decided to venture out to Valley of the Moon after visiting Ram’s Gate and Buena Vista. Historically speaking, Valley of the Moon has winemaking roots that stem from the mid-1800s (1863 to be exact) when George Whitman planted the initial 60 acres of vines and began producing close to 50,000 gallons of wine and 2,000 gallons of brandy. Like any business venture, things happen in life, and the property changed hands from Whitman to Eli T. Sheppard whom was responsible for building the first of the two wine caves and renamed the winery in 1887 to Madrone Vineyards. After changing hands a couple more times prior to prohibition, the property was revitalized in 1941 when Italian sausage makers, Enrico Parducci and Peter Domenici, purchased it and renamed the estate Valley of the Moon. From that point in time until 1997, Valley of the Moon remained in their families producing quality wine before it was purchased by neighboring Kenwood Vineyards/F. Korbel & Bros. and completely revamped.
Now with Sonoma native Dan Zepponi moving the ball up the field, Valley of the Moon and its 150 years of history is as strong as ever. After learning some of the history about the vineyard on our drive there, the excitement mounted as we approached the estate. When we pulled into the lot off the main road, we noticed vineyards lining both sides of the street and a large Valley of the Moon logo displayed on the main sandstone-sided production facility. As we exited the car and made our way to search for the entrance, we realized there was an additional building to the right that serves as the barrel and tasting room.
The barrel room has a pointed roof with dark, wooden siding, stone wall foundation, and an enormous, gorgeous wooden, almost castle like, door. As we peaked to the right of the building, we noticed a garden-style patio surrounded by wine grapes. Inside, the open floor plan offers plenty of space, and a long, modern-looking tasting bar runs almost the entire length of the tasting room. The front of the bar is decorated with quilt-style grids of rustic looking metal bolts, while the stone-topped bar and the rear of the tasting bar wall show rustic exposed brick. The tasting room also provides tables for guests to sit and enjoy their wine.
Cutting through the center of the room were long runs of Valley of the Moon wine for sale, and there was also various Valley of the Moon swag available. As we approached the tasting bar to take part of our tasting, in walked a familiar face, Dan Zepponi. After meeting him a mere couple weeks prior, we exchange pleasantries and learned of his plans to upgrade the winery grounds, tasting room, and overall feeling of the facility. The upcoming changes will clearly revitalize this historic property and put the icing on the cake of the already great wine-producing brand.
Dan introduced us to Hospitality Specialist Rayanna Tibbe who provided our tasting experience and allowed us to taste some of the sister wineries offerings, as well. Tastings at Valley of the Moon come in two flavors – Winemaker’s Selection for $10 or the Valley of the Moon Exclusive for $15. They also offer Barrel Tastings, as well as a tour and tasting, for $25 and $35. We chose the Valley of the Moon Exclusive tasting as we are familiar with their store-available wines on the East Coast. We began our tasting with the 2012 Sauvignon Blanc ($25) that explodes from the glass with juicy tree fruit, grapefruit, and bready overtones. The soft, round palate is followed by light toasty notes on the finish. Up next is the 2012 Un-Oaked Chardonnay ($28), which is every bit as crisp, bright, and clean. It shows off floral and citrus aromas, but displays a much different palate of peach and tropical fruit and finishes with crisp, mineral flavors.
After quite a bit of exposure to the winery’s Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel, I was ready to jump feet first into their reds – beginning with their 2010 Estate Bottled Barbera. A clash of black cherry and licorice meet on the nose and are followed by layer upon layer of smooth, spice-wrapped black cherry, sweet tobacco, leather, vanilla, and toasty oak flavors. Silky smooth tannins place the bow on top of the wrapping paper of this gem and earned a purchase from us without even blinking. We move on to a very interesting blend of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, and Barbera called The Bough Blend from the 2010 vintage ($45). Cedar-lined, dark fruit wafts up, while dark fruit, dark chocolate, and toasty oak finish off the sip with just a hint of clove. Overall, a very unique blend, but one that also earned a trip back to the East Coast with us. We finished the tasting with the NV Sonoma County Estate Bottled Port ($45). Currants, dark fruit, and chocolate aromas set the stage for a plethora of rich, black currants. Dark chocolate meshes with black cherry and notes of black pepper, and it finishes smooth, rich, and soft.
The wines upheld our expectations, and we were even able to taste some of their Lake Sonoma Winery wines – their sister winery. Overall, a great experience, and a real treat being able to say hello to a familiar face. Be sure to stop by Valley of the Moon Winery. As successful as the winery has been, the future looks even better!