Williamson Wines Review
Address: 134 Matheson St. Healdsburg,California 95448.
Phone Number: 707-433-1500
Tasting Hours: 11:00-7:00
Region: Sonoma Coast AVA, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley AVA, California
Reviewer: Denise Gangnes
Review Date: 3/28/2012
Reviewer: Denise Gangnes
Downtown Healdsburg is home to 20 or so tasting rooms within a six-block radius if one is busy, youre just a few feet away from the next opportunity. Williamsons marketing strategy to combat this congestion is to tempt visitors with food pairings and free tastings, then persuade you to become part of their family (aka wine club) and indulge in a variety of lavish options for tempting culinary and wine-related activities.
The Place:  Williamson has three separate tasting areas in their storefront facility; the main bar, a wine club tasting room able to seat 10-12 people comfortably and a side room with a smattering of tables. Tastefully decorated with colorful artwork, the facility holds a maximum of 50 people comfortably. If you dont fit into the club category you can expect to rub elbows with 30+ other tasters.
The Experience:  Take heed to the caveat on their website, Best call for a reservation – we are always busy. Employee demeanor ranges from charming to cheeky, but they do their best to juggle the throng of incoming visitors while making sure to cater to wine club members who sip in their private cellar. This isnt as noticeable in larger wineries where the differentiation isnt so blatant, but in a small facility its a bit restricting and noticeable. Fortunately, the wines and food pairings are imaginative, delicious and free, so we were patient.
The Wines:  Williamsons vintages are only available for sale via the tasting room and on their website. In keeping with their upscale image, wines are served in Riedel stemware accompanied by a small food sample. You can expect two to four whites and four to six red wines. The food pairings feature exotic cheeses, chutneys and chocolates. The truffle salt was a big hit. Wine prices range from $20 for half bottles to $145 for a highly rated 2005 Cabernet. The wines have romantic names like Amour, Sultry, Allure, and Ravish.
Tasting Options:  Although the walk-in tasting is free, a more private setting (with emphasis on attention) is encouraged. Options include:
Legacy Wines: Small batches of handcrafted wines (eight to ten tastes, with food) – $25 per person
Icon Wines: Smaller production, collectible wines – $40 per person for 2 to 8 people.
Bordeaux Reds: $75 per person for two to eight people.
Dare to Compare: Got three friends and $11,000 burning a hotel in your pocket? Owner and winemaster Bill Williamson will take you on a helicopter guide of Napa/Sonoma wineries (with tastings, of course). If youre short on time or your pocketbook is smaller, a $9,000 version is also offered.
Other wine club benefits include monthly six-course epicurean dinners, a vineyard pig roast, lobster feeds, etc. You can even arrange a private dinner at your home featuring Williamson wines and food by Dry Creek Kitchens for a mere $100 per person.