Joseph Phelps Vineyards Freestone
No, the acclaimed Napa Valley winery hasn’t lost its way, like a wandering sheep — although this small, western Sonoma County hamlet does seem to be home to as many sheep as people.
Sagely, Joseph Phelps Vineyards eased into the local scene over several years, first planting the biodynamically farmed Pastorale and Quarter Moon vineyards, then opening a gravity-flow winery on a hill overlooking historic Freestone.
Break through the fog
Just as Bodega Highway levels out at the bottom of the valley, look for the little red “barn.” Since they painted it red, says the tasting room manager, they’ve been found by a few more visitors.
The guest center itself is a modest building just off of the Bohemian Highway, remodeled in a rustic country theme. No need to linger by the small bar; individualized tastings are conducted on long farmhouse tables.
Take a sip
Tasting these wines, one begins to appreciate why Phelps went through all the trouble to expand into western Sonoma County. Brand new releases in 2013, the 2011 Fogdog Chardonnay ($35) has an everlasting finish of caramel and lemon drop, while the 2010 Freestone Chardonnay ($55) boasts less overt oak than in past vintages, yet it’s got all the trimmings: mango, bubblegum, lemon meringue pie, with baked apple flavors kept vibrant with citrus zest.
The 2010 Fogdog Pinot Noir ($35) is pretty in red fruit leather; the 2010 Freestone Pinot Noir ($55) like a rose hip tea steeped in cinnamon and Christmas spices, a dusting of forest duff, finishing with firm, plum and cherry fruit skin tannins. Beautiful wines, across the board.
A “fogdog” is a spotlight of sun that breaks though the fog. Just a few miles from the wind-blasted coast, (bring a sweater, at the very least, we’re not kidding) Freestone is in a sheltered spot that also gets a little more sun.
Hit the road
On “Second Sundays,” Phelps hosts food pairings: local artisan cheeses on March 10, tapas on April 14. The rest of the month, if you’re continuing toward the coast with a nosh on, don’t miss the Bodega Country Store’s Dungeness crab mac and cheese; they have The Birds memorabilia, to boot.
In the immediate vicinity, Wild Flour Bread Bakery is the place for brick-oven baked treats, while at Osmosis Day Spa you can simply immerse yourself in the soup. Heading back toward Sebastopol, pick up heirloom chicken eggs in every color of rainbow, and pet pygmy goats at The Rose & Thorn.
Joseph Phelps Vineyards, 12747 El Camino Bodega, Freestone. Daily, 11 a.m.–5 p.m. Tasting fee, $15. 707-874-1010.