Ledson Winery: The Castle in Kenwood, Sonoma Valley
Lo, along the great road Route 12, looms there not a bastion of stone? A vast, dark gray hall that spears the sky with its spires, as arched as the back of a black alley cat? What Valhalla, what dark fortress is this, echoing with the footfall of what kind of warlock? Let us enter this mighty mead-hall, and stand bold at the bar, asking: Pour me a taste of your best Merlot!
As outlandishly gothic as it looks from the road, the Ledson Winery hospitality center was actually intended to be merely a family abode in the burg of Kenwood. The story goes, that so many people drove up, expecting a winery, that plans were changed. Up close, it’s a surprise to find that there are no gargoyles leering from the cornices. I thought I saw one thrust its beak from someone’s coat, once, but it was just one of those little pocket Chihuahuas.
The place is pet friendly, in any case, as owner Steve Ledson’s dog can be seen roving through the tasting area, which is a series of rooms handsomely detailed in wood and decorated with historical family photographs (this is not the doing of a dot-com millionaire, but of an old-fashioned local real estate tycoon, a fifth-generation Sonoman who prefers the title, farmer and rancher). Up the grand stairway, four rooms and the balcony are available for seated, private tastings by appointment. On the way out to the tree-shaded, parklike picnic grounds, the retail room includes a big, gourmet deli stocked with all the mineral water, pesto pasta salad, and of course, wine, that your hungry heart might desire.
Tip thy chalice
Ledson has a smorgasbord of wines on the menu, so there’s something for everyone. Staff are generally gregarious and informed—one bartender tells me that he was a wine club member for seven years before joining the crew here. My only quibble is with the skimpy pours—the bottles are fitted with spouts that meter out one ounce, such as are popular at big wine events. If you’re serious about evaluating wine, this isn’t quite enough—although if you aren’t serious about spitting it out, it probably is enough.
Fans of exotic, sweet gooseberry and honeysuckle scented whites will find much to love about the 2012 Sauvignon Blanc ($28). Nice white pear flavor, too. The 2009 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir ($60) is nice and spicy, but Zin is the king of “the Castle,” as this place is called. With maple syrup aromas sweetening the coriander spice, the 2009 Russian River Valley “Century Vine” Zinfandel ($52) rewards the palate with gobs of plush boysenberry fruit. Love red blends? The 2009 Sonoma County “Gunsight” ($18) is named for a favorite hiker’s vista point on the mountain that looms above the Castle’s chimneys; the 2008 Sonoma County “Legend” ($44) is a bright claret that may appeal to Bordeaux fans.
The wines—sorry, no mead—are made, by the by, offsite, as the Castle has no winemaking facility. Currently, Ledson has plans to construct a still vaster complex across the road; stay tuned.
Hit thee upon the highroad
Get your boots dusty at nearby Annadel State Park, where several trails through redwood and oak forest lead to, yes, Ledson Marsh.
Reserve your castle vineyard row
Have you ever dreamt of walking through your own vineyard, or imagined your name on an exquisite bottle of wine? Well, here’s your chance! Surrounding the Ledson Castle, the newly planted Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec vineyard rows will make up Ledson's newest wine, "Three Brothers." You will be given the opportunity to reserve your vineyard row.