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Tasting at Taft Street Winery

A gray afternoon in-between rain storms reminded me of my favorite kind of tasting room to drop in on, on days like this. Tucked into the trees on the outskirts of Sebastopol, Taft Street’s humble setting, fair prices, and well-made Sonoma County wines — Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel in particular — have endeared it to many new fans over the years.

Under the Old Apple Shed

First thing, don’t look for the winery on Taft Street. “Garagistes since 1979,” the Taft Street team moved from a small garage in Oakland’s Rockridge neighborhood to Sonoma County in 1982. They celebrated their 30th anniversary by remodeling the tasting room, but don’t expect anything fancy: unfinished 2x4s and industrial piping signal a commitment to the winery’s beloved unloveliness.

Taft Street is laid out like the old apple canning facility that it used to be, back in the glory days of Sebastopol’s Gravenstein apple industry. The tasting room is a barn-style structure opposite the plant office, by the entrance. In back of the work yard, there’s the very functional-looking cellar. New features including a patio, a small outdoor stage and a bocce ball court will enhance summertime visits.

As a returning visitor, I was cheered to hear that Finnegan the big orange tabby is still on staff — perhaps the only cat to appear twice in a book called, Winery Dogs of Sonoma. But Finnegan had important business to attend to in the office, i.e., an eight-hour nap.

Take a Sip — it’s only five dollars

Taft Street is one of the last wineries asking a mere $5 tasting fee. The new “Garagistes” tier is only available at the tasting room, while the original labels are often seen in Sonoma County stores and restaurants.

Enjoyable now, the 2012 Garagistes Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc ($25) begs for summer weather: fresh grapefruit aroma with a hint of vanilla perfume, although it’s not barrel fermented; staying on the good side of bitter grapefruit and melon, it finishes long and zesty.

Partial malolactic and oak help make the 2011 Garagistes Russian River Valley Chardonnay ($28) subdued and gentle, more reminiscent of the Gravenstein apple than “oak and butter.” The rosé of Pinot Noir is a favorite, while the 2012 Garagistes Russian River Valley Pinot Noir ($34) is on a single-minded mission to brighten your day with crisp red cherry fruit.

Geek out

If co-owner Mike Martini sounds familiar, it’s not because he has anything to do with Louis M. Martini Winery; nor with the old Martini & Prati Winery (now Martin Ray). But he is a former mayor of Santa Rosa.

Hit the Road

A great way to explore from here is by bicycle, or on foot. Barlow Lane is a few hundred feet from a trailhead of the West County Regional Trail, a rails-to-trails project that links Sebastopol with Forestville.

Several wineries can be easily reached by pedestrians and cyclists from this path, as well as jam masters Kozlowski Farms, the Victorian Farmstead Meat Company, and Graton and Forestville area restaurants.

Taft Street, 2030 Barlow Lane, Sebastopol, CA 95472. Daily, 11 a.m.–4 p.m.; 4:30 p.m. weekends. Tasting fee, $5. 

Find more info about things to do, wineries & wine, and hotels & lodging in Sonoma County.

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