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Tin Barn Vineyards

Tin Barn Vineyards - Sonoma

You’ve heard about wine that isn’t “barreled down,” it undergoes an educational “élevage.” You know of grapes said to be so persnickety, they daren’t take a few steps out of their “clos”—oh dear, no!

You may be at wit’s end if your hear another another misty-eyed description of wines with “a sense of place.” Just hang in there. We’re talking about Zinfandel now.

On June 15, Tin Barn Vineyards hosts an intimate wine seminar called “Zinfandel & A Sense of Place,” part of a new series of “Cellar Soirees” that the no-frills, single vineyard-focused winery developed this year.

Even Zinfandel, the rough-and-ready grape that’s been planted throughout California since the Gold Rush era, becomes quite a different character from place to place.

Look for the big, tin barn. No, really.
On the backroads of Sonoma County, it may look like there’s a new winery around every corner, but that’s just the tip of the Healdsburg. Thank you.

A lot of the real action is happening in warehouse wineries, insulated metal sheds in our blandest business parks, or way down our loneliest roads.

Tin Barn is part of Eighth Street Wineries, a group of vintners — plus their custom-crush clients, adding layers upon layers — occupying a set of super-sized sheds down by Sonoma’s airport, across from the water treatment plant.

No, this doesn’t count as “terroir,” but there’s a lot to be said for the utilitarian setup. Launched in 2000 by winemaker Michael Lancaster, a veteran of Gloria Ferrer Champagne Caves and Quail Ridge, Tin Barn is actually named for a shack off Tin Barn Road, a popular cycling route that passes the winery’s signature single vineyard site.

Take a sip
First, cleanse your palate with the 2011 “Hi-Vista Vineyard” Carneros Sauvignon Blanc ($18), a crisp, somewhat tropical Blanc with flavors of “fruit cocktail,” especially, you know, the grapes.

Get a sense of Zin’s affinity with different appellations, comparing the 2010 “Los Chamizal Vineyard” Sonoma Valley Zinfandel ($28) with the bigger, more brambleberry-fruited 2011 “Gilsson Vineyard” Russian River Valley Zinfandel ($29). The “heart and soul” of the winery, the 2009 “Coryelle Fields” Sonoma Coast Syrah ($25) boasts blueberries over leather and just a splash of typically Northern Rhône-style wildness.

Nerd out
Tin Barn’s “Cellar Soiree: Zinfandel & A Sense of Place” explores how appellation and vineyard site influences the character of the wine, with one wine each from Napa Valley, Russian River Valley, and Sonoma Valley.

Zinfandel is a great medium for this. Have you ever compared Sierra Nevada Foothill Zin to Lodi, to Russian River Valley? Get three of each together, and you start to see it. Napa Valley Zin, by the way — basically a spicy Merlot. $35 per person, two seatings at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.

Hit the road
After visiting Tin Barn, head north on East Eighth Street toward the town of Sonoma. On the way, notice the plentiful sandwich boards littering this underrated backroad: Discount culinary ware, pet supplies; shelter pups and kittys, too. More info.

Tin Barn Vineyards, 21692 Eighth Street East, Suite 340, Sonoma. Friday-Monday, noon to 5 p.m. Tasting fee, $10. 707-938-5430.

More info on wineries & wine in Sonoma County.

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