It has only been in the last 6 months or so that I have really been discovering and developing a love for Rhone grapes. There is a lot of buzz in the wine world about Rhone style wines as the next big thing. Most people know Syrah but until recently, grapes like Grenache and Mourvedre were only seen as blending grapes. In northern California, if you are looking for great Rhone style wine, there is no better place to explore than the Dry Creek Valley. I was already appreciative of Rhone grapes as single varietal wines, particularly Grenache, but after a recent trip with my family who introduced me to Frick Winery, I am ready to drink the kool-aid.
We turned down the road towards Frick and it didn’t take long for me to start wondering if there was an actual winery out there. Driving along the dirt and gravel road with no visible signage encouraging me that I was almost there, I also began wondering if anyone could hear me scream out here. Thankfully, we overcame our doubts and finally came upon the cottage-like building used as the tasting room. To get a picture of the size of this place, Frick explains that groups of 6 may be difficult to accommodate.
When I joined the staff at The Oregon Wine Blog I wanted to showcase small, family-owned wineries in California. Frick Winery is the epitome of what I wanted to showcase. Listed as the owner, founder, winemaker, vineyard worker, bottle washer, tasting room staff, and cellar rat, Bill Frick does it all and is literally a one man show, handcrafting single vineyard rare Rhone varietal wines. Bill told us that when he was a kid he visited a winery and it was from that moment that he was bit by the wine bug. While talking and tasting with Bill, that genuine love for wine was easy to feel. A relatively simple approach, Bill focuses his attention on these uncommon wines “because that is what grows best on the mountain.”
We first started with the 2008 Grenache Blanc. Like many of the wines we had at Frick, I had never tasted Grenache Blanc and found it to be incredibly refreshing. Flavors or pear and apple were the most prominent in this fruit forward wine. The crispness of the wine would make it perfect with light seafood or spicy food...or just to sip while sitting on the porch on a hot day. Having not tasted Grenache Blanc before I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I found this wine to be very complex, with new flavors appearing throughout the lingering finish.
Our next wine, another uncommon varietal was the 2007 Owl Hill Vineyard Counoise (pronounced coon-wahz). Only 2 acres of this grape exist in Sonoma County, compared with the 10,192 acres of Pinot Noir planted in the county. The rarity made it feel very special to be enjoying this wine with someone like Bill who really appreciates these rare varietals. Upon pouring I first noticed the deep purple color of the vino in my glass. The Counoise was very soft with wonderful flavors of blueberry, cranberry, plum, and many other delicious fruits. I found a slight hint of spice and pepper on the finish but nothing that overpowered the wine and made me forget about the fruit in the first part of the wine. A very drinkable wine when you are looking for a fruity red wine with a little bit of body.
Frick is not only rare in the wines he produces, but also in that tasting there carries no charge. As such, we were able to taste through several other wines including the cherry-laden 2007 Grenache, the 2006 Carignane, and the very earthy 2005 Syrah. My favorite however, and the wine receiving the overwhelming popular vote among the family was the 2007 Cinsaut (pronounced sahn-so). With only 7 acres planted in Sonoma County (Bill owns 3 of them), the Cinsault is another wine you will not see on most tasting menus. The Cinsaut had a very balanced body with mild tannins. I found this wine to be very jammy on the front with mostly red fruit and a more detectable finish of spice than the Counoise.
Going to Frick was an exploration into unfamiliar territory. When you go to Frick you won’t find a new take on the Cabernet that you love or the Chardonnay you open on a hot day. You go to Frick because you want to try some new things, expand your palate, and support a true family winery in Sonoma County. Going to Frick also gives you the chance to taste with the person involved in every process of the winemaking process. His winemaking processes are true to the grape and allow you to experience the unique qualities of each grape without any unnatural processing to alter the characteristics. Frick is a hidden gem in Sonoma County and is worthy of any wine tasting itinerary.
A special thanks to Katie’s Uncle Jim and Aunt Zee for introducing us to this treasure and to Bill for taking such great care of me and my family!