Friday, May 18, 2018

Lambert Bridge: A Dry Creek Valley Winery Visit

Nestled into the redwood forested hills just west of Dry Creek we discovered a haven for wine lovers and an epicenter for magnificent Bordeaux-style red wines.

Number 1 Tip For Locating Great Wineries

When we are exploring wine regions we spend a lot of time in advance studying maps, researching online and trying to figure out which wineries to visit. In some regions, like California’s wine country of Napa and Sonoma, there are more than 100 wineries and we may only have time to visit a handful (or two).

We’ve found that the most dependable tip for a great winery visit doesn’t come from a glossy brochure or a blinking computer screen. It comes from the recommendations of others during your travels. We often ask the winemaker, tasting room staff or new friends we meet on the wine trail for their recommendations on which wineries to visit next. Hyperbole from websites and magazines is one thing – but the word of mouth recommendation from someone who has been there trumps it all.

Such was the case during our recent visit to Sonoma where we discovered a truly great winery in Dry Creek Valley, Lambert Bridge. The recommendation for Lambert Bridge came from the marketing director at Dry Creek Vineyard. When we finished our visit there we loaded into the van following a her hot tip.

Lambert Bridge Experience

The Lambert Bridge winery grounds are scenic and tranquil. Sitting in front of the stone and wood winery building is a perfectly restored vintage Ford panel van.
When we walked into the tasting room, it was like entering a wine sanctuary. The décor features rustic wood finishes, soaring ceilings and a beautiful stone fireplace. We were greeted by J.P Lonergan, the estate sommelier.

The winery is named for the nearby trestle bridge which spans Dry Creek. Dry Creek Valley has long been a favorite of ours and is home to some amazing California wine minus the hype of Napa Valley. The C.L. Lambert family settled the area a century ago. Six decades later, Jerry Lambert (no relation) was drawn to the land with winemaking in mind. In 1993 Ray and Patti Chambers purchased the winery with the goal of crafting Sonoma’s best small lot wines.

During the wine country wild fires in October 2017, Lambert Bridge avoided major fire or smoke damage. Thankfully, 90% of the harvest was in, although a full block was lost in the Moon Mountain AVA. Some staff members had to evacuate and the entire region was impacted in one way or another. JP displayed a blob of metal melted by the intense heat of the fires that damaged property and took lives, but couldn’t overcome the spirt of the wine community.

Spot-On, Sophisticated Wines

As we soaked in the great surroundings of what some people call “the wine church” we were ready to soak in some great wine. We led off with a pair of whites, the 2015 Bevill Vineyard Viognier and the 2014 Sonoma Chardonnay, which had luscious apple and pear flavors.

Lambert Bridge is known for their meticulous focus on quality, with a berry-by-berry sorter, small-lot fermenters and premium French oak barrels. The quality shows brightly in their lineup of reds.

We tasted a trio of Zinfandel:
  • 2014 Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel – Cherry and spice with dark fruit. Has 2% Petite Sirah. SRP – $50
  • 2015 Meyers Vineyard Zinfandel – Nice pepper and brambly fruit. Well balanced.
  • 2013 Forchini Zinfandel – From a benchland vineyard with gravelly soil. Wild raspberry and bright acidity. SRP – $60.

The wines made with the traditional Bordeaux grapes were elegant and flavorful, with not a bad drop between them. We sampled the 2012 Merlot, 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2014 Cabernet Franc.

Three powerhouse reds closed our tasting:
  • 2013 Winery Ranch Vineyard Petite Sirah – This inky dark wine has deep blackberry flavors and is a perfect pairing for roasted meats. A wonderful bargain at $55.
  • 2012 Limited Selection Cabernet Sauvignon – Baked cherries and spice swirl in this limited production wine. SRP $110.
  • 2013 Crane Creek Cuvée – This signature wine is 85% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Malbec. A delicious, ripe blend with sophisticated flavors. SRP $110.

Lambert Bridge is a small-production winery with craftsmanship that dazzles. Consider this your insider tip: Make it a “must see” stop on your next trip to Sonoma wine country.

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