Last week I went on an unforgettable adventure to Square Peg Winery with my good friends, Jo and Jose Diaz. We have been friends for many years and different iterations (mostly mine – they have had their business for quite a while now) through the wine industry. They own a very successful wine PR/Marketing firm called Diaz Communications and Square Peg Winery is one of their clients.
About Jo and Jose Diaz…
Before you join us on our adventure, I need to tell you a little more about Jo and Jose. Jo is a wonderful, brilliant, eclectic, creative, fierce, loving dynamo. I have adopted as her my mentor (she puts up with me really well). When I grow up, I want to write as well as she does and possess a similarly wise worldview. Jose is wonderful, brilliant, eclectic, loving and fierce as well, and he has created my websites for me and taught me how to manage and optimize them. He always reminds me of a daddy bird, bringing me tasty website worms. I adore this couple and always jump at the chance to spend time (especially wine-related time) with them.
OK – off we go!
Jo and Jose showed up at my Barnette in the Russian River Valley on Monday morning in their new Prius. I jumped in the front seat, because I turn an unattractive shade of puce if I sit in the back (I get really carsick if I ride in the back – always have. Bleh.). We headed out to the wilds of West Sonoma County, chatting and catching up on our lives as we drove.
It’s the journey that counts…
Part of the adventure was just getting to the winery. Our 2017 Sonoma County winter has been an epic one and West County was hit particularly hard, so the back roads we were taking to the winery were iffy at best. At one point, as we were on Green Valley Road (Square Peg Winery is located in Green Valley, aka Pinot Noir Heaven), the road was blocked down to one lane. There was literally a creek running over the road and I half expected to see schools of Steelhead leaping across in their spawning frenzy. The water was about six inches deep, but the mighty Prius crossed the road/creek with ease, after we almost collided with a clueless motorist who was intent on coming down the one-way road as we were heading up. We shook that off and continued our trek up into the hills of Green Valley.
What a magical place!
We arrived at Square Peg Winery and I knew I was in for a treat. The place is absolutely gorgeous! As Jo would say, it sits “above the fog line,” on a beautiful ridge overlooking Green Valley and the Russian River Valley (Green Valley of Russian River Valley is also a sub-appellation of the Russian River Valley). The winery buildings and neighboring residence are all done in warm stucco with tile roofs, so the overall feel is one of unpretentious Tuscan beauty. Towering redwood, oak and madrone trees shade the property and vine striped hills stretch off in all directions. Sculptures by Alanna Roth are placed whimsically about, like beautiful magical Easter eggs for visitors to discover.
Who are these people?
Square Peg Winery is owned and operated by husband-and-wife team Brad Alper and Alanna Roth, with the help of Brad’s son Alex. They are beautiful people, inside and out, and together, they make beautiful wine and art. Brad, an ex-commercial airline pilot, grows the grapes, William Knuttel (Rockstar winemaker, who previously made award-winning, critically acclaimed wines for Saintsbury, Chalk Hill and Dry Creek, to name a few) makes the wine, and Alanna makes the incredible art that dots the property and decorates the tasting room. Alex is still in college, but he helps with marketing, social media, and just about everything around the winery.
It all starts in the vineyard…
Brad Alper is passionate about grape farming. All of his vineyards are dry farmed, so the essence of the terroir doesn’t get diluted by irrigating with additional water. In their neck of the woods, Mother Nature provides plenty of rain, anyway. Another noteworthy vineyard practice that Brad employs is “custom pruning,” meaning that he and his vineyard manager prune each individual vine according to how much water and sunlight it needs. Now, that’s attention to detail!
Three distinct wine labels, all under one roof!
Jo, Jose and I entered the gorgeous, airy tasting room and sat down with Brad and Alex. There were wines from William Knuttel, Ottimino and Square Peg, all lined up on the table. We started off by tasting the 2013 William Knuttel Chardonnay and we all absolutely loved it! I’m not usually a Chardonnay lover, but this one totally blew my skirt up! Here’s what I noted: “Aromas of perfumed tropical fruit, apple, incense, baking spice and a hint of butter lure the taster into a perfectly balanced, luscious mouthful of consistent flavors and a long, juicy finish.” Oh yeah.
Next up was the 2014 Square Peg Block 8 Pinot Noir. OMG, OMG, OMG! I tried not to make happy girl noises as I was smelling and tasting this wine, but was not entirely successful. This is one of the best Pinots I’ve had in a long time! Aromas and flavors of cherry, vanilla, mocha and sandalwood all play nicely together from first sniff, through the seductively silky mouthfeel and on through the long finish. The 2014 Square Peg Block 1 Pinot was equally amazing! After we all enjoyed the Pinot Noirs, we went on to taste three Ottimino Zinfandels. Before I tell you about the wines, please click here to read the story of Ottimino – it’s delicious Sonoma County history in a glass.
The 2014 Ottimino Estate Zinfandel is a classic cool climate Zin, with abundant aromas and flavors of spicy raspberry, blackberry, orange peel, vanilla and mocha, all wrapped up in a lusciously rich mouthfeel. In a word, yum! The 2013 Ottimino Rancho Bello and 2013 Ottimino Biglieri Vineyard Zinfandels were gorgeous as well. I don’t want to bore you with my wine descriptions, so I’ll just tell you that I absolutely loved every wine I tasted. I joined the allocation list. Yup. I need more of these wines!
After our tasting, Jo, Jose and I toured Alanna’s art studio. All I can say is “Wowzers!” She is an artist with a capital “A.” Bronze, pottery, glass, paint and more – she does it all beautifully. I wanted to buy everything!!
After our art tour, we thanked Brad, Alex and Alanna and jumped back in the Prius. We made it back to the Barnette without further incident and I thanked Jo and Jose profusely for taking me to such a special place.
I urge you to take a couple of hours and visit Square Peg Winery. Walk the vineyards with Brad and Alex, and then sit down to a private tasting. You will come as a visitor and leave as a friend, probably with some amazing wine in your car. I certainly did!