Powicana Farm's tasting room in in Penngrove - next to Petaluma - is an easy to get to, rustic spot with a lot of Sonoma ag history vibe. They're open only on the weekends from 1-5, but that's more than enough time to sample their wares, and, if you like, enjoy a picnic on their outdoor picnic tables.
The ambiance is the first thing you notice here - laidback, farm-oriented, roots. The tasting room and winery are located in the Denman Creamery, which bears a historic marker commemorating its landmark status as the first commercial creamery in Sonoma County. And no, it hasn't been all gussied up.
It's a beautiful setting, with a big barn (the cold storage for the winery is in there) and grassy lawns to lounge on. There's a view across the way of the old Palace of Fruit, a reminder of yet another aspect of Sonoma's agricultural heritage.
And the wine is great.
Powicana Farm first got on my radar when it won a Double Gold at the Mendocino Wine Competition last year for its Petite Sirah ($32). After sampling it on Sunday, I can see why.
As Dan Berger, a judge at the competition, later wrote in the Press Democrat, "its aroma of black pepper and violets was matched by a taste intensity that can only be experience by trying it." A beautiful wine, but not Big and Tannic.
For those of you who think you know Petite Sirah, think again. Because Powicana makes it five different ways - regular, reserve (aged in oak), as a port ($39), as a rosé, and as a Pet Nat sparkling wine ($26). The last was my hands down favorite. (I bought some, but I should have bought a lot more).
Everything Powicana makes is from Petite Sirah, because that's what their vineyard is - 10 acres in Redwood Valley (northeast of Ukiah in Mendocino). They're certified organic and Biodynamic and all of their wines come from the vines they work by hand. Their wines also appeal to the natural wine crowd since nothing is added.
French born proprietors Remi and Zoubeida Zajac - he's from Grenoble and Alsace, she's from the Loire originally - moved to Mendocino from Los Angeles because their son had asthma and needed cleaner air. (The son is also the artist behind the lovely Pet Nat label). They found air - and a lovely community - in Redwood Valley, the area with the highest percentage of organic vines in the country. They found they couldn't survive financially just by selling grapes, so Zoubeida took classes at the Rudolph Steiner College in Sacramento and Remi studied winemaking at U.C. Davis so they could launch their own wines.
They chose the name Powicana, which, in the Pomo native American language, means "red clay earth."
Proprietor Laura Hagar Rush was inspired by a friend's homemade aperitifs to start making her own four years ago.. They're released on a seasonal basis with different fruits and flavors in each season. Currently she's selling two aperitifs - Grapefruit and a Citrus. I'm looking forward to try the White Nectarines and Roses one that comes out next month.
You'll also find other local treats for sale - including the incredibly exotic sounding goat milk caramel.
The Penngrove site is an easy on, easy off from Route 101, but these purveyors and the site make it feel like you've traveled way into the countryside. Powicana's wines are the very kind of wine more people should be making and drinking - flavor filled bottles, straight from the vines.