A visit to Seghesio Family Vineyards

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Brimming with history, a visit to Seghesio gives you a sense of appreciation for what Italian immigrants brought to this part of Northern Sonoma County. Seghesio can speak to four generations of winemaking, starting with founder, Edoardo Seghesio who arrived here from Piedmont in the early 1880s.  For lovers of Italian blends, and Zinfandel, this is a must do.

The tasting room is in Healdsburg, conveniently located just a few blocks from the plaza.  Although you won’t get sweeping vineyard views, it has a large picnic area and has a café open in the summer.

On today’s visit I was booked to do their signature food and wine pairing, the Family Tables.  Many wineries are getting into food experiences now and Seghesio’s was recommended as one of the best in the area.  My guide Jocelyn started me off with a few wines to taste.  I particular loved the Aglianico.  They have so many Italian blends to choose from here, and up to 12 different Zinfandels.

We headed downstairs to do a salumi tasting in the historic cellars.  Seghesio produces and sells freshly-made salumi (salami), a perfect accompaniment to the wines and great addition to the picnic basket.

As we wandered around the old barrels and Jocelyn gave me the history of the family.  With a respectable history of five generations of winemaking and grape growing, the Seghesios are one of the oldest wine families in California.  Prohibition is always an interesting time as some wineries were allowed to stay open for “church purposes”.  While not producing wine, the Seghesios kept their vines during Prohibition.  Today, Fourth generation son, Ted Seghesio is still the winemaker.

Although the tasting room is in Healdsburg, essentially Dry Creek Valley, the grapes are sourced from vineyards throughout Alexander Valley, Russian River and Dry Creek Valley.  The Seghesios farm 300 estate acres and also source fruit from other growers with long histories in the region, as well as from historic sites such as Pagani Ranch and Monte Rosso.

After our tour we headed upstairs to the “Family Tables”, a 5-course food and wine pairing.  Today I was on my own, but normally you’ll join up to 10 other people and seated in an internal room for this experience.  I must say I missed not having a window or a view, it did seem a lot like a corporate conference space that could have been anywhere. However, this was my only wish, as the food and wines were superb.

Executive Chef Peter Janiak came in to deliver the pairing and introduce the ingredients for each course, along with the wines.

Today’s Family Tables menu consisted of:

  • Pan-roasted Pacific Black Cod paired with 2006 Venom (Sangiovese)
  • Sheep’s Milk Ricotta Gnocchi paired with the 2010 Chianti Station
  • Polpette with Crème Fraiche smashed potatoes paired with the 2009 Zinfandel
  • Cider glazed pork ribs paired with the 2010 Pagani Zinfandel
  • Fat-Bottomed Girl Raw Aged Sheep’s Milk Cheese paired with the 2006 Defiant

Each “course” is a few bites of deliciousness, presented on one long plate.  The advantage here is that you’ll get to try each course with all the different wines.  At other winery pairings you’ll be presented with one dish at a time and the wine pairing.  Personally I prefer the latter, but either way it is a nice experience.

Today’s pairings were gutsy.  I don’t know if I would attempt the Black Cod with Venom (Sangiovese) at home.  The menu was definitely was enough for lunch, and I was impressed at the quality of the wines included. By the bottle prices of the wines in the pairing ranged from $55 to $63, so I can see why this is one of the pricier wine and food pairings around ($60 per person).

Despite being a large producer in the area, it feels like a family-owned business and the warm Italian hospitality you’d expect shines through.  The tasting room staff are very knowledgeable, engaging and helpful.  For many first timers to Zinfandel, this can be a great introduction. After all, like the Italian blends, it is a wine intended to be paired with food.

Expert tips:

  • There is plenty of picnic space here so plan to bring one.  You’ll also find a bocce court and a very interesting cork tree.
  • Check out the café or Family Tables pairing if visiting March through November.
  • Be ready to taste a lot of reds, mainly Zinfandels.  If you are not already a Zinfandel fan you may be converted into one.
  • Salami fans will be happy if they purchase one of their freshly made salamis ($18).
  • This can be a popular winery to visit, especially during summer weekends so you may want to make a reservation ahead of time.

WineryCritic Ratings

8/10 Overall visitor experience

9/10 Knowledge of guide

9/10 Location

8/10 Architecture and design, landscaping

8/10 Other experiences: Family Table pairing, many vineyard events throughout the year

9/10 Knowledge of tasting room staff

9/10 Friendliness of staff

9/10 Signage & ease of access

9/10 Quality of the wines poured

Appointment required: Not for tasting.  Appointments are required for the food & wine pairing.

Address:  700 Grove St. Healdsburg, CA 95448

www.seghesio.com

Tasting fees & experiences: 

  • $15 per person: Tasting fee, waived with purchase.
  • $60 per person: Family Tables Tasting (Wine & Food pairing).  Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays between March and November at 11am, 12:30, 2:00 and 3:30pm.

Good for:  Foodies, Zinfandel lovers, Italian wine lovers, small groups, couples

Wines produced: Pinot Grigio, Arneis, Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Aglianico, Syrah (blends).

What’s nearby:  Healdsburg Plaza (featuring many other tasting rooms).

District/Appellation: Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County

Contact for appointments:  707-433-3579 or email familytables@seghesio.com

Date of visit: November 22, 2013

E-mail: mindy@winerycritic.com