Tuesday, January 19, 2016
A VISIT TO THE FRICK WINERY
…the way things used to be…
Walling Road laces between vineyards planted on the south-facing hillsides of the Dry Creek Valley. It’s an easy road to miss. A mile or so on we pulled off and parked in a gravel area next to a vine that looked to be a century old. Turned out, it was.
We stood for a moment, embracing a magnificent winter view and headed toward the diminutive tasting room perhaps thirty yards away. We noticed someone pruning vines back of the parking area. Seeing us disembark, he propped his pruners against a vine, wiped his hands on his dungarees and met us at the door.
This would be our introduction to Bill Frick.
Sonoma County is home to more soil types than the whole of France, we’ve been told. Her Mediterranean climate, rolling hills, lush valleys drained by scenic rivers and streams – along with her redwoods – provide the perfect place for vineyards to flourish. With those vineyards comes a flourishing wine industry. It doesn’t take too much imagination to harken back a century or so and find independent farmers setting aside a few acres for grapes with rootstock purloined from the old country.
Now, much of the farmland and orchards have been turned over to wine production and many of the old plots – I’d opine, far too many – have been corporatized: purchased by something big, but disguised as something craft-like. And perhaps they still are craft operations, but many of the quaint “family” farms are actually owned by names like Gallo, Constellation, and Kendall Jackson. (Gallo recently purchased a facility in Asti that, 60 years ago, was their biggest jug wine competitor fronted by “a little old winemaker.”)
So it is rare to visit a tasting room staffed by the craftsman himself; rarer still, I suppose, to have him interrupt his fieldwork to accommodate a visit. “Pruning is one of my favorite pastimes,” Bill Frick said as we apologized for interrupting the chore. I got the feeling that the winter pruning process is a bit like touching the future. The results of a day’s efforts are not realized until next year’s vintage is produced, aged and bottled – three to five years from now.
We sidled up to the bar commenting, “This is what it must have been like years ago,” to hear in reply, “This is the way it’s always been for me.” Always turns out to be four decades.
We had planned on pasta with a hearty homemade marinara and meatballs. “Not here to taste,” we said. “We’re on a mission.” Sharing our menu, we asked, “What might you recommend?”
He had similar plans for his meal this evening pointing us toward his Cinsaut a Rhone varietal. We sipped. “Or the Lucia,” a blend, he suggested. We sipped.
The discussion evolved from tonight’s repast to the delicate microclimates of his 7.7-acre vineyard, the variances in soil and exposure and year-to-year moisture. We sipped. He shared a bit about his history and how he and his partner chose this place, along with the sacrifices made in order to see a dream become reality.
In the end, we carted off several samples, the Cinsaut and the Lucia to be consumed with tonight’s pasta; the rest of which are in the little “library” section of our rack. With each, a tiny toast will be raised to the craftsman who dropped what he was doing in order to share his passion.
By the time we wheeled off the gravel pad, Bill was back out in the vineyard, again engaged in one of his favorite pastimes.
Notes: Frick’s website tells Bill’s story better than any post here. Here’s a link: http://www.frickwinery.com/ Check it out and plan your visit.
Our marinara and meatballs came from Guy Fieri’s More Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, William Morrow, 2009
Directions: US 101 to Geyserville. Exit Canyon Road and head west. One mile, then right on Walling Road. (Landmark: Pedroncelli Winery – also a nice stop.) Frick is a mile or so up Walling Road on the right.
© 2016Church of the Open Road Press