When Hard Work Pays Off

Hop Kiln Winery
Healdsburg, California

California Historic Landmark Number 893 in Sonoma County is also home to Hop Kiln Winery. Although hops are no longer processed here, the majestic old kilns now serve as Hop Kiln's spectacular tasting room. The former ranch, dating from the 1850s, changed ownership in 2004 with the purpose of "upscaling and excellence," according to CEO David Di Loreto. Currently there are estate Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Grigio vineyards with immediate plans for other site-specific plantings that flourish in this appellation.

The winery produces two brands: Hop Kiln and HK Generations. Hop Kiln wines include three proprietary blends: the famous Big Red, Rushin' River Red, and a white wine called Thousand Flowers, whose 2008 vintage recently took Best of Class at the California State Fair Wine Competition. New additions include a Grenache and a Malbec varietal.

HK Generations, which debuted in 2006, is part of Hop Kiln's 2004 rebirth. The process began by replanting their geographically blessed Westside Road property with mostly Burgundian fruit, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay. Meticulous care by Vineyard Manager David Smith and new Winemaker Chuck Mansfield will result in an all-estate production of HK Generations by 2010. In the meantime, its 2006 Estate Pinot Noir received 92 points from the PinotReport, while its 2006 Sonoma County Pinot Noir garnered 91 points from Wine Spectator and 91 points from the PinotReport.

This success is partly attributed to the care taken of the precious fruit from start to finish. To accomplish this they have invested in the "Bentley" of wine processing machines from Pellenc of France. This high-tech marvel allows Hop Kiln to cultivate and harvest estate grapes at their peak with care and precision.

A visit to Hop Kiln's unique tasting room offers an inviting array of artisanal cheeses, bread, and other delectables overseen by Chef Renzo Veronese. All in all, wine tourers might well want to hop to this landmark touring choice.

What To Buy:
Big Red
Bright raspberry, blackberry notes $17
Thousand Flowers Rich nectar, fresh, zesty, floral orange blossoms $15

Contact:
707.433.6491; Fax: 707.433.6436
hopkilnwinery.com
6050 Westside Rd
Healdsburg, CA 95448
Tasting Room Open Daily 10-5

Getting There:
Take Hwy 101 N to Central Healdsburg Exit. Turn onto Westside Rd. Go 6 miles to winery.

This story originally appeared on Touring and Tasting