Our last visit to Porter Creek Vineyards was in 2002. We enjoyed the smallness of the winery and the family atmosphere. However, we thought the wines were a mixed bag of quality, particularly the Pinot Noir wines. After all, Porter Creek is situated in the land of Pinot Noir grapes, the Russian River Valley. Perhaps it was because we had just previously visited Rochioli Winery, where we tasted “out-of-this-world” Pinot Noir wines. We felt that with the Russian River Valley terroir, the Porter Creek wines should have been better. For that reason, Porter Creek Vineyards did not make it onto our list of wineries on the Russian River Valley Wine Trail.
Last week we revisited Porter Creek Vineyards. Much remains the same as it was years ago. It is the same tiny, cozy tasting room, and it is the same family running the winery. However, this time the wines were much better overall than we had remembered, and we were impressed with the Pinot Noir wines we tasted. So what changed over the years? In 1997 Alex Davis took over the winemaking duties from his father and founder George Davis. It took a few years for Alex’s winemaking skills to come forward and show their style. Alex studied winemaking at Fresno State University and then spent several years in the Burgundy area of France learning the winemaking practices of the legendary Pinot Noir region.
At Porter Creek, the Pinot Noir Vineyards are all estate hillside vines and are farmed organically. The family also owns a plot of vineyards in another area of the Russian River Valley, but all the Chardonnay and Pinot comes from their estate vineyards surrounding the tasting room and winery.
Another change in the winery came eight years ago when the family hired Jonathan DeMichael to run the tasting room and sales. Jonathan spoke lovingly about his job and the joy it brings him to work in the tasting room and pour the Porter Creek wines. He is very knowledgeable and informative. Visitors will certainly have a positive experience when Jonathan is in the tasting room.
The tasting room was very quiet on our Wednesday morning visit, but Jonathan tells us that weekends bring out the masses. On the summer weekends, there can be as many as 1000 visitors that pass through the tasting room. Only 3500 cases are made annually and, since the Porter Creek wine club is at 1000 members, many of the popular wines sell out quickly.
We liked the Reserve Pinot Noir, the Estate Pinot Noir, and Fiona Hill Pinot Noir. All are very well made and more restrained than some of the big Pinot Noir wines that many of the top wine critics are touting these days. These Pinots are more Burgundian in style and very food friendly. They are expensive, $40 and above, but good Pinot Noir wines seem to be above the $40 mark. The grape yields per acre at Porter Creek are small, so one can easily see why the bottle prices are at the high end.
After this recent visit, we happily added Porter Creek to our Russian River Valley Wine Trail.
Porter Creek is located at 8735 Westside Road in Healdsburg and is open daily from 10:30 to 4:30. Unfortunately the winery is up the hill some two miles from the tasting room, so visitors cannot see any of the winemaking aspects at Porter Creek. The tasting fee is currently $10. To visit other nearby wineries, consult our Russian River Valley Wine Trail. Staying in Healdsburg? Check out our list of the best lodging in Healdsburg and restaurants in Healdsburg.