J Rickards Winery in north Sonoma County
J Rickards is a small hidden winery located in north Sonoma County near Geyserville. We’d visited J. Rickards in 2009 and a great deal has changed since then. The winery has a new winemaker, Blaine Brazil, who started in 2010. The winery just completed an innovative cave system for barrel aging wine. A new tasting room will open within a couple of months. We also noted a marked improvement in the quality of the J.Rickards wines. There are a few things that have not changed since our last visit. Jim Rickards is still the owner. Jim works the vineyards and in the tasting room when not in the field or doing his intensive care nursing gig at a nearby hospital. Just as in 2009, we found the staff at J. Rickards to be very accommodating and gracious. Also not changed from 2009, there’s no tasting room fee. Wine tasting at J. Rickards is complimentary. How many wineries can you say that about these days? Probably a handful at the most.
Many visitors get to J. Rickards by accident. J. Rickards’ next door neighbor is the famous Cabernet Sauvignon winery, Silver Oak Winery of Alexander Valley. Many wine country buffs are attracted to Silver Oak here and at their Napa Valley location. In this far-out location, the only other winery is J. Rickards, so it’s convenient to take in another tasting at J. Rickards. It costs $20 to taste at Silver Oak, and most of that is Cabernet Sauvignon. At J. Rickards, one can taste several different varietals. We tasted a Rosé, Petite Sirah, Malbec, Viogier, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet, and a old vine Zinfandel.
Jim Rickards purchased the winery back in 1976. He purchased the vineyard from the Brignole Family, who were part of the Asti Swiss Colony wine group. The main attraction for Jim was the very old vineyard planted in 1908. It is mostly Zinfandel, but the vineyard also contains Alicante Bouchet, Petite Sirah, and Carignane. This how it was done in the old days. This field blend was harvested all at once and all of it fermented and aged in the same mix. Today, wineries will grow the grapes in separate vineyards and ferment and age them separately and then blend. There are only a handful of field blend vineyards left in California.
Ross Clendenen, the Marketing & Media Manger at J, Rickards, let us through a walk in the Old Vine Zin and the caves. We toured the new tasting room facility and then settled down to some serious wine tasting. We enjoyed all the wines we tasted. We purchased the Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, Rosé of Aleatico (rare Italian grape), Malbec, Petite Sirah, and Old Vin Zinfandel. Obviously, those were our favorite wines of our tasting. Delicious wines! Following our tour and tasting, we sat at the J. Rickard picnic tables and enjoyed the views, the wines and our friends.
To get to J. Rickards Winery, head north on Hwy. 101 from Healdsburg. Take the last Geyserville Exit. Turn left under the freeway and take an immediate right turn on Chianti Road. In approximately two miles you will find the entrance to the J.Rickards winery.