You can’t miss the big olive green barn structure as you drive along Dry Creek Road near Healdsburg. This is where the Mauritson Family makes their wines. Although one of the newer wineries on the Dry Creek Road, the family has been around for as long as anyone in the Dry Creek Valley. Before becoming a winery, the family farmed vast acres of vineyards and sold grapes to many a vintner in the Dry Creek and elsewhere. All of this started back in 1884. In the 1990’s the Mauritson family decide to make their own wines. Clay Mauritson is the wine maker while the rest of the family tends to the vines and other winery business.
This is one of the very few wineries where I am a wine club member. The reason I joined the wine club at Mauritson was to get my hands on the wines from the Rockpile AVA. There are only about 160 acres of vineyards in Rockpile and the Mauritson Family happens to own 34 of those. As a wine club member, you have first shot at buying these wines and there is a six-bottle limit of each label that you can purchase. At a futures party, we barrel tasted the Rockpile wines and they all seem like they will be very good.
We took a wine tour of Rockpile last summer and were amazed that it is possible to grow grapes there. First of all the location is deep into the recesses of the Dry Creek Valley. From the top of Rockpile you can see Lake Sonoma deep down in the valley. By the way, the Mauritson family once owned tons of acres there but the Government pulled “Eminent Domain”on them so the Army Corp of Engineers could build Lake Sonoma. The Rockpile area is above the summer fog line so it gets lots of sun. The hillsides are very rocky and dry. A fierce afternoon wind, along with the dry soil, stresses the vines to grow deep into the rocks. The results are grape clusters with small berries and thick skins and thus the opportunity to produce wines that are very rich and complex with flavors.
Somehow the Mauritson Rockpile wines are very smooth despite the high alcohol content, usually around 15%. The Mauritsons make three or four vineyard designated Rockpile wines, such as Cemetery or Jack’s Cabin Zinfandel. They also make a rich Petite Syrah and next year will be releasing a Rockpile Malbec for the first time.
The staff at Mauritson is one of the friendliest around. It is like one big happy family. The Mauritson winery is a delight to visit.