Monday, August 31, 2009

Wood Family Vineyards

Wood Family Vineyards is a family run winery located on Greenville Road in the eastern section of Livermore Valley amidst many acres of lush vineyards, surrounded by many of the premium wineries of Livermore. Winemaker Rhonda Wood is a firm believer in the quality of Livermore Valley terroir and the high quality grapes produced in Livermore. At her small winery just a few steps from the front door of her home, she hand-crafts wines using Livermore Valley fruit with the help of her husband Michael and sons Harrison and Parker.
Rhonda and Michael Wood have always had a passion for wine. Their first home overlooked Weibel Vineyards in Fremont, and they dreamed of someday retiring to Wine Country. They even planted 18 vines in their backyard. But before those few vines reached maturity they discovered Livermore Valley and Crane Ridge Vineyards. Rhonda said, “Why wait till we retire before living in Wine Country?” They purchased their Merlot vineyard at Crane Ridge in 1996 and suddenly found that instead of 18 vines, they now had 8,037! They built their beautiful dream overlooking beautiful acres and acres of lush vineyards. And then they started to work on their winery.

The winery was bonded in 2000. On September 1, 2001 Rhonda took a leave of absence from US Airways to work on the 2001 harvest. Ten days later on 9/11 the world of an airline pilot changed. As the airline needed to cut back on flights and pilots, Rhonda took advantage extended furloughs offered to pilots to work harder on her winemaking. Eventually, as US Airways went bankrupt and took the pension plans with it, Rhonda decided that winemaking was her future and became a fulltime winemaker.

Rhonda and Michael have established long term commitments with various premium growers in order to ensure consistency in quality with the grapes they use. Gentle processing of the grapes begins with the hand harvesting in early morning hours and the grapes are brought to the winery and kept cool until crush. The grapes are hand sorted by Rhonda and her friends with the thought, if it doesn’t look like a grape you would eat; it doesn’t go into the crusher/destemmer.

Wood Family Vineyards 2006 Syrah is an excellent Syrah from nearby Madden Ranch. Yes this is John Madden’s own vineyard in Livermore Valley and no, the grapes are not Silver and Black! The Syrah grapes from this hillside in Madden Vineyards are only shared between Wood Family Vineyards and Winter Olympic Gold Medalist Peggy Fleming at Fleming-Jenkins Winery in Los Gatos. You will detect on the nose and the palate, dark roasted fruits including black cherry, mission figs and black plums. They are intermixed with a number of spices and earth qualities. There is a touch of tobacco and fennel in the flavors. It is balanced with rustic tannins and has a lingering finish.

While Rhonda concentrates on red wines, she does make an excellent Chardonnay. The 2008 “Para Mas Amigas” Chardonnay has the aromas of pears in a creamy custard with a hint of wet stone depicting its minerality. On the palate creamy texture carries over the pear flavors with the addition of fennel, lemons and grapefruit. It has a long lasting finish.

The Cabernet Sauvignon fruit from McGrail Vineyard is some of the best in the valley. The Wood Family Vineyards 2006 McGrail Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon is bursting with ripe cherry and black currant aromas on the nose, followed on the palate with a balanced blend of toasty oak, bright acidity and full-bodied richness. This wine is drinkable now but can age for many years.

The winery in the far eastern side of Livermore Valley near Poppy Ridge golf course is open by appointment only. However, you can find their wines in several fine wine shops and restaurants around Livermore and Pleasanton.

For more info: Wood Family Vineyards

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