Some of my favorite wineries are ones I need to search out as opposed to stumbling upon when on a road full of wineries.
After a getting a recommendation for Porter-Bass winery located close to Guerneville, we made the trip out Mays Canyon Road – wondering a couple times if we were on the wrong road.
Finally emerging from a road that had us feeling like we were in Jurassic Park, we came upon Porter-Bass.
Two thoughts – one, am I glad we made the drive, and two, you should as well.
On the day of our visit, we had a chance to visit with Luke Bass and his mother Sue in their tasting room. Well, it was a wooden table under a tree in their front yard, but it was exactly what I love when visiting a winery.
Relaxed and casual.
“I’ve thought about putting out signs,” said Bass about promoting the winery. “But when you’re farming the land, you don’t have the time. We are open for tastings any time if you call and let us know.”
In the day and age of corporate stuffiness with many wineries, as well as a glut of people hitting the wineries for all the wrong reasons – getting drunk would be at the top of that list – Porter-Bass (named for Luke’s surname and Sue’s maiden name) is a welcome relief from what wine tasting has become.
“We don’t get the tour buses or drunken groups,” said Bass with a sense of relief. “The fact that people have to work to get here helps.”
After earning a degree in economics from U.C. Santa Cruz, Bass embarked on a winemaking internship at Flowers Winery. His harvest internship evolved into an intensive two-and-a-half-year experience as cellar master, giving him the chance to work with some of California’s best Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
After Flowers, Bass worked at Flagstone, a fledgling but ultra-premium winery on the waterfront in Cape Town, South Africa. In the following years Bass worked for Vina Casa Marin in Chile, and then for Tandem Winery and Hirsch Winery in Sonoma County.
Porter-Bass Vineyards sits nine miles from the ocean in a saddle between two ridge tops. The Russian River swings in a gentle oxbow around these ridges allowing the fog to drift to the foot of the vineyard, cooling the vines in the summer. The forest of Redwood and Fir that surrounds the vineyard protects the vines from strong winds.
All the wines made by the family are by Biodynamic farming, which is creating a living soil. If the soil is poor, space is devoted to animals and composting their manure to build the soil. Also growing cover crops and tilling them into the soil helps to build up organic matter. Then when the soil is healthy, moving to a permanent cover crop to minimize the human impact on the soil.
“I do like the idea of composting,” said Bass. “I look at the long-term rewards. I want it to be great solid when my son is growing grapes.”
There are two labels of wine available, the Porter-Bass wine as well as the Poco a Poco label.
The Porter-Bass label carries Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel. We tasted the 2014 Chardonnay, the 2012 and 2014 Pinot’s and the 2014 Zin. My wife loved the Chardonnay that featured a lemon and mineral quality.
The 2012 Pinot was earthier than the 2014, but both were very good and are bottles I would enjoy while relaxing. The Zin was also an excellent wine.
The wine that stole the day for me was the Grenache from the Poco a Poco label. The wine was tasty at the table and Luke suggested we chill a bottle as well. Being the weather was close to 100 degrees, we took his suggestion and chilled a bottle of Grenache.
It was sensational.
The label design of a grasshopper and a bee for the Porter-Bass wines is an interesting story.
Bass’s father Dirck, a practicing architect and artist has always been represented by the musical grasshopper, while Sue is the one that drives the tractor and works in the field, thus represented by the busy bee.
There is nothing wrong with the big wineries that have huge facilities and big crowds on the weekend, but it’s not the experience I look for when tasting. If you enjoy the peaceful, one-on-one wine tasting where you get a chance to talk with the winemaker as well as the farmer, then Porter-Bass is the place to visit.
It may seem like you are heading into the middle of nowhere, but once you find the property you can’t help but to have a smile on your face. For those searching for the unique and rewarding wine tasting experience – Porter-Bass is for you!
For more information visit www.porterbass.com.
By Dennis Miller