At first glance you might mistake Mercury Winery for a traditional winery. There’s a collection of bottles behind the counter along with a spit bucket and crackers lining the wooden tasting room countertop. Yet about 30 seconds after seeing the usual, you begin to experience the unusual and uncommon. And that’s Mercury Winery.
The winery has it’s roots in the same sort of uncommonality. Brad Beard grew up in a state you don’t normally associate with wine—Arizona. As the old saying goes, “Go West, young man.” And so Brad did, as far west of Arizona as you can go in the continental United States—to California, with his brother, Grady in tow.
What’s not uncommon to see is either or both brothers working the winery. As this is Sonoma County, where dogs are as synonymous as Cabernet Sauvignon is in these parts, Mercury winery has an adorable black lab, Freddie Mercury. You’ll often see Freddie munching on corks or lounging in his bed in the corner of the room. It’s his domain and he is completely comfortable in the tasting room.
You might see the Freddie cuvee (depending on the time of year) along with artwork drawn of the lab. On the internet, Freddie often appears in many of the photos on Mercury’s instagram feed.
At Mercury you’ll find a combination of both single varietal wines and some very interesting blends. Brad has an intuition on wine blending that is truly unique. Rhone grapes partnered up with grapes from the Bordeaux region. Other times a Spaniard will join the bunch and be blended with a French grape or two. It’s a refreshing difference to the standard Chardonnay, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon that you’re accustomed to on your supermarket shelves (even their Chardonnay tastes unlike a traditional California Chardonnay).
Mercury Winery made a 500ml jug wine. Standard wine bottles are 750ml. I loved it, as it was Cabernet Franc forward, one of my favorite grapes. Costco (a big-box store, much like a Sam’s Club) loved it too. They loved it so much that they bought all of them. Literally. So what do you do after you made a successful smaller bottle? You make a larger version. Mercury decided to go with a 1000ml jug (I unofficially call it the maximus, which has no relationship to the beer by Lagunitas) with a refillable cap, which can be refilled at the filling station right next to the tasting counter.
Brad takes blending to the next level by crowdsourcing his blend. Yes, crowdsourcing. There’s a catch, and it’s one of the coolest perks of the winery. Brad hosts a blending party once a year for his wine club members. Various small groups are tasked with coming up with a unique blend for the year. After a round of blind tastes by the different groups, a winning blend is selected and is thus blended. In recognition of the people who came up with the winning blend, they get their signatures on the bottles.
This has to be one of the coolest wine club perks I’ve seen in the wine world. While generally the winemaker will want 100% control over all of his wine, Brad opens one of his wines to be selected by committee—his wine club committee.
Mercury’s wine bottles are about as uncommon as you’re going to find. While traditional bottle designs will feature French Chateaus, etched grapes or rows of vineyards, with Mercury you’ll find everything related to, well, Mercury. For example, they released a 2006 Bordeaux-style blend with architectural drawings (thanks NASA) of the Mercury Project from the 1960s. The logo of the project (Mercury) is further followed up on a bottle of Tempranillo.
Mercury has fun with the name. Along with the Mercury project and the local lab being named Freddie Mercury (there are also pictures of Freddie Mercury in the winery), they also have various Mercury records around the tasting room, complete with a vintage turntable. The bathroom features a framed album of Jimmy Buffett’s, which was produced under Mercury records.
Along with letting the wine club members blend a bottle of wine for the winery, the club also comes with the option to rent out the loft upstairs of the tasting room. Geyserville is small. The downtown area is about 2 blocks long and has one stop sign. So finding lodging immediately downtown is next to impossible. There is the Geyserville Inn (highly recommended as well) down the street, but for a larger group staying in Geyserville, the loft is where it’s at.
The two bedroom, two bathroom loft is truly a hidden gem in downtown Geyserville. The best part? The wine club discount extends to the loft. Aside from the Geyserville Inn, and a few other hotels on the outskirts of Healdsburg (the next town south), there are very few luxury locations to stay in that is so close to the wine country and tasting rooms (like, directly above one). It’s a total perk to being part of the wine club at Mercury.
Every time I go in, I’m pleasantly excited to see and taste the next blend. The single-varietals are equally exciting to taste as well, as there will always be something just a little bit different about Brad’s winemaking style. That’s a good thing. He’s hand’s down the best winemaker I know to come from Arizona. Ok, so he’s also the only winemaker I know that hails from Arizona, but still…
Mercury winery wants to remind you to have fun while wine tasting (and that if you have a little too much fun, there is a loft upstairs; advanced booking required). From the decor, to the stand-up comedy of Grady, to the crowdsourcing style of one of the their bottles, it’s all about enjoying your time wine tasting while at the same time enjoying your wine.
You can’t not walk out of Mercury without a smile on your face. It’s just not possible. That’s Mercury winery.