I didn’t know what to expect from Mauritson Wines, except for the fact that at least one of their wines would be from Rockpile, a newly designated American Viticultural Area (AVA) residing on the northern end of Lake Sonoma. At least that’s what the brochure said. That was just the start to a larger world I had no idea existed. Welcome to Mauritson.
It’s really easy to find Mauritson. Just take Dry Creek Road off of the freeway and head north. It’s the first winery right past Lytton Springs Road. The parking lot is unpaved so if you’re traveling when it’s raining, be aware that it can be a bit muddy. A selection of grapevines flank the sides of the tasting room.
When I arrived, a tasting party of about 8 people were huddled around a tall wooden table outside. Throughout their tasting, a few members of the staff ran back and forth from inside to pour the wine for them. On a warm, sunny Dry Creek summer’s day this would be the perfect place to wine taste. Though with passing showers still lingering overhead, I stepped inside.
The tasting room has a long, tall standing room counter with a lower counter in the front. A mixture of tall chairs and short ones for the lower counter are interspersed throughout the room. While I was standing there, two individuals were sitting to the left of me, obviously contemplating how amazing their rosé made from Cabernet Franc was.
Heck, I was contemplating just how short of a time the skin was left in the tanks as the rosé had the most beautiful salmon like color to it. I’m guessing about three or four hours, but I was so infatuated with the fact they simply had rosé, I failed to ask the question. I guess that will be for another day.
The rosé was a bit off script, and off of the general tasting menu. But like a pig and truffles, once I get a whiff of the cold pink deliciousness, it’s hard to focus on anything else. Wait, where was I? This is not my beautiful house. How did I get here? Oh yes, Rockpile. I remember now.
In addition to the crisp rosé, I started out with a Sauvignon Blanc. A great starter to get the taste buds woken up. It’s bright and crisp, which is a staple style for Dry Creek Valley. The tasting staff then poured a Zinfandel from a similar area in Dry Creek to round out my Dry Creek wine adventure. Then I was off to delve into the Rockpile Wines. Buckle your seatbelts ladies and gentlemen, you’re in for an adventure.
The Rockpile AVA, while only officially being designated since around 2012, the area actually has been used for well over a century and a half for farming and growing grapes. The terrior (pronounced tear-wha-r), or soil and growing conditions in French, is an ideal location for Zinfandel. And a few other varietals too.
Mauritson Wines has been growing wine in the newly proclaimed Rockpile AVA for six generations. That’s over 150 years of farming knowledge for the area. I think they’ve got this down.
I came initially thinking they would have one, maybe two Zins from the Rockpile AVA. What I discovered is yes, they do. And they also have Cabernet Franc and a Petite Sirah (See-rah) as well. Say what? What’s a Rhone varietal (Petite Sirah) doing in the same region as a Bordeaux (Cabernet Franc)? Apparently there is some magic happening up on that mountain.
Whatever is happening up there, it’s working. Both Zin, Cabernet Franc and Petite Sirah that I tried were rocking (get it? Sorry, bad joke). They also are boldly labeled with the rockpile name being 5x as large as the varietal, to show there is a separate line of wine that is Rockpile AVA produced and Dry Creek grapes.
Mauritson also has a Chardonnay and a Cabernet from the nearby Alexander Valley, though I didn’t try them on this trip. There is only so much wine one can consume in one day.
The wines are small in quantity and many of them were either sold out or reserved only for the wine club. Begging, while attempted, didn’t get me very far. Along with not knowing the secret handshake of the Nalle wine club, I’m apparently personae non gratae on being able to purchase some of their wines. It’s all good, really. That just means some wines are held only for the wine club.
If you do like the wines, it’s worth considering signing up for the wine club at Mauritson which allows you access to purchase the various limited edition Zinfandels and other rockpile wines. Do be aware that while you get instant access at the time of signup, you’re making a year commitment. Consider all factors before signing your name and giving the credit card over.
Around the tasting room you’ll find history and artwork. Various paintings hung around the room along with black and white historical photographs that take you back to the early roots of Mauritson’s farming days up on Rockpile.
If you’re just looking to sit outside, enjoy the sunshine and take in the views of Dry Creek, you can simply purchase a bottle and take it out to one of the many tables on the grounds. Most of the tables had umbrellas too.
Tastings run $20 per person, both inside and outside I imagine. If you’re coming with 6 or more people, give the tasting room a ring. It’s not big inside so they do stress any group larger than that have a reservation. Otherwise just stroll on in and taste, anytime from 10–5 daily.
For a sampling of various Zinfandels, a few other varietals not commonly found in Dry Creek, and a history of Rockpile, check out Mauritson. It’s a fun and relaxed atmosphere with a fairly tempting wine club.