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  • “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.” Ernest Hemmingway
  • “Judge each day not by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant.” Robert Louis Stevenson
  • “We must be the change we wish to see in the world.” Gandhi
  • “Noble deeds that are concealed are most esteemed.” Blaise Pascal
  • “A creative man is motivated by the desire to achieve, not by the desire to beat others.” Ayn Rand
  • “If you want to succeed you should strike out on new paths, rather than travel the worn paths of accepted success.” John D. Rockefeller
  • “Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.” Thomas Jefferson
  • “Sense shines with a double luster when it is set in humility. An able yet humble man is a jewel worth a kingdom.” William Penn
  • “There is a great satisfaction in building good tools for other people to use.” Freeman Dyson
  • “You don't know what you can learn until you try to learn.” Ronald Coase
  • “Let us so live that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry.” Mark Twain
  • “Create more value than you capture.” Tim O'Reilly

Garagiste Healdsburg: A Wine Lover’s Gem

Last Sunday my wife and I needed a day away from the grind, so we impulsively decided to explore a bit of wine tasting in Healdsburg, California – prompted by a random tweet by Chris Sacca in which he mentioned that Cartograph Wines is his favorite winery. Completely unfamiliar with Chris’ taste in wine, it really didn’t matter because we were looking for an excuse to get out… so,  Healdsburg or bust!

Healdsburg is located at the center-point of the Alexander Valley, Dry Creek Valley and Russian River Valley wine producing regions. Thanks largely to the growth in quality wine production in this area – and high quality Pinot Noir wines in particular – Healdsburg has evolved from a quiet little town to a delightful destination with tasting rooms, charming and sophisticated restaurants, shops and great atmosphere. We encountered perfect weather, friendly people and happy dogs enjoying the day there.

Enter Garagiste Healdsburg

Garagiste Healdsburg is a wine tasting collaboration established by Cartograph Wines and Stark Wine – both, micro-wineries which share the same wine making philosophy of quality over quantity. They just opened the tasting room in July of this year and they’ve done a great job in my opinion. The venue has comfortable patio seating with a pleasant fountain, as well as inside seating, so take your pick. Or just stand at the bar and learn about their wines, as we did.

Our hosts were Cartograph Wines proprietors Serena Lourie and Alan Baker. Serena and Alan were an absolute delight to speak with, and both very open and informative about their wine making. Sincere passion for their craft is abundant and obvious in each of them – and infectious. Serena brought us up to speed regarding the wines that both they and Stark produce, while Alan shared specifics of the grape clones used for each wine. I’m a neophyte when it comes to Russian River and Dry Creek Valley pinots and Serena and Alan made me very comfortable as they shared their knowledge. Christian Stark was not at Garagiste on this day, but Serena and Alan are quite knowledgeable about the Stark offerings and explained the materials and processes which Christian employs in making his wines.

We tasted six wines – three from each winery. Cartograph Wines was offering two Pinot Noirs and a very nice Gerwürztraminer,  and Stark presented a Chardonnay, a Syrah and a Viogner – the latter employing grapes from the Sierra foothills because of the advantageous (for the variety) warmer weather there.

Five wines from Garagiste Healdsburg

Before visiting Garagiste Healdsburg I read on the Cartograph Wines website that they produce a Gerwürztraminer, but I must admit that the “Gerwürz” was of least interest to me. I love good pinots and cabs., and have never really been fond of floral or fruity Alsatian-style wines. Well, I got a lesson in how different this variety can be. The Cartograph Gerwürtz is pleasantly dry (just as they state on their website), yet complex and delicious, without a florid nose that I don’t care much for. A great surprise for me.

Two fine Pinot Noir wines are currently offered by Cartograph Wines: one with grapes from Floodgate Vineyards, and one made from Perli Vineyard grapes. Each is distinctly different, complex and elegant. In fact, we enjoyed a bottle of the Cartograph Wines Floodgate Pinot Noir last night with grilled pork tenderloin and pearl couscous made with sauteed mushrooms, pignoli nuts (pine nuts), celery, garlic, shallots and dried mission figs (simmered in a bit of the pinot to reconstitute) and it ROCKED! You should have been here.  ;-)

The Stark Wine Chardonnay is not a typical heavy-handed, oak-laden wine. We’ve grown tired of such wines, and have in fact largely moved away from Chardonnays because of the popularity (and ubiquity) of the heavy oak style. Serena explained to us that Christian Stark uses stainless and “neutral oak” barrels to avoid the heavy oak elements and that suits us just right. In fact, the Stark Chardonnay has a distinct coconut element, both on the palate and the nose. We look forward to enjoying a bottle with a nice halibut meal.

The Syrah from Stark is another example of the care with which both of these wineries craft their wines. It’s full-bodied, not overly round or mushy (as so many syrahs can be), and in fact it’s complex and well-balanced. To Stark’s credit, the current release is a 2006 vintage – a pleasure to see, in contrast to the really young reds that get pushed into the market much of the time these days. I need to taste this wine again, without tasting five other wines first, to better appreciate its nuances. I purchased two bottles for just such a study.

And finally, the Stark Viogner. I have very little experience with this variety, but enjoyed it very much. It boasts a strong stone fruit complexity that seemed like it would pair nicely with cheese and fruit. In fact Serena suggested that it is fantastic with a nice brie and apricots, and that made perfect sense.

In case you haven’t noticed, there’s a common thread here which applies to each of the wines from both of these micro-wineries: careful attention to quality to produce elegant, well-balanced, nuanced wines. It’s not often that we’ve tasted wines on our explorations where we actually enjoyed each wine we tasted and envisioned the setting in which we’d like to enjoy them again.

So enough of my blathering here. For those close enough to do so, put a picnic together and check out Garagiste Healdsburg. You probably need a break from the grind, too. They ship to many U.S. states as well.

Garagiste Healdsburg is located at 439 Healdsburg Avenue, two blocks north of the plaza. Their hours of operation are from 12:00 noon to 7:00 p.m., Thursday through Sunday (by appointment Monday–Wednesday).

Cheers! end of article icon

Posted on Tuesday, August 16, 2011 in Everything Else


1. Posted by Alan Baker on August 17, 2011

Cheers Dale!
Thanks so much for visiting our new tasting room. We’re very excited to get such great feedback that we’re on the right track. We’ve felt like we were putting it all together with enough care to make it a fun place to drop in but you always wonder if other folks will get such a kick out of the stories and wines that make us tick.
Here’s hoping we get to chat again soon.
Alan - Cartograph wines

2. Posted by Dale Allyn on August 17, 2011

Alan: We had a great time chatting with you and Serena, and tasting your wonderful wines. We’re looking forward to visiting again soon.

3. Posted by Dale Allyn on August 18, 2011

As I mentioned in the post, I needed to “study” the Stark Syrah a bit further. Last night we enjoyed the Stark 2006 Syrah on its own and it was a delight. Rich and full-bodied with layers of fruit and spice. It opens up very nicely.

We had it with a simple dinner with which it paired beautifully: Grilled beef sirloin patties which Chris (my wife) makes by gently folding in goat cheese bits and fresh basil. As the bits of goat cheese melt and hit the grill there’s a distinct effect which is a little smokier and, well, grilled tasting, than just straight beef. The Stark Syrah was a perfect fit. Loved it.

4. Posted by Roger SF on August 18, 2011

Fun read. Makes me want to head up to Healdsburg and hang out. These two wineries are new to me, and Garagiste Healdsburg sounds like a nice respite from the “grind”.

5. Posted by Dale Allyn on August 18, 2011

Roger: you should definitely go up to Healdsburg and taste the wines at Garagiste Healdsburg. Serena and Alan are great to chat with, and the wines are excellent. It’s a bit further for us (more than 2X), but we’ll get over there again soon, hopefully. Ditching the “grind” is good for the soul. ;)

6. Posted by Dale Allyn on August 27, 2011

Okay, it’s confirmed: Stark Wine 2009 Chardonnay is excellent with halibut served with grilled pattypan squash, long grain and wild rice, and heirloom tomato and mango salsa. A very nice pairing. The coconut elements of the chardonnay are wonderful.

7. Posted by Kimberley Waterman on March 11, 2012

Just checked the website. Will definitely include exploring a bit of wine tasting in Healdsburg on my next California visit.

8. Posted by Healdsburg on August 29, 2012

All I had to do is look at that photo and I’m already in love with that wine.  Will have to try it out sometime.  Thanks for sharing this gem.

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