This week The WineBirds headed up north and made a visit to one of our favorite “hidden” gems — Porter Bass Winery. This is the last winery you’ll find on Highway 116/Gravenstein Highway before arriving in the town of Guerneville. But…you’ll have to look a bit before finding it. There are no signs for the winery and the cell reception is spotty, so you need to know where you are going. Take a turn down Mays Canyon Road, make your way through the majestic redwoods, then suddenly you’ll find a clearing with steep hills of grapevines.
There, you will also find this unassuming little winery. The tasting “room” is located in the front yard under a large walnut tree — a wine-barrel bar with a few chairs and a bench overlooking the gorgeous vineyards. This is a small, family-run winery, and the tasting experience reflects that — you’ll be led through the wines either by the vineyard manager (mom) or the winemaker (son).
Porter Bass uses organic and biodynamic principles in its 16 acres of estate vineyards. There are diverse plants throughout the property which protect the vines from wind, guide the fog, and attract beneficial insects (the winery’s logo is a bee and a grasshopper). Corporate wineries are starting to offer pricy reservation-only vineyard experiences where they brag about bringing on expensive consultants to implement biodynamic practices. Porter Bass has been farming naturally since it resurrected its turn of the century vineyards in the 1980s, so it doesn’t need to brag. Simply setting foot on the property is an experience in natural farming and terroir.
Like many wineries in the Russian River area, the specialties here are Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
The pinot noir ($50) is an ideal expression of West Sonoma terroir with red fruit, earth and minerality underpinned with a backbone of fresh acid. There is some neutral oak that rounds out the the wine but it is secondary to the complexity of the fruit. This graceful, subtle wine has earned its place in the pantheon of terroir-driven Sonoma pinots, many of which cost twice as much. Don’t be surprised when you see this bottle appear on elite wine lists across the U.S.
The chardonnay ($40) is bright and flinty with light oak in the background. Unlike some hit-you-over the head Chardonnays, this one challenges you to focus on the layers of subtle flavors that dance on the tongue.
We have tried the past three vintages of pinots and chardonnays (2012, 2013 and 2014). Each year’s unique climate is reflected in the wine with marked differences in concentration and flavor profiles.
The winery also offers a second label named “Poco a Poco” which is sourced from Mendocino (grenache) and Lake County (sauvignon blanc) fruit. This gives the winemaker an opportunity to get creative and grow the brand. Both are in the $25 range, giving us an opportunity to enjoy Porter Bass on weeknights.
Porter Bass Winery
11750 Mays Canyon Road
Guerneville, CA 95446
10$ Tasting Fee