Urbane class and Dry Creek Valley

Downtown Healdsburg has become a destination for luxurious wine and food experiences. One of the venues in which to indulge, just off the square, is the tasting room of Williamson Wines.

The beauty of the tasting that Bill and Dawn Williamson organize is the emphasis on food and how their wines interact with food.

Bill grew up in Australia where he studied physics and computer science.  During a visit to the West Coast, he and Dawn fell passionately in love with the land in Sonoma County and planted their feet in a new career. They have been growing grapes in Dry Creek for over 20 years and more recently turned their attention to crafting their own wines.

In the tasting room, the Williamsons have taken their scientific attention to detail and applied it to wine and food pairing.  They demonstrate how ‘the frig food’ that you have on hand at home is enhanced with a little understanding of its components . Every guest has the opportunity to taste a flight of wines, each served with a different nibble. We tasted 6 pairings, featuring nibbles like salame with black pepper and local cheeses topped with a freshly-made Australian specialty called Dukkah.

The pairings are not intended as a meal but rather as a real-life education in wine and food pairing. The charge for this experience is $0.00. In fact, the Williamson’s feel so strongly about the pairings, that they send you away without a drop of wine if you won’t try the nibbles with the wines.

I’ve always insisted that wine and food pairing need not involve haute cuisine. Bill agrees, noting that you don’t need a dish from Wolfgang Puck to enjoy a great bottle of wine. But learning a bit about the principles of wine and food pairing can greatly enhance the experience of the food already in your frig. We can create luxury where it might not obviously appear.

A knockout pairing that we tasted put together a chocolate brownie with:

Williamson, Dry Creek Valley, Merlot 2004 This wine smells of cocoa. The mouth is quite supple with moderate acidity giving a frame and great length to the black fruits. When we tasted this elegant style of Merlot with the brownie, the acidity of the wine was hightened further. So many people beat up on Merlot for being flabby and thin but all Merlot are not cut of the same cloth. This wine proves it.  The grapes were grown next to their home in the valley. The wine picked up a no-slouch Double Gold at the Chronicle Wine Competition earlier this year. $40 at the winery Williamson

About Ray

Ray Johnson is the Executive Director of the Wine Business Institute at Sonoma State University. He writes about food and wine, his travels and the business of wine. He makes his home in Sonoma County, California.
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