Collier Falls Vineyards

Barry Collier has created a paradise for his grapes above the Dry Creek Valley. If you were a grape, you would want to be planted under his care. The hillside vineyards are steep and the views are incredible. The highest points are above the fog line, where the grapes benefit from a bigger bath of sunshine than their brothers further down Dry Creek, on the valley floor.

The surrounding streams are stewarded to ensure that the salmon make their annual run. To this end, Barry created silt ponds which capture the soil that might otherwise work its way into the narrow streams during the dramatic winter rains. Acres of woodland surround and thrive between the vineyard blocks. There is harmony here amongst the vineyards, the flora and the fauna. The fat and happy porcupines think so too, regularly celebrating in the vineyards on their high days and holidays.

You might have wanted to skip ahead to the review of the wines, but first it’s the grapes that make the wines great. Think about the fruits and vegetables that you buy at your local farmer’s market. Or maybe the goat cheese crafted by the man who showers attention on his herd, treating them like members of the family. That kind of care transmits itself into the food, however mystically, to raise the food to higher level that we experience in our mouths. It’s no different with the wines whose grapes have been babied along by Barry Collier, who tends them himself. He’s in the vineyard because he loves it and that passion comes through in the bottle.

We tasted 3 outstanding wines from the portfolio of reds.

Collier Falls, Dry Creek Valley, Primitivo 2005 The wine displays a richness in the nose, showing its oaky essence as if a sweet candy bar made of caramel and nuts. In the mouth the tannins are ripe and balanced with acidity, tasting of tart cherries. You would never believe that this wine is over fifteen percent as the alcohol is perfectly integrated into the ripeness of the wine. The grapes are 100% Primitivo and the wine was aged in one-third new US oak and the balance in used French and American barrels 15.2% $32 at the winery.

Collier Falls, Dry Creek Valley, Hillside Estate, Petite Sirah The nose on this wine intertwines black pepper and new oak. In the mouth there is a nice integration of the oak; you sense the tannins but they are in a tamed state, making fora refined Petite Sirah experience. There’s flavor across the entire palate and the length is driven by the acidity. 13.9% $36 at the winery.

Collier Falls, Dry Creek Valley, Private Reserve, Zinfandel The nose is dominated by intense jammy black fruit and an undercurrent of black pepper. In the mouth the jammy fruit has a candy-like character to it – lipsmackingly delicious. The grapes are all Zinfandel and the oak regime is similar to that of the Primitivo 15.5% $30 at the winery.

All of the wines are made by Mike Lancaster. More details are online: Collier Falls Vineyards

You can taste the wines at the Family Wineries Tasting Room, located at Timbercrest Farms, 4791 Dry Creek Road. On the property you can also visit with the folks at Papapietro Perry and taste the wines of Fred Peterson, whom I’ve written about before The real deal

Viticulture experts have always noted the difference between Zinfandel and Primitivo despite their being identical genetically. On the day of my visit, I got to see the difference first-hand on the vine. While the leaves certainly look the same to my untrained eye, the clusters certainly appear different to each other. The Primitivo berries are much smaller than those on the Zinfandel vines and there is no wing or shoulder hanging off of the top of the cluster. The ripening of the Primitivo is much more even as well. This is a tremendous advantage as we know the perils of Zin, notorious for its wildly uneven ripening, where a single cluster can contain berries ranging from green to raisin.

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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