Nestled in the southern foothills of the Sonoma Valley, Nicholson Ranch Vineyards and Winery enjoys a combination of soils, sloping hills, great climate and a fine view. The California and Mediterranean style winery sits up against the hillside at the corner of Highway 121 and Napa Road. Turn into the property and head up the hill, passing the wine cave entrance and the small lake at the top. Look for the waterfowl along with the picnic tables.
The tasting room and hospitality areas are nicely laid out, with a lovely covered patio overlooking the vineyard and hills, as well as a flagstone courtyard with a cascading fountain. The doors, windows and tongue-and-groove ceilings are all constructed of native fir, and the lintels, shutters and trellises are made of salvaged old-growth redwood. The roof is of variegated slate trimmed with copper gutters.
Inside the spacious tasting room is a granite-topped tasting island, soaring ceilings and an upstairs art gallery. There is elegant glassware for sale along with other wine accessories.
The facility is a five-level gravity-flow operation, designed to gently move wine through its stages of production. After being de-stemmed the grapes move from the crush pad to the fermentation room below. The juice is pressed and flows into a raised settling tank in the wine cave, then is gravity-fed into the barrels. Finally, a sunken tank room used for blending holds the wine until bottling.
The winery produces small amounts of estate-grown wines, with the emphasis being on Burgundian varietals. Four different rootstocks were matched to the various soils of the ranch, and then specific clones of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot and Syrah were selected for planting. The low-yielding, aromatic “Dijon” clone was selected for the Pinot Noir and half of the Chardonnay plantings. The result is rich, food-friendly wines.