If you're adventurous and hanker to try a variety of wines, Windwalker is your place. The Fair Play region is prime for growing many types of wines. Windwalker offers four whites and over 20 red wines! (The menu and availability varies by season.) Look for: Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Alicante Bouschet, Mourvedre, Barbera, Primitivo, and the selection goes on.
Jim's wine story began in 1989 as a home winemaker. He also soaked up more of the industry by volunteering for different wineries for 12 years. Alanna and Jim Taff purchased the Windwalker property, which was one of the first wineries in the El Dorado County. For over 11 years they've produced an abundant selection of wines and now have a community of wine fans.
Windwalker wines have won their share of awards. In 2017, they were voted best Bordeaux and best Sangiovese in California. To see more of their accolades, visit Windwalker's site (link.) With special attention, all of their fruit is sourced local. 15% is Estate grown, and the rest is from Amador and El Dorado County vintners.
Though the tasting room is within striking distance of Sacramento (1 ½ hours,) the setting is pure countryside. Admire the soothing views of the vineyards, the pond, and the green spaces for events. Enjoy a glass or wine or share a bottle on the deck of the tasting room. It's a welcome relief from the crush of the Bay Area.
It's easy to see the devotion Jim has to Windwalker and producing great wines. A lot of things can happen when you make wine. The sulfur, histamines, an acids can get out of balance, Jim briefs me. “We care about all of the steps. You can only make great wine with great fruit. There are a thousand ways to screw up. ”This is an honest and attentive approach to making wine. I asked Jim who his tasters and customer base are. “Our Wine Club is our customer base.” This spring they “just signed up our five thousandth club member!” That's something to celebrate! Club Members can enjoy club discounts and access to exclusives such as dinner and pairing events, club tastings, and the members' annual picnic.
It's trending now for winemakers to use neutral oak or stainless when making white wines. But Windwalker barrel ages their wines. Even their whites age in 20% new oak barrels. I think it imparts a richer taste to their wines and gives a foundation for the other flavors.
A little of this and that from my visit...
The Sierra Midnight is their flagship blend of Zinfandel 50%, Petite Sirah 25%, and Mourvedre 25%. Scion-ed by Jim, this particular blend was made over a series of different years. It is their most sought after wine. During my visit, Jim was pouring guests a vertical tasting of four wines from the Sierra Midnight series—lot 1, 3, 7, and 9—that encompassed over ten years. What a moment!
This was one of the highlights of my visit. It was amazing to taste wines that were made in different years from the same combination of grapes. But when you add in factors like weather, aging, and the 1000 little nuances that could improve or change a wine, it was like drinking a piece of wine history.
The final highlight took place towards the end of my visit.
Jim walked over and gifted me with a bottle of his Sierra Midnight, lot #1.
Taking a reserve or library wine home is akin to taking a piece of the legacy of a winery home.
The years of crafting wine, the patience to set some aside for the future,
then share it with others...well, it's significant.
Sometimes I'll save a singular bottle like this for a special occasion in the future.
But this time, I knew I wanted to open it and savor it with my Mom and Dad.
They have history with me. And patience. And can see the potential in their family.
That kind of love is for family, and also, for special wines.
Cheers to you and your family as make your own history!
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