Passalacqua Winery

We’ve often been told that in California, Cabernet Sauvignon is king.  That’s true, except where it’s Chardonnay or Pinot Noir.  For some reason, the grapes originally from France are the most widely grown in California.  Why aren’t there more Italian grapes planted there?  Well, Zinfandel is descended from Italian Primitivo and there is certainly enough of that grape in California.  And at Passalacqua Winery ( you will find quite a lot of Zin.  You’ll find a fair number of Italy-inspired wines as well.

Members of the Passalacqua family have been making and selling wine in Dry Creek Valley since 1895.  After operating in several locations around Sonoma County, Passalacqua settled at the western end of the Lambert Bridge Road.  This was previously the location of Pezzi King, known for their Zinfandels, which Passalacqua still features.  In fact, there are five of them, most sourced from nearby vineyards and one grown on their own land.

The winery building is a simple, wooden structure without pretense.  A Napa Palace would feel out of place in Dry Creek Valley, and Passalacqua certainly has a sense of place, which they invite you to share.  We recommend that visitors take their tasting out on Passalacqua’s terrace.  Of course, it’s always pleasant to taste wine out of doors, but the experience at this winery is more than that.  The views across the Dry Creek Valley are nothing less than spectacular.  In case the vines didn’t provide enough scenery, fountains and some well-placed olive trees add just the right touch.  You will find yourself sipping slowly, just to extend your time taking in all that beauty.

The Passalacquas’ Italian heritage comes through in several of the wines they make.  Their aptly named Radici della Famiglia (Roots of the Family) is now in its fifteenth release, so they add Quindici (15) to the name of the wine in the current release.  It’s meant to tase like a Super Tuscan, as it is made of Cabernet and Sangiovese.  Italian it may be in style, but there’s no missing that it’s a California wine.  Of course, they still bow to the king and make Cabernet Sauvignon as well.  They also make a white Fiano, and almost no one else in America makes wine from this southern Italian grape.  Interestingly, the majority of the Fiano grapes are pressed the old-fashioned way, by foot.  Roots, indeed! 

Quite a few of the wines that Passalacqua makes are available only to their club members, although just maybe an odd bottle or two will show up in the tasting room.  And if you want to taste their wines, you’ll have to do so at the winery or join their club, because they don’t distribute commercially.

Napa Valley and Sonoma County have many wineries established by immigrants from Italy.  Not many others pay tribute to their heritage in the wines they make.  (David Coffaro, nearby, is another exception.)  With regard to Passalacqua, we say come for the views; stay for the wine.

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