If you’re at all familiar with Sonoma County wines, then the name Bacigalupi probably at least rings a bell. Charles and Helen Bacigalupi purchased their original16 acres of existing vineyards back in 1956 simply maintaining the pre-existing plantings. It wasn’t until 1964 that Charles started to experiment with, the now notorious California varietals, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
Back then, Bacigalupi was solely a vineyard, not a wine producer, but the name gained serious recognition during the 1976 Paris tasting when the 1973 Napa Valley Chardonnay from Chåteau Montelena — made with 40% Bacigalupi grapes — beat out the French competition.
Indeed, the Bacigalupi’s main business is still sourcing their grapes to various wineries around the Sonoma wine region and include such major players as William Selyem. But the Bacigalupi family do boast their own wine label as well, producing just around 2000 cases annually. So, to taste and to buy, one must visit the Bacigalupi Westside Road winery in Healdsburg.
With a babbling brooke just outside the front steps, and a wine tasting room looks very much like someone’s home, it’s clear that wine at Bacigalupi is a family affair. In fact, the moment you step through those storybook red doors, you’ll be greeted by someone from the Bacigalupi family, eager to get you started with a tasting.
A flight at the winery will feature 4 to 5 different wines, depending on what’s available (remember they’re a small wine producer and sell out quickly). The $15 tasting fee is waved with the purchase of any two bottles. Though the prices may seem a bit steep to some (a recent visit showcased wine prices ranging from $40 to $65 per bottle), you must remember everything is an estate-grown limited release. The wines are worth every penny — I’m telling you right now, it’ll be hard to just chose two.
Since your host or hostess will be someone from the family, or a close family friend, you’re sure to receive knowledgeable as well as friendly service when wine tasting. During my visit, Nicole Bacigalupi was more than happy to answer all my geeky, wine-nerdy questions about the terroir and microclimates of the family’s estate vineyards, providing maps, pictures, and even bringing out an old bottle from the original wine label back in 1980 to give some history and context.
- WHAT TO TRY: Since it’s a flat fee for tasting, taste as much as you can. But if for some reason you can only try a few, or maybe you just want to pop in and purchase, I highly recommend the 2014 Pinot Noir — made from 57% Wente and 43% Pommard clones from the Frost and Goddard ranches; aged in 11 months in French oak (40% new; 60% neutral). It’ll be one of the most balanced Pinot Noirs you’ve ever had — bursting with a bouquet of fresh flowers on the nose with a palate that is simultaneously juicy yet silky smooth from start to finish.
For more information about Bacigalupi Vineyards, the wine, and where to visit, please do visit the Bacigalupi Vineyards website.
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