By Alexa Chipman September 4, 2017
Sonoma Portworks made a name for itself in Petaluma with their tiny industrial tasting room in Foundry Wharf, a short walk from downtown and the waterfront. The area has come alive in the last few years, with farm-to-table restaurants and “Theatre District” shops.
Bill Reading founded Portworks, after experimenting with blending flavor essences directly into the wine, like chocolate and hazelnut, creating their signature DECO and DUET ports. The line quickly expanded and now includes the rocket fuel level grappas, which have such a kick to them that they are offered in tiny one sip cups, rather than a glass, and will leave your eyes watering after their tasty but intense flavor. Their Sonomic offerings are closer to vinegar and marvelous to cook with, using muscat and cabernet sauvignon bases.
Sourced from grapes in Clarksburg, near Sacramento, the soil is rich from the river delta meandering through, with sunny weather for an extended growing season that is perfect for late harvest grapes that sweet after dinner wines need. The Heringer Family vineyards are sustainably farmed with crop rotation of native plants between the vines. Grapes are hand picked and sorted for Portworks to ensure the best selection.
ARIS Petite Verdot (2013)
A mildly almond aroma continues into an earthy nut and cherry mix with a deep chalky port.
ARIS Petite Syrah (2011)
Fruit forward with a plum and black cherry aroma, its sweet, ripe plum flavors are luscious on the senses.
ARIS Norton Port NV (2012 / 2014)
This port is blended from grapes that are a hybrid invented by Dr. Daniel Norton of Virginia, who wanted to create a pest and disease resistant vine, succeeding in 1820 only to have them nearly eradicated during Prohibition. Its licorice aroma is quite strong, and the spicy, autumnal flavors would make a good Thanksgiving after dinner option.
ARIS Cask Reserve (Batch 5)
This is a mixture of previous releases, with the average aging at 9 years in the barrel. Its beautiful amber color swirls with tobacco and fruit aromas. My favorite of the flight, I appreciated the smoky notes with baking spice flavors and warm, lingering finish.
MADURO Reserve Tawny Port (Batch 1)
From an 11 year petite syrah base, it has a caramel nose to it, with toffee and buttery flavors touched with a hint of orange.
Zinfandel grapes create a sweet softness that has notes of nuts and chocolate without becoming too sweet. They recommend it with orange slices in a sangria.
If you love hazelnuts, you will want this wine, from the overpowering aroma to its sherry and hazelnut flavors. If you do not enjoy hazelnut, such as myself, one small taste is quite enough. It was a hot day when I visited the tasting room, and they also offered it in frozen wine slushy form, which was a fun and refreshing idea.
Whether looking for a unique gift or dessert port to serve with special meals, Sonoma Portworks has a wine you will enjoy. Their fun combinations of edgy flavors and sleek bottles make it a destination for apéritif lovers.