I had never ridden a Segway before, but when I was offered a free ride at the Foppiano Vineyards Lot 96 release party, I figured it would make a nice segue into the rest of the evening.
It wasn’t easy to tear myself from the dance floor – or gravel driveway – where the Pulsators were holding forth with their infectious blend of R&B, reggae and rock. A lot of Sonoma County friends were there – Ruthy, Nancy, Mark, Lisa, Ron, Bill and Robin – enjoying the Lot 96 between dancing. Even the red wine itself had a hold on me, with its ripe, juicy red and black fruit quaffableness and barbecue pairability that tasted perfect in this rustic setting. But when the gal from Segway of Healdsburg told me I could take a Segway ride through the Foppiano’s vineyards for the mere purchase of a bottle of wine, I said, I’m in!
Prior to the ride, I was informed, we had to take a short training course in the parking lot. Being an avid roller blader – albeit one who hadn’t skated since taking a face plant back in January – I somehow knew I’d pick up the skill in a flash, and I was right. It took me 30 seconds to learn how to push the handlebar to go, pull it back to stop, and to lean right or left to turn. I was doing figure eights while everyone else was lurching forward. Still, I had to wait for my other two Segwayers to get the hang of it before our guide took us out.
Once on our seg-way, I understood why there was so much hype prior to this machine’s release. It moves quietly and fluidly, even on a dirt path, and the extra foot of height it gives makes for panoramic vineyard viewing. The way we skittered through one vineyard into the next was like being on a Disneyland ride where the Segway is the people mover and the vines are animatronic.
Most of all, it was cool to get a look at Foppiano’s vineyards near the Russian River, a place far from the madding tasting room. We saw piles of stakes and pipes as well as rusty farm machinery, including an old truck body, neatly arranged under some trees, and got a closer look at the giant fans that heat the vines during cold spells. Being deep in the vineyards gave me a renewed sense of the farming side of wine and what happens outside the winery.
But, back to the wine. The 2009 Lot 96 Petite Sirah is a red wine blend of 80% petite, 10% carignan, 5.5% zinfandel and 4.5% grenache. Winemaker Natalie West says she like to approach petite sirah as if it were pinot noir, with gentle pressing, open-top fermentation and punch downs three times a day. The Lot 96 is drinkable, food-freindly and satisfying both indoors and out.
The Foppiano family has been in business for over a century, specializing in the production of petite sirah, which is not related to regular syrah but shares its deepness, inkiness and propensity for staining your teeth. Reminiscent of how Italian-Americans used to produce field blends like Lot 96 and bottle them as jug wines, Foppiano is offering half gallon jugs of for $30. Ah, nostalgia.
Thanks a bunch to Segway of Healdsburg for the fun ride, and to Foppiano for the fun party and all the great wine! You guys are where the old meets the new.
Readers, please subscribe and get Tasting Room Confidential in your email box. Tasting season is just beginning and you don’t to miss reading about new releases.