By Annie Sliman
A Truly Memorable Sonoma Adventure
For the past two years, the wines of Napa Valley have been the main focus of this column. While these incredible wines certainly have increased my appreciation for viniculture and contributed greatly to my wine collection, my husband and our traveling friends have been encouraging me to expand my horizons and learn a bit more about other wines. We were encouraged to explore Sonoma, Paso Robles and Healdsburg. This is about one of the best times and tastings I’ve had in wine country.
Trueheart Vineyard is a lovely and luscious vineyard tucked away in downtown Sonoma that’s producing one of my favorite grapes. My love affair with Trueheart Vineyard Petite Sirah wine from Sonoma Valley started last summer. Our dear friend Chucky Love, who’s always happily sharing the best of his collection, brought over two bottles for us to taste. Our mutual friend Trish and I both fell hard, first for the Trueheart name and then even more so for the wine. I decided my next trip to wine country would be to learn more about the Trueheart Vineyard and its wines.
My husband and I, with our traveling companions Vicky and Danny, ended up sitting around the Sonoma kitchen table of proprietors Ligeia Polidora and Patrick Smith. We started out talking about the name Trueheart. They explained it all started with a redhead named Tess Trueheart, their redheaded golden retriever. Yep, they named their vineyard Trueheart after their dog. Their wedding photograph, featuring the three of them, says it all. Trueheart Vineyard was a labor of love from the moment this wonderful couple and their beloved dog stood watching everything being planted, to the time for harvesting and bottling. Petite Syrah grapes are consistently producing the greatest fruit to make award-winning wines.
They had built a beautiful Tuscan-style home and wanted to be surrounded by Tuscan vegetation. They lived in Sonoma, so in addition to beautiful flowers, fruit trees and herbs, Polidora and Smith researched grape vines. They got a report from the University of California, Davis, about which grapes would be likely to do well on the property. They selected one of the four recommendations, petite sirah. In 2004, on what started as a flat, open tree farm, they planted two-year-old petite sirah vines. They also decided to use the old-world practice of head pruning, with no trellis or a wire in the vineyard.
Polidora and Smith sold their grapes in 2006 and 2007 but started to make their own wine in 2008. They hired their old friend, Alex Beloz, as winemaker. At the time, he was acting as winemaker for MacRostie Winery and Caldwell Vineyards and also worked as a winemaking consultant for a handful of other small producers. “What began as a landscaping project turned into a winery, due directly to the wonderful soil we happened to have at our new home. All good wines start with good grapes. As we witnessed, in the over 12 years we’ve lived here, what was once a pasture now has 40- to 50-foot oak trees and vines that look like they are 25 years old,” Smith explained.
In addition to grapes, Polidora and Smith grow figs, persimmons, pears, apples, Meyer lemons, pomegranates and many herbs for cooking. The Meyer lemons are so abundant; visit trueheartgal.com to see some fantastic lemon recipes that Polidora has developed to use them. The website also includes beautiful photographs of what they grow in their vineyard, along with family photos of their grandkids.
During our visit, we drank two bottles of Trueheart Petite Sirah, a 2009 and a 2013. The Trueheart 2009 Petite Sirah is a hearty petite sirah, described by some as elegant and powerful. It’s dry and softly tannic, with ripe flavors of blackberry, currant, bacon and cedar, sprinkled with black pepper. Polidora suggests pairing it with hearty flavors, like grilled and roasted meats, bitter winter vegetables, strong cheeses and anything with lots of garlic.
Trueheart Vineyards has produced three vintages so far, 2009, 2010 and 2013, and has two additional vintages in the barrel, 2014 and 2015. Its ratings and honors are exceptional. Wine Spectator rated the 2009 at 92 points, while Wine Enthusiast rated it at 90. At the prestigious Dark and Delicious petite sirah event, Richard Jennings gave it 93-plus points, which was the second highest rating among over 77 petite sirahs. The 2010 vintage received 88 points from Wine Enthusiast, and at the 2013 Dark and Delicious event, wine critic T. J. Jones, of Bach to Bacchus fame, judged it as his favorite petite sirah. Currently, the 2013 vintage is being marketed by Muscardini Cellars and received a gold medal from the 2016 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. As in the past, it has been submitted to Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast for their ratings.
On Smith’s recommendation, our next stop was the tasting room of Muscardini Cellars. This is a very lively and active tasting room with a variety of wines. While we mostly wanted to check out the new bottling and labeling of the Trueheart Vineyard wine, we all thought the Muscardini Cellars did an excellent job of educating us on their wines as well as the Trueheart Petite Sirah.
The most memorable part of this trip was hanging out with our new friends from the Trueheart Vineyard. We all laughed and drank and even danced around the kitchen to some really old country music, including Smith’s favorite song, Tim Buckley’s “Hallelujah.” We would like to thank Ligeia Polidora and Patrick Smith for opening their home to us and telling us their Trueheart Story.