I know exactly why Dehlinger was on my list!  One of my friends had recommended them.  He’d explained back in the day when he was visiting many of these same wineries, Dehlinger was impossible to get into.  He said that the way to get on their mailing list was to call Tom Dehlinger (who was wandering around the winery the day I visited), hope you caught him in a good mood, with some spare time, and an empty spot available on the list.  Unless all of the stars aligned, Tom usually just said things looked pretty full and to give him another call next year.  I shared this story with Julia, my tasting host for the day, and she said – that sounds about right!

These days they have a great website, a couple of wine experiences (by reservation only), and a link to request a reservation.  I chose the Pinot Noir Retrospective – Dehlinger Pinot noirs, sourced from our estate vineyards on Vine Hill Road, are considered a reference point for the variety in the Russian River Valley. We aim to produce Pinot noirs that showcase the special features of our property – be it soil type, vine age, or vineyard block. Our wine making approach centers on studying individual sections of land and the wines they produce.

This winter, we are pleased to offer a special Pinot noir only tasting for a limited time during January and February. This private, seated tasting will feature Dehlinger Pinot noirs from recent vintages as well as older selections from our library cellar.

Other months they offer similar experiences for Syrah and some of their other varietals.  Since I’m a pinot girl, I’m glad my schedule aligned.

My Visit

After passing through the locked gates and pulling around behind the winery, you are greeted with this cozy-looking porch.  Julia came out to welcome me.  I was thrilled that I was tasting with Julia.  We’d had a great chat the day I made my reservation.  She certainly remembered me, too.  We walked around the winery a bit, but it was a terribly yucky weather day.  So, we didn’t spend much time outside.  Instead, we walked through that open door in the photo below to a cute kitchen.


Yes, the tasting was held at the kitchen table.  It felt so homey and welcoming – like they were welcoming me into their home to taste their wines.  I loved it.  I also love it when wineries take the time to personalize the tasting sheets.  The brochure with the bottle pictured below is pretty awesome.  We didn’t talk much about it.  However, inside it provides a timeline and their history of Pinot Noir dating back to 1975.  The back side of the brochure shows a map of their estate vineyards with their corresponding soil types.

The sheet below was the tasting sheet for the wines I was tasting!  Note – there was no price list!


The Wines

I had the opportunity to taste seven of their Pinot Noirs side-by-side (yay)!  They were:

  • 1996 Octagon Pinot Noir
  • 2000 Old Vine Reserve Pinot Noir
  • 2006 Estate Pinot Noir
  • 2012 Altamont Pinot Noir
  • 2014 Champ de Mars Pinot Noir
  • 2017 Goldridge Pinot Noir


Julia and I spent the next 90 minutes chatting about clones and soil types and geeking out on that stuff.  I enjoyed tasting the differences in terroir between different bottlings.  They have two main soil types a tan “goldridge” and an umber “altimont”.  That altimont soil really looked like it could have come from the Moab or Zion someplace like that.  I like driving my Jeep in the red dirt and rocks.  I guess I like it when my grapes are grown in it, too.  Ha Ha!

Purchasing options were limited.   I could have purchased as much of the 2017 Goldridge Pinot Noir as I wanted.  However, they had 1-2 bottle limits on the 2012 and 2014.  The older vintages weren’t available at all for purchase.  For example, only 146 cases were ever produced of the 1996 Octagon Pinot Noir.  Understandably, they want to make sure they have enough for this fun retrospective experience.  Otherwise, their wines are still really only available by allocation.  A handful of their wines will end up in restaurants and a few, select wine shops.



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