Let me tell you a funny story about my quest to try Radio-Coteau wines. It’s one of my favorite stories from this trip to wine country and I’ve been itching to share it with you. But, I had to wait for the story to be complete before I could do so. It all begins in July of 2019. I was on a last-minute trip out to Sonoma County since I had nothing else to do over the 4th of July holiday weekend last year. I decided to try staying in Sebastapol for a change. I’ve previously stayed in Healdsburg, Windsor, and Santa Rosa on previous visits. I also wanted to try the dining scene.
Based on reviews, I chose the Gravenstein Grill for dinner one night. My dinner there wasn’t something I’d write home about. It wasn’t bad. It just didn’t stand out. But, the wine did! I ordered a glass of one of Radio-Coteau’s Pinot Noirs. Boy, do I wish I’d jotted down more info on it. I fell in love with the wine almost instantly.
The next day I was tasting at Ryme and chatting about other wineries – Radio-Coteau’s name came up. I explained that I’d had a glass of their wine the night before and was definitely interested. Radio-Coteau wasn’t open to the public so I couldn’t just pop over. But, I immediately joined their mailing list. However, I wanted to taste more of their wine before blinding ordering some.
In comes PinotFest last fall. You’ve heard me mention that event on some previous posts. I used my trip to PinotFest last fall to try some new to me Pinot Noir I’d like to explore more on this trip. I saw that Radio-Coteau was on the list. I sought them out as soon as I walked in the door and tried a few of their wines. It solidified the fact that I liked their wine.
After PinotFest, I reached out to all of the wineries that stood out – including Radio-Coteau. They offer tastings by appointment. However, they don’t have a formal tasting lounge. They conduct their tastings in their production area. No problem, right? The only problem was that my trip coincided with their bottling schedule. They took down my name and said they thought they could probably fit me in the last week of my trip. But, we should touch base as that week got closer.
Then I kinda forgot about them until I found myself in their parking lot visiting a neighbor winery! I was so surprised and delighted to see their little sign hanging off of the corner of their winery. One of my girlfriends ran over to knock on the door. There was no answer, as I expected, it was a Sunday and they’re not open to the public. She even tried their door to see if it was locked.
That night we dined at SingleThread – more on that experience in the coming days. My girlfriend and I chose different wine pairings. She was poured a 2013 Savoy Vineyard Pinot Noir from Radio-Coteau! Okay. Now this is a fun coincidence. Twice in one day. They’re just taunting me now. I knew I needed to reach out over the next couple of days to schedule that tasting.
The following night I joined someone I met at another tasting for dinner at a local favorite restaurant – Backyard. Why not? I was getting tired of dining alone. He explained that he wanted to share a couple of his wines with me. And, I brought one along to share as well. Shortly after we were seated another couple sat down next to us. The gentleman commented on the three bottles of wine that were sitting on our table for the two of us. He mentioned that they were winemakers. I thought to myself – oh gosh, that’s so cute, everyone out here thinks they’re a winemaker. Then he pulled out his business card to share with us – it was Eric Sussman and Davida Ebner from – you guessed it – Radio-Coteau. I almost fell out of my chair.
The four of us spent the next three hours chatting about all sorts of things, sharing wine, and listening to the live music. We were the last ones in the restaurant that night. It was one of my favorite evenings in a very long time. Of course I told them everything that led up to this moment that I just shared – including the fact that my girlfriend tried to break into their winery the day before. Davida got a kick out of that one. She encouraged me to reach back out to Stephanie to schedule that tasting and that she’d give her a heads up that I’d be calling. So I did. And here I am. You never know who you might be seated next to or bump into out here. This was actually the second time being seated next to local winery owners. Now I come to expect it when I’m dining out! (Ironically, it happened again the night I typed this post.)
I tried not to be too super early for my tasting, but I was really excited! It is the least formal tasting on this trip. I gently knocked on the open winery door and several employees jumped to help and find Stephanie, my tasting host for the day. She gave me the brief tour of their winery operations. Everything is done on site. They do have some off-site bottle storage. But everything else is done right here.
And they were working in this winery! A team of employees were working to clean barrels since they’ve finished bottling. The same room pictured above is also their tank room during fermentation. The tanks are stored outside during the winter to maximize the space. Stephanie and I headed over to the next room – their bottling room – for our tasting.
I was honestly surprised when I looked in the corner and spotted their own bottling line! I believe it’s only the third winery I’ve visited that has their own line. Most use a mobile solution. But, they prefer having the control over scheduling – which makes sense. In the above photo, you can also catch a glimpse of my tasting bar – that board propped up on barrels. I now fully understood why tasting while they were bottling could be problematic (not that I ever doubted that).
I’m extremely honored. They’re pretty sure that I was the very first customer to taste some of these wines. Several of these are part of their spring release which is going on now. None have shipped. And, I’m guessing I’m their first tasting appointment. Obviously the employees have tasted these wines. But I was the first customer!
Unlike any other winery I’ve visited, Stephanie uncorked each and every one of these bottles for me. They hadn’t been left over from a previous tasting. They hadn’t been Coravined. They were mine. I was slightly disappointed their Savoy wasn’t in the lineup – but their Savoy also isn’t part of the spring release! However, I was excited to see a Syrah in the lineup. I’d only ever tried their Pinot Noir and here sat a Chardonnay, 2 Pinot Noirs, a Syrah, and a coastal Zinfandel. A what????
We started off with their County Line Rose. I didn’t realize it but Eric also has a second “companion” label – County Line. I believe she explained that these are more mass-marketed, more affordable wines. Much of the wine is leftover from the Radio-Coteau wines. It’s a single-vineyard champagne clone Pinot Noir. It definitely reminded me of a flat champagne. It’s a crazy dry rose and they encourage you to enjoy it with oysters. I can see that! The County Line label was created just for this rose but they now produce a few other wines under this label.
Next up was their 2017 Sea Bed Chardonnay. OMG. I loved this Chardonnay. I’ve said that before, haven’t I? I immediately knew that I needed some of this! It’s their estate Chardonnay. And, it’s their very first vintage of this particular Chardonnay which was just planted in 2014.
We next moved onto Pinot Noir and their 2017 La Neblina. Stephanie told me that most likely this was the wine I’d tasted at that very first restaurant. It’s their flagship Pinot Noir and a blend from several different vineyards. Then we moved into the “new” wines that are part of the Spring Release. They shared with me the 2017 Belay Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir which I really enjoyed!
But what I was really excited about was the Syrah. I’ve never considered myself to be a fan of Syrah. I like it in a good ol’ GSM blend. But rarely on its own. Until I went to Ramey and loved their Syrah. So, I was cautiously optimistic as I took my first sip. And I was in love. It was their 2016 Dusty Lane Syrah from the Sonoma Coast. I’m excited to share this wine with my Syrah-loving friends.
The final wine was a coastal Zinfandel. From what I understand about Zinfandel and coastal wines, the two shouldn’t really go together, should they? This is also made of estate fruit from vines that were planted in 1946 and 1981. So, not at all new. It was definitely fun to try.
I was so happy that Davida swung by in the middle of my tasting to say hi. The three of us had a nice conversation and laughed and enjoyed a great visit. I was so grateful to her for helping make this tasting happen. I’m not sure it was still even an ideal time for them, but they made it happen. Forklifts were literally moving within a few feet of my tasting space. Barrels were moved to either side of my little tasting bar situated by one of their eggs which was still decorated from their fall release party.
As I was loading up my Jeep with my newest wine acquisitions (including some library 2013 Savoy Pinot Noir – the same we’d tasted at SingleThread), Eric popped over to say hi as well. I absolutely love these two. They’re genuine and wonderful and welcoming. And I’m so grateful for that chance encounter at Backyard.
Davida asked me over dinner if I preferred a seated or a standing tasting. I answered “seated” because I feel like it invites you to settle in, get comfortable, and not feel rushed. But, it really doesn’t matter. It’s about the wine.
Since then I’ve had similar discussions over tastings and have thought about her question. And my answer has been different as my visits went by. My favorite tastings are those with the winemaker or close relation – Flambeaux, Smith Story, Ramey, and Radio-Coteau. And you know what? Two of the four were standing! That isn’t saying that some of my tasting hosts weren’t amazing – most were with very few exceptions. But nothing can replace speaking with the owners/winemakers and feeling the passion behind the label. And you’ll want to check back the next two days – two additional, special experiences similar to this one!