Armida Winery is named after a bewitching sorceress in a 16th Century Italian poem. This is fitting given how the sprawling Dry Creek vineyard and hospitality team work together to cast a spell on all those who swirl, sip and savor winemaker Brandon Lapides’ epic juice, especially his PoiZin Zinfandel, named because it is “to die for,” and his Antidote White Blend, which will “cure what ail ya.”
Armida Winery was originally founded in the 1970’s, but brothers Steve and Bruce Cousins purchased it in 1994 with an eye to cultivate and curate single-vineyard wines from across coveted vineyards. Today, they source the top grapes from across storied AVAs including Petaluma Gap, Sonoma Coast, Chalone, Alexander Valley, Dry Creek Valley and Russian River Valley. How good is this wine? Since 2010 alone, approximately 40 of its wines have earned 90 points or more from Wine Spectator and/or Wine Enthusiast.
Apart from the PoiZin and Antidote lines (more on those shortly), each vineyard-designate wine made by Armida Winery has one thing in common: the Bucky Dome.
Imprinted on each Armida label, the Bucky Dome looks like a golf ball that has been cut in half. However, it is in no way homage to the sport. The dome is to honor the sustainable geodesic structure popularized by U.S. architect and futurist R. Buckminster Fuller and is known for protecting against wind and other environmental factors and reducing energy. The winery has three Bucky Domes on property, the largest of which houses the hospitality center. Combined with the other two – homes to the fermentation cellar and barrel room – the domes make quite a visual impression in person. Beyond that, they along with the label art serve to remind the staff and guests alike about the power of innovation and importance of always learning something new. Of course, their sustainable nature also fits into the overall environmentally responsible values that the team holds dear as well.
When visiting the winery’s primary location in the heart of Dry Creek (there is an intimate tasting room in Capitola as well), the fun starts in the Bucky Dome. It is surrounded by eight acres of grapes and features a glass viewing station that allows for 180-degree views of the property’s outdoor entertainment pavilion, pond and Mayacamas Mountains in the distance.
Certainly, guests may walk in and do a traditional tasting inside the dome or even grab a bottle and table on the patio, which is dotted with vibrant red umbrellas throughout and offer the perfect place to relax all day long. Of course, much of the fun in visiting is in booking one of the more enhanced reservations. A favorite is Bocce Ball Over the Pond, which simply requires a $150 combined purchase by one’s entire group (and the space can accommodate up to 12). During the reservation, enjoy a private full-size regulation bocce ball court overlooking the idyllic pond for up to two hours. The reservation can be paired with bottle service, one or more of several tastings and artisanal charcuterie boards, including an impressive gluten-free offering.
Another great option? Zin and Zen Yoga ($45), a 45-minute outdoor vinyasa flow class offered multiple times a month with a professional yogi followed by a celebratory toast with sparkling brut rose and a bottle of PoiZin, either to enjoy then and there or to-go for later.
Finally, for those seeking the ultimate peek behind the Armida curtain, there is the Barrel Tasting with Winemaker Lapides ($100). Limited to a maximum of eight guests, this is an intimate journey into the past, present and future of the brand. The experience, complete with sips along the way from the barrel and a seated tasting of current releases with a charcuterie pairing, should be on the bucket list of any wine lover, but especially those who have a particular affection for Zinfandel.
Speaking of Zinfandel, let’s talk PoiZin. The brainchild of Lapides, who (at the time of this writing) is also president of the board of directors of the Zinfandel Advocates & Producers (ZAP), a nonprofit dedicated to Zinfandel preservation, education and appreciation, PoiZin is an inky, jammy, bold love letter to the grape. Its popularity is becoming that of legend both within California and beyond, and its cheeky label combined with its optional coffin-shaped gift box (yes, it is perfect for Halloween) are the stuff viral Instagram post dreams are made of. The etched coffin collector’s box plus the bottle is $100, while the bottle alone is one of the sneaky best wine deals around at just $30.
Obviously, if seeking to taste the essence of Armida Winery, start with PoiZin. However, do not miss some of the other offerings, notably:
2019 Armida Antidote: This blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris and Semillon has a magical nose with hints of honey and pear. To the taste, expect crisp red apple and then a symphony of citrus and orange blossoms. $30
2019 Armida Tina’s Block Zinfandel, Maple Vineyards: Surprise! Yes, there are more Zins on the menu at Armida than simply the PoiZin. This one is of note as it is made from Zinfandel vines that date back to the early 1900’s. It is thought by many that Zins get better as their vines get the gnarlier. This plum-meets-blackberry beauty is pretty solid evidence that this assertion is true. $55
2019 Armida Cabernet Sauvignon Stuhlmuller Vineyard: Every grape that goes into a bottle of this exquisite Cab is hand-harvested, and it shows. Each sip is equal parts silky and spicy with exceptional notes of cinnamon, cherry and even a touch of chocolate. $75
For more information on Armida Winery, visit www.armida.com.