With spring sprung, what better time to talk about Flowers? Of course, in this instance, we are talking about Flowers Vineyard & Winery, though the semi-remote property in Healdsburg where the tasting room sits certainly has its share of actual blooms right along with bottles.
Ready to have your mind blown? Flowers is not named for the actual flora in the region at all. It is named for its founders: Joan and Walt Flowers.
The couple’s journey to open the lauded vineyard starts in 1983 when Joan bought Walt a wine credenza as a wedding gift. The gift, which held up to 120 bottles, was used. A lot. So much so that the couple – then residing on the East Coast running a plant nursery – ventured to Napa in search of the perfect Pinot Noir for years while buying plants for the business. During their visits, they learned about the potential for pinot in Sonoma, especially cool climate iterations. They also found friends and mentors in Helen Turley, a pioneer in California winemaking, and Steve Kistler, owner of Kistler Vineyard.
Eventually, in 1991 they saw a teeny ad in Wine Spectator that simply said: “321 acres, Sonoma Coast, vineyard potential.” Those few words changed their lives forever. The Flowers found that land – about two miles from the Pacific Ocean and ultra-remote – and fell in love. After soil analysis and rainwater tests, among other due diligence, the couple learned the land was similar in structure to Burgundy, which meant it was ideal for cool-climate Pinot Noir. Huzzah!
Despite steep land many didn’t believe could be planted, the Flowers made it happen. Oh, did they make it happen. The result was insanely coveted Pinot Noirs – and Chardonnays – but there was just one issue: the location made tasting in person tough for most.
Thankfully, that all changed in 2019 – yes, just prior to the onset of the pandemic – when Flowers opened its 15.5-acre House of Flowers estate in the northwest tip of Healdsburg complete with a winemaking facility, full hospitality center, expansive kitchen, an outdoor wood-fired oven and (of course) gardens. Minimalist and modern with sleek design and wood throughout, this palace that Pinot built is dripping with fireplaces, glass, artwork and warm furniture meant to make you want to kick back and stay all darned day.
Before getting into the experiences, it should be noted that Flowers is home to none other than chef Jamil Peden. Beloved for his work at Madrona Manor, Campo Fina and Forthun, Peden has a true talent for thinking outside of the wine and food pairing box. Translation: do not expect a basic cheese board from him. Or some bread with olive oil.
Given the culinary chops on property, both primary tasting options have small bites, which I hesitate to call “small” given how big they are on flavor.
First, there is the Flowers Flight ($65 per person), available Thursday to Monday weekly and featuring a guided flight of coastal estate Pinot Noir and Chardonnay accompanied by expertly plated yum yums crafted by the House of Flowers culinary team at your own private table. There is also a Bottle & Provisions Experience ($90 per person), available on weekends only but with a full bottle of your favorite Flowers varietal and a bento-box style feast for all the senses.
Now, many say that if you have enjoyed one food and wine pairing that you have enjoyed them all. Here, the attention to detail in even the edible garnishes is something to behold. During my visit, in fact, we were served what looked like an actual edible garden, only to find savory elements far beyond veggies planted on the plate. They also excel at options for vegetarians and vegans beyond bread and butter, a major win for many with dietary restrictions.
Best Bottle Buys
Oh, you want a full bottle? No problem. While you cannot go wrong with any that you choose, I do have some favorites right now:
2019 Sea View Ridge Pinot Noir: Bright with balanced acidity and a sea of aromatics from coastal botanicals, expect silky tannins and both raspberries and cherries to the taste. Many experts also note a hint of Dr. Pepper, though I get more general Cola flavor. This is a “bring-it-to-your-mother-in-law-and-win-the-night” kind of wine. $80
2019 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir: Cherry happens to be my favorite flavor note in wine – outside of grapes themselves – so this is a long-time favorite. I get so much tart cherry from every sip, with a hint of orange at the end. I even like this one as a red for summer months. $55
2019 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay: Full disclosure, my sister is the wine drinker and chose this one. She loves the sweet apricot notes and floral quality to it. Expect acidity versus butter. $50
For more information, visit www.flowerswinery.com.