Marin County Wine Tasting - April 25, 2024

Marin County Wine Tasting – April 25, 2024

I was invited to taste a selection of wines sourced from Marin County vineyards in late April. The small private tasting was organized by Stewart Johnson of Kendric Vineyards and held at the beautiful tasting room of Brooks Note Winery in Petaluma. Alder Yarrow of and was in attendance and he’s writing a more comprehensive report on the wines from the tasting than my brief overview here.

Wines sourced from Marin County fruit are generally not very well-known, as there are few commercial vineyards in Marin and fewer wineries. This tasting included most producers currently working with fruit from Marin vineyards. I’ve been interested in the wines from this very cool-climate growing region of California for about 15 years, and in 2009 I began to attend what were then annual Marin Wine Celebration events. Although these events haven’t been held for awhile, several vintners at the recent tasting told me they’d love to see something similar start up again to raise the profile of Marin wines.

Marin County, immediately north of the Golden Gate from San Francisco, is bounded by the Pacific Ocean to the west, San Francisco Bay to the east, and Sonoma County to the north. Part of northern Marin falls within the Petaluma Gap AVA, which was approved in late 2017. Most of the county, particularly the central and western portions where most of the vineyards are located, has relatively cool growing seasons due to the proximity of the ocean and bay. Here, grape varieties suited to cooler climates, such as Chardonnay and especially Pinot Noir, are by far the most widely-grown. Because ripening even these varieties in Marin’s cool climate can be a challenge, a good deal of Marin fruit goes into sparkling wines. A small number of vineyards in the eastern part of the county are warm enough to support Bordeaux grape varieties but they’re still on the cool side for those. The largest site currently producing winegrapes in Marin County is Skywalker Vineyards, and at about 40 acres, it’s not particularly large by the standards of most commercial vineyards in California.

Over a dozen producers provided wines for the recent tasting, and many of the vintners themselves were able to attend the evening event. In addition to the wines, fine cheeses and crackers were provided, and Jenny Lynn of Olet’te Wines also brought a platter that included delicious elk and duck sausages made by her father. The atmosphere was informal, and although wines from individual producers started out on separate small tables in the tasting room, as the evening went on, many of them ended up at the main tasting counter where white and rosé wines and sparkling wines were being kept chilled in a large ice bucket. Many of the vintners congregated around this area too, and I enjoyed talking with them.

I’m not sure I tasted every single wine that was open at the tasting, but I believe I got to nearly all of them. Since Alder Yarrow is writing a more detailed discussion of the wines, I’ll just mention my favorites here – they’re listed in no particular order. Of the Chardonnays, I particularly enjoyed the Stubbs Vineyard 2021 Estate Chardonnay, Dutton Goldfield 2021 Devil’s Gulch Vineyard Chardonnay, and Skywalker Vineyards 2014 Chardonnay. I only non-Chardonnay white wine was a standout, the Kendric 2022 Viognier. Only two rosé wines were open and I liked them both, the [b]2023 Kendric Rosé of Pinot Noir[b] and Petite Abeille 2023 Rosé of Pinot Noir.

Among the Pinot Noirs, favorites included the Brooks Note 2022 Azaya Ranch Pinot Noir, Dutton Goldfield 2021 Devil’s Gulch Vineyard Pinot Noir, Olet’te 2022 Cayetana Ranch Pinot Noir, and Darling 2018 Azaya Vineyard Pinot Noir. I liked the Burning Bench 2019 Moon Hill Vineyard Estate Pinot Noir and the Olet’te 2023 Cayetana Ranch Pinot Noir barrel sample as well. The one non-Pinot red wine was a highlight, the McEvoy Ranch 2020 “Long Barn” Pacheco Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon.

I’ll finish here with sparkling wines, as I felt that these were in many ways the highlights of the tasting – all the ones I tasted were outstanding. The Schramsberg 2018 Caminante del Cielo Vineyard Blanc de Noirs was a standout, and I thought the Schramsberg 2012 Redding Ranch Brut was even better. The Skywalker Vineyards 2015 Sparkling was another very fine sparkler. The Carboniste 2019 Brut Rosé and Carboniste 2020 Blanc de Noir were stylistically quite different from the Schramsberg and Skywalker sparklers – less yeasty, more “California” style – and they were both terrific with the Blanc de Noir being my favorite of the two.

This was a really fun tasting that confirmed my view that Marin County is a California winegrape growing region that deserves greater attention. I hope this turns into an annual event that’s open to the public so that more wine lovers can experience the fine wines being sourced from Marin County vineyards.


Sounds like a fun tasting Ken! I’ve heard good things about the Darling wines. I enjoyed the Carboniste wines they were pouring at WineFare

1 Like

I came across the Tom Darling’s wines at last year’s Garagiste tasting in Sonoma and was impressed. His three Pinots yesterday were all good with the 2018 being my favorite. And always enjoy Carboniste - I think I first encountered them at a Garagiste tasting too. Going back to this year’s Garagiste tasting tomorrow!


Thanks again, Ken! Let me know if you’re around Sonoma in the coming months.

1 Like

Hi Matt, excited you’ve heard about us, happy to connect anytime if you’d like to link up to taste. We’re in downtown Sonoma. Cheers.


Thanks Tom, I’ll make sure to set something up next time i’m in the area!

Just a short follow-up to note that this write-up is now posted on the Grape-Nutz website:
Marin County Wine Tasting, April 25, 2024

1 Like