Zina Hyde Cunningham Winery: A Long Tradition

Zina Hyde Cunningham Winery

This boutique winery has quite a history. In 1865, Zina, the patriarch for whom the winery is partially named, moved to Mendocino County and began producing unfiltered, unrefined wine. The Anderson Valley and Boonville were the headquarters of his small, prestigious winery, and until recently the tasting room remained in bucolic Boonville. Now, it’s moved to Sonoma’s charming Ledson Hotel, and it’s still well worth a visit.

The winery produces only 3,000 cases a year, and this stellar, small output can’t be found at a grocery store or neighborhood wine shop. Wines are retailed only online, through a membership wine club, or in the tasting room. To try before buying, a visit to the tasting room is key.

And there are many interesting tastes to be had. From Russian River Valley & Mendocino County Sauvignon Blanc to Lake County Merlot, Lake County Cabernet Franc, blends such as Cepage and Veola, and dessert wines including Orange Muscat, there’s a lot of tasting textures and flavors to experience.

The winery is well known for the careful selection of their vineyard sites, based specifically on finding the soil and climate that best matches an individual varietal. From a pristine growing site, sustainable grapes are handpicked and then aged in new French Oak barrels.

The Sonoma tasting room offers comfortable, Victorian-style decor, and the support of a well-educated staff. The tasting room and the winery are overseen by co-owner Steve Ledson, a great grandson of Zina Hyde’s. Ledson owns the Sonoma hotel that houses the tasting room, as well as the Ledson Winery.

Family wine making began when Zina Hyde first bought a ranch in the town of Windsor in 1859, moving on to Ukiah three years later. Prohibition caused a family split, with some members heading to Sonoma County and some staying in the Mendocino area. It was Steve Ledson and cousin William Cunningham who reopened the winery business recently, partnering to create Zina Hyde Cunningham in 2006, using the wine-making practices of past generations to source sustainable grapes in the Mendocino area.

But enough about history, how are the wines? Unique and award winning is the answer. From the light yet richly flavorful California Veola, named for Cunningham’s grandmother, and made up of Petite Syrah and the lighter Zinfandel, to a fragrant Pinot Noir, there’s a wide range of wine selections and flavors. The 2013 Anderson Valley Chardonnay is redolent of crisp green apple, pear, and vanilla notes and is the winner of the gold medal at the 2015 Texsom International Wine Awards.

Wine tasting here is based on individual selections, with the staff eager to explain and describe each chosen varietal by palate, aroma, and finish. Of the whites, the 2013 Sauvignon Blanc has perhaps the most unique palate, one that includes citrus and passion fruit, and a light, almost airy finish.
Among the reds, the Carignane is rich mix of chocolate, truffles, and boysenberry, with the 2010 Redwood Valley Old Vine Estate Carignane taking double gold at the 2014 Mendocino County Fair. Awards aside, the Carignane is made with a unique grape from France’s Rhone Valley, and the black truffle taste is well textured, melding with the chocolate and fruit finish.

The 2008 Orange Muscat is a sweet after-dinner wine, with a light, citrus aroma, and sugar level of a little more than three percent, so that flavor and citrus lingers, but lightly.

Perhaps it’s the history of this winery, and the wine-making vision that was temporarily derailed by Prohibition asserting itself, but there’s a lot of depth to both the wines themselves and the tasting room, making a unique and interesting destination for oenophiles.

Please like & share:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Follow by Email
Google +
Google +