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Highway 12 - Where wine people go to chill

They call it wine alley. On the southeast side of the Plaza there's an internal courtyard with a bunch of tasting rooms. When you're wandering through keep heading to the back and you'll find Highway 12. It's out of the way, but the locals in the know make it a destination. And from now on, I will too.

Like the wine it's comfortable, and tasteful. There's ample outdoor seating and a few cozy spots inside. They offer a variety of tasting options and wines by the glass which makes it a popular spot at the end of the day, when folks from other wineries come by for a glass to unwind after work.

The wines are well made, consistent and an incredible value. With a focus on Sonoma vineyards, the founders set out to make "Sonoma's Home Town Winery". I tasted eight wines and they were all wines I would happily drink again. We started out with a Brut sparkling wine that had nice creamy bubbles with crisp green apple and citrus in a very clean style.

The standout of the white wines for me was the reserve Fume Blanc. A Sauvignon Blanc that was aged in French Oak, it lead off with aromatic grassy herbs with tropical fruit at the edges. It's gentle on the palate with citrus and grapefruit, medium acidity and a round smoothness from the oak. We also tasted their Chardonnay which was a Gold Medal winner at the Sonoma Harvest Fair. It had a uniquely spicy bouquet that carried over on the palate along with pronounced oakiness. For lover's of oaky Chads this will appeal.

I had known about their white wines, but I was blown away by the reds. We started with the 2019 Merlot which was intensely aromatic with bright cherry and earth and a hint of sweetness like sweet tobacco. Juxtaposed to that big fruit nose, the entry is structured with firm tannin balancing a mellowed dark cherry and plum that flows into a long finish.

Next we tried the 2020 Tralblazer Blend, another Gold medal winner. A Sonoma Zinfandel and Petite Sirah blend, this had that intense cherry and strawberry aroma with an almost candy-like aspect that I most often get from Dry Creek Valley Zins. The Petite Sirah makes itself felt on the palate, the fruit leaning more toward plum and dark cherry with less vigor than the nose. Earth and pepper join in with fine tannin.

The Highway 12 Red Blend is a double Gold winner. This is a well made wine, with nice balance and great drinkability. It has lighter aromatics with red fruit and florals, a very gentle entry and chewy tannins. It's a popular wine there, although I liked their other reds a bit better for their more unique characteristics. For example, the 2019 Bordeaux blend which was dark and intensely aromatic with garrique and earth. That intensity was matched by a big fruit rich entry with cassis, black currant and cherry, surrounded by chewy tannins and a hint of baking spice.

The 2019 Highwayman Cabernet Sauvignon continued to impress with an intense bouquet of bright cherry and raspberry with herbs. A big fruit rich entry paired up with fine tannin and a long finish.

Having set out to create Sonoma"s Home Town Winery, I think that Michael Sebastiani and Paul Giusto hit the mark, leveraging their long-time family wine experience and deep wine country connections with the best growers. Consistently good wines, made in a balanced non-invasive style that lets the vineyard's unique characteristics come through, Highway 12 is a great way to get a feel of what Sonoma wines are all about. And the prices are extremely reasonable, which makes Highway a great wine club choice. You can count of liking every wine you taste. I did ...

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