April 25-May 1, 2007

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Wine Tasting

Lynmar Winery

By James Knight

Sometimes it's hard not to notice that today's world, much like yesterday's, is plagued with war, natural disaster, environmental degradation and myriad other misfortunes. Does it not seem frivolous to gallivant about this picturesque land of industrial vineyards, sipping wine from long-stemmed glasses? Seeking balance and the wider view, we visit Lynmar Winery this week.

Tucked away off a rural lane in Sebastopol, Lynmar is quietly working toward integrating environmental stewardship locally, and is linked to good works internationally. Owner Lynn Fritz has more than just good intentions to work with, previously heading a global logistics company until it sold to UPS in 2000. Although he purchased the Quail Hill Vineyard in the early 1980s, he has in recent years replanted, assembled a star winemaking team and built caves, a gravity flow winery and a hospitality center. A canoe trip inspired a partnership with the Laguna de Santa Rosa Foundation to help protect the watershed, which borders his property. In his spare time, Fritz founded an organization that provides supply-chain solutions for worldwide humanitarian relief efforts.

Even as herons soar above trees at the water's edge, Lynmar is bustling with activity. The resident chef picks herbs from an organic cornucopia created by the master gardener, who breaks ground on a market garden that will supply local restaurants. Tethered goats mow down weeds, and chickens control pests and produce eggs. In the swank but comfortable hospitality center, backdropped by rolling vineyards, Lynmar hosts events for charitable and environmental groups, such as the conservationist Landpaths organization. If the tractors don't run on biodiesel, I'm seriously disillusioned.

The wines themselves are not bad for, you know, a star winemaking team. Lynmar charges $10 for tasting, and $10 for optional food pairing, but it's a leisurely format. Visitors may sit and take their time with the generous pours, a separate glass for each pour. Crisp acidity, honey-lemon, toffee and toasty oak characterizes the 2005 Russian River Valley Chardonnay ($30). The 2004 Quail Hill Estate Chardonnay ($40) tastes of butterscotch and is distinctly but not overly oaked.

The 2006 Russian River Valley Vin Gris ($24), all bubble gum and sugarplums, is a balanced, easy drinking rosť. Restraint shows as well in the 2004 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir ($36), but the just-released 2005 may actually be softer. It's clean and fresh-scented like jicama and plum, with a hint of smoke. Want a big wine to finish? Ask for the vibrant purple, smoky 2004 Russian River Valley Syrah ($36): a leather jacket fresh off the rack, pockets stuffed with big black cherries and grapes.

Lynmar Winery, 3909 Frei Road, Sebastopol. Tasting fee, $10; food and wine pairing, $20. Open Friday-Monday, 11am to 4pm; Tuesday-Thursday by appointment. 707.829.3374.

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