Not every winery name rolls off the tongue as easily as its wine. Case in point: the Dobra Zemlja Winery. Full bodied wines made in a bucolic setting. If only I could pronounce their name!
We were well into our Amador County tour, following exceptional tastings at Wilderotter Vineyard, Bray Vineyards, and Driven Cellars . After driving down from the ridge-topping Driven Cellars, we hooked a quick right onto the adjoining driveway, continuing down until we found a beautiful lake and picnic grounds. Up a short walkway we saw the winery, with much of the structure built into the hillside. We soaked up the relaxing scene for a while, then walked to the tasting room to see what was happening.
The winery interior was eclectic and cool (both ways), with lots of wood and interesting things to look at. The large space was divided into areas for tasting, areas for aging wine, and areas for just soaking up the vibe. Keeping our priorities straight, we approached the bar and met the Assistant Tasting Room Manager, Amy, who set us up with glasses and kicked off the tasting with their 2014 Viognier. What a great way to start a tasting flight! We loved the white peach and grapefruit notes. Refreshing in every way!
We learned a bit about the history of the winery from Amy and Tasting Room Manager Laura. The Dobra Zemlja Winery was started in 1995 by Croatian expats Milan and Victoria Matulich. The tongue twisting name Dobra Zemlja (pronounced Doh-bra Zem-ya) is ‘good earth’ in Croatian, and seems to be the guiding principle for making assertive, unfiltered wine from estate-grown Viognier, Sangiovese, Barbera, Syrah and Zinfandel grapes.
We next tasted their NV Milan Ruz,a blend of Sangiovese, Syrah and Zinfandel (mostly Zin). This delicious, food-friendly wine was offered in either a conventional bottle or a refillable jug. Amy told us that the refillable jug option was incredibly popular with their regulars, and the only tense moments occur when they are temporarily without a keg for refills. After just one taste we were buzzing about which BBQ meal would pair best, so I understand the popularity. We were evenly split between Tri Tip and Hawaiian salt-rubbed steaks.
We tasted their 2013 Barbera (great fruit and a hint of lemon zest) and their 2012 Syrah. We were told that this was the winemaker’s favorite wine, and between the rich aromas and the long, spicy finish, we totally understood. Their 2013 Zinfandel showed a bit more residual sugar than your typical Zin, plus plenty of alcohol (16.9%) to balance that out. Another favorite was their 2014 Late Harvest Zinfandel. Another jug-dweller, this dessert-style wine benefited from some time on new oak, showing dark fruit and raisin notes and a luscious, lingering finish. Our final taste was their NV Kikas (say it in your head, then it will make sense). This was a lovely Syrah Port, fortified with Grappa. Perfect for a chilly evening in front of the fireplace.
Tasting complete, we selected our bottles for purchase (after some discussion, the Viognier got the nod), thanked Amy and Laura and headed off. What an amazing tasting!
About the Author: John grills a mean steak and is always in the market for another wine fridge. Believes that if a winery has more than 10 employees, it's probably too big. Buys wine faster than he drinks it, but who cares?