Vintage vino

Almendra Winery & Distillery offers wine on tap in an elegant new space

A few weeks ago, a friend invited me to join her at the grand opening of Almendra Winery & Distillery. I’d heard about the place, owned by the Bertagna family that runs Bertagna Son Kissed and Long Creek wineries, and it sounded like fun. Unfortunately, I already had other plans for that evening, and apparently I missed quite a bash. But luckily, the winery—Almendra will begin offering distilled spirits this spring—is open Tuesday-Sunday for tastings, and I could hardly think of a more enjoyable way to spend a lunch break.

So I made the short drive, through the blooming almond orchards, from Chico to Durham. When I came upon Almendra, easily accessible off the Midway, I was immediately impressed. The facade of the building alone is breathtaking—simple yet elegant.

Inside, I was promptly greeted by Erica Smith, who handles marketing and special events for Almendra. She was delightful, and as she poured my choice of six wines on the menu ($8 for the tasting), she gave me a rundown of the operation. First things first: She was pouring my samples from wine taps; I’d never seen that before. That’s apparently the big new thing for wineries, since it cuts back on a lot of waste. “That’s the reason we’re able to be open six days a week,” Smith said. Very cool.

The six wines I chose were all Almendra, though there were a few Bertagna labels also on tap. Smith explained that all of Almendra’s wines are made with grapes grown on Bertagna-owned vineyards and they’re a bit more sophisticated than the traditionally styled Son Kissed varieties. (That translates to the prices, which range from $18-$28 per bottle, as opposed to the more modest $11-$20 for a Bertagna bottle.) My favorite of the day was the 2013 Sol, a deep, flavorful blend of Petite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.

Aside from the wine, the most impressive feature at Almendra is the beauty of the building. The Bertagnas clearly spared no expense, as every detail—down to the hip restrooms—has been tended to. Brochures alert customers to the handcrafted wooden décor created by Westgate Hardwoods (which is located across the street from the winery). And that décor is worth talking about. The tables bear plaques that describe not only what kind of wood they’re made of, but also where the tree was cut down from, and they’re all local spots. A huge, beautiful sliding barn door in the barrel room—which is available for special events—is gorgeous. And the bar is made of old barrel wood. Chandeliers designed by Wolfe Electric adorn every room, including those aforementioned bathrooms.

As for the unique facade, apparently the building used to house the old Durham High School, which will soon be holding a 50th class reunion back in its old haunt.

Can’t wait to taste the spirits—I’ll most definitely be back soon.