There’s a lot going on at Barton Family Wines and Grey Wolf Cellars, all of it good. In addition to tasting wines from these two distinct labels in the contemporary yet rustic-vintage 1940s gray clapboard tasting room, you can also, from Thursday through Monday, have a casual lunch prepared on-site. If the weather’s good, which is often, you can enjoy that meal on the oak-shaded patio. On the same days the kitchen operates, a craft distillery in a separate space behind the winery opens for tastings of gin, rye whiskey and other handmade spirits.
First things, first, though. Joe Barton’s dad, Joe Senior, and his wife, Shirlene, started Grey Wolf in 1994. Joe Junior now owns the winery with his mom and his wife, Jenny, who handles marketing and events among several other duties. These days Joe, who earned a degree in fruit science, oversees both the Grey Wolf wines, mostly red blends, and the Barton Family line, which he developed.
Joe describes the Grey Wolf blends as more about winemaking style and the Barton Family wines, many of which are 100% a particular varietal from a single vineyard, as more about terroir, the French word for the combination of soil, climate, sun exposure and other vineyard dynamics.
The flagship Grey Wolf wine, Alpha, generally aged two full years in French oak, much of it new, is a classic Cabernet-dominant Bordeaux blend. A touch of Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petite Verdot provides balance, color and structure. With Grey Wolf’s Predator Syrah, Joe takes a less traditional route, supporting the Syrah, a Rhône varietal, with Tempranillo and Tannat, two non-Rhône grapes. The resulting wine exhibits more concentrated flavors and gamier notes than the average Paso Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre blend.
On Barton Family side, Joe makes the Kashmir Syrah. Entirely from estate fruit and 100% Syrah, this wine—definitely one to wrap yourself in—benefits from the calcareous soils that predominate in the Willow Creek District west of U.S. 101. The single-varietal Chenin Blanc and Grenache Blanc are two whites worth checking out; on the red side, in addition to the Syrah be sure to try Joe’s Zinfandel if it’s being poured.
Comfort food is the name of the game at Barton’s Kitchen Window, where the specialty of new (as of May 2018) chef Jeff Thomas is a muffuletta sandwich made with local bread. Other sandwiches include the roasted-pork banh mi, a smoked-turkey club, and one for noncarnivores with spiced sweet potatoes, beets, and feta. The previous chef was famous for mac and cheese; Thomas’ rendition involves gouda, bacon, and sour cream. KroBar Craft Distillery, Joe Barton’s side venture with longtime pal Stephen Kroener, adds yet another dimension to a visit here. Note: Barton’s Kitchen Window is closed on Tuesday and Wednesday, when KroBar is open by appointment only.
Why go: casual atmosphere; dual winemaking approaches; distillery and Barton’s Kitchen Window
Barton Family Wines and Grey Wolf Cellars appears in 48 Perfect Hours Wine Tasting.