If you haven’t been to the Truckee River Winery tasting room at 11467 Brockway Road, next to Mountain Home Center on the northeast side of Truckee, make a point to go there before it’s too jammed with other folks. The word is getting out rapidly that it is a great place to taste wine and meet friends for relaxation and bocce.

Bocce? You bet. One of the fun things that winemaker Russ Jones installed at the new premises was a terrific bocce court. He runs tournaments, has an expert give master classes, and is even doing a Full Moon Glow Ball Bocce Tournament. There are also Horseshoe tournaments. A game board for cozy checkers in front of the wireplace at wintertime. And let’s not forget the wonderful wines!

Russ started his winery in a two car garage in 1989, moved his winemaking to South River St. in Truckee and in 2009, with case production at almost 1500 cases, created a crushpad and tasting room on Brockway Road. It was a case of local boy (Truckee High School class of 1977) comes home, and establishes the “highest and coldest” winery in the Sierra. He’d graduated from UC Davis’ program in enology and viticulture, worked in the wine industry in Oregon and Paso Robles and then came back home.

Russ’s philosophy is to make good wine, and to make consistent wine. He’s established relationships with good growers and vineyard operators.

“We are proud to source and control 2 acres of Pisoni clone vines at Garys' Vineyard located in Monterey County in the Santa Lucia Highlands . Our Zinfandel comes from Lodi, Gribaudo Vineyard from the old vine section. Bear River Vineyard in Chicago Park, near Colfax, is our source for Merlot. And we produce a Pinot Gris from Eldorado County,” he notes.

There are also the vines he is growing at a small newly-established vineyard within sight of the tasting room on Brockway Road. Those vines, LaCrosse, Frontenac, and Brianna varieties, came from the University of Minnesota and they are cold-hardy vines that can adapt to Truckee’s cold nights. In a year or two, this small vineyard will produce an ice wine to add to the list.

Here is a glance at the wines you can taste, and buy, at the Tasting Room. And if you want to ship them to friends out of state, Truckee River Winery has created a relationship with

2006 Gary’s Vineyard Pinot Noir (Santa Lucia) is one of the winery’s hallmark wines. Only 450 cases were produced of this vintage. The wine is unfiltered and handcrafted in Truckee. The result is a very delicate Pinot with complexity, depth, and soft tannins. $45/bottle. 13.8 % alcohol.

The 2009 White Barn Pinot Gris (El Dorado), at $12.00 bottle, is a lovely wine that pairs well with seafood. “This is a very simple wine, with no oak. It is the product of cold fermentation, cold storage, and is bottled within a year of harvest. “It’s got lots of fruit, a bit of melon character, aroma of rose petals and a crisp acidity,” says Russ. He only produced 250 cases of this wine. 13.4% alcohol.

Only 250 cases were produced of the 2006 Gribaudo Vineyard (Lodi) Zinfandel, which has a taste and texture that’s very similar to their 2003 Zin which won a double gold at the San Francisco Chronicle 2006 competition. This wine has a lovely depth in both color and flavor, and is big and bold. “Intense flavors of raspberry, cassis and cloves wrapped in soft oak and tannins making this one big wine,” says Russ. $25/bottle. 14.3% alcohol.

The new tasting room is open every day except Tuesday from 11:00 am to 7:00 pm. Visit it at 11467 Brockway Road, Truckee, Ca 96161.

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© 2010 Barbara Keck

For more information on dining and the wide range of activities around Lake Tahoe, see the online version of The Tahoe Weekly. This article appeared in my column "It's Grape" in September 2010.

Watch for my forthcoming book: " Wineries of the Sierra and Its Foothills". Publication date early Summer 2011, The Wine Appreciation Guild Publishing Division

>>Send an email to Barbara (at) if you want to be put on the notification list when it is published...

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