Belden Barns | Your Wish for Affordable Pinot Just Came True
Quietly tucked away off of windy Sonoma Mountain Road is where you’ll find Belden Barns Winery. Resting at roughly 1,000 feet of elevation on the Northwest shoulder of Sonoma Mountain, this unique property is the original home of Steiner Vineyard, the acclaimed site that has provided the foundation for sought-after wines from producers such as Donelan Family, Carlisle and Eric Kent.
Originally founded by Bennett Valley/Sonoma Mountain pioneer Dave Steiner (who was actually married to the founder of Matanzas Creek), the property had fallen into disrepair and most of the vineyards were badly damaged by phylloxera; until Nate Belden recognized the potential of this site and acquired the property in 2005.
Growing up immersed in agriculture, Nate spent his youth on a horse farm in Colorado until a career in finance transported him to the sometimes harsh realities of city life. But as time went on he began to miss his former agrarian lifestyle more and more. He dreamed of getting back to his roots, and a trip to wine country with friends ignited an idea and a passion that he couldn’t resist. After a year of searching and dreaming of the perfect property, Belden Barns became a reality.
He began an intensive revitalization project, redeveloping the vineyards and bringing Vineyard Manager Chris Bowland onboard, whom Nate credits with helping make the quality of the fruit achieved from this site possible. He also met the love of his life, Lauren, in 2010.
After dating for some time they would come out to the property and taste the wines that other producers had crafted using their fruit and Lauren realized:
“Every single bottle that we opened was better than the next one, and I thought, we’ve got to do this.”
The solidifying inspiration came from their wedding day. The Beldens had a wishing tree for their guests, and when they left they got chills reading all of the incredible wishes their friends had made for them.
They knew in that moment that if they followed their dream to have a family business, that the wishing tree had to be at the center of it all. Today you’ll find a wishing tree both on their property and on the labels of their wines, which Lauren has helped design. In fact, she has become an indispensable part of the team, parlaying her former career as a brand executive into cultivating one at Belden Barns that is commensurate with the superb quality of the wines.
While they were only able to salvage 1.5 acres of Clone 667 Pinot Noir, the remainder of the property now consists of 19.5 acres diversely planted to Syrah, Grenache, Grüner Veltliner (yes, a Sonoma Grüner and the only one produced in the county according to Nate Belden), Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier and additional Pinot Noir.
During our visit, Lauren and Nate personally hosted my fellow bloggers and me in their charming tasting barn, along with their two adorable young children. Their daughter Olivia is the consummate hostess, helping to make guests feel at home while their son Milo, the resident rockstar, charmed us with his impressive guitar skills.
Lauren explained that they wouldn’t normally have their kids present while they were hosting guests, but that this is truly a family-run operation and they were unable to secure childcare for the day. That the Belden’s were as authentic and genuine as their expressive wines truly added to the experience, as we tasted through their surprisingly diverse lineup for a relatively small producer.
Their 2015 Estate Pinot Noir ($38) was a standout, possessing vivid bing cherry flavors laced with savory undertones. Impeccably refined and nuanced, it had just the right amount depth and body to please both those who seek out Pinot Noir and those who don’t. It also happens to be an incredible value.
But there was more. The Grüner Veltliner ($28) was a charming, bright expression of one of my favorite Austrian varieties. The Sauvignon Blanc ($26) bottled unfined and unfiltered, is rich with tropical character and refreshingly unique. It’s produced from the rare rauscedo clone which originates in Collio, Italy. It’s Lauren’s favorite, and along with the Pinot Noir, happens to be one of their best sellers.
Everything I tasted, from the Blanc de Noirs ($38) to the Rhone varieties (Grenache and Syrah), was distinctive, well-crafted and utterly delicious. And they had the added benefit of being very reasonably priced, which is quickly becoming a rarity today for this level of quality.
Nate and Lauren really want the Belden Barns brand to be about life’s magical possibilities and should you make the effort to wander off of the beaten path I doubt you’ll be disappointed by their magical portfolio of wines.
Looking for more great wineries to visit? Check out more of my favorites here!
The Specifics | Belden Barns Sonoma | Top Sonoma Wineries
Location: 5561 Sonoma Mountain Rd, Santa Rosa, CA 95404
Tasting Fee: None, currently.
Appointment Required? Yes, book your visit to Belden Barns by e-mailing Nate@BeldenBarns.com or by calling (415) 577-8552.
Included in the Tasting: In adddition to tasting all ten estate grown wines you’ll receive a tour of the vineyard and pay a visit to the wishing tree, where Lauren and Nate were married.
Wine Prices: $20-$48
Production: Approximately 1,500 cases per year.
Time to Allot: Approximately two hours.
Should You Go? If a successful trip to wine country means wandering off the beaten path and finding those elusive hidden gems, then a visit to Belden Barns in Sonoma is an absolute must. This family-owned and operated vineyard produces expressive, authentic wines that are accessible and reasonably priced. Make time for this unique property and you’ll wish you had discovered it sooner.
Take a moment to check out fellow blogger JetSetting Fashionista’s coverage of our visit to Belden Barns! We first met on our press trip to Franciacorta and have become great friends since. In addition to winery recommendations her site is an incredible resource for the best dining and accommodations for the discerning traveler.
**No consideration was received for publishing this article. Wine was purchased, albeit at an industry discount.