Heritage Oak Winery sits on one hundred and six acres of property. Bordered by the Mokelumne River, five generations of the Hoffman family have worked the land. Tom and Carmela live on the property. His great-grand parents built the house in which live in 1913. Tom owns another fifty acres of land elsewhere in the area. Eight acres are planted to vines.
Tom farms the vineyards and then as grapes ripen he takes on the role of winemaker. When asked to describe how he saw Heritage Oak he replied:
It’s low key. We’re genuine. It’s the real deal. We grow the grapes. We make the wine right here. We want you to have a bottle on your table that you can afford to have every night and enjoy it.
The most expensive wines on their extensive list are $28. The price of many of their bottles is $18.56. We asked about this unusual number. Tom explained that with tax this came to $20. A customer can hand over a single bill and walk out with a bottle with no fuss over change.
Heritage Oak Tasting Experience
The tasting room is in the old barn; it is a traditional tasting bar. In the era of Covid, Heritage Oak had to move tastings out into the tree-shaded garden between the barn and the Hoffman home. With the shade and the views of vines, sitting outside is a delightful way to taste and see from where the wines originated.
You have a choice of six different flights:
- White, Rosé, and Lighter Reds
- Red Blends
- Zinfandel and Zin Blends
- Single Varietal Wines
- Big Bold Reds
- Wine Club Recommendations
There are five different wines in each flight, other than the last one that has three. The $10 tasting fee applies to all six and is waived with the purchase of a bottle.
The wines are brought to your table in a basket in which small sealed bottles are placed. This was a Covid related measure to reduce contact. However, it allows you to taste at your own pace and makes it easier to share a flight between friends. This is one change that I hope remains in place.
Heritage Oak Wines
Tom started to make wine in 2007. Until then he had sold his grapes. He now uses fifty tons for Heritage Oak and the balance (350-450 tons) he sells to other winemakers.
The number of flights listed are a clear sign that Tom is not limiting himself to a few different wines. He grows twenty-five different varieties. He has a few acres where he grows four rows of each of fifteen different varieties. Yes he offers Zinfandel, Bordeaux varieties, Syrah, and Sauvignon Blanc. But you can also find Graciano, Charbono, Tinto Cão, Souzão, Touriga Nacional, and Tinta Roriz.
Visitors are welcome to bring a picnic. They can buy wine by the glass or by the bottle. There is a trail that starts beside the barn and runs for half a mile down to the river. Well-behaved kids and dogs are welcome.
On the subject of canines. Even if you are not a dog-lover, I doubt you could resist the charms of Cusco the winery’s friendly terrier. At the end of our visit Cusco followed us to our car and seemed poised to join us on our tour.
Art and Music
The barn may not be open for tasting but it still plays an important role in the relaxed atmosphere. Inside is a grand-piano which Tom plays. Music wafts across the garden adding to the charm. On the wall beside the piano hang unusual works of abstract art. Tom covers fermentation tanks with cloth. The process of fermentation stains these covers with odd shapes. He photographs them, colours them, and prints the result on canvas. So Tom is farmer, winemaker, musician, and artist.
Heritage Oak Summary
A range of approachable wines for all palates. Priced, as Tom, said to be affordable as everyday wines. We bought a bottle of 2017 Voilá, which is a Bordeaux blend and the 2015 Charbono.