Healdsburg Shed is ground zero for fermented drinks

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Sometimes you want to step into a bar, taste a range of its libations, and walk away even more curious than when you stepped in.

The Fermentation Bar in the Healdsburg Shed is one such bar. It always leaves you with an inquisitive palate.

The bar serves a pool of 36 different drinks from wine to brews to kombucha and everything in-between.

“We offer a lot of things people wouldn’t otherwise be exposed to,” said Joel Whitaker, culinary educator for the Shed. “As for wine, we have small producers who don’t have easily accessible tasting rooms. If we can expose people to wines we like, it’s great.”

There are approximately 30 tasting rooms in downtown Healdsburg, but what the Fermented Bar offers is a curated list of eco-friendly, boutique wineries. Typically there are eight white and eight red wines offered, most of which are served in kegs to spare the Earth from one too many bottles. Most of the wines are organic or biodynamic, even if they don’t have a certification, Whitaker said

Current offerings include a pinot blanc from Skylark in Mendocino, a sauvignon blanc from Eco Terreno in Alexander Valley and a pinot noir from Inman Family Wines in Santa Rosa.

By the time most people are on their second drink they have a working understanding of fermentation.

“Fermentation is in your everyday life,” Whitaker said. “People drink wine and beer and eat yogurt. We use that as a springboard to explain other kinds of fermentations.”

When it comes to wine, fermentation is relatively simple: yeast eats the sugar in the grapes, producing alcohol. What gets more complicated are the feisty debates over wild yeasts versus commercial in producing wine.

But before you get too deep into a fevered argument, you’re drawn to the bar’s other fermented offerings, which include hard cider, honey mead and kombucha.

The slightly alcoholic kombucha is growing in popularity because of the fermented tea’s touted health benefits.

The drink combines sweetened tea with a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast, which is more commonly known by its acronym, SCOBY. Later fruit or other ingredients are added.

When you stop in the Fermentation Bar, be sure to give yourself enough time to taste a range of drinks and ask a multitude of questions. Curiosity, no doubt, will linger on your palate.

Wine writer Peg Melnik can be reached at 707-521-5310 or

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