Sunday, October 4, 2009

Report from ... Sonoma in the City – September 21, 2009

Thirty Sonoma County wineries came to town to talk Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, with a few other varietals thrown in for variety, but mostly it was about Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

The pre-tasting seminar about Sonoma showcased 6 wines: 3 Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs from different regions of this California county.

Let’s Start with the Stats …

Sonoma County is located 60 miles north of San Francisco and has well over a hundred years of wine history. You’ll recognize such names as the Gallo’s, who have been there since the 1930’s, and Seghsio, since 1935. There are 13 AVAs in Sonoma County (American Viticulture Area); 62,000 acres under vine (planted to grapes); 450 wineries, which is creeping close to pre-prohibition numbers when there were 500 wineries. There are some 18,000 growers in Sonoma, 40% of whom have less than 20 acres. Even with all these seemingly big numbers only 6% of Sonoma is under vine (the rest: 49% forest, 9% urban and 36% pasture). Diurnal temperature (fluctuation between daytime high and nighttime low) can fluctuate as much as 40 degrees in a 24 hour period. The rainy season runs between November and March, and yes Sonoma irrigates, “we have to give the vine what it needs, no more, no less; remember, we don’t have rain after March.”

Best of the Seminar …

MacMurray Ranch Vineyards 2007 Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast ($19.95) – beautiful black cherry aromas all the way through, there was also a floral note thrown in to pretty it up a bit; you’ll also find a touch of vanilla. Nice balance, good fruit and a decent price all add up to a 4.5 rating. (****½)

On the Trade Floor (the magic 13) …

Blackstone Winery 2007 Sonoma Reserve Chardonnay ($22.95) – nice lively fruit, vanilla and butter are also present but not over-powering. (****)

Chalk Hill Estate 2006 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon – a winery primarily known for their whites, but this is one delicious Cab; black fruit, chocolate, chalky tannins with vanilla and licorice notes to boot. (****½)

Flowers Winery 2006 Andreen-Gale – forget the price for a moment (it’s well north of $50) this wine has delicacy of fruit with a deft hand in the oak department (meaning subtle), there’s also a nice mineral component to the flavours. (****½ … **** when considering the price.

Foppiano Vineyards 2006 Pinot Noir ($22.00) – juicy cherry with mineral notes and nice tannins. (****)

Geyser Peak Winery 2008 Sauvignon Blanc ($20.95) – lots of melon, tropical and grapefruit notes; a real summer quaffer. (****)

Gloria Ferrer Caves and Vineyards (one of 3 wineries that have two wines in the magic 13): this sparkling house really shines with these two wines …
NV Blanc de Noirs – creamy with hints of sweetness. (****)
2002 Royal Cuvee – yeasty, creamy, vanilla and toasty … delicious. (****½)

La Crema (the second of the 3 wineries with two): this house is renown for Pinots and Chardonnays …
2007 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir – lovely red fruit, vanilla and nice acidity, smooth through the palate. (****)
2007 Chardonnay, Russian River Valley – tropical, vanilla and creamy; a total delight on the tongue. (****½)

Pekki-King Vineyards (the last of the big three): I know these guys for their Zinfandels and they didn’t disappoint …
2005 Zinfandel, Sonoma ($28.00) – vanilla, plum, cherry, mineral and cola; what Zin can be like given good fruit and good vines. (****)
2005 Zinfandel ($33.00) – big Zin with robust flavours that burst in your mouth: vanilla, spiced plum, black cherry, a full on assault of spice, great mineral note, lively and balanced; there’s also some cherry fruit and vanilla sweetness, a whopping 16.2% alcohol. (****½)

Rodney Strong Vineyards 2008 Chardonnay, Sonoma County ($17.95) – crisp apple, citrus and subtle vanilla; well priced. (****)

Thomas George Estates 2007 Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel – spicy, vanilla and plumy; has some heft from the tannins, delicious finish with lots of cherry, plum and chocolate. (****½)

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