Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Report from … Sonoma in the City – October 21, 2010

Sonoma came back to our city (Toronto) for another tasting. This it the other California county; you know the-place-that’s-not-Napa.  They highlighted their 13 AVAs (American Viticulture Area) in a seminar held before the main tasting ... and within sampled eight wines during the showcase:

Top 3 Seminar Wines …
- Rodney Strong 2007 Symmetry (Alexander Valley) … full 5 grape Meritage blend with a great intensity of fruit. (****)
- Seghesio Family 2007 Cortina Zinfandel (Dry Creek Valley) … plumy and cherry with good weight, nice tannins and ageworthy. (****)
- Thomas George 2009 Viognier (Russian River) … “we want to show off our fruit, not a cooper’s work in France” said Jeremy Baker, and they sure do, great purity of fruit: pineapple, peach, pear, really juicy and real delicious. (****½)

Some Learnin’ About Sonoma …
- Sonoma has 450 wineries and 1800 growers
- Sonoma has 1,050,000 acres of which only 6% (62,907) is vineyard land
- Sonoma makes up only 6% of California’s wine production
- Sonoma breaks down like so: 9% urban, 36% pasture, 49% forest and 6% grapes
- Grape varieties grown are 22 whites and 44 reds: Chardonnay tops all varieties followed by Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel, Sauvignon Blanc and Syrah
- The growing trend is to be more AVA specific with their wines, not just on the label but with the fruit in the bottle
- Philosophy: “Leave the land better than we found it”
- AVAs include: Alexander Valley, Bennett Valley, Knights Valley, Russian River Valley, Chalk Hill, Dry Creek Valley and Rockpile (which are all names appearing on the labels) + 6 others
- Interesting to note that Carneros is both a Napa and Sonoma AVA; that’s because half of Carneros sits in Napa and the other half in Sonoma, it is the only AVA to sit in both counties
- Sonoma’s newest AVA is Bennett Valley, which achieved status in 2003
- Green Valley is the coolest region, yet sits in the middle of the County
- Rockile is the least planted AVA with only 150 vineyard acres
- Knights Valley has the least amount of wineries within its AVA: 2
- Sonoma Valley has the most wineries: 81
- Largest acreage AVAs, Alexander Valley and Russian River Valley: 15,000

The Wines …
It’s nice to know the numbers – it’s better to know the wines (by winery):

Chateau St. Jean:
2006 Cinq Cepages ($89.95) – all five Bordeaux varietals go into this one, even if there is only 1% Petit Verdot. It’s a nice blend with good dark fruit flavour. (****)
2006 Benoist Syrah ($49.95) – chocolate and black fruit take center stage here. (****)

Clos du Bois:
2006 Marlstone Cabernet Sauvignon ($49.9) – smooth, to the point of being creamy, an alluring nose with finesse of fruit on the palate there’s a long luscious finish here. (**** ½)

Dutcher Crossing Winery:
2008 Maple Vineyard Zinfandel ($40.00) – contains 10% Petit Sirah, nice sweetness with plum, black cherry, vanilla and a touch of peppery-spice. (****)

Ehret Family Winery:
2007 Syrah (no price give) – possibly the only Knights Valley Syrah, ripe red and black fruit, spices, pepper and a long lovely finish. (**** ½)

Landmark Vineyards:
2007 Lorenzo Chardonnay ($49.95) – the smell seems typically Chardonnay, but the palate makes you want to sip, sip and sip again: creamy pear puree, caramel, and crème brulee, with layered hints of vanilla, and lovely sweet fruit; this is something you definitely want to be part of, don’t let the nose lure you away, this is a real winner. (**** ½)

MacMurray Ranch Wines:
2008 Winemaker’s Block Pinot Noir ($49.95) – lots of juicy cherry notes, there’s a bit of an alcohol flavour but it’s not enough to be distracting. (****)

Matanzas Creek:
2007 Chardonnay ($37.95) – fruit driven with hints of vanilla … delicious. (****)
2006 Merlot ($42.95) – very chocolaty with blueberry notes. (****)

Pedroncelli Wines:
2007 Bushnell Creek Zinfandel ($19.95) – awesome value with spice and fruit throughout … unmatched for the price.  Lovers of Zin should jump all over this one. (**** ½)

Pelton House:
2005 Cabernet Sauvignon ($46.95) – there’s an addition of 3% Carmenere in here, not a grape you see much of in California. Nice spice, blackberry, pepper – all with good weight in the mouth.

Ravenswood Winery:
2007 Belloni Zinfandel ($44.95) – no baloney here, black fruit and spice lead the charge. (****)
2007 Old Hill Zinfandel ($59.95) – this one is the polar opposite to the one above, smooth red fruit, ripe cherry, and plum – almost hedonistically decadent. (**** ½)

Rodney Strong Wine Estates:
2006 Roackaway Cabernet Sauvignon ($99.95) – absolutely smooth, rich and lush, dark damson plums and creamy vanilla notes. (**** ½)

Seghesio Family Vineyards:
One of the kings of Zinfandel in California, each wine is as good or better than the next … difference between wines are subtle and yet each wine is unique – they poured four and each ranked between 4 and 4 ½ stars.  If Zin is your sin, Seghesio is your salvation:  Old Vine ($39.95), Cortina ($45.95), Home Ranch ($44.95), Rockpile ($46.95).

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