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San Francisco Wine School: Week 4 Sonoma

Sonoma wine country.
Sonoma wine country.
Kenneth Fish

Sonoma is a big place with widely varying terrain that stretches from the coast all the way east to Napa county line. It is 52 miles wide and 47 miles long, and is under about 60,000 acres of vines. This week’s San Francisco Wine School California Wine Appellation Specialist (CWAS) adventure is going to dig into the two wines tasted, comparing them to the two Napa wines tasted a couple weeks back. I was surprised at what I found.

White wines compared: St. Supery Napa Valley 2013 Sauvignon Blanc and Hawley Dry Creek Valley 2012 Sauvignon Blanc.

The St. Supery ($15.99) is a lovely wine brimming with pink grapefruit and a light grassy midsection with no earthiness at all and a short, soft vanilla finish. Its pale yellow color is beautiful to behold and its light body delights the senses. If this wasn’t a head-to-head comparison, I would say that this is a top-notch wine, especially for the price, but the Hawley was a notch or two better.

The Hawley Sauvignon Blanc ($21.99) is just a stunning wine. It is even lighter in color than the St. Supery and it has the classic Sauvignon Blanc qualities of being grassy up front with sweet fruit just behind it, and a slight mineral flavor with a crisp, green apple finish. I would put this wine up against just about any Sauvignon Blanc out there.

The $6 price differential may or may not be the reason why the Hawley is just so much better than the St. Supery, but I bet it has something to do with it. More likely, though, is the fact that Sauvignon Blanc, though not the most planted grape in the Dry Creek Valley American Viticultural Area (AVA), is becoming the most important varietal in the valley.

Red wines compared: Sterling Vineyards Napa Valley 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon and Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant Alexander Valley 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon.

The Sterling Vineyards ($19.99) and Ferry Plaza ($19) wines are so different from each other, but at the end I scored them the same because both seem a little unfinished and this is most likely due to their respective ages. They are both very young wines and both of them could use a few years tucked away somewhere to let them soften and mature. Both are big, dark, almost jammy wines with lots of fruit up front with soft earthy mid-notes and somewhat assertive tannins.

Both wines land right around the $20 mark and this seems to be a decent price point for both Napa and Sonoma Cabs. While I would have no problem recommending either wine to anyone, I have found that Cabs at around the $40 price point have much more to offer and would recommend spending more to get more.

If you want to take this or any of the other classes on offer or if you’d like more information about the San Francisco Wine School, click here. Stay tuned for the rest of the CWAS adventures of yours truly. Next week we head over to Sonoma County to explore the many differences and similarities between itself and Napa.