The diversity of wine styles, varietals and terrior in Sonoma County is immense. There are 16 different AVAs that add to this mixture. Recently I attended Sonoma In The City, which presented not only a wine tasting showcasing all these different components but a seminar comparing 28 different Pinot Noirs that were broken down into three different regions.
The seminar, moderated by Evan Goldstein, Master Sommelier, divided Sonoma into three distinct areas, Far Sonoma Coast, Classic Russian River Valley, and The Range. For the purpose of the seminar they were able to encompass all Sonoma AVAs into these regions. There were several wines that I thought really stood out from each area.
From the Far Sonoma Coast, an area that emphasizes the influences of the California coast in Sonoma with its ocean breezes, the wine that was most impressive was Peter Michael Winery’s, 2011 Ma Danseuse. This is a single Vineyard Estate Pinot Noir. Ma Danseuse is French for My Dancer and this wine elegantly dances with style and flavor. It is a fragrant wine that opened up beautifully as it sits over time. The Pinot Noir presents itself with a deep color and flavors of small berries.
I was taken with two wines from the Classic Russian River Valley; a wine region that straddles the Russian River and is know for morning maritime fog that sits in its basin enhancing the affects of the diurnal temperatures on the grapes making the area known for it cool climate varietals. The first with its overwhelming aromas of licorice permeates the smoothly balanced Williams Selyem 2011 Pinot Noir Rochioli Riverblock Vineyard. Flavors of cherries and dark berries bring out the fruitiness in this wine. Benovia Winery’s 2011 Pinot Noir, La Pommeraie brings forth a silky, smooth and balanced wine. Utilizing Dijon clones 777 and 828 and the density of the vines in the vineyard adds to the complexity and depth of this Pinot. There is richness yet at the same time a light quality that makes this Pinot Noir exceptional.
The third and final component of the seminar was called Representing the Range. In this section two wines were of note on this particular day. The first was the 2011 Keller Estate La Cruz Pinot Noir, a fragrantly fruity wine with the aromas and flavors of violets accented with a mild spice. The 2011 Hartford Family Winery Fog Dance Vineyard, Green Valley of Russian River Valley Pinot Noir is very fragrant fruity wine. I considered it a bigger velvety Pinot Noir with floral aromas and flavors of cherries. The name Fog Dance is derived from the dance created by the fog rolling through the vineyards and back out to the sea each day during the grape growing season.
Following the seminar there was an open tasting. Here are some of the highlights and discoveries during the tasting:
Paul Hobbs' impact on winemaking has been far and wide. Having been to Argentina I have felt his influence in many of the wines I tasted there, so it was a pleasure to be able to taste his wines first hand at Sonoma in the City. I sampled four wines, two under the Crossbarn label and the other two Paul Hobbs. The Crossbarn 2012 Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast was crisp with a nice balance of acidity. The majority of the grapes are fermented in stainless steel while a small portion are in neutral French oak barrels. The Paul Hobbs 2012 Chardonnay, Russian River Valley was very smooth and balanced. This wine is 100% barrel fermented in neutral French oak and aged eleven months. It was the 2012 Paul Hobbs Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley that catch my eye from this winery. The wine is blend of several vineyards and clones. With its deep purple color one surmises a velvety texture with raspberry flavors. The wine is unrefined and unfiltered, aged in 47% new French oak for eleven months.
After finding the Pinot Noir from Peter Michael Winery enjoyable, I definitely wanted to explore other wines from this vintner. I was equally amazed with both the Sauvignon Blanc and the Cabernet Sauvignon. I found the 2012 L’Aprés-Midi one of the best Sauvignon Blancs I have ever tasted. There is a smooth richness to this wine that is not typical to this varietal. The wine is balanced with dominant flavors of stone fruit and honeysuckle. There is an elegance not often found in most Sauvignon Blancs. The wine is 100% barrel fermented and aged sur lies for eight months. The 2012 Les Pavots Single Vineyard Estate Cabernet Blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot is another wine worth exploring. With its deep almost black ruby color, black currant, cocoa and cloves are most apparent in the wine’s flavoring. Both wines are from the slopes of Mount St. Helena in Knights Valley.
I was pleasantly surprised when I met Cecilia Enriquez, who was pouring wines for the Petaluma Gap Winegrowers Association and discover her Enriquez Estate Wines, a tribute to her family heritage. Specializing in Pinot Noir and Tempranillo, I was able to try her 2010 Pinot Noir, a light beautiful Pinot that is smoothly balanced with hints of spice on the finish. I also discovered that Cecilia produces a Tempranillo Rosé that I am very anxious to try and will be doing so in the near future.
Wineries worth mention are the Ramey Wine Cellars as both their 2011 Platt Vineyard Chardonnay and their 2011 Sonoma Coast Syrah were excellent and Mac Murray Ranch 2012 Chardonnay with its tropical flavors and the 2012 light but balanced Russian River Valley Pinot Noir were quite good.
The Sonoma in the City event definitely provided a good selection of wines from a diverse group of wineries.
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