Last week, Randy and I went to Sonoma for the first time. We had a great time, and were quite impressed by the quality of wine. For each day, I will post the wineries we went to, along with notes.
Should you be interested in visiting, I cross-referenced all these wineries–they appeared as the best among several major publications. Additionally, they’re a good value–none of the places had a tasting fee higher than $15. But I know planning an intinerary is half the fun, so I encourage you to look into it on your own.
This is a producer of reds and whites focusing mostly on the Dry Creek Valley, an area known for producing exceptional Zinfandels. The winery has been in operation since 1927, and survived Prohibition. The pourer was friendly, and the tasting fee is only $5. It had some of the best bargains on our trip, and we came home with an $18 zinfandel. Here are some notes on that:
2012 Mother Clone Zinfandel:
Nose-forest fire, pumpkin
Palate-hazelnut chocolate, raisins, white pepper
Clos du Bois:
I was immediately impressed by the massive amounts of solar panels across the operation (above).
But moreso, we were impressed by our pourer, who gave us some of the most specific industry details I’ve ever heard in a tasting room. Most notable was when he told us that red producers are using malolactic fermentation very liberally to soften their wines, but they don’t always tell people. I knew that there was a trend towards softness, but I thought it just had to do with people’s taste. He explained that no one’s aging their wines anymore, except at the top level, so producers use malo to make their wines approachable upon release.
All the wines we had were solid–several 90s for me. I noticed that they had 2% cabernet sauvignon in their petit verdot, and I thought it must take a bold and deft hand to use so little of a noble grape. Here’s my best tasting note:
2010 Petite Sirah:
Nose-Imitation maple syrup, sliced oranges, waffles, dusty bookshelf
Palate-Marmalade, pomegranate, lemon zest, figs
This was a winery for the high rollers…with prices to prove it. The tasting was a luxury experience, sitting out under an umbrella among the vineyards. Robert Parker himself has given many of these wines 90+ scores, and he likes the fancy wines. As a fan of chardonnay, I can’t complain when it tastes luxe.
Stonestreet uses native yeasts with many of its wines. While I haven’t had enough experience with natural wines to know exactly how natural yeasts affect flavor, I do know that the wines were good.
I got the chardonnay flight, and Randy got the regular. In addition to using native yeast, Stonestreet doesn’t always use malo with their chards, so while oaky, they’re not always buttery. They’re also from a mountain in Alexander Valley, which is unusual, since most Sonoma chards are from Russian River Valley. There is a cool video map here: Mountain Map.
We were here only briefly, and it was our fourth winery, so we didn’t get as much information. They make solid wines, many from RRV. We left with their RRV chardonnay. They are known for their RRV sauvignon blanc, which was a solid 89 for me. I think Randy liked it better–he’s a big fan of that grape. Here are my notes:
2014 Sauvignon Blanc, Russian River Valley:
Nose-guava, white grapes
Palate-Acid, fresh, white peach, cilantro
Foppiano was our last stop of the day. Another of the oldest wineries in the state (1896), but I’m not sure what it did during Prohibition. In the lobby is an old photo of a federal agent come to take the wine away, and the teenage Louis J. Foppiano is sitting on the ground drinking jugs of wine with his friends, two of them passed out off to the side. The agent let them drink all the wine they wanted before he took it away.
I didn’t get a lot of notes from here, as it was the end of the day. I will say it was a fun experience–sitting outside at the shaded tables while the peppy tasting room manager ran back and forth between tables, pouring wine.
That was the first day. Hopefully you’re taking away a winery you’d like to visit, or at least you’ve had a nice escape for the day. Join us for day two, coming soon.