Snooth User: outthere

Wine Country Weekend / Taste of Sonoma Sept 2-4

Posted by outthere, Aug 17, 2011.

Just secured my tickets to the Taste of Sonoma on Sept 3rd, day 2 of a 3 day wine and food event that will knock your collective socks off. Anyone else planning on attending?

Sonoma Wine Country Weekend

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Reply by napagirl68, Aug 18, 2011.

Wish I could go :-(  but we have no childcare this health issues... darn it!

To everyone else, this is a GREAT show... went last year and had a blast.  I recommend it to everyone.

Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Aug 18, 2011.

I'll be there, mostly interviewing winemakers, but I hope to get a little break to check things out!

Reply by Richard Foxall, Aug 20, 2011.

Dang, I wish I could hang with you GdP.  We'll be in Monterey, down the other way from the Bay Area, for Renaissance Weekend.  Next year, NG? Can we talk GdP into coming back?


Reply by outthere, Aug 20, 2011.

Yeah, I'll miss you too Foxall

Reply by Richard Foxall, Aug 20, 2011.

Okay, outthere, send me a message with your private email.  I'm going to a wedding up there in September and we can  find time to have a drink. (Heck, you might be at the wedding, since the bride's father is in the biz.) What next, HondaJohn feeling hurt? 

Really, I am taking you for granted.  I assume you'll be at any Sonoma event I chance upon.  I really didn't mean to leave anyone out...

Reply by outthere, Aug 21, 2011.

Just messin witcha Foxall.

Reply by dmcker, Aug 21, 2011.

You guys are so cute...

Reply by ScottLauraH, Aug 22, 2011.

Too bad it's a six hour plane ride for me to get out there.  It sounds wonderful.

Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Aug 22, 2011.

I can be convinced to return.



Reply by outthere, Aug 22, 2011.

Not to rub it in or anything but it's 3.9 miles from my driveway to theirs. I could ride my bike.

Reply by dmcker, Aug 23, 2011.

You don't?

Reply by outthere, Aug 23, 2011.

Er, not on your life. Westside Rd and Wohler Rd have no shoulders and are narrow and winding. When I think of riding my bicycle I think safety first. Not putting myself out there on a bike in front of thousands of wine tasters. Nope.

Reply by napagirl68, Aug 26, 2011.

yep, no bikes out there, Outthere!!   Totally agree... was a pain to get in and out.  but worth it..

AND..... we may be able to make it afterall!!  I LOVED last year's show, and really want to go this year again.  Trying to line up the childcare, but it is looking positive :-)

Reply by VegasOenophile, Aug 28, 2011.

Wish I could, I love Sonoma wines!  But alas, have to get some work done after just recently spending a week in Olympia and Seattle, WA! Woodinville offered a nice visit for wine though, highly recommended if you're up among the Cascades!

Reply by Richard Foxall, Aug 30, 2011.

Was just up on the RR this last weekend, outthere--drank a ton of wine, but did not visit any wineries.  I'm sorry to be missing the event, we'll try next year.  But I am coming up for a wedding on the 9th--someone in the business' daughter.  I expect I'll have to rein in the drinking or hand the car keys to my wife before she starts.

Reply by outthere, Sep 2, 2011.

@ Foxall - On the river? We were kayaking. May have passed right by each other.

Reply by outthere, Sep 6, 2011.

Ya know, this is a fun event but it's taking on a zoo qualities. So many freaking people it became a chore to get a taste as the grazers have no concept of take a pour and step aside to accommodate others. Had to be 3,000 people in attendance. They say they sold 2,500 tickets. It was a zoo. Prices per ticket varied depending on how much money you wanted to part with. Anywhere from $150 to $195 per person.

MacMurray Ranch is a gorgeous setting and one of the most picturesque in the RRV. The grounds were adorned with gigantic tents, 5 of which housed tastings and were divided by AVA.

Russian River Valley, Dry Creek Valley, Anderson Valley, Sonoma Valley and the 5th was the Reserve Tasting Tent. Another tent had cooking demonstrations, another a vertical tasting seminar. There were guided sommelier tours where a group of people would be lead around listening to their somm guide via earpods.

Each tent hosted 40-60 wineries and up to 10 or 15 restaurants/caterers showing their wares. So you do the math. Crowds were 5 deep and 5 wide at many tables which took away from the experience for me. Saw lots of friends there, drank a lot of good wine and tasted some interesting food. The food wasn't on par with last year in my opinion. Not as many restaurants and the choices were economic with many vegetable creations, cold soups and canapes with very few savory or meat items. Being a Syrah lover savory items pair well for me but that's just my gripe. Others probably thought it was awesomeness¹º so take what you want from it. Chef Thomas Schmidt of John Ash and Co had the taste of the day with his savory lamb ribs. OMFG! Valley Ford Cheese Company continues to shine and show why they are tops in their field.

Too much going on to take notes. My faves:

Syrah - 2007 Westerhold Famly Vineyards Estate Syrah - My wine of the event

Cabernet - 2008 Akóma Zoúme Zeus - Their first release and what a blockbuster.

Zinfandel - 2009 Mauritson Rockpile

Pinot - 2008 Sojourn Sangiacomo 

Malbec - 2007 Keating Wines Malbec

Only tasted one Petite Sirah as they are far too tannic and closed down at a young age to really get a bearing on them. Didn't have a single white this year and no bubbles. Lots of wineries not there who were there last year. Siduri was probably the one I missed the most.

There is still an over abundance of fruit bombs out there. Just downright sweet wines that are supposed to be dry. Ugh... There was also an over abundance of young girls in tight sun dresses, big sun glasses, high heeled sandals and floppy hats. I guess that's Wine Country Casual. I thought it was kinda trashy. To each his/her own.

Russian River Brewing Company was there pouring beer but the line was far too long.

Had my eyes on the lookout for Greg DP but he was not to be found on this afternoon.


Reply by napagirl68, Sep 6, 2011.

Hi Outthere!  Too bad we missed each other... I have been working on my notes to post, and finally got them together (below).  I agree wholeheartedly that the food aspect was a bit of a disappointment compared to last year, and it was a HUGE crowd to navigate.  I took the approach of starting early, leaving early.  AND I avoided the big guns, for the most part, to taste smaller, less known wineries (how I discovered Gracianna last year:-)  

I also got to talk to some GREAT people pouring... I even took pictures and video, planning to post here.  Unfortunately, I crashed my DroidX, and had to resort to the dreaded hard reset via Verizon, before I could download files :-(  Lost a lot more than pix of TofS -family and vacation pictures:-(

Anyhoo, I agree with you, as you will read, on your Syrah choice ;-)

I was lucky to have had the opportunity to visit this year’s Taste of Sonoma event at MacMurray Ranch, featuring 170+ wineries pouring some of their finest.  This was my second year attending this tasting, and the second year in a row that the event sold out.  I tried to really focus on tasting wineries that were unfamiliar to me, but did sneak in a few of my known favorites.  Many of Sonoma’s AVAs were represented here-   Alexander Valley, Carneros, Chalk Hill, Dry Creek Valley, Russian River Valley, Sonoma Valley, Bennett Valley, Sonoma Coast, Rockpile and probably a few others I am leaving out.  With so many wines, you really have to plan your attack!  Because of where my palate is currently, I spent most of my time tasting Dry creek and Russian River Valley wines.  But I did try to venture out a bit.  Here are some of the wines I enjoyed (in no particular order) at Taste of Sonoma:

Stonestreet Winery 2007 Monument Ridge Cabernet, Alexander Valley

Bella Vineyards 2009 Hills & Benches Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley

There was a nice booth for a group of Bennett Valley wineries, staffed with a very knowledgeable representative.  I learned that this AVA is a cooler, sheltered climate, with a volcanic rock soil component.   I personally prefer cool climate syrahs, and one of my favorites was from this region:  Westerhold Family Vineyards 2007 Syrah, Bennett Valley This wine showed that white pepper that I love in a syrah, yet (for me) is elusive to find.  This was my fav syrah at show.   Another winery I enjoyed from Bennett Valley was Frostwatch Vineyards   There were several more I did not taste, but this is definitely an area for further investigation.  Here is the link to the Bennett Valley Grape Growers-

As a person who really likes Sonoma Sauv Blancs as a rule, I was a bit disheartened to find some of the latest releases from the Dry Creek AVA to be a bit more “flabby” and less crisp and intense than I prefer.  Color tended towards pale yellow to medium straw, while I tend to prefer an almost clear SB, with grapefruit notes, grassiness, a bit herbal, but a very crisp, acidic finish.  I was told by more than one winemaker that, in specific areas of Sonoma county, the 2010 harvest saw a mostly cool summer, but then an ill-timed late heat wave, lending to a “bigger” SB.  While I have in no way written off the 2010 SBs from any one region of Sonoma, I do feel that 2009 was a great year in general for SB in Sonoma. And, lucky for me, there were several 2009s there to try. Here is one I enjoyed very much:  Ledson winery’s 2009 RRV Sauv Blanc.

I am also a lover of California Rhone varietals.. specifically Grenache, Mourvedre, Viognier, Roussanne, Marsanne….  I tend to enjoy many from Paso Robles, Santa Barbara County, Santa Cruz Mtns, and Sonoma, as well.  Although my first love (pinot noir) is a highlight at Taste of Sonoma, I wanted to seek out some Rhones, and being summer, I wanted some WHITE rhones!  I was very happy to come upon Arrowood Vineyards  They had a very nice syrah, 2006 Saralee’s Vineyard, RRV, but better yet, a great viognier- 2008 Saralee’s Vineyard, RRV.   I was also informed by the winery rep that they make an MRV blend, as well as a GSM blend, although they were not being poured at show.    Pride Mtn. Vineyards, not surprisingly, had a decent 2009 Estate Viognier… (they are one of my favorite wineries at Rhone Rangers)  While on the subject of California Rhones, missing this year from Taste of Sonoma was Bill Frick…  but happily I got to visit with him and taste his wines back in March at Rhone Rangers…

My favorite varietal at the moment happens to be pinot noir… I tend towards a very clear, garnet red, intense red stone fruit, earthy nose, a bit of spice kinda pinot!   Historically, I have gravitated toward Sonoma Coast pinots as a rule, but I am finding RRV to be, perhaps, my new favorite AVA.  Needless to say, I spent much of my time in the RRV tent.  I also found the RRV chards to be my favorites overall, the syrahs decent, and the pinots phenomenal.  Here are some of my picks from that region:

Balletto Vineyards:   I love everything I’ve tasted so far from Balletto.  My first experience was tasting a 2007 Balletto Syrah that I bought from Sophie’s Cellars in Monte Rio (Russian River area) a few months back.  It seems I have a thing for the cooler-weather Sonoma syrahs, especially the 2007s.  At this show, I got to taste their 2009 Estate Chardonnay, the 2009 Estate Pinot Gris, and the 2009 Estate Pinot Noir, all RRV.  While I enjoyed them all, the 2009 Pinot Noir was exceptionally good, with bright cherry/ red stone fruit, earthy nose, a teeny bit of cedar, and a bit of orange peel.   I hadn’t heard about this winery before buying that bottle of Syrah at Sophie’s a few months back, but I highly recommend their wines, based on what I have tasted.  

Taft Street Winery:  I am not a newbie to Taft Street… I happen to already be a fan of their Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir and the 2007 Dry Creek Syrah.  At this show, I got to taste their 2008 RRV Pinot Noir    It definitely fits my style of the lighter, red-fruit pinot and was excellent.  And it was nice to finally meet the winemaker so I could compliment her personally on her exceptional wines. 

Dutton Estate:  Ok… so this was, IMHO, the best pinot that I tasted at show:  2009 Karmen Isabella Vineyard, RRV Pinot Noir  This pinot echoed the style I like, but with more complexity…. Beyond that tart cherry, was an underscore of berry, along with a citrus tang… all with that amazing earthiness that seems to balance out that red fruit tartness.  Delish!

A few others to mention since this post is getting long….

Chalk Hill Winery 2009 Estate Chardonnay, Chalk Hill – slight oak if you like that, but well-balanced.

D & L Carinalli Vineyards 2009 Estate Chardonnay, RRV – Crisper chard, excellent acid balance

Although there were many, many other wineries to taste, it was time for me to crawl outta there!  It was a bit of a “circus”, but worth it to have the opportunity to taste so many phenomenal wineries in one location.



Reply by outthere, Sep 6, 2011.

Great minds think alike. So what's our excuse? Ha!

Russell Bevan, the winemaker for Westerhold, is quite a talented guy. You shouldn't stop with Westerhold but also try his Bevan Cellars creations. 

“Although last year I gave superb reviews to two of Bevan Cellars’ wines, this year’s extensive portfolio was one of the revelations of my tastings. A small artisanal operation in Santa Rosa run by Russell Bevan and his partner, Victoria De Crescenzo, Bevan Cellars has assembled a stunning line-up of wines. I think the tasting notes say it all, but I can’t recommend this up-and-coming producer’s wines highly enough”

— Robert Parker

He also has taken the reigns from Michael Browne of Kosta Browne as winemaker for 

Jemrose. The Jemrose associate winemaker, Shane Finley, has his own label as well in Shane Wine Cellars

 offering more great Bennett Valley nectar. It just keeps getting better out here. Gotta love where we live!

Reply by napagirl68, Sep 7, 2011.

Hmmm... perhaps Jemrose and Bevan had one or more of the wines that the Bennett Valley Growers featured in their booth?  I tasted a few- remember Frostwatch and Brix 25. But it was hard to take notes when they weren't listed in the program.  And I lost my great video I took when the rep basically gave me the intro to Bennett Valley wines :-(   I was counting on that for my tasting notes, so to speak.  Blasted Motorola!!  

I think those wineries deserve a visit when I can get up again :-)

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