Thursday, May 1, 2014

Sonoma In The City – A Virtual Tour Of Sonoma Through A Wine Glass

Sonoma in the City Pinots
First flight of Pinots from the far Sonoma coast.
Northern California is practically littered with wineries and wine regions, all producing world-class wines served all over the planet.  I had the chance to learn more about the wines of one of these regions, Sonoma County, at a recent Sonoma in the City event.  Sonoma in the City is an event that occurs in cities across North America to educate trade, media, and consumers and showcase multiple wineries from all over the Sonoma region in one convenient place.

Sonoma has more than 400 wineries, most of which are open for tours and tastings, and many of which are family owned.  Sonoma actually has three distinct wine regions: the far Sonoma coast, the Russian River Valley, and the range.  Wines produced in these three different regions have distinctive characteristics unique to their region.

The trade and media event introduced us to 28 Pinot Noirs from across the Sonoma wine region, broken into three segments for the three different sub-regions.  Our introduction to Sonoma Pinot Noirs started with a flight of nine Pinots from the far Sonoma coast.  The wineries represented were Flowers Vineyard & Winery, Martinelli Winery, Fort Ross Vineyard & Winery, Dutton-Goldfield Winery, Peter Michael Winery, Siduri Wines, Red Car, MacRostie Winery & Vineyards, and Papapietro Perry Winery.  The wines from the Sonoma coast are gentler with smaller grapes left on the vine longer because of the cold.

I had two favorites from the flight of Sonoma coast Pinots.  One was the 2011 Three Sisters Vineyard “Sea Ridge Meadow” from Martinelli Winery.  The Pinot had a smoky aroma, a floral taste, and was very smooth.  The Martinelli family has been growing grapes since the 1880s and their wine making practices have been passed down through the generations.  My other favorite was the 2011 “Ma Danseuse” Estate from Peter Michael Winery.  This Pinot stood out from the rest because of its intense dark ruby color, much darker than the others.  The small berries create the deep color, as there is less juice and more pulp.

The next flight included nine Pinots from the Russian River Valley.  The wines were provided by Inman Family Wines, Williams Selyem, Sojourn Cellars, Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery, Davis Family Vineyards, Paul Hobbs Winery, Benovia Winery, Kosta Browne Winery, and Joseph Swan Vineyards.  The Russian River Valley grapes are bright red.  The Pinots obtain their textural element from time on the vine. 

This flight included three of my favorites.  Sojourn Cellars’ 2011 Wohler Vineyard was the most affordable option of the day, with a suggested retail price of $48.  The Wohler Vineyard was an easy, smooth, drinkable wine.  Sojourn Cellars is a boutique winery making 8,000 cases a year.  I also enjoyed Davis Family Vineyards’ 2011 Starr Ridge Vineyard.  This Pinot was spicy with a slightly sweet finish.  The Davis Family Vineyards’ vines were planted 18 years ago.  The 2011 Katherine Lindsay Estate from Paul Hobbs Winery was surprising because it had very little aroma.  The wine had a deep berry color and a smooth fruity taste which seemed as if it would have been accompanied by a heavier aroma.  While not necessarily one of my favorites, the 2011 Thorn Ridge Ranch from Inman Family Wines had a very interesting taste with complex flavors of fruit and spice and almost a salty ocean taste.

Sonoma in the City Wine Tasting
The third flight being poured while producers from the Russian River Valley answered questions about their wine.
The final flight included 10 Pinots from the range.  These Pinots came from Keller Estate, MacPhail Family Wines, La Follette Wines, Iron Horse Vineyards, Emeritus Vineyards, Bruliam Wines, Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards, The Donum Estate, Hartford Family Winery, and Patz & Hall.  The wineries in this area are still learning what defines them and are considering becoming their own AVA region.  The land used to be covered by dairies and have larger areas of one rootstock.

I found three favorites in the final flight of Sonoma Pinots.  The Emeritus Hallberg Ranch 2011 Estate Bottled was very fruity and is described as one of their more delicate and feminine vintages.  Bruliam Wines’ 2012 Gap’s Crown Vineyard was one of the darker Pinots with a smoky tobacco aroma.  All of Bruliam’s profits go to charity.  The 2008 Jose S. Ferrer from Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards had a chocolate aroma and was very smooth.  Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards are actually known for their sparkling wines.

After our Pinot Noir education, we were invited to the Grand Tasting, which was open to the public.  The same wineries were represented, along with many others.  Much like our tastings, the venue had wineries separated by region so tasters could experience the different tastes of the different regions of Sonoma County.

The wineries listed above welcome travelers to visit their tasting rooms.  Or if you can’t make it to Sonoma County, visit the Sonoma in the City website to find future Sonoma in the City events near you.

Katherine Belarmino has been traveling for over ten years on a quest to see as much of the world as possible, experience new cultures, and sample other cuisines and libations. She also writes the travel blog Travel the World, which journals her world travels with her husband Romeo and seeks to encourage others to take the time to travel.