11/22/06 – Sonoma (pt. 3)

By Jesse on November 20, 2006


Exciting times for our little cabal this week.  We’ve got a meeting at a brand new location on Wednesday (Beverly Hills, centrally located, always fun).  Thursday we’re doing a Young Winos orphans’ Thanksgiving Dinner for everyone who doesn’t have a family or some other prior commitment on the big day.  There will be food, fun, and Beaujolais a-plenty.  More info on that in a separate e-mail.  First, lets talk about our final week tasting Sonoma.

Here’s the re-cap for the new readers: Sonoma is traditionally known as Napa’s less-pretentious neighbor, but is certainly still considered one of California’s premier wine regions — many would say equal to or just behind Napa in terms of quality.  If Napa is the Yankees (always really good, but too expensive and egotistical) then Sonoma is the Red Sox (also consistently good, not as expensive, occasionally pulls off an upset).  Sonoma is a beautiful place, often referred to as “California’s Provence” after the French region known for its ideal climate, natural beauty, and the excellence of its locally-grown cuisine.

We’ve been dealing with the stylistic differences between wines grown in the various American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) within Sonoma — the smaller regions that exist under the “Sonoma County” umbrella.  Unlike the ambiguity in Napa, there is no debate that the various AVAs within Sonoma have very different characteristics.  Sonoma County is more than twice as big as Napa Valley, and the climate varies significantly within it.  Certain AVAs are much more well-known for certain grapes.  Therefore, as we explore Sonoma, we’re grouping the AVAs loosely by their typical varietals.  Here’s the breakdown, color coded:

Alexander Valley (very warm)
–Cabernet Sauvignon

Russian River Valley, Green Valley, Chalk Hill (cooler)
–Pinot Noir
–some Zinfandel
–some Cabernet Sauvignon

Dry Creek Valley
–Rhone Blends: Syrah, Grenache, etc.
–Sauvignon Blanc

Sonoma Valley (and Sonoma Mountain)
–a little of everythi ng

The last item, Sonoma Valley, is an AVA, not to be confused with the large Sonoma County, which includes all seven AVAs listed above (and a few obscure ones).  For a more detailed description of all of the AVAs in question, check out this website: Sonoma County on Appellation America.  It’s a great resource.

When we tasted the reds, we separated them by the very crude terms “warm” and “cool” as pursuant to the AVA list above.  This week we’re tasting whites, and we’re doing them all at once, rather than breaking them into two meetings.  When buying your Sonoma white, though, see if you can find one with some specificity (i.e. lists a particular AVA on the label, not just “Sonoma County”) and try to gauge what we should be expecting in terms of flavor profiles as they relate to the climate.  For example, a Chardonnay from Russian River should be stylistically different than a Chardonnay from Alexander Valley… we’ll talk about how.  If you can’t find one with a specific AVA on the front, though, no worries — Sonoma County is totally fine as well.  And please bring any varietal you’d like… just because your wine is from Dry Creek doesn’t mean it has to be a Sauvignon Blanc, for example.  We should expect to see a lot of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, but I’d love people to bring some more obscure stuff… maybe a Riesling, a Viognier, or even a Gewurztraminer.  It would make me so happy I’d just explode.  (As always, you can opt to bring a donation of $10.)

We’re meeting at Brendan’s place in Beverly Hills.  Chill your whites and come prepared to drink.  I very much hope that nobody has any bizarre obligations the next morning.  It’s vacation time, baby.  And the Young Winos are gonna vacate like no others.  We’ll see you on Wednesday night at 9:00.