11/14/06 – Sonoma (pt. 2)

By Jesse on November 13, 2006


First of all, thanks to everyone who came on this weekend’s dynamite trip to Temecula.  We tasted a ton of wine, some good, some less than good, and some that were very good.  Several of the best were at Stuart Cellars, where the owner/winemaker himself gave us a free guided tour!  And the other wineries were enjoyable as well.  Everyone got enough glasses to host a formal dinner party…. albeit one in which the guests each receive a glass with something different written on it.  We had fun, and we were picky — we went to one winery, took a look at the crowd, and peaced out!  Because that’s how the Young Winos roll!  We don’t even care.  Temecula’s still reeling like they got suckerpunched by Pedro Martinez.  We’ll have to do another trip soon and taste the wineries that we missed. 

This week’s meeting is gonna be tasty.  Having just completed the Napa Valley, we now move on to Sonoma, traditionally known as Napa’s less-pretentious neighbor, but 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, and I’ve been fortunate enough to visit twice, most recently this past summer.  The county is known as California’s Provence, so-named after the French region known for its ideal climate, natural beauty, and the excellence of its locally-grown cuisine.

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 (American Viticultural Areas) are much more well-known for certain varietals.  Therefore, as we explore Sonoma over the next few weeks, we’re grouping the AVAs loosely by their grapes of choice.  Here’s the breakdown:

Alexander Valley (very warm)
–Cabernet Sauvignon

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

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

Sonoma Valley (and Sonoma Mountain)
–a little of everything

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.

This week we’re again tasting reds.  As you’ll remember from last week, we’re separating the reds by the very crude terms “warm” and “cool” as pursuant to the AVA list above (as well as the info on that website, for those who are bored at work today).  Last week we did warm, so this week we’ll do cool… i.e., try to find wines from Russian River Valley (including Green Valley and Chalk Hill) or Dry Creek.  If you bring one from the Sonoma Valley AVA — or if your bottle doesn’t list a specific AVA and just says “Sonoma County” — then try to bring one of the cooler varietals, like Pinot Noir or Sangiovese, rather than Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot.  These are guidelines, of course, and just do the best you can with whatever the store’s selection is, but it should be very informative to taste “warmer” Sonoma reds one week and then compare their overall profiles with those of some “cooler” bottles the next week.  (As always, you can opt to bring a donation, now back down to $10.)

For those who aren’t aware, we’re losing a real trooper this week, as Andrew “Sulfites” Lang will be heading back to the pastoral wilds of Wisconsin.  Don’t miss his going-away party at the Brass Monkey this Friday; he’ll have all the information at the meeting, which will be at his place in Hollywood.

Also: as a special bonus, we’ll be starting the meeting by drinking Andrew’s very rare bottle of Wisconsin Chardonnay.  This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, since no one ever visits Wisconsin for any reason.  Be there on time!

Find yourself one of those “cool weather” Sonoma reds, whether you’re going by region or by grape type, and put a smile on your face.  Andrew’s going to be depressed enough, and since alcohol is a depressant, this could get really bad if you guys don’t act happy.  See you on Tuesday at 9 PM.