Today, I attended the Vinify Collective Winery Tasting in Santa Rosa. Vinify is a custom crush facility that allows great winemakers who don’t want to build their own wineries to make wine. I tasted wines from 17 wineries, all made under the same roof, no two the same.

Often at tastings, the first wineries visited try to pour all of their wines for me, and long before you can get to the final wineries, my palate is blown, fatigued, useless.

I came up with a new way to try to make tasting fairer for all of the wineries present, sort of a Sophie’s Choice pouring game. I explained that I wanted to taste from each winery before possibly returning, and asked to be poured the one wine I absolutely must taste, the most representative, the wine drinking best right now. Some winemakers did not want to choose one wine. I explained that this was a Sophie’s Choice, I knew they loved all of their wines like children, but they needed to put some of the children off the boat to drown, they can only save one, and I want that one.

Eventually, each winemaker, or pourer made a choice, and these are the wines I tasted today, in order:

2009 Gracianna Winery Pinot Noir, Bacigalupi Vineyard, Russian River Valley, $48 – Barnyard funk nose, buttery dried cherry, floral, smooth herb, oak, mushroom and earth.

2009 Argot Wines Pinot Noir, Silver Pines Vineyard, Bennett Valley, $39 – Strawberry rhubarb forward fruit with nice acidity and a touch of cocoa in back. I was told that the lighter style, funk free, was owing to a predominance of Mariafeld 23 clone.

2008 Calluna Vineyards Estate Red Wine, Chalk Hill, $50 – A Meritage style blend with all five main Bordeaux red grapes. Soft with a light tannin and acid zing on finish. Lighter body, bright, lively blackberry and raspberry with nice spice notes.

2009 Frostwatch Vineyard and Winery Pinot Noir, Bennett Valley – Swan clone. Cool climate. Really nice! Beautiful balance, nice nose of fruit and herb. Mouth of cherry and forest, herb and wood.

2008 Lattanzio Winery Syrah Fedrick Ranch, Sonoma Coast, $35 – Co-fermented with 100 pounds of Viognier skins. I love Syrah when it is good, but this is great. Rich round fruit and meaty wood spice. A little smoky on the back.

2010 Vaughn Duffy Wines Rosé of Pinot Noir, Sonoma County, $15 – Strawberry, cream, and dried herb. Nice saignée wine.

2009 Sojourn Cellars Pinot Noir, Rogers Creek Vineyard, Sonoma Coast, $48 – Whole cluster, Pomard clone. Great full nose, complex, multi layered. Good acidity, cherry, herb, damp earth, smooth, round and full.

2008 Barbed Oak Vineyards Estate Chardonnay, Bennett Valley, $20 – crisp acidity, oak, toast, lemony citrus.

2009 Kanzler Vineyards Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, $48 – Smooth, well integrated loamy earth, cherry/rhubarb fruit, cola, herbs, cocoa and spice.

2008 Olson Ogden Wines Persuasion Red Wine, North Coast, $19 – Syrah, Grenache, Pinot Noir and Marsanne. Light, soft, smooth. Green herb, acid, and a red fruit basket. Easily drinkable. Good food wine.

2010 Baker Lane Rosé of Syrah, Sonoma Coast, $18 – Creamy, round, vanilla cherry and strawberry. Not a saignée styled rosé.

2009 Jemrose Vineyard Viognier, Egret Pond Vineyard, Bennett Valley, $32 – Nice, well integrated fruit notes of peach, citrus, with tropical floral notes. Good acidity. Nice body.

2008 Audelssa Estate Winery Summit Red Wine, Sonoma Valley, $52 – A tasty Meritage style blend of all five main Bordeaux red grape varietals. Medium bodied, lovely, easy to drink, red fruited berry and cherry fruit forward wine. Floral and supple, Lingering finish.

2008 Desmond Wines Estate Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, $38 – Funky, barnyard nose gives way to dried cranberry, herb, and loam. Nice finish.

2007 Westerhold Family Vineyards Syrah, Bennett Valley, $42 – Inky dark. Pepper spice. Lots of fruit hiding behind that pepper spice.

2009 Wren Hop Vineyards&Winery Estate Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, $60 – Earthy barnyard nose. First taste impression: wow! Lovely fruit, cherry and rhubarb, pomegranate, cola, herb, mushroom, all nicely integrated. Lots of yum in the mouth.

2007 Bjornstad Cellars Chardonnay, Ritchie Vineyard, $40 – A nicely balanced, round, Chardonnay with oak and fruit: peach, pear, lemon and apple.

Super Sonoman Wines  – Did I miss a table? These guys are on the list of participants, but I missed them. I am sorry if you were there, and I skipped you – I assure you, the slight, if you were there, was unintentional.

Vinify also unveiled Vinoteca, their new tasting room, a beautiful facility, where wines of the collective wineries can be poured during the rest of the year.

I got to see several online wine writers, William Allen, Marcy Gordon, Fred  and Eva Swan. I failed to introduce my friend Susan Johnson at every turn, perhaps illuminating one of the reasons I am single – my sheer oafishness. Hillary Lattanzio kindly gave a Vinoteca T-shirt to Susan, perhaps to stop her begging for one, and for that I am grateful.

I wasn’t feeling well last year, attended this wine tasting, but my notes reflected my inability to taste wines. Today was a wonderful experience, all of the wines I tasted were good, some very good, a couple just plain great. I am pretty happy about the Sophie’s Choice method of wine tasting, it allowed for a broad tasting of really good wines. Thanks to everyone for making today such an enjoyable tasting event.

Rather than waiting an entire year until next year’s collective tasting, I recommend visiting Vinoteca, Vinfy’s tasting room, so you can taste some of the wines I tasted. Vinify is located at 3358D Coffey Lane, Santa Rosa, CA 95403. Call to find out days and hours 707 535-0900. Alternately, visit any of the wineries online to arrange a tasting or purchase, using the links I provided.

Cheers!

John