On Saturday, I attended the Sonoma County Harvest Fair Awards Gala with my good friend Susan Johnson.
Susan and I have each attended our share of Awards Galas and remembered them as being dress affairs. I have spent most of the year in shorts and sandal mode, so Susan felt compelled, unnecessarily, to remind me to dress for the event.
When I arrived at Susan’s house in the Russian River Valley, it was nearly 100 degrees, and taking mercy on me, Susan released me from the coat and tie.
We arrived at the Sonoma County fairgrounds about 15 minutes before the event start time, and drove past a long line of people on our way to park the car. Several of the people in line were dressed in shorts and tee shirts. Although I am a huge fan of the casual dress, it was disappointing to see that some people didn’t make an attempt to be dress appropriate for the event. I was a little envious.
We were in the middle of the line when the doors opened, and it took a full 15 minutes to get in the door as tickets were taken and glasses handed out. The crowds raised the heat inside of the building and made for a less than perfectly comfortable event.
Finding wineries was made difficult as they were first grouped by geographical area, or appellation, and then alphabetically. It took a while to catch on that Russian River Valley wineries were at one end and Sonoma Valley wineries were grouped together at the other end of the hall. Aldler Fels and Alderbrook would not be nowhere near each other.
We received our tickets from Heather Irwin of BiteClubEats, and Susan and I both thought that Heather did a great job emceeing that evening. We also thought she should be invited to host solo next year, because her co-emcee was droning, slow, and uninteresting.
The evening was about people for us, more than wine. I was thrilled to see Serena and Mark, Rachel, Linda and Gordon, and Robert and his new gal. It was a little too hot, and a little too crowded to really make wine tasting fully enjoyable. We did a little tasting, but it was just nice to get out together, and I was looking forward to a more select opportunity to taste in earnest.
Yesterday, Monday, I returned to attend the Sonoma County Trade & Media Tasting from 1:30 – 4:30. With 1,084 wines entered into competition, I couldn’t taste everything. 207 wines were awarded at least a Gold Medal by the judges, and I am not able to taste that many wines in a day, suffering palate fatigue long before then, so I looked to limit my tasting further. I decided to taste wines being chosen by the judges as the Best in their Class, and included Double Gold (Unanimous Gold votes by all the judges). After putting together a tasting list by varietal, I found that several of the wineries chose not to pour their wine for the trade or media; I found that was very disappointing. By winery, in alphabetical order, here are my tasting notes from the media tasting event:
Alexander Valley Vineyards 2007 Cabernet Franc Estate Alexander Valley $21.00 – Cabernet Franc Best of Class – Smooth (French oak for 14 months). Tastes nice, herb, spice, but Cab Franc will never be my favorite varietal – the varietal makes me think of sappy green wood bits – but for those that like Cab franc, this is a good one.
Alexander Valley Vineyards 2009 Chardonnay Estate Alexander Valley $18.00 – Chardonnay Retail Price up to $19.99 Double Gold – Oak, toast, cream and vanilla. Old California style, heavier in body and mouth without being fat. Clean and bright with depth. Fruit is along for the ride.
Alexander Valley Vineyards 2007 Viognier Estate Alexander Valley $21.00 – Viognier Sweepstakes White – Clean peach and pear. Would pair great with a lighter seafood pasta. A little “zingy” on the back end.
Arbor Bench Vineyards 2007 Reflections Meritage Arbor Bench Vineyard Dry Creek Valley $34.00 – Bordeaux Blends Retail Price $30 and over Silver – What? A silver medal wine gets tasted? The winery owner asked me to taste so I did. Merlot, Cab, and Malbec. Round, drinkable, very food friendly. Wonderful fruit berry medley without in your face forwardness.
Armida Winery 2008 Syrah Flora Ranch Chalk Hill $32.00 – Syrah/Shiraz Retail Price $25 and over Double Gold – NOT POURING
B.R. Cohn Winery 2009 Chardonnay Sangiacomo Vineyard Reserve Carneros $35.00 – Chardonnay Retail Price $30 and over Best of Class – NOT POURING
B.R. Cohn Winery 2008 Syrcab Sonoma Valley $32.00 – Other Red Varietal or Generic Best of Class – NOT POURING
Carol Shelton Wines 2008 Black Magic Zinfandel Sonoma County $20.00 – Late Harvest or Dessert Red Best of Class – This was my #1 favorite wine of the tasting. I had preconceptions prior to tasting it that were blasted to smithereens at first sip. I literally was rocked and exclaimed, “Oh my God.” This 15% alc Zin is simply delicious. Late Harvest wines, dessert wines, and Ports scare me, many are so over the top, and I steel myself for them, but this was disarming, and amazing. Velvet smooth, and honeyed. This Zinfandel had botrytis sweet apricot and honey notes more typical of a Sauterene. Sweet Zinfandel raspberry jam meets Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc. It is just freaky good. After already falling in love, Carol gave me a chocolate to pair with the wine, just wow.
Carol Shelton Wines 2006 Bacchus Laureate Reserve Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley $52.00 – Zinfandel Retail Price $35 and over Gold – Carol Shelton earned her Bachelors of Science from UC Davis 30 years ago, and this wine is a tribute to her time there. With over $5,000 from sales of this wine being donated back to Davis, the Bacchus Laureate allows wine enjoyment now to support wine enjoyment tomorrow. This is a monster Zin. Huge, powerful. I’ll be honest, I like them a little tamer.
Chateau St. Jean 2007 Syrah Durell Vineyard Sonoma Valley $40.00 – Syrah/Shiraz Retail Price $25 and over Best of Class – NOT POURING
D & L Carinalli Vineyards 2009 Chardonnay Estate Russian River Valley $20.00 – Chardonnay Retail Price $20 to $20.99 Best of Class – Multi layered fruit. Great integration. A blending of subtleties, A little vanilla on the finish. Going to be sold at Harvest Fair Friday through Sunday at $144/case or $136/case for 5 cases. Great buy!
Davis Family Vineyards 2006 Barn d’Or Sonoma County $24.00 – Bordeaux Blends Retail Price up to $29.99 Best of Class – NOT POURING
de Lorimier Winery 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Warm Springs Ranch Dry Creek Valley $32.00 – Cabernet Sauvignon Retail Price $25 to $34.99 Best of Class – Dusty cocoa, herb, fruit. Nicely balanced. Warm blackberry, boysenberry and spice. Smooth.
Eric K James 2007 Pinot Noir Carneros $24.00 – Pinot Noir Retail Price up to $24.99 Best of Class – Smoky, round, lush, integrated herb, spice, cherry, plum. Vinous.
Forchini Vineyards & Winery 2007 Papa Nano Estate Dry Creek Valley $18.00 – Italian Varietals or Blends Best of Class – An American Chianti, Tuscan style red. Soft round strawberry, vanilla, oak, chocolate. Smooth, delish. Jim Forchini is a great winery ambassador.
Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards 2002 Royal Cuvee Carneros $32.00 – Sparkling Wines Best of Class – Creamy, low yeasty, apple, lemon, small beaded bubble, nice mousse, caramel mist, round.
Hauck Cellars 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County $35.00- Cabernet Sauvignon Retail Price $35 to $44.99 Best of Class- I was not allowed to taste before being made to make note that this is Hauck’s third year in a row with a Best of Class Cab. Are you satisfied with the pimping? Send me a bottle. Anyway, bright forward berry fruit, oak. Not a monster Cab, a little elegant, vinous.
Imagery Estate Winery 2007 Petit Verdot Sonoma Valley $39.00 – Bordeaux Varietals Best of Class – NOT POURING
Imagery Estate Winery 2009 Sauvignon Blanc Wow Oui Sonoma Valley $27.00 – Sauvignon Blanc Retail Price $17 and over Best of Class – NOT POURING
Kenwood Vineyards 2007 Merlot Jack London Vineyard Sonoma Valley $20.00 – Merlot Retail Price up to $24.99 Double Gold – Deeper, more herbaceous nose. Plum. Nice integration.
Kenwood Vineyards 2009 Pinot Gris Sonoma County $14.00 – Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio Best of Class – Really delicious. Third vintage. Lime, light garden herb, steely, stone fruit, citrus fruit, mineral.
Leveroni Vineyards 2006 Merlot Moon Valley Vineyard Sonoma Valley $16.00 – Merlot Retail Price up to $24.99 Best of Class – Really bright nose. Fruit and herb. Candied cherry follows from nose to mouth. A little deeper finish with leather and plum.
Little Vineyards 2008 Syrah Sonoma Valley $30.00 – Syrah/Shiraz Retail Price $25 and over Double Gold – NOT POURING
Macrae Family Winery 2007 Pinot Noir Bacigalupi Vineyard Russian River Valley $34.50 – Pinot Noir Retail Price $25 to $34.99 Best of Class – An in your face, or nose, Pinot. Forward everything. Surprisingly sweet note of cherry fruit after a heavier dense nose. Really nice.
Mahoney Vineyards 2009 Albarino Las Brisas Vineyard Carneros $18.00 – Riesling/Other White Best of Class – Spanish varietal. Drier, crisper. Light body. Fruit and floral. Clean.
Mayo Family Winery 2007 Meritage Los Chamizal Vineyards Reserve Sonoma Valley $50.00 – Bordeaux Blends Retail Price $30 and over Best of Class – Different varietals from different blocks of one vineyard, crushed and barreled separately. Aged about 2 years, about 70% new oak. Smooth. Drinkable. Round. Blackberry, oak, currant. Delish.
Mazzocco Sonoma 2005 Merlot Dry Creek Valley $28.00 – Merlot Retail Price $25 and over Best of Class – Herby, darker, deeper. Not loving it, but others will – and clearly did. Parker-esque? More herb, spice, oak focused than fruit in this wine.
Mill Creek Winery 2009 Gewurtztraminer Estate Vineyard Dry Creek Valley $19.00 – Gewurtztraminer Best of Class – Dry Gewurtz nose. Round, sweet honeysuckle, apricot, lychee, orange blossom
Mill Creek Winery 2007 Zinfandel Kreck Family Vineyards Dry Creek Valley $38.00 – Zinfandel Retail Price $35 and over Best of Class – Under 200 cases. Initial alcohol blossom found in many Zins. Classic peppery meaty jammy zin.
Mobius Wines 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County $24.99 – Cabernet Sauvignon Retail Price up to $24.99 Best of Class – NOT POURING
Novy Family Winery 2007 Syrah Russian River Valley $24.00 – Syrah/Shiraz Retail Price up to $24.99 Best of Class – Blackberry and chocolate. Smooth and delicious. Complex.
Paradise Ridge Winery 2008 The Posse Hoenselaars Vineyard Russian River Valley $50.00 – Rhone Red Varietals or Blends Best of Class – Syrah, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel. A “Rhonefindel.” Wow, nice blend. Round, chocolate, lush warm fruit, spice and herb. Terrific food wine. 250 cases.
Pedroncelli Winery 2005 Port Four Grapes Dry Creek Valley $18.00 – Port Best of Class – Made with real Portuguese varietal grapes, this 18.5% alc Port has raspberry, coffee, and baking spice notes.
Sebastiani Vineyards 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley $33.99 – Cabernet Sauvignon Retail Price $25 to $34.99 Double Gold – NOT POURING
Sebastiani Vineyards 2009 Chardonnay Russian River Valley $14.99 – Chardonnay, unoaked Best of Class – NOT POURING
Sebastiani Vineyards 2008 Chardonnay Sonoma County $12.99 – Chardonnay Retail Price up to $19.99 Best of Class – NOT POURING
Simi Winery 2007 Late Harvest Riesling Alexander Valley $30.00 – Late Harvest or Dessert White Sweepstakes Specialty – NOT POURING
Simi Winery 2007 Petite Sirah Dry Creek Valley $35.00 – Petite Sirah Best of Class – NOT POURING
St. Francis 2008 Caro Santo Sonoma Valley $45.00 – Sangiovese Best of Class – NOT POURING
Starkey’s Court 2008 Zinfandel Pedrazzini Family Vineyard Sonoma Valley $24.99 – Zinfandel Retail Price up to $24.99 Best of Class – Nicely integrated, well balanced herb, spice, black raspberry.
Stryker Sonoma 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Alexander Valley $50.00 – Cabernet Sauvignon Retail Price $45 and over Sweepstakes Red – NOT POURING
Suncé Winery & Vineyard 2009 Pinot Noir Zora’s Estate Vineyard Reserve Russian River Valley $44.00 – Pinot Noir Retail Price $35 and over Best of Class – NOT POURING
Taft Street Winery 2008 Pinot Noir Russian River Valley $24.00 – Pinot Noir Retail Price up to $24.99 Double Gold – Dusty cocoa, oak, dark cherry, herb. Lovely integration. Lovely mouth. This and a book. Some cheese. Leave me alone.
Trecini 2009 Sauvignon Blanc Russian River Valley $14.99 – Sauvignon Blanc Retail Price up to $16.99 Best of Class – Nicely appropriate varietal notes. Hay and cat pee in the house.
Wilson Winery 2008 Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley $26.00 – Zinfandel Retail Price $25 to $34.99 Best of Class – Nice perfume. Beautiful fruit. Raspberry, blueberry, chocolate syrup, and spice.
Wilson Winery 2008 Wilson Family Red Estate Dry Creek Valley $32.00 – Other Red Varietal or Generic Double Gold – Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. Tons of beautifully integrated fruit. Lush juicy blackberry and cassis. Nice oak. What a food wine!
Windsor Sonoma 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley $30.00 – Cabernet Sauvignon Retail Price $25 to $34.99 Not Entered – Gordon asked me Saturday night to stop back on Monday, he would have something special. This is Gordon’s favorite wine currently available from the entire Vintage Wine Estates portfolio. Perfumed. Really damn nice. Big, but smooth. 100% Cab. Integrated, Round. Lush. Layered and very drinkable. An herbal Cabernet with gorgeous fruit. Winemaker Marco DiGiulio did a solid job by these grapes.
The only note I have for the Harvest Fair organizers: next year, please have large plastic cups available for media tasters who may want to spit without leaning over a table to use the dump buckets.
The Sonoma County Harvest Fair will continue with tastings and sales for the public Friday through Sunday, October 1-3. The wineries who chose not to pour for the trade and media will be pouring their big medal winners for you next weekend.
If you live in, or near Santa Rosa, I heartily recommend going to the Harvest Fair; I hope my tasting list and notes above are helpful to you when planning your tasting order.