I vigorously decided not to attend the Wine Bloggers Conference this year (in Santa Rosa) until the very last minute. Why not go? I live in San Francisco, and the theme for the previous Tuesday’s California Wine Appellation Specialist class was, well, Sonoma. A sign. Even though I missed all the early bird discounts, I decided that I would be absolutely insane not to attend. After some nudges from fellow wine attendees and comforting caresses to my bank account, I clutched the part of my chest that encased my liver and headed up.
I can’t believe it’s already been my fourth year! I still remember my first, which brought me to the relatively nearby Santa Barbara region after I earned a scholarship to attend. What a blast, though. Since it was my first, there were moments not unlike that scene in Mean Girls where Cady gets the lowdown on all the cliques, my respective Janis and Damien introducing me to the community.
I’ll cut the fat on what can easily be an annoying paragraph, but here we go: four years later and I feel like I’ve grown a lot. Some sort of rebranding is afoot in the form of “sommeligay”, which I thought a lot of people would hate. I discovered on my first day of this conference, that I was wrong. Huzzah.
Iron Horse 2012 Classic Vintage Brut (Green Valley of Russian River Valley, Russian River Valley, Northern Sonoma, Sonoma County, North Coast, California) Nov 2017. $42 USD.
Pair this with me feeling myself on a Saturday night before going out, because the elegant red fruit and brioche seem like a juxtaposition to the – at first – the prickly fierce mousse. It’s taut and ends minerally with tons of potential to age, but I’d happily drink glasses and glasses of this.
Wattle Creek 2013 Sauvignon Blanc (Sonoma County, North Coast, California) N0v 2017. $15 USD.
Grapefruit, guava, ripe citrus, and as if you accidentally dropped those fruits on a field of grass before you declared the 5-second rule. The gentle herbal note was appropriately described as something akin to basil. It has a thickness to it, which matches the roundness. Not bad, and even more impressive considering the age. Screw cap, and whole cluster fermentation at cool temperatures in stainless steel.
Sandler 2015 “Cuvée Ma Belle” Chardonnay, Heintz Ranch (Russian River Valley, Northern Sonoma, Sonoma County, North Coast, California) Nov 2017. $42 USD.
An obvious contrast to the previous, with a deeper lemon colour showing hints of gold. Vanilla and cooked yellow apple are notes that don’t surprise me in a fairly thicc Chardonnay, but there’s a distinct combination here – something like cinnamon and nutmeg, something like butterscotch, something like candied ginger after it’s been charred slightly. It’s simultaneously cloying but intriguing. Really textured, and not for the faint of heart.
Etude 2015 Rosé, Grace Benoist Ranch (Carneros, Sonoma Valley, Sonoma County, North Coast, California) Nov 2017. $26 USD.
A medium pink gives delicate notes of cranberry, unripe strawberry, green fruit, and something like candied flower petals. There’s a dance on the palate: the acidity isn’t severe, so more red fruit shows through, but then the unripe strawberry and hint of herbs keep a teasing vibe – and then the weight even stops it from being too fleeting.
Head High 2014 Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast, Sonoma County, North Coast, California) Nov 2017. $25 USD.
Immediately, notes of stewed strawberry, cola, spice, and a hint of charred wood. A wine you’d expect to be nothing but hedonistic upon the first sip, with relatively smooth texture letting the flavours blanket your tongue. Some earth on the finish to balance out the oak.
Red Car 2013 Syrah (Sonoma Coast, Sonoma County, North Coast, California) Nov 2017. $42 USD.
At first, the scents are fierce but blurry. It’s a shadowy swathe of dry earth, dark berry skin, and steak spice rub. Nothing sings over each other, but then this fresh sour plum soars above everything else on the palate. It reminds me of Blaufränkisch from the Finger Lakes, but I’m also getting flashbacks from modern cooler climate Shiraz coming out of Australia.
Laurel Glen 2014 “Counterpoint” Cabernet Sauvignon (Sonoma Mountain, Sonoma Valley, Sonoma County, North Coast, California) Nov 2017. $40 USD.
Deep ruby with a touch of purple. The leafiness of the wine isn’t as abrupt as you’d find in Cabs from, say, neighbouring Napa, and the bits of tomato leaf flow seamlessly between the dark berries, dark plum, and oak. I also got something a bit like rice, but maybe I’m just hungry. Anyway, it’s rather plush, but ends sturdy and woody.
Cast 2013 Old Vine Zinfandel, Watson Vineyard (Dry Creek Valley, Northern Sonoma, Sonoma County, North Coast, California) Nov 2017. $40 USD.
Okay, this: this is the kind of Zin you could serve to me in my early years (which, arguably, to some, I’m still in). The instructor calls this “blackberry jam on toast”, but for me it’s this weird combination of wet wood, stewed fruit, vanilla, and a gently sour component. It’s much less angular than the Zin from our Napa sesh, and there’s a ripeness on the palate that’s really pleasurable without being to the brim with saccharinity.