Truth be told, I’ve never visited a “wine country” I didn’t like. But each time I start wandering around Sonoma there seems to be an extra tugging at my sleeve when it’s time to leave.
About a half hour from the Golden Gate, as I cross from Marin County into Sonoma’s part of the Carneros area, I feel my energy rise and I know that I am once again entering one of my favorite places in the USA. Sonoma is a wine country destination that can do that to you. It’s widely diverse in terms of topography, the soils that nourish the vines and multiple mesoclimates that bring out the best in many of our favorite wine varieties. Sonoma County is strongly influenced by the lengthy Pacific coastline and the cooling breezes that work their way inland but also by the sun drenched valleys that dapple the landscape. Not only is this absolutely lovely geography just to enjoy on its own, but the diversity means that Sonoma offers us wonderful wine choices.
Within the county there are areas most specifically identified with all of the major varietals: From the cool rolling hills of Carneros and the meandering slopes of the Russian River it’s Pinot Noir. The Pinots from Carneros tend to be brighter berry flavored and those from the Russian River darker with plum or black cherry flavors. Up in Dry Creek it’s jammy and spicy Zinfandel that leads the way. Through the Sonoma Valley there is a lot of Chardonnay along with Merlot and Cab. And up in the Alexander Valley you’ll find more Cabernet and Zin. The point is its all there! The Sonoma County Vintners website is a great resource to plan your adventure with lots of suggested tasting routes and links to the wineries. Here’s a link http://sonomawine.com to get you going. There are also some really fun events throughout the year so you can plan a visit for just about any time – and there’s always just enjoying tasty restaurants or chilling at a quaint B&B or small inn.
Over the years I have been fortunate to spend quite a bit of time traipsing through the vines in Sonoma and have visited many wineries, but with about 450 of them in the county I know I still have my work cut out for me! Here are wineries from some of the Sonoma AVAs (designated wine areas) where I’ve enjoyed sipping . There are others too – but I can’t get everything into one posting on SIPS!
Los Carneros: Schug, Gloria Ferrer
Sonoma Valley: Landmark. Gundlach Bunschu, St. Francis, Chateau St. Jean, B.R. Cohn
Russian River: Matrix, Gary Farrell, Dutton Goldfield, Merry Edwards, Martinelli, Holdredge
Green Valley: Iron Horse
Dry Creek: Ferrari Carano, Mill Creek, Papapietro Perry
Alexander Valley: Jordan
By the way, the remaining Sonoma AVAs, which stands for American Viticultural Area, are: Knights Valley, Sonoma Coast, Bennett Valley, Chalk Hill, Fort Ross – Seaview, Moon Mountain, Northern Sonoma, Pine Mountain – Cloverdale Peak, Rockpile, and Sonoma Mountain. You may find these, as well as the ones shown above, on the label of Sonoma County wines if at least 85% of the grapes in that wine are from the area designated.
Some Sonoma Sips:
Gunlach Bundschu 2012 Mountain Cuvee $15
Red blend that’s great for anytime
2012 Landmark Overlook Chardonnay $20
Medium bodied and a consistent winner in my book. Pineapple and citrus.
Matrix 2012 Nunes Vineyard Pinot Noir $42
Lush single vineyard sip from the Russian River. Have spent time with Fred Nunes walking his vineyard!
Jordan 2011 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon $45
Always tasty with ripe forward blackberry fruitiness. Ready to drink now and enjoy.
Iron Horse 2010 Classic Vintage Brut $40
Pour the bubbly. Classic style made in the traditional way with aging on the lees (as done for the best bubbly) before release, it lights up your taste buds.
Chateau St. Jean 2010 Cinq Cepages $60
A modest splurge for a Bordeaux style wine that is boldly driven by the Cabernet in the blend.