Ready for some weekend wine?
See if you can find these Sonoma wines (or, if not, their producers) on wine lists, restaurant shelves or online. They were four of the most compelling wines I tasted recently, when I visited northern California for the Sonoma County Wine Auction.
2018 Fort Ross Vineyard Pinot Noir from Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery
Laurel Glen Vineyard Estate Cabernet Sauvignon (special anniversary blend of the 2007, 2011 and 2012 vintages)
2019 Grenache from Hamel Family Wines
2021 Pinot Noir Tank Sample from Ron Rubin WInery
It’s challenging to choose just four compelling wines from four days of tasting throughout Sonoma county, and there are certainly many other wines worth mentioning.
But the list below is the wine equivalent of catching someone’s eye across a crowded room. There was a lot of bustle, noisy chatter and distraction. Yet these four wines steadied my attention and held my gaze.
They also summarize the experience of returning to wine country, as I wrote earlier this week. Yes, there is the legacy of COVID protocols but it is counterbalanced by the exuberance of re-engaging with the people and the landscape of wine. These wines also represent Sonoma’s current reality, from an enticing blend of vintages from historical properties (the past), to the urgent crush of this year’s harvest (the present), to a cheeky and unexpected offering that points toward an uncharted and very compelling future.
A little background and perspective for these four wines specifically are included in Part Two of this post, but first it makes sense to set the stage with some general context for the selections.
Tasting in a Group
Experiencing these wines is indeed like catching someone’s eye across a crowded room, but that isn’t just a figure of speech. I tasted each of them as part of a group or lineup of other wines — not chaotic by any stretch, but varied enough to seal the experience even more in my memory, given these wines’ capacity to distinguish themselves within a crowd.
The wine from Gary Farrell Vineyards, for example, was one of four pinot noirs that followed three pours of chardonnays. The sample of pinot noir from Ron Rubin Winery preceded the tank sample of chardonnay, which was so new, it was literally still grape juice. The grenache from Hamel Family Wines was one of a set of pairings during a multi-course meal. And the cabernet sauvignon from Laurel Glen Vineyard was poured during the walk-around tasting to kick off the Sonoma County Wine Auction weekend.
That diversity of groupings reflects the range of tasting experiences available in Sonoma, even beyond the circumstances of a special event weekend. In addition, the diversity of tasting experiences reflects the range of personalities of the wines and their landscape.
Tasting without a Pattern
There isn’t a pattern to these four wines, other than the obvious common ground of Sonoma origins.
They come from four different producers, are made from four different grapes that are grown in four different soils. Two of the four are from vineyards that are fairly accessible, while the two other vineyards are far off and remote. Two of the wines resemble what many consumers associate traditionally with Sonoma wine, while the other two are surprising “curveballs.”
It all makes for wine tasting experiences that keep you on your toes. Please click over to Part Two of this series for a deeper dive into each of the wines.