Friday, March 1, 2019, 9:30 – 11:15 am
By David Hopgood
The “speed dating” style of this seminar was a brilliant format that allows wine lovers to get face time with ten different wine producer principals in the space of less than two hours. The room is set up with 10 stations, each with two high top tables, the representative from the winery and a bottle of wine. Groups of eight are assigned to one producer and get a close up explanation of the winery and one of their wines. After about eight minutes the music rises and it is time to move to the next producer. This allows the attendees to ask questions directly of the winery person behind the table. This is much more relaxed and effective than trying to raise a question in a room of a hundred people.
The ten wines ranged from Chardonnay to Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon to a Zinfandel blend. They all showed very well and highlighted the fresh character of the “cool” growing region of Sonoma.
Another reason that makes Sonoma “cool” is the daily occurrence of fog that settles in around 6 pm almost every evening, cooling down the vineyard, preserving the vital acidity in the grapes. When it gets warm inland, the hot air rises. The resulting vacuum is filled with cooler air from the cold Pacific. The interaction of the hot and cold air makes for the fog that is so important to the character of Sonoma wines – bright, crisp, fresh flavours! Sonoma is “cool”, and can be chilly in the evening around the BBQ. There can be a huge difference between day and night temperatures.
Sonoma is a large growing area, larger in size than neighbouring Napa. Some liken Sonoma to Burgundy and Napa to Bordeaux, partly because Napa focuses so much on Bordeaux varieties but also because Sonoma has so many smaller producers and is a more casual region, where big money is much less evident. The wines tend to be a bit less expensive as well and they excel at Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
What did we learn about Sonoma? It is very diverse; both in its different regions (there are 17 sub appellations) but also in the varied personalities making wine. Take B. R. Cohn. The B stands for Bruce, for decades the manager of the famous early 70’s rock band, the Doobie Brothers. The winery is filled with memorabilia from that period. They also make olive oil from 175 year old trees.
Gina Gallo gave us a clear picture of the Gallo fine wine business where for every acre of vineyards they hold another acre is set aside for conservation. Their Russian River Chardonnay is delicious! In fact, virtually every wine producer in the Sonoma region is certified as sustainable. They are very committed and serious about being responsible stewards of their land. And they make delicious wine!