Your tour guide, Cyrus, at Silver Oak Cellars
Day three of our California Wine Experience is all about Sonoma, the idyllic home of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in California.
Ever since the movie Sideways, Pinot Noir has been on fire, with no indication that its popularity will be slowing down anytime soon. Our first stop was at DeLoach Vineyards nestled in the picturesque Russian River Valley of Sonoma. DeLoach Vineyards is now owned by the Boisset family – some of you might know a few of their other wines, like their popular (and delicious!) Louis Bouillot sparkling lineup from Burgundy.
DeLoach is a very interesting property, they’re true believers in biodynamic farming. For those that don’t know what biodynamic production means, it’s all about taking good care of the land and using what the soil provides you in order to grow great grapes. Several top chateaus in Bordeaux have been using biodynamic vineyard practices for years; one great example is Château Pontet-Canet.
Biodynamic practices stipulate that you can’t use tractors to plow, instead you use horses – you make all your own compost to provide nutrients for your vines, you even do your own vineyard work according to the cycles of the moon. DeLoach Winery also make the popular labels Sonoma Cuvee and Seven Peaks lines for us. Thank you, DeLoach for an amazing educational visit!
The iconic Martin Ray Winery water tower
Next up was Martin Ray Winery, also located in the beautiful Sonoma Russian River Valley. Courtney Benham, proprietor of Martin Ray Winery, was on hand to greet us for our visit. I always look forward to seeing Courtney, he never fails to have something fun in store for us. This year it was a blind tasting of five of his Cabernets. Blind tastings are always tough – our elite TWP’s (certified Total Wine Professionals) were asked to be our representatives in this challenge. Blind tastings have always been a humbling experience for me in the past; our TWP’s had to taste all five wines and determine the appellation or sub-appellation they came from. The winner identified three of the five, which to me is impressive! Like last year’s visit, we weren’t able to make a stop at a cooperage (barrel maker), so Courtney (of course) brought one to us! The team was able to see him assemble a barrel from scratch using individual staves – pretty amazing stuff – water, fire and the barrel maker’s will used to bend the staves into shape.
Marty Ray Winery winemaker Bill Batchelor (left) with proprietor Courtney Benham (right)
So, now I have one question for our readers – California rosé wine, is it something you’d like to see more of? Martin Ray Winery shared with us a new rosé of Pinot Noir that I thought was delicious. Who’s in? Tell us in the comments.
Enjoying some delicious Silver Oak wine
Next stop, Alexander Valley –to Silver Oak Winery and Twomey Cellars! Silver Oak makes one of the most famous Cabernets produced in the U.S .today and is still family-owned, and boy, they put on a great tasting! The Silver Oak team welcomed us with a glass of Twomey Cellars Sauvignon Blanc, quite refreshing on a hot afternoon! We got to meet both the winemaker for Twomey and the assistant winemaker for Silver Oak. We had the opportunity to taste four different Pinot Noirs from different regions in California – Anderson Valley, Sonoma Coast, Russian River Valley and from the Bien Nacido vineyard, located in the Santa Maria Valley of the Central Coast of California. They were outstanding wines, all great examples of their locations – it’s amazing how different region’s wines truly do taste unique even though they are all made from the same grape variety.
Next, we were off to Sonoma’s Dry Creek Valley to visit Fritz Winery’s underground property. Today, Fritz was not only showcasing their own wines, they were gracious enough to allow some of our other local Winery Direct® partners to show off their wines as well. The lineup was Fritz Winery, Jenner Vineyards, Lost Canyon Winery, Kachina Vineyards, Bella Vineyards, and Puccioni Vineyards. The Fritz Winery is located in Dry Creek Valley, situated in Sonoma’s northern end. The winery utilizes gravity flow technology, where they start their wine production on the top of the mountain, which then feeds into the fermentation tank room and then down another level into the aging caves, all driven solely by gravity power, eliminating the need for mechanical pumps which can have a deleterious effect on the wine.
Our team split into smaller groups and we got to stop and meet the owners individually and taste their wines. We can’t possibly pick a top wine of the tasting, they were all excellent – from crisp Sauvignon Blancs and Chardonnays, to big robust Zins and Cabernets from Dry Creek Valley, there wasn’t a bad wine to be found!
Our team (one with mustache) at Truett-Hurst Winery. Co-founder Phil Hurst (center)
Our last stop of the day was at Dry Creek’s Truett-Hurst Winery. CEO/Co-founder Phil Hurst was our host for the evening. As we entered, everyone in the tasting room welcomed us with mustaches … in celebration of their Fugitive line of wine, which sometimes gets confused with The Prisoner! As the team donned our mustaches we were handed a glass of their Salmon Run rosé, and let me tell you, that is just what the doctor ordered on a hot summer afternoon in the heart of Dry Creek! There is some really cool stuff going on here, Truett-Hurst is actually the first winery in over 13 years to successfully offer an IPO for a winery on the NASDAQ. Aside from that, they make some fantastic wines including the popular Harbor Front and The Fugitive line. They have something else really cool coming up soon; I can’t tell you right now what it is but it’s going to put what you think about wine on its side!
This is our last day in Sonoma, tomorrow starts the Napa Valley side!
Check out more of my photos from the trip here!