may2019 – calistoga and sonoma, california

tasting notes from the wineries we visited:
(but first some things I learned):

  • many if not most cali wines are made to age not more than 8 or 10 years (exceptions by winemakers are made and it is easy to ask about this, but we heard this over and over again). also, the facts are that many cabernets and the like will age longer regardless – once I got home, I took inventory of my cellar and I was surprised to see more than 20 bottles that dated 2005 and before – this concerned me so I opened two bottles the week I got back – both were fantastic – still had lively noses, lots of color, lots of fruit – so I relaxed. but I will keep this in mind when choosing wines moving forward.
  • many wineries in sonoma county avas (think alexander valley, chalk hill, dry creek, russian river and rockpile) are definitely going against the napa valley flow – they are making wines that more express the winemaker’s desires and the local terroir, often deliberately making wines that do not chase ratings or points, are not “huge fruit bombs”, and more express the land rather than the fruit (the winemakers talk about “that other valley (napa)” and believe it has lost it’s way (read this for when the cult of cab began to slip)
  • zin can be made a shit ton of ways and is just an incredible grape and wine – napa cabs are fantastic – but for something new, grab zins from any of the many wineries in sonoma country and prepare to be shocked at how different each bottle can be
  • pinot noir is more revered than I ever knew and is more often bad than good – there is a large trail of pinot wineries in sonoma county – all you have to do is get to one of them and they will give you cards to get you free tastings at others – we discovered a few new wineries this way that turned out to be superstars – including bella and zialina – read on for more on these two
  • new oak versus neutral oak – new oak imparts far more “seasoning” than oak barrels that had wine in them already – neutral oak are barrels that have already had wine in them for years – and impart less oak “stuff”
  • and best of what I learned – search out the best of sonoma and you get it all: fantastic wine, tasting rooms all to yourself with excellent pourers, and prices down a peg or two from napa – the downside: there really are some sonoma places that are just not all that good

Roth Estate – Chalk Hill AVA (42,000 cases total production per year)
– russian river valley, chalk hill road, beautiful winery and grounds
– picnic friendly place
– small production 200 – 300 cases per wine for many of the vintages

  • will never go to the wine country in cali without visiting here at least once. met quin martin here – hands down the most knowledgeable and fun person we’ve met – words cannot describe how good an experience we had with quin at roth
  • buttery chardonnays – come from malolactic fermentation and “sur lees” (sitting on the yeast)
  • converts malic acid to lactic acid during secondary fermentation
  • wines tasted:
  • 2016 smokey ridge dry creek valley zin – east facing land, understated with lots of fruit but no sledgehammer (15%)
  • 2016 red blend – 65% new french and hungarian oak
  • 2016 wobken unoaked chard – shows fruit not butter
  • 2017 rrv barrel fermented sauv blanc – neutral oak manages the mouthfeel – richer with less acid
  • 2016 trenton road pinot noir – 50% new oak
  • 2016 russian river syrah – 21 months in 70% new oak – white pepper
  • 2016 alexander valley reserve cab – age 10-15 years+ – 1% syrah
  • “reserve” means correct style but even better
  • all red wines go through malolactic fermentation

Lancaster Estate – Chalk Hill AVA –

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