Monday, October 5, 2009

Sonoma in the City

Toronto has the opportunity twice a year to try California wines…one in April which encompasses all of California’s wine regions and once in September when the focus lies squarely on Sonoma wines. The tendency is there to always think of Chardonnay when it comes to California wine and, in terms of Sonoma, Pinot Noir seems to be the natural choice for red wine. Although I did find a couple of outstanding Chardonnay’s at this tasting what impressed me more were the non-typical white and red varietals that I tasted this afternoon. Incidentally, although there were a few Pinot Noir’s that I did enjoy none of them stood up to the Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and red blends strategically placed around The Arcadian Court that day.

Chalk Hill Estate Vineyards & Winery 2006 Estate Sauvignon Blanc
$29.95 per bottle
Available through Halpern Enterprises
A very powerful Sauvignon Blanc! A myriad of aromas and flavours include honeysuckle, tropical fruit, pear, stone fruit, spice and lemon. Each sniff and each sip of this wine brings something new to the forefront in this ever changing wine without being too overpowering. You could enjoy this wine on its own quite easily but this would also nicely compliment a variety of Asian inspired dishes.

Chalk Hill Estate Vineyards & Winery 2006 North Slope Pinot Gris
$40 per bottle
Available through Halpern Enterprises
In terms of grape varietals, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay could not be any further apart on the similarity scale than you can imagine. However, with the North Slope Pinot Gris from Chalk Hill Estate, nothing could be further from the truth. The aromas encompass the full range of stone fruit, nuts and citrus while the flavours are this intense combination of spice, nectarine and cream. This smells and tastes exactly like a typical California Chardonnay…well, a typical Chardonnay in the style most California wineries are now making. The long, lingering finish combines all of the flavours and aromas previously tasted – vanilla, cream, citrus, tropical fruit and spice – which just seems to stay on forever. This is definitely one of the most intriguing Pinot Gris’ I have tasted in quite a while and would pair well with a wide variety of foods.

Pedroncelli Winery 2008 Dry Creek Valley East Side Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc
$12.00 USD per bottle
Available through Grape Expectations
(416) 894-5055
If you are looking for an easy drinking, every day kind of Sauvignon Blanc, then this wine is definitely one for that category. Sauvignon Blanc typically displays aromas of citrus fruit, mineral and gooseberry with similar flavours, a crisp, clean mouthfeel, perfect acidity and a medium long finish. This wine has all of that and more – aromas of grapefruit, honey and mineral and flavours of melon, citrus and tropical fruit. The balanced acidity and crisp clean mouthfeel are definitely there and, like most Sauvignon Blanc’s, pair with a wide variety of dishes. Personally, just about any kind of fish or seafood would be perfect.

Now, I did mention that there were a couple of Chardonnay’s that were outstanding this day so I am going to now give them their moment in the spotlight before moving on to the various red wines of the day. The first Chardonnay comes from Chalk Hill Estate Vineyards and Winery where our first Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris came from. The second Chardonnay comes from the Russian River Valley in the middle section of Sonoma from Davis Bynum Winery. Check it out…

Chalk Hill Estate Vineyards & Winery 2006 Estate Chardonnay
$25.00 USD per bottle
Available from Halpern Enterprises
I love the KISS rule – keep it sweet and simple – and Chalk Hill Estate has done exactly that with this Chardonnay. The aromas are barely there but the flavours more than come out to the forefront. Pear, a slight hint of floral, cream and minerality are all key players in the palate with a bit of spice in the finish. Definitely an enjoyable, every day kind of Chardonnay. Try it out – on its own or with a chicken dish – and let us know what you think.

Davis Bynum Winery 2007 Russian River Valley Chardonnay
$25.00 USD per bottle
Available from Mark Anthony Brands
This wine epitomizes everything I love about Chardonnay. Aromatics of roasted and tropical fruit, and a slight hint of smoke; flavours of more tropical fruit, a hint of citrus and a luscious mouthfeel that seems to linger forever. This is definitely one of those “yummy” wines that is begging to be enjoyed with roast chicken at a table of family and friends.

So, now we move on to some absolutely stellar reds. Zinfandels from Pezzi-King Vineyards, Sbragia Family Vineyards and Sebastiani Vineyards & Winery, Petite Sirah and a red blend from Foppiano Vineyards. Read on to find out what I found awaiting me at the various tables that day…

Foppiano Vineyards 2005 Petite Sirah
$28.20 per bottle
Available from Halpern Enterprises
One thing I really love about Petite Sirah’s is their intense, deep, rich purple colour and exotic dark berry aroma. This Petite Sirah does not disappoint by any means. Those aromas continue on to the flavours where they are met with black and blue berry fruit, vanilla, spice and even a slight hint of cocoa. The tannins are still fairly firm but not overwhelmingly so – it would be interesting to see what this wine is like in 2-3 years time.

Foppiano Vineyards Lot 96 Proprietary Blend
$17.25 per bottle
Available from Halpern Enterprises
Not everyone appreciates a nicely blended wine but I tend to think they are unique, enjoyable and sometimes surprising. Foppiano Vineyards Lot 96 – named for the family’s original roots in the area which date back to 1896 – is just such a wine; a blending of seven different grapes, some of which that aren’t even grown in Ontario, and all of which have a percentage of less than 30% in the final product. Here are the specific details on this wine – 28% Sangiovese, 19% Petite Sirah, 17% Zinfandel, 14% Carignane, 10% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Sauvignon and 3% Cabernet Franc.

Now, what is this wine actually like? Well, to put it simply, it’s a powerhouse at an amazing price. The aromas – berry fruit, red currants, cherry, cedar, vanilla and toast – make this one of the most complex aromatic experiences I have had in a very long time. The palate is slightly jammy but has a great kick of spice and then cherries on the lingering finish. The price on this wine with the jam packed set of flavours and aromas make this wine an incredible value…almost a steal.

Pezzi-King Vineyards 2005 Sonoma County Zinfandel
$18.00 USD per bottle
Available through The Case for Wine
I love Zinfandel’s for their rich, opaque, dark purple colour and this one does not disappoint. The aromatics are really subtle on this wine but the flavours definitely pack a punch. Berry fruit and honey with a jammy mouthfeel, this wine has a lingering, spicy finish, great balance and smooth tannins. It would be very interesting to see what this wine is like in 3-4 years.

Pezzi-King Vineyards 2006 Old Vines Zinfandel
$22.00 USD per bottle
Available through The Case for Wine
Although this wine is a year younger than Pezzi-King’s Sonoma County Zinfandel (previous review), this wine is a hundred times better than it. The aromatics are much more forward than the 2005 – concentrated raspberry and spice – and the flavours can only be described as powerhouse flavours. This wine is BIG and HOT – almost over the top – and the finish seems to go on forever. Even though this wine is amazing now, it would be interesting to see what this is like in a year or so.

Sbragia Family Vineyards 2006 Gino’s Zinfandel
$28.00 USD per bottle
Available through Foster’s Wine Estates Canada
Gino Sbragia was the patriarch of this winemaking family. Having now passed away, his son Ed is now running the business with his family – Adam, Kevin, Jane, Kathy and Gina. Gino’s Vineyard was Gino’s home vineyard which is now taken care of by Ed and Adam and is planted exclusively to Zinfandel with vines that date back 25 years. This is everything you come to expect from California Zinfandel – spice, berry and cherry in both the aromas and the flavours. If I wanted a Zinfandel for every day drinking, this would be it.

So, this brings to a conclusion this blog. If you are interested in getting any of these, the contact information for all of the importers is listed with each wine. Happy drinking…and for those of you in Canada, Happy Thanksgiving next weekend. Maybe one of these wines will make it to your dinner table with your Turkey.
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