By Niilo Edwards, CSW
In Vancouver, BC
Sonoma County wines are synonymous with a wide variety of styles and varying degrees of richness when it comes to producing California benchmarks of Chardonnay, Cabernet, and Zinfandel. Sonoma producers are also adept at showcasing differing takes on Pinot Noir, from the very Burgundian finessed with the nuances of the local terroir, to the uniquely bold Californian Pinots that one could easily pair with a steak.
On Wednesday, top Sonoma County producers came to Vancouver’s Terminal City Club to confer their products onto the palates of the local trade. Yours truly attended, thanks to the invitation by the event’s lead facilitator, Dana Lee Harris. My takeaways from the afternoon event are listed below in order of preference.
Sparkling Brut Rose NV
Bone-dry with hints of cranberry and biscuit on the nose, backed up by racy, palate cleansing acidity, this wine stole the evening for me due to its perfectly balanced flavor characteristics and pleasantly mouth cleansing mousse. The wine maker has gone the extra mile on this wine by using the French “Saignee” method (meaning ‘to bleed’) to increase the complexity by allowing a more concentrated maceration to occur. While some people may detract from my opinion, I would without hesitation, place this Rose in a category along with many Rose Champagnes. The bubbles could be a tad more refined, but this is very minor and is easily overlooked for all the other outstanding attributes that this wine has to offer. Well worth the price tag of about $40. I’m told the rose is in stock at Kitsilano Wine Cellar for those of you based in Van City. My only regret is I failed to snap a photo of their elegant product.
MacRostie Winery & Vineyards
Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 12’ & Wildcat Mountain Chardonnay 10’
MacRosite’s winemaker Heidi Bridenhagen applies her skill in the making of these two wines. A lot of people will tend to turn up their nose at a Chardonnay from California as there is a growing stigma of over-oaked over done Chardonnay coming from that region. MacRostie has successfully exploded that stigma with these two Chards by employing wine making techniques focused on non-intervention and the leveraging of vineyard terroir to create Chardonnays that are uniquely Californian.
Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 12’ is likely the closest thing to a true cool-climate Chardonnay that I’ve tasted from the Golden State. A nose and palate of citrus fruits, pear and green apple are supported by a steely minerality and a very judicious use of oak. This wine is a delight to drink on its own, with a handful of nuts, or pair it with a shrimp cocktail.
Wildcat Mountain Vineyard Chardonnay 10’ capitalizes on its more inland vineyard location by creating a wine of balanced richness. It provides a more traditional experience on the palate with notes of pineapple, butterscotch and Macintosh apple. Again, winemaker Heidi is able to showcase a Californian Chardonnay of finesse. Lobster, anyone?
Lake Sonoma Winery
Cabernet Sauvignon 10’
Iconic Canadian wine family, the Stewart’s (of the Okanagan’s Quails Gate fame) acquired Sonoma’s Valley of the Moon Winery, which is where both Lake Sonoma Cabernet, and their Napa Valley Cabernet “Plume”, are made. Not only are the Stewart’s first-class business people to deal with, they also make first-class wines, and Lake Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon is no exception.
Sourced from grapes grown in Sonoma’s Alexander Valley (the heartbeat of Sonoma Cabernet) Lake Sonoma has produced a textbook Cab showcasing aromas of cherry, blueberry, cedar and smoke. The berries carry over to the palate as the wine fills your mouth with its smooth texture supported by classic dusty tannins leading to a clean, but somewhat juicy finish. A benchmark Cabernet in its category – the wine is available through BC Government stores at $26.99 per bottle. I recommend you check out the sister wine Plume, as well for a meagre $4 dollars more.
Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel 11’
Like the Alexander Valley is to Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon, the Dry Creek Valley is the pinnacle for arguably the best California Zinfandel that out there on the market (my apologies to the fine folks in Paso Robles).
Pedroncelli’s Zin showcases the best elements of California Zin. The nose is full of robust red fruits, raspberries, blackberries and black currants with a palate that carries over the flavours supported by decent acidity, refined oak, and tannins that while not overbearing, help to leverage the Dry Creek terroir, which makes them dusty in a gravelly sort of way. This is a Zin of quality and complexity. Not over-done, over ripe, or one dimensional as others occasionally can be. I’m unsure of the wine’s availability within the Lower Mainland. If you stumble across it, buy it by the case – but call me first!