Which region is known for their award-winning Pinot Noir?
- Sonoma County, California
- Burgundy, France
- Marlborough, New Zealand
- Champagne, France
If you answered, all the above, you would be right. Burgundy being the most famous region in the world for Pinot Noir. But what about Champagne? Isn’t that sparkling white wine? Yes, but the grape that is used for many Champagnes is Pinot Noir, along with Pinot Muenier and Chardonnay. Marlborough is where Pinot Noir was first planted in New Zealand and is most well-known. And Sonoma County, although we think of California being very warm, produces fantastic Pinot Noir. Sonoma County, just north of San Francisco, in part hugs the cool Pacific Coast, and is bathed daily with coastal fog, keeping the region relatively cool for a long part of each day, so that Pinot Noir does not get too overripe and extracted. As you move inland from the coast, you do get a warmer climate, giving you riper fruit, but never as hot as the neighbouring valley, Napa. In fact from stats I saw at the event, Napa gets approximately double the number of growing degree days compared to Sonoma.
Sonoma has around 550 wineries, about double for all of Canada, but 40% of their artisan vineyards are less than 20 acres, so similar to Canada, in that we have many small producers.
This past week Sonoma in the City rolled into Vancouver, and brought with them a wide selection of wines made from Pinot Noir, from the varied climates and terroir that is Sonoma. There was of course other red and white wines made from other grapes, as I will discuss later.
My 5 Favourite Red Wines
Most of the red wines brought this year for Sonoma in the City were Pinot Noir, but there was also a few Cabernets, Zinfandel, and other varieties.
- Siduri Keefer Ranch Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, 2012 – Smoky raspberries and strawberries on the nose. Dry with high acidity and a mineral streak on the palate. Ripe red cherries and sour cherries, with a hint of vanilla. Long length with sweet spices. Tied for my favourite red of the tasting.
- Paul Hobbs Lindsay Estate Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, 2011 – Light intensity violets and cherry aromas. Ripe sweet red and black cherries, and violets. Medium body, soft, with nice vanilla to support, not overpower the fruit. Medium acidity leaves you with a mouth-watering finish. Elegant.
- Thomas George Estates Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, 2011 – Juicy raspberry nose. Soft with medium acidity. Ripe raspberries, light vanilla, and some pepperiness. Also picked up some nice minerality. This was my other favourite red of the tasting.
- Kunde Family Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma Valley, 2011 – Very ripe, juicy cassis and purple fruit on the nose. Full body, soft, but has some tannins that you pick up on the sides of your tongue. Ripe purple fruit, and some more Sonoma minerality. Delicious. Their 2011 Estate Zinfandel is also excellent!
- Kendall-Jackson Grand Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County, 2010 – Slight capsicum on the nose, together with cassis. Full body, soft, with juicy black fruit. Some dill and vanilla on the mid palate, and again minerality.
There were a few more Pinot Noirs and Cabernets, but if you comment below and ask for my other red wine picks, I’ll add them in.
My 5 Favourite White Wines
The white wines had quite a spread over grape varieties; more than the reds. My 5 favourite white wines:
- Dry Creek Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, Dry Creek Valley, 2013 – Melon aromas in the glass. Herbal, melon, peaches and honey flavours. Dry with medium acidity. I really like this wine and highly recommend it.
- Dry Creek Vineyard Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, 2011– Restrained nose with honey and apples. Lighter bodied with apples, stone fruit and vanilla flavours, and a streak of minerality behind the fruit.
- Lake Sonoma Winery Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, 2012 – Nice aromas of stone fruits. Medium minus body, round and dry mouth feel. Stone fruit and spice, with some vanilla on the finish. Tasty and easy to drink.
- Ferrari Carano Vineyards & Winery Fume Blanc, Sonoma County, 2012 – Light intensity aromas of vanilla and citrus. Bright citrus flavour with higher acidity and a bit of gooseberry. <FYI, Fume Blanc is an oak-aged Sauvignon Blanc.>
- Francis Ford Coppola Winery Director’s Cut Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, 2011 – Light oak nose. Light body, dry and soft on the palate. Restrained sweet spice, stone fruit and vanilla, with mineral in the background. Elegant.
I hope I’ve enticed you to try some of these wines, red and white, and remember that there is more to California wines than Napa.