Friday, October 30, 2015

BRAMBLES: Tasting the Passion

'Reality is an illusion that exists due to lack of wine'. W.C.Fields
Vineyards of Sonoma Mountain AVA
Routinely, it is offered that of the hundreds of wineries in Sonoma County, the top 10% by volume, produce almost 90% of the wine within this vast, diversified agricultural region. This is a landscape holding countless micro-climates and more than 30 soil types, yet the majority of wines produced too often lack a distinction of place.  Assuming that the volume brand leaders base their market success, in part, on continuity and consistency of their wine product, they produce a homogenized wine on what can only be described as an industrial scale.  It is then among the remaining producers of Sonoma County that can offer consumers a distinctive taste of passion.

The bucolic county of a million acres, currently farms more than 60,000 acres to premium wine grapes, according to Sonoma County Winegrowers.  Diversely, this represents only about 6% of its total landscape. By recent estimates, it supports more than 1800 grape growers, of which almost 50,000 acres are sustain-ably farmed.  Defined American Viticultural Areas began being uniquely recognized in 1981, and by 1985 there were seven(7). Today there are seventeen(17) Sonoma AVA's. In theory, each offers defining and unique characteristics that can be recognized as part of its heritage and consistency.  
Wild mustard in Sonoma County dormant vineyards

To the Coast Miwok, it was the beginning of the world, but today it is known as the Sonoma Mountain AVA(1985).  Fog-free, high altitude vineyards planted in freely draining soils of mixed volcanic materials contribute to make this a unique, distinctive growing region. Near its crest sits one of the oldest homesteads on the mountain, and one of the tallest Pinot Noir vineyards in Sonoma County. The 26 acre Platinum-rated Van der Kamp vineyard is on the dormant volcanoes north face, and offers its premium fruit to a handful of grateful artisans. LaFollette 2011 Van der Kamp Pinot Noir, displays an opaque plum robe in the glass with a brickish rim, presenting dried, dark tree fruits and earthy notes in its smoky aromas that preview a firm body; a body linear and refined, with a finesse that is developed, focused and deliciously lingering on the palate. Distinctive!

Diversely, just over the north county line in the Mendocino Ridge AVA(1997) and situated on an eroded sandstone plateau near the coast, 2000 feet above the Pacific, is the isolated 26 acre Manchester Ridge vineyard. LaFollette's 2012 Manchester Ridge Pinot Noir sits surprisingly opaque and dense in the glass.  Generous aromas of dried cherries and wild strawberries lift from the glass, a gateway to the round restraint, the opulent and ripe, the rich and sultry. It is a juicy Pinot Noir, with nuance of violets and wet earth, that exquisitely  lingers on the palate. Distinctive II!
Sonoma Coast AVA
Made by the same hand in the same cellar, there is a uniform thread in the style and fashion of these acclaimed vineyard-designated Pinot Noirs.  Each echos a place, and even the distance from that place, if only we take the time to listen.  Even as other vintners source premium fruit from these sites, the vignerons signature, and what the French describe as terrior distinctively assemble in each glass for us to explore.  It is the taste of passion.

Upon reflection, there is a sensibility to this distinction of place.
Old world tradition, tells us that French wine prestige is all about the land; a single celebrated, unchanging plot, and it must be exalted. even revered. It is uniquely a foundation of the concept of terrior.  In Germany, the world leader in production of the noble grape Riesling, the prevailing dictate is that any vineyard site is available to blooming as a great land, but that it must be created. As a New World endeavor, American vintners(and consumers) are still working with the concept of the distinctive place consistently reflected in the glass.  But, when it is understood, when it is translated to the bottle, you often can get a distinctive taste of the passion.

A special thanks goes out from wine lovers to the dedicated men and women of the harvest who make such enjoyable moments possible. Cheers!