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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A few April winery visits

I spent a Saturday afternoon visiting a few local tasting rooms. I was mostly on a hunt for Pinot Noir.

Dutton-Goldfield and Balletto share a tasting room and wine-making facilities. I've had Balletto Vineyards Pinot before and liked it. It's a more fruit-forward style and is the bargain of the day at about $24. Dutton-Goldfield's Pinots ran in the $50s and they had several different ones open. I wound up with a bottle of the McDougall Ranch from the Sonoma Coast appellation.

Sheldon has a tasting room in Sebastopol. It's very small production so you've probably never seen the wine. He's old school or more accurately old school European-style. That is, it's the opposite of the current fad of fruit-forward, soft/low acid wines. His wines are stark, clean, and all require bottle age. Actually, I'm not quite sure what you'd wind up with five years down the road. It would be interesting to try one with a few years bottle age.

Merry Edwards is a pretty well known premium brand--mostly for Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noirs. I didn't try the SB, but sampled a few Pinots mostly priced in the $50s. I wound up with a Russian River Valley blend that was less expensive and an estate Pinot. They have a new facility and aren't well set up for visitors. Hopefully, they'll work that out.

I wanted to stop by Joseph Swan, an old time Pinot producer in the area, but missed a turn on the road. Maybe next time.

Other recent Pinot purchases are from Gary Farrell, Artesa, Landmark and Thumbprint. Gary Farrell made outstanding wines at one time. The wines went downhill, but have made a recent comeback. Gary sold off his namesake winery a few years ago, but has another wine project starting up. Artesa is a beautiful facility in the south end of Napa (Carneros). Most of their wines are excellent. Thumbprint is a very small producer with a tasting room in Healdsburg. He does more Cabernet blends.

Most of these guys Pinots retail in the $50 range. Ouch. I guess that's why I'll take Russian Hill over most.

I wonder how they're all doing with these $50+ wines. This is supposed to be the price range that isn't selling well in this economic climate. On the other hand Pinot is the "in" wine.