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Saturday, June 20, 2009

A new find in Sonoma Valley

New for me anyway. Audelssa Winery has a tasting room in "downtown" Glen Ellen. It's a funky-looking little storefront from the outside, but done up really nice on the inside, and the host was great.

Their estate fruit is not grown on the valley floor giving the wines a mountain fruit flavor. Not sure I can exactly describe what that tastes like, but I know it when I have it.  Kind of a wildness or brambly flavor.  The wines seem fairly priced for what you get.

The Chardonnay fruit is from Mendocino County and has actual fruit and mineral flavors rather than oak!  It would be great if more people would stop using new french oak barrels for their Chard, but then where do you use the barrel the first time? (Can't be on a red wine). If there were more Chardonnay made like this I might actually drink Chardonnay! (Well, maybe).

The Zinfandel was from Calistoga in northern Napa Valley (the hot part) and tastes like, well, a Napa Zin lacking complexity and showing the heat of alcohol over an indescribable fruit with none of the spices that make up a great Zinfandel. The wine was actually well-made, just not my style. I've had Zins from this same part of Napa before and they are all similar. Other than the Howell Mountain area Zins from Napa just don't compare to Dry Creek and Russian River Valleys in Sonoma.

The really interesting wines were various blends--a couple Rhone-style Syrah-based wines and a Bordeaux-style. These wines had an acid backbone that wasn't overwhelming, moderate fruitiness and the tannins are under control. Balanced, they call it. These wines are a great find.

I also stopped by Ty Caton, Arrowood, Kenwood, and Chateau St. Jean.

Ty Caton is a very small producer and makes interesting wines such as Syrah, Barbera, and Sangiovese. Well-made and they win awards. The bad news is the high prices for most. The best deal is the "Field Blend."

Arrowood still makes very good Cabernet and Syrah. The Cabs ran $50, $75, and $110. I guess they think they're in Napa! Dick Arrowood's namesake has gone through a number of owners in the past years and is now in the hands of Kendall-Jackson. The staff showed great hospitality as they always do at Arrowood.

Kenwood makes over two dozen wines. Most people have seen the white labeled Sonoma County wines such as the Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet. Most of these, except for the Pinot Noir, aren't very good. The Pinot is a great deal. Also, the Red and White Table Wines are good deals. The reserves and Jack London Ranch wines are their best, but require patience as they need aging.

At Chateau St. Jean I sampled the "standard" wines and several reserves and found the best deal to be the Sonoma County Pinot Noir that sells for about $18. St. Jean is one of the most beautiful wineries in Sonoma County.