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Monday, October 5, 2009

Sonoma County Harvest Fair 2009

An annual three-day tasting for medal winners of grapes grown in Sonoma County. A huge number of medals were given out; almost every wine won something, but that's a subject for another time.
I don't have good descriptions because, well, it's kind of a madhouse and difficult to write down anything while standing and trying to hold on to your glass, awards booklet and a pen. I probably sampled 100 wines out of the hundreds available. All reds; no whites for me!
By mid-afternoon there's no room left to walk in the aisles.

Complete results are here.


The Good

Bordeaux-type Blends
Overall I was impressed with the quality of these. Easy to drink, but complex and interesting.

Trentadue 2005 Alexander Vly La Storia Meritage, $22
Their La Storia line are always excellent wines and a good deal

Murphy-Goode 2005 Alexander Vly Claret All In, $45
Best of the Bordeaux-type blends I tried
De La Montanya 2006 Sonoma Co Tres Amour, $58

Pinot Noir
I love good Pinot, even more when I can find one for under $35. There was nothing here that I have to rush out and buy.  I sampled more Pinots than any other variety.

De Loach 2007 Russian River Maboroshi Vyd, $45
The best of the Pinots I tried, but I was disappointed overall with the Pinots  vs. their price.

Leveroni 2007 Sonoma Vly Seven Oaks Vyd, $18
A very drinkable one for the price

Ashton 2006 Sonoma Vly, $55
Great backbone, spices. Should age a bit.

Rhone-types
I generally love Californian Rhones. Usually very nice for the price.

Jus Soli 2007 Sonoma Co Roots Red, $20
A big, rich, excellent wine at a nice price.
I tried a couple other wines from Jus Soli. Never heard of them, but all were very good.

Sangiovese
A misunderstood variety, Made to stand up to spicy / acidic foods.

Viansa 2005 Sonoma Vly Thaila, $45
The best Sangi I've ever had, also the most expensive.

Syrah
A very nice job overall with "the other beef wine."

Davis Family 2007 Russian River Guyzer Block, $38
Needs some time yet
Loxton 2006 Russian River Archer Vyd $30
Spicy

Pena Ridge 2006 Dry Creek Piccetti Vyd, $44
Nice fruit

Longboard 2006 Russian River Dakine Vyd, $45
I've had and liked this one before and it stood up well here against others

Palmeri 2005 Alexander Vly Van Ness Vyd, $53
Well-balanced

Zinfandel
Sonoma's own

Armida 2005 Dry Creek Maple Vyd Tina's Block, $48 (a price drop from previous years)
A stand-out. Great balance, flavors, and a smoothness rather than heat like many Zins.

DH Gustafson 2007 Dry Creek Mountain Vyd, $36
If you like 'em big and ageable rather than fruit bombs, then lay down this one. It's a big boy. 

Fannucchi 2005 Russian River Old Vine, $40
A really well-done Zin. Probably my 2nd favorite Zin of the weekend behind the Armida Maple Vyds Tina's Block.

Stryker 2006 Knights Vly Speedy Creek Vyd, $34
Another great wine from Stryker. This one is a little rough on the finish so needs a bit more time.

Other Reds / Generics
Loved these blends too

Wilson 2007 Dry Creek Family Red Estate, $30
Another outstanding red from Wilson. Well worth the price.

Here's where it got interesting. Two other gold medal winners in this category were from Ravenswood and Ty Caton. What they have in common is they both retail for $75. The Ty Caton was very well done.
Then there was a Wellington gold medal-winning red called The Duke retailing for $8. This one is the QPR of the year for me. Wow, amazing for the price.

Petite Sirah
Sonoma's old time killer red. More manly than Syrah even.

Miro 2006 and 2007 Dry Creek, $23
Had these two vintages back-to-back and they do a nice job at a decent price.

Overall impressions

I really liked the Bordeaux-type blends and some of the varietals--Cab Franc and Malbec. Also, they're doing a good job with Syrah.

Favorites from the three day event:

-- Armida Maple Vyd Tina's Block Zinfandel
-- De Loach Russian River Maboroshi Vyd Pinot
-- Jus Soli Sonoma Co Roots Red
-- Murphy-Goode Alexander Vly Claret All In
-- Viansa Sonoma Vly Thaila Sangiovese
-- Wellington Sonoma Vly The Duke at $8!

The Bad

Overall the Pinot Noirs had lousy quality for the prices. It didn't really matter if it was a $18 Pinot (those are hard to find) or $60 (easier to find). I've felt this way about the Pinots I've had at this event for the last couple years or so. The main element of some Pinots and Syrahs was heat. And a few Zinfandels were this way too, but that's almost to be expected these days.

The Ugly

In order to enter a wine in this judging there has to be a certain level of availability so if someone wants to actually buy a medal winner they have the opportunity. Well, Adler Fels Winery took a chance; won big, then lost big. They won the red wine sweepstakes (best red wine) for a Pinot and then it turns out they were nearly out of that vintage. They tried pouring the next year's wine instead hoping nobody would notice.  The fair board stripped them of their medal. Well, they got a lot of local publicity, at least.


These are my notes from the 2009 Harvest Fair.   Go here for notes on 2010.