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Monday, October 4, 2010

2010 Sonoma County Harvest Fair

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This is a wine judging for any grapes grown in Sonoma County. This was my 30th anniversary at the Harvest Fair with 1981 being the first though I'm sure I missed a couple in there somewhere.

Pardon some of my very short wine notes as this event isn't a great place to try to write anything down.

My Favorites

Gloria Ferrer 2002 Royal Cuvee sparkling wine, Carneros, $32. Perfectly balanced. Probably the best California sparkler I've ever had. Though I may want to go back and re-taste a couple Schramsbergs before I make that statement.

Davis Family 2008 Soul Patch Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, $42, and Davis Family 2008 Horseshoe Bend Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, $42. They are a bit different as the Soul Patch is the Burgundy-lovers Pinot and the Horseshoe Bend is a bit more fruit-forward, but still well-balanced. If more people could make Pinot like the Soul Patch I might actually spend $42 on a Pinot and not complain.

Gracianna 2008 Bacigalupi Vyd Russian River Valley Zinfandel, $42. This is the way God meant for Zinfandel to taste—complex fruit and spices with the backbone to age.

Wilson 2008 Diane's Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel, $60. This is the opposite end of the Zinfandel spectrum from Gracianna. It's fruit-forward, but not too much and finishes without the heat from too much alcohol. I don't usually go for the “fruit juicy” style of Zin, but occasionally I find one that works for me. In the past Hartford Court and Armida have made ones that I've loved. They were expensive, too.

Maier 2007 Roy J Maier Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon, $60. A great balance between good drinking now plus age-ability.

Watkins Family 2006 Nuns Cliff Vyd Sonoma Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, $38. It can be difficult to call $38 a great deal, but it is for this wine.

Best Bang for the Buck

Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noirs Carneros, $20. This is probably the best California bubbles for the buck.

Taft Street 2008 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, $24. Real Pinot characteristics, not just cherries.

Blackstone 2007 Rubric (Bordeaux-style blend) Sonoma County, $23. Deep, complex, with enough tannins to age a bit.
Other Very Good Wines
Mayo 2007 Meritage Los Chamizal Vyd Sonoma Valley. Nice fruit and spices, lighter tannins.

Katarina 2004 Field Vyds Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon . Good structure, ageable.

Bennett Valley Cellars Bin 6410 2008 Bennett Valley Pinot Noir. Nice spices, balanced, soft, peppery finish. A good value at $28.

25 Brix 2008 Alta Ridge Bennett Valley Syrah. Earthy.

Novy 2007 Russian River Valley Syrah. Rich.

Armida 2008 Flora Ranch Chalk Hill Syrah. Soft, nice fruit, balanced.

de Lormier 2008 Stone Ranch Alexander Valley Zinfandel. Fruity and soft without the alcohol showing through.

Wilson 2008 Carl's Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel. Noticeable tannin and acid. In time this should be excellent.

St Francis 2007 Old Vine Rowe Vyd Sonoma Valley Zinfandel. It's a big boy.

Robert Rue 2007 Wood Road Russian River Valley Zinfandel. Rich and full-bodied.

The Current State of Sonoma County Wines
(based on what I tasted at this event)

Pinot Noir

Pinot prices have stabilized with the premium ones being in the $40s. There doesn't seem to be much in the over $50 range, but there seems to be more good ones under $35 now.

Also, Pinot quality has stabilized. At past Harvest Fairs I seemed to find many really bad Pinots going for $40. Now most are pretty good though when I compare all the Pinots vs. the Cabs I sampled I liked pretty much every Cabernet I tried. I can't say that about the Pinots.


Prices continue to go up (note the prices on my favorite Zins were $42 and $60). It seems that Zinfandel prices have surged more than any other varietal. Zin is supposed to be a pasta wine or a BBQ wine, but paying $50 for a wine to have with spaghetti and meatballs doesn't make much sense.

There are still the two camps for Zinfandel styles—the older brambly, peppery, ageable Zin and the mouthful of red fruits style. At least the heat from the high alcohols has disappeared from most. The vast majority falling the fruity, simple style. They got real boring after a few because they were all the same.

Who's Hot

Almost every year there seems to be a winery that's really popular. This year it was Mayo. They won a lot of medals and had a very crowded table all Saturday. Wilson Winery drew big crowds also.

What's Hot

The Friday tasting is hosted by the fair itself, rather than the individual wineries, and the wines are grouped by varietal. This makes it easy to see what wine types are hot and what's not. It used to be Chardonnay then Sauvignon Blanc then Merlot then Zinfandel then Pinot Noir.  This year I didn't notice any one type of wine winning the popularity contest. Interest seemed to be pretty evenly spread out.

More Info

Check the Harvest Fair's web site for complete results

My web page of my complete tasting results from 2010 and previous years.