I have heard from many of you over the past several months that it has been awhile since I wrote about wines and wine country. After making a stop in New York City after our trip to London, Mary Claire and I headed west to take friends, who had never visited Napa or Sonoma counties, to Northern California’s wine country. We decided to spend our day in Sonoma County, primarily because Napa County is very crowded on weekends in the fall and traffic crawls along Highway 29, the main north-south artery for Napa Valley. Also, at this time of year I recommend making private tasting reservations in advance–this is possible in Sonoma, particularly if you are a long-standing member of a winery’s mailing list.
We met our friends in San Francisco and arrived at our first stop, Martinelli Winery, located on River Road in Windsor. Because it was before lunch, we limited the number of wines we were tasting, including a delightful 2008 Chardonnay Lolita Ranch. Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate score for this Chardonnay was 92. The review stated, “This is a classic California Chardonnay filled with character as well as personality.” One of the wines I bought for my cellar in Blackhawk was the 2010 Blue Slide Ridge Pinot Noir. The Blue Slide Ridge Pinot Noir is one of my favorite releases each year from Martinelli. “Blue Slide Ridge is named for its magnificent formations of blue rock…In 1995 my parents, Lee and Carolyn Martinelli, planted this 6 acre vineyard of Pinot Noir on a steep slope which was once prime grazing land for sheep. This small vineyard was planted to the specifications of our winemaker, Helen Turley and her husband John Wetlaufer.” (Martinelli website) Helen Turley’s Marcassin Blue Slide Ridge Pinot Noir is highly sought after by collectors.
We then drove further north to Healdsburg, where we had lunch at Dry Creek Kitchen. This, along with Cyrus, is one of our favorite dining spots in Healdsburg. We enjoyed a crisp 2010 Hafner Chardonnay www.hafnervineyard.com.
After lunch we made our way over to Westside Road and Williams Selyem. www.williamsselyem.com As I have written previously, their pinot noirs are the reference standard for the Sonoma Coast. The wait to get on their list is worthwhile, as this is not a wine label you will find at retail. If you do find it in a restaurant in New York City the cost will be substantial, as this winery’s wines are exceptional. In addition to bringing home a number of 2008 and 2010 single vineyard Pinot Noirs, we also bought several bottles of 2011 Unoaked Chardonnay. Williams Selyem’s winemaker Bob Cabral is recognized as one of the most talented winemakers in the United States.
We then traveled 5 minutes from Westside Road to Eastside Road and the home of Copain Wines www.copainwines.com. Standing outside the winery, which sits on a hill, you can take in the wonderful views of the mystical Russian River Valley. As it was late in the day, we even enjoyed some of our wine tasting sitting outside and enjoying a spectacular October day! I was not surprised to find Copain’s winemaker and proprietor, Wells Guthrie, hard at work on this Saturday afternoon. Wells is one of the young winemakers making a real difference in the wines we choose to have with our favorite meals. His dedication to quality is second to none and I find myself time and again selecting one of his Syrahs or Pinot Noirs to complement our dinners at home. We were treated to a tasting of the inaugural release of the 2009 Copain Chardonnay Brosseau. Antonio Galloni wrote in Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate: “The 2009 Chardonnay Brosseau emerges from the glass with a rich tapestry of lemon, pears, and white flowers. It is texturally striking and totally beautiful for many reasons, not the least of which is its precision and insistent underlying saline notes…This set of wines from Copain and proprietor Wells Guthrie was among the most exciting I tasted from Sonoma this year.” RP:93+
As the sun set, we slowly worked our way back to San Francisco and then on to Blackhawk, reflecting on a perfect Saturday with friends!