Saturated In Sonoma

We took the Beloved-in-Laws (who are visiting) up to Sonoma this past weekend for a little touring and wine-tasting.  There was a lot of good wine and good food.  The other thing there was a lot of: rain.  Pretty much from our arrival on Saturday afternoon until we left on Monday, it rained.  Fortunately, it didn’t really dampen our spirits or our enjoyment of the weekend – in fact, I think the dreary conditions underscored how beautiful some parts of the area are.  Some highlights:
The countryside.  Traffic on the roads and in the wineries was pretty light all weekend (bad economy – rain combo?) so it was fairly easy for us to drive around and enjoy the different parts of Sonoma wine-country (the Russian River Valley, Dry Creek Valley, Alexander Valley) and have at-ease conversations with the folks that work there.    We learned a lot about what used to be grown there including apples, prunes, and hops for breweries in San Francisco.  In fact, the Hop Kiln Winery has an old, well – hop kiln – from the mid-1800s that is now a state historic landmark.

Siduri-Novy.  My favorite stop of the trip was to the Siduri-Novy (Siduri = pinot noir, Novy = everything else).  They don’t have their own vineyards but choose grapes grown from up and down the west coast.  And their “winery” is in an industrial park in Santa Rosa – no vistas of grapevines, no oak-paneled rooms with classical music or soft jazz, just great wines in a warehouse.  We had a great conversation with our guy, Jeff, and were really pleased when the owner, Adam, came in with his family.  This guy looked like every other schlubby guy I went to grad school with.  It was great to get to meet him – we talked science wine-nerd things, we talked football, we talked more science-wine-nerd things.  The Beloved was aghast when she found out that they had produced a very well-reviewed Susan’s Hill Syrah that I had neglected to buy for her – and which was already sold out.  Adam piped up and said, “You know, I think I have the 2007 vintage here – its not labeled or been registered but let’s open one up so you can taste it.”  And so we did.  It was so good.  And then he gave us the rest of it to keep as a present.  How sweet is that?

Coast drive.  We were heading back to the airport on Monday and decided to take a leisurely drive back through the coastal hills and over to the coastline, intersecting with the Pacific Coast Highway (CA-1) and following that down from the mouth of the Russian River down past Bodega Bay before heading inland again.  It was a wonderfully grey, rainy and windswept day and the ruggedness of the shore was easily appreciated.

Sometime, we'll have to come back when it’s warm and sunny to compare!

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26 thoughts on “Saturated In Sonoma

  1. Very nice! I enjoyed the quasi-vicarious trip. Remind me to tell you sometime about the time I worked for a winery, had an open bottle of unlabeled, sample wine (though corked) in my car, and got pulled over for speeding – Doh!

  2. Have you been to the "dry" winery in Martinez? They don't water their vines; instead, they rely on natural rainfall. It is a small but fun place.And then there's the sake factory over in Berkeley, but that's another matter…John

  3. sounds fun, Steve. I would love to visit that part of the country. The only time I was ever in California, I was stuck in the Mojave for a month.

  4. I'd forgotten that you'd worked at a winery. I used to think I wanted to work at a candy-store, but now I think I'd prefer a winery. Of course, I'd hate it if I got all like "Wow, I'm so bored with great wine…"

  5. John — we discussed watering with a number of the growers. It's pretty cool how they try to "manage" the fruit with just enough water and just the right time. Trying it with Mother Nature as your only source seems like a risky proposition. I'll be curious to try some of their wines.

  6. These "dry" wineries are actually supposed to produce really excellent wines. They have to use old-growth vines, as I understand it, because they have deeper roots, and the vines have been stressed enough over the years to be able to withstand droughts. These vines produce grapes with a higher sugar content, which I suppose makes a stronger flavor.Those pics are beautiful. Reminds me of Wuthering Heights. Oh, Heathcliff….

  7. No, you'd probably never say that. You would however grow weary of some of the Saturday afternoon customers, particularly those who were shuttled in and/or pulled up in a limo (usually a bachelorette/bridal party not celebrity). Instead of 1 or 2 inebriated people (who were kept in check by a designated driver) there were 5-10 people all smashed….entertainment at the cost of annoyance.

  8. That seascape is divine! And some vineyards are great "natural" corridors for wildlife – your pictures remind me of some past time when humble subsistence farming ruled.
    I think that the combination of wine and a rainy day is the cornerstone of some really good independent films!! ;) I love that local buisness people like Adam are keeping the good customer service tradition alive, I sure do hope they do well despite the economy.

  9. We were talking with one of the winemakers about the differences between young and old vines — how much fruit they produce and and the quality of the grape. They described one set of old vines that had succumbed to disease and their roots went down > 50 feet!

  10. Janette — there were a couple of places we stopped by that were definitely "party places" — we didn't stay long. I really enjoyed the ones where you could talk to the people that helped create the wine and could talk about it.

  11. Thanks Ellie — it was very kind of those seagulls to come gliding in just as I was framing that shot. The small operations are really cool to find out about because you realized the smallest tweak can be the difference between a great and mediocre wine.

  12. I adore Sonoma County, particularly Bodega Bay and Sebastopol. Speaking of hops, my paternal grandparents lived in Hopland. When I last knew hops, oddly enough, were no longer grown in Hopland. Sierra-Nevada is growning their own hops now, just outside their brewery in Chico. It's a little odd every time I drive by and see them growing there in an industrial/commercial zone.

  13. Sorry I'm just reading this now – I'm trying to catch up……
    Anyway, what a fun trip! It's fun to get to talk a bit with the people who work there instead of being one in a factory line of people who just want to buy wine. It sounds like you picked the right time to go, although I do hope that one of these days you get up there while the weather is NICE! :)
    This post makes me want to go back there.

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