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Archive for the ‘Wine Reviews’ Category

It almost sounds like a set up for a bad joke, “What happens when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and a segregationist governor walk into a bar?” But it’s actually a great story, and I’ve included a link for your to enjoy it yourself this holiday, recounted in Doc Lawrence’s “pull up a log and set a spell” natural storyteller’s voice.

From: “A WINE TASTING FOR THE AGES: DR. KING AND FINE WINE: A HISTORIC MEETING”  by Veteran Atlanta journalist and broadcaster DOC LAWRENCE and his wonderful Sips Across America column and blog.

 

“On a rainy night in Atlanta, four men met somewhat accidentally in a wine store with a rear lounge. One was the great Civil Rights leader and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Another was the segregationist governor of Georgia. They were joined by the Pulitzer Prize winning newspaper editor Ralph McGill and the store owner, Jim Sanders, the foremost wine importer in the South at that time. Sanders, a gifted writer, recorded the events of that evening, typing everything on his ancient Underwood typewriter.”

As he approached death in 1999, Sanders told me the story and entrusted me with his manuscript. I promised to share it with the world and to this day believe it to be one of the most fascinating tales involving wine and its potential for peacemaking.

I read Sanders’ transcript of that historic evening on my Atlanta radio show and proudly share it as Jim Sanders intended. I hope you join in sharing this with others.

There are many things to love about this odd evening of wine and conversation, and how, in a small, intimate moment over fine wine (a rosé, a sauternes sampling and a 1957 La Tache –Now selling for $3000-4000 a bottle, if you’re having a REALLY festive MLK day) these four men from very different perspectives and walks of life were able to civilly converse, and put aside their differences if only for a moment. One of Dr. King’s gifts to this country is, he helped get us to a place where the conversation lasted a lot longer and the civility took root in our hearts not just on the surface. In the spirit of a life well-lived and a philosophy of which we are the lucky recipients, here’s some ideas for wine and food pairings you can try for Martin Luther King Day.

If you’re feeling expansive (and fully recovered from Christmas and New Year’s excess) by all means, follow Dr. King to the mountaintop of deliciousness and indulge in a Southern feast fit for a King (sorry, couldn’t resist!)

This is a great post from RJ Reeves Jr. in Scrumptious Chef “Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Favorite Foods: Celebrating The Great Man On His Birthday.”

However, The Sonomaist is endeavoring mightily to keep up her New Year’s Resolution of simpler and lighter, so y’all will have to let me know how those southern fried delicacies worked out! As an alternative to RJ’s righteous blowout, here’s an easy, light Southern Butter Bean Soup Recipe from Elizabeth Kelly that is both a tribute to Dr. King, and, bonus, a great pair with an “unassuming and flavorful little rosé”  of the type that was on the menu at Jim Sander’s wine shop that fateful evening. Since the name of that particular wine has been lost to history (and let’s face it, do you really want a 50 year old rosé? Didn’t think so.) Here are three choices from blowout to bargain —

2010 MacPhail Pinot Noir Rosé ($20) Crisp with a funky, barnyard-y strawberry nose. Nice barnyard finish that pairs well with the earthiness of the butter beans. (87 pts.) * Link is to the 2011 vintage.

N.V. Gloria Ferrer Brut Rosé ($33) OR the 2007 Gloria Ferrer Brut Rosé  ($42) Both are toasty bright strawberry inflected sparklers, but the 2007 vintage has a bit more gravitas than the more straightforward but perfectly enjoyable non-vintage offering which tends more towards the berry and less towards the rose petal and smoke of the 2007. Let’s put it this way, the N.V. is brunch and the 2007 is dinner. (N.V. 86 pts./2007Vintage 89 pts.)

2009 Inman Family Brut Rosé Nature Sparkling “Endless Crush” ($68) If you really want to blow it out big (It is the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s “I have a dream” speech, after all) you can’t go wrong with this incredible 100%  Russian River Valley Pinot Noir stunner. Bone dry but with beautiful mineral, yeast and raspberry notes, followed by a bracing key lime acidity on the back. This is a gorgeous wine to cellar for a few years, or, break out this MLK day, even better! (94 pts.)

It is well-documented that Dr. King’s absolute favorite food was pecan pie, a difficult food to pair with wine to be certain, but I think it’s interesting that Mr. Saunder’s recounts in his memoir that Dr. King came to the wine shop searching for Sherry and ended up sampling three Sauternes, both a bit off the beaten track, but great matches for, you guessed it, pecan pie! Here’s a great post from Wine Peeps with some fantastic pairings (Sherry and Sauternes, natch) for that most quintessentially Georgian desert.

I find that legendary historical characters are far more interesting when we can look at them as ordinary people who did extraordinary things (doesn’t that make them even more extraordinary? If they don’t have capes and still perform amazing feats of strength?) That’s what I love about Saunders’ tale, it was a small intimate moment in a larger-than-life man’s existence. I like to picture Dr. King checking his watch and hurrying home after this strange evening at Sanders’ wine shop and recounting to Coretta the crazy night he had, perhaps over a nice glass of Sherry and a generous slice of  homemade pecan pie. Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day everyone!

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In keeping with my New Year’s resolution I’m going to endeavor to make more easy healthy dishes and pair them with weeknight wines that won’t break the bank. Since I’m an avid cook, but certainly no recipe writer, I get by with a little help from my fellow bloggers. One of my absolute favorite blogs is Homemade With Mess. What better way to recover from holiday excess than with her light and easy take on a creamy Indian curry, Healthy Chicken & Butternut Squash Korma

The korma was easy to prepare and lightened up considerably with yogurt replacing cream and butternut squash in the place of some of the meat.

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The wine I chose to pair was a Trader Joe’s 2010 Cosmia Sonoma County Chardonnay ($5.99) It opened with a bright lime zest nose leading to a light body and tropical fruit flavor more akin to a warm climate Sauvignon Blanc than a typical “large and in charge” California Chardonnay. Pineapple, green mango and a bracing acidic green apple back. This was simple, easy to drink and would pair nicely with even spicier Asian foods (the curry was quite mild.) The tropical notes of the wine married well with the sweetness of the butternut squash, while the generous acidity was a good counterpoint to the creamy sauce and almonds.

The Trader Joe’s write up describes it as “oaky and buttery” but I didn’t get a lot of that on the bottle I tasted. I will admit though, that there can sometimes be larger variations between TJ bottlings than those of more mainstream wineries. This was a decent (82  pts.) wine  at a great price point! And the Korma was fantastic!

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New Year’s resolutions tend towards the simple. Rarely do people stuff their January 1st intentions with closets full of Birkin bags, Lamborghinis or vows to best Kobayashi in competitive eating endeavors. The vast majority (and easiest to keep) are the basics, eat a little less, spend time and money more wisely. An extra hour on the treadmill, ten more bucks a week to the 401k. Make time to slip out early as to not miss that dance recital or Pop Warner game.

In this spirit of simplicity, one of my resolutions is to include more “weekday/weeknight” recipes and tips. Ideas that can be integrated into the routine to compliment the more fanciful entries about Sonoma travel and tastings. Of course, there will always be the whimsey…So in the spirit of both simplicity and fancy, let’s talk about Arista Winery…

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Tiny waterfalls, mossy rock formations and stunning Japanese Maples placed with a minimalist’s eye combine to create this serene, Zen retreat overlooking valley vistas. You can rest your weary mind and even picnic here (customers only, please.) It’s a beautiful spot to slowly exhale…That is, once you’ve inhaled the gorgeous aromas of their impressive slate of reds that echo the elegant simplicity of the physical plant.

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Belly up to the small and often crowded tasting bar in a spartan converted farmhouse and enjoy the warm, laid-back hospitality of the McWilliams family who are often on hand to pour and talk about their wines, and always eager to point visitors in the direction of local tasting rooms with similar concepts (the fine folks at Arista are responsible for hipping me to Benovia, C. Donatiello and V.M.L. in the past, as well as others yet unvisited that are at the top of my wish list since they’re batting .1000 in their advice!)

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While the entire tasting is really fantastic, standouts included the 2010 Perli Vineyard Pinot Noir, Mendocino Ridge ($52) The Mendocino Ridge is more than 1500 feet above sea level, so the grapes grow above the fog line, offering constant sun exposure, yet, it’s still cool enough because of the elevation that they get the slow, gentle ripening that yields exceptional pinot noir. The Perli opens with a full nose of farmyard and Bartlett pear, a medium body full of raspberry, licorice and wet concrete dusted with white pepper and a whisper of French oak. This is drinking beautifully now, but hints at an even more auspicious future given a few years of cellar time. It would be an amazing pairing for salmon in a potato crust.

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Having long been a fan of Arista’s pinots, I sometimes forget that they do a wonderful “pinot take” on what I consider a difficult to love varietal, zinfandel…

Their 2010 Smokey Ridge Vineyard Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley ($36) is one of those zin exceptions that, for the most part, defies my low expectations of the grape. The huge nose of black pepper, Smuckers strawberry jam and lime rind are certainly zin-ny. As is the “drink on a weeknight at your own risk” 15.9% alcohol content. But on the palate is where it diverges from its peers. The strawberry fruit is bright and fresh, not dense, jammy and cooked like many zins. And the slightly tannic cocoa powder finish gives it gravitas to balance out the mouthwatering berries.  This is a zin touched with Arista’s zen. A lucky wine indeed!

RATINGS 1-10 (1 = Give it a miss. 10= Move heaven and earth to make this a part of your journey!)

INTERIOR = 6  EXTERIOR/VIEW = 9.5  WINE QUALITY = 9

OVERALL RATING = 9.2 *

 
Arista Winery
7015 Westside Road
Healdsburg, CA 95448
(707) 473-0606
 
Open Daily 11-5
Tasting Fee $10
 
*Dogs are welcome, bachelor and bachelorette parties are not. That alone gives them an extra bonus point in my book!
 

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De Loach Winery is always a tasting room stop we make. It’s a testament to their consistently well-made wines (The legend, Greg La Follette, was their winemaker for many years and since 2008 his protégée, Brian Maloney has been at the helm.) The tasting room itself hits all the “correct” notes, some library bottles and chachkis, but there is a bit of a coldness there. I don’t know if it’s because DeLoach is under corporate ownership (Boisset purchased the winery in 2003) or if the tasting room had a stand-offish vibe even back when it was family owned (all that wine has dulled my memory!)

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I am certainly not one who revels in the “Party Bus” experience in a tasting room (to get a taste of that, try Merryvale in Napa after 6pm.) But I always find it pleasant when the employees seem engaged and interested and/or there has been some thought put into the layout of the tasting room, an attempt to infuse some personality into the experience. Unfortunately (and it really is, because the wine is terrific) the De Loach tasting room seems to be simply “going through the motions” on every level.

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The wines are what bring us back, and if you have time and aren’t just trying to hit a “best of” list, then De Loach is definitely worth a stop. Their Pinots are exceptional, from the rich, voluptuous, 2010 De Loach Estate Collection Pinot Noir to the 2008 De Loach Van Der Kamp Vineyard Pinot Noir on the other end of the spectrum with its more austere profile wrapped in yeasty smokiness. See more DeLoach wine reviews here.

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Some of the best Chinese food I’ve ever had has been served under flickering fluorescent lights on chipped formica tables. Would I have preferred linens and low lights? Of course. Do I wish De Loach Winery had a tasting room personality that matched the magic they’re putting in their bottles? Sure. But sometimes, you just have to close your eyes and enjoy the moo shu in front of you.

RATINGS 1-10 (1 = Give it a miss. 10= Move heaven and earth to make this a part of your journey!)

INTERIOR = 5 EXTERIOR/VIEW = 7 WINE QUALITY = 8.5

OVERALL RATING = 6.8

De Loach Winery
1791 Olivet Road
Santa Rosa, CA 95401
Phone: 707-526-9111
 
Taste 5 wines for $10
Picnic basket for two $30
Vineyard designate wines by the glass $12
Wine and cheese plates, tours and special experiences available to book online.

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 De Loach Vineyards 1791 Olivet Road  Santa Rosa, CA 95401. Phone (707) 526-9111

2009 Hawk Hill Vineyard Chardonnay ($50) Well balanced, refreshing bracing acidity and apricot. Not a lot of oak or butter. Very crisp. Would be a perfect pairing with quiche. 91 Pts. (Tasted 11/12)

2010 De Loach O.F.S. Chardonnay ($32) The O.F.S. is a multi-vineyard blend. A buttery nose and tart green apple midpalate cuts through the malolactic creaminess. A well-made wine. 89 Pts. (Tasted 11/12)

2009 De Loach Green Valley Pinot Noir ($45) Blackberry, blueberry and marzipan tart. Not completely integrated yet, needs time. 89 Pts.

2010 De Loach Estate Collection Pinot Noir ($50) The first vintage of a relatively new vineyard planted in 2007. Rich baking spices and plush plum. Smooth and well-integrated now with plenty of time to evolve even more. 92 Pts. (Tasted 11/12)

2008 De Loach Van Der Kamp Pinot Noir ($45) Planted at a 1200 ft. elevation in the Sonoma Mountains. This has a resinous, rosemary nose. Eucalyptus and tart red berries abound. Natural yeast adds an ethereal smokiness. 93 Pts. (Tasted 11/12)

2008 De Loach Forgotten Vines Zinfandel ($36) These vines were planted in the early 1900’s prior to Prohibition (hence the name.) A strawberry soda nose carries through on a simple berry basket mid-palate. 85 Pts. (Tasted 11/12)

2008 De Loach Nova Vineyard Zinfandel ($32) Made from Lake Country Zinfandel from dry farmed grapes planted in the early 1960’s. Cigar box nose, plums and dried apricots. Well balanced with a healthy does of acidity. Would be lovely with a fruit and nut cheese platter. 87 Pts. (Tasted 11/12)

2006 De Loach Pinot Noir Van Der Kamp Vineyard Sonoma Mountain ($42) Spicy, eucalyptus peppermint, red cherry fading to black cherry.93 Pts. (Tasted 9/10)

2007 De Loach Pinot Noir Masút Vineyard Redwood Valley ($45) Big black cherries. Super barnyard nose carries through on the finish. A manly, incredible pinot! 97 pts.  (Tasted 9/10)

2007 De Loach Chardonnay Golden Coast ($45) Not much nose here. Perhaps it was served too cold? Super buttery, but with a nice acidic back. 88 pts. (Tasted 9/10)

2007 De Loach O.F.S. Chardonnay ($?) The butteriness of the Golden Coast Chardonnay but more filled out with oak on the back. 89 pts. (Tasted 9/10)

2007 De Loach Green Valley Pinot Noir ($45) Eucalyptus, spice, cola, black cherry, This has an amazing nose and a beautiful earthiness. Classic Russian River Valley flavor profile, the forest in a glass! 93 (Tasted 9/10)

2006 De Loach Pinot Noir Sonoma Stage ($60) Mushroomy, loamy nose. Super smooth. 94 pts. (Tasted 9/10)

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Virginia Marie Lambrix has stellar wine making bona fides (U.C. Davis, Lynmar, DeLoach) and it shows, in her elegant, yet reasonably priced ($20-45) wines. This sophistication with a nod to the mysteries of the natural world that conspire to create such an ethereal beverage are reflected in the tasting room. The tasting counter is housed in half of a spacious renovated barn style room filled with natural light. The back section gives way to charcoal colored walls, dark wood, fireplace and  a feminine take on leather club chairs. As someone who never would have been invited into the always alluring British men’s clubs of a century ago, I couldn’t help but wonder if perhaps, Ms. Lambrix, who has managed to excel in the “men’s club” of wine, made this “club” for the ladies.

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A porcelain phrenology head emblazoned with butterflies, antique chemistry bottles and scented candles bearing the detailed, evocative etchings that grace every well-crafted bottle of wine peek out from mantle and shelf. In fact, the various label designs are so beautiful, one would be tempted to take a couple bottles home for the stunning visuals alone. Luckily, what’s inside matches, if not bests, its packaging. Every wine, from the Gewürtztraminer to the multiple expressions of Pinot Noir are excellent. Two particular standouts were the 2010 Boudreaux Vineyard Pinot Noir ($45)  full of tart red fruits, spice and rubber with a zingy acidity that does nothing to take away from the full, voluptuous mouthfeel, this is, in a strange way, a pinot that drinks like a Montrachet.

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The real revelation was the 2011 Late Late Harvest Desert Wine ($30.) More often than not I find desert wines to be a bit of a mediocre afterthought, even at some of my favorite wineries. This was an exception, however. The honeysuckle and orange blossom nose leave you wondering whether you want to drink or dab it behind your ears (my advice, do both!) The nectarine and cream honey is balanced beautifully by a vivid acidity and a wet quartz gravitas on the back. This wine demands a hard cheese and Marcona almonds, and who am I to deny it?

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The property is just as pedigreed as its current namesake. It was formerly Belvedere and most recently, C. Donatiello. But Ms. Lambrix has made it into something that amplifies her refined aesthetic.

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The gardens and picnic area continue the exacting attention to detail and design. The interplay of mosses and stone, water and reeds. This is a spot created to envelope you in something quiet and magical, and that it does.

RATINGS 1-10 (1 = Give it a miss. 10= Move heaven and earth to make this a part of your journey!)

INTERIOR = 8.5 EXTERIOR/VIEW = 9 WINE QUALITY = 8

OVERALL RATING = 8.5

V.M.L. Winery
4035 Westside Road
Healdsburg, CA. 95448
Phone: 707-431-4404
Fax: 707-431-4402
 
Open 11-5 Daily
Wine Flights $10 (waived with wine purchase)
Cheese and Wine Pairing $25 ($10 waived with wine purchase)

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Chalk Hill Winery 10300 Chalk Hill Road Healdsburg, CA 95448. Phone (707) 657-4837

2007 Chalk Hill Sauvingnon Blanc ($28) Chalky, minerally, rich for a sauvignon blanc. No Green-ness whatsoever. Tasted blind I might mistake this for an un-oaked chardonnay. 93 pts. (Tasted 3/10)

2007 Chalk Hill Chardonnay ($45) Buttery, just short of flabby, this is missing some necessary structure, but it does go down quite smooth. 87 pts. (Tasted (3/10)

2006 Chalk Hill Pinot Gris North Slope ($40) Tropical typicity. Nice mineral backbone. 89 pts. (Tasted 3/10)

2005 Chalk Hill Cabernet Sauvignon ($50) Carmel nose. Ready to drink. Very smooth, no green-nes to it. Lots of fruit. Not a woody or leathery cab, primarily fruit driven. 88 pts. (Tasted 3/10)

2006 Chalk Hill Merlot ($50) Green, young, needs some time. You can taste the rich mocha underneath all the green veggies that will probably be revealed in 1-2 years (2011-12) This is a massive wine. 90 pts. (Tasted 3/10)

2006 Chalk hill Botrytised Semillon ($80/375 ml) A desert wine without much to offer but an over-the-top cloying sweetness, no real  complexity here. 86 pts. (Tasted 3/10)

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Dunstan Wines first crossed my radar screen at the 2011 Pinot Days event in Santa Monica California, where 100+ premium wineries pour their latest and greatest. Even among all the stellar participants, Dunstan were way at the top of the list, besting many producers I love and had been anticipating tasting for weeks (not naming any names.)

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I remember from that tasting that their Durell Vineyard Pinot Noir was absolutely lovely, managing to be both spicy and elegant all at once. But the real revelation was the Durell Vineyard Chardonnay, that Chris snuck out from an ice bucket behind the bar (These were PINOT days after all) recognizing a kindred spirit, probably because I mentioned my familiarity with the Durell property from Kistler (an extravagance I will allow myself occasionally because their chardonnays are apparently made of equal parts grapes and angel’s tears.)

As much as I enjoyed the pinot, the chardonnay was absolutely amazing. In the same league as the Kistler, at a far more accessible price point ($40.) This lead me to believe  there had do be something going on with those grapes. So, The Mister in tow, we went to investigate, and catch up with Chris again, almost two years later, on his blessed turf.

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Looking out from the porch onto the Durell Vineyard with a glass of the 2010 Dunstan Durell Chardonnay in hand is one of those beautiful moments that I want to be able to conjure whenever I’m stuck in hellacious rush hour traffic on the 101 or the guy across the street decides to indulge in some early Sunday morning chain saw tree trimming.

The Vineyard itself spans three Sonoma appellations: Sonoma Coast, Sonoma Valley and Carneros offering a perfect balance of Sonoma Valley sun and Pacific Ocean breeze. It also happens to be a breathtakingly beautiful location, even by the standards of an area that specializes in “Kodak moments.”

The 2010 Dunstan Durell Chardonnay is the third vintage (2008 was their first produced from vines planted in 2005.) Even so young it displays great balance. Rubbery and buttery like a Montrachet with a flinty slate back and plush, voluptuous mouthfeel. This drinks like a chardonnay of double the price. And, like I say, there are winemakers out there who are doing just that. The Dunstan folks aren’t hoarding all this precious juice for their own label, they also sell to the aforementioned Kistler as well as Chasseur and Gloria Ferrer, among others. The Durell grapes also go into a vineyard designate at Auteur Wines, where their brilliant winemaker Kenneth Juhasz struts his stuff.

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The sand is chardonnay soil, the red is pinot noir soil and the black rocky “diablo” on the far right is for grapes sold to sparkling producers.

Durell Vineyard owner Ellie Price and Chris Towt

Durell Vineyard owner Ellie Price and Chris Towt

As much as I hated to leave that view, Chris was eager to show us more. We went back inside their lovingly restored guest house where he gave us a tutorial on soil, which doesn’t sound very interesting, but it is eye opening to see the differences in the dirt from whence your favorite quaff has sprung.

His eyes lit up and his smile broadened when I noticed a recent magazine cover featuring his lovely wife and business partner, Ellie, a U.C. Davis Viticulture and Enology graduate, animal welfare and environmental activist, equestrian, mother of two, oh, and if that’s not enough, she had the great foresight to purchase the Durell Vineyard from the man himself, Ed Durell back in 1998. Ed had wanted to use the land to raise cattle…his loss, our gain.

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As we tucked into the 2009 Dunstan Durell Vineyard Pinot Noir, their second pinot vintage, I had to ask about the meaning of the horseshoe on the label. Well, it turns out that not only did Chris and Ellie first meet on a horseback ride, but, when they were doing one of their first plantings, they discovered an old rusty horseshoe buried in the soil. The name Dunstan is not a family name but refers to St. Dunstan, the blacksmith of legend who nailed new horseshoes onto The Devil’s hooves (this devolved into a long digression where we all tried to figure out why The Devil needed shoes to begin with, why he needed to outsource the work, being The Devil and all, and questioning how a U shaped shoe would even fit on a cloven hoof…and you thought all that soil talk was geeky!)

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Anyway, The Devil found the shoes to be painful and begged Dunstan to take them off (Again, he’s The Devil, you’d think he had some shoe removal skills…apparently not.) Dunstan agreed on the condition that Old Scratch never darken a door that displayed the horseshoe overhead. There’s another myth that involves Dunstan pulling The Devil around by the nose with hot tongs, but I, once again, digress. As for “up or down” on the horseshoe itself, for those of you in the market for guaranteed Devil-proofing, apparently it’s two points up in a “U” shape, to keep the luck inside dontcha know?

Okay, enough with my Satanic tomfoolery, back to the wine…

The 2009 Dunstan Durell Vineyard Pinot Noir had a nose full of tar and roses, dark black cherry fruit and black tea with a long, lingering cracked black pepper finish. It was, in a word, fantastic.

They also make a rosé that’s only available as a mailing list allocation as well as a second label, Pip, that’s currently distributed in 13 states as well as served in restaurants (including the delicioso Rosso Pizza in Santa Rosa!)

As we rose to leave, Chris had one more surprise left in store. We went out to the old dairy barn which he’d converted into his own mad scientist’s wine lab. He was brewing up his own blend of cab-merlot made from Bismark Mountain and Rutherford grapes he’d scored in exchange for some cases of his own fabulous stuff (this in addition to running a winery and his own e-commerce company. Where do these people get the time?) He gave us one of his unmarked bottles to try. We haven’t popped it yet, but if those grapes were worth multiple case of Dunstan, it’s sure to be fantastic!

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IMG_2616On a recent visit to Petaluma I picked up some Marin French Cheese. I couldn’t resist I’d never heard of “Breakfast Cheese” and who am I to question the authority of a cheese that has been around since the Lincoln Administration? I had to have it for breakfast, right? Right???

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A bloomy rind and brie-like texture with a tangy bite, it was lighter in mouthfeel and flavor than your average brie. I guess that’s why it’s a breakfast cheese, even The Sonomaist has to pace herself!

Feeling rainy day adventurous I whipped up a recipe I’ve been eyeballing, from Danielle’s wine country kitchen blog, Sonomagirl. A one day sourdough for when Acme Bakery is just too far away.

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Sonoma Girl’s fabulous one day (direct dough method) sourdough recipe.

It definitely wasn’t a classic “crunchewy” sourdough, in the estimation of The Mister. But it was dense and delicious. The whole wheat flour made it eat like a meal. Very nice with butter, but off the chain with the Breakfast Cheese, a side of seedless red grapes and some citrusy 2006 Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Blancs sparkling (89 pts.)

What are some of your favorite wine and/or cheese breakfasts? I’d love to know (any excuse, right?) As far as The Sonomaist is concerned, it’s okay to drink before noon as long as you call it ‘brunch.’ And you can quote me on that.

Thank you Marin Cheese and Sonoma Girl for upping my breakfast time game!

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 Woodenhead Winery 5700 River Road, Santa Rosa, CA. Phone (707) 887-2703

2007 Woodenhead Pinot Noir Humboldt County ($42) I don’t think it’s a coincidence that what I consider Woodenhead’s most consistently evocative wine comes from the same region of California where, let us say, other, semi-legal intoxicants are cultivated. The Humboldt Pinot is rich and milk chocolate-y with exotic shiitake mushroom  on the mid palate and a lovely back. It’s also 14.4% alcohol. There are many Sonoma pinots who wouldn’t qualify as demure when it comes to alcohol content, but there is something about these Woodenheads, lovely as they are, that goes to my head and makes everything a little more “Maui Wowie” than most. I’ll blame it on the Humboldt, and save these stunners for the weekend. 90 pts. (Tasted 9/10)

2006 Woodenhead Zinfandel Martinelli Road Old Vines Russian River Valley ($45) I think it’s always appropriate to make clear where one is coming from, especially in wine reviews. Since everyone’s palate is difference, the best you can do is throw out your own impressions and truth, and hopefully, you, dear reader, will find something that sparks some connection or inspiration. This is a long winded way of saying, The Sonomaist is a bit of a zin snob. It’s just not my thing. I’ve tried. But I never really “connected” with the big jam and 16% alcohol of so many Sonoma zins. That being said, when a zin manages to impress, I give credit where credit is due. But I also allow for the fact that I’m not a zinophile, so it’s usually the “Un-zin” zins that make me perk up and take notice. This is one of them. I was pleasantly surprised at the dry, not at all over the top spiciness. If I tasted this blind I would think syrah. I was even more surprised that Woodenhead, a winery that is hardly shy about going full throttle on its pinots went so restrained on the zin. This is a wine that would go perfectly with bacon wrapped pork loin cooked on the grill. 89 pts. (Tasted (9/11)

2007 Woodenhead Syrah Russian River Valley ($36) Dry, tobacco, mushrooms and loamy soil. The fruit isn’t at all overpowering. Lovely. (Tasted 9/11)

2007 Woodenhead Pinot Noir Russian River Valley ($42) Rich and spicy with mocha mid palate. Another BIG Woodenhead pinot with a long finish. 95 pts. (Tasted 9/11)

2007  Woodenhead Pinot Noir Buena Tierra Vineyard (Original Planting) Russian River Valley ($60) Spicy, light nutmeg and red cherry on the mid palate. Cedar on the back. Light and almost Burgundian. Almost like a Volnay. An elegant departure from Woodenhead’s more full throttle style. 94 pts. (Tasted 9/11)

2006 Woodenhead Pinot Noir Morning Dew Ranch ($45) Very dry and loamy. Would be amazing with ankimo (Japanese monkfish liver. It’s very similar to fois gras. I call it “fois gras of the sea.” If you’ve never tried it, next time you’re at a reputable sushi bar and see it on the menu, give it a whirl, it’s best served as sashimi with ponzu rather than sushi, but I digress…) 93 pts. (Tasted 9/11)

2006 Woodenhead Pinot Noir Wiley Vineyard ($60) Deep, complex wine with an intoxicating perfumed nose. 94 pts. (Tasted 9/11)

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