Mark Aselstine
 
January 22, 2014 | Sonoma County | Mark Aselstine

Changes in Sonoma’s Wine Landscape

Over the years, the wine industry in northern California has gone through any number of significant changes.  Napa of course modernized and stepped onto the international stage after the tasting of Paris in the 1970’s.  Sonoma hasn’t had a similar coming out party so to speak, but I wanted to spend a couple of moments in this space talking about what’s happening in Sonoma-a real start up winery movement centered in warehouse spaces in and around Santa Rosa.

Over the past few years, I have found myself increasingly moving away from fruit forward wines that have helped make California famous and increasingly searching out cooler climate and higher acidity versions of common varietals.  I’d count Grenache as my favorite grape today, that’s something I would have scoffed at a couple of years ago.

More and more, I find interesting, unique and noteworthy wineries nestled in warehouses in and around Santa Rosa.

While I wouldn’t say that Adam Lee and the people at Siduri created the movement by themselves, for some number of years Siduri has offered the best example of what is possible using this type of winery setup.  Lee crafts a large number of wines, sourced from grapes from Oregon all the way to Santa Barbara.  If you’re counting at home, they’re probably the only winery in the world that offers a chance to taste Pinot Noir from every famous growing region in America, next to each other.  That’s incredibly valuable as a wine drinker and Siduri has earned every bit of acclaim they’ve garnered over the years.

More recently, I’ve run into a number of other wineries with compelling stories and similar setups.  At Vinify (a custom crush facility) there’s at least a dozen wineries making notable wine.  Matt Duffy is the winemaker in charge of the day to day operations of the facility, he also crafts his own personal label (Vaughn Duffy) and has had his Rose, priced under $20, fall into the San Francisco Chronicle’s top 100 wines of the year.  Sojourn and our old friend Eric Bradley make their multiple, award winning and increasingly allocated wines there (if you are able to buy $50 wines consistently, Sojourn is probably the first Sonoma wine club I’d suggest you join). Jon Grant has one of the best looking resume’s in wine that you’ve never heard of, being listed as Turley’s assistant winemaker will do that for you.  His projects (Couloir and Straight Line) offer a combination of great Pinot Noir and my favorite American Tempranillo, both at price points that are impressive in their brevity.

Elswewhere in Sonoma, I’ve talked about 2 Shepherds ad nauseam I think in this space and elsewhere, but I hope it suffices to say, if you want to know who’s next in wine…..2 Shepherds would be my pick.  The winery is only a handful of vintages in and I’m already having to beg for wine.  2 Shepherds is, without a doubt, the most unique and significant new wine project I’ve come across in the past four years.  Cool climate and small production sizes make for good bedfellows and they come together nicely here.

Lastly, there are any number of small wine projects cropping up in the larger Russian River Valley players.  A great example is the Cabernet Franc project Mark David, which is a personal project of Mark McWilliams, whose family owns the highly respected Arista winery situated in the center of the Russian River Valley. Sure, some of the fruit comes from Napa, but if you want something unique and utterly California, look here.

 

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