88 bottles of wine on the wall, 88 bottles of wine…

The foot of Bonneau Road rests just at the point where Hwy. 116 diverges from Hwy. 121 in Sonoma. Your West Coast Oenophile had a luncheon meeting to discuss Sostevinobile with John Bambury at the quaint, rustic delicatessen/wine bar that serves as home to Bonneau Wines, but, in one of those rare occurrences that happen once every fifteen years or so, I actually arrived ahead of schedule. Given the choice of trying to boost my ranking on Angry Birds (I currently stand at #5,893 out of 5,0444,923 iPhone players) or sampling some wines while I waited, I opted for the obvious and strolled across the parking lot to the tasting room Anaba had built last year.

88) I hadn’t visited this winery since they had constructed this nicely appointed cottage, but was pleased to let Anaba Tasting Manager Shelly Dougherty take me through a wide swath of their lineup, including a number of traditional and not-so-traditional Rhône blends winemaker John Sweaney calls Coriol (both white and red). The clincher here, though, was the enticing non-vintage White Aero Port, a fortified Viognier that begged to be wrapped in a recyclable brown paper bag. Naturally, I had to introduce the tasting room crew to the concept of White Port & Lemon Juice, with promises, later fulfilled, of visiting their booth at San Francisco Vintners Market with a couple of pre-squeezed plastic lemons to whip up said concoction.

87) Strolling back to Bonneau, John and I feasted in their patio garden on fresh turkey sandwiches, washed down with an exemplary bottle of his 2009 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, a perfect complement for our luncheon, our conversation, and the sunny afternoon before I headed out to visit with Richard Arrowood at his Amapola Creek.

86) Readers here know I could have easily spent the rest of the afternoon sampling my way through Amapola Creek, but I have known Richard and his winemaking going on thirty years now, from his time at Château St. Jean when it was solely focused on white wines. Today’s visit consisted merely of a social call, and I had but a few moments to catch up with him before heading halfway up the mountain to Petroni Vineyards on the western slope of the Mayacamas. The steep climb led to a semi-secluded estate on Cavedale Road where—could this be true?—an Irish flag demarcated the foot of the driveway.
To the considerable relief of both my departed grandmothers, the flag turned out to be the genuine Italian tricolore after all, with the red so weather-worn, it appeared to be orange. Inside the estate, however, the tones and hues were decidedly Tuscan, with wines as authentic to match. With Lorenzo vacationing in Italy, his Events Manager, Elizabeth Garneau, took me through a selection of his current releases, culminating in the extraordinary 2005 Brunello di Sonoma, a wine as close to a Brunello di Montalcino as can be found, vinted from his estate-grown Sangiovese Grosso. These same grapes were also use to craft his intoxicating Grappa di Lorenzo, a bottling that underscores my wish that all grape derivatives could be covered by a beer & wine license!
85) Several weeks before, Lorenzo had introduced me to John Vicini, a fellow Toscano making wine in Sonoma with his wife and son at the cleverly-named Trecini. I took the occasion of another Sostevinobile financial swing to visit with Cathy and David in their downtown Santa Rosa tasting room. While these wines offered no nod to Vicini’s Italian roots, they still exemplified the tradition of meticulous winemaking and viticultural practices that have long distinguished small family wineries in Sonoma. And, in keeping with the quality and character of the AVA in which they produce, the 2008 Pinot Noir Russian River Valley deftly held its own with every superb rendition of this particular vintage I have tasted.

84) Trecini also struck a highly concordant note with another can’t-miss bottling, their 2007 Rockpile Zinfandel, which proved an utterly delightful, fully capable of standing out on its own merits, even without the prodding of such accolades as its Gold Medal in the 2010 Finger Lakes International Competition.

 The newly remodeled Tasting Room for Medlock Ames in Alexander Valley could easily meet LEED standards and artfully reflects both the winery’s organic principles and environmental dedication.

83) I looped through Alexander Valley, an AVA I hadn’t really explored in quite some time, despite regularly sampling the preponderance of their wines. Somehow, over the past several years, I had missed out on Sausal at the various festivals it had poured—an oversight I was determined to rectify. Despite an easy trek up Hwy. 128, I found myself alone in their tasting room and so was able to sample through their entire available lineup, aided by the undivided guidance of Tasting Room Manager Angela Romano. Their stellar selection of Zins reaffirmed my regret at not visiting their table during ZAP, particularly the 2007 Century Vine Zinfandel.

82) The Demostene family that owns Sausal pays homage to its Italian roots with an estate grown Sangiovese and a number of proprietary Sangiovese blends. I found myself particularly fond of the 2005 Sogno di Famiglia, a miscuglio of Sangiovese, Zinfandel, and Carignane.

81) On my way to Sausal, I had espied my friend David Jefferson’s White Oak Vineyards. Before heading up to Alexander Valley I had had a lively debate with David Vicini over the virtues of Pinotage; coincidentally, David Jefferson bottles a Pinotage, but under the Lions Drift label from his Silkbush Vineyard in South Africa, the country where this varietal originated! Here in Sonoma, I sampled my way through his locally-produced wines, delighting in White Oak’s new release, the 2008 Alexander Valley Zinfandel.

80) White Oak produces a pair of reserve Meritages, inornately designated by the AVA from where they herald. While there was much to admire in the Napa Valley blend, the 2005 Alexander Valley Reserve combining estate grown Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot truly stood out.

79) I was scheduled to visit a unique solar installation on the west side of Healdsburg, but could not pass by the new Medlock Ames tasting room & country store without dropping in. This mindful restoration of the century old Alexander Valley Bar and Store purveys wine and food items throughout the day, then opens as a cocktail den at Happy Hour—a magnet for weary workers toiling in the vineyards and a tranquil escape for visitors to the Valley. Some other day, I will return and try their Setenta y Cinco, a highball of Bellringer Gin infused with fresh picked mint, lime, and orange bitters, topped with J Cuvée 20 or indulge in the Nocino Manhattan, a twist on the classic cocktail blending Buck Bourbon, Carpano Antica and Nocino Walnut Liqueur. I was perfectly content to sample their 2009 Sauvignon Blanc, yet another proof of how this particular varietal transforms itself when produced organically.

78) It is always wonderful to find a Merlot that harkens back to my early days on the professional wine circuit, before this then-underserved varietal exploded with a profusion of mediocre bottlings and overladen vines. Here, Medlock Ames shone brightly with a 2006 Merlot just beginning to peak with layers of intensity.

I tried to tour Jordan before my aforementioned meeting with George Doubleday II, but even with the electric fences gone and the surveillance cameras removed, one still needs a set appointment to taste through their wines. No matter—as readers here know, Sostevinobile is never one to give up quite so easily.

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