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Thursday, June 3, 2010

Wine Banter ~ Spring Wine Picks; Monte Rio; Cazadero

Spring Wine Picks
As Summer begins, I am finding more and more quality in the mid-range wines (priced $15 - $25) from Sonoma that used to be reserved for $30 + wines. Wine consumers are most certainly shopping for quality wines at more affordable prices, and Sonoma’s artisan winemakers are responding.

Winemaker David Noyes produced two barrels of the 2007 Petite Sirah from Dry Creek Valley (ret. $21-$25). It exhibits masculine dark fruit characteristics, bordering on the “chewy side”. This Petite Sirah has a capacity for aging over the next five years, however can be enjoyed now and will make a great pairing for gamey red meats such as duck and lamb. Another great wine from David Noyes is his 2007 Zinfandel from Dry Creek Valley (ret. $21-$25). This Zinfandel also exhibits dark fruit characteristics and has great concentrated structure – very big on the palate with just enough spice from the Zinfandel. David added a little Petite Sirah and Carignane into this blend. For those people who like a Zinfandel with ample oak, this should certainly please.

Edmeades 2007 Mendocino Zinfandel (ret. $21) is easily the best vintage I’ve tasted sine the 2005 vintage, only a little smoother; a great barbeque wine for those persons who don’t want a jammy Zinfandel.

Paul Mathew produced a 2009 Valdiguie (ret. $20, also known as “Napa Gamay”). This Knights Valley vineyard produces some of the best Valdiguie in Sonoma County. The Paul Mathew Valdiguie has a dark plum skin flavor on the palate with smooth, dusty tannins. A superb food wine and can be found at some of our local restaurants, one in particular being “Boon Eat and Drink” in Guerneville as well as a few local wine stores.

Monte Rio’s Wine Road
River Boulevard is a hidden gem in Monte Rio. It’s across the bridge from Hwy 116 and missed by so many tourists as they head out to the Coast – don’t miss it – cross over the Monte Rio Bridge at the Monte Rio Theater from Hwy 116, make a left on River Boulevard and discover a beautiful hidden gem in the redwoods along the banks of the Russian River - a place to enjoy and taste Sonoma wines without having to go much further. I’ve always been impressed by the Village Inn’s wine menu – it has won a double-gold at the Sonoma County Harvest Fair, back-to-back years. Owner Mark Belhumeur insists only on purchasing wines from Sonoma, and there are more than 125 Sonoma wines currently on the Village Inn wine menu, priced very fairly compared to San Francisco restaurants, with better access to many limited production wines. Now, as Summer begins, the Village Inn are opening their doors 3pm Wednesday to Friday where you can enjoy a glass of wine and appetizer by the River and their very friendly service just when the tasting rooms are closing. Better yet, from June 12th, through the Summer, you can join them for “MUNCH” on Saturday and Sunday – starting at 11:30am – serving wine food and appetizers until 2;30pm, wine service and the bar remains open through dinner service. Right next to the Village Inn is the Highland Dell, the beautifully renovated “Swiss Chalet-Syle” Lodge also opens its doors for guests to enjoy appetizers a glass ofwine and a full bar by the River – Sunday’s is Bavarian Buffet noon until 7pm at the Highland Dell. Enjoy some Riesling or Gewurztraminer’s to pair with hearty German dishes, stay late and be entertained with live music Friday through Sunday too.

A Taste of Cazadero
The Cazsonoma Lodge puts on some impressive wine tasting events . Enjoy an “Afternoon for the Senses” with Music, Art, Wine, and Food on Saturday, July 17th, 2010. Taste 20 wineries, cheeses, bread & sausages and chocolates! Tickets: $30 per person and are available at Sophie’s Cellars, Raymond’s Bakery, Vine Life, and CazSonoma Inn.

The CazSonoma Lodge also has some wonderful upcoming “Evenings” – known as “Wednesday at the Waterfall” where you can taste wines and listen to some very interesting speakers. Check online for details (

John Haggard is owner of Sophie’s Cellars, The Sonoma Wine & Cheese Market in Monte Rio, California. Sophie’s Cellars is open 11am – 7pm, closed only on Wednesdays.