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Thursday, September 30, 2010

WINE BANTER: “Draft Ride” by John Haggard

“Draft” Ride

Dana DiRicco & Dr. Glenn Benjamin grow Sauvignon Blanc and Port wine grapes on 26 acres in Upper Lake (Lake County). I’d like to thank Bob Appleby (the winemaker and owner of Atascadero Creek Winery) for allowing me to tag along with him and tour the vineyard. Glenn was kind enough to hitch two French Draft Horses to an 1880’s Spring-Board wagon touring through the vineyard, stopping along the way for us to sample the fruit. We tasted the fruit 17 brix and it was pure, white grapefruit. There was a 1-acre site planted to port varietals as well as one row of head-pruned tempranillo. I’ve always found the experience of going to a vineyard as opposed to the wine cellar a way to truly understand and learn the history and philosophy of the grape-growers and recommend contacting wineries to schedule tours of your own, we are surrounded by many.

October Wine Selections

Hayman & Hill 2007 Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel (retail $12-$14)
As I’ve mentioned in past columns, 2007 was a long cool season allowing the grapes to hang on the vine and acquire more character. One of the great values, for those persons who like a dry, spicy Zinfandel, with more of the red fruit characteristics (with sharper flavors) than the black “jammy style” which typically are rounder on the palate, this 2007 from Hayman & Hill is a great deal.

Hayman & Hill 2008 Russian River Valley Chardonnay (retail $12-$14)
Another great value from Hayman & Hill is their 2008 Chardonnay for those persons who like a little toasty oak in their Chardonnay. This wine has undergone malolactic fermentation (the secondary fermentation that creates a little “buttery quality”) and yet this wine still has a nice citric back-bone.
Deux Amis 2007 Sonoma County Zinfandel (retail $20-$25)
Once again, more of a “red fruit” characteristic in this Zinfandel and it is the quintessential barbeque wine.

Trecini Sauvignon Blanc 2009 Russian River Valley (retail $15-$17)
The new 2009 Sauvignon Blanc release from Trecini offers flavors of bosc pear, lemon and white grapefruit and an herbaceous grassy flavor that does not overwhelm the palate, with a clean fresh finish.

Trecini Late Harvest Sauvgnon Blanc 2007 and 2008
Trecini produces late harvest Sauvignon Blanc in the “Sauternes” [pronounced “soh-tern”] style. While talking to Cathie Trecini on her last visit to Sophie’s Cellars, she compared the 2007 vintage of Trecini Sauvignon Blanc to a Chateau d’Yquem [pronounced “shato eekem”]. 

Chateau d’Yquem is one of the most prestigious (and along with that, rather expensive) sauternes produced in France. It can be aged a century or more and fills many prized places in wine cellars around the world. I’m fortunate to have had the opportunity to taste several vintages of Chateau d’Yquem, one dating back to the 1890’s. 

Although the wine had turned to a tawny color, the pure honeysuckle nectar flavors were prevalent and the wine was paired with fresh ripened strawberries. The 2007 Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc from Trecini shows a beautiful spring honey amber color and has an aging capacity of, perhaps, four decades if properly cellared. While the Trecini does not show the honeysuckle flavors, it is pure elegant spring honey and lemon. The acidity in the 2007 is perfectly balanced to be a food wine and I would pair this late harvest with rich dishes such as a crispy duck comfit. Also available from Trecini, is their 2008 vintage Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc, and, as you may recall, in 2008 there were three days and nights of frost which ended up burning much of the foliage in the vineyards thus reducing the tonnage per acre. 

And while the 2008 season was shorter, this 2008 has a light gold straw color. The acidities are high and the citrus flavors are very pronounced. I imagine this vintage will also age for decades, however, not quite as long as the 2007. The 2008 will pair well with crostini of baguette with Cypress Grove fresh chevre “purple haze” with cold smoked fresh salmon.

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.