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Saturday, December 4, 2010

WINE BANTER: 2010 Vintage, Wine Road Tasting Tours: John Haggard

Let’s Reminisce
The Summer of 2010 seemed more like a flash in a miner’s pan. With cool days and cold nights, aggressive vineyard management was required in order to salvage the 2010 harvest which included dropping fruit, cutting canes and leaf pull to allow sunlight to reach the grape clusters. The 2010 vintage reminded me in many ways of the 2003 vintage – just as challenging and one vineyard manager described the winery crush pad as being more like “triage”. This is not to say that the 2010 vintage is a loss. I’m looking forward to touring several wine cellars February / March and tasting wines from the different AVA’s of Sonoma County.

Oftentimes, cool weather, such as the 2010 vintage bring about a less concentrated flavor, leaving red wine vintages with a slightly lower alcohol and possibly a sharper edge of red fruit characteristics, other times leading to a leaner, sometimes watery finish. For those of us who like a late harvest wine, this season could be seen as mostly a wash due to a lack of heat, especially later in the season. If late harvest wines are your forte, the 2009 vintage will certainly fit the bill.

Warm days and warm nights and a long picking season – especially the fall – which is what is needed to produce a great late harvest wine, was what we experienced in 2009, not in 2010. Back in 2005 when we had one of the longest picking seasons in a century – some extraordinary wines were produced across the board, and numerous great quality late harvests wines - if it’s any consolation, the 2009 vintages have been some of the finest I’ve ever tasted since 1987, and they’re just starting to be released.

The 2009’s Sauvignon Blancs, Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio as well as a dozen other varietals have already hit the market. With only a sprinkling of 2009 reds on the market now, next year should be very exciting, given the appeal of the wines I’ve tasted to date. To get a head start on tasting both 2009’s and 2010’s, Sonoma County rolls out some special events in the Winter – take advantage of these dates:

19th Annual Winter Wineland
Winter can be a great time to experience Sonoma Wine Country. Over 100 wineries participate in Wine Road’s Winter Wineland with tastings of library wines, vertical tastings, food pairings and educational tours and a great opportunity to taste some of the 2009’s just released - with wineries participating from all of Sonoma’s appellations including Alexander Valley, Sonoma Valley Dry Creek and Russian River Valleys. The cost is $40 Weekend; $30 Sunday Only; $10 DD both days; prices rise $10 at door. For more information, visit:

33rd Annual Barrell Tasting
For those persons looking ahead and wanting to taste the 2010’s, plan a trip to Sonoma County in March in time to participate in Wine Roads Barrell Tasting March 4-6 and March 11-13. For more information, visit

On a sad note, I’d like to say “Thank You” to Tai Olesky, the owner of Mosaic Restaurant and all of his staff members for having cared for so many of the guests I’ve sent over the past years. It was with great sorrow that I received an email informing me that Monday, November 22nd would be their last day in business. It is not only a loss for Forestville, but Sonoma County.

And on a much lighter note, I’d like to congratulate Carlos, Sylvia and staff at the Applewood Inn for having garnered a “Star” from Michelin. With the Farmhouse, this now gives our Russian River two Michelin Rated Restaurants. For more information on the Applewood Inn, visit Please note the website for the Applewood Inn indicates the restaurant will be undergoing restoration during the month of January.

For those of you who haven’t had the opportunity to drop into Boon Restaurant in Guerneville, I recommend a visit. Though small, they have put together an exceptional selection of wines by the glass or bottle which pair perfectly with their unique, simple and well-chosen menu.

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.