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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Wine Banter - September 2011

The Harvest is Under Way  
Last week I was informed that the harvest was under way in the Sonoma coast region, which means they are picking fruit throughout Sonoma County. As I mentioned in my last article, the beginning of summer ended with a winter that never really allowed us to have a spring and impacted some of the fruit clusters. My hope is Mother Nature will allow us a few more months of warm days which may help cool climate Syrah to come to fruition. I’m hoping to get out on a crush pad in the next few weeks so I can look at several different varietals to observe some of the color characteristics, as well as the pH  brix and acidity. It’ll be another four or five months before the wines will have settled enough to start tasting from oak or stainless steel to begin to understand where the wines will be 9 months or even 5 years from now.

Wine & Cheese & Food Pairings
I’d like to  switch gears and talk about wine, cheese and some other food pairings.

Piacci, a fresh mozzarella Ovoline
This whole Milk (Low-Moisture) Mozzarella delivers a rich, buttery flavor. Crafted by methods passed down for generations, it offers a delicate purity reflected in its exceptionally smooth and luxurious melt. This cheese is terrific on a toasted baguette with a little olive oil, aged balsamic vinegar, heirloom tomatoes and a pinch of salt and pepper. A crisp dry Rose works well with this combination as well as Pinot Gris. The high acid in the balsamic and tomatoes means that you can go with a soft, round elegant wine, or even stainless steel chardonnay offering up green apple pair fruit flavors and will counter balance the acidities. Balletto’s Teresa’s stainless steel chardonnay 2009 from Russian river valley would be the perfect complement.

Piacci,  aged provolone, lightly smoked in apple wood
A firm, white cheese, Aged Provolone balances an unmistakably robust, piquant flavor with a smooth, creamy texture. This Provolone is a great cheese to slice and prepare with fresh apples, along the lines of a Granny Smith or a Bartlett pear and just a splash of aged balsamic reduction along with the aforementioned wine varietals. This cheese would also make a great paring for Russian River Brewing Company’s Damnation Ale ($5 for a 375ml).

Some more great price-point BBQ wines
For those of you who would like a wine with riper dark fruit characteristics (black cherry, blackberry, blueberry), the new release of Rare Red 4 Grape Blend (Ret $10) is a great choice. The 4 varietals are as follows: Tempranillo, Petite Syrah, Petite Verdot, and Cabernet Sauvignon. This non-vintage blend is superb with spicy BBQ sauces and goes with a range of meats from Beef, Lamb and Poultry. A spicy rub would also work well with this wine. Two other wines, both from Hart’s Desire:  The 2009 Tempranillo from El-Dorado Dry Diggins Vineyard – winemaker, John Hart, has produced an absolutely superb Tempranillo which could work well with all the aforementioned foods as well as an excellent sipping wine at a very reasonable price, (ret $24). For the Cabernet Sauvignon lover, Hart’s Desire Sonoma Cabernet (2007) is also a superb BBQ wine; very smooth, almost elegant and a fantastic sipping wine. I highly recommend it (ret $20).
Two wines from Hook and Ladder: the first is Russian River Valley Sonoma County Station Ten Red Wine 2008 Vintage;  a blend of 68% Zinfandel, 21% Petite Syrah, 9% Carignane and 2% Alicante Bouschet. With really rich ripened black fruit characteristics this wine has a much firmer backbone (meaning the tannin is well structured for the amount of ripe black fruit). The second wine is the Hook and Ladder Russian River Valley Sonoma County “The Tillerman” Red Table Wine 2007. This red wine blend is 51% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Cabernet Franc, 15% Merlot and 10% Sangiovese. Once again it has those dark fruit characteristics that work so well with BBQ, or pan-seared and roasted lamb or beef.


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.