We were at a bit of a loss in the morning. Truth be told, we didn’t want to leave. We needed to head to San Francisco later in the day, the forecast called for rain, and we hadn’t gotten ourselves into the heart of the Sonoma Valley yet. So we decided to Trust in Tara – our theme of the week – and put in an address we knew was on the north end of the Sonoma Valley. That way, we could drive, and anything we stumbled upon was fair game.
The drive was beautiful, though we got caught in the downtown district of Sonoma, which I thought was much more “city” than Napa. But when we cleared out of that, we were able to drive for about thirty minutes, gazing at the vineyards, feeling the slow seep of time. We spied a huge mansion in the distance, and the closer we got, the more interesting it looked. They had a sign that said Sangiovese in the front, so we stopped. (We really need a bumper sticker that says “I Brake for Sangiovese”.)
The estate was called Ledson. We’d never heard of it, and soon discovered that this was another wine club-only vineyard. Intrigued, we started the tasting. It was so nice to be inside looking out on the rainy day, to see the mist rolling through the valley, to be warm and dry on such a dreary day. We were in the capable hands of Austin Smith, wine consultant extraordinaire, who entertain as well as educated.
We chose an array of reds for our tasting, and got to work. I say work because it is, in a sense. Anyone can go into a tasting and drink wine. It takes some practice to be able to tell one wine from another, to ferret out your individual tastebuds, to be able to tell French oak from American. And trust me, with a little bit of training, anyone can do this. And to the folks in these vineyards, when they get a true oenophile at the bar, it’s like a light goes on inside them. They want to educate. They’ve got the finer details down, and are willing to share. I have to tell you, the most fun of the whole trip was being surrounded by fellow wine junkies.
We started with the 2005 Diamond Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon – lots of rose petals, blackberry and cherry, vanilla, with cranberries, cloves and toasted oak. YUM! Then were tried the 2005 Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Another excellent wine, with lots of leather, anise and lilac which tasted of chocolate and black berries. The 2005 Mes Trois Amour is the California version of an Australian GSM – that’s a blend of Grenache, Shiraz and Mourvedre grapes – with cocoa and smoke, rich cherry and smoked molasses. The 2007 Russian River Pinot Noir had the characteristic rose petal, strawberries and cherry nose that we’d come to expect from the pinots, but with a surprising caramel and pepper finish.
The 2006 Knights Valley Sangiovese was dry and spicy, and the 2005 Lodi Old Vine Zinfandelwas incredibly jammy, with white pepper and plum and a touch of cinnamon. We had some of the 2005 Kinghts Valley Bellisimo, the gold medal winner in the World Wine Championships, that is a 57% Merlot 43% cab blend – luscious, fruity and spicy, and the 2005 Sonoma County Cèpage, which was smoky, leathery, with toasted oak and plums. Truly an excellent wine. The last one we tried was the 2006 California La Montagne, a 75% cabernet 25% sangiovese with raspberry, pepper, rose and lilac notes. It’s a Super Tuscan wine, and absolutely divine. We were sold. We joined the wine club, and Austin comped our tasting, a very nice touch.
And then we ate. Thankfully, there was the great little Café Citti right down the street, and we munched a pizza and cleansed our palates with salad and lots of water.