Monday, October 8, 2007

Sampling the Sonoma Harvest

Last week, I attended a lunch at the James Beard House held by the Sonoma County Winegrape Commission and the Sonoma County Vintners. It was their way to show off the new harvest and possibly stir up some press and tourism. Tyler Colman of organized the event and Murphy Vineyards owner Jim Murphy and Ravenswood Winery winemaker Joel Peterson were the speakers.

The lunch itself was of interest in that it was composed mainly of ingredients flown in from Somoma. Drakes Bay Oysters were followed by Corn and Cauliflower Soup with Dungeness Crab and Coconut, then Liberty Duck Confit, Heirloom Tomato and Lavender Coulis and Merlot Jus Tierra Farm Marrowfat Bean Ragu and Braised Red Chard, and finally Crane Melon Sorbet with Wild Coastal Huckleberries and Florentine Crisps. These were served with a series of Sonoma wines, including a lovely Gloria Ferrer Royal Cuvee sparkler from Carneros, a full, grassy 2005 Baletto Pinot Gris from the Sonoma Coast (which went perfectly with the soup), a grassy, metallic 2003 Murphy Goode Fume Blanc Reserve from the Alexander Valley, and a series of Zinfandels from Ravenswood and Bucklin, including a 1995 from the former.

The most interesting part of the event, however, was the tasting of six sets of grapes flown in from Sonoma. Placed on individual long white plates in front of each guest, they included clusters of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah from Dry Creek Valley, Zinfandel from Russian River Vally, Cab Sauv from Alexander Valley and Cab Sauv from Sonoma Mountain.

The grapes were uniformly delicious, sweet and complex in their flavors. They beat table grapes to hell. The Zin grapes were the biggest of the six, with a ripe, cherry-raspberry taste to them. The Sonoma Mountain Cab grapes were warmer, fuller and more tannic than the Alexander Valley ones, which were more neutral and soft in their flavor. If winemakers have to spend their fall days sampling grapes like these, their jobs are pretty sweet.

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