California Wine Tasting – Day 3, Sonoma

11 July 2012, Sonoma, California

Our last full day of tastings took us to Sonoma County. Much larger in size than Napa, the wineries here tend to focus more on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay (and to a lesser extent Syrah and Zinfandel). In terms of value, Sonoma was priced at much more reasonable levels than Napa and we found the quality to be on par with the best vineyard sites we saw the prior few days.

We started our day at Martinelli: a farming family at heart, they own 400 acres across Sonoma and sell 85-90% of their grapes to other winemakers. They make several estate wines with the grapes they keep.

Martinelli Tasting Room

We tasted 9 wines in total, in their tasting room:

  1. ** 2007 Martinelli Road Chardonnay (bought 2 bottles) – spends 10 months in new French oak after undergoing barrel fermentation. Pears and vanilla are the primary flavors but this is a big, rich wine. $48
  2. ** 2007 Martinelli Chardonnay Three Sisters Vineyard (bought 2 bottles) – also sees 10 months in new French oak but had more lemon zest and citrus on the palate with a butterscotch finish. Between the two Chardonnays, Diane and I preferred the Martinelli Road. $60
  3. ** 2009 Martinelli Pinot Noir Bondi Home Ranch – a delicious Pinot that I didn’t buy because I preferred some of the others we tasted later (although Diane picked one up). Sweet red fruit with an earthy must in the nose.  Herbs and raspberry tea. 14.3% alcohol, $60
  4. *** 2008 Martinelli Pinot Noir Zio Tony (bought 3 bottles) – a great Pinot, I think the extra year of bottle age may have helped compared to the younger Bondi Home Ranch. Raspberry and plums and hints of licorice. A spicy start to the finish that is very long. 15.3% alcohol, $60
  5. *** 2006 Martinelli Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast (bought 4 bottles) – a blend of grapes from the Three Sisters and Blue Slide Ridge vineyards. Great lightness accompanying the floral and red fruit bouquet. 15% alcohol, $45
  6. ** 2008 Martinelli Syrah Terra Felice – huge nose and a huge win.  Big body of black fruit, sweet tabacco and leather. Diane bought one of these but I preferred the second Syrah we tasted. 15% alcohol, $45
  7. *** 2006 Martinelli Syrah Lolita Ranch (bought 4 bottles) – jammy dark fruit with black pepper. This would be great with spicy food. Easy, sweet finish. 15.6% alcohol, $75
  8. ** 2008 Martinelli Zinfandel Vigneto di Evo (bought 2 bottles) – another easy drinking wine with figs and red fruit on the palate. Medium finish and great value. 15.8% alcohol, $30
  9. *** 2009 Martinalli Jackass Hill Muscat (bought 4 bottles) – a light delicious dessert wine with honeysuckle and vanilla on the palate. Reminded me of a Picolit from Friuli (which is a big compliment). 16.1% alcohol, $28 for a 375mL

Our second stop was Copain Wines – probably our favorite stop in Sonoma on this trip. They make less extracted, lower alcohol, subtle but incredibly interesting wines. What a change from the Napa wines we had earlier in the week:

Our tasting list at Copain

My biggest gripe is their confusing and convoluted distribution system. I think I’m part of two wine memberships to get access to the wines I want and I’m still not sure what I have access to, what I have to buy and what I can select. Hopefully they simplify this and figure it out soon because the wines are great.

The tasting itself was incredible – we were overlooking Sonoma on their picturesque property with a picnic lunch to accompany our tasting. Highly recommend the tasting experience alone.

We tasted seven wines:

  1. ** 2010 Copain Chardonnay Tous Ensemble (bought 4 bottles) – after spending 10 months on the lees with no oak contact, the wine the emerges is delicious and light. Lemon with good acidity and clean minerality. In my opinion, the best value wine of this trip. 13.3% alcohol, $28
  2. *** 2010 Copain Chardonnay Brousseau – the lightness of the Tous Ensemble but with added complexity – creamy stone fruit with minerality of the soil. Great wine and wish I was able to buy some there. 13.7% alcohol, $55
  3. ** 2011 Copain P2 (bought 2 bottles) – another light but full flavored wine, this is a blend of 50% Pinot Noir and 50% Pinot Gris. Strawberry and raspberry aromas with lemon/lime on the palate. Reminded me of Beaujolais but much better. 13.2% alcohol, $25
  4. ** 2009 Copain Pinot Noir Les Voisins (bought 2 bottles) – a flora aroma with bright red fruit. 13.5% alcohol, $40
  5. *** 2009 Copain Pinot Noir Kiser en Bas – dark, earthy, with black cherries and plum. More tannins and complexity than the Les Voisins but we weren’t able to buy this at the vineyard. 13.7% alcohol, $65
  6. * 2009 Copain Syrah Les Voisins – wasn’t crazy about this one, simpler wine with spicy black fruit, tons of tannins and not that complex or integrated. 13.7%, $34
  7. ** 2010 Copain Syrah Brousseau – intricate, complex nose with spice. Cassis and black cherries on the palate. 13% alcohol, $45

Our last stop for the day was at Walter Hansel Winery where we did a simple tasting on a wine barrel right next to their vines:

Tasting at Walter Hansel

We tasted four different wines and outside of the Sauvignon Blanc, I thought they were all great values although not the most complex wines:

  1. * 2011 Walter Hansel Winery Sauvignon Blanc – crisp, lemon and grapefruit. Exactly what you’d expect from a nice, clean Cali Sauvignon Blanc which I’m not a big fan of. 13.4% alcohol, $15
  2. ** 2010 Walter Hansel Winery Chardonnay Cahill Lane – their chardonnays spend 10 months in barrels on the lees in 100% French oak (about 30-40% new). Lightly oaked with creamy stone fruit. 14.5% alcohol, $40
  3. ** 2010 Walter Hansel Winery Chardonnay North Slope – better acidity than the Cahill with more lemon and citrus zest, white pepper spice on the finish. 14% alcohol, $40
  4. ** 2010 Walter Hansel Winery Pinot Noir Estate – jammy strawberry and raspberry and bright cherries. This sees 10-11 months in oak. 14.5%, $40

Wooj’s 31st Birthday Dinner at Jungsik

23 March 2012, Jungsik, Tribeca

Wooj’s birthday this year landed on a Friday so he was able to take escape from his atrocious banking hours and celebrate. We went to a new restaurant in Tribeca called Jungsik – it’s a formal, high-end Korean restaurant where they use traditional Korean flavors and ingredients with a French-style preparation. Instead of doing the prescribed wine-pairing, we picked our own bottles.

For the various amuse courses, we started with a N.V. Rene Geoffroy Brut Rose de Saignee from a magnum:

N.V. Rene Geoffroy Brut Rose de Saignee (magnum)

100% Pinot Noir with no malolactic fermentation, this wine had great acidity and minerality that cut through kimchi purees that accompanied the various fried meats and vegetables.

For our next courses which included noodles and a miyuk-gook risotto, we had a 2010 Hexamer Meddersheimer Rheingrafenberg Riesling Quarzit:

2010 Hexamer Meddersheimer Rheingrafenberg Riesling Quarzit

The Riesling had a citrus aroma but on the palate you could taste a combination of lime and sweetness (stone-fruit). A tart, medium finish – easy drinking Riesling and pairs well with food.

The next set of meat courses started with a 2008 Walter Hansel Winery Pinot Noir Cuvee Alyce:

2008 Walter Hansel Winery Pinot Noir Cuvee Alyce

From one of the oldest winemakers in Napa (1978), this was a good, not great, classic California Pinot Noir. Aroma of red fruit, berries and spice, it had a smooth mid palate and medium finish. Good acidity although less tannins than I would’ve expected for still a relatively young wine.

For our final savory course, braised short-ribs and samgyeopsal, paired extremely well with our last wine of the night, a 2008 Domaine de Saint Prefert Chateauneuf du Pape Reserve Auguste Favier from a magnum:

2008 Domaine de Saint Prefert Chateauneuf du Pape Reserve Auguste Favier (magnum)

This blend of 81.2% Grenache, 15% Cinsault and 3.8% Syrah was aged in cement tanks and large oak barrels. The dark ruby color led to a powerful nose of spice and berries. The palate attacked with fruit, acidity and licorice – great wine and would’ve paired well with any fatty, red meat.

The wine service at the restaurant was excellent – glassware was perfect and they stayed up to speed with each course.

*** N.V. Rene Geoffroy Brut Rose de Saignee (magnum), $160

** 2010 Hexamer Meddersheimer Rheingrafenberg Riesling Quarzit, $25

** 2008 Walter Hansel Winery Pinot Noir Cuvee Alyce, $35

*** 2008 Domaine de Saint Prefert Chateauneuf du Pape Reserve Auguste Favier (magnum), $100