The Cellar: Spotlight - Sonoma’
Friday, March 10, 2017
Steffen Rasch, GoLocalProv Wine Writer
Winemaking in Sonoma County goes back to the mid 1850s and besides from the ‘dark ages’ of Prohibition the bond between Sonoma and viticulture has been unbroken. Sonoma County is divided into three major AVAs (American Viticulture Areas); Sonoma Coast, Northern Sonoma and Sonoma Valley which is relatively warm, apart from the southernmost Carneros which is cooled by the influences of the San Pablo Bay. Within these major AVAs there are dozens of smaller AVAs each with their own microclimate. What all of the regions have in common are near ideal grape growing conditions which allows farmers to from everything from Sauvignon Blanc to Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and Zinfandel.
Viansa Sonoma is one of the region's premier wineries specializing in making wines exclusively from Sonoma County sourced fruit. The picturesque Estate is located at the summit of Sonoma Valley approximately 35 miles north/northeast of San Francisco. While the family behind the label can trace its viticultural roots back to the late 19th century, the Viansa winery itself has only been in business for a little over 25 years. The folks at Viansa make dozens of different bottlings from Estate fruit, as well as from grapes soured from growers with which Viansa have contracts. I recently had an opportunity to sample some of their wines, among them their 2015 Gewürztraminer and 2013 Heritage Red Blend.
For those of you not familiar with Gewürztraminer I strongly urge you to try one. Don’t let the obscure name intimidate you. Simply walk down to your wine merchant and say: "Hey, have any Gevurz!?" It's that easy. Gewürztraminer is one of those distinct varietals; usually heavy on the tropical fruits and florals (sometimes boarding soapy) – on the nose as well as on the palate. Gewürztraminer comes both in dry, off-dry and dessert style sweet examples.
Viansa's 2015 Gewürztraminer is dry and (for a warm climate) pretty restrained. I like this wine a lot. Medium bodied with the signature tropical fruits and flowers. But most importantly this wine has the thing I have always thought was very important with Gewürztraminer and that is refreshing, palate-cleansing acidity. Good stuff!
The 2013 Heritage Red Blend is an interesting blend of 66% Sangiovese, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon with splashes of Malbec, Merlot and Petit Verdot. This is a big wine with an alluring mix of ripe red and dark fruits with savory notes of sweet tobacco, cedar and mocha.
Newport Mansions Wine and Food Festival, Newport
This is the Rhode Island festival that all others are judged against. Newport Mansions Wine and Food is in its ninth year of bringing together sublime food talent in a gorgeous Newport setting. This year is no different as the main headliners are Martha Stewart and Sara Moulton. They don't stop there though...imagine hundreds of wines to be sampled on the lawn of Marble House, tasty treats from lots of local restaurants, and appearances by local chefs like Champe Speidel preparing and serving their creations. You've got a bona fide classic! Tickets starts at $135. www.newportmansions.org
Newport Vineyards, Middletown
This vineyard was originally planted in 1977 with the goal of preserving the coastal land. Captain Richard Alexander planted 10 acres of French-American grapes in 1977 with the help of his family, friends, and neighbors. In 1988, in partnership with the Nunes family, Captain Alexander established his first winery. In 2002, the land was placed into perpetual preservation through a partnership between the Nunes Family, the Aquidneck Land Trust, and the State of Rhode Island.
Tours and tastings occur Sunday – Friday at 1 and 3 p.m. and hourly on Saturday from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. $12 per person for 5 samples; $15 per person for 5 samples plus signature glass. 909 East Main Rd. 848-5161,www.newportvineyards.com
Greenvale Vineyards, Portsmouth
Located along the beautiful Sakonnet River, Greenvale Vineyards has been in the family since 1863 and is listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places. Cortlandt Parker, the farm’s fourth generation, and his wife Nancy started to grow grapes here as a hobby in the 1960’s. In the early 80’s, the Parkers decided to embark on the development of a commercial vineyard. The focus is on conservation of open space, preservation of historic buildings and the education of its visitors. Tastings occur daily and cost $12 for 7 varietals; tours are daily at 2 p.m. and are *$15 per person for the tour and tasting. 582 Wapping Rd. 847-3777, http://www.greenvale.com
Langworthy Farm Winery, Westerly
Langworthy Farm was built in 1875 on the historical home site of Governor Samuel Ward. Owners Joe and Gail Sharry first planted vinifera grape vines in 2002 and produced the first barrel of Chardonnay in stainless steel that same year. They now produce more than a dozen varietals, including 7 reds. Alongside the vineyard is a Victorian farmhouse bed and breakfast that the Sharrys operate in season. Meals, of course, are always paired with house wines.
Tastings run daily from July 4 through Labor Day and are $7 per person for 5 wines. 308 Shore Rd. 322-7791, http://www.langworthyfarm.com
Carolyn's Sakonnet Vineyards, Little Compton
A popular and iconic Rhode Island vineyard, Sakonnet was founded in 1975 and for over 30 years has pioneered the production of ﬁne wines in New England. Several vinifera varietals including Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Gewurztraminer, Cabernet Franc, and the unique hybrid Vidal Blanc are grown, and Sakonnet also produces an award-winning Sparkling wine. This is Rhode Island’s largest vineyard, producing upwards of 30,000 cases annually.
Tours and tastings occur daily between noon and 3 and are $10. There is also a café and outdoor seating. 162 West Main Rd. 635-8486, http://www.sakonnetwine.com