Barrel Tasting Weekend “Part Deux” – March 4th 2012

Last weekend (2-4 March) and again this coming weekend (9-11 March) comprise the 34th Annual Northern Sonoma County barrel tasting weekends.  They are two of the premier wine tasting weekends sponsored by the Wine Road of Northern Sonoma County and they are absolutely Must Dos!!  As I said in the 1st installment, with over 100 wineries from the Wine Road’s three American Viticulture Areas (AVAs – Alexander Valley, Russian River Valley and Dry Creek Valley) participating, no single event in the north county can compete for adventure, fun and great wine deals. 

Barrel tasting is an opportunity to taste and purchase at a discount the most recently harvested and soon to be bottled and released  (6-18 months typically) wines from the Wine Roads three AVAs.  Because so many of the participating wineries are small with limited production this is often the only opportunity non-wine club members can actual acquire these special wines.  Day 2 like Day 1 was blessed with 70 degree sunshine and great wines.

This day began at the northern end of the Dry Creek Valley with a plan to grab a quick bite at the Dry Creek Grocery Co. located at the corner of Dry Creek Road and Lambert Bridge Road and included 6 wineries for barrel sampling….about all any sane folks could achieve and still taste the wine without ‘spitting’ in the 5 hours allotted!

Barrel Room at David Coffaro Estate Vineyard (Linda C)

Barrel Room at David Coffaro Estate Vineyard (Linda C)

David Coffaro Estate Vineyard in the Dry Creek Valley is a perennial favorite.  Dave and Pat Coffaro have been growing grapes since 1979 and producing quality wines since their first vintage in 1994.  The entire experience at Coffaro is unique from the individuals on Dave’s Team, Matt W. (everything assistant), Cindi D. (tasting room and wine club), Katarino and Salvador (vineyard everything) to the Dave Matthews concert playing on the big screen video in the tasting/barrel room.  Dave makes a lot of different wines from his estate and blends them based on his palate.  On Saturday Dave offered over 9 barrels to sample from.  Lagrein and Aca Modot were two favorites. Check out Dave’s Diary for an intimate look inside at Coffaro.  Exceptionally drinkable at release and even more reasonably as futures!! At this event, food was offered in the form of Lobster Bisque from Epicurean Escape Catering Chef Matthew Paille.  No surprises at David Coffaro, just excellent wines at reasonable prices. Yum!!

Tasting straight from the barrel - David Coffaro Estate (Linda C)

Tasting straight from the barrel - David Coffaro Estate (Linda C)

The biggest surprise of day 1 was Chateau Diana.  The tasting room on Dry Creek Road has only been open a few weeks but the wine making and grape growing have been going on for years.  The tasting room offered about 4 different labels with each offering a different value and price point including some 6% alcohol wines tailored for sale in grocery stores in New York State that are prohibited from selling typical (greater than 6% by volume wines) higher alcohol (12-16%) wines.  These lower alcohol wines are labeled Chateau Diana but are not available in California. Other labels at Chateau Diana include Black Oak (mass market – $7 per bottle – but nicely developed and very drinkable); Le Baron Ranch – about $16 per bottle; and 1221 running at about $20 per bottle, the birth date of Diana Manning, the patroness of the winery and finally, their premium label is called 707 and includes several estate varietals.  The setting and picnic area at Diana was beautiful, tranquil and really quite appealing.

Chateau Diana Tasting Room (Linda C)

Chateau Diana Tasting Room (Linda C)

Mounts Family Winery continues to defy expectations.  A hilltop vineyard in the Dry Creek Valley with little in the way of plush facilities continues to harvest, crush and vinify wonderful wines.   Three generations of Mounts have been farming at this location beginning with Grandfather Jack Mounts, who purchased the land in the mid 1940’s to raise sheep and grow prunes.  In the 1960’s, Jack’s son Richard planted his first 17 acres of Zinfandel and Petite Sirah.  Still the mainstay’s of this grape growing and winemaking family.  In 2005, with his parent’s help, David (3rd generation) and wife Lana established Mounts Family Winery and released their first vintage with 500 cases.  Even though the family sells 85% of their grapes to other Sonoma and Napa winemakers, they now produce over 3000 cases of wine annually.  The barrel samples tasted and especially appreciated were the 2010 Estate Petite Sirah and the 2010 Estate Grenache both available as futures. The mouth feel, structure and fruit in these wines were excellent. 

Richard Mounts and Barrels @ Mounts Family Winery (Linda C)

Richard Mounts and Barrels @ Mounts Family Winery (Linda C)

The Martorana Family Winery  The Martorana Family, originally from the Piedmonte Region of Italy, has been growing grapes in the Dry Creek Valley for nearly 30 years.  Until recently they sold their grapes to several well known area wineries.  The family has over 55 acres in three different locations in Dry Creek and Alexander Valley and is committed to organic grape growing.  Gio (Giovanni) Martorana is the Winemaker and has a hands on approach to all grape growing, wine making and distribution.  Sunny the vineyard dog is his constant companion.  The winery and tasting room were completed in 2007 but they have vintages dating back to 2005 and possibly earlier.  The barrel sample offered was the 2010 Dry Creek Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon.  Great structure and traditional in its flavor profile.  The Chardonnay and Merlot, already in the bottle, were also quite excellent.  The Martorana tasting room team showed pride in the offerings from the manager Evan to associates Christer and Corey.  Tasting room is not open to the public so call ahead.

Martorana Barrel Samples (Linda C)

Martorana Barrel Samples (Linda C)

Two other wineries  included in Sunday’s tasting did not rise to the level of those reviewed above and following the Thumper Principal from the Disney Bambi Animated film…if you can’t say something nice…don’t say anything at all.  That is not to say that their wines were not worthy but more that the experience was not as exceptional as those selected and described here in. 

Sunny - Martorana Family Winery dog!! (Linda C)

Sunny - Martorana Family Winery dog!! (Linda C)

Having said that, Day 2, Sunday, was equal to Day 1 in fun, excellent wines and just a great day in wine country. The good news, for many, is that weekend 2 begins on Friday, March 9th so get moving and get tasting!!

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About John C

John Compisi is a freelance travel and lifestyle writer focusing on California and Italy who resides in Sonoma County. He, and his wife Linda, love nothing more than getting out there and experiencing the world, no matter if it’s a destination close to home, a road trip, or a journey to romantic international destinations.
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One Response to Barrel Tasting Weekend “Part Deux” – March 4th 2012

  1. We Love, Love, Love, Seasons of Sonoma.

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