Sipping Sonoma Wines in the City

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SONOMA VALLEYWhy wait until the weekend to visit the wine country when the wine country can come to you? The third annual Sonoma in the City is being held all this week in San Francisco with events from grand tastings to wine and food truck pairings. In fact, with over 100 vintners pouring their wines, Tuesday’s grand tasting marks the biggest tasting outside of Sonoma -- ever. The week kicked off Tuesday morning with a panel talk on Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir. Now, I don't know about you but I'm a total Pinot fan and who wouldn't be when a grape has been described as sexy, supple, elusive and elegant.

Pinot Noir has come a long way since the 2004 movie,“Sideways,” pushed Pinot sales through the roof. But behind all the hype is still the fact that it is a finicky grape to grow and Pinot Noir is a difficult wine to make. As luck would have it, some of the best Pinot Noir comes right out of the Sonoma Coast. The combination of climate (specific fog patterns), soil and just the right amount of talent make this region a top spot for Pinot Noir. Some of that talent was on the wine panel Tuesday including: Winemaker Bob Cabral with Williams Selyem, Ted Lemon of Littorai Wines and Ross Cobb of Cobb Wines.

The talk focused on site expression, how much new technology to use in making wine and the relationship between the grower and the winemaker. The talk and tasting just confirmed my admiration for Bob Cabral’s wine making and introduced me to a new wine, specifically, the 2009 Emmaline Ann Vineyard Pinot Noir from Cobb Wines. I picked up some great herbs and butterscotch in this crisp, acidic wine.

Pinot Noir Tasting

After the panel it was time for lunch which involved several iconic, aged wines. I could hardly wait to tear into the wines but first my table had to spend several minutes disagreeing about which way we taste, to the right or to the left. When you have something like 72 glasses on the table you need to have some kind of coordination, or the left handed person ends up with no wine and someone else ends up needing to take a cab home. We finally figured it out which leads me to my favorite lunch wines: A 1997 Iron Horse Vineyards Joy! Sparkling wine, a 2005 Hanzell Vineyards Chardonnay and best of all, a 1992 Silver Oak Cab. Yum.


Cobb Wines
Ross Cobb pouring a Cobb Pinot Noir

The best part of lunch for me, besides the pork belly in a green pea puree with a Papapietro Perry Pinot (say that three times fast) was that I sat next to Master Sommelier, Evan Goldstein. The food and wine vet was kind of busy leading a cadre of winemakers through the various lunch courses but I did talk with him about California’s efforts to pull back from the big oak Chardonnays and I asked him about the controversial new state law which, starting in 2014, will require the inclusion of “Sonoma County” on the front label of all Sonoma County wines. Goldstein said it was a terrific question but didn’t want to register an opinion. Winemakers are an individualistic bunch and don’t like to be told what to do. Many feel the new requirement crowds their label but the Sonoma County Vintners hope it will build brand name for Sonoma.

Wine tasting lunch

After lunch it was on to the grand tasting for the rest of the folks and time for me to return to work, wishing I had 'spit' a bit more during the morning course and lunch.

Sonoma in the City remaining public events:

Thursday, July 14, 2011: Forks and Corks at the Firehouse, 5:30 p.m.–8:30 p.m. Fort Mason, San Francisco.

Friday, July 15, 2011: Vin 12 presents Sonoma Valley Wines, 5:30 p.m.–9p.m. at Sloane, 1525 Mission St, San Francisco

A calendar and links to all tickets can be found at