Thursday, October 4, 2007

Sonoma in New York: the Chick and the Hen, the Zin and the Zen

I would never have guessed at the time that I created this blog and conceived the idea of writing from the perspective of a both California native and a New York resident, that months later, I would be sitting in the heart of Manhattan, eating a winegrape that was freshly picked off a vine from the Dry Creek Valley. Thanks to Dr. Vino and Larry Levine (of the Sonoma County Winegrape Commission), I got to experience a bit of Sonoma right here in New York City.

Jim Murphy (of Murphy-Goode) guided us through a tasting of the recently Fed-exed grapes starting with Pinot Noir, which has the "chicks and hens" characteristic (smaller and larger grapes in the same cluster). We moved on to Chardonnay, Syrah, Zinfandel, and finally four different samples of Cabernet from four different Sonoma County regions. We learned that the we can expect very good things out of the the 2007 vintage from California. Apparently, beginning of the summer was quite warm, which caused some concern among the wine community. However, a cool period came later in the summer that allowed for phenolic ripening. This fancy term basically means that the cooler weather allowed the grapes to get to their full flavor maturity, before the grapes ripened fully and the sugar content became too high. When grapes can achieve their full flavor potential, the wine that they produce is better and more complex.

There was at least one person in the group who didn't get the message, and she did the classic asking of the question that had just been answered - an enduring phenomenon that I have experienced both as a teacher and a student. So let me be very clear. 2007=GOOD YEAR, especially for Zinfandel, as Joel Peterson, the man behind one the of the three reliable R's (Ravenswood, Rosenblum and Ridge) reported. Joel should know, after all, he has been making wine for 31 years and has passed on his great grape gene to his son, Morgan, who has recently started his own winery (Bedrock Wine Co.)

What did the grapes taste like?
Wine grapes in general are smaller and have larger seeds and thicker skins than the table grapes that we get from the grocery store. These grapes were deliciously ripe and sweet (25+ Brix which means they were well past their wine making prime). Each variety had its distinct flavor, with Zin being the overwhelming favorite of the group.

Then came Chef Bruce Rie-Zen-Man. He brought along all things Sonoma: Mt. Tam Cowgirl cheese, Liberty Duck, duck confit, melon, prosciutto, salumni, and mushroom duxelle. He gave us a lesson on the weight of wine and food as well as the six elements of food tastes and four elements of wine tastes.
Food: Sweet, Sour, Salty, Bitter, Hot and Umami
Wine: Sweet, Acid, Bitter, Alcohol

We were given permission to play with our food as we mixed and sprinkled our way through various food pairings. Each element that we added, whether it was salt, coffee grounds or lemon, changed both the flavor profile of the food and the interaction of that food with the wine. My friend and I thought that the duck with salt and Cabernet pairing was very metallic and unpleasant (I'm pretty sure I made that face a baby makes when they're fed something "icky"), but mysteriously no one else in the crowd had that experience.

The night finished with a reception that gave us a chance to try even more food and wine pairings and gave me the chance to talk to the Sonoma county natives about the valley, Walling Road and the ever changing face of Healdsburg.

If you want to experience a little of Sonoma and you can't get in your car and drive there, click on the picture and look through the lens of the Sonoma County Winegrape Commission's live web-camera. Just make sure you don't visit after dark if you want to get a glimpse of the vines.

Tasting Notes:
Murphy-Goode Sauvignon Blanc (vintage?)
A floral herbacious (and yes... there was some cat pee) nose. Concentrated flavors of blossoms and citrus, but with a slight vegetal flavor at the end.

2006 Alexander Valley Winery New Gew├╝rztraminer
Very aromatic nose of honesuckle, honeydew and sweet, ripe pears. A spritzy wine with slight fruit and a quick bitter almond finish.

2004 DeLoach Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley
Classic Cabernet - intense and rich, good fruit, licorice and also some leather and smoky qualities. Not good with salty duck breast!


Morgan Peterson said...

Hiya, Thanks for the shout-out to my little Bedrock Wine Co.. I can use all the exposure I can get. You are very right about the 2007 vintage- even-ripening conditions and extended hang-time have made for some really pretty wines.


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