(Splitting a long review into two articles is an experiment, let me know what you think. )
Tuesday’s article discussed the Heart of Sonoma Valley’s Annual Holiday Open House event, and reviewed six wineries.
The final winery review is Eric Ross, to whom I award the Simple Hedonisms “Best of Event”, something I will do going forward each event. Now in fairness, that means the best I visited, a subset of the twenty. Even a guy nicknamed the ‘Tasmanian Devil’ at work can only hit so many in one day! This in no means detracts from the many good experiences, it just shone the brightest based on not just the wine, but overall hospitality (not just to me), layout, vibe – I have written repeatedly on the importance of providing a outstanding experience in the tasting room. I observed other attendees, other pourers – the place was warm, alive, and full of happy people and good spirit.
Eric Ross Winery
As I did for the previous weekend event, I chose to finish at a winery that I felt I could rely on for a positive experience. This was actually my first visit to the winery, but I had met Eric at the Family Wine Tasting in San Francisco earlier this summer, during the Industry tasting (I was pouring as a volunteer for Mounts Family Winery.)I had sought out Eric Ross because of their Marsanne-Roussanne white blend, and ended up having a very enjoyable, detailed discussion. That intial dialog was not just about his wines, but my sabbatical, my own interests in wine and the industry, and my hobby Syrah vineyard.
Part way through the Holiday tasting, Eric came out, and to my surprise recognized me, AND actually remembered all of our conversation, including the vineyard, 5 months later. I have written many times, wine is far more than the product itself, it’s a living entity, and an art form, and for me the enjoyment and experience is as much about the people and artisans, as their product, especially in a region with hundreds of wineries.
Eric Luse owner and winemaker, was a photographer for the San Francisco Chronicle for years. I was fortunate enough he spent an hour with me on this busy day, and in addition to wine geeking, he shared a number of his photographs. His work is brilliant in my opinion, and he really should publish a book, as many have encouraged. Eric did the photography in the beautiful new mini book on “The Wineries in the Heart of Sonoma Valley.” Besides being an amazing photographer, and a down to earth, genuinely nice guy, he is a talented, passionate wine maker, and of interesting varietals, which captures my attention even more, in our California tendency to make homogenous, over extracted, over the top wines.
By complete co-incidence my friend and fellow Wine Blogger Amanda Hagood earlier this week also did a feature piece on Eric Ross. She did a great job, so rather than re-state a lot of the same, you can read her piece here.
I did actually taste wine, although I think I chatted more!
- His previously mentioned Marsanne-Rousanne is one of my favorite whites. The remainder of his 2007 vintage was on sale, so I grabbed 6 bottles. This blend has a great floral nose, good acidity, balance and mouthfeel. You red wine drinkers looking to branch out, should start with similar Rhone whites; Marsanne, Rousanne, Viognier. But PLEASE do not drink overly chilled, as so many do.
- The 2006 Old Vine Carignane was a treat. An easy drinking, comfort wine with bright, but not overpowering fruit. The Rauser Ranch vines in Lodi were planted in 1907! Grabbed one of these for home, $22 retail.
- 2008 Pinot Noir, Saralee’s Vineyard. Drinkable now, but I’d leave in bottle for 6 more months if can resist, a pinot with big color and fruit, good structure, from 30% new French Oak.
- 2008 Old Vine Zin, Cody’s Block. Technically in Dry Creek, but on the edge off the Russian River appelation,and with the characteristics of RRV ZIns, I am starting to find very appealing. Softer, less intense than many Zins, I don’t buy many Zins, but one of these came home with me.
- 2006 Syrah. Sorry was yakking so much with Eric, forgot tasting notes! RRV Syrah with 3% Viognier. Amanda cracked open a bottle last night she tells me, and raved.
As a special treat, I also bought a bottle of the limited release 2007 Pinot Noir, Poule d’Or. It wasn’t being poured, but it wasn’t a big leap to trust Eric. “Russian River Valley vineyards of Pommard Clones dominating the Dijon Clones of Pinot Noir as they come together in this Reserve Wine, only made in the years deserving an extra look.” Sold!
What a great ending to the day. It had been a fun day of wine tasting and meeting people, but it was this final visit that was the experience that makes me glow like a bulb on a Christmas tree. I had recently dropped a wine club, as I like to rotate each year, and completed my experience by adding Eric Ross to my list.
Wine club pickup events will also give me a reason to come back to Kenwood/Glen Ellen area more frequently, which I need to. I skipped some of the larger/older wineries, like Kenwood, Ledson, Benzinger, Chateau St. Jean, and they are deserving of a visit as well, having played key roles in the history of Sonoma. This event was well done, and this area deserves more buzz. I’d encourage the marketing organization to continue to be in Social Media, and promote itself more on FaceBook, Twitter and it’s Website. It has a lot to offer.
Thanks for reading – come back tomorrow for the weekly posting of Wine Country weekend events.