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WINE BANTER by John Haggard - December 2014


WINE BANTER by John Haggard - December 2014

by John Haggard

Thumbprint Pinot Noir Russian River Valley Reserve 2012
Ret: $38-$55 (on sale at the winery) Absolutely superb sipping wine. If I were to pair this with food it would be a medium-rare salmon filet served over steamed wild rice and compound butter of French thyme. Enjoy now through 2016, no decanting necessary.

Thumbprint Cabernet Sauvignon Knights Valley Lisa’s Vineyard Top Block 2010
Ret: $55 Rich, dark fruit and broad earthy forest-floor finish, which is one of the traits of Knights Valley. This bold and beautifully crafted cabernet will easily pair with red meat, roast rack of lamb and roast leg of lamb or prime rib. No decanting necessary, enjoy now through 2016.

Thirty-Seven Tolay Sonoma Coast 2013
Ret $30 My first impression of the Thirty-Seven Sonoma Coast Tolay is that the nose of the wine is indicative of cabernet franc, however, the palate is completely different with intense red fruit mineral comingled in a high acidity. This is a wine demanding it be aged for two years or paired with a rich fatty meat like pork, such as roast pork butt or try this recipe: roasted pork hams with pineapple and clove. I guarantee you this is going to be a real treat.

Portalupi Barbera Sierra Foothills 2013
Ret: $30 A remarkable barbera grown in decomposed granite provides bright red fruit, slightly tart crab-apple, raspberry, however, this is a wine having been opened the day before that produces a great deal of earthy flavors along with mocha on the finish. Absolutely superb and ageable for two more years through 2016. Grilled pork chops, portabella mushrooms or flank steak are all foods that can be paired easily with this wine.

Kivel Stadt Father’s Watch Red Wine Blend Sonoma County 2011
Ret: $26 This wine is a Rhone blend based on the family syrah from 2010 and it’s also been blended with grenache. This small production wine is most likely better paired with red meats such as beef, venison or lamb. The front of the palate is bright and red, more like a dry strawberry. The mid-palate becomes very full and soft and the finish has a subtle gamey quality. There’s no reason not to pair this with a pungent cheese such as Cowgirl Creamery’s Red Hawk or an import such as Le Tur soft-ripened aged cheese (cow, sheep and goat).  Enjoy now through 2016, no decanting necessary.

Harvest Moon Late Harvest Zinfandel Russian River Valley 2013
Ret: $32 (375ml) This is really quite remarkable for the fact that it is not a sweet wine and packs a bunch of black pepper. I can imagine this being paired with a flourless chocolate cake. This wine is easily ageable for another five years through 2019 at cellar temperature of 58 degrees. If the price were not so prohibitive, I’d serve this with peppered steak.

Wine Bargains
Black Friday is a great time to stock up on wines and support local shops. Case purchases will often get you the best prices. Check with your local wine store and wineries. Sophie’s Cellars begins our annual sale on Friday Nov 28th and it runs through December 8thWineroad’s Winter Wineland is another great event for bargains, all participating wineries have wines on sale, Saturday and Sunday January 17th and 18th, 2015, 11am – 4pm each day. I suggest picking three wineries and recommend selecting a designated driver (who can get a special $5 ticket). There are food and wine pairings, educational seminars and art exhibits galore especially put on for the Winter Wineland – a truly great way to enjoy Sonoma wine country. Advance tickets are $48.94 for the weekend, or $38.06 Sunday only, $5.44 for designated drivers, plus taxes. For more information and a list of participating wineries, visit:  Winter Wineland is a wonderful opportunity to discover the entire Russian River, for information on where to stay, visit

Happy Holidays!

John Haggard is owner of Sophie’s Cellars, Sonoma Wine Tasting in Duncans Mills, California. Sophie’s Cellars is open Thu, Sat, Sun and Mon: 11am – 5pm, Fri:  11am-7pm (Local’s Night, Friday, 4-7pm, and you don’t have to be a local to join us).