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Wine Banter May 2012

Wine Banter May 2012
by John Haggard

Wine Banter May 2012

Harvest Moon Estate and Winery is now known for its Zinfandel.  The Pitts family had grown quality grapes in the Russian River Valley since 1976. In 2000 the Pitts son, Randy, returned to the farm and studied with a great winemaking tutor, his father. After his family schooling and some viticultural courses, Randy produced a very impressive homemade Zinfandel, and in 2002, Harvest Moon released its first Zinfandel to the public. Since 2002 Harvest Moon has built a reputation as a leading producer of quality zinfandels in the Russian River Valley. I have tasted and reviewed many of Randy’s zinfandels, but it is two releases from 2009 from Harvest Moon, neither zinfandel, that have truly caught my attention: the 2009 Harvest Moon Pinot Noir and the 2009 Harvest Moon Sparkling Dry Gewurztraminer. 

Harvest Moon Russian River Pinot Noir 2009 Russian River Valley (ret $40)

The 2009 Estate Pinot Noir from Harvest Moon Winery is one of the finest small production pinot noirs I've tasted this year. With fewer than 40 cases left, this really is a must have for the connoisseur looking for a wine to cellar or wine to pair with food. The grapes were picked at 22 brix. Typically, pinot noirs are picked at 24-26 brix, sometimes leading to a riper, red fruit and or dark fruit characteristic. With the Harvest Moon pinot noir, you get the tart red fruit, however, it’s exceptionally palatable with multiple layers of near perfect fruit flavor. Luckily, this pinot noir was not exposed to excessive new oak which is why I picked this wine as one of my top three pinot noirs I have tasted this year.  The Harvest Moon Pinot Noir has the capacity to age, properly cellared, for another four years, easily. The Harvest Moon Pinot Noir makes a great pairing for salmon or duck, no decanting necessary.

Harvest Moon Sparkling Dry Gewurztraminer 2009 Russian River Valley (ret $38)

This Sparkling wine from Harvest Moon is bone dry, yet exhibits all the flavors of a Gewurztraminer. It is an excellent pairing for scallops or calamari, and once again is a limited production wine and can be found at the winery.  For more information on Harvest Moon, visit The tasting room is open daily from 10am – 5pm,  2192 Olivet Road, Santa Rosa, CA 95401,  Tel: (707) 573-8711.

Last month I wrote about Sonoma’s Valley of the Moon. Producing quality organic wines since 1979 in Glen Ellen, in the heart of the Valley of the Moon, is Coturri Winery. Tony Coturri is a third generation winemaker and has built a reputation for not only producing organically grown wines, but sulfite free and biodynamic too. Phil Coturri, Tony’s brother is considered Sonoma Valley's leading organic viticulturalist, with over 400 acres of certified organic vineyards. Their grandfather, Enrico, immigrated to San Francisco at the turn of the twentieth century and worked as a barrel cooper. Harry "Red" Coturri, Tony and Phil’s father learned how to make wine during prohibition, which was fortunately over when he opened Coturri Winery, in 1976. Without adding sulfites, wines can become unstable – and one of the dilemmas of producing sulfite free wines, aside from the fact that sulfites are naturally occurring in vineyards – which makes it important to keep these wines cool as they become more unstable the higher the temperature.

Coturri Petite Sirah 2008 Testa Vineyards, Mendocino County (ret $30)

The Coturri petite sirah has riper richer flavors without being jammy.  This petite sirah from Coturri needs no decanting, enjoy now – a wonderful sipper and a great pairing for grilled peppers with skirt steak, my top pick organic wine I have tasted this year.

Some other notable organic wines from Coturri are the 2009 Testa Vineyards Carignane from Mendocino County (ret $25) and the Coturri Sandocino North Coast red wine (ret $20). Another NV (non vintage) red wine blend that is a particularly versatile food wine is the Chateau d’O, North Coast red wine (ret $23). For more information on Coturri Winery, Visit

John Haggard is owner of Sophie’s Cellars, The Sonoma Wine & Cheese Market in Monte Rio, California. Sophie’s Cellars is open 11am – 7pm, closed only on Wednesdays.