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WINE BANTER by John Haggard - July 2015

WINE BANTER by John Haggard - July 2015

by John Haggard

Spring 2015 was especially cool. Foggy evenings followed by long overcast mornings and heavy mist in the vineyards created a challenge in some of Sonoma’s AVAs. Sporadic rain during the bloom also affected whether or not vineyards have experienced “shatter”. “Shatter” is the result of a bloom exposed to excessive moisture whether it be heavy fog, mist or rain and the erratic weather we have experienced throughout the Spring and the timing of the bloom will have an effect on whether or not shatter might exist in any given vineyard or varietal. As I’ve driven around our county, I’ve seen plenty of shatter. Some vineyards appear to not have experienced any shatter while others, just miles apart appear to have experienced 20 / 30 or even 40 percent of loss in the developed cluster. Sporadic rains during bloom will not affect every varietal due to the fact differing varietals bloom at different times. Shatter can actually be an opportunity for some winemakers to produce higher-quality wines – it’s a natural way to have reduced production. Root-stock is always working to produce the most protein and that protein is going into the berry - the vine wants to produce as many seeds as possible and, therefore, proliferation – however, with reduced tonnage and concentrated proteins and proper vineyard management, an expert winemaker is able to produce far more complex wines. Stay tuned for how Sonoma County’s winemakers’ creativity is stretched by the 2015 vintage.

DH Gustafson Cabernet Franc
For those few and fortunate to have been wine club members of DH Gustafson, they will have been offered an opportunity to have received in their wine allocation a wine so limited in production with less than one hundred cases produced – the Cabernet Franc, 2012, Dry Creek Valley, Heritage Tree Vineyard. Spectacular mocha, subtle cola flavors, not sweet. Pencil shavings finishing in red berry flavors. This vineyard is at an elevation of 1800 feet above Lake Sonoma and Dry Creek Valley AVA. For those fortunate few who were able to purchase this wine, age it for no more than three years and pair with red meats such as flat iron steak or roast stuffed mushroom and you can even use hearty leafy greens and cheese – think goatsmilk cheese, kale, sweet bell pepper stuffed in mushroom caps and roasted.
A little more readily available for us in Sonoma County, at least for now, is the Cabernet Franc from Paul Mathew, Russian River Valley, 2013, limited but still currently available (ret $35). I really enjoy the red fruit characteristics of this wine, not always typical of all cabernet francs. There’s also red licorice mid-palate and black licorice fennel on the finish. The wine exhibits a little bit of heat on the palate – however, easily ageable for two or more years. A wonderful food wine. While I would not pair this with seafood – poultry and red meats even gamey meats are a great companion as well as pork dishes. Enjoy now through 2018.

Spy Valley Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand, 2014 ($20 retail)
I’ve always enjoyed Loire clone sauvignon blanc – it’s one of my favorite varietals provided it is fermented in stainless steel with nothing other than the natural yeast – no inoculation – the flavors are almost always sharp citrus, sometimes meyer lemon or grapefruit – the Spy Valley is all white grapefruit minerale. This wine is really for citrus lovers – the high bright acid flavors I found exquisite – however it’s not for everyone and I recognize this.

Upcoming Event August 16 - Saint Mary’s College and the Alumni Association invite you to campus for an afternoon of wine tasting, delicious appetizers and fun! Proceeds from ticket sales and the silent auction support student scholarships at Saint Mary’s. Tickets are $50 per person until August 3, $60 thereafter and $70 at the door which includes all tastings, appetizers and SMC logo wine glass. Designated Driver tickets are $20 including appetizers, non-alcoholic beverages and souvenir glass. For more information visit:

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).