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WINE BANTER by John Haggard - September 2015

WINE BANTER by John Haggard - September 2015

by John Haggard

Harvest 2015

Picking began early this year despite the cool spring we experienced. Summer roared in with warmer temperatures even during the evening hours (unusual for Sonoma County), keeping grape clusters comfortably warm.

One feature 2015 offered up thanks to strong south-westerly winds was a high moisture content, unlike any I am able to recall over a sustained period encompassing nearly the entire Summer, with just a few breaks between the humid tropical moisture. Our cool Spring combined with shatter in some of Sonoma County’s AVAs helped to push overall tonnage down. Conventional wisdom suggests lower yields brings about higher quality as the nutrients collected are concentrated in fewer berries, creating better flavor profiles.

Grapes are continually being harvested earlier than in the decades past due to the influence of climate change. Grapes harvested during warm years, especially the reds, tend to show brighter red fruits. Cooler years, show more of the dark characteristic tannins, flavor of the varietal. I am truly looking forward to tasting from the 2015 vintage.

Some September wine choices:

Hook and Ladder Sauvignon Blanc Russian River Valley 2013

Flavors of lime zest, lemongrass, bay leaf, moderate acidities. Pair this Sauvignon Blanc with foods that have a light-sweet flavor. A great pairing for chicken paillard sautéed in lemon butter and finished with halved table grapes, green or red and a chiffonade of basil. Enjoy now. Hook and Ladder was founded by Cecil and Christine De Loach. Firefighter Cecil and Christine first purchased 24 acres of Old Vine Zinfandel in 1970 which eventually became De Loach vineyards. They established Hook and Ladder with some 375 acres in the Russian River Valley. Jason De Loach is the current winemaker. For more information on Hook and Ladder, visit

Moshin Pinot Noir Russian River Valley Rosalina Vineyard 2011

A great wine to purchase through Moshin’s wine club – join the club and be able to enjoy breathtaking wines like this. This small vineyard designate offers a generous nose of Santa Rosa plum, red licorice and dried rosemary. Generous acidity fills the palate with dry tart flavors of pomegranate, raspberry and rose petal.  Easily ageable through 2030 and designed to stand up to the richest of foods, even pungent cheeses such as Cowgirl Creamery Red Hawk. Moshin Vineyards is another of my favorite family-owned wineries with a wonderful tasting room to visit on Westside Road. Their 4-tier Gravity Flow facility moves wine without pumps, for more gentle handling of the berries and the wine. For more information on Moshin Vineyard, visit

Churchill Cellars Burke Family Vineyard Pinot Noir 2012

Dark earthy tones and candied red fruit encompass the nose. The palate provides a subtle sweetness with hints of violet. Ripe red cherries and dry cranberry comingle with soft acidity. This small production (295 cases) pinot noir can be aged through 2017. A superb pairing with beet salad, salmon filet or duck breast. Ken and Susan Churchill planted their estate pinot noir in the Russian River Valley in 2000 and produced their first 46 cases in 2003. Their winemaker is Anthony Austin, who among many accolades won “Best in the World” from the London Business Times for one of his Pinot Noirs and a Chardonnay. For more information on Churchill Cellars, visit 

Owl Ridge Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley 2013

Dark rich earthen nose enveloped in spice of nutmeg. Rich tannins, walnut and beetroot comingle easily on the palate. Firm acidity throughout the wine creating a well-structured Zinfandel which is hearty on the nose and palate, with a lingering of tobacco. Deserving of barbecued pork ribs or chicken with a sweet and/or savory barbecue sauce. This Zinfandel should be enjoyed now through 2016. Owl Ridge’s winemaker, Joe Otos uses 100% French oak and winemaking techniques to preserve the intensity of the fruit flavors. Owl Ridge Wines has won 18 gold medals in the last year including two “Best of Class”. For more information on owl ridge wines, 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).