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Wine Banter - By John Haggard - October 2016


Harvest 2016

by John Haggard

This year’s harvest is going to be lighter than what might be considered a normal vintage, however, after so many years of drought it’s to be expected. Smaller berries yield a higher quality and in turn we can expect another excellent vintage.

Sonoma County’s weather played a near perfect role with warm to hot days preceded by extended cool weather allowing flavor development with so few extended hot spells or ruinous heavy fog laden drizzle which could have caused bunch rot as harvest approaches. 2004 and 2010 are two vintages that were hampered by such weather sparing some Sonoma County ava’s (American Viticultural Areas) while others in the same years required labor intensive hours thinning fruit in order to develop flavor and a hope of a harvest a few weeks early, not so this year. 

Spring of 2017 will offer our first opportunity to savor the 2016 vintage. The first wines typically to be available are the roses, sauvignon blancs, pinot gris and pinot grigios (“gris” being the French and “grigio” the Italian name for the same fruit. Look for the stainless steel fermented wines with lower alcohols which will provide a dryer crisper experience on the palate. I also find these wines to be both pleasant sipping and excellent food pairing wines. Oak fermented fruit typically arrives shortly thereafter with the chardonnays, pinot noirs and simply too many others to mention. Rest assured, there is a lot to look forward to in the coming years with the 2016 vintage.

Comstock Sauvignon Blanc Dry Creek Valley 2015  

A recent new find, the 2015 vintage sauvignon blanc from Dry Creek Valley provides excellent citrus and tropical fruit flavors such as pineapple and subtle lemon grass notes with a grassy mid-palate that lingers to the finish. This is going to be a superb wine for pairing with caesar salads, seafood and shellfish, for those of us who really enjoy a full-bodied sauvignon blanc.

Comstock Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley 2012 

The Comstock cabernet from Alexander Valley is a real treasure. Cabernets’ reign in the California wine market ran from the 1970’s to the 1980’s. This particular vintage reminds me of so many cabernets I tasted from those two decades. I’m always grateful when I’m able to find a wine produced to such perfection and it reminds me why cabernet for so many years was my favorite wine whether paired with chocolate or red hearty red meats from filet mignon to venison loin. Here’s a wine to celebrate with family and friends. Properly cellared, enjoy now through 2024. For more information on Comstock Wines, visit

I’d like to give a shout out and special thank you to my dear friends at Moshin Vineyards (moshinvineyards,com) who have allowed me the opportunity each year to either walk the vineyards throughout the season and, indeed, pick fruit. This year I was able to join them picking their Grenache-noir vineyard and seeing the first harvest from these new vines.

Upcoming Events:

Sonoma County Harvest Fair:

Reminder: it’s the 42nd Sonoma County Harvest Fair, Friday September 30 to Sunday, October 2nd. The epicenter of the Harvest Fair is the Tasting Pavilion, featuring innovative cuisine paired with some of the area’s best wine, beer and cider. With over 100 Sonoma County wineries participating (with over 300 wines), even the most experienced connoisseur or novice is sure to find a new favorite. For more information visit

Wine & Food Affair  

Tasting Along the Wine Road is the premier event for Wine Road – Northern Sonoma County! Saturday and Sunday, November 5 & 6, 2016, 11am-4pm each day. Enjoy a weekend of wine and food pairing in the Alexander, Dry Creek and Russian River Valleys. All of the wineries participating will have a favorite winery recipe available online, which they will prepare both days for you to sample, along with the perfect wine. For more information and tickets

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).