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Wine Banter - By John Haggard - February 2017


Alexander, Dry Creek and Russian River Valleys Barrel Tasting 

It’s a time for love and Valentine’s in wine country and we have so much to love where we live. We also have some wonderful dining experiences and wines to enjoy in Sonoma County – but book ahead, book now, and you can create that perfect evening to share with the one you love. 

For those celebrating at home with a home cooked meal or perhaps searching for the perfect Sonoma County wine on a wine menu, here are four wonderful picks from the Russian River Valley, Sonoma Coast and Dry Creek Valley appellations of Sonoma County:

Martinelli Bella Vigna Chardonnay Sonoma Coast 2013

This Sonoma Coast chardonnay has been produced from the Wente clone and shows a light golden straw color. There is a nose of orange rind and lemon with racey acidities on the palate confirming the nose of orange marmalade and meyer lemon custard.  A superb chardonnay which will pair well with salmon, scallops, and other rich seafood. As with most chardonnays, I recommend serving at cellar temperature (around 58 degrees) rather than ice-cold from the refrigerator (34 degrees). The easiest way to achieve a cellar temperature for the person at home without a cellar, is to place your wine in the refrigerator just thirty minutes before serving. Enjoy now through 2020.

Martinelli Moonshine Ranch Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2013

This elegant pinot noir has a subtle silkiness with strawberry, sweet raspberry, red cherry and rhubarb flavors and subtle spicy qualities of oak and warm cinnamon interspersed with hints of tobacco. This wine will pair with salmon, however, think of richer flavored dishes such as duck confit and pork tenderloin for a superlative pairing. Enjoy now through 2024, no decanting necessary. 

Martinelli “Vigneto di Evo” Russian River Valley Zinfandel 2012

Flavors of plum, dried red cherries and star annuus. A bold zinfandel perhaps best served with barbecued country spare ribs. It is important to note the alcohol is 17.3% for this vintage, though it doesn’t drink hot and can support sweet, hot and or tangy barbecue sauce. Enjoy now through 2020.

The Martinelli Winery is situated in the Russian River Valley. It’s the first winery you’ll come across as you head West on River Road from Hwy 101 heading toward the Russian River. The two historic hop barns were converted into a wine-making facility and tasting room, keeping with the original feel and structure of these centurion buildings. Inside the Tasting Room, you can still see the hop pickers’ writings on the walls and doors from the early 1900’s. For more information on Martinelli Winery, visit:

Kokomo Muscat Blanc Late Harvest Timber Crest Vinyards Dry Creek Valley NV

Pineapple, lemon, lichee fruit with an unctuous finish. Enjoy this dessert wine, perhaps with your Valentine. It will pair beautifully with a stone fruit tartin.  Enjoy now through 2021.  For more information, visit

Upcoming Event: Barrel Tasting, 40th Anniversary

100+ Wineries!  TWO WEEKENDS.. March 3-5 & March 10-12, 11am –4pm. This is your chance to sample wines from the barrel, talk to winemakers and explore the beautiful Alexander, Dry Creek and Russian River Valleys.  Barrel Tasting is not a food pairing or themed event.  It’s all about the WINE…many wineries offer “futures” on their barrel samples. This is a chance to purchase wine now, often at a discount, then come back to the winery when the wine is bottled, typically 12-18 months from now. Many wines are so limited, buying futures is your only chance to purchase them.

Attendees are encouraged to pack a picnic as most wineries will not have food for this event. The ticket price includes the opportunity to sample wine from the barrel and in most cases also trying a limited number of current release wines. Advance tickets online until Feb. 27, 2017. Weekend Tickets: $50. Sunday ONLY Tickets: $40. Designated Driver Tickets: $5 (plus tax and fees).

Happy Valentine’s!

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