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Wine Banter - By John Haggard -March 2017


Join a Wine Club 

Wine Clubs 

We host so many visitors in Sonoma County, many of whom visit and leave having joined a wine club. Where you are a visitor or a local, how should you pick a wine club? Wine clubs do allow you to buy wines at significant discounts. If you join a club from a Sonoma County winery, you not only get to buy wine at a steep discount, you often have first access to limited production reserve wines and you are, in part, supporting the local economy too – you are “buying local” from Sonoma County. But how do you pick a wine club to join?

One of the best ways for selecting a wine club is understanding the style of the winery and winemaker who produces the wine. If the winery is producing wines both white and or red which you find pleasing to your palate, this is most likely the better wine club membership for you. Too often we go out wine tasting, go to several tasting rooms and, sometimes in one day, and join the very last winery we were just at. It’s far better to enjoy your tastings and join, perhaps, the first, second or third winery for a wine club. If the wines are as good as you think they are after having visited more than three wineries, purchase a bottle or two and then revisit them at your leisure, allowing yourself to re-experience the wine without a “compromised” palate.

A few helpful hints in the case of white wines: Research wineries producing white wine varietals that you typically would enjoy for dinner, be it Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay and then, with a little understanding of whether or not you prefer that varietal fermented in stainless steel or oak. Winemakers, oftentimes produce wines in a style in which the taster is experiencing either the pure fruit clonal varietal which is to say a wine that is the true flavor of the varietal without having been enhanced by a secondary inoculation or heavily toasted oak. The same can be true for red varietals. Many times, winemakers are producing wines in a style in which the taster is afforded an opportunity to determine whether or not the wine is being produced to their palate style. For red wines, new barrels will exhibit a very spicy and or smoky quality. Neutral barrels, which are barrels which have been used for four or more years will impart far less oak influence and many times are really used as a fermenting vessel and when talking about fermenting in oak there are numerous oak barrel producers (coopers) each imparting characteristics distinct to an AVA (American Viticultural Area) just like grapes come from AVAs and produce a distinctly recognizable flavor. 

When visiting a winery, if you enjoy a particular wine, always inquire as to a neighbor producing a wine in that characteristic or profile which you enjoy. Sonoma County wineries are typically generous and respect your interest in their wines, and do not feel some sense of competition with their fellow winemakers who they tend to respect as fellow artisans. Venture out, explore, and find a great Sonoma County wine club to join!

Brand New Release 

Moshin Rose of Pinot Noir Russian River Valley 2016.

The nose is like water-melon rind. The first flavors are green papaya, crabapple, red raspberry licorice and a surprisingly subtle hint of cinnamon. Another spectacular sipping rose, however, very much food-driven. Bright acidity will pair well with rich foods whether they be cheeses, salmon or duck confit. Enjoy now through 2019. For more information on Moshin Vineyards, visit:

Upcoming Event: Barrel Tasting, 40th Anniversary 

4 Dates, 4 Tours, 4 Wineries,  and 4 Wines (at each location). Pick a valley to explore or set out to discover “city cellars”. Select from Alexander Valley, Dry Creek Valley, Russian River Valley or City Cellars. April 22, 2017: City Cellar Tour, May 6, 2017: Russian River Valley, June 17, 2017: Alexander Valley, July 15, 2017: Dry Creek Valley. Visit 


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).