The Wide World of Wine-Sonoma Valley, California
Story and photos by Dwight Casimere
Sonoma-The incessant crowing of a rooster pierced the early morning fog as the sun struggled from a deep slumber over the rolling hills of this winemaking paradise. Before the first rays of light began to peek through the clouds, workers were busily pruning the ripe fruit from the grapevines that stood in neat rows along the endless expanse of vineyards at Gloria Ferrer Caves and Vineyards. Gloria Ferrer one of the first wineries to greet visitors at the entrance to the Sonoma Valley in the atmospheric Carneros District.
Pinot Noir is one of the primary grapes used by Gloria Ferrer in the making of its sparkling wines.
“Pinot Noir is a ‘ cool weather’ grape. It’s also one of the most expensive grapes used in the winemaking process,” said David Brown, Vice President of Business Development for Gloria Ferrer, who was pouring their new Va de Vi sparkling wine ($53)in the “Bubbly Lounge” of the 31st Annual Taste of Sonoma held at MacMurray Ranch, one of the signature events of the 2010 Sonoma Wine Country Weekend.
“It’s a real ‘chick magnet’,” Brown joked while pouring for a group of anxiously-awaiting ladies. “I’d like to think it was me, but it’s really the Gloria Ferrer.”
“ Our vineyards are located in the Carneros District,” he continued, “which is one of the coolest areas of the Valley with its ocean breeze and dense fog that cools things down at night and in the early morning hours. We grow primarily Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes. That makes us one of the earliest vineyards to come to harvest. Each year, we’re probably among the first to pull grapes.”
Gloria Ferrer Royal Cuvee ($19.98)and Blanc de Noir ($15.99) figured prominently in the ensuing event. They were among the live auction lots offered at the 18th Annual Sonoma Valley Harvest Wine Auction, presented by Trilogy Glass & Packaging.
“Endless Sonoma”, the event theme, was a riotous, homespun production with elements of “Beach Blanket Babylon” intermingled with California Surfers and the Beach Boys thrown into the mix. Culinary Chair John Ash led an all-star roster of Sonoma’s most renowned chefs in preparing a multi-course ambrosial feast of the region’s freshest bounty. Guest Chef Hubert Keller of San Francisco’s Fleur De Lys restaurant of Bravo’s Top Chef Masters and PBS TV’s Secrets of a Chef worked alongside Kendall-Jackson’s Chef Justin Wangler to create the luncheon menu’s first course, Oxtail, Fingerling Potatoes and Truffle “Cappuccino”.
Lunch provided an opportunity to mingle with the winemakers who brought their best selections to table in order to pair them with the menu of locally sourced ingredients, including Wine Barrel Stave Roasted Certified Angus Beef Natural “Steak Florentine” , Pomegranate & Herb Grilled California Lamb Loin with Fregola and San Andreas Salad and a selection of local cheeses and accojmpaniments, including Manchego cheese, aged in Cline Cellars Wine Caves, Bellwether Farms Pepato and Herrbed Redwood Hill Chevre (goat’s milk cheese).
Geyser Peak Winery Director of Winemaking Ondine Chattan brought a stellar array of wines from her cellars, including many that are only available at the winery.
“We’re having our Russian River Sauvignon Blanc($10.99) , our Bin Wines, including Viognier ($16.99)and our Block Collection Sauvignon Blanc($17.99). I’m really happy to bring out our Bin Collection, which are our high-end wines. They’re really beautifully structured. We also brought our Tasting Room only wines. These are the one’s I’m proudest of; our Tawny Port and Late Harvest Riesling. We’re going to have a lot of fun!”
Her words proved prophetic as the auctioneers gavel rang down on a $60,000 winning bid on Lot Number 13, Big Bottles and Bikini Babes with the Ladies of “Magnum Force” parading the oversized bottles of wine that included Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut Sparkling Wine, among a bevy of premium wines. It was a stellar ending to a magic carpet ride through the Sonoma Valley.