13 May Please The Palate Pick of the Week: Comradery at the Sonoma County Barrel Auction Lot Tasting Preview Event
The Sonoma County Barrel Auction is an annual event produced by Sonoma County Vintners. Members of the wine trade and media are invited to this exclusive auction where they bid on wine futures handcrafted by the county’s top vintners. The trade buyers then bid on these original wines to offer for resale to their customers and ultra-premium wine collectors. The day prior to the auction, there is a pre-auction that allows attendees to preview these special lots, which I had the privilege to attend. The Sonoma County Barrel Auction included 66 different auction lots. Each of the offerings was a “Never Before, Never Again” auction lot, and only 5, 10, or 20 cases are produced. There were many unique lots from top producers in Sonoma, ranging from special bottlings of vineyard designates or special barrel selections. But a handful of producers came together to make collaborative blends and it was this comradery at the Sonoma County Barrel Auction Lot Tasting Preview Event that is the Please The Palate pick of the week.
Fisher Vineyards and Laurel Glen Vineyard – 360 Degrees of Cabernet Sauvignon
With more than 100 years of history between them, Fisher Vineyards and Laurel Glen Vineyard are two pioneering wineries producing mountain-grown Cabernet Sauvignon. This was the first collaboration between the two wineries and a perfect partnership for two small wineries. Their wine was a 50-50 blend. The Laurel Glen Vineyard is a NE-facing vineyard on Sonoma Mountain and the Fisher Vineyards is a SW-facing vineyard in Sonoma County on the back of Spring Mountain so it really is 360 Degrees of Cabernet Sauvignon.
Winegrowers of Dry Creek Valley – Dry Creek Valley 40th Anniversary – The Zinfandel of Legends
Zinfandel has thrived for more than 150 years in Dry Creek Valley and 2022 marks the 40th anniversary of the Dry Creek Valley AVA. Dry Creek is home to 2500 acres of the total 5000 acres of Zinfandel in Sonoma. Showcasing the community of winemakers, the wine was a blend of Zinfandel from seven vintners, or as Julie Pedroncelli called them, seven “zintners”. A. Rafanelli Winery, Dry Creek Vineyards, Mauritson Wines, Mill Creek Vineyard & Winery, Pedroncelli Winery, Ridge Vineyards, and Saini Vineyard each contributed their wines to this 2022 Zinfandel blend which reflects the soils, climate, and sites of the Dry Creek Valley with aromas of red and black fruits, roasted coffee, herbs and savory minerality.
Williams Selyem, Rochioli Vineyards and Winery, Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery – The Legend: Joe Rochioli, Jr.
Joe Rochioli, Jr. (1934-2022) was the first grower to plant Pinot Noir and Chardonnay on Westside Road in Healdsburg in the late 1960s. The Rochioli Vineyard is a highly-regarded, sought-after vineyard. Burt Williams, founder and winemaker for Williams Selyem, and Gary Farrell, the original proprietor of Gary Farrell Winery, were two of the first winemakers to put the Rochioli name on their wine labels as vineyard-designates circa 1982. Honoring Joe Rochioli, Jr.’s life, Jeff Mangaha of Williams Selyem, Tom Rochioli of Rochioli Vineayrds and Winery, and Theresa Heredia of Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery created a blend of Pinot Noir sourced from the same old river block of Rochioli Vineyard. Gary Farrell picks the Pinot Noir first which is whole cluster fermented for 21-28 days; Williams Selyem picks their Pinot Noir a few days later and ferments it, with some whole cluster, in dairy tanks; Rochioli picks their Pinot Noir a bit riper than the other two. The resulting wine is a reflection of the vineyard, showcasing three philosophies in one that result in an arc of flavor and texture.
Brooke Note Winery and Thirty-Seven Wines – Wind and Sea
Brooks Note Winery and Thirty-Seven Wines are both in the Petaluma Gap. This collaboration was between winemakers Shane Finley and Garry Brooks. Garry worked for Shane at Kosta Brown and this was their first collaboration since working together years ago. A blend of Pinot Noir from Taylor’s Crown in the northeast corner of the Petaluma Gap and Paradise Ridge located on the rolling hills overlooking San Francisco Bay in the southernmost tip of the Petaluma Gap. Two winemaker styles combined result in a harmonious blend with cherry, raspberry, floral, and baking spice aromas.
Macrostie Winery & Vineyards, Sojourn Cellars – Ride Like The Wind
The Nightwing Vineyard, located in the Petaluma Gap, was named to honor the property’s owner, a former WWII pilot who built a landing strip on the site, and as a nod to the Petaluma Gap’s indigenous nocturnal birds. The vineyard is owned by Macrostie Winery and Sojourn Cellars is one of the producers who source fruit from this vineyard. The wine is a blend of two blocks of the same clone Pinot Noir (115) and exhibits notes of red fruits, earth, and forest floor with bright acidity and silky tannins.
Lancaster Estate, Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery – Lion’s Lookout
Two Alexander Valley vineyards, Lancaster Estate and Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery collaborated for the Lion’s Lookout. Each winemaker brought their own style to the blend. Lancaster Cabernet Sauvignon is softer and more elegant whereas Ferrari-Carano is a bigger richer style of Cabernet Sauvignon. Combing these two styles into one results in a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon wine that is rich with notes of leather, tobacco, black cherry, plum, and dried herbs.
These six collaborative “Never Before, Never Again” lots, as well as the 60 other “Never Before, Never Again” lots, helped raise more than $535,000 at the Sonoma County Barrel Auction for which proceeds assist in creating marketing programs and initiatives that support the Sonoma County wine trade and community.