Sonoma County: Articles on California's Sonoma County Wine Region

New Kid In Town - Cerridwen Pinot Noir

There's talk on the street; it sounds so familiar 
Great expectations, everybody's watching you 
People you meet, they all seem to know you 
Even your old friends treat you like you're something new 

- New Kid in Town, The Eagles

There's a new kid in town when it comes to Sonoma Pinot Noir and her name is Deborah Bennett.

Wine to Go Buy This Week - Lilu by Clos DiDi, a Carneros Chardonnay

Clos DidiI recently had the opportunity to try a terrific small-production, Sonoma chardonnay that I highly recommend. Lilu by Clos Didi is liquid gold, the kind of chardonnay that appeals to even those people who don't typically choose chardonnay.

Top 75 California Wines to Try Before You Quit Drinking (a non-dump bucket list if you will!)

In my last article, I listed the Top 75 French Wines to Try Before You Quit Drinking.  In this article I look at the “non-dump bucket” list for wines from California.  This proved to be a different task.  First, very few wineries have a long track record of making great wine.  Secondly, while California is diverse, it does not have the diversity of climates and terroir and grape varietals of France.  Still, it does produce some of the best wines in the world and any wine lover should make it a point to try as many of them as they can.  Here is my list:

1. Shafer Hillside Select Cabernet Sauvignon – It’s hard to pick the first wine.  This one is a great wine in every vintage and has been for a long time.  Expensive but still possible to afford and made in large enough quantities to be found in grocery stores.  Every lover of Cabernet should try this once.

Q&A with Amelia Ceja, Owner of Ceja Vineyards, Sonoma

In 1999, Amelia Ceja co-founded Ceja Vineyards located in the Carneros region of Napa Valley. Amelia was named president which made her the first Latina Woman Vintner in California. The Ceja family paved the way not only for Latinos but also for many minority families in the wine industry. Today they produce about 10,000 cases of wine which is distributed throughout the U.S. and hey farm over 100 acres of prime vineyard land. Additionally they have successfully used social media and Amelia has created over 100 video blogs about pairing wine and Mexican food.

Q&A with Chef William S. Bloxsom-Carter: Executive Chef and Food and Beverage Director for the Playboy Mansion West

Chef William S. Bloxsom-Carter has worked as the Executive Chef, and Food and Beverage Director for the Playboy Mansion West for over two and half decades. A frequent wine judge he constantly looks for wines to pair with his foods for the multitude of foods he presents to guest at the Mansion; this can mean an intimate dinner party of 12, or upwards of 1,200 people. Complementing his responsibilities for Playboy Enterprises, Chef Carter has prepared winery dinners in Sonoma County, Napa Valley, Paso Robles and the Santa Ynez Valley as well as special events for high-profile clients throughout the United States, focusing on the importance of food and wine pairings and extraordinary hospitality service. Additionally, Chef Carter is a recurring featured guest on numerous radio shows syndicated nationwide describing and promoting California wines and foods.

You routinely plan food from appetizers to entrees for up to thousands of guests at the Playboy Mansion. With so many people, is it ever difficult to pair wines with the diverse variety of foods you prepare?

When I’m evaluating and selecting wines for events, I take copious notes based on flavor profile, nose, finish, integration/body, visual clarity and any perceptible flaws. Depending on the demographic for an event dictates the food and wine selections. Like with food, seasonality also plays an important role when selecting wines. At the Playboy Mansion, I have the liberty to create and select food and wine based on many variables. Some may look at it as a challenge; I look at it as a way to offer every guest an impeccable hospitality experience based on the bounties of the harvest.

Q&A with Mike Benziger of Sonoma’s Benziger Family Winery

Mike Benziger leads one of the most prominent and one of the last in-tact families in the wine industry. Based in Sonoma, the 30-year old Benziger Family Winery is widely known for their pioneering exploration and practice of Biodynamic, organic and sustainable agriculture and grape growing. Though they did not start out this way, as time evolved, they began to embrace a different way of farming. The validation of this, is high scoring wines in the national press and medals at wine competitions.

Wines to Go Buy This Week: Sonoma Pinot Noir by La Follette, MacPhail, and Freeman

Pinot NoirSince I wrote last week about how much I (used to) hate chardonnay, this week I am turning attention to the varietal I love: pinot noir. Friends and acquaintances frequently ask me for my favorite wine producers -and the list is long- so I am going to focus this week on my favorite Sonoma pinot noir producers. There are numerous producers of fantastic pinot in Sonoma so I'm sure I will get plenty of emails from people wondering how I could leave out so and so or who are incredulous that my recommendations exclude "less expensive" options.

So let me respond in advance: The threshold for inclusion on this list is that the wine must be in regular rotation in my house and be the "go to" bottle of Sonoma Pinot Noir to serve to guests or to uncork to celebrate small victories (a concept I enthusiastically embrace..... life is too short not to celebrate good days with a fantastic bottle of wine. Who wants to die with a huge collection of great wine aging in the basement?). Must a good Sonoma pinot noir cost $40+? Of course not, though so often they do. With that said, the three wines to go buy this week are:

Best Sonoma White Wines Worth Seeking Out (for the money)

IntoWine asked our panel of experts to share their recommendations for the best Sonoma County white wine for the price:

Sonoma’s reputation for making ultra premium wines does not come without merit. Sonoma has history of making focused, sumptuous wines from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Bordeaux varieties. Recently, I came across Leo Steen’s Chenin Blanc. The wine proved to an honest expression of the classic French variety, with hints of citrus and island fruit. The palate is rich, with a clear acidity that carries through to the finish. The grapes for this wine come from a small sustainable vineyard in the Dry Creek Valley. The sandy, stony soils contribute to the vitality of this unique white wine which would pair well with just about any seafood, salad, or chicken recipe. (About $20) – Ben Spencer is a diploma student with the Wine & Spirit Education Trust and an IntoWine Featured Writer.

Best Sonoma Red Wine Worth Seeking Out (for the money)

IntoWine asked our panel of experts to share their recommendations for the best Sonoma County red wine for the price:

Sonoma seems to always have an uphill battle as its sibling, Napa, constantly gets the spotlight. But there are exceptional wines coming from this region. The Clos Du Bois Reserve Tempranillo ($22) is ripe with blackberry, black plums, soft and spicy blackberry, blueberry and black cherry positioned correctly with oak and acid. One-fourth of this wine is cabernet sauvignon, which builds a dense, strong structure most tempranillo’s do not have. Layered with a juicy fresh crushed dark fruit mouth feel, this is a surprisingly commanding wine that at first blush seem like it might have come from Napa. But no, Sonoma wines stand on their own. Michael Cervin, Wine Judge, Restaurant Critic, and IntoWine Featured Writer

Sonoma Chardonnay Vintage Charts

Sonoma Chardonnay    
2009 89 D
2008 94 D/H
2007 92
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