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Sonoma County Wines

Welcome back for another week of amazing wines!

This week finds us in beautiful, bountiful Sonoma County. Sonoma County, like the Central Coast, does not get as much praise and respect as its neighbor to the east, Napa Valley. However, it should. Sonoma produces some of the best quality, best value wines, not just in California, but in the entire world. The examples I have chosen for this week's tasting are proof of that. So let's get started, and taste some great wines!

Sonoma County wines are special. They tend to be more about the expression of the grape varietals as they are, without many outside influences. Central Coast wines—especially Paso Robles—tend to be more about big, bold fruits, and the blends that they can produce. Napa wines tend to be more big, bold, fruity wines and oak, lots and lots of oak. That said, let's jump into this week's selections...

As always, we'll start with the white selection first. This week's is the equivalent of a lead-off home run: The Gundlach-Bundschu Chardonnay.

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Side Note:

I always do a bit of research into the wineries that produce the wines on my weekly lists, just to see if there is anything of note worth mentioning to my readers. This week's research blew me away. I strongly urge you to follow the link to the "Gun-Bun" website and read their History. ALL OF IT!!!

These folks are truly California originals, having started their "Rhinefarm" way back in 1858. They survived the Phylloxera Blight, the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, Prohibition, the rise of Napa Valley wines, and have emerged as one of the shining examples of just how good wine can be when you stay out of Nature's way and don't over-oak your product.

I absolutely love the nose on this wine. It has a full bodied bouquet of fresh sliced pineapple, ripe yellow apples, peaches, and a soft hint of vanilla. Take your time smelling this wine, it is truly special. On the palate you will instantly taste the ripe yellow apple and soft peach flavors. The finish delivers a fresh sliced pineapple note with just enough acid to make your mouth water, and a light, lingering taste of vanilla. This is a great wine to take along on a picnic, to a concert in the park or out on the boat.

Pair it with soft creamy cheeses and crackers. Or enjoy it with appetizers, or with any seafood dinner.

Price range: $18-$24

First up for this week's reds, a beautiful Pinot Noir from Neyers Cellars. This is a single vineyard wine sourced from the acclaimed Roberts Road property. To remind you, I'm not a big fan of Pinot Noir, but this Pinot ... well, this Pinot is special.

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One good sniff of this wine, and you know you're in for a treat. Deep, rich notes of raspberry and plum waft from the glass. A sip of this beauty reveals a well rounded, structured Pinot Noir. Rich fruit notes of red plum and raspberry are present, but they are not overwhelming. There is a pleasing minerality and slight acidity to this wine. It would give many top Burgundian Pinot Noirs more than they'd bargain for. Pair it with cheese and crackers for best results, or you could try it with salmon and brown rice.

Price Range: $24-$32

Next up is a great value Merlot, that gives Duckhorn's Merlot a run for its money, and wins!

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The Benziger Merlot is, by far, one of the best tasting and complex Merlots I have ever had the pleasure of drinking. The nose has a delicious aroma of cherry sauce with a hint of star anise spice.


The deep, dark cherry flavors are accompanied by other flavors of blackberry, black cherry and anise. The finish has a black pepper spiciness to it. The Benziger Merlot shows just how delicious this varietal can be when it is not overdone. Pair this wine with a nice, but simple dinner of Duck a l'orange, garlic roasted mashed potatoes, and sautéed carrots.

Price range: $14-$18

I was never a big fan of Merlot until I discovered Duckhorn's version. It was then that I came to realize I had been drinking "cheap" Merlots. Since then, I have launched myself into trying several dozen. I believe that we are in for another paradigm shift over the next ten years. Watch for quality Merlots to make a rousing comeback, while Pinot Noir plateaus and continues to become more of a Burgundian copy cat style wine.

Time for a typical, yet astounding, Sonoma County Cabernet.

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What do I mean by "typical?" Well, most wineries in Sonoma County focus on the fruit. That is, they don't interfere with the wine as much as they do in Napa. Sonoma seems to be all about letting the fruit and the land speak for themselves. In other words, they tend to be more terroir-driven wines.

I hate using that term... Terroir. It sounds so bourgeoise and so French, so... pretentious. But it is THE word to describe Sonoma County wines. The soils, the fruit, the weather, the everything that is natural, IS Sonoma.

Decoy's Sonoma County Cabernet has a bright cherry note on the nose. I also noticed a light note of cocoa powder. On the palate, the fruit definitely comes through. A big hit of Bing Cherry, rich black raspberry and cocoa powder on the finish make this a truly enjoyable wine.


Pair it with mid-week grilled burgers, or weekend steaks. You can even drink it all by itself, I won't hold that against you. 😉

Price range: $14-$18

Last up, one of my favorite wines of all... the Dry Creek Zinfandel. I love the labels on this wine, you can not miss them on the shelf.

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The Dry Creek Zin tastes as good as it smells. Rich notes of blackberry and dark plums, cola and licorice tempt you, and lure you in. The palate reveals the same fruits, but mingled together in a delicious, full bodied, "jammy" wine. Do not mistake the term "jammy" for sweet. This is a dry, but fruity wine. It would easily pair with a rack of BBQ ribs, or you can match it up with grilled/smoked meats of all kinds.

Price range: $18-$23

I hope you have enjoyed this foray into Sonoma County wines. Keep an eye out for next week's wines from Napa Valley!

Cheers! 😎