The Sonoma Square is a peaceful place. I’m rarely in a hurry there and, aside from finding a weekend parking spot, the surroundings bode well for managing stress. In addition to the quaintness, the California history and fine restaurants like Cafe Le Haye, Girl and the Fig and El Dorado Kitchen, it’s about another treat described as “Pinot on the Square.” Within the next several weeks, I will feature local spots for tasting fine pinot noir and cool-climate chardonnay, each offering a private, stylish setting and hosts that are passionate about the wines and their story.
Our first stop is Sojourn Cellars on East Napa Street where I met with Director of Marketing Sherrie Perkovich. My initial introduction to Sojourn was in 2007 at an annual Pinotfest event in Pasadena and I have closely followed their releases since. This tasting would include a chardonnay from a noted vineyard, three pinot noir releases and a Napa cabernet sauvignon.
In the past month, I have tasted four chardonnay releases from the Durell Vineyard, all from separate wineries. It straddles the boundaries of the Sonoma Valley, Sonoma Coast and Carneros AVA’s and has been producing highly sought after juice for decades. The well-rated 2015 Sojourn Durell Vineyard Chardonnay Sonoma Coast ($48) is 100 percent Wente clone stock, pressed whole cluster with full malolactic fermentation, aged in forty percent new French oak and has the known qualities of low-yield vines. There is a restrained intensity in the bouquet with complex, layered stone fruit flavors and a soft “wet stone” finish.
Terroir defines the wines. It starts with the stock, then the dirt and the winemaker only comes in at the end. To that point, we tasted a flight of vineyard-designated pinot noir, each with distinctive qualities.
Located at the foot of the Petaluma Gap, the Rogers Creek Vineyard is, interestingly, the furthest east, but the coolest and last one harvested. The cool winds thicken the skins, the grapes struggle and the result is deep, more intense flavors. Using the Pommard clone, the 2016 Sojourn Rogers Creek Vineyard Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast ($48), younger than the others, had the most expressive aromas and flavors of the flight.
From a popular local Sonoma vineyard, the 2015 Sojourn Pinot Noir Sangiacomo Vineyard Sonoma Coast ($59) offered definitive pinot noir aromas and flavors with shades of spice. More earthy and textural than the Rogers Creek, the Sangiacomo experienced low yields in 2015, that enhanced its fruit flavors.
The earthiness and the savory side of the 2015 Sojourn Pinot Noir Reuling Vineyard Sonoma Coast ($69) made it the most distinctive wine we tasted. I enjoy many Sonoma Coast designated pinots but the name is deceiving in that the appellation extends to vineyards miles inland. The Reuling Vineyard is located between Forestville and Graton, adjacent to the northerly Russian River Valley. The stock is Calera clone and some so-called “suitcase clones” smuggled in from Burgundy.
With the Reuling, typical vanilla spice bouquet and cherry flavors defer to those more earthy and herbal. Head winemaker Eric Bradley is said to prefer unpretentious, natural wines and this release is a fine example.
Our last tasting reconfirmed my opinion that the 2015 Sojourn Cabernet Sauvignon Home Ranch Cuvée Sonoma Valley ($59), and previous vintages, is one of the best value cabs in the state. From a vineyard originally planted by Sojourn proprietor Craig Haserot in 2007, the flavors of the “Home Ranch” are intense, but balanced and smooth tannins surface throughout the finish. It has received numerous ratings in the low to mid-nineties.
For those with more discerning palates, Sojourn produces a few cases of high-end cabernet sauvignon from well-known Napa Valley vineyards including the 2014 Sojourn Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer Georges III Rutherford ($125), awarded 95-points by Robert Parker, the Wine Advocate.
Any wine tasting excursion on the Sonoma Square should include the little house on East Napa Street where Sojourn provides enlightened comparable tastings in a private setting, complete with Reidel stemware. As with other local wineries, there is a $35 tasting fee but your minds and palates will be broadened.
Lyle W. Norton is a wine enthusiast and blogger in Santa Rosa who has written a wine column for 15 years. Visit Lyle’s blog at www.lifebylyle.com or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.