The Beauty of Sonoma
THE POST HARVEST BOUNTY!
The Vineyards sit between fields of parallel grape vines extending out to the horizon! If you stand at one end you can see for a couple of miles, all in a straight line. A month or so ago the vines were burgeoning with fat, juicy grapes: now they are empty except for large, flat leaves that are gradually changing from green, to red, to tan then falling to carpet the lanes between in a soft layer. The vineyard is now quiet. No clatter of voices or collecting bins or motors, just silence.
Move a hundred yards or so to the Winery and all is bustling again. This is the 2014 Post Harvest Party held on a sunny weekend and open to hundreds of wine aficionados of all ages. A large white tent has been erected between the two-barrel storage sheds because of showers the day before and occasionally the wind blows a cataract of rain water from the canvas onto unsuspecting patrons below.
Under the tent are food stalls, but not just any food stalls! This party caters to the rich and influential of Sonoma: small portions of perfectly-cooked rib-eye steak on skewers; tiny tortillas filled with shredded pork and duck sauce; the thinnest-crust pizza with ham and persimmon; little tarts filled with marmalade and local cherry preserves; a wonderful soup that contains magical ingredients; mushroom risotto; and drinks: cucumber-flavored water and lemonade tinged with lavender! And then, there are the wines!
The whole point of the weekend is for patrons to taste this year’s bounty before the casks are sealed and put in storage. The shed has barrels stacked up to the ceiling from previous year’s harvests. On the ground below are several opened casks from 2014 with wines named Late Harvest Chardonnay, Syrah, and American Oak Chardonnay. In front of each cask stands a Roche employee standing over a barrel, siphoning up wine into glasses with a device called a Wine Thief. It gives just the right amount for a taste of the wine. Red wine splashes down on the top of the tilted casks, looking like blood from a grisly murder. Patrons gather round and sample the wines saying things like “I hear that 2010 was a good year” and “Last year’s Pinot had an earthier taste!”
This event isn’t just to sample the new wines but to promote “wine futures.” I had never heard of wine futures before. Basically, if a patron likes a certain wine they can prepay by the bottle or by the case, but they have to wait a year or two before the wines have matured. The wines at this winery range from $21 a bottle up to $27 (some wines from the Napa valley retail at $50-$100 a bottle.) A case of the 2014 wines can be purchased for between $260 and $330. I don’t drink, so I am instructed by my colleague to just say “No thanks” when the wine future’s representatives come by.
Despite the large amount of alcohol imbibed, everything and everyone is civil and the smiles get broader the more wine is drunk! Gradually, the patrons drift off to their cars and drive off – not a police car in sight – after all this is Sonoma and it is expected that everyone will be a little “tiddly” from the Post Harvest Party.
Editor’s Note: Angela brings Sonoma to life in this wonderful journey through its Vineyards and Post Harvest Party. You can almost taste the wine!