The cool Sonoma Coast brings complexity to a new level

A Beautiful Fall Day

Fitting that our last post for 2012 is a write up of our last excursion into the Northern California wine region. This trip found us traveling to the beautiful Sonoma Coast on a picture perfect fall day.

This past November, one of our favorite Sonoma Coast producers Radio-Coteau had their fall open house. The weather was so nice, we decided to make a day of it and try some of the food and wine of the region.

The Sonoma Coast AVA was established in 1987 and encompasses over 500,000 acres mostly along the coast although the boundary does run to points east of Highway 101 including the Lakeville region. Many consider points East of 101 to be inferior to what they call the “real” Sonoma Coast and there has been movement to create a Lakeville AVA that will contain this portion of the current AVA.

sonoma-coast ava map

The cool climate and high yearly rainfall make this a perfect place for growing Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Syrah. These varietals, in the hands of the many talented wine makers that make this AVA home, show amazing complexity and have quickly become a favorite here at DdV. First up, our favorite SC producer Radio-Coteau.

Radio-Coteau Open House

Twice a year, Radio-Coteau holds an open house to showcase their wines and allow folks on the allocation list to pick up their orders rather than braving the rigors of shipping. It’s also a great chance to speak with the people responsible for making what has quickly become our favorite Pinots. Radio-Coteau produces wines from both their own and a secondary label County Line. The County Line offerings are generally blends rather than single vineyard and while outstanding in their own right, not of same caliber as those of the Radio-Coteau label. Here’s a tip for every tasting event. Get there right when it opens! Less lines and more time to speak to the folks from the winery! The tasting started off with the County Line wines so we’ll start there:

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County Line 2012 Rosé (pre-release barrel sample)

NOTE: Not yet released so no score or pricing until Spring 2013

This is among our very favorite Rosé wines and it was a real treat to try a barrel sample before it hits the bottle. Winemaker Eric Sussman put this under the County Line label so that people would not automatically assume it was produced via Saignée from one of their Pinots. This is not a Saignée by-product but 100% Champagne clone Pinot Noir. It is truly fantastic. Lush grapefruit and floral notes on the nose lead to plenty of grapefruit and bright berry on the mid. Finish is bone dry. The color is still plenty cloudy at this stage of development but promises to be yet another standout as past vintages have been.

County Line 2011 Chardonnay

DdV: 90
WS: n/a
WE: n/a
Price: $25.00
Blend: 100% Chardonnay
Source: Savoy Vineyard, Russian River Valley – Sonoma

One of our favorite Chardonnays is the Radio-Coteau Savoy Vineyard! This was the first Chard that brought the Sonoma Coast to our consciousness as a great Chardonnay region. Alas the 2011 vintage did not produce enough quality grapes to make an RC Savoy bottling so it was produced under the County Line label. That said, this is still a very nice wine. 100% stainless (no oak) aging has produced a slightly sweeter offering than the standard Savoy Chard. Ripe citrus and honey on the nose lead to a charmingly balanced array of lemon, lime, and a small hit of apricot on the mid. Finish is a touch sweet but still refreshing. At half the price of the RC label Chard, you can also put this one firmly in the value section. Highly recommended.

County Line 2011 Pinot Noir

DdV: 91
WS: n/a
WE: n/a
Price: $25.00
Blend: 100% Pinot Noir
Source: Various – Sonoma Coast

This is the lightest Pinot of all the Radio-Coteau line and very food friendly as well as a fantastic value. Aged for 10 months in neutral oak. On the nose, bright raspberry and floral perfume abound leads to bright strawberry and hints of plum on the mid. Finish is clean and moderately long. A very delicious sipper that pairs wonderfully with grilled or braised meats and is even a nice call for deserts such as cheesecake.

Radio-Coteau 2010 Dirke Pinot Noir

DdV: 95
WS: n/a
WE: n/a
Price: $56.00
Blend: 100% Pinot Noir
Source: Dierke Vineyard – Sonoma Coast

A brilliant magnificent wine! This, in terms of body, fall in between the La Nablina and Savoy Pinots. A big fruit forward effort with tight tannins that will ensure it ages gracefully. On the nose, dark raspberry, spice and floral notes await. On the mid more dark raspberry, plum, and hints of dark strawberry. Finishes very long with hints of spice and a nice minerality. This is so big now it would be best to hold a year or so and has aging potential of at least 8-10 years. If you must have it now, decant for about an hour to let it open up.

Radio-Coteau 2006 Terra Neuma Pinot Noir

DdV: 95
WS: n/a
WE: n/a
Price: $70.00
Blend: 100% Pinot Noir
Source: Terra Neuma Vineyard – Bodega, Sonoma Coast

This wine is sourced from their western most vineyard very close to the ocean. The 2006 is a library selection they poured to show how well these Pinots age. At 6 years after release, this wine is a perfect example of a wine gaining complexity as it sits. On the nose dark blackberry, currant, and herbal spice lead to big dark blueberry, strawberry, and black cherry. Finish is long and refined. Tremendous!

Radio-Coteau 2010 Dusty Lane Syrah

DdV: 94
WS: n/a
WE: n/a
Price: $50.00
Blend: 100% Syrah
Source: Dierke’s Vineyard – Sonoma Coast

A claret like Syrah that is wonderfully complex and rich. Dark blackberry, cherry, cassis and jerky beef greet on the nose. Big bold fruit including plum and blackberry round out the mid with a long brambly finish of spice and more big fruit. One of the best Syrah efforts this vintage! A definite cellar selection and will age for at least 10 years.

Radio-Coteau 2009 Cherry Camp Syrah

DdV: 95
WS: n/a
WE: n/a
Price: $25.00
Blend: 100% Pinot Noir
Source: Ridge above the Freestone Valley – Sonoma Coast

A stunning Syrah and our favorite of this vintage! Like its name, dark cherry, blueberry, red raspberry, chocolate, and white pepper greet on the nose. This mid is filled with dark cherry, huckleberry and red raspberry. Silky luxurious mouth feel and near perfect balance. Finish is long and luxurious with hints of leather and white pepper. Another cellar selection that will age for at least 10 years. Decant if having now.

Radio-Coteau 2006 Von Weidlich Zinfandel

DdV: 93
WS: n/a
WE: n/a
Price: $??
Blend: 100% Zinfandel
Source: Sonoma Coast

Sourced from old vines, this is a claret like Zin for its complexity. Big fruit but delicate and refined. Plenty of bold strawberry and dark berry with a subtle finish of black pepper. A wonderful clever Zin. Decant.

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Summary

Radio-Coteau is truly an amazing winery. The people who work there are as passionate as wine maker and proprietor Eric Sussman. You can find them at fine restaurants and some shops but we highly recommend getting on their allocation list. We’re on a million but always buy plenty each vintage. It’s that impressive!

More Info: http://www.radiocoteau.com/

Off To Lunch

barley_hops

After our amazing tasting experience, we headed down to the town of Occidental and hit the Barley and Hops Tavern. What better way to cleanse the palate than with a tasty burger and a craft beer.

Barley and Hops Tavern

Located in an old house, this quaint comfort food and beer joint did not disappoint. The beer list is wonderful both on tap and by the bottle. Tap beers include the standard Guiness (yum!) and all-star local beers from Laguanitas Brewery, and Russian River Brewing Co. Yes, kids, they do have Pliny The Elder on tap! The bottled beer offerings are staggering. All are here including easy drinkers like the Eel River Cali. Blonde Ale, big beers like Moylan’s Kilt Lifter, and craft favorites such as Bear Republic’s Racer 5.

Service is excellent and had us enjoying our beverages in fine fashion. We all got burgers that were served on artisan style herbed-onion buns with sides of golden fries and homemade pickle chips. The burgers were perfectly cooked but (and this is nitpicking) were a tad small in shape for the buns. That aside, it was a tasty meal. Will definitely be back next time we’re in the area.

Price: B
Service: A
Food: B+
Beer List Variety/Quality: A
Beer Pricing: A
More info: http://barleyandhops.happytables.com/

Next Stop, Freestone!

jphelpsfreestoneJoseph Phelps Freestone Vineyards

As our readers know, we love us some Joseph Phelps. We always considered them as premium Cab producers but were simply astounded at the quality of their Chard and Pinot at the Insignia Release Party last spring (not to forget the Syrah, Sauv. Blanc, and Viognier). With that in mind, we ventured to Freestone to have another try at their wonderful Sonoma Coast wines.

Joseph Phelps 2010 Freestone Vineyard Fog Dog Chardonnay

DdV: 91
WS: n/a
WE: n/a
Price: $35.00
Blend: 100% Chardonnay
Source: Dutton Ranch Mill Station Vineyard (67%) and the Freestone estate vineyards (33%) – Sonoma Coast

The Phelps Fog Dog line, like Radio-Coteau’s County Line are primarily blends from various vineyards and are not quite as pedigreed as those from the Freestone label. Like the County Line offerings, these are still quite wonderful. This Chard is an impressive easy drinker and is a nice value for the level of quality. On the nose a hint of clove, lemongrass, and minerals are present. The mid consists of bright pear and green apple with a nice touch of sweet vanilla on the finish.

Joseph Phelps 2010 Freestone Vineyard Chardonnay

DdV: 94
WS: n/a
WE: n/a
Price: $55.00
Blend: 100% Chardonnay
Source: 100% Estate Freestone Vineyard – Sonoma Coast

This isn’t the Fog Dog but the Big Dog in the Chard line from Joseph Phelps! A truly fantastic Chard that rivals any from this vintage. The grapes were hand picked in the early morning hours and only the best of the best were used to make the wine. It shows. Brilliant honeysuckle, citrus, vanilla and crisp apple on the nose elegantly give way to succulent lime, lemon, vanilla, and subtle hints of caramel finishing with a nice refined mineral spritz. Exceptional balance. This wine will age and gain nuance in the cellar for up to 6 or more years. A new favorite!

Joseph Phelps 2009 Freestone Vineyard Fog Dog Pinot Noir

DdV: 91
WS: n/a
WE: n/a
Price: $35.00
Blend: 100% Pinot Noir
Source: Pastorale, Quarter Moon and Ferguson Vineyards – Sonoma Coast

This is a nice light easy sipping Pinot. On the nose, light cherry, strawberry and hints of earthy mushrooms give way to bright cherry and strawberry with hints of taglio. Finishes nice and bright with a small note of mineral. Great value and a great choice for pairing with starters or just every day sipping.

Joseph Phelps 2009 Freestone Vineyard Pinot Noir

DdV: 95
WS: n/a
WE: n/a
Price: $55.00
Blend: 100% Pinot Noir
Source: 53% Pastorale Vineyard, 47% Quarter Moon Vineyard – Freestone – Sonoma Coast

A classic Pinot this vintage. Complex aromas of spices, taglio, dark cherry, and cassis give way to opulent plum, dark cherry and dark raspberry. Finishes very long with hints of earth, minerals, and cherry. Near perfect balance. The mouth feel is nothing short of pure luxury. Tannins are more than tight enough to cellar for years and gain nuance. Exceptional and very highly recommended.

Summary
jphfree2
As we entered we were warmly greeted and led to a very comfortable tasting room with a large table to accommodate our party. As we mentioned at the Insignia Release Party, their staff is the best in the business. Knowledge and passion for their wines was top of the line and we truly felt comfortable asking questions and learning about their wines. This is an appointment required experience that requires no appointment (really no appointment required!)

If you’re looking to explore the Sonoma Coast, start right here!

Facilities: A
Hospitality: A+
Wine Quality: A+
Education: A
Overall Tasting Experience: A+

For more info: http://www.josephphelps.com/

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