Dry Creek Valley Passport Weekend   2 comments


View of Lake Sonoma from the Vineyards at D.H. Gustafson

The Set up: Dry Creek Valley Passport Weekend: 46 of DCV’s wineries poured their wines with food pairings and entertainment for 5 ½ hours this Saturday and Sunday.  This is the third year that Ms. R and I have made the pilgrimage. 

Saturday April 30, 2011:   

Kokomo Winery.  Winemaker, Erik Miller and best friend-Assistant Winemaker, Josh Bartels, have begun carving a path to exceptional wines.  Recently, his 2008 Peter’s Vineyard Pinot Noir garnered a 93 rating from the Wine Enthusiast.  Here’s what I like about Erik: he could sit back and repeat the formula that yielded that rating.  This he refuses to do—being in operation since 2004—he recognizes that there’s still a lot of learning to do.  Here’s another reason to like Erik: he cares to hear the positive and negative feedback about his wines.  Early on I made a negative comment about his 2006 Malbec: lack of presence, overpriced, etc.  He called me to try to make good on it by offering a bottle of something else—45 minutes into the conversation, I knew that he was the kind of winemaker I want to follow.  I never accepted a replacement for that “bad” bottle and when I opened a second bottle of the 2006 Malbec from the same vintage last year, I have to admit that I was impressed.  It had settled down: I guess it just needed a little more time.  This is why I continue to go along for the ride.  This Indiana raised surfer dude knows his juice and he’s works hard to get the best from it while letting the grapes speak for themselves.  You want artisanal?  Go to Kokomo.  You want predictable, then buy Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio or better yet Coca Cola.

So enough of the history lesson.  What about the Kokomo wines today? 

2010 Grenache Rosé: Now this may not be the greatest Rosé ever, but with its floral components combined with hints of strawberry, etc., etc., here’s the bottom line: if a woman could Jizz in Her Pants over a wine, then this would be the one for Ms. R.  Rated ** but she would say that I’m being reserved with this review.  Ok—any wine that can spark a great evening deserves another half point just for the Jizz factor.  Re-rated ** 1/2  

2008 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, Peter’s Vineyard Winemakers Reserve: This one keeps getting better and better each year.  I think that Erik’s partnership with Randy Peters is providing him access to great fruit and it shows.  The acid is pronounced but not overwhelming.  Typical for Kokomo—but the red fruits shine through along with other flavors and aromas.  A few years in the bottle and I will be the one doing the jizzing!  Rated ***

2008 DCV Zinfandel, Timber Crest Vineyard Winemakers Reserve: Nice cherry flavors combine with an herbal component that is reminiscent of eucalyptus with an herbal overlay (thyme?).  I confess, I liked this better at the winery than I did at home in Connecticut a few days after receiving a recent shipment.  Given the Malbec experience, I’m thinking that the stress of shipment must be affecting the wines when they travel cross country (a topic for another post), so I’m going to let this these rest longer before pulling corks.  Still, I don’t find this to be as strong as the Mounts Zinfandel that Erik puts out as well.  That’s the one I am looking forward to drinking.  Rated ** ½

Talty Vineyards and WineryA nice selection of Zins for all tastes.  Ms. R and I completely disagreed on our favorites.  We did agree on two things though: first that the Cherry Chipotle Lamb Taco went with every wine we tasted; second that we would have been happy to drink our least favorite of the Talty wines with each other.  We will visit again next year.

Martorana Family Winery.  Each time we visit Martorana we come away with two impressions.  First, the property appears to be situated in a warmer micro-climate than some of the other DCV wineries.  Second, the Italian hospitality can’t be beat—endless servings of brick oven pizza.  This year, we came away with a third impression: during our first two trips, the wines seemed over-priced given the quality.  Not that they were bad, but they did not seem on par with their neighbors’ wines from a value perspective.  This year we found what appeared to be better value especially in the chardonnay and merlot releases.  Two standouts: the estate 2009 Chardonnay and 2005 Merlot.  Both rated ** ½

Dutcher Crossing.  But it wasn’t ALL GOOD– what fun would that be.  The disappointment of the day was at the Dutcher Crossing Vineyards and Winery.  This is one of those places that other people seem to like—perhaps it is because they have been around for a while and have an established brand.  However, the winery has been under new ownership since March 2007 and the wines that I tasted back in 2009 and again this year did not impress.  Food pairings—if you can call it that—were insipid and uninspired.  How about a flavorless coconut shrimp or this: some sort of fruit on cream cheese spread on a piece of stale bread.  Are you kidding me?  Naaaaassty!  Unimpressive pedestrian wines, uninspired food, and need I say more?  Somebody please explain to me what I’m missing here.  Then again, never mind.  I will revisit them in a few years time to see if they have figured it out.

Wilson Family Winery.  The end of Day 1.  Picture if you will this recipe.  A good blues band driving the party bus.  Add grilled tri-tip.  Toss in some free-form stumbling-bumbling that some people thought passed for dancing.  Put in a crowd of 200+ people who have been adequately marinated at other wineries  who have shown up to consume copious amounts of the highly extracted, high alcohol Wilson wines.  Imagine, an awesome Sunday morning hangover.  Imagine 200+ Sunday morning hangovers!  We could be in Australia—also known for bad dancing, strong wines and horrific hangovers.  But no, we were at the after-Passport party at Wilson Family wineries.  Passport ends at most wineries at around 4:30.  This is not Wilson’s philosophy.  As a former Wilson Wine Club member, I can say that they do have some nice wines, but the real draw for me these days is the great people-watching on the deck overlooking the Wilson vineyards. 

Sunday May 1, 2011:

Kachina Vineyards.  We survived the Wilson test and awoke on Sunday morning sans hangovers.  After a suitably large breakfast (the most important meal of the day on Passport weekend), we headed out and found ourselves at Kachina Vineyards.  Friendly, family owned and small.  They are worth watching.  Of particular note:

2009 Russian River Chardonnay:  Can you say “ohr-GAH-hom!”  This wine was matched beautifully with a simple poached shrimp on a salted tortilla chip with…was that a mango sliver and a cilantro dressing?  Can you say the word “orgasm” with a mouth full of this pairing?  There is no need to try, but you know Ms. R can!  Rated ** ½ add another ½ for the pairing if you must.  But I’ll stick with a rating of ** 1/2

2009 Charbono (this is not the time for a cheap Sonny & Cher crack) is a varietal otherwise known as bonarda.  Typically, this is a blending grape, but here, it produces a strongly colored wine that exhibits surprisingly approachable fruit without the expected tannins that normally accompany a wine that looks like this.  Rated **

2005 Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel Port: nice ruby color with an elegant mouth-coating of plum-like fruit balanced by good acidic structure.  Even Ms. R, a person who despises dessert wines, liked this one.  Perhaps it was the chocolate truffle pairing.  Go ahead, say it– ohr-GAH-hom!  Rated ***

Michel-Schlumberger.  We’re fans—period.  Most interesting wine poured was a 1991 (not a misprint) cabernet sauvignon.  It seemed to be little bit past its prime at 20 years.  But made for interesting drink.  Most creative dish was the popcorn flavored ice cream drizzled with olive oil and with a sprinkle of sea salt.  Sounds bizarre, I know, but trust us it was the most memorable, unusual and delicious thing we had to eat.   Oh yes, they also served those Pinot Blanc sno-cones.  Whoa.

D.H. Gustafson Family Vineyards.  Surprise of the weekend!  For our money and our preferences, these guys can’t seem to make any bad wines.  Why did it take us so long to get there?  Because, literally, it took us a long time to get there—this winery is tucked away on Skaggs Spring Road which is a 10-15 minute drive from the nearest DCV winery on Dry Creek Road.  Ms. R, who served as chauffeur for most of the weekend, bitched and moaned the whole way there.  Thankfully the wines made her shut her mouth.  Oh look, another Rosé made it to our favorites list:

2010 Estate Rosé of Syrah.  This one reminded me of some of the Burgundian Rosés I’ve had in the past.  This baby qualifies for the LPR award (Liquid Pants Remover)!  Ms. R agrees.  Rated ** ½

As for the other Gustafson wines, I hope that we are not wrong in our assessment.  Since I have ordered some, I will find out soon enough!

Cheers y Salud!

Posted May 6, 2011 by Sybarite Sauvage in Food-Wine-Love

2 responses to “Dry Creek Valley Passport Weekend

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  1. Dear Sybarite Sauvage, I admire your leadership in creating information on this topic!

    • Hey, I’m always willing to lead if there’s a great party at the destination. If you like that, check out today’s review of DCV’s own Wilson Family Winery Diane’s Reserve Zinfandel 2006.

      And definitely make the tri-tip!

      Thanks for the support, Ron!

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