Personally, I didn’t need any more evidence that Sonoma generally has its mojo working and is making some of the best wines ever to come out of the region. But I got a thoroughly inundating reminder of that when I visited the second (2016) incarnation of the Sonoma County Barrel Auction as a media guest this past April (and yes, I’m just getting around to writing about it now).
Auction-wise, it seems to me t hat most of the initial kinks have been worked out; the event was entertaining, and the group of MSs and MWs (several of which I’m happy to call friends… which shows you just how crazy the wine biz really is… Doug, I owe you for sharing your liquor, buddy!) that they brought in to the vet the one-of-a-kind entries did a stellar job in teasing out the region’s best.
I suppose that the SoCoBA is the Sonoma counterpoint to Premiere Napa Valley. And in many ways, it compares favorably to PNV, though it does so in Sonoma’s more down-home, farmer-centric style. In my view, there were so many excellent wines on offer over the two days of tastings held at the event, that I’m going to have to keep the descriptions short-and-sweet. Hopefully these highlights will clue you in on a producer or two (or four) that hadn’t been on your California wine radar, but probably ought to be.
And, yeah, it’s mostly Pinot (get over it), but there are a handful of nice surprises in here…
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One of the wine world’s more interesting artifacts was found quite by accident. Off the shoreline of humble little Lewes, Delaware. Man, it feels really odd to write that.
I’m fortunate enough to be able to take an annual trek south to the Lewes area, courtesy of some of Earth’s Greatest Neighbors, who allow me to haul some of my family to their condo there during the Summer months. And it’s there (in Lewes, not in the condo) that said small but über-geeky wine artifact is on display, at the charming Zwaanendael Museum.
Suggestive shot from my visit to Constantia in 2013
Zwaanendae’s focus is not wine, of course; it’s primarily the history of an ill-fated Dutch settlement, Swanendael, one of the first to such settlements to touch North American shores back in 1631 (they gave up on the spot not too much later, as the Native American population didn’t exactly receive the Dutch trespassers with open arms). Fortunately for us, it also focuses on displaying artifacts from nearby shipwrecks.
In 2004, dredging in the Roosevelt Inlet unearthed (and, ok, probably more or less destroyed) a shipwreck of a British merchant vessel loaded with international cargo bound for the then-colony of Philadelphia (the ship was almost undoubtedly British, given that it contained cargo from China, Europe, and South Africa, and all such legal commerce bound for the colonies had to go through Britain at the time).
Among the (literal) tidbits found from that wreck was a bottle fragment bearing the inscription “Constantia Wyn;” in other words, a seal of wine from South Africa’s Groot Constantia. As it turns out, the oldest such seal yet discovered…
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