Most wine research confirms that the Millennials have been driving new growth in the US wine industry over the past 5 years. Research also suggests that they enjoy red wine and sweeter white wines. This latter fact proved to be true in an informal wine tasting experiment in Bus 305W this semester at Sonoma State University.
Forty-three Millennials tasted 6 white wines as part of our introductory tasting session this semester. The wines included chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, chenin blanc, riesling, gewürztraminer and muscat, and were tasted in order of increasing sugar.
At the conclusion of the tasting, before brands or prices were revealed, we took a class vote on first and second favorite wines of the evening. The clear favorite was the 2009 Chateau St. Michelle Riesling Columbia Valley ($8.99) with a residual sugar level of 1.85%. It had an inviting peach nose which followed through on the palate with a touch of lime and mineral. Excellent concentration, high acid, and medium to long finish; it would pair well with chicken dishes and salads.
The second favorite of the evening was the 2009 Fetzer Gewürztraminer California ($7.99) with a residual sugar level of 3.54%. This is a classic gewürztraminer with apricot and roses on the nose, honeysuckle and peach on the palate with a spicy finish. Medium-bodied with a medium-plus acid, it would pair well with Asian cuisines, or as great wine to sip as a cocktail.
Interestingly the much sweeter muscat from Argentina, which tasted of peach juice and delightful floral notes, did not score as highly. Likewise, the drier chenin blanc and chardonnay came in third and fourth, and the bone dry sauvignon blanc, with very high acid, was in last place.
Though not a scientific experiment with a sample of only 43 Millennials, it was interesting to see that the semi-sweet wines were preferred over the very dry and the very sweet.
When I arrived at SSU’s Winesense Tasting this week, I was surprised to see a note on the door saying “sold-out; no more seats available.” This was exciting because it was a testament to the wonderful wines that were served that evening from the Sonoma Coast Appellation.
Over 50 Millennials crowded the room to listen to winemakers Darrin Low of Flowers Vineyard and Paul Clary of Clary Ranch. Both wineries specialize in growing grapes that crave the cooler climates of the Sonoma Coast AVA. Flowers is situated near the Pacific Ocean and is famous for its pinot noirs and chardonnay, whereas Clary Ranch is located in the windy region of the Petaluma Gap and is known for its cool-climate syrah and pinot noir.
Another surprise of the evening is that there was a 4-way tie on first and second place wines. Since we only tasted 5 wines, this means there were four top favorites!
Flowers Winery from the Extreme Sonoma Coast
From Flowers, the Millennials really enjoyed the 2009 Flowers Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ($45) with its bright strawberry nose and very approachable ripe berry palate with silky tannins. The 2007 Flowers Andreen-Gale Chardonnay ($48) was equally popular with rich aromas of melon and brioche followed by lemon on the palate with a refreshing high acidity. (See http://flowerswinery.com/)
Clary Ranch Winery in the Petaluma Gap
Clary Ranch scored very high with its 2006 Clary Ranch Pinot Noir Grower’s Reserve ($40) which was a bigger pinot with a ripe cherry cola nose and complex earthy palate. The 2006 Clary Ranch Syrah Shazzam ($28) was amazing with blueberry and pepper notes, firm tannins, and complex gamey notes – very similar in style to a Northern Rhone. (See http://www.claryranch.com/index.php).
Innovative Food/Wine Matching – Chocolate Bacon with Lavendar
Inspired by the list of wines to be served, Chef Gianna was even more creative than usual in her food/wine pairings for the evening. For the chardonnay and lighter style pinot noirs, she created Salmon Mash Potatoes. This was followed by Pulled Pork with Merlot Sandwiches which paired very well with the bigger pinot noirs and cool-climate syrah. Dessert was probably the most innovative and fun concoctions I’ve ever tasted. She prepared five types of chocolate covered bacon: 1) with rosemary; 2) orange rind; 3) lavender (my favorite); 4) cayenne pepper; and 5) plain. All of these paired very well with the pinot noirs and the syrah.
This was truly a tasting NOT to missed – but you had to arrive early!
It’s hard to believe that there are more than 6,000 wineries in the US now. Of those, more than 50% are small family wineries crafting hand-made wines, contributing to our economy, and providing lovely vineyard landscapes to beautify America. Larson Family Winery, located in the Carneros and Sonoma Valley AVAs of Sonoma County, is one of these precious small family wineries.
Founded in the 1800’s, the winery only sells direct to consumers via their tasting room, wine club, and online wine shop (http://www.larsonfamilywinery.com/). They poured 5 wines for a sold-out crowd of more than 40 millennials at this week’s SSU WineSense Club tasting on campus.
The top favorites of the evening were the 2006 Larson Family Cabernet Sauvignon ($40) which flavor of black cherry, clove, and a hint of brown sugar. The second favorite was the 2008 Larson Family Late Harvest Gewürztraminer ($35), which is only made in special years and delights with sweet flavors of honey, spiced apricot and aromas of rose petals. The Cabernet was estate grown from property in Sonoma Valley, whereas the Gewürztraminer was from their Carneros vines. Though the wines were quite different in style, they reflect Millennials preference for both reds and sweet whites.
Chef Giana was especially creative with her wine pairings for the evening. She crafted Killer Macaroni N Cheese to go with the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, Beef with a Peppercorn Cream Sauce to highlight the Cabernet Sauvignon, and Thai Peanut Shanghai Noodles as a unique accent to the Gewürztraminer.