Two of the “Grand Cru” Wineries of Sonoma County Pour at SSU

IMG_6217Though Sonoma County doesn’t technically have any “grand cru” wineries, it does have some very well established wine estates with stellar reputations for producing award winning cabernet sauvignons from Alexander Valley.  At the last SSU Winesense Club tasting of the year, we were graced by two such wineries — Jordan and Silver Oak, both established in 1972.  Indeed, these two legendary wineries have so much brand power, that students waited in line to get into the tasting, and some were turned away when the room maxed out at 50 people.


Silver Oak Rocks

IMG_6208Silver Oak winery was represented by Romana Behrens and Veronica Jauregui (an SSU grad!) who poured the 2008 Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon to rave reviews (one of the top favorites of the evening), as well as two wines from Twomey – the pre-release of 2012 Twomey Sauvignon Blanc (they sold out of it last year immediately) and the 2010 Twomey Merlot.  The merlot was nice, but the floral sauvignon blanc with hints of grass, grapefruit and honey stole the affections of the crowd, and was voted in at number one wine of the evening.

Jordan Sings

IMG_6209Jordan Winery was represented by Sean Brosnihan and Joseph Lozinto Jr (an SSU Wine MBA grad!).  They poured the 2010 Jordan Chardonnay, which reminded me of how incredibly good Sonoma County chardonnay can be.  This wine was exquisitely crafted with a touch of creamy ML and toasted oak, and loads of crisp apple notes, minerality, and a refreshing acidity.  They compared it to a Meursault, and I would have to agree.  Yum!  The 2009 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon reminded me of a Pessac Leognan with plush tannins, complex cassis and earth notes, and classic elegance.  It wasn’t your typical powerful and tannic Alexander Valley, but a much more approachable version, that I believe spoke to the 2009 weather conditions.  It was also one of the top favorites of the evening.

Cheers to the SSU Winesense Board

The complete SSU Winesense Board of Directors showed up in full force this evening, lead by president, Chelsa Robinson.  In celebration of the last tasting of the semester, they provided free wine glasses filled with candies, as well as next semester’s tasting dates.  Free T-shirts were handed out, and two lucky students were awarded prizes for answering questions about Silver Oak and Jordan correctly.  The tasting was supplemented by wonderful food treats of cheeses, salami, crackers, and desserts.  A very nice way to end the Spring semester of 2013.

Golf and the Joy of Surprise Wine by the Glass Lists

Light HouseOne of the items on my husband’s bucket list is to play golf on Hilton Head Island, so when I was able to get a good deal on a weekly condo rental there recently, we jetted off to the South Carolina island covered with long white sandy beaches, swaying palms, pink azaleas, and oak trees dripping with lacy moss.

He was happy because he was finally able to play Harbour Town golf course with the famous red and white lighthouse on the 18th hole.  He also enjoyed the challenge of Sea Pines Ocean course, Palmetto Dunes and Shipyard.  I was pleasantly pleased because I stumbled across some wine by the glass lists with unique wine choices, while also managing to get in a little golf and take an excellent short game clinic with Doug Weaver at Palmetto Dunes.

The Ennui of Wine by the Glass Selections – or Not? 

In general, I find many wine by the glass lists rather boring in that they carry the same major brands, although I do recognize that many consumers are seeking the comfort of a familiar wine, and that restaurants want the reassurance of solid cash flow.  Therefore I was quite surprised to find buried within the KJ Chardonnays, Beringer White Zins, Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blancs, Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon, and Apothic Red Blends, a few unique gems.

The first surprise was at the Topside Waterfront Restaurant where we found a Picpoul (white grape from the South of France with a zippy lemony edge) and a Chapoutier Grenache Blanc and Clairette blend on the extensive wine by the glass list – both for under $10.  When I asked to see the complete wine list by the bottle, I found it was the same as the by the glass list, but with the prices inflated by four.  Therefore it made no sense to buy a bottle, so instead we opted for 4 different glasses.

Pink HouseThe next day in Savannah when dining at the famous Old Pink House, we were quite surprised to find a Godello on the wine by the glass list.  This is a white wine from Spain that is rarely found in the US.  It was crisp with sharp acid, grapefruit notes, and a mineral edge.   They also carried a Lioco unoaked chardonnay, which is a tiny artistic winery in Sonoma that most people have never heard of – including me, and I’m from Sonoma!

Probably one of the best culinary experiences we had was at a restaurant that I didn’t want to enter because it looked like a nightclub with a dark interior, red lights, and bar stools at high tables.  However, we had been told that Daniel’s at Coligny Beach on Hilton Head featured a creative chef with artistic large tapa plates like the angry lobster, lamb lollipops, and tableside hummus preparation.  The wine by the glass list was equally innovative with several flights served in a tiered candelabra presentation (see photo), as well as Naked “natural” wine from Snoqualmie Washington and two unique styled malbecs from Argentina.  Equally intriguing about Daniel’s were their homemade liquors, such as vodka with Skittles, peach and bacon soaked bourbon, and many other unusual concoctions.

Extensive Wine by the Glass Selections – But Had to Request Wine List

Glass flightOne interesting observation at all three of these higher-end restaurants is that none of them brought the complete wine list with bottle prices to the table with the menus.  Instead they featured extensive wine by the glass lists inside the food menu.  Perhaps this is a custom in this part of the country.  I’m not sure what the explanation is, but I did notice that a lot of people were drinking wine in Georgia and South Carolina – a good sign for American culture because as Thomas Jefferson said, “No nation is drunken where wine is cheap; and none sober, where the dearness of wine substitutes ardent spirits as the common beverage. It is, in truth, the only antidote to the bane of whiskey.”