In our first adventure of 2018, the Wine Pairing Weekend group (#WinePW) heads to Sonoma County. Our goal is to shine a spotlight on the men and women who drive the wine economy in this part of California wine country; to remind the world that, despite the fires that dominated national headlines last fall, Sonoma is indeed open for business. (Jill from L’occasion is our host this month, and you can read her invitation post here.)
While the fires raged, I watched the news with trepidation, desperately hoping that the wine community would prevail, and feeling powerless to do anything of consequence to help. I imagine many of you felt the same way. Working through our personal networks, our #WinePW blogging group has curated a list of organizations dedicated to restoring a sense of normalcy to those who’ve suffered. For those who still wish to contribute, I’ve included links to a few of them further down in my post, along with links to the posts from each of this month’s participating bloggers.
That said, the most important thing any of us can do to support the rebuilding efforts is to make plans to visit. Tales of vineyard destruction have been sensationalized and widely exaggerated, resulting in a decrease in tourism – exactly what the region does not need! If you’ve scheduled a trip, don’t cancel it. And if you’re contemplating your next vacation, why not consider Sonoma County? Wineries, hotels, and restaurants are ready and waiting to serve you.
Geyser Peak Winery
For this month’s event, members of the #WinePW group were honored to receive samples from local Sonoma favorite, Geyser Peak Winery. Founded in 1880 by Augustus Quitzow, Geyser Peak takes its name from the nearby geothermal area where fumaroles (cracks in the earth’s surface) allow steam and condensed gases to escape into the atmosphere, creating billowing clouds of steam.
First discovered in the 1840s, The Geysers (as the area became known) drew tourists and adventure-seekers curious about the natural phenomenon. That spurred the building of a spa and hotel called The Geyser Resort (photo) which remained open, despite fires and landslides, until 1979.
In establishing his winery atop these geothermal beds that are thousands of years old, Quitzow availed himself of the unique mineral component of the local soils. Wines made here boast a distinctive saline profile that provides an elegant counterbalance to the fruit.
2016 Geyser Peak River Ranches Russian River Valley Sauvignon Blanc (13.5% abv; $22 SRP)
According to winemaker Ondine Chattan, the 2016 vintage was “almost too perfect,” offering ideal growing conditions for the grapes. Combine that with the highly favorable location of the vineyards – a place where bright sunlight is tempered by cooling fog, and sea breezes are modified by a neighboring apple orchard – and you’ve got a recipe for perfect Sauvignon Blanc. Cool climate Sauvignon Blanc, that is.
I know many folks adore Sauvignon Blanc, no matter where it comes from. Not me. In fact, I tend to steer clear of it, opting instead for a glass of almost anything else. But every once in a while, I take a sip of one that’s truly remarkable, a wine that makes me rethink my position on the variety. Those wines usually hail from the Loire Valley in France; but sometimes, as with this wine, they’re made right here in the U.S. of A.
Color: Medium lemon-green, fading to clear at the rim.
Nose: A swirl of lemon-lime and soft grass, the way I imagine a citrus grove would probably smell. A hint of sea salt and wet rocks really gets my attention.
Taste: Citrus zest, gooseberry, and passionfruit wake up my palate without overwhelming it. There’s a slight green-herbal note I didn’t detect on the nose, which complements the fruit nicely. Crisp acidity, medium weight. A wonderful sipper, as well as a great accompaniment to fresh seafood.
Roasted Halibut with Grapefruit-Fennel Salsa
This recipe has been in my rotation for a few years now, probably because it’s easy to make and it makes an impression on the dinner table. Oh, and it tastes great! It’s from Giada DeLaurentiis and you can get the details here.
I thought it was a winner with the Geyser Peak Sauvignon Blanc. For me, the flavors really clicked, especially the herbal undertones in the wine and the fennel in the salsa. The fruit and olives in the salsa brought out the zesty, tangy notes in the wine and served to cut through the richness of the fish.
Another Simple Pairing – Geyser Peak Cabernet Sauvignon and Grilled Steak
My husband and I turned a Thursday-night dinner into a special occasion without committing a ton of energy or time to it. Our recipe? A simple grilled steak, an arugula salad, and a bottle of Sonoma Cab. I won’t tell you how to grill your steak or how to dress your salad, but I will share some details on this enjoyable wine!
2014 Geyser Peak Walking Tree Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (14.2% abv; $30 SRP)
Grapes for this wine come from the Benchland Vineyards, a perennial favorite for crafting full-bodied red wines boasting ripe fruit flavors, notes of spice, and an element of earth. The Walking Tree Cab includes 8% Syrah, which lends some heft and pepper to the blend. After full malolactic fermentation, the wine spends 21 months in small French oak barrels toasted to medium-plus or custom levels.
Color: Deep purple, all the way to the edge.
Nose: Blackberry, black currants, and ink, followed by cocoa powder and either mint or eucalyptus, I can’t decide.
Taste: Ripe black fruit, black pepper, grilled meat, and mocha flavors leave a full impression. Medium acidity keeps it all in check. This wine is balanced, with a complex flavor profile that lends itself perfectly to herb-grilled rib-eye steak.
How You Can Help the Rebuilding Efforts
As I promised at the head of this article, here are two suggestions for anyone who wants to contribute to rebuilding efforts in Sonoma:
- The Redwood Empire Food Bank would love to have your help. You can donate money, food, or a few hours of your time. REFB is Sonoma County’s largest hunger-relief organization, serving 82,000 individuals and families. Visit their website here.
- The Humane Society of Sonoma County has compiled a wish list of products to help them care for displaced pets. Here’s a link to the Amazon page, where you can find all the details. Or, if you prefer to make a cash donation or can spare some time to volunteer, click here.
What’s Happening This Saturday, January 13th
The #WinePW crew meets (virtually) the second Saturday of each month on Twitter, following the aforementioned hashtag. We get started at 11 am ET and will be sharing our best food pairings for Sonoma County wines. Join us! We’re always eager to welcome new friends into the fold. Hope to see you there!
Here’s a preview of what we’re all bringing to the #WinePW table this month:
Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla dazzles with Za’atar-Crusted Rib-Eyes with 2014 Geyser Peak Walking Tree Cab.
Ellen from Family Around the Table tempts with a pairing for Rosemary Roasted Cornish Hens
Gwen from Wine Predator asks readers to Be #SonomaStrong: Drink Wine! Here’s Why and 5 to Try #WinePW
Lori from Dracaena Wines gets into the spirit with #WinePW Shows We Are #SonomaStrong
Jeff from FoodWineClick! celebrates with #SonomaStrong with Two Shepherds and Roast Chicken à la Alice Waters
Cindy from GrapeExperiences asks readers to Taste Sonoma – Wines from Kunde Family Winery (and recipes for pairing)
Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm is Celebrating Sonoma #WinePW #SonomaStrong
Nicole from Somm’s Table shows us Cooking to the Wine: Covenant Neshama Sonoma County with Smoky Beef Goulash
David from Cooking Chat makes a pairing of Shrimp Pesto Pasta & #SonomaStrong Wine for #WinePW
Nancy from Pull That Cork shares her #SonomaStrong Pairing: Jordan Chardonnay and Jalapeño Popper Dip #winePW
Jane from Always Ravenous has prepared Mexican Shrimp Cocktail Paired with Geyser Peak Sauvignon Blanc #SonomaStrong #WinePW
Jill from L’Occasion inspires us to Eat & Drink Local in Sonoma: Ramini Mozzarella and Balletto Vineyards
Here at The Swirling Dervish we’re sharing #WinePW Celebrates #SonomaStrong: Roasted Halibut with Grapefruit-Fennel Salsa and Geyser Peak Sauvignon Blanc