An Evening in Sonoma

I wish! But almost as good, an evening with wines from Sonoma at Gaston.

Last week, Gaston wine-bar had a theme week. Every evening that week they had wines from a different wine-region together with food pairings. We were not able to make it for more than one night, so we picked one of our favorite wine-regions: Sonoma. Why a favorite? Well because we have a Pinot Noir lover in the house, that’s why! We did a trip a few years back to neighboring Napa Valley, and soon realized that we were around 50 miles off. Its not that we are not fond of the powerful CABs (Cabernet Sauvignon) or Chardonnays, well maybe not Chardonnay, but Pinot Noir is something my husband (from now on known as M) really loves. I promise you, Sideways has nothing to do with this! So we did not make as many new finds as we expected to. However, we have plans to go back. And Sonoma-Night at the local favorite (favorite wine-bar I mean) was a good way for us to do some research.

Gaston is a very warm and cozy bar, so even with not that many people there (we came at 17:30) it didn’t feel empty. We got a lot of positive attention from the sommelier (who was by the way from the region) who took time to chat about the wine-list for the evening. And, we were also offered the chance to order half glasses, which I think amounts to a very good service experience. We ended up selecting six wines to try for the evening. The sliders that were meant as food-pairings had not worked out for Gaston, but we ordered hamburgers from neighboring Flying Elk (they share the kitchen) instead, so this was not really a disappointment.

About the wines in general, I can say that they were well selected. Someone had done some serious thinking around the menu. There were typical grapes from the area, with some untypical characteristics. When served, every wine was well presented, with some information about the producer and the wine in question. If one might say something was a downside, well, the selected wines were not form the cheapest end. Yes, someone who has planned for the evening, excited about tasting the wines, would not perhaps mind the price. But I think it does scale out some of the casual pop-ins’. The bar was full before 19:00, so the real fans (and there were many of them) came despite that. Business-wise, I cannot really judge the cost. As wine-entrepreneurs we also understand that there is a high costs associated to importing alcohol to this country, especially from outside the EU.

And the about the wines: in tasting order:

  1. Lioco 2011 Russian River Chardonnay: This was not at all an oaky chardonnay. Soft, delicate taste, not heavy on the oak (just the way I like it) with minerally and citrusy notes as well as hints of peaches and apricot.
  2. Broc Cellars 2012 Vine Star Zinfandel: Well-balanced, with tones of pepper and herbs both in nose and taste. Nice and notes of black and red fruit with hints of cardamom.
  3. Hirsch Vineyards 2011 San Andreas Fault Pinot Noir: Nose of cherries and anise, and a restrained flavor of sage, cherry, plum and fresh berries.
  4. W.H. Smith 2008 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir: This one makes me feel I am sitting in my dad’s library (my dad doesn’t really have a library, but you get the picture). Scent of leather and tobacco when poured, softens up after some time in the glass. Taste of Dark cherries, blueberry, plum and hmm cola? Quite dense and concentrated.
  5. Hobo Wine Co 2012 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon: This wine does not really stand out. I would say the most boring of what we tasted during the night
  6. Lioco 2012 Indica Carignan: A very juicy wine that makes your mouth water. A nose of anise and a taste of ripe fruit.

All in all, my favorites were perhaps the Lioco Chardonnay and Carignan. I did not think of making too many notes about all the producers from all of the above, but I did google a bit about Lioco. The winery will be 10 years old this year founded by two kinder-spirited wine-professionals; with an ambition to bring out more subtle tastes, using Europe as an inspiration. Another characteristic in their wines was the ambition to make them lower on alcohol (12.5%). It seems that the house does not own their own vineyards but buys grapes from different growers. They make mostly Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and they produce both single vineyard and blended wines. A quick look at the prices online show a very sensible cost level for Sonoma wines. However locally, the monopoly website reveals that there are a only a few Lioco wines available in this country. And they are in the “special-order” selection with prices that are also not very friendly anymore. This is exactly why we started our business.

Back to Gaston, all in all great experience. The happy travelers made it home by 21:00, just in time for a good night’s sleep. Hopefully this event (or theme-week) will not be their last. Looking at the amount of people rolling in when we were already parting, I don’t think so.

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