© 1998 JDM Enterprises
SONOMA CREEK UPDATEby Jerry D. Mead
If you've wondered why there's an abstract, colorful, rendition of a bucking horse on the Sonoma Creek Winery label, you join me and thousands of other curious wine geeks who ponder such things.
The answer lies in the heritage of the property on which the winery sets and of the family which has owned it since the 19th century.
The property was once the "embarcadero" for the city of Sonoma, back when San Francisco was a trashy little town called Yerba Buena. Steamboats and small craft of all kinds brought folks this far up Sonoma Creek, to disembark for a final wagon ride into Sonoma's Plaza.
It was owner Tom Larson's great-grandfather, name of Millerick, who bought the 120 acre spread in 1899 and made the ranch famous as home for many years to the Sonoma Rodeo. The family brand was the Circle-M, and it is said that the late August Sebastiani once won a roping trophy. One can't help but wonder if "Auggie" was wearing his trademark overalls that far back.
So it is the ranching and rodeo heritage that inspired the label's horse. Tom and his father Bob Larson began the new wine heritage in 1977 with the planting of the ranch's first 40 acre vineyard, a dry-farmed block of Chardonnay.
Tom went off to U.C. Davis to earn a degree in fermentation science, then started making wine in 1987, the rest, as they say, being history.
Situated in the cool climate of the famous Carneros region of Sonoma County, Sonoma Creek buys grapes as well from famous growers in neighboring regions. Most of the red grapes come from farther north, where the climate is more conducive to growing Zinfandel and Cabernet.
The current releases of the basic wines (there are also reserves and single vineyard wines in a different package) are not only as good or better than they've ever been, the value is downright amazing.
Sonoma Creek 1996 "Sonoma County" Zinfandel ($10) Plum and raspberry aromas and flavors, with some underlying spice notes. It's a delicious, "gulpable," quaffer, ideal for accompanying grilled meats and sausages. Rating: 87/90
Sonoma Creek 1996 "Sonoma County" Merlot ($10) Deep black cherry and pleasantly tart cherrystone flavors. Medium to full bodied, this is no wimpy Merlot. Way more flavor and complexity that you might expect in this price range. A solid "Best Buy." Rating: 89/95
Sonoma Creek 1995 "Sonoma Valley-Sangiacamo" Merlot ($27) Not just big black cherry flavors, but intense, concentrated and highly extracted flavors. Moderately, but not unpleasantly, astringent. This is one of those Merlots you can cellar like a Cabernet. The wine is packaged in a high profile Italianate bottle with a label that features a sort of sunburst looking design. Rating: 94/83
Sonoma Creek 1995 "Sonoma Valley-Rancho Jolina" Cabernet Sauvignon ($27) Earthy, slightly weedy bouquet on top of blackberry fruit. This is another concentrated "monster" wine with more blackberry in the flavor, plus cassis and a little chocolate. Boldly structured, but with round, approachable tannins. This wine is also in the "Reserve" packaging. Rating: 90/82
Sonoma Creek wines have reasonably good national distribution, though you're more likely to find them in specialty shops or restaurants. To inquire about retail availability in your community: Sonoma Creek Winery, 23355 Millerick Rd., Sonoma, CA 94576 (707) 938-3031.
Wines are scored using a unique 100 point system. First number rates
quality; second number rates value. |
© 1998 JDM Enterprises.
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