Sonoma Trip – Day 3

Tim's Wine Market

March 1. 2011We woke up to temperatures in the mid-30s but they rose quickly between our drive from Sonoma to the Dry Creek Valley.  While on our way to Sbragia Family Vineyards, at the base of Lake Sonoma, we passed hundreds of acres of vineyards, so we stopped and had a quick lesson in training, trellising and pruning a vineyard.  From there we moved to the winery, a few minutes late, to catch up with what seemed to be the whole Sbragia family including the patriarch, Ed.  For those who don’t recognize the name, Ed was winemaker at Beringer for thirty-five years and is one of the greatest living winemakers in America.  I thought our visit would be with his son Adam, the official winemaker of SFV, but Ed joined us and gave plenty of input.For those who have not experienced the wines from Sbragia, they are dedicated to producing single vineyard wines from parcels owned by the family and long time relationships that Ed has with growers.  All of the family estate vineyards are in Dry Creek, the remaining sources being mountain vineyards that Ed used to make Beringer Private Reserve.  I won’t list the wines separately but I found all of the wines to show good balance and well integrated tannins.  Ed and Adam are driven to make big wines, with dad saying several times, “I never made a wine with too much tannin.”  While they are certainly are built to age, they show well now and it proved to be a very enjoyable tasting.We only had time for a quick lunch, so at the suggestion of Adam Sbragia we stopped at the Dry Creek General Store for sandwiches.  I visited this location years ago and it must be under new management because it is a lot different.  The sandwiches are all made fresh and they have a nice selection of prepared salads too.  The prices were very reasonable and the quality was superb.   There is also a nice selection of wine country stuff that turned out to be a good spot to pick up souvenirs for my girls.Our last stop of the day was to Flowers Vineyards, which is north of the town of Jenner on the Sonoma Coast.  It turned out to be a ninety-minute drive, but along the Russian River so the scenery was beautiful and we also saw our first real redwoods.  Jenner is a small town at the point where the Russian River meets the Pacific Ocean.  It is so cold and windy that it is hard to believe that only a couple of miles away, at the top of the mountain, would lie vineyards.  Our GPS told us we rose 1300 feet in five minutes, winding along the cliffs, trying to take in the view and keep the car on the right side of the hairpin turns.  Once at the top the temperature was freezing.  We learned that it had snowed at the vineyard just two days earlier!The tour of Flowers emphasized change.  This is a property that had been a superstar in the 1990’s, only to produce good but somewhat humdrum wines since the millennium.  It is now owned by Agustin Huneeus,  who in addition to Flowers also recently purchased Prisoner and Saldo from Orin-Swift.  His dedication to quality is amazing and it would appear that great things are coming from this winery, starting with the 2009’s.  We sampled a number of barrels of the 2010’s and then sat down to their current releases the 2007’s.  I did find a couple of enjoyable wines but I think the prices seem high for what is currently in the bottle.For our final meal we saved the best for last, reservations at The Girl & The Fig on the square in Sonoma.  This iconic Sonoma establishment is one of the first “farm to table” restaurants in the US, supporting dozens of local farms in Sonoma County for everything from meat to produce.  What I found most interesting is their wine list, which with the exception of sparkling wines, is completely dedicated to Rhone varietals, both domestic and imports.  The meal was spectacular with all of us agreeing it was  a meal to be remembered.  If in Sonoma this is not a meal to miss!