Once again, we have all been reading about the terrible fires in California, especially about the Kincade fire that has afflicted Sonoma County. Sad to report, two wineries have been destroyed: Soda Rock and Firestone. As we read the papers about these two, our initial reaction was that we didn’t know Soda Rock but that we were deeply saddened by the destruction of Fieldstone. Their Cabernet Sauvignons have been among our favorites in Alexander Valley and the views of the mountains from their winery were priceless. Soda Rock received only a shrug.
But that shrug was very wrong. Maybe Soda Rock wasn’t well known. Maybe their wines weren’t to our taste. (Who knows? We’ve never tried them.) But the owners, Ken and Diane Wilson, had certainly invested time, money and love into their winery. Somebody liked their wines, because they did sell them. People’s livelihoods depended on Soda Rock. We’ve learned that the buildings on the winery were historic, albeit in need of repair, upkeep that will never be made now.
Which of us is so wise, has such an elevated palate that we can dismiss their wines? Soda Rock was part of the community that collectively makes up Wine Country. Its loss diminishes us all. If they were making wine, that was good, because each winery in its own way is good. They’re all good.
We were pleased to read that Soda Rock is still offering tastings in their barn. That’s a very good thing, indeed.
We at Power Tasting always strive for journalistic accuracy in all our articles. Sadly, sometimes we slip up. But we always correct any errors we know of.
So, in our last issue we published a review of wine tasting at Gary Farrell Winery in Russian river Valley. We received an appreciative note from Sam Folsom, a publicist for the winery. Evidently, there were some significant changes made just after our last visit.
He informed us that Gary Farrell Winery opened their new tasting room, which was significantly redesigned and remodeled. They no longer have the tasting bar, which is shown in our story, and it is replaced by a series of comfortable seating options, which look out on the valley through a floor-to-ceiling window (the popular outdoor patio remains). As we noted, they are now open by appointment, and guests have a series of tasting and tour options to choose from.
The new Gary Farrell Winery Salon, created by architect Michael Guthrie, has a contemporary design with organic finishes and they tell us that it is welcoming and comfortable. Its center room is open and airy with a vaulted wood beam ceiling and dramatic, floor-to-ceiling canted windows that showcase a commanding view of the forested Russian River Valley. The popular outdoor terrace remains a centerpiece of the Gary Farrell Winery experience, around which the salon rooms are now arranged, but it has undergone a significant remodel with new furniture and seating arrangements, including oversized couches, as well as distinctive, vaulted shade sails.
We intend to re-visit in the near future.
In the December 2018 issue we published a review of Cantine Contucci in Montepulciano, Italy. That town is best known for its voluptuous red wine, Vino Nobile. We received a letter from Andrea Contucci, which points out an error we made, which has already been repaired.
I have just commented your nice article about Vino Nobile and Contucci winery on Power Tasting.
I’ve also shared it on our Facebook page.
Many thanks for your delicious words about Vino Nobile appellation, about Montepulciano and about Contucci.
In the article I noticed a detail to correct; when you speak of grapes for Vino Nobile, the Trebbiano Toscano and Malvasìa grapes should not be mentioned, because they are actually used for white wine and Vin Santo, not for Vino Nobile.
I really invite you to return here to have a real meeting and toast with one of our Vino Nobiles.
Happy holiday seasons and see you soon in Montepulciano.
The following comment was submitted by Paul de (J. P.) Bary, author of The Persistent Observer’s Guide to Wine: How to Enjoy the Best and Skip the Rest. Paul was a college classmate of Steve’s.
Kudos for your focus on what matters most – taste!
I love Steve’s simple rules*. Most people have an intuition about them, but are misled by all the hype.
Learning to know what you like is all about feeling comfortable with your own sense of taste. You can connect that with the hype once you get comfortable with your own instincts.
Most people get confused about Rule #2, thinking that you have to memorize labels. With all the wines in the world, that’s obviously a daunting proposition…and there’s no guarantee that any specific wine will be available when you want it or that it will be the best choice under the circumstances.
What’s easier to remember is the grape variety (or blend of grapes), the region and the style of the wines you drink and how they fit with the food or occasion.
These are the types of things that are easy to bring home from a visit to a winery and your tips make that experience easier and more rewarding.
Keep up the good work!
* 1. Know what you like. 2. Remember what it’s called.
A year ago, Power Tasting published a Field Guide to Servers, a tongue-in-cheek series on the different types of people who serve wine in tasting rooms. We added some tips on how to get the most out of your interactions with each type:
- The Pourer: a person whose sole activity is to remove wine from a bottle through the neck and place it in a glass
- The Host: someone whose objective is simply to make sure that everyone is having a good time
- The Seller: a server whose intention is not that you have a great time but rather that you join the winery’s club or at least buy some wine while you are there
- The Retainer: a person who appears more like a personal employee of the owner, whom he or she treats with a deference that approaches worship
- The Educator: a server not only knows wine but is excited by it and is eager to share his or her expertise with others
If you missed the series or just would like to re-read some of the descriptions, click your way to these “library selections” as they say at wineries.