Thursday, March 11, 2010

Napa and Sonoma trip: Emeritus Vineyards

After a solid breakfast in downtown Sonoma, we drove towards Sebastopol in the Russian River Valley for our appointment with Chris Mattson, National Sales Manager at Emeritus Vineyards. The winery occupies a functional warehouse-like building on Highway 116 and was not easy to find.

Most of our time with Chris Mattson was spent in the winery's home vineyard (also called Hallberg Vineyard). We looked at how the vines had to be pruned and trained, and discussed weather, soil, and experimentation with dry farming.

In the vineyard with Chris Mattson

Planted exclusively to Pinot Noir, the 100-acre Hallberg Vineyard is located on Sonoma County's Gold Ridge, a ten-mile-long low ridge running from Sebastopol to Forestville. The area is characterized by well-drained soils made of fine sandy loam and a cool climate thanks to Pacific Ocean breezes and late afternoon fog that stays untill mid-morning during the growing season. Sonoma's Gold Ridge is also called America's Cote d'Or and is home to many top-flight Pinot Noir producers.

Then it was time to taste some wine and meet winemaker Nicolas Cantacuzene. The French-born and American-trained Cantacuzene had recently replaced Burgundy-trained veteran winemaker Don Blackburn, who sadly passed away last April.

While we tasted and compared several barrel samples, from lots with different soil types or different watering levels, including one completely dry-farmed, Nicolas Cantacuzene explained to us how he will blend these wines in order to achieve a desired style of complexity and elegance.

I really enjoyed that visit. This is where we had the most informative discussions regarding vineyard management and winemaking. But it was already lunch time and we had to find something to eat before our next appointment at Dutton-Goldfield.

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