And it had been, what… 5 years since I went last? For this year’s mission and chapter I decided to enlist my dad, one savvy and swift with a camera, and always helpful to this scatter-minded and manuscripted writer, helping me find a more succinct way of gathering content. So we showed early to acquire our press passes, and there was nothing but a general fluidity to each step of the process and our immersion onto the MacMurray ranch, which can only be described as one of those mesmerizing tourist-dreamy scapes; expansive and pervasive with each note and nuance to its character, story. And we first started with Coffee, as I told Dad that I was in bad need of some caffeine. After getting our passes and putting them ‘round our necks, we headed for what looked like a cold coffee tap. And it was. (And I apologize for not remembering the name of the shop making these incredibly ambrosial and fiery cold cups, but they were otherworldly, to be modest.. they deserve only praise and visits from the entire county!)
We then headed for the tents, each its own valley, just as I remember. So many producers I had never heard of but was incredibly elated to meet and taste (just a bit, had to stay focused and on the job as Dad reminded me.. this was not the time for me to be my usual Beatnik writing Self). I wanted to capture everything at the event and the clear, linear and creative organization and parceling of everything made my mission simple and attainable in content objectives.
At the Sonoma Valley tent, I of course saw my always beloved St. Francis, then to the Russian River tent met with my beloved Sanglier, Susie Selby, and others. This was a day for me to be a journalist and blogger, yes, but to also just be a Human lover of wine, nothing pretentious or competitive. Just taking everything in at the Ranch, and this event’s coherent progression in all facets just welcomed everyone in attendance, no matter what kind of ticket they had. Oh, and a new favorite of mine with their station, Acaibo, pouring their commanding blends that showed me a side and narrative of Bordeaux that I’d never met. So again, yes, education is part of the event’s thesis, but so is that experience, finding wines that sing a song you want to hear and sip over, over, with your family and closest of friends, ones loved. That’s what wine is. That’s what Sonoma has always been.
Walking away from the tents and back over to where the beer and coffee were, I sat in on a bit of the seminar, or one of them, by my favorite Sommelier buddy, Chris Sawyer. He made it fun and exciting for the guests, examining several wine types and getting reactions from the crowd, making it a true wine event, one for educational purposes, yes, but also just a simple enjoyment of the grape and the bottled contents we have at our diner tables and family occasions.
Some of the resplendent tables for me had to be, one of them anyway, Lancaster Estate. Always a might Sauv Blanc and Cab producer, and that day they poured both. The 2010 Cab had never been so expressive, or at least that I can remember. Maybe that’s demonstrative of this event’s successful nature, it even makes the best of best wines taste better. Also ran into my old buddy Ed Thralls, Jr., owner and winemaker of Thralls Family Cellars. He was pouring his Rose of Pinot, a 2012 and ‘13 Pinot. I’ve known Ed for a long time and it’s blaringly apparent that he’s becoming more innovative and deadly with his oenological prowess, with the Rose having that bright and texture touch and musical quality, and the other two just tasting more than true with the varietal. Pinot, transfixing both vintages with wizard-like intuition– Mr. Thralls and what he does, only added to the Wine Country Weekend. Yes, I’m biased, but I’m candidly putting myself in the consumer’s shoes, here, pretending I came in from out of town with a friend and bought a ticket to see how these wine country people live.
The food could only be noted as divine, all over the event– I mean, I don’t even know where to start. John Ash of course, wowing everyone with their bites, and of course Costeaux’s bakery from Healdsburg, a mecca for so many things for locals and tourists. This is the event that I remember, enjoyable at every corner and comfortable; nothing complicated, only rich imagery and interactions with other food and wine lovers. Dad and I met up later, after gathering our content as we needed, then decided it was time for a couple beers, and if you’re a true beer lover like us then you wouldn’t be disappointed by what was offered; 3rd Street Ale Works, Russian River Brewery of course, Laguntias and St. Florian who I’d never heard of but served me my favorite IPA of the day. And we were off…
Walking back to the car, Dad and I photographed some of the Chardonnay clusters, talked about what we saw and sipped and the people we talked to. Part of me wanted to go back, make up some excuse like “Oh there was something I didn’t get!” But no, the day needed to end and I have to wait till next year. Five years ago, I don’t remember this much representation from so many wineries, and I don’t remember so many people. The organization worthy of study and mimicry I do remember but not with this much efficiency and cleanliness, and how helpful the event’s little hospitable army, from the parking area to the booths to the lawn where tents were.. everything. And everywhere. Everything and everywhere at MacMurray was halcyon and rich with the wine culture and way of life, our wined story here in SONOMA.
As I always do after one of my wild wine writing missions, I look through the pictures, and yes there’s that ‘awww’ feeling, that there was something I missed. But that’s how the story went and was meant for the day, that’s what was in this chapter and whatever I didn’t get to I will next year. WCW ’15 reminded me that wine’s an evolving story, and you share it with family and continue in the steps you’ve always embraced and put into the collective wine story of any county. But I’m in Sonoma. And the celestial scape that I saw can only happen here. And I can only write this, from here.
Already in the visions of next year…