San Francisco-based writer Matt Bloom is back with another insider’s tip, this time on where to sip wine with Sonoma’s pros.
With 14 different appellations, or grape-growing districts, in Sonoma County, a booze cruise down Highway 101 can be overwhelming. And not just because of the midday hangover. There’s a lot to learn about wine, and you won’t get it swirling a pinot—or whatever they said it was—in a tasting room. To really make the most of wine country, head to Carneros Bistro and Wine Bar for a tasting and some wisdom from locals who know. Twice a week, the restaurant, which is part of the 182-room Lodge at Sonoma, hosts wine-education nights. More of a casual conversation than a formal lecture, the evening gives visitors the opportunity to clear up any hazy parts of the day—how tannins affect a wine’s flavor profile, or why people were spitting perfectly good alcohol into buckets.
Tuesday nights, visitors will find sommelier Christopher Sawyer—who also happens to be a wine journalist and owner of WineRadius.com, a soon-too-launch online wine retailer —pouring complimentary tastings from the restaurant’s award-winning wine list. Sawyer chooses a seasonal theme (for spring: rosé, sauvignon blanc, and the like) and provides comprehensive tips and info on enjoying the wine without all the highfalutin’ vino verbiage. “I’m not snooty about wine,” he says, “I just like it, and I want to put it on peoples’ tables. There’s never a dumb question here.”
On Thursdays, Sawyer invites local Sonoma celebs, aka winemakers and proprietors, to pour their creations, talk about their grapes, and schmooze with guests. It’s a good time to get to know one vineyard exceptionally well. “Thursdays are great because it’s not really something that anyone else does,” Sawyer says. “You aren’t talking to a wine rep or someone from the tasting room, these guys made the wine you’re drinking.”
Make nice with Sawyer, and you might just find yourself closing the bar over a 2002 bottle of Peter Michael Red Meritage. And if you do, you’ve definitely learned a thing or two in wine country.
Photo: Courtesy the Lodge