• Christopher Bronke

Week 9 Drinks of the Week: Savoring Sonoma

Week 8 was framed around the fact that many of the football fans out there are beginning to deal with the reality that your team just isn’t very good. So, I tried to help you Sip Away the Sorrow. You can find last week’s suggestions here, and as a reminder, you can follow my food/wine/beverage Twitter space @ChristopherB070.

This week brings us a very different, horrifically tragic, and hard-hitting type of sorrow: wildfires. Anyone who knows me or follows me on Twitter knows how deep my love for Sonoma runs. It is my favorite vacation spot and somewhere I hope to live someday. The people are some of the most real, caring, down-to-Earth that I have met anywhere in my travels around the US, and the landscapes are some of the most uniquely exquisite ones ever.

So, this week here at Vegas Write Off, we are drinking to Savoring Sonoma. I will be sharing way more than my normal three drinks; instead, I will be sharing a wide range of my favorite drinks from Sonoma along with some of the best views and other fun the area has to offer.

Most importantly, from everyone here at Vegas Write Off, we hope you will consider donating to some of the relief funds to support the people, pets, and places of Sonoma. You can click here to see a whole host of different ways you can support the area with your donation.

For the first time ever with this column, these drinks are not in a suggested order of drinking. In some respects, they are in order from lightest to fullest (if that makes sense), but more so, they are simply my way of telling my story with Sonoma through drinks, food, and beautiful views.

The best part about each of these suggestions is that, prior to visiting Sonoma, I had never heard of them, but with each visit, you learn more about wine and the wineries out there. Each passionate pourer at each wonderful winery shares their favorite tasting room, and before you know it, you are craving the quality from wineries you never heard of.

So, my biggest hope is that this piece might inspire you to go visit. So many people who live and work out there continue to say that the best action people can take to support the region after the fires is to visit. So, from all of us here at Vegas Write Off, we hope that you enjoy this sipping tour through some of my favorite parts of Sonoma, that you will consider donating, and that when the time is right, you will visit the valley!

**for any of the wines listed, if you cannot find them in your local wine shop, ask for a recommendation of the same varietal/style from any well-respected Sonoma Winery.

Week 9 Theme: Savoring Sonoma!

Blissfull Brut at Iron Horse Vineyards

While I have not seen every view in Sonoma, I am fairly certain that there are none better than those at Iron Horse. A winding, narrow drive up the hills eventually delivers you to paradise.

The parking lot is lined with beautiful palm trees and the outdoor tasting room is perched atop the rolling, vine-lined hills.

If the views are not enough, the wines will simply take your breath away. Known for their bubbly (but be sure to try their still wines, too), it just doesn’t get much better than the wide and expressive array of sparkling options they have. This week, I am focusing on the 2015 Classic Brut.

Arguably their most well-known wine, this wine has notes of orange and green apple on the nose with a nutty palate. If you cannot find this specific wine at your local wine shop, ask if they have any other Iron Horse, and if not, ask for a comparable sparkling from Sonoma’s Russian River Valley.

Shimmering Chardonnay at MacRostie Winery and Vineyard

If Iron Horse is defined by its beauty, MacRosstie is marked by its chic elegance. A modern, almost city-loft sort of feel, the wood beams and abundance of windows make you feel both at home and yet deeply charmed.

But don’t be fooled, the Estate House is surrounded by beautiful rolling hills and gorgeous grapes from their many on-property vineyards.

While they continue to push the envelope of offerings, recently adding a brut and a brut rose plus expanding their winemakers “project label”, Clockwise, at their core, MacRostie is a Pinot and Chardonnay house. And while both varietals are being poured with precision, the delicate and fruit-driven Chardonnays speak to me in ways few others do.

For this week, I am recommending the 2017 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay (or any vintage of this--I know, the picture is of the Wildcat Mountain, so if you can find it, it's MORE than worth drinking). This wine is made of grapes from several different Sonoma vineyards and is their most well-known with a good chance of it being in your local wine shops.

Tropical fruits on the nose move into the palate where they are met with citrus and just the most precious and delicate finish of buttered toast. This is not your oak-bomb Chardonnay; it is refined, and elegant--just like the tasting house experience.

Sensual Sparkling Red at Amista Vineyards

Amista just reminds me of a classy, yet down-to-Earth family picnic. Their grounds are charmingly rustic with your arrival being marked by the iconic yellow umbrella.

There is a beauty in the simplicity of their views and tasting room that makes the visit uniquely impressive and enjoyable. The people are real and genuine, and the vineyard pets (oftentimes a rescue dog(s) is running around) are as friendly as they are fun. With a wide range of still wines (and a focus on bigger reds), it is actually one of their sparkling wines that stands out for me today in this piece.

The Sparkling Syrah is such a delightfully unique bubbly.

A dry rose made from 100% Syrah, this wine is made in the Methode Champeoise and is absolutely stunning in color. Beaming with noses of strawberry and watermelon, the palate is light yet full and the joy of the notes transitions seamlessly into a deliciously crisp sparkling wine. At least five or six times while enjoying a bottle, I go back and forth between if I find this wine more stunning because of its picturesque pink presentation or its tantalizing taste; the good thing is, there isn’t a right answer: they are both amazing.

Perfect Pours of Pinot at Moshin Vineyards

There is a humble hominess to Moshin’s impressive tasting experience that honestly always keeps me there at least an hour longer than I planned (and usually ends with my wife having to be the driver to our next stop). This place seriously puts my math/number skills to the test as I often wonder if I can count high enough to keep track of all the amazing small-lot Pinots that this place is pumping out with precision. There are so many wines that I could have picked for this week’s piece that it is almost criminal to have to choose just one.

However, today I am talking about the juicy gem that is the 2012 Rosalina Vineyard Pinot Noir. This wine is beautiful in color with a deep ruby that might make you think “am I really about to drink a pinot?”, but the nose and palate quickly answer that question with a resounding and impassioned “YES!” Bright red fruit and subtle floral notes greet your nose before your tastebuds are surrounded with robust cherry pie, baking spice, and a great earthy finish.

It is worth noting that this is Moshin’s second appearance (the first to do so) in the Drinks of the Week as they were featured as the wine of the week in week four when we Indulged in Elegance with Moshin’s 2012 Halo’s Hill Pinot.

Imaginative Inspiration at Imagery Estate Winery

Art and I need to say anything more? I often find it impossible to decide what keeps me going back to Imagery more: the stunning art on the bottles and in the galleries or the unique expression and depth of the impressive tasting lineup. And then I am reminded that I don’t have to pick: I can love both, and love both I do. Unlike other wineries, Imagery hires artists to uniquely design each and every label for their wines which elevates and inspires the imagination during the tasting experience, and for those passionate about the expressive bottle labels, there is an art gallery of the full originals from each artist.

The wines they are making range from crisp white blends to bold European-style reds. For this week’s lineup, I chose to go with their 2016 Terolgdeo.

I selected this wine for two reasons. First, it is a grape that, as a whole, doesn’t get enough love in my opinion. Originally from Italy, this grape produces some deeply red wines with big intense fruit, solid acidity, and a soft finish; it is easy to drink and pairs lovely with food. The second reason I chose this wine is that the art on the 2016 just appeals to me. In a unique way, the way only art can, it reminds me of the beautiful scene in the movie American Beauty in which the neighbor boy is filming a plastic bag floating in the wind. May this bottle and all of the stunning art at Imagery inspire your imagination in new and previously undiscovered ways.

Bad Ass Beers at Bear Republic Brewing Company

It still amazes me just how many breweries there are and that continue to pop up around the country, and with so many, it becomes hard to know which are must-haves and which are don’t-needs. Enter Bear Republic Brewing Company...a true must-have. While there are many great beers coming out of this awesome joint, the Racer 5 IPA is by far my favorite. There are big hops indeed, but they are balanced nicely with many fruity flavors of which pineapple stands out the most to me but the hints of grapefruit keep it all balanced. It’s just a bad-ass beer!

And, when you make it out to Sonoma, be sure to check out one of their Brewpubs (I love the one in Healdsburg) as their food is killer-good, too. Fire up some of their awesome jumbo wings which are cooked in the Racer 5 IPA and a big plate of Poutine, knock back some beers, and then plan on a big food-and-beer-coma-kind-of nap!

Vivacious Vodka at Sonoma Brothers Distilling

One of my favorite ways to do Sonoma is to rent a house with a group of friends. I have done Sonoma as a romantic get-away and loved it. I have done Sonoma as a family exploration and loved it. But, as a group of couples with a rental house, this vacation cannot be beaten, and this is where Sonoma Brothers’ Vodka enters the picture. After a long day of wine tasting, there is nothing better than coming back to the house, slowly starting to prepare the dinner for that night, and sipping a marvelous martini with this vodka.

So many people think vodka is just a flavorless spirit used for mixing, and sadly, for most vodkas, they are correct; however, not this bad boy. Bursting with flavor, this vodka is the perfect balance of smooth vanilla backed up with spicy pepper on the finish and garnishing it with a twist adds just the perfect hint of citrus and acidity to round out both the flavor and mouthfeel. I am telling you, this is the vodka to make the non-martini-drinker a true believer, and if not, hell, that just means there is more of this beauty for you!

Dynamic Dining at The Girl and the Fig

There are so many ways to “do Sonoma” when thinking about dining options, and I will tell you, there are so many of them that are beyond delicious; however, few, if any, have stood up to the culinary experience at The Girl and the Fig. There is a simplicity to their charm and their menu that is elegant yet authentic, classy yet real. A robust wine list is balanced with a full bar and a creative cocktail menu, so if you need a break from wine after a day of tasting, you can settle into a sexy selection of hand-crafted cocktails, order a cheese plate, and take your time deciding between the outstanding entrees.

It is nearly impossible for me to choose between two entrees in order to give you the go-to recommendation, so I am not going to try. Go twice or order both when there, but you must try the crispy chicken thighs and the duck confit. Mere words will not and cannot do either justice, so I am simply going to say: go there; try both; thank me later.

Great Groceries at Oliver’s

If you have been reading along, you learned that one of the best parts of a trip to Sonoma is grilling out after a long day of wine tasting, and there is no better place to stock up for your dinner extravaganza than Oliver’s. From their picturesque meat collection to the delicious array of fresh veggies, there is truly something for everyone. Also, if you are looking for fresh salads to pack as a picnic for the day, the chicken and egg salads are going to make your stomach smile!

But let me give you the insider’s tip: make sure you buy their Rub Potion No. 9 dry rub/seasoning. In fact, make sure you buy extra amounts of it because I promise you that you will want to take some home with you. It goes perfectly on EVERYTHING. In just one meal last year, I used it to season salmon, ribeye, and chicken wings. The result? We had to go back the next day to buy more so that everyone could take some home with them!

Sip, Savor, and Support Sonoma this week!!!

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