Among wine’s many great qualities is just that: there are so many qualities to choose from!
Each varietal comes with its very own flavor, texture, aroma, and nuance.
In advance of the height of harvest season, here are the varietals you can expect to see most often on wine lists in Sonoma.
The 2004 film famously caused a 16% increase in Pinot Noir sales in the western United States (while simultaneously causing Merlot sales to fall by 2%).
As far as what it is about this varietal that makes Miles Raymond love it so, it could be the noticeable cherry and cranberry flavors.
Or it could be the fact that it’s light and tart, but not sticky thanks to its low tannin quotient.
Or it could be that Pinot is just so notoriously finnicky.
It’s not an easy grape to grow, so when you experience a truly great Pinot, you can rest assured that the winemaker really knows their stuff.
The predominant flavors of a Sonoma Sauvignon Blanc include green apple, lemongrass, and even hints of pineapple.
Admittedly Sauvignon Blanc is more sunny summer than cool fall, but it’s light, crisp, and refreshing no matter what the season.
Traditionally seafood is the go-to food pairing for Sauvignon Blanc, but theoretically white meats will do fine as well (hello, turkey!).
Merlot is a jack-of-all-trades.
Not too light, not too dark, and with medium acidity and tannins as well.
However, the final product of Merlot can vary greatly based on whether the climate is cool or hot.
Sonoma tends to verge on the cooler end of the climate spectrum, and so the resultant Merlot is drier, darker, and more full-bodied than average, with distinct flavors of raspberry and black currant.
No matter what the climate though, Merlot remains a versatile and delicious offering that pairs very well with food.
If Merlot is the jack-of-all-trades of reds, then Chardonnay takes the crown for whites.
A good watchword for Chardonnay is “malleable.”
Depending upon climate and process, Chardonnay can be transformed into a massive variety of flavors.
Most Chardonnay in Sonoma, however, tends to be made using unoaked barrels.
This makes it more tart and lemony than its oaked version, which produces a more buttery and smooth result.
Ahh, Syrah! The brooding member of the wine family, and a real up-and-comer in Sonoma.
It’s not quite in Pinot or Cabernet Sauvignon territory yet, but it’s up there.
If Sauvignon Blanc is sunny summer jig, Syrah is a tango in a dimly-lit lounge.
It bears all flavors ranging from mocha to pepper to blackberry, and is perhaps the darkest of all the popular red wine varietals.
An excellent choice if you’re feeling particularly dignified and elegant.
Zin holds a special place in the hearts of many Sonoma wine enthusiasts.
After all, the first Zinfandel vines in North America were planted in California, and California contains over half the total worldwide Zinfandel acreage.
As far as the wine itself goes, Zinfandel is a bit of a paradox.
It’s light and fruity (with all sorts of delightful berry flavors), but bold at the same time because of its moderate to high acidity and tannins.
It also has a very high alcohol by volume, with ABVs sometimes reaching as high as 16-17%, which certainly doesn’t hurt either…
Oh, Cabernet Sauvignon. The resilient. The survivor.
The reason for its ubiquity is often simply because it’s so hearty.
Unlike Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon will grow and thrive just about anywhere.
For flavor, expect black cherry and vanilla to shine often. Blackberry, licorice, and black pepper can also play a part.
Here’s to 2016 being an excellent year!