I love wines with a story, and I also love wineries that have a sense of humor. "The Velvet Sisters" is an obscure reference to three colorful characters from the Anderson Valley. If you're not familiar with the odd cultural and sociological eddy that spins around the towns of Philo and Booneville in the heart of the Anderson Valley, I suggest you read the hysterically funny novel/memoir called Booneville. But for our purposes it is enough to know that since 1800 the locals have spoken an obscure English dialect called Boontling and these Mendocino County towns are populated with some of the more eccentric and insular folks you're liable to meet, from the Squirrel Lady to the "Velvet Sisters" whose name now graces one of Hartford's vineyards. These sisters, Vera, Lois, and Zelpha Rawles, were given their name (in Boontling) because of their perpetual and unchanging wardrobe: three velvet dresses they bought on a trip to British Colombia.
The naming of this vineyard and the vineyard designate wine that is produced from it, are both a nod to local culture as well as a lovely descriptor. Even though they have a winery with a lofty sounding name like Hartford Court, Don Hartford and his wife Jennifer seem to be focused on making wines that are the fruits of humble work, good soil, and in this case, local color.
I served this wine at a blind tasting with some winemaker friends and it placed in everyone's top 3 out of over 12 wines.
This wine shines a bright beryl red with a surprisingly floral nose with jasmine components along with bing cherries and a hint of pine. Velvety, even silky (as promised) in the mouth, the pinot fruit comes through with rasberries, red currants, and a hint of sweet oak. There's a slight bitterness in the finish that I didn't like, however, which kept this from being a solid nine.
I'm thinking about grabbing some more of this wine and saving it until November, because this is a great wine for classic roast turkey with cider sage gravy and all the standard accompaniments.
Overall Score: 8.5/9
How Much?: $42
I got mine at The Wine Club in San Francisco.
A wine book like no other. Photographs, essays, and wine recommendations. 2015 Roederer Award Winner.Learn more.
Wine News: What I'm Reading the Week of 5/1/16 I'll Drink to That: Charles Philipponnat of Champagne Philipponnat Vinography Images: White Wall I'll Drink to That: Author Ian D'Agata West of West Pinot Tasting: May 19, San Francisco Wine News: What I'm Reading the Week of 4/24/16 2016 Garagiste Wine Festival: May 19, Oakland Warm Up: Tannins I'll Drink to That: Winemaker Andy Erickson Vinography Unboxed: Week of April 17, 2016
Wine Will Never Smell the Same Again: Luca Turin and the Science of Scent Forlorn Hope: The Remarkable Wines of Matthew Rorick Debating Robert Parker At His Invitation Passopisciaro Winery, Etna, Sicily: Current Releases Should We Care What Winemakers Say? The Sweet Taste of Freedom: Austria's Ruster Ausbruch Wines 2009 Burgundy Vintage According to Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Charles Banks: The New Man Behind Mayacamas Wine from the Caldera: The Incredible Viticulture of Santorini Why Community Tasting Notes Sites Will Fail Chateau Rayas and the 2012 Vintage of Chateauneuf-du-Pape A Life Indomitable: The Wines of Casal Santa Maria, Portugal Bay Area Bordeaux: Tasting Santa Cruz Mountain Cabernets Forgotten Jewels: Reviving Chile's Old Vine Carignane The First-Timer's Guide to Les Trois Glorieuses of Hospices de Beaune