Cool climate has become a popular catchphrase in the world of wine, thanks, in part, to global warming trends that threaten some popular wine regions’ abilities to produce their traditional wines in the same styles to which they are accustomed. But serious wine lovers have also long known that great wine can often come from the very fringes of possibility — places or situations where grapes struggle to survive, let alone bear ripe fruit.
As winemaking traditions migrated from the old world, where grapes are planted “where they have always been planted,” to the new world, where intrepid winemakers sought new terroirs for familiar grapes, we have seen more winemakers explore some chillier possibilities for their efforts.
The western coast of Sonoma County is one such region, where adventurous winemakers were once told by many “experts” that they could never get fruit ripe so close to the foggy breakwaters of the Pacific. Thanks to pioneers like David Hirsch, however, we now know that the coastal fringes of Sonoma County are not only viable places for growing wine, they are some of California’s most compelling terroir.
Indeed, some of my favorite California wines are grown within sight of the craggy shores of Sonoma County. That is, when they’re not socked in by fog. The Pinot Noirs, Chardonnays, and Syrahs (along with a smattering of other grapes) from Western Sonoma County are wholly different than the wines made twenty or thirty miles inland, and that difference is worth celebrating.
Which brings me to the West Sonoma Coast Vintners association, and their fifth annual West of West Wine Festival. The weekend of August 1st, this festival will be taking over the Barlow, a cool, redeveloped area that has quickly become wine and food central in Sebastopol, California. Anyone who ventures out to the event will find it to be a low key, deeply passionate, and fantastically educational celebration of some of Northern California’s most interesting wines.
The event begins on Friday, July 31st with a whole hog dinner featuring multiple chefs, live music, and lots of wine on the grounds of an old Martinelli property. Saturday the 1st will combine a series of seminars led by my friend Elin McCoy of Bloomberg, along with a walk-around grand tasting event in the afternoon and a grand dinner in the evening. Sunday the 2nd offers a second chance at the big tasting in the afternoon.
The wineries attending include some of my favorite small producers in all of California.
The current list of wineries slated to attend include: 32 Winds Wine, Alma Fria, Baker Lane Vineyards, Banshee Wines, Benziger Family Winery, Ceritas Wines, Charles Heintz Vineyards, Claypool Cellars, CrossBarn by Paul Hobbs, DuMol, Ernest Vineyards, Evening Land Vineyards, Failla Wines, Flowers Vineyard & Winery, Fort Ross Vineyard & Winery, Freeman Vineyard & Winery, Furthermore Pinot Noir, Gregory James Wines, Gros Ventre Cellars, Hartford Family Winery, Hirsch Vineyards, Joseph Phelps Vineyards, La Pitchoune, Lattanzio Wines, LIOCO Wine Co., Littorai Wines, Lynmar Estate, MacPhail Family Wines, MacRostie Winery and Vineyards, Marimar Estate Vineyards and Winery, Martinelli Winery, Peay Vineyards, Ramey Wine Cellars, Red Car Wine Company, Senses Wines, Siduri, Small Vines Wines, Sojourn Cellars, Soliste, Wayfarer, Zepaltas Wines
I’ll see you there!
2015 West of West Wine Festival
Saturday August 1st
Grand Tasting: 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM
The Barlow Event Center
6770 McKinley Ave
Sebastopol, CA 95472
The Whole Hog dinner costs $150; the Grand Tasting costs $100; and the seminars run $100. Or you can get an all-access pass for the whole weekend for $595. You can get the details and purchase tickets online.
My usual tips for such public tastings apply: get a good night’s sleep; hydrate; taste on a full stomach; wear dark clothing to avoid wine stains; and spit if you want to learn anything!
If you’re driving from San Francisco and not staying the night, please bring a designated driver.