6/5/11

Old World Winery & A Wedding

While this blog hasn't necessarily been a place for oenophiles, and despite the fact that I’ve recently made ricotta cheese, onion rings, and the most delicious salad dressing ever, all I want to do right now is talk about wine. This may have something to do with my recent trip to Sonoma, the kind of place where asking our server to uncork a bottle of rosé we’d brought in at 10:30 a.m. doesn’t seem out of the ordinary.

Now, I don’t know a lot about wine. (I had to Google wine lover –phile just now to come up with the word oenophile.) If it’s between white or red, I usually choose champagne, but I was in Sonoma for a long wedding weekend and… when in Rome!

We arrived at Santa Rosa’s Peanuts-themed Charles Schultz airport on Friday morning, and after a long lunch in downtown Healdsburg, we still had a few hours before we could check into our rental house—a perfect window of time for wine tasting. And though there were signs pointing to tasting rooms through the little strip of establishments downtown, we all agreed we wanted to go straight to a vineyard. But which one? How does a seven-person group, six of which are carrying smart phones, decide anything? They Google and Yelp and then go to the nearest vineyard with good reviews via Google Maps. Ironically, all of our technology brought us to the tasting room of a place called Old World Winery.
Though I’m not a wine expert, since moving to Los Angeles many years ago, I’ve had the extreme pleasure of tasting wines up and down the coast of California, and one thing remains the same: Wine tastings are special. And wine tasting on a sunny, 74-degree afternoon when you should be at work? It's particularly special. Suddenly, your mind is clear and all you need to do is study a few sips of wine, and perhaps, make very vague statements on the taste. For me, “Mmm,” and “That’s nice,” are go-to reactions. But I loved hearing a few of my more well-versed-in-wine friends pull back from their glasses with an air of shock and say, “Wow, that’s like no Chardonnay I’ve ever tasted!” We soon learn that the Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc at Old World Winery both receive 24 hours of skin contact before pressing, which is the first time I’ve ever heard about “skin contact,” but infer that this is a very long time for white wine grape skins to hang out with one another.

The tasting includes seven wines, but somehow Matt and I don’t hear this, and by the time we get to the fifth wine, we are feeling a bit lightheaded and attempt to place an order for a bottle of the 2008 Sauvignon Blanc, Bon Temps LeBlanc. (It’s a delicious, sharp white wine and “Bon Temps” sounds way too much like Bon Appetempt for us to pass it up.) Around this time—right after we learn we actually have two more wines to taste—someone not in our party wanders into the tasting room. As it turns out, it’s the winemaker/owner Darek Trowbridge. So far we’ve learned that the Old World Winery is a small company made up of just three people and with a familiarity only possible in such a tight operation, the woman pouring our wines asks him, “Do you want to give these guys a tour?”
Darek is tall and thin, maybe in his late thirties, and dressed in faded army green pants and a plaid flannel shirt. He has his hands in his pockets and seems the picture of contentment as he leans back on his heels, smiles, and shrugs. “Sure. Yeah.” We take our wine glasses with us as he walks us outside. The property isn’t very big so it only takes a few moments to make our way across the part dirt, part gravel driveway to what looks to be a stand-alone garage. Inside, we find it stuffed to the gills with barrels of wine in bunk-bed-like formations. The ceilings aren’t very tall and the highest barrel almost scrapes against the ceiling. The tasting continues as we stand in a tiny open area among them, and we ask Darek every basic wine-related question we can come up. “How many bottles are in one barrel?” “Which do you prefer: red or white?” “Do you attend tradeshows? Oh yeah? Which ones?” “Tell me everything about you and your business!!”
The tasting continues. It’s dreamy.

When we finish the last wine, Darek looks to his associate. “We should show them the Abouriou." We quickly find out that this is a wine Darek has been passionately working on, and though he has sold some of the futures, it’s not bottled or labeled or available for immediate purchase. We walk back out into the daylight and down the driveway to another unassuming barrel room, which Darek explains is made entirely out of re-purposed material and which adds to what is surely becoming a theme of OWW’s products: environmentally-friendly, organic, personally cared for (with grapes personally stomped on), etc. For us to try it, Darek has to climb over a stack of boxes and siphon the wine straight from the barrel. He pours a few sips into each of our glasses. And then something truly magical happens.
All seven of us taste the wine and have the exact same reaction. It is delicious. Sure, there are nuanced things to say about it. It’s juicy. It’s bright. It’s caramel-y. But I’ve never witnessed such an intense, unanimous reaction to a wine. We all love it. And at once, we feel as though we’ve been let in on a secret: Is this the future of red wine?!

And what’s even more special is Darek’s reaction to our unbridled praise. He seems completely and utterly grateful to hear our shouts of approval. “Thank you. Thank you,” he keeps saying. It’s the kind of reaction that feels almost inherent to humble, hard work being recognized. And as we wrap up our tasting and go inside to buy our bottles (After some minor arm-twisting, Darek soft-corks a bottle of the Abouriou.), I know that this is the kind of experience that is going to stay with me long after we’ve left the winery. In fact, that whole evening and the following morning, I can’t seem to get it out of my mind.

Not just the deliciousness of the wine, but this idea of the long process of what must go into creating a wine and the fulfillment of a winemaker being able to see the impressed look on of a bunch of strangers’ faces upon them tasting that creation.
It was a great weekend of food indulgences and wine tasting, but nothing in the fabled Russian River Valley touched the small batches of wine coming out of the Old World Winery. If you get a chance, I implore you to try it, and if you’re in the area, see if you can get a glimpse of that secret barrel room—it’s well worth the trip to the central coast!

And if that's not enough to convince you, here are some more reasons:





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18 comments:

Matt said...

I already miss Sonoma! Tubing down the Russian River was almost as good as the Abouriou!

Darek Trowbridge said...

Thanks for the kind words Amelia! I love the name of your blog. Hope all is well for you guys and I can see that you had one of our best local experiences, tubing down the Russian!

Paola said...

This is such an amazing post. Thanks for sharing. I am putting this on my list of things to do!

mari said...

I miss that part of California. Next time you get to take a trip up there and want to try more wine, I recommend Preston Vineyards. It's a little farm, all organic, a little mom and pop business, cats roaming around the gardens, make their own bread and olive oil too, and eggs!

Megan Taylor said...

Are you kidding me with that Russian River!? I was just KAYAKING on that thing B!

Fashion Intel said...

I love that your blog posts are always so in depth! This was a great one.

amelia said...

@Darek - noo, thank YOU!

@mari - thanks for the rec!

@FashionIntel - you are sweet. I just had to share! it was such a great time.

Mary Anne said...

Wow, I want to go so bad! Love this post.

[cwm] said...

great pictures and an amazing post! makes me want to invent a time machine, go back to last weekend and drink all of the Abouriou, secretly filling up the label-less bottle with Merlot.

Jessica said...

Great post as always Amelia! That wine sounds amazing, I've never heard of it! Will definitely be stopping in for a tasting at the old world winery on my next trip to the central coast!
-Jess

tova said...

Your enthusiasm in this post reminds me of some of the first times I went wine tasting. I have now worked in the wine industry for almost six years, and while wine tasting has now taken on more of a professional tone for me, there is something very special about it. Thanks for reminding me of that!

Run Fast Travel Slow said...

Fun post -- it's such a treat to visit smaller vineyards. Reminds me a little of my visit to Alta Vista in Mendoza... nothing beats a relaxed tasting.

Mark and Marsha said...

Great post, great pictures, great wine, floating down a great river. Sign us up!!

jeana sohn said...

what a beautiful and relaxing trip!
hi!!!

Heather Taylor said...

You're a closet.

Sydney said...

AHh i love Santa Rosa & Napa Valley wine tasting. Come to Champagne! It's a similar experience but so beautiful and has an amazing old world feel to it! http://www.thetastysidetolife.blogspot.com/
www.tastysidetolifetours.com. PS love how your husband is like Ina's inspiration. Really cute!

John Maddox said...

Amelia, you excellent blog captured Darek and Old World Winery perfectly! I first met Darek and his wines at OWW in March of 2009. I have returned 6 times - including just last week - which is no easy feat from the East Coast, but well worth the effort as you now know. My only regret is that you too have discovered his “secret” Abouriou. I have been watching (and tasting) those few precious barrels develop for 2 years now and was hoping I could have it all to myself.

bon appetempt said...

@John Maddox - Yes! You understand! :) I can't wait for my next visit to OWW.