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