Tuesday, April 15, 2014


In its strictest sense, Oenophilia is a disciplined devotion to wine accompanying strict traditions of consumption.  There's also an entire lexicon devoted to buzz words related to wine almost completely unintelligible to the mere mortal.  Early in my career someone I was talking to told me a phrase I've carried forever: "b/s baffles brains".  Much connected with wine reminds me of this.

Tonight for example Viv read out to me the first 40 or so of the list '101 Things You Need to Know About Wine'.  Really there aren't that many things you need to know.  Taste first and foremost after which some of the other things.  Darren in Napa had told us a handful of things to do with color, smell, swishing not swirling, alcohol level, temperature.

We were greeted at Deerfield by the manager's nephew (and COO) who showed us to a little log cottage in the fields with our own flock of wild turkeys gobbling away outside (these birds are BIG!) and poured us a glass of some fresh and delicious Pinot Gris to set things off.  Nice start!

Deerfield Winery
Our noisy new neighbors

We ate that first night at a local eatery called Glen Ellen Star (see website here) where we took a bottle of Deerfield Merlot (everybody does this in Sonoma apparently, the restaurant charged us $15 corkage) and sat at the kitchen counter to chat to and watch the kitchen action of the 3 chefs.  They had a wood burning oven in which they cooked pretty much everything, vegetables, pizzas, fish, you name it.  Very nice everything was too.

The next day we had decided to limit our oenophile activities to 3 wineries including an old favorite Sebastiani, Buena Vista as the story was so good, and of course Deerfield with our hosts and friends Robert and PJ.

20 or so years ago we spent a Christmas at our friend's log cabin in Vermont.  We had agreed to do the catering including wine and had chosen a red and white Sebastiani wine because they came in big 3 litre jugs that had those glass handles at the throat that you could swing your finger through.  Viv and I were entirely happy with the choice but John was first shocked, then stunned and finally wouldn't let us choose wine for him again, actually until fairly recently (it was one of his that he had sold us... John has a wine merchant business).  It was therefore a pleasure to see that Sebastiani had been based in Sonoma for over 100 years and gave daily tastings.

Of course we had to go.

The lady giving the tasting was very nice, helpful and informative.  It would have been nice had the wine been better!

Great bottle though

The next winery was Buena Vista -- they had the first wine cave in Sonoma excavated by Chinese laborers in the 1850's which was another attraction for us.  The winery laid fallow until after World War II when a French wine maker bought it and is currently in the process of spending a lot of money to restore its former glory.

The oldest wine cave 
Their wine was nice, particularly the champagne equivalent and the reds.  The story got better too as Count Agoston Haraszthy, the Hungarian founder in 1857, also turned out to have introduced beer production in Wisconsin and to have been the first Sherrif of San Diego in the 1850's so had one new red with a Sherrif's star that we bought.

The full story: sadly he was eaten by alligators in Guatemala trying to create a rum production facility.  You couldn't make this up!
The final tasting was back at Deerfield where we went through the entire range of wines... they were starting to blur by this point sadly!  PJ had a group of Wisconsin folk to whom she was giving a tasting that we joined.  After they left we finished off another bottle then Robert arrived and we started again.

Wonderful wines, wonderful day.

Then Viv and I went back to our cottage, cooked up a local steak we'd bought and finished off the Pinot Gris, Merlot and another DRX that Robert had given us…

The final words by Roman poet Horace from 66 BC.

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