For three years in a row, Sonoma County’s been struck by catastrophic and fearsome fires. As someone who has also lived through three years of fires too close to home here in Ventura County, I know what it is like: the fire, the fear, the smoke, the ash. Asking friends and acquaintances how they fared. Fearing their losses.
These fires reside forever in our hearts and our soil.
But where we live is NOT ruined. It’s different but not destroyed.
And the wine is fine! “Over 90% of the fruit in Sonoma had already been picked and was safely fermenting,” says Regina Bustamante, co-proprietor of Sosie Wines.
“This year’s fires did not have the same impact on the wine country as did the fires of 2017,” continues Regina. “The areas that burned this time around were in very remote parts of Sonoma county. Residential communities were not under direct threat. And thankfully the fires were under control a few days later and no casualties were reported.”
These fires don’t mean you shouldn’t visit. If anything, it means we need to visit even more!
If you can’t visit, buy or order online wines from fire struck regions, because it takes a lot of money to rebuild and to recover after being closed.
“We live in the bear state of California,” says Sosie on their Facebook page. That means embracing fire ecology– fire has always been part of life in California.
For their wine, Sosie’s Scott MacFiggen and Regina Bustamante find inspiration in France, which means they “employ an old world approach to wine growing that favors restraint over ripeness, finesse over flamboyance. Our aim is to craft wines that show a kinship with those of Bordeaux, Burgundy, Loire and the Rhone. Wines that are their sosie” — French for twin, double, or lookalike.
The link between California and France is even in the logo which features California’s Grizzly bear with a French rooster perched on top:
As a minimal intervention winery that uses native yeasts, Sosie Wines strive for natural acidity and even ripeness —
“we tend to pick early” says Sosie‘s Regina–
and this allows the fruit to speak by sourcing fruit from vineyards with cooling influences. They don’t add acid, enzymes, tannin, or anything besides a little sulfur, and careful cooperage means oak complements and does not overwhelm the wines.
Further, the wines have a purpose: to pair with food: a purpose. To achieve this food-friendly goal, they make wine that is “lower in alcohol, higher in acid, structured and layered and made in small batches with minimal intervention and the lightest touch of oak.” Read more about Sosie’s winemaking here.
2015 Sosie Roussanne, Vivio Vineyard, Bennett Valley, Sonoma County – 12.9% alcohol SRP $38
Have you had Roussanne from the US? Not likely: less than 400 acres of Roussanne are grown in all of California because it’s finicky, it ripens late and clusters ripen unevenly. However, in the Vivio Vineyard in Sonoma, Sosie is finding success.
Color: Pale gold, lemony, lemon yellow
Nose: White stone fruit, nectarine, minerals, very expressive, very light in florals, nice perfume. Clean minerals, slate, bentonite, (no mossy rocks here)
Palate: Lucious, beautiful mouthfeel, with a brisk clean finish. The mouthfeel is what is most and forefront, once that dissipates, you are left with a balanced acidic finish. The fruit is present right up front on the palate and glides across the mouth with nectarine, yellow peach, and passion fruit. Don’t worry about getting this wine back into the fridge — it’s really interesting to enjoy as it warms and changes. Truly a remarkable wine.
We drank this wine out of a white wine glass, and a Rhone glass to compare. In the white wine glass, it delivers more tartness, and acidity while in the Rhone glass more of the fruit, especially the stone fruit comes through.
Pairing: The Roussanne was beautiful with roast chicken, and surprisingly with the corn as well. Usually corn is just to sweet for wine but this one works.
This is a wonderful white wine for your Thanksgiving table.
Warm bread spread with triple cream brie is amazing.
Sue made some little goat cheese balls coated in toasted seasoned pecans that when spread onto the fresh bread also was a nice pair– and a great little appetizer for a holiday gathering.
The creamy cheeses bring out a nice tart contrast. The wine and the pate was really nice, it brightens up both the food and the wine. We were both hesitant to try this wine with the Point Reyes blue cheese and were completely surprised at how complimentary this wine was with this cheese. It was an WOW pairing. We started thinking about a roast beet salad with blue cheese and toasted pecans.
2015 Sosie Pinot Noir, Spring Hill Vineyard, Sonoma Coast SRP $43
One reason why we appreciate Pinot Noir so much? It expresses place. Located on the western side of Petaluma, the Spring Hill Vineyard is so wet and windy that it is barely possible to grow these grapes there. Only seven miles from the ocean, the Spring Hill is the lowest point in the Coast Range north of the Golden Gate. Known as the Petaluma Gap, cold air and fog seeps through it from the Pacific. The adverse conditions makes small berries few and far between with yields as low as one ton per acre. Chris and Karen London grow sustainably using compost and cover crops of Lupine, crimson clover, California poppy and rye.
Color: Brownish plum, plum jam, orange rim
Nose: Raspberry with a bit of rhubarb, dry dirt, vineyard dirt during harvest, way in the background a bit of sarsaparilla.
Palate: Light in body and smooth as it rolls across the palate, like silk as opposed to velvet. Raspberry, Rainier cherry, very fresh fruit.
Pairing: Lovely with the roast chicken that Marshall prepared, making us think how well it would go with a roasted turkey.
This Thanksgiving season we have much to be grateful for — especially those of us who are get to live in California. It really is a special place, and Sonoma is a gem worth finding.
PS Want to learn more about Sosie? Give a listen:
I’ve learned about the Petaluma Gap. Quite a small amount of Pinot Noir at harvest, all to be lovingly fermented for our pleasure. I appreciate their sustainable practice. The Roussanne sounds perfect for the holiday table. The lower alcohol content may keep “drunk uncle” more it check.
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Ha! And indeed! Grapes form Petaluma Gap are quite special — and worth reaching out!