The Dozen Vol. 26 No. 06

The Dozen – Sonoma in a Rear-View Mirror

Napa Valley's neighbors have moved past their "just farmers" self image.


In the late 1970s and early 1980s, when I was writing about wine for the late Washington Star and later serving as the first wine columnist for USA Today, after finishing my day job, I would frequently drive from Delaware to D.C. to participate in wine tastings. At the time, such events were fairly rare and still had an exotic allure.

On several occasions, a small group of a dozen or more winegrowers from Sonoma County came East to pour wines and tell their stories. Well aware that they were considered Napa Valley’s rustic neighbors, their favorite line was, “Unlike Napa, we are just farmers who make wine.” Even then, the implication was that Napa owners had the image of mostly outsiders who perhaps went to better schools and had business careers that would allow them to invest a million or two in a vineyard and winery.

Gradually, Sonoma’s “just farmers” image peeled away, as other wealthy investors gradually set up shop in the county’s many valleys and plains as Healdsburg attracted restaurants and shops that would have been at home in the Hamptons.

But don’t bemoan Sonoma’s transition. It is still a beautiful place with lovely locals and exotic newcomers. It’s still a fun place. And the wines are even better. We have a few in thDozenzen.

2020 Villa Maria “Private Bin” Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc ($12). Classic Marlborough aromatics and cutting-edge lime and kiwi flavors.

2020 Corvezzo Pinot Grigio delle Venezie ($13).  Quite nice and refreshing, somewhat complex with a little ginger lingering among the green fruits.

2021 Villa Maria “Earth Garden” Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc ($18). Good depth and rich flavors with some wood strawberries among the kiwi, a touch of oxygenation, a little cream, and a hint of tannins.

2020 Sonoma-Cutrer Sonoma Coast Chardonnay ($25). Quite nice – a combo of lightly green, lightly creamy, and light minerally tastes and textures.

2021 FEL Anderson Valley Pinot Gris ($30). With flavors of tart apples and creamy pears, the wine is lively and rich in flavor though lean in structure.

2015 Gehricke “Chalk Ridge” Russian River Valley Chardonnay ($49). Apples and some butter crustiness that is quite nice – mellow like an apple turnover.

2019 Anaba Sonoma Coast Chardonnay ($40). Very smooth with a nice uplift of mellow apples and pears and a slightly savory, seductive finish.

2019 Sonoma-Cutrer “Les Pierres” Sonoma Coast Chardonnay ($40). Very fresh, yet very creamy with light vanilla tastes, light tannins, and a savory but reticent finish.

2018 Chalk Hill Vineyards Chalk Hill Chardonnay ($45). Very enjoyable – a blend of flavors and textures, including mellow apples, beeswax, savory spices, and a little vanilla, with an excellent mouth feel.

2020 FEL Anderson Valley Pinot Noir ($41). It hits all the classic Pinot points – cola and cherry/strawberry preserves with good minerality, a touch of gameness, and excellent length and balance.

2019 Anaba Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ($48). A delicious wine, Burgundy-like, light in flavors but big and complex in impact.

2014 Gehricke “Ponzo Vineyards” Sonoma Valley Zinfandel ($49). It is already eight years old and has a warm blackberry center wrapped in old-barrel notes and a hint of oxy spritz and cherry flavors appearing in the finish.

Prices listed are generally SRP or from As more wineries are now shipping direct-to-consumer, check the winery website if you can’t find a bottle in your retail store.

Feature photo courtesy of Chalk Hill.

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Roger Morris writes about wine, food and travel for The World of Fine Wine, Drinks Business, Meininger's Wine Business International, Wine Enthusiast and other publications in the U.S. and Europe.

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