Leaving Verite with a bottle of the 1998 La Muse for dinner, we decided to take a leisurely drive through the valley, stopping for a proper lunch (i.e. no more burrito shacks) at Ravenous (click here for a review) in Healdsburg. Good, fast, service was perfect for a brief luncheon detour from some serious wine country touring. Noisy, chaotic even, this great little bistro was a perfect fit for my style, and the food was absolutely delicious. For once I cannot comment on the wine list - after the stunning flight at Verite I thought a homemade lemonade would be the beverage least likely to disappoint.
Sufficiently nourished we left Healdsburg, taking the Westside road destined for the Hartford Family Winery. Having found Zin Nirvana at Bella and Merlot Nirvana at Verite, I thought one more shot at Pinot Noir was appropriate. Scenic and twisty, the Westside road was perfect for a leisurely drive. We stopped the Winemobile every 200ft in an attempt to capture the seasonal beauty of Sonoma on film (ccd).
Not sure if I found Pinot Nirvana at Hartford, but it was close. We started with the '05 Chardonnays, the Four Hearts and Stone Cote cuvees. The Four Hearts was more New World in style, while the Stone Cote was more Burgundian, but both were varietally true and excellent examples (best whites of the trip). The three '05 Pinot Noirs (Land's Edge, Sevens Bench, Jennifer's) were also very well made, but the Sevens Bench was the tasting room standout in my mind (and made it home with me). While I went here for the Burgundian-styled juice, we tasted the '05 Russian River Zin and I would be remiss if I didn't mention what a standout wine this was, especially at the $30 price point. Perhaps an equal to Bella. In fact it was Andrew at Rouge and Blanc that sent me here, but I mistakenly thought he sent me for the Pinot - I just checked my notes, he sent me for the Zin...sorry Andrew!
Last Supper: A Dinner at John Ash & Co.
The day, and our trip, ended at John Ash & Co., one of Sonoma's top tables. Unlike EDK, John Ash acknowledged our reservation and set us up at the bar for some pre-Verite (I mean pre-dinner) drinks. I loved that the bar served mini-flights of 3 wines - two oz. pours in tasting glasses around a theme. The standout? A Balletto Gewurtztraminer - I must visit Balletto next time.
Seated facing a floodlight vineyard, it would have been romantic if Rob weren't there. The service was exceptional, and surprisingly fast for a Saturday night. Yellow tomato gazpacho with some spicy tuna balls (went nicely with my flight of whites) was followed by a beautiful cut of venison in a blackberry reduction, a perfect interplay with our red wine selection.
The 1998 Verite was a stunning Merlot of subtle complexity. In the glass it was dark cherry in colour, with some orangey brick at the edge. The nose was dominated by leafy tobacco, liquorice, exotic spices and dark currant fruit, constantly shifting, changing, teasing. On the palate the beautiful currant fruit interlaced with velvety tannins, it was dry and slightly minerally/chalky. Absolutely amazing balance: smooth yet complex, subtle and powerful. With a very long finish, this Verite still has a few years ahead of it. What a way to finish this adventure.
cork closure, 14.1% alcohol
Price: US$90 (winery)