Whatever the weatherman may say, the prevailing winds this March will be blowing in from the west. Washington area wine drinkers can expect a heavy shower from the wineries of California's Sonoma County and a lighter but longer one from the Pacific Northwest states.
From the A in Adler Fels to the Z in Stephen Zellerbach, 40 members of the Sonoma County Wine Growers' Association will be here on March 8. It's a welcome return. Their last visit, a couple of years ago, was an informal and informative merry- go-round of tastings and discussions. This year's group is bigger. Led by Crawford Cooley of Hacienda, it includes long-established members such as Sebastiani and Simi, Pedroncelli and Souverain, plus interesting newcomers such as DeLoach, Fisher and Fieldstone.
I have a feeling it'll be another enjoyable visit. The wine people of Sonoma offer enough quality and diversity in their wines to keep any lover of California wines happy. And as long as Dave Stare of Dry Creek is in town, there's bound to be some good humor.
The diversity of wines is provided by the region itself. Sonoma County is not a single, clean-cut valley, nor is there any one definition of soil and climate. From the Sonoma Valley in the southeast corner, through the Russian River Valley, and north to the Dry Creek and Alexander valleys, the conditions provide enough variety for everything from high acid grapes for sparkling wines to high sugars for wines harvested late.
For the Washington tasting we are promised about 80 wines, half being cabernet sauvignons and chardonnays. There should also be a good representation of the sauvignon blanc, which does well throughout Sonoma, and with luck, a botrytis- infected dessert riesling or two.
If you'd like to try the new Sonoma wines, there's an open tasting at the Shoreham Hotel on March 8 from 7 to 9 p.m. It'll be an informal evening, meaning that you can move at your own pace, tasting, chatting to the winemakers and owners, and clearing the palate on the cheeses of Rouge & Noir, the Marin cheese factory that makes a delicious Sonoma goat cheese. Tickets are $15 and can be bought in advance through Les Amis du Vin. It could be a sellout, so call 301/588-0980 for more information.
Our wine bars will be catching the Sonoma spirit too and wines from Sonoma County will be featured at the Carlton, La Colline, Suzanne's and Henry Africa in early March.
The second westerly wind is blowing some of the wines of Washington state, Oregon and Idaho into the restaurants of The American Caf,e, including the one in Baltimore. Four of the leading wineries of the Pacific Northwest, and those with probably the widest distribution here--Chateau Ste. Michelle, Ste. Chapelle, Sokol Blosser and Elk Cove--are participating. The American Caf,e's staff members have been given a tasting seminar on the region in general and these wineries in particular, and will be keen to advise customers on wine and food matchings. The promotion runs for the first half of March, with the wines being sold by the glass and bottle.
I'm all in favor of regional tastings, especially if the wines are available by the glass. In fact, I'm all in favor of anything that encourages us to be more daring with wine. And so, to return to an old hobbyhorse: Please, restaurateurs, give us a chance to order your better quality wines--by keeping your prices at a reasonable level.