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Saturday, November 3, 2012

Exploring Bonterra, Organics, and Mendocino with ThirstyGirl & Leslie Sbrocco

Last night was another #TGTaste with Leslie Sbrocco featuring wines from Bonterra Vineyards, a California winery located in Mendocino County - just north of Sonoma. Specifically we sampled their 2011 Mendocino County Chardonnay and 2010 Mendocino County Merlot, both produced from certified organically grown grapes. Organic and Biodynamic® farming seems to be the culture in the county as a large percentage of vineyard practice those techniques or philosophies - 25% says wiki. Apparently, according to Bonterra, this "goes back to the history..young people moving here in the 60s to get back to the land". And nice farm land they found.

I also learned that the Russian River originates in Mendocino so in reality the Russian River valley is not inclusive to Sonoma - well maybe the AVA - but not the nutrients in the soil. The Chardonnay grapes were harvested along the river in the Sanel Valley whereas the Merlot grapes were grown in the warmer McNab ranch in Hopland.

We started with the Chardonnay ($14) which was produced using a combination of oak and stainless steel. 70% of the juice was fermented in a combination of French and American oak - also undergoing malolactic fermentation - whereas the remaining 30% was fermented in stainless steel. The wine was then aged in a different combination of neutral and new oak barrels. The result is a very good - I mean VERY GOOD - wine. The non-Chardonnay drinkers in our immediate group loved it as it started with a vibrant green apple flavor, followed by a creamy vanilla mid, ending in a balanced acidic-lemon finish. The bottle was empty rather quickly as we all enjoyed this one. Going to look to restock today.

Moving to the Merlot ($16), each lot was fermented separately and then blended together with small amounts of Petite Sirah, Syrah, and Carignane. Ms. Sbrocco informed me that the addition of these three grapes added "complexity and spicy notes" to the final product. This wine was also a big hit with the #TGTaste community, as @MyVineSpot tweeted "Delightfully approachable w/ aromas/flavors of dk cherry, raspberry, spice accents & cedar". But we had to wait awhile to allow the wine to breathe - the initial taste was quite mundane. However, after decanting the dark cherry flavors sprang forth, followed by some spice, and a very smooth, soft finish. Another lesson learned - decant as often as possible.

Overall, a very good night. I definitely plan on revisiting these wines (love the QPR) and spend more time researching the wines from Mendocino. Cheers.

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