An Earthy Taste of Sonoma Coast

The Sonoma Coast is home to many of California's prestigious Pinot Noir and Chardonnay producers. This is by no means a comprehensive overview of the region, but a look at two fantastically distinguishable bottles available in our market right now.

California's Counties
The region...
There are 15 main counties that California wine is divided into. These counties are categorized into either North, Central, or South Coast, Central Valley, or Sierra Foothills. Sonoma County, along with Napa Valley and others, is considered to be of California's North Coast.

Sonoma Coast is the largest of 13 appellations inside Sonoma County, it covers the entire Pacific coastline of the county. With only about 7000 of its half million acres planted, the area is less dense with vineyards than its more famous cousins of Los Carneros and Russian River Valley. The Sonoma Coast is generally served by cool climate, long growing season, and high rainfall, though its large geographical span contain many microclimates with varying soil. Most of its reputable wines are of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, or Syrah grapes. In this area Syrah is known for elegant, medium body by cool climate growing.  Wiki 

The wines...
You need not look far for bottles from Sonoma. There is something in every store. At the recent Willow Park California Festival alone we tried over half a dozen North Coast pinot noir's. The Ferocious Grape on 10Ave SW (across from MEC) specializes in Californian and Italian wines. They have great selection and service. This Schug has been a favorite of mine since it surprised me last year. Ironically I was looking for a fruity American pinot at the time. The Sebastiani I came into recently, its one of the best valued pinot's on my plate right now.

The Schug 2008 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir...

Schug is an interesting winery, producing pinot noir and other varietals passionately in Los Carneros, Sonoma County. It was founded in 1980 as a lifelong dream of California wine legend Walter Schug. It began as a personal side project when pinot demand in California was minimal. W Schug was raised in Assmannshausen, Germany, on the region's only Pinot Noir estate. His experience is extensive to say the least. To this day he has completed over 50 harvests, many of which as current Winemaster at Schug Winery. In 1996 Micheal Fox took position as Winemaker. It is rumored that the company's future is uncertain as the Schug sons lack desire to continue the wine producing heritage.

The wine is light ruby in colour, totally homogenous with great clarity. The nose is earthy fragrant with early season raspberry and straw roof. The wine is light and crisp, with the acid carrying nicely though the delicate, long finish. The fruit is under ripe, really tight, lean, and clean. Its fantastically complex in such an accessible way, I get a feeling of real presentation, like all the flavours are laid out in an easy to read way. Flavours of coastline terroir predominate. Notes of cranberry, raspberry, straw, barn, hay bail, mineral, sea salt, beach, fresh cedar, and oak.

This is plain and simple a great Pinot Noir, purist in style, feather-weight body, highly expressive of its coastline terroir. It almost feels French, but the earth tones are unmistakably not that of inland Burgundy. One of my absolute favorites, and well worth the cash. Its great with soft, creamy cheeses, grilled vegetables, prawns, most fish, or duck. All pinot should be chilled slightly, this one especially. I serve the first glass from 15min in the fridge, and allow it to warm to the room as you drink. This is a great method to present any wine really.

The Sebastiani 2008 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir... 

Ive never had anything quite like it, its some kind of amazing. Very, very different from the Schug. Its a bit of a hybrid style; delicacy and rustic spice coupled to American vigour. The nose is all about dry and musky spices, with little fruit aboard. The palate is back heavy with lots of earthy tones atop old, purple fruit. Notes of sesame, nuts, nutmeg, cardamon, turmeric, sandy soil, toasted oak, plum & prune.

It certainly carries that "pinot essence". Its somewhat dark and full of intriguing flavours. It has an easy-to-like, spicy/earthy fragrance, and a satisfying back palate. The tannins are really smooth and voluptuous. Balanced well in an American style, it certainly has the acid to stand by a meal, but for me this is a great stand-alone wine. I've drank several bottles since my first and its just great for the casual affair. I'd love to pair it with a roasted roasted pork loin or veal sausage and parsnips from the barbecue.

The Sebastiani is available at both Willow Park locations (SouthCenter and BowTrail) for $21.99 and I wouldn't be surprised to find it elsewhere. The Schug is available almost everywhere including WineInk and Willow Park for circa $29.99. However, it's also at Real Canadian LiquorStore for $24.99.

Edit; Real Canadian has stocked the 2009 Schug now, $23.69. A different style on this vintage; darker and denser, way more fruity. Its nice, but certainly not the 08.

Maps courtesy of and
July 2012