Inspirational inspiration – WBW #57

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Oh my!  Are we here again?  Wine Blogging Wednesday already?  Oh my.  Hard to believe that a year has gone by since Robert Mondavi passed away, and a great icon – however controversial – was lost.  This month, Jeff LeFevre, of Good Grape, has asked us to find our own California Inspiration.

What is my California Inspiration?  Wow.  To be honest, I had a really hard time thinking of what to write about for this post, because I am a California native who grew up in the city closest to one of the world’s greatest wine regions.  Wine has always been a part of my life.  Growing up in San Francisco, my parents would have dinner parties and let me taste their wine.  At the time it was Gallo’s Hearty Burgundy, but hey.  It was the 70s and 80s.  Back then, these jug wines were not only all the rage, they were actually of decent quality.  As my parents moved on to more palatable pursuits, they still let me sip their libations.  Not only did this prevent me from going completely wild, it made me appreciate the local fruit.  Yes yes ok, so I’m still completely wild, but I never snuck out of the house to drink.  Or stole my parent’s liquor, or really went on a bender.  Much.

When I finally left my community college for greener pastures, I chose Sonoma State University.  Not so much for its proximity to wine country, since I really didn’t drink, but because of the psychology programs I was looking at.  Working nearly full time and going to school more than full time takes a toll on a girl however, and I quickly discovered that there were many opportunities in the Sonoma area for tasting and talking, and that *SHOCK* they were free!  A poor college student who spends $800 on books a semester does not a rich woman make, so off we went on weekday excursions to local tasting rooms.  It was during this time that I discovered the big, powerful Zinfandels of Dry Creek Valley.

During my senior year, I was lucky enough to graduation from the retail sector and strange college student jobs, to a receptionist job at a local winery sales office.  It was here where my love of the grape really took flight.  The company took a keen interest in educating their employees, and held Friday wine tastings, of their own wines as well as local wines that might be in competition.  When I left the summer job to move back to San Francisco and begin a misguided career in the employment arts, they sent me off with a case of wine and an open invitation to come back to taste.

What really inspires me is the small, family run winery, many of which are in Sonoma County.  Particular favorites of mine are Mounts Familiy Vineyards, Manzanita Creek, and the collectives at Front Street as well as Hudson Street Wineries.  As I’ve written about in the past, these small, family owned wineries exclude hospitality and know that the hey to their success is their customers.  Here, I get personal attention and am greeted like a member of the family.  No amount of overpriced cult Cabernet can ever make up for that.  For these wines, I seek out the lesser known, I travel to new regions, I spend more than I would normally spend.  This to me, is the true meaning of inspiration.

Speaking of Inspiration, I’ll close with a story of a small winery on Olivet Lane in Santa Rosa.  Inspiration Vineyards.  The little yellow house sits just off the road, surrounded by vineyards, and some larger operations like DeLoach, Hook & Ladder, Sunce, and Harvest Moon, but is a spot of calm in a sea of wine travelers.  Jon & Barbara have been making wine  on their small 4.5 acre estate in the Russian River Valley appellation.  They produce Chardonnay and Zinfandel on the property, as well as Pinot Noir and Syrah from other vineyards.  At Inspiration, they strive to produce high quality, food friendly wines at reasonable prices.  I’d say they manage that and more!

My personal favorite from Inspiration is the Pinot Noir.  Every year it is slightly different, giving me a little thrill every time I go by to taste.  If you’re lucky, you’ll get to do a side by side of vintages.  The 2005 Los Carneros Pinot Noir was a memorable experience, with a light body, which was aged in new & old French oak for 10 months. The grapes for this wine come from a small vineyard in the Los Carneros area of southern Sonoma, and they were hand tended.  This alone is inspiring to me, as it is a rare and expensive commodity in the grape market today.  I found it light and earthy, with mushroom, bright cherry and slight tobacco flavors.  It was a surprising wine with some spritz, proving that sometimes forgotten rocks can produce amazing gems.
The following vintage was a completely different wine.

The 2006 was a fruit forward, intense and bold Pinot Noir.  Jon attributes this change to a stylistic shift he made in the wine making process.  The fermentation was extended, and the wine shows big rich flavors and a dark cherry red color.  I found lavender, strawberries, dark cherries, and smoke.  Yum!

Inspiration is is open by appointment only, so be sure to call ahead.  They are however, often open on days when there are events in the area, such as Barrel Tasting and Winter Wineland,  so you might just get lucky.

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3 Responses to “Inspirational inspiration – WBW #57”

  1. Liza Says:

    YUUUUUMMMM!!!! That unfiltered Pinot we drank wherever iot was we drank it was amazing! Truly inspirational stuff! Oops I forgot it was supposed to have something to do with Robert Mondavi!

  2. Sonadora Says:

    Inspiration makes one of the best Zins I’ve ever had. I briefly considered them for my post too but don’t have any bottles in the basement at the moment, sadly.

  3. winebratsf Says:

    LOVE the Inspiration!

    Megan – yes – they do AMAZING zins! yumyum. And Liza, that pinot was a miracle.

    Hmm now I must go. And drive north! 😉 Time for a trip up Olivet Lane!

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