Author Archives{jamesknight}

As well as contributing the wine-of-the-week pick to inside-sonoma, James Knight writes the "Swirl 'n' Spit" column for the North Bay Bohemian, Sonoma, Napa, and Marin County's alternative newsweekly. As well as developing an appreciation for aromatic nuances in the genteel atmosphere of the tasting room, he's dragged hoses and traversed vineyards for wineries in Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino, Lodi, and Rheinhessen, Germany.

A 5th generation Sonoma County resident, Mr. Knight grew up among visits to wineries, which he thought would make excellent redoubts in the aftermath of seemingly immanent thermonuclear war. Although he first studied wine-like beverages under the tutelage of Bartles and Jaymes, he did not get serious about wine and spirits until, in Portland, Oregon, a freak flu left him with the temporary inability to enjoy beer. Armed with a dog-eared copy of Idwal Jones' Vines in the Sun, he left the rain-sodden city in a '63 Chevy, determined to get back to the land, and grow... potatoes. Several misadventures later, he started a vineyard, in a contrarian gesture to the customary pattern of professional success followed by an easygoing wine country lifestyle.

Mr. Knight has permanently reserved spaces in his heart - or on his palate - for amazing Zinfandel, good Riesling, Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc, and persists in believing that Syrah and Grenache and blends thereof may provide some of the more exciting wines of the near future, or the one after that.

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La Crema 2011 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

The Russian River Valley has a solid rep for Pinot Noir, that’s understood. But I had no idea that the Sonoma Coast, which includes the Russian River Valley, is held in such comparatively low regard by informed, high-end wine consumers, until I was recently exposed to new consumer research. There’s no reason for that, although the Sonoma Coast appellation is {…}

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Balletto 2009 Russian River Valley Syrah

You’ve noticed that the wine thing is a little like high school, or haven’t you? Cabernet Sauvignon is, after all, French for “prom king.” And Chardonnay roughly translates as “cheerleader,” I’m fairly certain, in some Burgundian village dialect or other. And everywhere in the world that Cab and Chard go, they’re the center of attention. So what about Syrah? Syrah {…}

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Inman Family Wines 2009 Brut Rosé Nature Sparkling Wine

With the holidays already in full retreat, a half-remembered haze of heartwarming social expectations and thrilling adventures in traffic, it’s time that we got serious about sparkling wine. That’s right. Much of the nation’s sparkling budget is blown during the holidays, to be sure, but I like to think of the remainder of January as “sparkling wine month,” a time {…}

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River Road Family Vineyards 2012 Nouveau

Le vin nouveau est arrivé . . . on the first, um, Monday of December. Well, here’s a new tradition to toast to! Unlike the arrival of Beaujolais Nouveau on the third Thursday of November, a once-hyped event that still rates a mention or two, River Road’s version  is actually a beautiful, pink rosé, not the red Gamay of the {…}

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Ancient Oak Cellars

Ancient Oak Cellars tasting room is now open in Corricks Stationery and Gifts (637 Fourth St., Santa Rosa, 707-546-2424, corricksgifts.blogspot.com). Before all this, Corrick’s was already a friendly, welcoming place to do the right thing, and “shop locally.” Founded some 97 years ago, the old-school stationer is a local institution, selling office supplies, wedding invitations, silver and china to generations {…}

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DeLoach 2008 “Forgotten Vines” Zinfandel

The Sonoma County wine industry was already in full swing by the 1880s, when vineyard planting surged. In between the Panic of 1873 (plus the Panic of 1893, and probably, the Panic of 1907) and the bummer of 1919 (aka Prohibition), farmers stuck a whole lot of grapevines in the dirt, many of them Zinfandel. But it’s a boom and {…}

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Dutton-Goldfield 2010 Fox Den Pinot Noir

Folks, did you pick out a Pinot Noir for Thanksgiving dinner, hewing to the perennial recommendations of wine writers everywhere? How did that work out for you? I hope that it did. And how is that exercise and diet regime going? No, you’re right; that’s best left until after New Year’s, at this point, according you free reign over tables {…}

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Big cats at Peterson Winery

Critter labels. You’ve seen them. Kangaroos, penguins, and goats do roam; lions, tigers, and bears, oh my! But Healdsburg’s Peterson Winery, a family-run outfit specializing in sustainably farmed Dry Creek Valley wines, does them all one better. Dozens better. Each varietal of Peterson wine features a different animal on the label, from owls to hummingbirds, stags to goats. Point of {…}

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Cline 2010 Cool Climate Syrah

I thought it a bit funny that Cline Cellars chose to label their new Pinot Noir series “cool climate.” After all, we’ve come to expect that Pinot won’t be found growing leaf-to-leaf with Merlot in hot regions like the Alexander Valley. That’s the whole story of Pinot’s success in Sonoma County. It’s like saying, we’ve got refrigerated beer! Yes, please. {…}

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Fort Ross Vineyard & Winery

Here’s a fun fact for your next cocktail party conversation. Who was first to plant wine grapes in Sonoma County? Surprise, it was not the Spanish padres, although their viticultural contributions in the mission town of Sonoma did have a more direct influence on later developments. Turns out, the Russians at Fort Ross beat them to that punch bowl by {…}