There’s a joy to not knowing. California’s Sonoma County, with its incredible diversity, is a place to be present with a mindset of inviting the unknown. The variety of wineries—from mom & pops to young iconoclasts to established legends and longtime consumer favorites—and the limitless mix and variations of terrain and terroir—from Carneros to the Petaluma Gap, Sonoma Coast, Russian River Valley, Knights Valley, Alexander Valley and Dry Creek Valley—is a kind of “call of the wild” to the willing wine explorer, for you will never know what to expect and what new discovery you might stumble upon just by traveling down any road in the vast county.
SPELL ESTATE, established in 2007, is one of those under-the-radar wineries that any wine traveler should be overjoyed to stumble upon. Specializing in Pinot Noir, that finickiest of grape varietals, there is an adventurous spirit that’s clearly at work in each of their vineyard-designated bottlings. The winery has a knack for picking little-heard-of vineyards, mostly within Sonoma County, and coaxing out the special nuances of that particular site in the wine. Our favorite Sonoma-based bottling is the Terra de Promissio Vineyard from the Sonoma Coast. The 2013 vintage brought about a richly textured Pinot that is luscious, very fruit-forward, intense and complex. The wine’s mouthfeel is fulsome and velvety, coating the mid-palate with flavor and juiciness. That flavor is ripe strawberry, black raspberry and clove, with a touch of tobacco on the lengthy finish of succulent dark berries. This is a big but balanced Pinot of supreme purity, expressiveness, wholeness and wholesomeness. A real beauty with stately presence.
The joy of not knowing is experiencing the thrill of realizing how little you know. In the Terra de Promissio, Spell brings about new knowledge of just how much there is to discover in the beautiful regions of Sonoma. –J.M.
Great Wine: Gary Farrell Zinfandel, Maffei Vineyard