Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Clarksburg AVA

This last weekend, being a 3 day weekend, my wife and I decided to take the kids to a water slide park in Sacramento. We drove to Sacramento through the delta rather than the standard I80 route because my wife was helping her mom out at her home in Rio Vista, and I had to stop there and pick her up.

SGK (my wife's initials) had a copy of some magazine that talked about wine tasting in Sacramento. She was all hip to try it out. Now, when they say Sacramento, they really mean Clarksburg which is a town in the delta just outside of Sacramento proper. The most well known winery in the region is Bogle, who like to tout their Petite Sirah. There are other wineries in the AVA, most of which co-locate their tasting rooms at a place called The Old Sugar Mill. The sugar mill is a great place for a tasting room - full of history, architecturally interesting, and planted in the middle of a vineyard. It's also the location of a custom crush facility, which makes it easier on the wineries.

Our first stop was not at the sugar mill, but rather at a small family owned winery Scribner Bend. It was an enjoyable visit, and we got to chat with the owner for quite a while. I had to ask him about the local grapes though, as the Delta has way too rich a soil to make stressed out wine grapes. He admitted that most of the growers sell their wine to Bronco.

Scribners wines were OK. I've had better Petite Sirah but their Tempranillo was good enough that I bought 2 bottles. Tempranillo? In the Delta? It turns out that lots of Clarksburg vineyards are growing this grape that is IMHO better suited for the more desert like conditions of Rioja, La Mancha, and Baja than the wet, rich california delta.

Scribners als had a rare white Italian varietal called "Fiano" that is common in the area of Avellino that my Paternal grandmother's family came from. We bought a bottle of that too to share with my dad.

After Scribners, we were off to the sugar mill. I won't mention any of the wineries in the sugar mill by name as whilst the venue was wonderful, none of the wines we tasted were memorable. It is clear from talking to several of the winery owners that most of them consider themselves farmers rather than wine makers. There is nothing wrong with that; it just does not make for memorable wine.

Some of them could use a bit of an education as well, as one of the winery owners was arguing that a late harvest Petite Sirah was really a Port and she was angry that the ATF would net let her call it a port.