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Wind to Wine shows Petaluma’s best vintages


What do we hear as we settle into our homes under the evening of the fading sun in our little valley? For generations, distant roars of race cars that have lulled children to sleep at bedtime echo into the night. The horn of a passing train, chugging out of town. The sounds of settling moisture dripping from the wet tree branches in our yard as the fog wraps into our gardens.

What do we see under the setting sun as gray clouds crawl with foggy fingers drawn, gripping across the hillsides coming east? Reliable yet timeless, this fog is our ghastly visitor from the sea — that which rises with the inland warmth into our countryside and our town, darkens the windows in our homes, and slows the maturation process of all the grapes on our vines.

This is the Petaluma GAP.

Some 12 years ago, when sommelier Christopher Sawyer and I first started teaming up with all these new, fledgling growers and winemakers to form the Petaluma GAP board, we started to invite and garner attention — if it already hadn’t been garnered — of some big wine names, professors and wine writers from around the country.

With insight, one gentleman, Rusty Gaffney of the Pinot File, recognized and observed: “The quality is consistently high with generous sweet fruit flavors, silky textures and lively acid profiles that bode well for the dinner table. This area will not be a sleeper for long.” And slept it has not.

On Sunday, Nov. 6, the Petaluma GAP aimed to show the world all its cards at its “Wind to Wine” seminars and wine tasting at the Sheraton, Petaluma. In the morning, Dan Berger and Christopher Sawyer hosted seminars on Cool Climate Syrah and Food Friendly Wines. Both were a big hit with audiences and warmed up all the attendees for the main show at the Grand Tasting at 1 p.m.

Led by Petaluma GAP President, Rickey Trombetta, some 33 wineries pouring more than 130 wines opened the cork floodgates and all that is great about Petaluma. Standouts such as Pfendler, Calstar, Guarachi Family and Keller Estate, showcased some of the floor while Bedrock and Arnot Roberts next to Sojourn and Pax Mahle ringed us in delight of all that is cool climate.

Black Kite, Trombetta, Walt Wines and Fogline all augmented the numbers of superb and world-class libations that attribute to this growing list of unprecedented wine-making and viticultural stardom.

One of the great standouts of the chardonnay wines produced, the 2013 Black Kite Cellars Gap’s Crown Chardonnay, is a crisp, mineral-driven and elegant chardonnay that I just fell in love with. Quality, dry fruit with green orchard notes, silky textures and lively acid profiles that bode well for this wine. Only 250 cases were made.

Another Amazing wine, the 2013 Ramey Rodgers Creek Vineyard Syrah, is a red worthy of international praise. Fashioned like a northern Rhone, it sneaks out its European label and trend with its juicy and concentrated warm and dark California fruit. All the while, however, it adheres to the old world foundations, making it a wine that very few producers in the world can produce. I am not sure I’ve had a better syrah, this year.

Great speeds ignite fiery noises from metal machines relegated to the margins of their distant dirt track from where we hear their engines roar. Around them, the gift of evening gray from the sea slowly returns and begins to work its cooling magic on all that is planted around Petaluma. Again, the world will awaken to these wines and we will not be left sleeping for long.

(Jason Jenkins is the owner of Vine and Barrel in Petaluma. Contact him at jason@vineandbarrel.com.)