Last summer I interviewed Mike Cox, winemaker at Schug Carneros Estates. I had just learned that not all wine is vegan and Mike’s interview educated me further. At the conclusion of the interview Mike suggested I visit next time I was in Sonoma.
I did. On a grey, cold day in Sonoma earlier this month my husband, two friends and I visited Schug Carneros Estates.
Mike had quite an experience planned for us!
We started outside.
A few interesting tidbits:
*Schug sits on 50 acres in Sonoma, in the Carneros appellation.
*The Chardonnay grapes are on the flats, the Pinot Noir grapes on the hill.
*Schug uses both stainless steel and oak barrels for fermentation.
*Harvest is in October and bottling is in July and August.
we wound our way to the reserve room, but only to grab our wine glasses for a particularly special tasting.
Schug red wines are vegan but the whites are not. That is, once the whites are finished they are no longer vegan (many wineries use animal products in the finishing process). Mike took us out to taste the wines in various stages of the fermentation process so that I could try some whites. Nicest. Gesture. Ever.
It was great to hear Mike react to the wines as he tasted them. He spoke about what he might do to each wine to attain the taste he is looking for. We enjoyed new whites and reds directly from the barrel. I loved this part of the tasting because it helped me understand the robust process, from vine to barrel to bottle, and beyond.
Back to the reserve room
for red — sweet, glorious red —wines.
*2007 Rouge de Noirs Sparkling Pinot (This was surprising and delicious. So much so that we ordered a bottle of rouge brut with dinner at Bistro Jeanty!)
*2008 Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast
*2008 Pinot Noir, Carneros
*2008 Schug Estate Pinot Noir, Carneros
*2007 Pinot Noir, Heritage Reserve
*2005 Cabernet Sauvignon, Heritage Reserve
*2006 Merlot, Heritage Reserve
Can you believe this tasting? It’s true; I enjoyed every wine immensely, particularly the 2007 Pinot Noir and the 2006 Merlot. This red wine lover was in HEAVEN.
Because of air travel restrictions with liquids (I’m a carry-on only gal, thank you very much) we were unable to purchase wine to take home. I did the next best thing. I joined the Schug wine club!
Mike spent hours with us. It’s a bit impossible to describe how meaningful this special experience was, from standing atop a hill overlooking the vineyard, to sauntering from barrel to barrel for a taste here and a taste there, to sitting in the reserve room and slowly, methodically tasting the reds. Mike shared his wealth of information about the science and agriculture behind winemaking, and, equally important, his passion for winemaking.
Our heartfelt thanks to the incredibly generous Mike Cox (read more about him here) for giving so much of himself — his time, his expertise, his enthusiasm. We will never forget the experience.
Have you experienced a special or memorable wine tasting? Tell me!