From the vantage point of my wine shop in Ohio, it is easy to view Sonoma County as a monolith. It would also be easy to judge an entire region by its largest wineries. These corporate wine behemoths present an image of boring wines and a bland region. But that doesn't begin to tell the complete story.
I spent a month recently in Sonoma County and discovered that this is an immensely diverse region and there are dozens of fabulous small producers making compelling wines that month people don't ever taste.
Here are five worth seeking out. - From the lightest white to the heaviest red.
Jordan 2012 Chardonnay 'Russian River Valley AVA. "Clear light yellow color. Fleshy white peach aromas. Great balanced chardonnay with a touch of of oak and a soothing lemon custard finish. Better balance, acidity, and food-friendliness when compared to most RRV Chardonnays. 90 points. Retail $33
Lioco 2012 Chardonnay 'Hanzell Vineyard, Sonoma Valley AVA.' "Wow, this is one of the most amazing California Chardonnay's I've ever tasted! A pristine yellow color. Aromas of hay and fresh wild honey. Nice acidity, but a firm, tight mouthfeel that opens up to creaminess as you hold it in the mouth. Medium+ body. There is great purity here as well as richness. The finish really persists a long time, so this is a candidate for moderate aging as well. I've rarely seen such a sophisticated and confident American Chardonnay. Kudos." 95 points. $60 OH Retail
County Line (from Radio-Coteau) 2013 Pinot Noir 'Sonoma Coast AVA.' Light color a soft pink-purple. Wonderfully delicious with strong obvious acidity, pure raspberries, and the tiniest hint of milk chocolate. A light 'truly-burgundian' take on Pinot Noir. You can almost feel the salt water spray of the Sonoma Coast." 93 Points. $28 OH Retail.
Medlock Ames 2011 Bell Mountain Estate 'Alexander Valley AVA.' "Ruby red. Dusty red fruit aromas. Bright strawberries and warm bubblegum. Pleasant amounts of tannins and a persistent finish. A good warm-weather take on Bordeaux Blends." 90 Points. $30 OH Retail.
Radio-Coteau 2012 Syrah "Las Colinas" 'Sonoma Coast AVA.' "Glowing purple color. Spicy herbs, pipe tobacco, and menthol in lush red fruits on the nose. Melted blueberry pie with subtle hints of many types of stone and smoke. Touch of "bitey" tannin on finish. This needs a bit of time, but I have to believe it will only get better." 91 Points. $60 OH Retail.
The wines discusses here were originally tasted at Walt Churchill's Market in Maumee, Ohio.