Garden Party

If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Carneros

Before we get to the wine, first, a word about coffee mugs.

Lately, I’ve gotten a little funny about my morning coffee. I have a coffee mug for different days of the week. Maybe it’s a sign of incipient eccentricity, maybe it’s harmless, but in any case, it’s only taken over three days of the week thus far. It all started with Tuesday. That’s the day the Carneros Wine Alliance holds their annual barrel tasting get-together each spring. When you arrive, you get a wine glass; when you leave, you get a commemorative coffee mug. So when it’s Tuesday, I think of Carneros.

Shared between Sonoma and Napa Counties, the Los Carneros American Viticultural Area (AVA) was established way back in 1983. The region’s key claim to quality is that it’s cool two ways—the rolling, windswept vineyards are influenced both by Petaluma Gap ocean breezes and San Pablo Bay.

Typical of the Chardonnays I tasted at the event, the 2017 Carneros Chardonnay ($38) from non-member winery Frank Family Vineyards is barrel-fermented but has the bright, lemony acidity to handle it, coming across with floral notes of oak, caramel and quince jam on the tongue instead of fat, “buttery” character. Frank Family’s 2017 Carneros Pinot Noir ($38) has that dried black cherry and potpourri spice that I find many, if not all, Carneros Pinots display.

Among other treats offered at this intimate event, which is only open to member wineries and a few trade and media folks, is a sneak peak at the latest vintage—usually organized into a theme, like this year’s sampling of Pommard clone Pinot Noir from member vineyards—and sometimes a behind-the-scenes look at a winery locale.

This year’s event was held at the Donum Estate. Since I last visited in 2014—also an invite-only event—Donum has been a conundrum. Was the converted dairy barn that housed its offices open for tasting? Yes, sort of. Kind of. Inquire. Then the head appeared. “Sanna,” by artist Jaume Plensa, is a giant, white head that plays with one’s sense of depth and scale. And then a massive, shimmering heart,
“Love Me,” by Richard Hudson, on a distant hilltop. What’s going
on at Donum?

Find out for yourself at Discover Donum, a rare tasting and tour of the 190-acre estate’s sculpture garden of 40 works by artists including Ai Weiwei and Keith Haring. The new winery, on the footprint of the barn, itself is a work of art. Proceeds benefit Art Escape. Mug not included—but maybe a GoVino!

Discover Donum, Saturday May 11, 11am–3pm. 24500 Ramal Rd., Sonoma. Tickets $45, available at 707.939.2290.

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