Sojourn Cellars

It’s an apt name. The relaxed but serious sit-down tasting model is becoming more common locally, as boutique wineries seek to connect with more customers while consolidating day-to-day office operations. Sojourn is the project of four friends and one dog, and the winemaker splits his time with his day job at Audelssa. The tasting salon is housed in a little cottage off of Sonoma Plaza, the walls painted after my own heart in avocado green and styled up with a few upside-down lava-lamp-like lights. It’s a downtown version of the old lab/office/tasting combo familiar to small wineries the world over.

The first good thing about this kind of tasting is the comfortable pace and deficit of elbows. Even the lack of a tasting fee for the appointment-only visits seems to imply that this is for the grownups. The flip side of free is, well, one hesitates to take time out of his working day and then say, thanks, but I gotta go: that’s my job. So listen up and gauge whether the following fine wines fit taste and budget.

Sojourn flies with the sovereigns of red, Cab and Pinot. The hue of a foggy dawn, a pale pink haze, the 2006 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ($36) may be an expression of style or that year’s challenging vintage. The earth-and-strawberry fragranced Pinot should appeal not only to those who are lining up to bash big, extracted Pinots, but many others as well. Similarly light-hued but limpid and brick-tinged, the 2006 Sangiacomo Vineyards Pinot Noir ($48) hinted at bacon smoke wafting though a bramble thicket, with a side of cranberry. If on the fence, wait for the upcoming release of the more opulent 2007 version of the same.

It’s with the Cabs that Sojourn’s light touch seems to really pay off. The 2005 Sonoma Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($48) opened with eucalyptus and mint, offering smoked blackberries and white chocolate and a light dusting of tannin. Minty and accented with bitter cocoa powder and blackberry liqueur, the 2005 Mountain Terraces Cabernet Sauvignon ($75) is marginally more fruit-powered but similarly lissome. Sojourn’s current-release Cabs are clarets sparing on the tannin, with reservedly rich fruit that aim right for tip of the tongue. They’d likely make charming company at the dinner table, and a welcome alternative for those discerning drinkers who are lining up to register their offense at today’s overblown Napa Cabs. Of course these are, um, from Sonoma Valley. I gotta go.

Sojourn Cellars, 141 E. Napa St., Sonoma. Complimentary tasting by appointment. 707.938.7212.

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