The Luckiest Girl in the World
If you live in Los Angeles, you’ll eventually encounter a celebrity. You may find yourself cross legged beside Gisele Bundchen during Mommy & Me class at the kinder gym. Perhaps you’ve indulged in a manicure alongside Jessica Simpson or sidled past Pam Anderson at the plastic surgeon’s office. It’s a law of averages. Here in Sonoma County the currency is less reality TV diva and more celebrity vintner. (Notwithstanding a purported Giada de Laurentiis sighting at last summer’s Farmer’s Market; apparently I missed her phone message.) I have heard winemaker Merry Edwards is a devoted yogi, but I’m too lazy to drive to the studio in her neighborhood. And I doubt either the Kosta or Browne contingency buys wine at Costco. But it’s bound to happen here too- that elusive celebrity winemaker sighting. And it may even emerge from the most mundane and inauspicious of circumstances, like an 11th hour Hail Mary phone call.
I fielded a call last Wednesday at 8:58 am, as I was rushing to drop the kids at summer camp. It was a good friend and well known wine reviewer asking if I wanted to join him at a high end pinot noir tasting starting at 10 am. Some last minute cancellation relinquished a vacancy at the tasting table. Might I enjoy a morning of fine wine? High end, single vineyard pinot at 10 am? Hell yeah, count me in. I asked if I should bring wine or something to share. He said to just show up. So I did, about 15 minutes late (I had to stop at the post office). And then my head exploded.
It turns out I had Forrest Gumped into a private tasting of verticals from Summa Vineyard, a legendary Sonoma Coast property way out in West County. The tasting showcased five different wineries each using pinot noir fruit from the same 6 acre site, with wines dating back to 1995. I arrived, fashionably late and took the only open seat behind a forlorn, phalanx of empty stemware. The phase one tasting included 7 wines from the same producer, spanning 2002-2010. Eleven additional Summa Vineyard wines rounded out phase two. I am not one to name drop, but this was a serious who’s who of Sonoma Coast pinot noir. Imagine an Academy Awards of Superstar Celebrity Vintners kind of event. I was totally star struck. I used every ounce of professional restraint to keep my camera phone stashed in my purse.
To my right was a lovely older gentleman in a Hawaiian shirt. He smiled, stuck out his hand, and said, “I’m Burt. Good to meet you.” I looked at him and said, “I know exactly who you are, sir.” The company was as awe inspiring as the wines. You cannot pay any amount of money to taste such rare stuff side by side. I’d stumbled into a carefully curated private tasting. I was a lucky interloper. In fact one winemaking celeb mistook me for a sales rep for another winery. At least he didn’t ask me to serve him some crackers.
And now for the wines. Allow me to preface this by reminding you that I am not an amateur wine reviewer. I’m worse. I pride myself on my failure to identify a Rioja from left-bank Bordeaux blind. But I will share my notes from my three favorites, in descending order of jaw-dropping awesomeness.
#3) 2007 Rivers-Marie Summa Old Vines Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
“Color is more red and less brick than ‘02/’03, nose with integrated baking spice, allspice, clove, exotic spice, cherry, raspberry, blood orange, tastes of fruit and spice, still quite bright with nice acid.”
#2) 2006 Brogan Michaela’s Reserve Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast
“Love it! Sexy and seductive nose with floral notes, red cherry, cherry candy and some oak flavors on the finish; nice spice on a long finish. This wine is plush and giving.”
And now to blow your mind, no friggin’ joke:
#1) 1995 Williams-Selyem Winery Sonoma Coast Summa Vineyard
“Holy crap! Color is still red; no brown tinge. Nose is plummy and perfumed, cherry, tea, fresh sage, and thyme. Wow! Still has crazy structure and tannin. Vibrant.”
Like I said, I don’t like to drop names, but Burt Williams borrowed my pen.