The SOMM Journal

August / September 2018

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Page 52 of 124

52 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2018 Lucky Number 13 RECOGNIZING THE BENNETT VALLEY AVA Bennett Valley, a gently sloping, elevated valley located just southeast of Santa Rosa, is Sonoma County's 13th appellation. Situated between three mountain peaks, it features well-drained mountain benchland soils, volcanic rock, early morning fog, a long growing season, and cool marine breezes flowing from the Sonoma Coast and San Pablo Bay. As one of Sonoma's smaller appellations, the Bennett Valley AVA is planted to less than 1,000 acres of vines primarily by family-owned grower brands; only one winery, Matanzas Creek, is open to the public. We recently tasted three wines from the region that piqued our interest. The Westerhold Family Vineyards 2015 Pinot Noir from Bennett Valley ($52) comes from a drought vintage. The grapes' thick, protective skins help produce a dense, unctuous texture: a mouthfeel that creates a common thread in the three wines we tasted from the area. Cult-ivated THE STORY BEHIND DALLA VALLE VINEYARDS' CELEBRATED STATUS Since Naoko Dalla Valle and her late husband Gustav first acquired the land for Dalla Valle Vineyards in 1982, a considerable amount of winemaking history has unfolded on this 20-acre hillside vineyard. Planted at elevations up to 450 feet above sea level on the eastern hillsides of Oakville, California, and of - ficially founded as a winery in 1986, Dalla Valle has rested in the hands of some of Napa Valley's most preeminent winemakers, including Heidi Barrett and Tony Soter. Under the leadership of Winemaker Andy Erickson, Con- sulting Winemaker Michel Rolland and Vineyard Manager Edgar Alfaro—with their shared desire for viticulture and winemaking—produce wine rivaling the prestige often reserved for the great First Growths. Since Gustav died in 1995, Naoko has earned a repu - tation for guiding the winery to legendary status for the sheer quality of its Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. In 2017, Naoko's daughter Maya became Dalla Valle's Director ; armed with a master's degree in enology from Cornell University, she also earned a master's in vineyard and winery management from Bordeaux Sci - ences Agro. The Dalla Valle Vineyards 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Val- ley ($200) was tasted now for this review, but it will thrive beautifully for 10–15 years. Impassioned with a wave of luxurious red and black fruit, it's voluminous with round tannins. This textural beauty's acidity im- parts a balance of spice and grilled meat with a wave of dark chocolate, anise, and blue flowers. 99 A postcard-worthy view of Bennett Valley from Westerhold's vineyard. PHOTO COURTESY OF WESTERHOLD Westerhold Family Vineyards proprietors John Westerhold and Sharon Bauman. Maya and Naoko Dalla Valle of Dalle Valle Vineyards. PHOTOS COURTESY OF DALLA VALLE WINERY The Dalla Valle Vineyards 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon.

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