Skip to main content

Recently, I have gained more interest in the Sonoma wines and it has been real fun. I have had some excellent wines so far, and at great values, too. These last couple weeks, I have been looking mostly for Sonoma wines. I will continue to do so, as this is becoming quite fun and enjoyable.

One thing I am noticing, it is more common to find wines from Sonoma with alcohol content below 14% than it is in Napa. Here are some examples:

2000 Richardson Vineyards Cab. Sauv. 13.0%
2003 Benzinger Cab. Sauv. 13.5%
2003 Rodney Strong Merlot 13.8%
2004 Moon Mountain Vineyards Meritage 13.9%
2005 Souverain Merlot 13.9%

When I have looked at the retailers, I found several Sonoma wines that were under 14%. When having these wines, I felt they paired with food better than many Napa wines as well.

A few months ago, my parents opened up Hop Kiln Zinfandel from the early 70s. Low alcohol, and wow was it ever good. I don't think it was going to get any better, but it was far from giving up its ghost that was for sure.
Original Post

Replies sorted oldest to newest

I'm glad you have found that Sonoma can make nice wines, but your tendency to incorrectly generalize about regions with such shallow basis points rears it's ugly head again. Napa and Sonoma make both lower alcohol wines and high octane wines, with Sonoma making some of the most over the top ones made anywhere in the world with many of the Zinfandels.
This low alcohol movement needs to be stopped. Sonoma does not on the whole have lower alc wines than Napa. Both counties make high and lower alcohol wines. The alc depends on the winemaker and sometimes company goals. Some wineries have been rumored to lower the alc artificially so they do not have to pay the higher alc tax rate. Judging a wine by its alc is a recepie for disaster.
quote:
Originally posted by Healdsburg Gal:
This low alcohol movement needs to be stopped.


Why? The wines from Bordeaux are usually lower in alcohol content than Napa wines. I have found that in most cases, I like the lower alcohol content wines better than the high alcohol content wines, regardless if they are imported or domestic.


quote:
Sonoma does not on the whole have lower alc wines than Napa. Both counties make high and lower alcohol wines.



True, but I have found it easier to find lower alcohol wines from Sonoma than from Napa.


When I see some of these wines approaching 15+% alcohol, I am at the point of why not just go up an extra 4% or 5% and get a Port!
As someone who divides his week between the two counties, the difference for me is about which wines each county does best. While there are certainly some great Sonoma Cabs and Merlots, I think Napa is way ahead in terms of quality. Sonoma, on the other hand, beats Napa hands down with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

The alcohol debate is interesting. It is driven by many of the same people who 10 years ago were complaining about over-the-top, oaky Chardonnays. In many cases they have a point, but they see it in such black or white, right or wrong terms. It is possible to enjoy both styles; most wine drinkers I know do.

Also, just as winemakers needed time to push the envelope with Chardonnay -- experimenting with levels of oak, barrel fermentation, etc -- winemakers for a while were pushing ripeness in hopes of achieving maximum flavor and aromatics.

I suspect there will always be ripe, alcoholic wines and super-oaky Chardonnays, just as there will always be Chablis-like Chardonnays and elegant, 13.5 alcohol Cabs.

But things seem to be balancing out, IMHO
quote:
Originally posted by Healdsburg Gal:
This low alcohol movement needs to be stopped.

Why? What's wrong with lower alcohol wines? Ridge Monte Bello, arguably the finest wine in the country, typically weighs in at 13.5% and only very rarely ventures over 14%.

quote:

Some wineries have been rumored to lower the alc artificially so they do not have to pay the higher alc tax rate. Judging a wine by its alc is a recepie for disaster.


It's not a rumour, it's a common fact. The technique is referred to as the "spinning cone" system. Basically the wine is poured into a system of flat surfaces that are rotating at speed. The wine forms a thin film over the surfaces of the cones. The temperature is raised and the pressure is lowered, so effectively it's a low temperature distillation.

The first pass removes volatile aromatics, which are reserved. The second pass removes mainly alcohol, which is discarded. The aromatics are then re-added to the bulk. Typically around 10% of the wine is processed in this way and is blended back into the mix, resulting in an overall reduction of around 1% to 2% ABV.
quote:
Originally posted by Dave Tong BBP:
quote:
Originally posted by mike p:
or simply just.......water added.

I've never heard of the finished product being diluted. They sometimes add water early on if there's a risk of a stuck fermentation.


I don't fully understand the fermentation process but I believe water is added pre-fermentation (not post). They do this because Brix are too high (too much potential alcohol) which leads to stuck fermentation (the alcohol kills off the yeast). So in a way, potential for stuck fermentation and high alcohol is almost the same thing, in this respect. I think Dave's reference to the spinning cone is at the 14-16 range and water adding is done at 16+ ranges. Reducing ABV by 1-2% starting at 18 potential isn't going to fix the stuck fermentation which is why water is sometimes necessary.
quote:
Originally posted by Dave Tong BBP:
quote:
Originally posted by Healdsburg Gal:
This low alcohol movement needs to be stopped.

Why? What's wrong with lower alcohol wines? Ridge Monte Bello, arguably the finest wine in the country, typically weighs in at 13.5% and only very rarely ventures over 14%.




When I was up at Ridge, in May of 2006, they were tasting the 1994 Monte Bello. They also had a 1990 Monte Bello. I remember at least one of them was at an even 12% alcohol, and the other was between 12.5% and 13%.

I also completely agree, Monte Bello is one of the best!
quote:
When I was up at Ridge, in May of 2006, they were tasting the 1994 Monte Bello. They also had a 1990 Monte Bello. I remember at least one of them was at an even 12% alcohol, and the other was between 12.5% and 13%.

I also completely agree, Monte Bello is one of the best

yes, that wine is good. Here is a fun challenge. Name twenty California Cabernets that are less than 14% alc that are good.
quote:
Originally posted by PetiteSyrahFan:
Recently, I have gained more interest in the Sonoma wines and it has been real fun. I have had some excellent wines so far, and at great values, too. These last couple weeks, I have been looking mostly for Sonoma wines. I will continue to do so, as this is becoming quite fun and enjoyable.
One thing I am noticing, it is more common to find wines from Sonoma with alcohol content below 14% than it is in Napa. Here are some examples:

2000 Richardson Vineyards Cab. Sauv. 13.0%
2003 Benzinger Cab. Sauv. 13.5%
2003 Rodney Strong Merlot 13.8%
2004 Moon Mountain Vineyards Meritage 13.9%
2005 Souverain Merlot 13.9%

When I have looked at the retailers, I found several Sonoma wines that were under 14%. When having these wines, I felt they paired with food better than many Napa wines as well.

A few months ago, my parents opened up Hop Kiln Zinfandel from the early 70s. Low alcohol, and wow was it ever good. I don't think it was going to get any better, but it was far from giving up its ghost that was for sure.

PSF,

This isn't directed solely at you, but I'm so tired of this argument about high alcohol wines blah, blah, blah.

Stop searching out the alcohol content on the label and just drink the wine. There are plenty of high alcohol wines that don't drink to the number and plenty of low alcohol wines that are overwhelemed by alcohol.

I wonder how many of us would be fooled by alcohol levels if we tasted blind? Generalizing wine based on anything other than how YOU like or dislike it is a mistake, IMO.

Drink the wine and generate your thoughts, don't let the label contents do it for you.

Add Reply

Post
×
×
×
×
Link copied to your clipboard.
×