The Spill: The latest tasting trends, and more

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Sunset magazine identified 2017’s wine trends after its International Wine Competition involving 48 of the top taster judges in the west and 3,000 bottles of wine contenders.

Trend 1: Based on the number of award-winners, sparkling wines are no longer playing the opening act at the dinner table. Bottles of bubbly are being popped open and savored long after the toast is made. Thanks to their staying power, sparkling wines are now commonly paired with main dishes, such as a mouth-watering steak, roasted chicken, or fresh seafood — whatever the going pleasure. Sonoma County winner is: Gloria Ferrer NV Blanc de Blancs (Carneros, $22)

Trend 2: Regardless of price, red wines remain king of the castle. Whether over or under $50, cabs and red blends made the A-list. The Sonoma Valley and County winners are: Mobius 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, (Sonoma County $30.00); Sutro 2013 Warnecke Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon (Sonoma Valley; $50)

Stay tuned for future trends.

Ever been to a Winemaker’s Lunch at the Taste of Sonoma event? Here’s what happened earlier this month at just one of them…

Ravenswood Winery took its over-heated guests into the cool barrel room on a day when the temperatures neared 105. Wine lovers were welcomed with a refreshing 2016 Rosato Rosé while owner and winemaker Joel Peterson talked about the elements that make a good wine and those that can ruin one: the heat.

Being the Godfather of Zin, Peterson spoke about the zinfandel grape varietal and what makes it unique. After a good story or two of his wine travels through Italy where one can learn about the difference between primitivo wine and zinfandel, guests migrated to the private club member tasting room to savor a food and wine pairing for lunch. A 2015 Chardonnay from Sangiacomo Vineyard was served with a visited bruschetta salad made of fresh heirloom tomatoes, homemade croutons, olives and basil. Their newest release, the 2015 zinfandel, was paired with spare ribs, roasted chicken and a side of pinto beans. Peterson surprised his guests with Ravenswood Signature 1995 Zinfandel wine for comparison. He quickly demonstrated the surprisingly fresh and young tasting vintage after 20 years in the bottle.

As for what makes this event the most fun and memorable? People from the industry, family and friends come together to meet the winemaker and learn about the wines you love to sip and take home.

Millennials shy away from chardonnay in Australia: What about Sonoma?

According to the new Wine Intelligence report, wine drinkers between the ages of 25 and 34 are turning away from traditional-tasting chardonnays to more aromatic white vintages. The Australia Landscapes 2017 report shows an older crowd (ages 55 to 64) prefer the signature varietal (61 percent) over the younger drinkers (43 percent) in the past six months. Is this the case in Sonoma?

David Fulcrum, founder and winemaker of Fulcrum Wines, believes millennials are questioning the chardonnay fashion.

“As popular as this varietal has become over the past 10 years, there’s a knee jerk reaction for what might be considered passé today,” said Fulcrum. “There’s an initial push-back. The younger drinkers think, maybe chardonnay is their mom’s or dad’s wine. And with anything that becomes popular, it means bad versions come out of the wood work. The chardonnays can be too oaky, or too buttery. So, the kids say, ‘Wow, I don’t see why people like it?’”

Adds Fulcrum: “Of course, that depends on the chardonnay.”

In Fulcrum’s opinion, millennials are leaning toward wines that haven’t been around for long, like the dry sauvignon blanc or the gewurztraminer.

Kelsey Smith, brand manager of Sonoma-Loeb, has a different take on the subject. Being a millennial herself, she thinks the younger drinkers prefer chardonnays that are just less oakey.

“With the broad spectrum of chardonnay being served at our tasting room, there’s a chardonnay for everybody — young or old.”

At Passaggio Wines, Katie Puccio, tasting room associate, confirms Kelsey’s belief that millennials favor less oak in their chardonnays. The 2016 unoaked chardonnay is their flagship wine and is widely sampled at Passaggio’s Vine Alley tasting room on the Plaza.

When asked if she thinks youngsters are shifting away from chardonnays, she says, “Not at all. That’s what they come in for — the crisper, cleaner, fruit-forward unoaked chardonnay!”

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