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Sipping Trattore Estate Wines 2010 Viognier

Trattore Estate Wines Viognier

Trattore Estate Wines Viognier

The Dry Creek Valley wine appellation of Sonoma Country offers a tremendous variety of wines. From Zinfandel to Pinot Blanc to Syrah, a wine lover can find a winery producing a delicious, affordable wine at every turn. When Trattore Estate Wines sent me a sample of two of their wines, and their olive oil, I was quite looking forward to sampling them both.

Trattore Estate Vineyards

Trattore Estate Vineyards

Trattore Estate Wines is located on a picturesque hilltop on the eastern side of Dry Creek Valley. They liken the growing region to that of the southern Rhone wine region of France, with steep rolling hills, cool ocean influence and warm summer days. Similar to Dry Creek Valley neighbors Montemaggiore and Quivira, Trattore is producing Rhone varieties, such as grenache, syrah, viognier, marsanne, mourvedre, roussanne, and petite sirah, as well as zinfandel. I was given the opportunity to sample Trattore’s  zinfandel and viognier, and was quite impressed with the viognier.

The nose on the Trattore Estate 2010 viognier is a delightful perfume of white flowers and orange blossoms. The palate is full bodied, almost a bit heavy on the mouth feel, and the nose translates to the palate. There are white flowers mixed with citrus and some stone fruit. The mouth feel is a bit oily, which has been described as a lanolin texture typical in viognier, but it’s quite pleasant. There is a lovely vein of spice that runs from the mid-palate through the finish, and goes on well after you’ve finished your sip.

The Trattore Estate 2010 Viognier is blend of 90% viognier, and 10% roussanne, and has an ABV of 15%. The grapes were whole cluster pressed, and barrel fermented in neutral oak barrels. That neutral oak fermentation and aging provides a softer, round mouthfeel, as opposed to stainless steel as an option for fermentation, which would make the wine a bit more lean, crisp and maintain acidity that can be softened by the oak.  It was then aged in 100% neutral oak barrels for 8 months, which further enhanced the mouthfeel and creamy notes.. There were only 127 cases of the viognier produced in 2010, and the retail price is $24.

As I mentioned in my introduction to viognier grapes and wine, you can pair this white wine with grilled or broiled fish, as well as salads. The winery recommends you serve with grilled fish such as halibut, cod, and sea bass. They also recommend summer salads tossed with heirloom tomatoes, goat cheese, crispy pancetta and dried cranberries drizzled with a hint of Dry Creek Olive Company Cara Cara Orange Olive Oil and a touch of sea salt.

Tim Bucher and his Trattore

Tim Bucher and his Trattore

Trattore Estate owner Tim Bucher got his start in farming at a very young age, where he developed his love for tractors, or trattore in Italian. His parents had a dairy farm in Healdsburg, CA, and was known to not only driving the tractors he loved, at age 8 he could be found under the hood, fixing them and figuring out what made them run. While Tim bought his first plot of land at 17 and grew grapes on it, his love of technology ushered him towards a career in engineering and technology.

Tim has been tied to some very successful technology companies, including early workstations at Sun Microsystems  (now part of Oracle) , 3DO gaming, NeXT Computer which was acquired by Apple, as well as helping launch WebTV which was acquired by Micrcosoft. As an entrepreneur, Tim tarted and took public several other successful companies that were later acquired by Microsoft, Apple and Dell, plus was founder and CEO of ZING systems, which developed software for handheld devices for companies like SiriusXM, Yahoo and SanDisk.

TIm and his family returned to Sonoma in 1999. He planted a total of forty acres of zinfandel, grenache, marsanne roussanne and viognier. When he discovered a grove of 150 year-old olive trees on the land, tim decided to start the Dry Creek Olive Compoany, and began producing olive oils from the estate orchards. The first Trattore Estate wines were released in 2008, and the Trattore Estate winery facility and tasting rooms are currently under construction.

Tasting and Talking about Quivira – 2007 Grenache



I wasn’t fortunate enough to join my fellow wine writers for the 2009 Wine Bloggers Conference, where many had the opportunity to walk the Quivira Vineyards. I was, however, fortunate enough to visit Quivira and two other wineries as part of a Visit Dry Creek series of wine segments for Daytime, a nationally syndicated morning show. We had a great time visiting first Michel-Schlumberger, and then Montemaggiore, and knew that our time at Quivia would be equally as enjoyable.

Quivira Waterfall

Quivira Waterfall

Upon arriving at Quivira Vineyards & Winery, you are greeted by a beautiful landscape, and a very serene waterfall. This sets the stage for your visit, where you’ll learn about their biodynamic farming practices, take a self guided tour through their organic garden, and of course sample their wines made from their biodynamically grown grapes.  Check out the short video of my discussing Quivira and their 2007 Grenache, then continue down to more information about my visit.

Quivira Vineyards & Winery 2007 Grenache from Matthew Scott Horbund on Vimeo.

Though they have many wines to sample, from Sauvignon Blanc to Zinfandel, Syrah, and Mourvedre, Quivira is one of only a handful of wineries in Dry Creek making Grenache, which is why I wanted to discuss it with you. Grenache, or Garnacha as it’s called in Spain, typically has flavors of berries with a nice spicy component that lingers on the finish. As I mentioned in the video, I noticed a nice dark but still red berry bouquet and palate, and the spice on the finish was beautiful. We had some of the wine left over the next day, and it’s palate smoothed a bit, the tannins that dried my mouth during the video tasting weren’t as firm, and it was drinking wonderfully. The 2007 Grenache was aged 15 months in 90% neutral oak, 10% new oak, and boasts a hefty 14.9% ABV (Alcohol by volume).

In the video I mentioned the typical fatty meat pairings for this wine, as the Grenache would pair well with lamb, veal, and beef. I also wouldn’t hesitate to put this with a nice smoked or bbq rib or pork, or game birds. It’s a fairly versatile wine that doesn’t need a lot of fanfare to drink. While I believe it would benefit from some time decanting, it was quite fine right out of the bottle with no air.

Peter Kight at the sorter

Peter Kight at the sorter

When we visited Quivira, proprietor Pete Kight was sorting through the grapes, working hard to ensure that the quality of grapes going into his wine was up to standards. We didn’t have the opportunity to chat with Pete, but did have a chance to sit with winemaker Steven Cantor as well as farm manager Andrew Beedy. From Andrew, we learned about the organic garden and farming practices, the various livestock on the property, and his thoughts on Biodynamic farming. Biodynamic farming is a step above organic farming in terms of caring for the land, farming sustainably, and not using chemical pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers. However, Andrew makes it sound easy, saying “Basically, I give plants water. That’s what I do. The plants do all the hard work, we just make sure their environment is as healthy as it can be.”

Quivira Grapes

Quivira Grapes

Winemaker Steven Cantor was more than happy to discuss not only the wines he makes, but many other thoughts on winemaking, biodynamic farming, and life. Dubbed the “Philosopher Winemaker”, it was very interesting to hear his passion for the grape, and the wines he makes. He wasn’t able to single out any one Quivira wine that he’d call his Baby, despite my proding, loving each one of them for an individual characteristic.

There’s so much to see and do at Quivira, my video and post don’t scratch the surface. From their olive oils and preserves from their garden, to the farm to table dinners they do once a quarter, there’s always something new and enjoyable available at Quivira. Be sure to check out the Daytime segment which airs on Wednesday November 18th. If you can’t find Daytime in your viewing area, the segment will be online shortly at

*Disclaimer – the wine tasted in this segment was provided by Quivira during the visit.

*Credit – the photo of Wine Creek in the video was ‘borrowed’ from Frank Morgan at .. hope the link back to your Quivia post makes up for that!

Come back tomorrow, when we journey over the hill to Napa, and start our visit of three St. Helena wineries. Are you ready?

Talking about Montemaggiore 2005 Syrah

A trip through Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma affords one plenty of opportunities to stop in to various tasting rooms and sample the wines they have to offer. However, it’s only when you travel off the beaten path that you’ll come across Montemaggiore. Nestled high on the mountainside, Montemaggiore isn’t “open to the public” per se. Rather, you need to call Lise or Vince Ciolino, owners of the vineyard since 2001, and make an appointment to take a tour of their beautiful property and taste their great wines. Our second stop on our Daytime tour through Dry Creek Valley brought us up the winding mountain road to their tasting room, and I’m excited to take you there on a virtual tour and tasting.

There are a few different wines available from Montemaggiore, from their Paolo’s Vineyard Syrah I discuss in the below video, to a Cabernet Syrah Blend named Nobile and even a Syrah Rose.  Additionally, the Ciolinos offer olive oil from the olive trees on the property. So, lets enjoy a virtual wine tasting together, and find out what I thought of wine from this vineyard that’s off the beaten path.

Talking about Montemaggiore 2005 Syrah from Matthew Scott Horbund on Vimeo.

Syrah is not a very frequently grown grape in Dry Creek Valley, with approximately 306 acres of syrah vines planted. This is a stark contrast to the 2,316 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon, 2,251 acres of Zinfandel, and 1,500 acres of Merlot reported planted in Dry Creek Valley in 2006. However, I believe the Ciolinos have found a grape that they are able to successfully grow and turn into a delicious wine. As I mentioned in the video, it’s not very jammy like many California Syrah’s can be. Mind you, it’s not that jammy is wrong or bad, but I prefer my Syrah to be a bit more subtle fruit wise, and the spice and oak influence a bit more prominent when I drink a Syrah, and I think Montemaggiore has captured that in their wines. The Paolo’s Vineyard 2005 Syrah was rated a 92 by the International Wine review, and costs approximtely $35. It’s aged in a mixture of 84% French and 16% American oak, of which 38% is new.

Paolo Feeding Sheep at Montemaggiore

Paolo Feeding Sheep at Montemaggiore

Lise, pronounced Leezah, like the tower of Pisa, and her husband Vince care very much not only about the quality of their wines, but the impact growing them has on the land. They firmly believe in organic and biodynamic farming, and don’t use chemical products, but rather employ natural fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides. Their sustainable farming practice includes drip irrigation and natural compost, as well as several sheep that tend the grass and naturally fertilize the land. Vince will happily discuss the care they exercise in working the land they also live on during a visit. You’ll be able to hear from Vince and his farming practices at Montemaggiore during the Daytime segment.

As you can imagine, there’s a lot more to Montemaggiore than we’ve discussed here. The television segment of our visit to Montemaggiore airs on Daytime Tuesday November 17th. If Daytime isn’t on in your area, we’ll have the clip available online at shortly. I’ll update this post, perhaps put the link in the comments, and you can see Lise, Vince, and our fabulous trip to our second Dry Creek Valley winery. If you missed our first stop at Michel-Schlumberger, you will want to take a few minutes to see how wonderful that visit was!

Do you know the way to Michel-Schlumberger

While the American Viticultural Area, or AVA, of Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma is synonymous with Zinfandel, there’s a lot of great wine coming from this area that you shouldn’t miss. To raise your awareness of what wines you can enjoy from Dry Creek Valley, I took a trip to three wineries in September, filming television segments for the nationally syndicated morning show Daytime. Our first stop was Michel-Schlumberger, where we had not only the opportunity to meet with President and General Manager Judd Wallenbrock, Wine maker Michael Brunson, and Director of Retail & Direct to Consumer Operations Jim Morris, we got to tour the vineyard, meet all of the staff, and enjoy a night of music at the winery.

The short video here is just one part of the experience we had at Michel-Schlumberger. It will take you on the first of two virtual tastes and tours of this 30 year old winery. The second part is the television segment airing on Daytime Monday, November 16th, 2009. If Daytime isn’t available in your viewing area, I’ll have a comment below with a link to the segment online shortly.

Michel-Schlumberger Deux Terres Cabernet Sauvignon from Matthew Scott Horbund on Vimeo.

*Disclaimer* The wine discussed in this post and in the video were provided to me at no cost by Michel-Schlumberger.

I know that I started this post by saying Dry Creek Valley and Zinfandel were synonymous, but in 2006, Cabernet Sauvignon accounted for 2,316 acres of vines planted, topping 2nd place Zinfandel which had 2,251 acres under vine. Michel-Schlumberger produces various Bordeaux varieties, including Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, as well as Pinot Blanc, Syrah and Chardonnay. The wine tasted in the video, the Deux Terres 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon, is their top non-reserve offering and was an enjoyable wine. It didn’t need much time to open, perhaps 20 or 30 minutes.

Right out of the bottle the nose was dark fruits, black cherry and blackberry, with a mocha and spice component that was very inviting. The palate was dark cherry fruit with medium to firm tannins, giving that dry, almost astringent feeling on the inside of my mouth, similar to black tea. I enjoyed the finish of pepper and spice, and while it wasn’t extremely long, it was quite nice. Robin loved the wine to just sip on, though she didn’t feel it complimented her pasta and red sauce. I thought it was nice enough with my eggplant parmesan hero, but really feel it needs a rich beef, veal or lamb dish to compliment the flavors and structure.

The vineyard is farmed organically, as I mentioned in the video, with an eye towards sustainability and the environment.  Not only does the team at Michel-Schlumberger care about the land they farm to bring you delicious wines, they care about Dry Creek itself. Together with other wineries in the area, they’re working to restore Wine Creek and keep the Steelhead Trout population strong and preserve an integral part of the ecology. A visit to Michel-Schlumberger will allow you the opportunity to walk the vineyards that were established in 1979 by Jean-Jacques Michel. Jacques Schlumberger joined the team as a minority partner in 1991, and took over the estate as majority partner in 1993. When Michael Brunson joined the team as assistant wine maker in 1993, Fred Payne was the head wine maker. The Deux Terres we talked about tonight was one of Fred Payne’s wines, as Michael Brunson took over the wine making role in 2006.

You can follow the winery on twitter at @m_schlumberger and Jim is on twitter too as @sonomawineguy. Jim, and others at the winery write about all things Michel-Schlumberger on Benchland Blog. Other writeups about the Deux Terres 2004 can be found at Drink Dry Creek, and other visits to the winery on Breathe, Luscious Lushes, and  Wannabe Wino.

Hopefully you’ll visit Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma and Michel-Schlumberger soon.  When you do, call the winery before your visit, and be sure to allow enough time to not only tour the grounds but taste their wines. Oh, and tell them mmWine sent you!

Be sure to tune in to Daytime and see our tour of the vineyards and winery, as well as the tasting with Show co-host Lindsay MacDonald.