There are quite a few Sonoma wineries that seem to focus on only Pinot Noir or Chardonnay, but while I continually suggest that they make a sparkling wine, a Port, or well, something different…..I wonder why not more Sonoma wineries produce a Cider? Sonoma has a long history of apple growing, in fact it’s only of only a handful of regions in America with its own heirloom variety, the Gravenstein.
Audio Transcription (we’re working on getting it up, but for now, here’s the transcript!):
Hey guys, Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures so I’m joined today by a bottle of Horse and Plow this is actually a cider and now a wine. A couple differences, first you’ll notice no video today, this is more kind of podcast in style. I have so professional type video stuff coming to the website at Uncorked Ventures in the coming months so I think I want to try to make that break now if I can and I know that you’ll miss seeing my smiling face on this stuff, or not, but it should be fun. It’s something that I’m pretty excited about.
On Thursday I got to spend some time in Sonoma and western Sonoma if you’ve been a wine club member for a while or if you kind of know me as a friend or family member continues to be one of my favorite places to go and taste wine. To be quite frank I like western Sonoma county much more than I like central Sonoma county, I think Santa Rose and Healdsberg make for good visit but I think if you’re going to go taste wine somewhere, Sebastopol, Gueneville and kind of some of the hills surrounding those two kind of areas and that 15 or 20 miles stretch between the 101 freeway and the beach is really one of the great places to go taste wine in the United States, and likely the world.
So in any case Horse and Plow is a winery we haven’t worked with in the past although were set to work with here in the next month or two and there are really two wine makers. The husband and wife team and Chris makes most of the wines at Horse and Plow that are in to larger distribution and by larger distribution he told me that he frankly won’t travel even so far south as the city of San Francisco to sell any wine so they broker at one or two places and productions maybe 5,000 or so cases on the highest end of the year for wine and cider combined and the cider is what I want to take a minute to talk about here.
I’ve talked over the years about … so often I think in the wine industry you can go from winery to winery and a lot of times the wine makers and the sales staff will be telling you the same thing almost over and over so it sounds like everyone’s doing everything the same. I think that’s a problem with the industry in that they don’t necessarily know how to convey what they’re doing different and so one of the ways for a winery to convey something different is to actually make something different. Sonoma has this great tradition especially Sebastopol with apples. I think as Americans we’ve gotten to know what an heirloom tomato looks like and I think even some of the large grocery stores like Safeway or Kroger, Ralph’s if you’re in Southern California have heirloom tomatoes but we haven’t gone into heirloom apples quite yet either. That’s something that we’re starting to see locally and we do have an heirloom apple in Sonoma, it’s called a Gravenstein apple. Trader Joe’s does an apple sauce that just actually got recalled but there’s a few other places around the country where they have these kind of heirloom apple varieties that really don’t grow anywhere else.
So I think Horse and Plow, they have to do about 1,000 cases of cider so it’s kind of fraught with problems because wineries and wine makers struggle so much to have a reasonable length of time for harvest to start with, I think especially through doing a cool climate Chardonnay on the coast that can be picked at the beginning of August and you’re doing kind of warmer bunch like Horse and Plow does from Mendocino that might not be picked until October, that’s an awful lot of time and an awful lot of different balls in the air. When you add cider you might be adding an extra six weeks of work at the beginning of that whole process so they’re likely seeing harvest starting in June or even a kind of chill year at the beginning of July. So that just is something that’s going to turn a lot of wine makers off they like having that little bit of time before harvest to be able to rest, relax and kind of recharge before what amounts to 15 and 16 hours day pretty consistently for most of them.
In any case this is one of the better ciders I’ve had and I think there’s an element of locally made stuff that’s important, it’s also an area that’s really well known for basically being able farm, being able to farm well and to be clear it’s just a good place to grow stuff. The end result is what you would expect. It’s a really, really high quality cider, so this is a blend of 15 different apple varieties. Horse and Plow gets these from the farm that’s literally right next door, if you stand in their tasting room, which is about six months old now or they have this nice little outdoor seating area with some Adirondack chairs. There’s a dog running around if you look kind of past the little grassy area they have a chicken coop in the back it feels very much like a farm and it feels much like Western Sonoma county, which is I think something that people are looking for when they go to visit. If you look beyond the back fence you’ll see an apple grove and that’s where the apples for the cider come from, and I think that’s pretty cool and I think it’s something that as a winery it helps to diversify what they’re talking about and what they’re doing.
So often it’s just pinot and Chardonnay in that region and Horse and Plow is already a little different in that they do a lot of room varietals and they don’t source everything just from the Russian River Valley, they’re doing a lot from Mendocino because they are 100% organic. I think is a natural off shot that a number of wineries in Sonoma should probably look into and it’s something that they said they sell easily from the tasting room and that doesn’t surprise me at all. So once again, podcast style for the first time today, I hope this worked out for everybody. This is Mark Aselstine for Uncorked Ventures(we’ve been ranked as the best wine club, or the second best wine club in America by reviews.com and Consumer Advocate over the past few months). I hope everybody is having a good week so far.