Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Peay Vineyards tasting

I was fortunate to be able to attend a tasting of 6 wines from Peay Vineyards last week. We had originally scheduled a tasting featuring the wines of another prominent Sonoma winery, but the winemaker had to cancel his trip at the last minute. So in steps Aaron Meeker from LDF Distributors and put this together at the last second. Bravo, Aaron!

Peay aims for a Burgundian style with their Chardonnay with the vineyard proximity to the sea lending a saline quality to the wine. I found their 2007 Estate Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast to be bristling with aromas and flavors of toast, mineral, yeast and coconut. Alcohol is quite pronounced as is the astringent acidity. I think this could easily evolve over the next 5-7 years and turn into something even more special.

Of their three Pinot Noirs, I preferred the 2008 Estate Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast. Beautiful notes of black tea, and raspberry with considerable alcohol, firm tannins and good acidity. Long finish is reminiscent of dried bay leaf. Shows wonderfully now, but has the balance to age.

The first of the cuvees we tasted was the 2008 Scallop Shelf Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast. Coming from a ridge top that was once at the bottom of the ocean, Scallop Shelf is named for the marine fossils found in the vineyard's soil. This wine stays true to it's Old World roots with aromas of camphor and cherry compote. The palate is quite yeasty with medium tannins and the trademark Peay astringency.

The 2007 Pomarium Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast comes from a vineyard that was once planted to Bartlett pears and Gravenstein apples. The terroir is expressed in the mushroom, earth, dark cherry and licorice flavors. No surprise that it is rather high in acid and tannins. Great ageing potential here, too. A note of hickory smoke lingers in the glass.

Both of the Syrahs from Peay show classic notes of this grape when grown in a cooler climate. The 2007 La Bruma Syrah, Sonoma Coast has a wonderful nose featuring the sweet aromas of cinnamon, clove, blackberry and wintergreen. Restrained French oak is apparent on the palate as well as graphite and cranberry flavors. "La Bruma" refers to the mist or fog that rolls into the vineyard off the Pacific Ocean.

The final wine of the evening was the 2006 Le Titans Syrah, Sonoma Coast. More Old World in style than the first Syrah, the Titan shows classic Northern Rhone aromas and flavors of black olive, smoky bacon fat, fig jam and coffee bean. Both of the Peay Syrahs were, unsurprisingly, quite acidic and tannic and built to age.

It was a real treat to be able to taste wines of such distinction and pedigree. Overall, I found them to be very complex and built to age. All had a sense of restrain and a certain austerity rarely found in wines from California.

I prepared a number of appetizers designed to go with each of the wines. My favorite combination was Wine-Poached Dried Fig and Sausage Skewers that went quite nicely with the two Syrahs.

Wine-Poached Dried Figs and Sausage Skewers


1 1/2 cup red wine
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
1/2 cup fig preserves
16 dried black mission figs, halved
1 pound (4 links) Italian sausage
2 tbs fresh basil, sliced thin
1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts, crushed
32 small bamboo skewers


In a small saucepan, over medium heat, bring the wine, sugar and pepper to a simmer. Add the figs and continue to simmer for 15 minutes. The figs will absorb some of the wine, but will remain firm. Remove the figs from the wine mixture and let cool completely on a plate. Add fig preserves to wine mixture, increase heat to medium-high and reduce until slightly thickened. Allow sauce to cool.

Prepare a charcoal or gas grill and cook sausage links until just done, let cool to room temperature and cut each sausage into 8 pieces.

Push a wooden skewer into a fig half and then into a piece of sausage. When all sausage and figs are skewered, arrange on serving platter. Drizzle with wine-fig reduction sauce and garnish with crushed hazelnuts and sliced basil.

Makes 32 skewers

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