Sunday, October 31, 2010

An Anomaly In Napa Valley

In Napa Valley, tucked away on the valley floor of St. Helena, is an “anomaly”. I love it when I find a story that is out of the ordinary. Sort of like when fate takes you for a nice little ride to the unexpected. Sometimes these tucked away, off the beaten path little gems turn out to be the most special. Such is the story of Anomaly Vineyards, a small family producer of ultra-premium Cabernet Sauvignon. I recently had the pleasure of visiting this little winery on a day when the harvest “crush” was in full swing and the aroma of crushed grapes sang through the air. (This aroma is unlike any other and there’s only one word to describe it--”beautiful”.)

In the 90s, Steve and Linda Goldfarb, a working couple at their own law firm in Berkeley, had a revelation. Tired of their four hour daily commute, they decided to pack it up and move. While searching for new digs, they fell in love with a small, serene property in St. Helena. The property came complete with six rows of vines, which at first, they weren’t sure what they would do with. Eventually, they decided to pick the fruit by hand and make a little wine for themselves, using a manual on home winemaking they had purchased. That first year, after experiencing how difficult it was to do it all, they almost gave up. But their friends made them stick it out! It was worth it because their friends were pretty impressed with the new wine. Word got around quickly in the community. (The power of "word of mouth" goes a long way!) They had struck a goldmine! As more vineyard land became available nearby they made more of an investment and now thirteen years later, they are a full-fledged winery complete with a beautiful stone Tuscan-style winery building adjacent to their home.

With the help of their son, Seth, a full-time winery employee who left his job in Los Angeles and moved his family up to St. Helena, the Goldfarbs make an award-winning Cabernet Sauvignon that would convert any wine lover into a serious Cabernet lover! At the helm is their winemaker, Mark Porembski. With previous experience with Behrens & Hitchcock /Erna Schein and Charnu, he brings years of expertise to the fold. He and his wife, Jennifer Williams (who makes wine for Spottswoode) also make their own Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah under the Zeitgeist Cellars label. The wines he creates for Anomaly are pure heaven!

Seth greeted us (myself and my friend Amanda Hagood from The Traveling Grape) and took some serious time out of his busy schedule to show us around, walking us through the vineyards, allowing us to do some punchdowns of grapes already in the fermentation process.

After getting some "hands-on" experience, we ultimately ended up in the winery barrel room for a side by side tasting of their 2006 and 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon. The room was dimly lit with barrels all around and sculptures of the family mascot, their beloved shepherd dog, Indee, who passed away in 1999. On the table were two glasses for each of us plus bread and Tuscan olive oil (from a relative’s olive trees in Cortona, Italy)

I truly enjoyed doing a side by side comparison of the two vintages, 2006 and 2007. The difference between the two is like night and day.

The 2006 was a joy! Elegant and refined with a graceful flow of dark fruits, pepper and almost a violet quality. The finish was extraordinarily velvety and smooth. This wine had a perfect balance and I just adored it. I believe it will continue to age beautifully for many years to come! (96% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot) 888 cases. $85.

There has been a lot of talk lately about the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon vintage in the Napa Valley and it is being touted as the “Vintage Of The Decade”. I’m here to explain that if you like your Cabernets packing a huge wallop of fruit on the front then this vintage is definitely for you!

The 2007 vintage of Anomaly is still elegant despite having big fruit front and center. It is so unbelievably rich and powerful. I would say it is the more aggressive male counterpart to the 2006 version. The starting line-up of flavors is similar although on a much grander scale. It’s difficult to describe other than if there were such a thing as a wine version of “umami”, it would seem like the perfect description. The flavors just get bigger and bigger. The velvety finish is still there but in my opinion, the huge flavors overpower the finish and you tend to forget the wine’s ending, at least for now. I think in time, once this vintage has had a chance to relax a little, the true essence of what it is about will be more visible. Only time will tell… (91%Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Cabernet Franc, 3% Petit Verdot) 886 cases. $85.

Large format bottles are also available.

In addition to wine, the winery sells cold pressed extra virgin olive oil from Cortona (Tuscany), pressed from over 1200 olive trees on a relative’s property there. The oil is delicious and sells out very quickly. Sold in 375 ml bottles for $30, it can’t be beat!

Anomaly Vineyards wines are in very limited distribution here in the U.S. The best way to obtain them is by ordering them from their website at They currently have a mailing list and are active in social media through Twitter (@anomalywine) and you can follow them on their winery page on Facebook. If you are interested in visiting them, please contact Amanda Hagood with The Traveling Grape to have her set up a special itinerary for your wine country trip!! Her travel planning website is

I’d like to thank Seth Goldfarb for taking time out of his busy schedule to meet with us. He made my birthday extra special and I was very surprised to be gifted a bottle of the 2006 Anomaly Cabernet Sauvignon by him for my birthday! What a special treat! I also want to thank my friend Amanda Hagood for helping me to discover this special place! Anomaly Vineyards and their wonderful hospitality will always remain near and dear to my heart!

"You Saw It Here First"...This post was created solely for "Cellarmistress' Cellar Talk" by Grace Hoffman. Grace is an Italian-born, American-bred wine blogger/educator with an all-consuming passion for wine and all it encompasses.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Petroni Vineyards: A Rare Sonoma Beauty

One of the best things I can do as a writer is help bring new discoveries to my public. When a small family-owned winery is brought to my attention, I simply cannot wait to share the story! This past week I was turned on to something pretty special and I am so excited to be sharing this story with all of you!

800 feet up in the Mayacamas Mountain range on the Sonoma County side lies a 37 acre parcel of land just below the famed Monte Rosso Vineyard. It’s hidden away so the instructions on how to get there can be a little tricky. In fact, it says “Call Us If You Get Lost!”. The journey up to this winery will be worth it as the beauty and the breathtaking views will enlighten you! Now that’s what I love. A little hidden gem waiting to be discovered! Since 1992, this beauty has been the home of Petroni Vineyards. Owned by Italian-born San Francisco Restauranteur, Lorenzo Petroni (owner of the famed North Beach Restaurant) and his wife Maria Elena, this winery and Tuscan-style estate is the home of some very special, small-production ultra-premium varietal wines and certified organic olive oils. The winery produces some very diverse varietals such as Brunello and that fact makes it pretty unique. Their first wines were produced in 1998 and recently, the wines have been handcrafted by New Zealand winemaker, Martin Mackenzie (of the famed iconic and organic Stonyridge Vineyard). His passion and dedication truly shine through in the three wines I was sent to sample this past week. I feel truly fortunate and their story has touched me in a big way!

I was completely blown away by the delicious and rich 2009 Rosato Di Sonoma! I blind tasted it without looking at any notes and immediately detected the spicy, full-blown cherry character of Sangiovese! The rich ruby color was so vibrant in my glass! I couldn’t wait to have some more! This wine (50% Sangiovese, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Syrah) was refreshing and so fruity-spicy. The perfect Rosé for Autumn! Made using the “saignee” method (where they literally bleed the vats for color and flavor) I spoke about in a previous post and aged four months in stainless steel, this is a must-try for everyone! And get this, the $12 price tag is an eye-opener, that's for sure!!

The 2008 Napa Valley Chardonnay comes from their estate vineyard at Trinity Ranch, which lies on the Sonoma/Napa county line. In a way, this is a cool-climate Chardonnay because of the high elevation of the vineyard allows for a longer ripening period for the grapes and the flavors develop nicely while retaining acidity. A pleasant, light to medium-bodied chardonnay with many citrus and rich tropical notes and just a hint of nutty vanilla on the finish. I enjoyed this wine with a light meal and it was perfect! Aged ten months in new and used French Oak. $30.

The third wine I sampled was the 2005 Poggio Alla Pietra Brunello Di Sonoma. I had never had a Brunello before. Brunello is a red varietal mostly made in Italy so to find someone making this wine in California was exciting! I didn’t know what to expect. After sampling it, I would consider this wine their flagship. Coming from their Poggio Alla Pietra estate vineyard, this wine was rich and earthy with notes of cigar box, cedar, anise and deep, dark cherry flavors all wrapped up in an intense little package! This wine is complex and could definitely be put away and aged for several years to see how it evolves. Wow! Pretty amazing and this particular vintage will be released to the general public in November. I was able to sample it early and I felt pretty lucky. It retails for $60 however the winery is taking pre-orders at a special price of $39 per bottle so you will definitely want to consider this investment! The 2005 vintage will be a classic and not to be missed!

Seriously, folks! I’m a little star-struck by this gorgeous winery and left with a huge desire to visit! I think it’s a rare find! I certainly want to thank my friend Ryan Wycoff, who is their Director of Sales and Marketing! I never would have found it if it weren’t for him. The winery has limited distribution in several states so the easiest way to access their wines is on-line or at the winery. Petroni Vineyards offers tastings by appointment only, daily from 10-4. For more information, please check out their website at They are located at 990 Cavedale Road between the towns of Sonoma and Glen Ellen. It will be an interesting journey getting there but Petroni Vineyards is a must-visit for anyone wanting an off the beaten path experience in Sonoma wine country!

"You Saw It Here First"...This post was created solely for "Cellarmistress' Cellar Talk" by Grace Hoffman. Grace is an Italian-born, American-bred wine blogger/educator with an all-consuming passion for wine and all it encompasses.