Sonoma County Wine Collective
By James Knight
Offering small wineries and boutique brands a place to taste sans room, this collective's quirk is that wineries take turns, each enjoying one week in the spotlight. On a recent week, Baker Lane Vineyards was at bat. Plucked from a few acres belonging to restaurateur and wine retailer Stephen Singer—and his neighbors—this limited-production wine has made the list in Bay Area restaurants including Boulevard, Lalime's and Chez Panisse. Hmmm. Name sounds familiar? That's because we are sitting in the middle of Singer's Pizzavino707, the talk of apple town that's singing a new tune.
Heretofore lauded for what it is not, Pizzavino707 now reaps acclaim for what it is. It's big and open. One full bar in the north, spacious dining hall to the south, and wine bar in the middle. A chalkboard and an info card announce the week's wines, but what's this olive and vinegar? Singer also imports Italian olive oils and balsamic vinegar, and a mere inquiry leads promptly to a sampling of grassy, tangy or buttery smooth extra virgin with whole grain bread. Anything from the kitchen is available, too; pepper pie ($13)—a calico medley of jalapeños, red bell pepper, fingerling potatoes and capers—is only the beginning. Pizza crusts are thin and crisp, the service friendly and above-and-beyond—and that's even before taking notes. In fact, even staff who otherwise had no reason to interact with us had something to say. Good marks so far. What about the hooch?
While the wine collective is "evolving," the current regime is a four-pour selection from Atascadero Creek Winery, Lattanzio Wines, Radio-Coteau, Claypool Cellars, Scherrer Winery or County Line Vineyards. Baker Lane wines are custom-crushed under the supervision of Steven Canter (winemaker at Quivira), and fall within the Sonoma Coast appellation.
Just off-dry, the 2009 Sonoma Coast Rosé of Syrah ($27) says hello with aromas of strawberry scone, sparks a reminiscence of watermelon Jolly Rancher, and waves goodbye crisp but mellow. Graham cracker and spice introduce the 2007 Ramondo Vineyard Pinot Noir ($48); and although 100 percent Pinot Noir, the dense, earthy fruit of this brooding Pinot is varietally unique compared to the chirpy cherry bombs typical of the times. In search of sauvage Syrah, that feral beast of smoked meat and herbs? Buddy, you needn't look elsewhere. The 2007 Cuvée Syrah ($36) has full, deep plum flavor under olive—never overripe, nor cloying.
A toned-down version of same, the 2007 Estate Vineyard Syrah ($52) has more black pepper and chicory, with plum and black cherry in knitted tannin.
On the menu at large, Pizzavino doesn't shy away from Italian imports, which—all apologies to the excellent locals represented in the Collective assumed accepted—must surely be pizza's most aptly paired vino. Sonoma County Wine Collective at Pizzavino707, 6948 Sebastopol Ave., Sebastopol. Friday–Sunday, noon–6pm, $12 fee (restaurant open Wednesday–Sunday). 707.829.9500.
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