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Wine Tasting Room of the Week
By Daedalus Howell
Invented in a Danish laboratory in the late 1800s, "junket" is a loose pudding made from rennet-riddled dairy, which is served as a dessert. The American press junket, by extension, is a ritual in which journalists are spoon-fed marketing pabulum with the hope that the easily digested message is later excreted intact on the pages of newspapers and magazines. This can leave a bitter taste in one's mouth unless, of course, said junket occurs in the gorgeous Sonoma County wine country, where wine turns into ink like some prank miracle performed by Christ.
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My most recent occasion of professional debauchery was a sneak peek at the forthcoming 10th anniversary edition of the Sonoma Valley Film Festival (aka "Cinema Epicuria," which sounds more and more like a secret password to me). The day comprised innumerable winery tours, luncheons, meet-and-greets and, finally (at least for me),
a pit stop at Kenwood's Landmark Vineyards.
Now, it's no secret that I'm a sucker for being wined and dined, or for that matter, wound and downed like a toy top happy to spin. But I do have my highfalutin'-sounding name to protect, so I reserve my bon mots solely for the bon vin. Wonderfully, Landmark has the goods. They also have a horse-drawn wagon that will ride you through the vineyards, which even wowed colleague Spitzy, a veteran reporter for the kind of slicks stacked proudly on coffee tables and shamefully under beds--but that's another story.
Wines that awakened my gladly wearied palate included the 2004 Overlook Chardonnay, which has hues of nectarine and a bracing minerality that recalls the pleasant aroma of a used paperback--probably something by Hesse. Sourced from over 22 individual vineyards spanning Sonoma, Monterey and Santa Barbara counties, this Chard sounds like a multiple personality disorder in a bottle, but is rather a grape-grown gestalt of California fruit at its finest. Paired with a Gruy»re de Comte, as it was on the junket, life momentarily takes on greater depth ($26; cheese sold separately). A sibling Chardonnay, the 2004 Damaris Reserve ($36) is like a wedge of sour green apple dipped in honey, upon which a rose petal has fallen--and you eat it anyway. A bit precious, but why not?
During the tasting someone asked, "What's the benchmark for Chardonnay?" to which someone else replied "Who needs a benchmark when you have Landmark?" Tee-hees all around.
Landmark Vineyards, 101 Adobe Canyon Road, Kenwood. Open daily, 10am to 4:30pm. $5 tasting fee, waived with purchase. 707.833.0053.
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