By Laura Ness
Isabelle Adams of Soda Rock Winery chooses her wine competitions very carefully. The 8-year-old winery produces about 6k cases yearly, and relies on direct to consumer sales for most of the production. Although they’ve tried other competitions over the years, Adams divides her entries equally between international and local competitions, including the North Coast Wine Challenge (NCWC).
“It is very important to us to have local wins and medals that we can promote. We use the awards and scores in the tasting room, and in our emails and our advertising. It definitely influences people’s decisions when they are able to taste the wine before purchasing, and it also is very rewarding for the winemaker!” she says.
Although Soda Rock, in the heart of Alexander Valley, is primarily a Cabernet house, they offer 20 different reds and blends, including an increasing number of Zinfandels. Being part of the Wilson Artisan winery stable gives them access to fruit from a variety of AVAs.
The Soda Rock property is a magnificent historic structure that dates back to 1869. In 2000, Ken and Diane Wilson acquired the run down and neglected property, pouring ample resources into making it the beautiful and welcoming spot it is today.
Adams admits the win for the 2016 Soda Rock Mendocino Chardonnay was unexpected, and quite welcomed. It was the first-time winemaker Antoine Favero had made Chardonnay from the Jaxon Keys Vineyard in Hopland into a wine under the Soda Rock label.
Favero was born in the Champagne region of France, but his French mother and Italian father moved the family to a Peruvian coastal fishing village when he was a little boy. At age nine, the family relocated to Northern California’s wine country, where Favero discovered his passion. After attending UC Davis, Antoine worked at Mazzocco, where he created many award-winning Zinfandels before coming to Soda Rock.
Favero fermented the hand-harvested fruit in 40% new French oak for 22 months, using sur lees stirring to impart a creamy texture that carries the pear, guava, white nectarine and tropical fruit flavors in a mouth-flooding wave. Only one-third of the wine went though malolactic, preserving the essence of citrus through the mid-palate.
The Wilson Artisan wineries are opening a new joint tasting room in downtown Healdsburg, where wines from their entire portfolio will be available. Called Coyote Sonoma, the concept will offer bar bites to enjoy, along with beer and wine on tap. The site was previously Sonoma Cider, which shuttered earlier this year. Should be another winning concept from the Wilson’s who see — and seize —opportunity at every turn.
Sadly, though, you won’t be able to taste any of the award-winning 2016 Mendocino Chardonnay, though, as it sold out within two months of winning the honors. Isabelle hopes to have more of it from this year’s harvest.