Best worst Sojourn tasting

I haven't been to Bott tastings in months. Busy at work, not into Ross' recent wine themes, whatever the excuses. But this time, I decided to come on the spur of the moment because Craig Haserot was pouring his culty Sojourn wines. I'd met Craig before at a friends-only Burgundy dinner. Him being a huge Burgundy buff gives him hell of a lot of credibility pitching his Sonoma Pinots. So I came. The place was packed, Craig larger than life dude, imposing both physically and in personality.

To celebrate such a cool guest, we had 2 pre-flights, all Cabs, some from Bordeaux, some from California. 1982 Chateau Lynch-Bages (legendary Bordeaux Grand Cru) and 1982 Diamond Creek "Red Rock Terrace" Cab (venerable Napa Valley stalwart) were noteworthy, but hardly exciting. As an aside, I have a love/hate affair with blind tastings (which Ross' always are). Case in point: blind - I preferred Diamond Creek, but when unveiled - I liked Lynch-Bages. Go ahead, raise eye-brows, grin, smirk, chuckle - but I find myself wanting to know what the hell I am drinking! I don't care if it influences my opinion. Let it! Tasted blind, Diamond Creek seemed younger, riper, denser, darker, while Lynch-Bages seemed tired and light. But 30 min later after the reveal, Diamond Creek now tasted sweet and aggressive, while the Bordeaux cajoled its way onto my palate. Totally subjective.

Craig then followed with Sojourn Pinot Noirs:

2006 Sojourn "Sangiacomo Vineyard", Sonoma Coast
2007 Sojourn "Sangiacomo Vineyard", Sonoma Coast
2008 Sojourn "Sangiacomo Vineyard", Sonoma Coast
2009 Sojourn "Sangiacomo Vineyard", Sonoma Coast (not yet released)
2009 Sojourn "Ridgetop Vineyard", Sonoma Coast (not yet released)

Then 4 Sojourn Cabernets:

2006 Sojourn "Mountain Terraces Vineyard - Reserve", Sonoma Valley
2007 Sojourn, Howell Mountain, Napa Valley (just released)
2008 Sojourn "Beckstoffer Vineyard Georges III", Rutherford, Napa Valley (not yet released)
2009 Sojourn "Showket Vineyard", Oakville, Napa Valley (barrel sample)

And finally, for a "post-flight", the sweet finish came by way of 1978 and 1980 Chateau Rieussec, one of the grandest estates in Sauternes, a wine that is supposed to age "forever". As background, sweet wines age for a long time, because sugar acts as an anti-oxidant. Over (a long) time, sugars dissipate, while the acidity originally masked by the sweetness finally asserts itself. Rieussecs have a lot of acidity and a herbaceous edge to begin with, and with 30 years of age, they become an "interesting" concoction. (You can read my friend's Richard Jennings notes on an old Rieussec tasting here).

Don't know what happened to me - most of the crowd were oohing and ahhing, but this was one of those days when everything tasted awfully strong - bitter, sour, astringent. In fact, I am almost sure that there must have been something wrong with my palate, because of how across the board the wines seemed off. The only Sojourn I liked was the lighter, more Burgundian-styled 2006 Pinot, which Craig ranked as his last, quoting a very challenging vintage, light, somewhat under-ripe wine that had evolved too fast (in his opinion, but group's #3). The 1982 Lynch-Bages (an excellent vintage in Bordeaux from a top producer) seemed past its prime. The '78 and '80 Rieussecs were sour, bitter, mediciney, particularly the un-botrytized 1978 (a bad thing for Sauternes, imagine aloe or agave plant with a bit of sugar on top). And the culty Sojourns with larger than life Craig telling the tales, tasted ... I gave up trying.

I came home that night firmly convinced that I am on the verge of having a stroke, and my taste-buds were the leading indicator. I am over-worked and over-stressed, working my ass off at YouSendIt, shuttling all those large files back-and-forth for millions of folks and companies out there. This morning writing this, I have a headache and a runny nose. So maybe it's a flu that's been going around. Whatever the reason, Craig, buddy, it's me, not you! Please give me another chance :)!

I need a vacation!


It was good to see you last night. Sorry your palate and the wines weren't clicking. A variety of things can, of course, change our palates--the most dramatic case I ever experienced was just a few months ago: I was using this super strong cleaner in the bathroom, trying to avoid inhaling. Unfortunately, I must have inhaled something as all the wines I tasted for the rest of the day tasted God awful. I gave up rating after the first 6 or so, once I realized what was going on. I felt bad, because I was attending the open house for a winery whose wines I normally like, and had hoped to write it up, but with my temporary disability, there was no way I could properly assess and describe those wines. It all cleared up in a day or so, though.

Personally, I really enjoyed the Sojourn Cabs last night. The Pinots are big, with a lot of ripe fruit. Great if you like that style, but, like you, I prefer more Burgundian-styled Pinots. I agree that the Rieussecs didn't show quite as well as they had when I'd tasted them before, although I still quite liked the '80.
Wes Barton said…
I liked the Sangiacomo Pinots, but didn't love them. The Ridgetop was light and lovely and improved quite a bit with air. Should show well by the time it's released.

For the Cabs, I agree with you. Overripe, raisinated, hot, flat and bitter. One other at my table felt the same way.

Did you heard what Craig said before the flight? He was condemning the varietal characteristics of Cabernet. Pyrazines are the great evil and totally unacceptable. If I tasted any of those completely blind, I would probably only guess one of them was Cab. My thought is they could make wines that they'd like better (and was better) from those sites if it was Syrah instead.

As far as the bitterness goes, I get that all the time in overripe/overextracted wines. The people who like that style are much less sensitive and don't notice the bitterness til the wines age enough so that the fruit is no longer masking it for them. It's weird that the same people who are so sensitive to any hint of green are so insensitive to bitterness.

Winemaking tip: That bitterness is (most often, at least) from high extraction of the skins. But, it's not initially in the wine so much as the gross lees. Most people go straight from press to the barrel where it will begin to take on the heaviness and bitterness. If you let in settle in a tank for a day or two, then rack off the gross lee into the barrels, you'll have a lighter more elegant wine without the bitterness.
daphne said…
nice tasting. . going out with cool people! I had nothing to say. I jut love your lifestyle and attitude=)kudos!
TanyaN said…
Thank goodness, our group is whisking you and Rona away for the Innovation Summit next weekend in Healdsburg, where the nature, interesting fireside wine chats & tastings, relaxing dinners, and slower pace, will help restore you back to your normal Chevsky-esque in wine time! For those who also may want to attend:

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