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Posted by Michael Franz on October 11, 2017 at 12:22 PM

Fires Rage in California Wine Country

 It seems likely that almost all readers of Wine Review Online are already aware of the horrible fires that have wrought massive destruction across large swaths of wine country in California's North Coast.

Still, it would be inappropriate for us to post coverage of anything else in this space at this deeply trying time, and all of us who write for this Web site have many friends in the area...about whom we are deeply concerned.

As of this time of writing, 17 people have lost their lives in the fires, with 11 of those being residents of Sonoma County, two from Napa County, three from Mendocino County, and one from Yuba County.  Roughly 200 others are reported missing, and though many who were formerly missing have now been located, the situation on the ground seems so chaotic that it is pointless to speculate on how high the loss of life might rise.

Clearly, losses of property are not quite as upsetting, but for those who lost their homes -- and all of their possessions, in many evident instances -- the trauma shouldn't be understated.  Santa Rosa, the largest city in Sonoma County and home to more than 175,000 people, suffered catastrophic losses of entire neighborhoods, and photos and videos of the affected areas are difficult to process when viewed--at least for me.

The number of destroyed homes and commercial buildings is currently estimated by The San Francisco Chronicle at between 1,500 and 3,000.  The number on the low end of that range is horrifying, and it is almost as disturbing to consider the uncertainty in the area manifested by the breadth of the range in numbers.

Although WRO is obviously a wine-dedicated Web site, I find it a bit distasteful to accord more importance to winery damage than residences or businesses of other types.  Still, we know of at least three wineries that seem to have been destroyed outright (Paradise Ridge, Signorello and White Rock), with at least six others having suffered significant damage.  These numbers have not moved for nearly 24 hours, but it is essentially impossible to know whether this reflects a leveling off of damage or just delays in reporting.

What is clear is that multiple fires continue to burn out of control, and though winds calmed somewhat yesterday, they are expected to pick up again later today.

I know that I speak for all contributors to WRO when extending my concerns and sympathies to all who have been affected by these terrible fires.  Our hearts go out to you....

Coeur de Terre, McMinnville (Oregon) Pinot Noir Renelle’s Block Reserve 2014 ($65)
 Coeur de Terre was established in 1998 in the McMinnville AVA of Oregon.  While they produce several Pinot Noir bottlings, their Renelle’s Block is planted to Pommard clone Pinot Noir and ranks among their finest wines.  The bouquet shows the ripeness of the 2014 harvest and reveals vibrant blackberry, black cherry and raspberry fruits underlain by violet, vanilla, and baking spice nuances.  The wine unfolds across the palate to show layers of blackberry, cherry and strawberry fruits interwoven with nuances of vanilla, smoke and allspice.  It has a full texture and mouthfeel and a long, complex finish.  This rich and elegant Pinot Noir will age well for another 5 to 8 years. 94 Wayne Belding

Dr. Michael
This Issue's Reviews
Book Review: The Business of Sustainable Wine
Marguerite Thomas

While I have sometimes dismissed the term 'Sustainable' as mostly a marketing prop, Sandra Taylor's book left me convinced that it is a legitimate and complex issue. 'Certification, water use and quality, soil, air and climatic impacts, energy, chemicals, wildlife, materials, waste, and globalization are all important topics within the discussion of sustainable wine,' she writes. 'No single factor is more important, and they are most impactful when considered together.'
Nizza: A New Italian DOCG Worth Remembering
Michael Apstein

The new Nizza DOCG, which consumers will see on the label starting with the 2014 vintage, was formerly one of the three subzones of Barbera d'Asti. Part of the reason the wines from Nizza outshine the wines from the Barbera d'Asti DOCG is because this small area is exceptionally well suited to the Barbera grape. Barbera in Nizza is like Pinot Noir in Burgundy or Nebbiolo in Barolo or Barbaresco. Gianni Bertoli, a spokesperson for the association of Nizza producers, explains that since Nizza has always been revered for its Barbera, more than half of the total vineyard area has vines that are over 50 years old. Indeed, the grapes from Nizza have historically commanded a premium.
Wine With
WINE WITH…Asian Style Chicken Legs

This is a very versatile and forgiving dish. Sometimes we make it with chicken legs left over from a rotisserie bird, while other times we oven-roast the legs. It's always a good dish to make if you have left over risotto or other rice. Adjust the seasoning, adding more red pepper flakes or fresh hot pepper to your taste. This is simple comfort food, designed to be enjoyed with easy-sipping comfort wine! We've usually opted for white wine with this dish, but our tasting for this column revealed that a red can work equally well. Depending on how much spicy pepper you use, the chicken can carry a fair amount of heat, so don't choose anything too delicate. Aggressive flavor, though not necessarily aggressive acidity or tannin, proves to be the key to a successful match.
On My Table
Another Exciting Burgundy-Oregon Alliance
Mary Ewing-Mulligan

A salient quality of the 2015 Nicolas-Jay Bishop Creek Pinot Noir is its roundness on the palate, a structural balance so ideal that you sense you are tasting greatness. It is a generous Pinot Noir but not dense or fleshy in texture. Acidity enlivens its richness from within, and tannin grounds the taste, both components supporting the wine's spherical beauty. Aromatically, the wine is intense with dark fruit notes, black cherry and plum, as well as savory notes of warm spices, damp earth and smoke. The wine aged in French oak barrels that were half new and half neutral, and while you can detect characteristics of oak -- the smokiness, the fine grip of oak tannin on your tongue -- you would probably not label the wine 'oaky.' Despite how impressive this wine is now, it has everything it needs to age gracefully for many years.