I am always looking for wine education — in any form. And that is exactly what Corner 103 provides. Their modest location in downtown Sonoma (yes it’s on a Corner and yes the address is 103) offers guests the chance to taste through the winery’s complete portfolio learning everything from proper glassware to — yay! — food pairing. The experience is intimate, the winery will book no more than 10 guests at a time, which means the wine nerd in you will get all the one-on-one attention she’ll need. Hm…I guess it’s time for me to book my visit then…
I don’t have much to say about Corner 103 other than I’ve always wanted to try it! Ok, I guess that is kind of a big deal. Walking through the rural-tastic downtown Sonoma, I’ve passed by the “the Corner” more times than I can count — yet I’ve never had the opportunity to actually taste and experience what the winery is all about. So I received a few bottles to taste at home and decided there’s no better way to dive into the Corner 103 portfolio than with their signature blend, the Corner Cuvée.
Nebbiolo is a beautiful grape, native to the Piedmont region of Italy. A late ripener, vintners tend to celebrate Nebbiolo’s harvest toward the end of October or early November when the Langhe region becomes submerged in thick, pea-soup-like fog. Indeed, the name Nebbiolo is said to stem from the Italian word for fog, nebbia. Out of this darkness, this denseness, this stone-wall of a cloud, comes one of Italy’s most noble and notable grapes. A shy shade of red in its youth and often quite tannic, the wine ages into rich and vibrant colors — not unlike dragon’s fire — and develops deep aromatics, complex flavors, and matures right out of those sticky tannins. Nebbiolo, at its peak, can be one of the most intense wines alive.
Of course, these are characteristics associated with the Italian varietal from Italy. I don’t believe I’ve yet had the opportunity to taste a Nebbiolo from the United States. Until I popped the Big Cork on Big Cork Vineyards 2015 Nebbiolo.
Russian wine: I’ve never quite thought about it. But Big Cork Vineyards is into big ideas — and not just with their bodacious reds. As I’ve mentioned before, Maryland’s climate is actually quite a cold one, especially when compared to the vineyards in my native California. This opens up their little wine country up to a whole host of grapes that are virtually untapped here on the west side. So, how about a taste of SK77-53, SK77-10-69, and XIV 186 my friends?
Vidal Blanc is a hybrid grape — a cross between Ugni Blanc and Rayon d’Or — created in the 1930s by Jean Louis Vidal. If you’re from the sunny state of California, as I am, and have never heard of this varietal, that’s not surprising and nor are you alone. Because of the grape’s thick skin, it thrives best in cold, even downright icy regions. In fact, it is considered one of the great grapes of Canada, where it’s often used to create ice wines — wines created by picking the grapes when they’re frozen and contain more concentrated sugar levels.
Maryland does have cooler temperatures (sometimes dangerously frost-filled winters), which opens up the vineyard playing field to interesting grapes like Vidal Blanc. And, while this is no dessert wine, be warned my dry white wine lovers, that you’re in for an interesting twist ahead with the Big Cork Vineyards expression of this quirky grape.