I assume you guys are catching a theme throughout most of my posts. Get off the beaten path and you are guaranteed to find something extraordinary! The latest discovery comes by way of Ramal Rd. in the Carneros area of southern Sonoma County. A small, two-lane path meandering through some legendary Carneros vines that I have passed on Highway 12 countless times…never deciding to turn right. Well this past week my wife (who is pregnant and withheld her contempt and jealousy notably well) and I decided to take that right. By that I mean we made an appointment ahead of time as required and we found one of the finest producers in Carneros; The Donum Estate…hiding in plain sight.
Up until fairly recently, Donum had no signage on Ramal Rd. Visitors were directed to turn when they get to the “big tree”. The sign is a great addition, but the whole mystique of turning at a big tree, finding your way up the drive, etc. is pretty charming and its exactly what I look for when trying to find new experiences.
Before we get to the wine, I want to mention another recent addition to the property which is a collection of larger than life artwork. The pieces are not merely placed in a sterile, stuffy gallery. They are scattered throughout the vineyards which brings an amazing element of intrigue when viewed from the tasting room. The first piece you see upon arrival basically punches you in the face (in a great way) as it is a 40-foot piece titled “Giant Head” by Jaume Plensa. It adds an element of intrigue to what one may inaccurately think will be an ordinary tasting.
Of the 15 pieces strewn across the landscape (See the map here), my favorite was the giant heart titled “Love Me” by Richard Hudson. The way this piece is placed at the top of a hill in the middle of the Donum Vineyard makes it look incredible from the right angle. It almost floats.
Ok, now for the wine…oh man the wine. Donum has always been one of those producers for me that just nails it. They have created this amazingly bold, yet elegant Pinot Noir. I am ashamed to say that I had not visited the property until this past week, but I can now say that I will be back…frequently!
The experience begins with the art amidst the vines as you drive in. Then we were greeted by name at our car and escorted to the tasting room which overlooks the Lawler Vineyard on the front of the property. It also boasts views in the distance of the San Francisco Bay. Upon seating, there are five wines laid out. Sometimes there is a Chardonnay, but production is small and the chance is greater that you will get five different Pinot Noir.
We began the tasting with the 10 Oaks Pinot Noir which is winemaker Dan Fishman and President/Winegrower Anne Moller-Racke’s ode to Burgundy. Lowest in alcohol and slightly lighter on the palate. We then moved on to the typical Donum wines which are bigger, bolder and just damn good.
Anderson Valley was next and this one killed it for me. Beautifully fruit driven and sourced exclusively from the Angel Camp Vineyard. This wine won the tasting that day which is saying a lot as its nearly impossible to choose. Next up was the Carneros which was subtly different, but still carried that Donum style. This wine was sourced completely from the Donum Estate Vineyard in Carneros. To round out the tasting we jumped to the Russian River Valley to taste their Winside Vineyard sourced juice. This one was typical RRV in that it burst with fresh fruit, but maintained a complex body so as not to overpower you. Finally, we went back to Angel Camp in Anderson Valley for the Angel Camp Reserve. This wine should have won the tasting right? Reserve, etc etc. Well it was truly a tough call, but I think I was so bias by that time from my previous taste of the Anderson Valley Estate offering that I couldn’t betray it. Don’t get me wrong, I had seconds of both!
Bottom line is that there is no bad, no subpar, no mediocre….let’s just say that every Donum wine hits it out of the park. You will not be disappointed with any of them, ever. But remember, with all good wine there should be an experience and Donum excels at providing their visitors with a one of a kind tasting. I cannot thank Maggie Staines enough as she was such an incredible host. Get to Donum….Get to Donum! But call first.