Compared to Napa Valley’s Architectural Digest-styled wineries, its foodie-driven restaurants and plush resort hotels, Sonoma County is an American Gothic- vineyards and unadorned wineries interspaced with orchards and sheep and goat farms, and roads winding through wooded areas and along seaside vistas. The Thomas George Estate is just as rustic.
In 2008, Thomas Baker and his son Jeremy purchased Davis Bynum winery and vineyards. Bynum established the first winery in Russian River Valley in 1973, and over the decades, the quality of his pinot noir wines forged the area’s reputation as an ideal cool microclimate for the grape.
Baker is a lawyer with a lifetime interest in wine and a son who moved from the restaurant trade to the wine business. Jeremy Baker runs the winery with the assistance of winemaker Chris Russi.
Pinot Blanc is a mutation of pinot noir and also does best in cool climates. It reaches its apex in Alsace, France, and is also a source for very good wine in northern Italy, Germany, and areas of Eastern Europe. Pinot Blanc is meant to be consumed young, when its floral and fruit scent and fresh fruit flavors are lively.
The 2009 Thomas George Pinot Blanc is made with grapes purchased from Saralee’s Vineyard in Russian River Valley. Russi and Baker captured the beautiful floral and pear scent of their pinot blanc by fermenting it in stainless steel and aging it for nine months in the tanks. By foregoing malolactic fermentation, they preserved the rich fruit flavors and the crisp acidity that gives this wine excellent balance.
Their intelligent winemaking offers you a California pinot blanc that is richer and fuller than the European renditions, and cleaner and fresher than American pinot blancs that are subjected to aging in oak barrels.
Only 190 cases of the 2009 Thomas George Pinot Blanc Saralee’s Vineyard were made. Don’t delay in getting yours.
The 2009 Thomas George Pinot Noir Baker Ridge Vineyard is equally enticing. Made from vines planted over 20 years ago by Bynum, the pinot noir received restrained winemaking that yielded a strawberry hue and aromas and flavors of raspberry, cherry and cranberry.
Unlike their Napa Valley neighbors, who tend to gussy up pinot noir with the candied taste from new oak barrel aging, Baker and Russi have shown a deft hand that preserves the natural qualities of both pinot grapes. This is a new and young winery that you should follow.
Thomas George Estate’s 2009 Pinot Blanc Sarelee’s Vineyard retails for about $26, and the 2009 Pinot Noir Baker Ridge Vineyard is about $48.