The Texas-OU Weekend added a new dimension this weekend when the football rivalry spread from the playing field to the winery at Graileys Fine Wines and Wine Cellar. Mark McWilliams, owner of Arista Winery graduated from the University of Texas and Chris Donatiello, owner of C.Donatiello Winery, graduated from The University of Oklahoma. Now they share the 95448 zip code in the heart of Sonoma’s Russian River Valley making wine in what is becoming one of the epicenters of American Pinot Noir. They are great friends, but also fiercely proud of their college heritage. Each of these wineries produces insanely small quantities (only a few thousand cases). Arista, for example, distributes only directly from the winery and to Texas (because of the family’s origins).
Graileys hosted dozens of Longhorn and Sooner fans in what might be described as a party atmosphere. Attendees settled into a buffet dinner of salmon, beef and chicken (surf, turf and scratch?) along with vegetables and salad. Then the serious contest began as a wine from each winery was poured for each round. The first round was white wines.
2009 Arista Dry Gewürztraminer. Ferrington Vineyard, Anderson Valley AVA (Mendocino County). ($24.99). Light nose of the Gewürztraminer grape’s aroma. Taste of orange and ripe apricots. Medium weight in the mouth. No doubt this is a New World Gewürztraminer (it would be instructive to compare it with an Old World Gewürztraminer from, say, Alsace such as Zind-Humbrecht or Marcel Deiss). A great match with the chicken. My score 82/100.
2007 C. Donatiello Chardonnay. Russian River Valley AVA (Sonoma Valley). ($26.99). Nose of tropical fruits. Luscious, heavy mouth feel. Oaky, buttery flavors. Good acid. Complex fruit flavors in mouth. Very competitive in its price category. Unusual etched bottle would make a great candle holder. The acid made this wine the best match with the oiliness of the salmon. My score 87/100.
Despite a preponderance of orange clothes in the crowd the people’s choice was the Chardonnay in this round. So Sooners 1, Longhorns 0.
Next the three red rounds.
2008 Arista Longbow Pinot Noir. Russian River Valley AVA, Sonoma County ($49.99). Powerful nose of dark fruit. Still tannic in the mouth (needs time). Long finish of Pinot Noir fruit. Best match was with the beef. My score 88/100.
2008 C. Donatiello Pinot Noir. Russian River Valley AVA, Sonoma County ($44.99). Light nose of red fruit. A lush texture from soft tannins in the mouth, combined with an open, expansive fruitiness of raspberries make this a wine to drink right now. Worked well with the salmon or beef but frankly I would quaff this wine, savoring the subtleties of the taste without food impinging on it. My score 89/100.
The tough (and progressively more noisy) Texas crowd showed their impartiality when it came to the grape by narrowly voting the Donatiello their favorite. Sooners 2, Longhorns 0 at the half. No signs of desperation yet though.
2008 Arista Pinot Noir. Toboni Vineyard, Russian River Valley AVA, Sonoma County ($59.99). Complex nose of dark fruit, pepper. Raspberry flavor but it tastes much older than it is. The fruit is attenuated. Short finish. Best match was the beef. My score 88/100.
2008 C. Donatiello Pinot Noir. Floodgate Vineyard Block 15, Russian River Valley AVA, Sonoma County ($49.99). Fragent nose of rose petals. Taste of strawberries. Could be more complex. Better without food. My score 90/100.
On this one the crowd outvoted me, preferring the Arista. Sooners 2, Longhorns 1 with a round to go.
2008 Arista Pinot Noir. Mononi Vineyard, Russian River Valley AVA, Sonoma County ($59.99). If you wanted a Pinot Noir that accentuated the cherry character that that grape can assume then this is the one. Red cherries in the nose. Soft tannins and those cherry flavors in the mouth. Best match was the beef or quaff. My score 90/100.
2007 C. Donatiello Pinot Noir. Hervey Vineyard, Russian River Valley AVA, Sonoma County (N/A). Lucky us. We get the older 2007 that is sold out (although the 2009 is shipping at $46.99). Very soft. Lots of cherry and raspberry. Medium finish. Quaff or serve with salmon. My score 91/100.
Once again the crowd outvoted me, preferring the Arista. Sooners 2, Longhorns 2 at the finish. No major injuries and pride intact. Next year, the battle may continue. Graileys has the wines, and a mailing list here.