As a wine region, Sonoma might have once been in the shadow of Napa. But no more, thanks to The Calling! The premium wine brand—a joint venture between CBS Sports commentator Jim Nantz and Peter Deutsch, CEO of Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits—has unveiled two delicious new offerings. The Calling certified sommelier Theo Rutherford lets The Daily in on some tasting notes.
Why is Sonoma having a moment right now?
Because too many people let out the secret! In all seriousness, Sonoma is a region that brings incredible value and quality. I think people have stopped thinking that the only two things you can get from California are good cabernet and chardonnay. Sonoma has some of the most unique and diverse microclimates that allow us to grow everything from the most delicate and expressive pinots to big, lush zinfandels. It really is the region for everyone.
What should we expect when drinking wines from the Sonoma wine region?
This is a tough question, given that Sonoma is so diverse. One small vineyard of 10 acres can have three or four different microclimates, causing the grapes to ripen differently and bring different flavors to the wine. Wine from Sonoma Coast is usually going to have brighter acid, while wines from Alexander Valley endure some of the hottest temperatures in the area, resulting in huge wines. But if I had to say one thing is consistent in all Sonoma wines, it’s that they’re layered. Sonoma wines never have just one dominant flavor or texture. They’re wines that evolve as you drink them.
Tell us more about the new Russian River pinot noir. What makes this wine special?
There are some regions in the world of wine that are just made for certain grapes. Napa and Bordeaux for cabernet and merlot; Australia and Rhône for syrah; and Burgundy and Russian River for pinot noir. Pinot noir is an extremely hard grape to get right. It needs time to ripen but hates the heat. When it gets too hot, it starts to taste sweet. The reason that the Russian River Valley is so perfect is an amazing combination of the soil we have and the cooling influence of the fog we get every single night. The soil gives the pinot noir the nutrients it needs, and the fog keeps it nice and cool at night. The result is The Calling Russian River Valley pinot noir—a wine that has expressive cherries and strawberries, along with beautiful floral notes and an acidic backbone that makes it perfect for food.
And what about the new Sonoma Coast chardonnay? It sounds delicious!
Sonoma Coast is one of those regions that, once you discover it for yourself and taste a wine from there, you will understand why it’s so amazing. Chardonnays from this region are the antithesis of what most people think California chardonnay is. You don’t get those big, oaky, buttery, full wines. The Calling Sonoma Coast chardonnay is much more restrained, with flavors like green apple, fresh lemon, orange zest, and just a hint of nuttiness from oak. It’s almost like a chablis that went to the gym a little! I always love when people tell me they don’t want to taste it because they hate chardonnay. By the end of the conversation, they’re usually asking me for a second or third taste.
What kind of food are you pairing them both with?
For The Calling Russian River Valley pinot noir, you can play with so many things. It’s really one of the few red wines that you can pair with fish, because the tannins are light enough that they won’t compete with the fish oils. It can also go with some larger meals, like steaks and other game. But the most classic pairing, for a reason, is pinot and pork. They seem to sing when you enjoy them together. For The Calling Sonoma Coast chardonnay, you can go a few different ways. You can stay with something light and bright, like a fresh tomato and mozzarella salad or ceviche. You can also go with something nice and rich, as the acid will cut through the richness of almost any dish. I love risotto as a go-to. This chardonnay is the perfect blank canvas that pairs well with almost anything.
Wine deliveries became super popular this year. Is The Calling available for online ordering?
Our entire portfolio of wines is available for purchase and home delivery at thecallingwine.com. Our website also offers selections that are not available in stores. [Use code SHIP20 at checkout and you’ll receive $1 ground shipping anywhere in the contiguous U.S.]
Lastly, what’s a fun fact about wine that always surprises novices?
One thing I found interesting was that red wine is not red because the grapes are red on the inside. Almost every single wine grape is actually white, and it’s the contact with the skins that stain the wine to make it red. When I tell people who are just getting into wine this, it’s usually one of those aha moments.