Corner 103 – more than just wine tasting in Sonoma

Corner 103 wine glasses

Just across the street from Sonoma Plaza in beautiful downtown Sonoma sits Corner 103. Appropriately it is on the Corner and the address is 103 West Napa Street. It’s an understated name. If you go by early in the day you are likely to see a man outside sweeping the sidewalk in front of the establishment. That man would be the founder and owner Lloyd Davis. Understated is a word that describes Lloyd well, he is soft spoken and mild mannered, and his tasting room, which is much more than a tasting room, like the man himself, is sparkling and spotless.

Corner 103 Sonoma

Corner 103 on the Sonoma Square

We had a 2 pm appointment for a Cheese Experience. Brent welcomed us and then Lloyd joined us at the table which was glistening with glasses of wine and plates of cheese and something more. Lloyd intends this to be an experience, and an educational one. This is not just educational in that you learn about wine, but that you learn about what you like and don’t like in wine. Every palate is different and the intention is for you to experience how you can find things that speak to your taste buds.

The table is beautiful with the glasses, and I realize that there are many different styles of glasses before me, each specific to the wine that it holds. While you can drink wine from any sort of container or glass, the right shape of glass can greatly enhance the experience, bringing out the aromas in a wine and channeling them in just the right way for you to be able to most appreciate them.

Under each glass sits a coaster size card giving you the wine, the area the grapes came from, the Vintage and any awards that the wine has garnered. Flip the card over and you are treated to even more information. This begins with a short description from Lloyd and then includes a map of the Sonoma Valley, with the specific area that the grapes for this wine were pulled from highlighted. It goes on to give you the Blend, the Total Production, Alcohol, the Appropriate glass style to drink it from, the Harvest and Bottling Dates, how it was aged, the appropriate serving temperature and the price. It’s quite a bit of information I know, but for a wine geek like me…heaven.

In addition there was a card specific to our tasting with each wine and the cheese and other other small bits.

As we chatted and Lloyd explained a little about Corner 103, he invited us to enjoy some of the 2015 Sauvignon Blanc. This allowed us to prime our palates and get into discussing the wine and what we tasted. He asked each of us and explained that we were likely to experience the wine differently, our taste buds and experiences are unique to each of us and affect how we interpret flavors.

Corner 103 cheese Experience Sonoma

The Cheese Experience at Corner 103 in Sonoma

We moved on to the 2014 Chardonnay from the Sonoma Coast which was paired with and Italian Style table cheese as well as crushed roasted hazelnuts. The process went as follows; taste the wine, taste the cheese, taste the wine with the cheese and finally taste the wine with the cheese and the hazelnuts. The idea is to identify what you are tasting separately with the wine, then the cheese and then how they are different when they are together. Adding the hazelnuts at the end change what you experience yet again. Depending on what you enjoyed or disliked about each bite, Lloyd can suggest a pairing. If you enjoyed the wine with the cheese, try a darker meat chicken, if you didn’t like it with the cheese try it with white meat chicken (adjusting the fat content). If you liked the addition of hazelnuts, perhaps try adding something earth to the dish like mushrooms. The possibilities are endless, but this small pairing can give you direction for planning an entire meal.

We continued on moving into the red wines:

2013 Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley with California Daisy Cheddar & Dried Cherries

2012 Zinfandel from Dry Creek Valley with Asiago & Dried Herbs

2012 Merlot from the Alexander Valley with Oro Secco & Bacon Bits

2012 Red Blend (Merlot, Syrah, Zinfandel & Petite Sirah with Romanello Dolce & Green Peppercorns

2012 Cabernet Sauvignon from the Sonoma Valley with Mezzo Secco & Blackberry Preserve.

Each time the sequence was the same; wine, cheese, wine & cheese, wine & cheese & the added flavor. Michael and I surprised ourselves with some of the differences in our tastes. Throughout the experience Lloyd encouraged us to not worry about what was right or wrong. We are each experts on what we are tasting. His quiet and thoughtful demeanor allowed us to open up to our own thoughts and interpretations.

With Corner 103 Lloyd is committed to creating a safe space for everyone to learn and embrace the wine expert inside each of us. He finds that too many people are intimidated by wines. His wines strive to be approachable.

The experience is really extraordinary and you are treated as an honored guest from the moment that you walk in the door. While we were there, the beautiful park was right across the street, people and cars were going by, people came and went, at least I think they did, I was completely absorbed in the experience.

You can visit the Corner 103 website to schedule one of these amazing tastings.

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a Corner 103 Photo Gallery

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The power of Wine Aromas

Aroma Scent Jars

A few years ago we had attended an event at Cold Heaven in Santa Barbara. It was called “a Rhone Scent-ual Experience”.. You can visit the blog post and see the video here “Cold Heaven Cellars – Rhone Scent-ual Experience”.

I was amazed, not only at how wonderful it was to find these aromas from the jars in the wines, but also how excited everyone became.   People who had just met (or not even) were excitedly sharing the jars and asking what other people smelled. Inhibitions were gone and people joyfully bonded and shared the experience.

Cold Heaven Rhone Scentual Experience

Wine Event

We had done a small event after that with a friend and found again that people loved the scent jars. Putting together these aromas of things they were familiar with and then finding them in the wine glass made people so excited. I remember people speaking for weeks about the wet stones that we had with the Tablas Creek 2014 Vermentino. (check out the blog post on this party here   “Wine with friends – A California Tasting & Pairing”)

Tablas Creek Vermentino
Tablas Creek Vermentino
Cut Grass Scent Jar
Cut Grass Scent Jar

Creating Scent Jars

So I knew we wanted to do scent jars again for our “Crushed Grapes & Open Minds” Event and I did some further research on how other people do them. My go to for stuff like this is Madeline Puckett of Wine Folly and I found a great article here http://winefolly.com/tutorial/make-wine-aroma-kit-30/

I took her advice on the jars and I did find them at Cost Plus. I opted out of the small jars and went for one size larger (which were a dollar more), because they would give me more room for fresh fruit and better visuals. And I did not blend any wine into the jars, I wanted the fresh scents.

We did some shopping and some scrounging to fill the jars. The Champagne had some bread and yeast on the nose that we found reminded us of hamburger buns (I know, right?). And it was a mostly Pinot Noir based Champagne so you got berries and cherries. So our jars here were filled with hamburger buns, fresh & dried berries (I used sliced strawberries, blueberries and dried cranberries) and then cherries, which were defrosted from frozen, because they were out of season.

Hamburger Buns
Starbourgh Sav Blanc and Scent Jars

Starbourgh Sav Blanc

The Sauvignon Blanc had grapefruit, lime, lemongrass, stone fruit and grass. We did slices of the citrus, cut up the lemon grass to release it’s scent.  We chopped up a peach for the stone fruit and Michael headed with the scissors to the local park for the fresh cut grass.

Syrah & Scents
Syrah & Scents

Carhartt Syrah

The Syrah had jars with Black Berries, Allspice, dirt (we used a little potting soil here, since backyards in Vegas are not filled with very happy soil), tobacco (I found a smoke shop and got pipe tobacco, which worked but wasn’t exactly what I wanted), vanilla bean and beef jerky (for smoky meat).

Tobin James Zinfandel and Scents

Tobin James Zinfandel

The Zins had jars of earth, pepper (black & white peppercorns), fruit jam, leather (we hit the craft store, chopped it into pieces and added a little water to bring out the fragrance), and chocolate (we used a broken up dark chocolate bar)

Tokaji & Scent Jars

Tokaji

Lastly our dessert wine was a Tokaji. It was just 3 Puttonyons so on the less sweet side. We had aroma jars of dried apricots, citrus (thinly sliced lemon and lime) and a jar of honey.

You don’t have to invest in jars though, you can use wine glasses. If you are doing this with friends, it’s fun to find wines that have unexpected aromas.   We had a Magerum Rose that had Watermelon Jolly Ranchers on the nose! The important thing is to have fun with it. Which is what we did, and the people at our Crushed Grapes & Open Minds Event did.

Behind the scent jars in each of the photos you can see a bit of each of the beautiful paintings that RuBen did to pair with each wine.  More on that to come.

Check back here at Crushed Grape Chronicles for more on the details on the wines we paired with the Art and our Crushed Grapes and Open Minds Event!   You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

And you can find RuBen and his gorgeous art at Act2Art or on Facebook