Wine Escapes: C. Donatiello's Winery, Aroma Garden, Organic Vineyards and the Beautiful Russian River Valley

One of the most difficult and intimidating aspects of wine tasting for many people is having the confidence to trust their own nose and palate. What do Chardonnay or Pinot Noir smell and taste like? Some wine drinkers complain that they cannot smell anything, or in more cases, that they cannot find the right words to describe what they smell and taste.

Well, here is an interesting way to learn.

As a wine educator, I can vouch that there is no magic to being able to describe a wine. We can all do it. It is about training our nose to identify and put a label on a smell or taste. Over time we build up a sort of reference library in our brain for specific grape varieties and styles of wine.

All that may sound easy, if you are familiar with what an Artic Rose nectarine, an Asian pear, a Pink Lady apple, a Bing cherry or an Ornamental plum look like - yet alone smell or tastes like.

Recently I met with Chris Donatiello, the dynamic entrepreneur behind C. Donatiello Winery in the beautiful Russian River Valley, in Sonoma, California. Not only does Chris cultivate his vineyards organically, he has also created an organic Aroma Garden full of the fruits, flowers and herbs that mirror what you find in his very delicious Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines. What a wonderful way to learn about wine tasting.

The C. Donnatiello winery and gardens are open to the public seven days a week, and Chris himself is almost sure to be found in the tasting room, meeting and talking with visitors. Committed to making sure visitors have a memorable visit, Chris also organizes a series of concerts during the summer months as well as various wine and food tasting events throughout the year.

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C. Donatiello wines include a Sonoma Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, as well as a number of rather special and splendid single vineyard wines. While the regular Sonoma bottlings are available in New York and New Jersey, most of the single vineyard wines however, are only available direct from the winery.

For those of you who have already visited Sonoma wine country and especially the Russian River Valley, you will hopefully echo my sentiments, that it is wildly beautiful. Imposing Redwood forests, the winding Russian River as a backdrop to the history of agriculture and viticulture.

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The Russian River Valley is an officially recognized American Viticultural Area (AVA). It is known for its cool climate, thanks to the cooling fog that comes in from the Pacific Ocean via the Petaluma Gap. So, interested visitors, make sure to bring a fleece, as the fog often does not lift until the afternoon. This I know, as I arrived totally unprepared for this on my first visit and shivered my way through morning vineyard meetings.

Once the fog lifts, it becomes magnificently glorious and warm. This large diurnal temperature difference is a very important factor during the grape ripening process, enabling the Russian River Valley’s hallmark Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes to reach full physiological maturity. Today the Russian River Valley is one of the more recognized wine AVA’s in America and is deservedly renowned for the excellence of its elegant Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines.

So whether you live nearby, or not, a trip to Sonoma’s Russian River Valley and the C. Donnatiello winery could be just the "great escape" before snuggling into winter hibernation. Also, with Thanksgiving on the horizon, it is always a good idea to think of our own American wines.

So until next week enjoy!

- Mary

(Images: Courtesy of C.Donatiello Winery)

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Drinks, Travel, Wine

Mary Gorman-McAdams, MW (Master of Wine), is a New York based wine educator, freelance writer and consultant. In 2012 she was honored as a Dame Chevalier de L'Ordre des Coteaux de Champagne.

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