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11.28.07

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Wine Tasting Room of the Week

Roshambo & the Grange Sonoma

By James Knight


Many of us may be asking the question, where did Roshambo go? A winery is usually the epitome of solid, long-standing institution. Yet this paradigm-shifting winery is in a state of flux, neither here nor there. Look, is that a Roshambus carrying a party army into the night? You'll recall that the "old winery" was practically brand-new when sold to Silver Oak. Now, we find the wine country's hippest tasting room under Blue Tree.

Visitors to Cornerstone Place on Arnold Drive south of Sonoma are invited to wander a nine-acre nexus where art meets nature and it all meets shopping. The gardens were designed by high-end landscape architects whose philosophy and vision are described beside each installation. The signature installation, Blue Tree by artist Claude Cormier, is described as giving "new life to a diseased tree slated for removal, decking its branches with 70,000 sky-blue Christmas balls. . . . Blue Tree stands out against the ever-changing sky, becoming a barometer for subtle fluctuations in light." Disoriented, we feel as though we have stumbled into the Black Rock Desert.

Behind a red, tented entrance on the side of a tin building, the Roshambo outpost is re-imagined as a warehouse party space or perhaps a late '90s dotcom break room. It's party time, all the assets are liquid, and they'll be pissed away shortly. Of course, it's this very deracination that is the illusion:

Roshambo's "silent partners" are acres of vineyards, their roots sunk firmly in Dry Creek Valley soil. The party will go on. Roshambo always has been more about lifestyle than the wine. But it all works because the wines have been consistently good to excellent. The 2005 "Scissors" White Blend ($25) is a celebration of Roussanne, Marsanne and Viogner. It "cuts" the boundaries between our senses, allowing us to taste a spring garden landscape, sweet citrus blossoms and ripe apricots and honeydew melon, no matter the season. Nefariously dark fruit and cured tobacco aromas emanate from the depths of the 2004 "Rock" Sonoma County Red Blend ($40). Like the revelation of texture and light when a shadow is lifted, it's supple and agreeable.

The neighboring tasting room, Grange Sonoma, is also well worth a visit. It's envisioned as a rural collective where artisan, small-production wines may be tasted together. Owners John Green and Heather Kirlin are knowledgeable and will engage you on whatever level of winespeak you're comfortable with. The Derbes 2003 Carneros Chardonnay ($36) is a kinetic representation of dry, flaky and mild Parmigiano-Reggiano, with a light mushroom broth. It hits us with a slightly hot finish, perhaps an admonition for savoring it too much? Tallulah 2004 Sonoma Coast Syrah ($28) asks what would it be like to be a beautiful, cocoa-dipped olallieberry?

The Tallulah 2004 Del Rio Oregon Syrah ($30) addresses our discomfort with varietal anomalies (Syrah in Oregon?) and shows us with a variety of playful and enticing aromas—like apricot, wet sweet hay and red fruit—that the unexpected can be quite pleasing.

Cornerstone Place, 23570 Hwy. 121, Sonoma. Open daily from 10am–5pm. Roshambo charges $5 for tasting; $10 reserves. 707.431.2051. Grange Sonoma tasting fee, $10. 707.933.8980.


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