Simon Levi Cellars is located on the main road that stretches between Santa Rosa and Sonoma in a community known as Kenwood. It is a small, two-lane road peppered with small tasting rooms, tiny restaurants, and an occasional shop or two. One of the main draws for me, after driving past a number of times, was a sign that said Champagne. Now I know darn well that Champagne is made in France and that California makes sparkling wine, but vernacular aside, wine with bubbles is a really great thing, whether it is sparkling from California, Prosecco from Italy, Champagne from France, or Cava from Spain. I also tend to forget that there are more and more wineries producing sparkling wine, getting into my own rut of drinking from my personal Big 5 (Chandon, Mumm, Taittinger, J, and Schramsburg).
The building is very reminiscent of an old-style school house; probably because it was red and shingled and quaint. A few picnic tables on the surrounding wooden deck invite guests to relax and stay a while. While there, taste from four different labels. The three made under the Simon Levi auspices is SLC (Simon Levi Cellars), Cuttings Wharf, and Pour la Vie. (The fourth label will be its own blog entry.)
The Pour la Vie label is the name given to the sparkling wines and is made in three flavors; a Grand Cuvee, Almondine, and Framboise. I wanted to get a good cross reference to all the offerings and did not bother tasting the almond or raspberry sparkling, although others in the tasting room seemed to enjoyed it. The tasting room has some lovely things as well — take a look at the suspended model train that runs above the pouring station! Open and spacious with some wonderful discoveries to be had.
2003 Cuttings Wharf Chardonnay – From Carneros fruit. Creamy tropical, kiwi nose with a bright, crisp entry. Not overly buttery or oaky, this fruity, balanced wine is easy to drink. $25.00
2002 Cuttings Wharf Pinot Noir – Light red color belies with intense, fruit-forward, fresh aromas of cherry and strawberry. Substantially more body and structure in the mouth with a defined, sculpted mineral mid-palate. $25.00
2003 Simon Levi Dry Creek Syrah – Dark, plummy colored wine. Smoke and candy dominate the nose. A tad hot on the mouth entry, flavors of spice and earthy mint tease until the slightly dry finish. $28.00
NV Pour la Via Grand Cuvee – 100% Chardonnay. Nutty, creamy, and slightly sweet on entry (probably because I was tasting it after the reds). Hints of light kiwi. $18.00
Simon Levi Cellars ~ 9380 Sonoma Highway ~ Kenwood ~ CA ~ 95452 ~ 707-833-5070
No charge to taste.