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Posted March 2006

A Virtual Visit to Imagery
Estate Winery

By Thom Elkjer

The tasting room at Imagery Estate Winery is a multimedia experience of the best kind, because it involves all your senses. In addition to an abundance of wine varieties – many available only in the tasting room – there is both fine art and wine label art to fill your eyes, and the sound of intelligent wine education to please your ears. You can also heft some bocce balls before or after you raise a glass to taste wine, or take a picnic outside into the sun or shade.

My preferred pastime here is checking out the winery’s progress with grapes such as Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, which most wineries blend away into Cab and Merlot. Here they are bottled on their own, as are relative unknowns such as Barbera and Lagrein. Of course you can also sample standard varietals including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petite Sirah, Syrah and Zinfandel. At the same time, Imagery is not afraid to create its own offbeat blends, including the two whites reviewed below and some knock-out reds.

Most intriguingly, the winery is now drawing on biodynamically grown grapes from the Benziger family’s Sonoma Valley vineyard holdings, so if you’re curious about where the wine industry is heading in terms of viticultural practices, be sure to ask when you visit. The tasting room is in Sonoma Valley, on Highway 12 a few miles north of the town of Sonoma (open daily until 4:30 in spring and 5:30 in summer; 877.550.4278 or 707.935.4515). Here are some wines to look for:

Imagery White Table Wine Sonoma County - Wow Oui White Bordeaux 2004

Imagery White Table Wine Sonoma County “Wow Oui White Bordeaux” 2004 ($24): they could have called it Sauvignon Blanc, but what fun is that? Especially when you’ve got this Muscat-kissed pink grapefruit of a wine brimming with floral aromas. The soft texture and dark finish keep things in balance, enabling the wine to stand alone or stand up to an astonishing array of foods.

Imagery White Table Wine North Coast - White Burgundy 2004

Imagery White Table Wine North Coast “White Burgundy” 2004 ($27): this blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Pinot Meunier joins the growing list of  wonderful white blends coming out of California wineries these days. Full of flavor, body and texture, firmed up with good wood, and crowned with a long, luxurious aftertaste worth savoring.

Imagery Barbera Sonoma Valley 2003

Imagery Barbera Sonoma Valley 2003 ($35): Rich, dark and sweet, with a core of anise and black licorice running down the juicy, sappy center, this bears little resemblance to the dried cherries of Italian Barbera. So if you take some of this home, saddle up for steak and string fries or lamb chops grilled in rosemary, and make sure you have a second bottle handy.

Imagery Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma Valley Sunny Slope Vineyard 2002

Imagery Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma Valley Sunny Slope Vineyard 2002 ($47): I wanted to just keep sniffing. In the mouth it’s a cedary, forest-floor version of Cabernet, with the plummy sweetness on the back end rather than in the foreground. The wine is clearly built to age a few years before the tannins soften and the flavors integrate, so stash a few bottles now for a memorable dinner party down the road.

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