~ Lambert Bridge Winery ~

Sonoma Valley was founded by a notable concentration of Italian immigrants who migrated to the area after settling in San Francisco. In short order, many quickly realized that the rural, picturesque area possessed all the characteristics ideal for producing wine.  Perhaps it just looked like home to many of them? I’ve been to Sonoma many times and the bucolic nature of the valley, especially in the Northern area by Healdsburg, reminds me very much of the Tuscan countryside.  In this spirit of exploration, we bring you our latest #SideTrip:  Welcome to Lambert Bridge Winery!  

Nestled among fabulous gardens and tall redwood trees, Lambert Bridge Winery is situated in some of the most lovely property Healdsburg has to offer.  Owned and operated since 1993 by Ray and Patti Chambers, this tight knit family winery handcrafts small lot artisan wine with one over arching mission:  Honor this idyllic land, farm and craft Sonoma’s finest small-lot wines, and create an inspiring setting to relish wine, food, and friendship.  They have succeeded admirably. 

~ Lambert Bridge Estate Vineyards ~

Today, Lambert Bridge farms approximately 42 acres spread across 4 estate owned vineyard sites, the largest of which, having been replanted in 2000, is approaching 16 years of age. Additional fruit, mostly old vine Zinfandel, is purchased from 3 other vineyards throughout Sonoma.

Lambert Bridge’s winemaker is Jennifer Higgins, who cut her teeth under the tutelage of Zelma Long at Simi Winery and renowned winemaker David Ramey.  Higgins has been running the winemaking at Lambert Bridge since 2010 and is nothing short of obsessed with attention to detail at every stage of a grape’s life cycle. This is expressed in her own words…..

“As I make the wine, I refer back to that grape I tasted off the vine—delicious with layers of fruit, perfectly ripe. I’m creating a thread all the way through so that when our bottle is uncorked it  delivers the deliciousness of the grape on the vine. When we make wine we are telling a story.”

Oh how many times I have mused that wine tells a story……

~ Decked out for the holidays ~

For this report, we tasted 4 different wines from Lambert Bridge to get a sense of the estate’s style across a few different vintages and to gaze through a tiny window to peek at the wines evolution.  All the tasters involved were in agreement that the wines showed, what I’ll call,  “European Finesse”  deftly married to the ripeness and flavors of Sonoma Valley.  We were impressed.  

The Tastings 

We began with the 2009 Sonoma County Merlot.   This deep reddish purple wine displays a concentrated color near to the rim, where a faint fade to violet is observed.  The aromas from the glass are enticing with crushed black plum, cinnamon toast and milk chocolate.  In the mouth, the wine displays wonderful balance with lively acidity across the palate.  Richly textured with black plums, mint, and dark chocolate character this retains its elegant feel.  More tannic than you might expect, but there is more than a smidgen of Cabernet in the blend.   85% Merlot, 12% Cabernet and 3% Malbec.  Aged for 20 months in French oak – 52% new barrels and 48% combined first and second passage barrels.  91 points.  $60 from the winery.  Disclosure:  This bottle was a producer provided sample.
The 2013 Sonoma County Merlot is very similar to its 2009 sibling.  Nearly an opaque purple color, the wine exhibits brooding aromas of mint, clove, black fruits and vanilla.  It’s lovely to smell.  The elegant concentration of ripe black fruits on the palate follow the nose and add eucalyptus, Christmas Cake spices and caramel laden vanilla.  This is lavishly oaked but manages to stay in perfect balance. Again, the European Finesse exhibited here allows these wines to pair well with food in addition to being enjoyed alone.  93 points.  $60 from the winery.
~ One of Lambert Bridge’s Tasting Areas ~ 
Next up were a pair of Cabernets and we once again began with the 2009 Sonoma County Cabernet.  This 100% Cabernet wine is an opaque purple color throughout.  Crafted during a late ripening year, this wine displays fruit forward, opulent aromas of rich black fruits, cigar box, sweet vanilla notes and dark chocolate.  It’s tannic and well structured to allow for cellaring, but it’s drinking wonderfully at the moment.  Flavors follow the aromas with elegance and freshness.  Delicious on its own, it perfectly matched grilled hangar steak.  Aged for 20 months in French oak, 59% of which were new and 41% from 1st and 2nd passages.  92 points, $80 from the winery.  Disclosure:  This bottle was a producer provided sample.

The 2013 Sonoma County Cabernet is even richer, brawnier and more complex than its 2009 counterpart.  Fully opaque and deep purple in the glass, the wine exudes aromas of toasty vanilla oak, crushed blackberry and blueberry, mint and dark chocolate.  I love the mint notes all these wines seems to possess.  On the palate, the black fruits dominate with accents of cigar leaf, toasted almond and licorice. Rich and elegant, this is quite tannic and without food, it could use a year or two in the cellar. With braised short ribs, it’s delicious right now. 94 points.  $80 from the winery.
~ The 2013 is an excellent, cellar worthy Cabernet ~
Overall, these are well made wines with some distinct characteristics that many tasters found very appealing.  They do not have retail distribution given the small lot production, therefore, they are available only from the winery. 

Although the quality of the wines is unquestionably excellent, the natural tendency is to compare them to their Napa counterparts.  Typically, I look to Sonoma to provide relative value in that regard.  In this case, the wines are commanding a premium that equals and sometimes exceeds similar wines from Napa Valley.  Readers will have to  make appropriate value judgements in allocating their wine dollars accordingly. 


Salute!

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