Vérité Wines: In Search of Consistent Perfection

Vérité is a winery in Healdsburg, California that takes on perfection as their goal at every turn. The winemaker himself brings diligence to each step in the winemaking process, even down to the selection of the wood for the barrels. This is their ambition. The efforts are clear – there is a big commitment to quality.

Big, rich, and silky are all words that come to mind as I recall the tasting at Vérité. This is a remarkable winery in their vigilance to represent the terroir and seek a perfect wine. They have been successful to date, as Robert Parker, who is credited with popularizing the 100-point scale, has awarded their wines thirteen 100-point scores. This is the first time a Sonoma County winery has been awarded so many “perfect” scores. This is quite an accomplishment! Many wineries strive for this, yet not many achieve it.

Another question though, why do I put perfect in quotes? Personally, I think it’s ultimately up to the consumer to determine what is perfect. What is it that fits their palate, their pleasure, and their pocket book? Yet there are characteristics that come into play to make a great wine. For example, the wine must be well-balanced with fruit, alcohol, acid, and tannins. It should all be harmonious, beg you back for more, and have a long finish. The one thing I have heard that winemakers agree on is that a long finish is indicative of a well-crafted wine.

What about the wine industry though, and what does Robert Parker say about wines of this score? Here’s a quote from Robert Parker regarding wines that are awarded scores from 96-100 points: “An extraordinary wine of profound and complex character displaying all the attributes expected of a classic wine of its variety. Wines of this caliber are worth a special effort to find, purchase, and consume.” Parker himself also states that the last 10 points in this scale are indicative of the wine’s potential for aging. Obviously, the longer the wine can age, the greater the potential for a higher score.

So what does this say about the wines of Vérité? Many are extraordinary wines. They will age gracefully for many years and still provide great drinking experiences. They are available through their website; and, when you are in wine country again, schedule a tasting at the winery. Everyone deserves the experience of great wine.


Wine: What’s in the Glass?

The first evidence of wine consumption has been traced back to China in 7000 B.C.  In 2007, researchers at UCLA discovered the first evidence of a winery in 4100 B.C.  According to an article in National Geographic, what we know to be the oldest winery was founded in ancient Armenia.

So wine is an age-old friend, deeply woven into many rituals. You know that, yet do you know what is in your glass? What are the constituents of wine?

Water is the main ingredient in your glass. It is typically 80%-90% of wine and comes primarily from the grapes themselves. After that, the next major component is alcohol, ranging anywhere from 10-15% of the volume. These two components you know well, as they are essential to wine. It is the others in varying degrees, which make the wine unique.

There are a variety of acids that are found in wine which give a wine its structure, balance and refreshing aspects.  Think of a great glass of Sauvignon Blanc on a warm summer day.  It is the acid that really gives you that aspect of thirst quenching refreshment.  Acid will make up approximately 0.5% to 0.75% of the volume.  In addition, there are six different acids found in wine, and each contributes a different characteristic.

Sugar is your next important component.  Grapes usually contain about 15% to 28% sugar at harvest.  The grapes contain two types of sugars in roughly the same amount, Glucose and Fructose. Winemakers will mostly refer to this as Brix, which is the degree of sugar content.  One degree Brix is 1 gram of sucrose in 100 grams of solution. The presence of sugar and yeast is what drives the process of fermentation.  The higher the sugar levels in the grapes, the higher the level of alcohol.  In the glass, even if the yeast have done their job, there will even be a trace amount of sugar that is imperceptible to taste. Wines like this are termed dry. Varying amounts of residual sugar add weight to the wine, and some of the world’s best dessert wines can contain up to 24% or more residual sugar.

The last category of components is phenolic compounds.  These occur in small amounts and vary yet can have a large impact on the sensory impact of the wine.  The list includes Anthocyanins, Flavonols, Vanillin, Tannins, and the highly investigated Resveratrol.  All these molecules are primarily concentrated in the skin and seeds of grapes.  Since red wines have much more contact with the grape solids, these wines are more concentrated in phenolic compounds than white wines.

Okay, that was a lot to “drink” in, yet you now know what is in your glass.  It may not add to the pleasure yet should add to your understanding.


Donelan: A Family Affair

Donelan Wines is a family winery that takes great pride in delivering quality wines for your drinking pleasure. The venture began back in 2000 under the name of Pax wine. I originally joined the mailing list after visiting the industrial setting winery for a tasting. Their Syrahs were getting high marks from reviewers, and that always peaks my curiosity. I am not one to take it solely on a critic’s review and need to try the wine firsthand. The wines were wonderful then, and they continue to deliver with every year.

This is a working winery located in Santa Rosa. It is situated in an industrial setting that is home to several smaller wineries. The driving force in the winery is Joe Donelan. It is his vision and passion that set the stage for these winning wines. Joe has been quoted as stating that quality is the most important goal with every vintage. The scores and accolades the wines receive demonstrate his commitment. He is supported full time by his two sons, Tripp and Cushing. Tripp is the Director of Sales, and Cushing is the Director of Marketing. This is what really makes it a family affair.

Donelan Family Wines opens their doors to visitors by appointment only. The wines are plush, balanced and well crafted. After my first visit I became a fan.  They make a wide portfolio that today includes Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Viognier, Syrah and Rhone blends. To say the least, there is something for everyone.

The most recent event that we attended was their Open House. This was an opportunity to attend a seminar led by their winemaker Joe Nielsen and take a journey through their four Syrahs. It is not often you get the chance to take a “tour” with the winemaker and learn what contributes to the quality of their wine. What followed that was lunch and tasting through more of the wide portfolio of wines that paired well with the lovely lunch served by Sonoma’s own ‘Girl and the Fig’ Restaurant. This was truly a great afternoon.

Donelan Family Wines is a small family-owned winery that has carried the commitment to quality through vintage after vintage. Their wines deliver fresh, rich flavors that will please year after year. I highly recommend a visit to explore and enjoy their wines.