Gathering for a virtual tasting and uncorking a bottle of wine or two is the closest many have been able to get to a vineyard for more than a year. I admit that after 13 months of virtual tastings and Facebook memories reminding me of how great those in-person experiences once were, I long for those visits again. I recently attended a 2020 Red Car rosé virtual party hosted by Purple Cork, who may have cracked the code on adding a new twist to breaking the virtual monotony of a tasting event.
Background of Red Car
First a little about Red Car. It was founded in 2000 when Mark Estrin, Carroll Kemp and Richard Crowell produced 50 cases of wine from a single ton of Syrah grapes in a Culver City garage. In a nod to their Los Angeles roots, the new venture was named Red Car after the trolley line that ferried riders across the region for the first half of the twentieth century.
In 2004, they purchased 125 acres of land and began developing vineyards in Sonoma County’s Bodega Bay, a region now known as the Fort Ross-Seaview AVA. It’s about farming cold climate vineyards with sandy soils on the edge of the Sonoma coast located near the Pacific Ocean.
The winery is under the direction of viticulturist, Greg Adams, and winemaker, Tanner Scheer. Red Car farms five vineyards including Heaven & Earth, Zephyr Farms, Mohrhardt Ridge, Hagan, and The Estate. Red Car is puts farming first, is about minimal intervention winemaking and showcases the expression of the varietal and terroir of each unique coastal vineyard site. At its core, Red Car is a small, independent farming operation committed to conservation and sustainability.
The last time I talked to the folks at Red Car (and my blog sure has evolved) , was ten years ago when they were still working with vineyards in Sonoma, Napa and Santa Barbara. I could tell even then that there was a real passion for Sonoma, so I wasn’t surprised to learn that they concentrated their focus there.
Purple Cork Virtual Tastings
So let’s talk about the tasting.
First, we received a kit that included the wine – the Red Car 2020 Rosé of Pinot Noir, background on the winery, a wine wheel describing flavors in the wine, the wine and Two GoVino plastic wine glasses. I was provided this as a sample, but the cost for participants was $75. There was also a Sonoma snack selection offered for an additional $75 that included gourmet local snacks from Point Reyes Farmstead to match with the wine.
Like all other tastings, we gathered together first to talk to a central person from the winery (in this case it was the winemaker (Tanner) and not a distributor, brand person or representative) and then we broke out into small groups to chat a bit, then wrapped back up in a main group with an afterparty chat. I haven’t seen the small group chat used before in wine and that provided an intimacy that I haven’t seen in events prior. And as a consumer, how cool is it to interact with the winemaker?
The event actually allowed me to ask a few questions to give me some color for the story. Tanner shared a number of stories about how climate change is causing a pivot for this sustainable vineyard. He told us that climate change is definitely factoring into many of the decisions that they make because it’s getting warmer earlier and there’s less precipitation. As a reference point, in 2018, there were 112 inches of rain. This past year, there is less than 40 inches.
In 2020, there was a later bud break and an exceptional growing season. And then the fires happened. That resulted in a complete loss of the Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and one Pinot Noir.
Tanner talked about 2020 being the “year of the hustle.” They fully integrated the farming and winemaking operations to serve their own and other vineyards to keep people employed year-round. One thing remains the same – the mission to be a stalwart of the land by keeping it safe and taking care of the community.
The Wine: 2020 Red Car Rosé of Pinot Noir
Tanner described this as an “intentional rosé” cultivated from Pinot Noir grapes purposefully grown for this wine with no chemistry in the cellar. He farms two separate vineyards in a Vin Gris style and hand harvests with pressed old clusters
The color is spectacular and I tasted so much fruit – strawberry, grapefruit, orange blossom, peach sorbet and tangerine. It is a delicious wine.
The next consumer tasting is a Rare Aussie Wine Tasting with Reid Bosward with the winemaker of Kaesler Wines.
Purple Cork also offers experiences, which include a Skipstone sampler matched with bites (think Philippe Melka boutique wines); a caviar and champagne tasting with Charles Heidsieck wines and AQUAVIRGO Caviar; an Italian pasta cooking glass with Acclaimed Italian Chef Massimiliano and a Point Reyes Cheese Tasting.
It’s tough to bring the vineyard to you virtually, but I have to commend Purple Cork and Red Car for taking me to Sonoma one night with a fun hour of conversation and wine.