The Urban Sonoma Experience

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Editor’s Note: Our friend Iris Neal Allen took a group of Urban Wineauxs to California last month for the Association of African American Vintners’ 7th Annual Symposium. Here is her account of the event.

By now most people know that I have a real affinity for wine so much that I decided to get certified – twice and there are more to come.

Iris immerses herself in her favorite fruit!In my quest for knowledge of the divine, I discovered that there are vintners who look like me! Who knew? The Association of African American Vintners (AAAV) does exist and for seven years they have showcased the fruits of their labor at the Annual AAAV Symposium and Wine Tasting. Six of those years it has been held in Napa Valley at various locations including the COPIA Center founded by the late Robert Mondavi in 2001, and closed in 2008.

This year the Hyatt Vineyard Creek Hotel and Spa in Sonoma hosted the event. Last month IrisbytheGlass (that’s me) with 14 rookie and 3 veteran female Urban Wineauxs in ages ranging from 24 to 80 invaded the Santa Rosa, California resort for a weekend of vino bliss.

The event started around 11ish with the introduction of the members of AAAV which are Vision Cellars, Running Tigers Wine, Sharp Cellars, Theopolis Vineyards, Stover Oaks and Black Coyote Wines. The participation of vintners appeared to be less than last year but as this was a new group of Urban Wineauxs (UWs) it didn’t seem to matter as they just wanted to taste the liquid fruit.

But before that could happen we had to endure the symposium portion of the event which included a wine and food pairing from Ryan Williams, Sommelier and Wine Director of Ana Mandara Restaurant in San Francisco and the keynote speaker, Aubrey Stone, President of California Black Chamber of Commerce.

The Urban Wineauxs in Sonoma with AAAV Executive Director Jill Bates, members Vance Sharp, III (Sharp Cellars, sitting), Mac McDonald (Vision Cellars, reclining) and Daniel J. Bryant (Running Tiger Wines, standing)

Ok moving forward as none of it pertained to the Texas Wineauxs who could not wait to wrap their fingers around the commemorative Riedel Glass and experience the first taste of some of these wines that are seldom heard of outside of the state of California. The exception of course is Mac McDonald’s Vision Cellars whose Pinot Noir won Top Red Wine at the 2011 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo International Wine Competition.

The wine tasting took place in a beautiful courtyard with vine laden trellises and a waterfall wall which was an added bonus to the beautiful weather that was great for walking around outside sipping on red and white wines (anywhere else but Houston). The UWs, without any influence by me, unanimously conveyed that Vision Cellars’ was the “best in show” but they were glad to have met the other vintners and tasted their wares. Everyone is looking forward to returning in 2012.

By 2:00 most UWs were in the rentals and headed out on the 101 to get their final drink on before the return trip home on Sunday. Honorable mention goes out to Davis Family Vineyards, J Vineyards, Coppola Family Vineyards, La Crema, Balletto Vineyards & Winery, Kendall Jackson, and Murphy-Goode Winery which are the ones that I can remember.

Just note that in order to truly have an Urban Sonoma Experience you have spend at least two weeks and not three days in this wonderful 68-degree, picturesque wine country!

Wine regards,
IrisbytheGlass

* Thanks to Exclusive Productions – James Adams Photography. In addition to photography, he is also one of the owners of Roots & Vines Wine Tours, the oldest African American and Latino owned wine education company in the country. He is also writes a wine blog, called The Wine Griot.  Sonoma Winery road sign photo by Iris Allen.