Belden Barns Hosting Virtual Wine Tasting

Belden Barns is hosting a series of virtual wine tastings starting at the end of March.  Here’s the idea.  You order wine from them.  Then you participate in the virtual tasting via Zoom.  But you have to move fast if you want the 11 bottle package with one bottle of each wine.  Orders must be placed by MARCH 19 (tomorrow as I type this). Added bonus: a 35 percent discount on those 11 bottle near-cases. Click here for the order page.  Also a pdf version of the complete e-mail is at the end of this article.

Here’s what Nate and Lauren say:

In other, more exciting news, beginning on Sunday, March 29th, Nate and I will be hosting free virtual wine tastings every Sunday evening at 5 to 6pm PST.  Each week, we’ll explore a new varietal/bottling from our portfolio, inviting participants to weigh in on attributes like taste, appearance, and perfect pairing ideas.  On the agenda will be fun experiments to explore how the taste of wine changes when paired with different random items from your stockpile (think: beans, marshmallows, rice, peanut butter, popcorn, mac & cheese, etc).  We’ll also include fun questions like “Which song would go best with this wine?” and “If this wine were to come to life as a celebrity, who might it be?”

And here’s the schedule.
Sunday, March 29th      Sauvignon Blanc
Sunday, April 5th           Pinot Noir (a comparison between our Estate and Serendipity bottlings)
Sunday, April 12th         Gruner Veltliner
Sunday, April 19th         Rosé
Sunday, April 26th         Grenache
Sunday, May 3rd           Blanc de Noirs (sparkling!)
Sunday, May 10th         Syrah (a comparison between our Estate and Cadabra bottlings)
Sunday, May 17th         Chardonnay
Sunday, May 24th         Late-Harvest Viognier

Here’s the pdf of the e-mail.

Belden Barns virtual tasting

Sonoma Mountain versus Westside Paso Robles 2016 Vintage

Last night we cracked open two bottles of pinot noir, both 2016 vintage.  One was the Belden Barns Serendipity block.  The second was Jack Creek Cellars Estate Reserve.  The former is in the Sonoma Mountain AVA just east of Santa Rosa.  Jack Creek is in the Westside district of the Paso Robles AVA.  We are long-time club members of both these fine wineries.  This is our Sonoma Mountain versus Westside Paso Robles 2016 vintage tasting competition.

At the outset, we’ll confirm your suspicions.  Both these wines are terrific right now.  The Belden Barns entry will probably improve a bit with one more year in the cellar.  We’re old and impatient.

Both of these need time to breathe. Immediately after opening the bottles, each wine had excessive earthy notes both aromatically and on the palate.  The Jack Creek developed in about 15 minutes.  We decanted the Belden Barns to encourage it.  To put it mildly, a little air was just what they needed.

The Jack Creek offering opened with aromas of cherries and spice.  The palate is cherries and huckleberries with a solid underpinning of earthiness.  The finish is long and exquisite with silky tannins and a nice acid balance.

Belden Barns opened with rose petals and cherries with a hint of brambleberry on the nose.  The palate was more cherries with a solid spice base and a nice acid balance.  You could easily cellar this for another year, but we suspect anything longer than that would be excessive.

Comparing the two led to an unusual result.  We are accustomed to the idea that the further north the vineyard, the lighter the pinot (palate, not color).  In this case, the Jack Creek was lighter.  Once again the importance of microclimates shows itselfNorma preferred the Jack Creek while I liked the Belden Barns.  Which makes for both a good tasting experience and a good marriage!

Belden Barns 2017 Sauvignon Blanc

(click for larger image)

We’ve written about these folks quite a bit over the years.  About a week ago we got our wine club shipment.  The pinots can wait but the lure of the Belden Barns 2017 sauvigvnon blanc ($26) proved irresistable.

And we were not disappointed.  Aromas of honey and tangerine with just hint of grassiness lead to a palate of pineapple and honeydew melon.  The finish is long and multi-layered moving into a touch of wet slate.  This is a major bargain.

The Beldens planted a unique clone of sauvignon blanc.  Nate describes it as “the pedigreed vine material originally sourced from Collio, Italy near the Slovenian border.”  We are pretty sure the terroir is a contributing factor.  Sonoma Mountain is rocky with an interesting soil structure.  They benefit from being directly aligned with the Sonoma wind gap.  Days are cool and foggy, something very unique for properties east of highway 101 in Santa Rosa.

Buy this wine and try it.  Unless, of course, you are a fan of the grassy, vegetal sauv blancs.  In that case, this is not for you.

Nate in the barn Belden Barns 2017 Sauvignon Blanc

Nate in the barn (click for larger image)



Three Days in Sonoma County

We met my brother Tom and his wife Ginger in Windsor for three days of wine-tasting and conversation. This is the overview of our three days in Sonoma County.

We discovered a  really good winery that was new to us: Williamson Wines. We finally got to visit Belden Barns. We first discovered them in 2014. We revisited several old favorites including the Spire Collection (Maggy Hawk, Windracer), Zichichi (reviewed by us in 2011), Balletto (reviewed in 2016), Chateau Montelena (reviewed in 2017), Siduri (reviewed more times than we can count), and Pech Merle (which we’ve been meaning to review, mentioned in our overview of the Family Winemakers Tasting).

And, as an added bonus, we discovered two great restaurants in Healdsburg.  Willi’s Seafood & Raw Bar does seafood (surprise). The Brass Rabbit occupies the space once used by Chez Ralph. Both offer outstanding food and excellent service.

Belden Barns is the New Number One

[September 2, 2014: half a dozen minor changes per information supplied by Nate Belden.]

At the Family Winemakers tasting August 17 we reviewed over 20 wineries and tasted at least 35 pinot noirs.  But with 160 wineries participating, our sample is still pretty small.  We focused on pinot noir and managed to visit most of the 22 wineries we had selected in advance.

Belden Barns, open for two whole months, was the surprise of this event.  They only produce two pinot noirs, but what a find they are.

Located atop Sonoma Mountain between Santa Rosa and Glen Ellen, winegrower Nate Belden and his wife Lauren grow 20 acres of grapes. This site was originally farmed by Dave Steiner in the 1970s. Dave planted cabernet sauvignon, but discovered that the 1,000 foot elevation and westerly breezes were just too cold for cab grapes. He switched to pinot noir in the late 1980s and was very successful in the 90s. Unfortunately, the vineyard had fallen into disrepair when Nate and Lauren acquired it in 2005. They were only able to salvage 1.5 acres of clone 667 planted in 1998. They’re currently growing pinot noir, syrah, grenache, grüner veltliner, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and viognier. We urge them to rip out the sauvignon blanc and viognier, replacing them with pinot noir.

Belden Barns Estate Pinot Noir

Belden Barns Estate Pinot Noir

The Belden Barns 2012 Estate Sonoma Mountain ($38, major bargain) was greeted by Tony saying, “Where the hell did that come from?” This wine is a blend of Swan, Pommard and 115 clones. It’s on the big side with a touch of tannins, but excellent. The elevation and ocean fog produces “mountain” berries with thicker skins, giving the wine a deeper color and unexpected flavors. Featuring a balance of black cherries, forest floor, and Chinese five spice flavors, this one is a winner. And, if you’re patient, we predict it will improve with age.

Belden Family Belden Barns is the New Number One

Belden Family

Nate and Lauren have interesting stories. Nate grew up on a horse ranch in Colorado. After graduating from the University of Colorado, he went into finance, working in New York and San Francisco. You can read the entire story on the website, but it’s easy to summarize: Nate and Lauren were destined to own this place.

Lauren grew up in New York City. She went to Dartmouth, graduating with a degree in English and Creative Writing. Returning to New York, she worked for several ad agencies before opening her own freelance branding and innovation shop. Her official title at Belden Barns is “Chief Creative Cultivator.” If I could put that on my business cards, I’d be happy.

Nate and Lauren are ably assisted by Olivia Bird and Milo Field, their two “munchkins.”

Rounding out the team are Chris Bowland, the vineyard manager, and winemaker Justin Harmon. Only Chris has a solid background in agriculture with a degree in that subject from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Justin, like Nate and Lauren, got his start far from Sonoma Mountain. He is a refugee from Chicago. The source of his passion for wine remains a secret. But he sure does product good stuff.

We predict a rosy future for Belden Barns and are very happy to welcome them to the exclusive group of top pinot noir winemakers.

Nate was kind enough to e-mail me with several corrections to this story.  He also revealed they are working on a third pinot that will be 100 percent Swan clone.  And we are invited to visit them to sample their sauvignon blanc and viognier — Nate seems to think he can convinces us to change our minds about pulling up those vines.  Next time we’re up that way we’ll definitely accept his offer.