Invented in a Danish laboratory in the late 1800s, “Junket” is a loose pudding made from rennet-riddled dairy, which is served as a dessert. The American press junket, by extension, is a ritual in which journalists are spoon-fed marketing pabulum with the hope that the easily-digested message is excreted intact on the pages of newspapers and magazines. This can leave a bitter taste in one’s mouth unless, of course, said junket occurs in the gorgeous Sonoma County wine country, where wine turns into ink like some prank miracle performed by Christ.
My most recent occasion of professional debauchery was a sneak peek at the forthcoming 10th anniversary edition of the Sonoma Valley Film Festival (a.k.a. “Cinema Epicuria,” which sounds, more and more, like a secret password to me). The day was comprised of innumerable winery tours, luncheons, meet-and-greets and finally (at least for me), a pit stop at Kenwood’s Landmark Vineyards.
Now, It’s no secret that I’m a sucker for being wined and dined, or for that matter, wound and downed like a toy top happy to spin. But I do have my highfalutin-sounding name to protect so I reserve my bon mots for the bon vin. Wonderfully, Landmark has the goods. They also have a horse-drawn wagon that will ride you through the vineyards, which even wowed colleague Spitzy, a veteran reporter for the kind of slicks stacked proudly on coffee tables and shamefully under beds – but that’s another story.
Wines that awakened my gladly wearied palate included the 2004 Overlook chardonnay, which has hues of nectarine and a bracing minerality that recalls the pleasant aroma of a used paperback – probably something by Hesse, with funky art on the cover. Sourced from over 22 individual vineyards spanning Sonoma, Monterey and Santa Barbara Counties, this chard sounds like a multiple personality disorder in a bottle, but is rather a grape-grown Gestalt of California fruit at its finest. Paired with a Gruyere de Comte, as it was on the junket, and life momentarily takes on greater depth ($26.00, cheese sold separately). A sibling chardonnay, the 2004 Damaris Reserve is like a wedge of sour green apple dipped in honey, upon which a rose petal has fallen – and you eat it anyway ($36). A bit precious, but why not?
During the tasting someone asked “What’s the benchmark for chardonnay?” to someone else replied “Who needs a benchmark when you have Landmark?” Tee-hees all ’round.
Landmark Vineyards’ tasting room is open from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., all week. Located at 101 Adobe Canyon Road, Kenwood. (707) 833-0053.