By Rick Riozza

So Memorial Day unofficially started off our summer of 2020—and amid the on-going pandemic, the wine world (alcoholics ahoy!) still has its stars selling at record rates. Are we consuming more wine, or, or better wine?

Crazy—but just a few months ago, in our new year’s column,, I was able to just ramble on with some wine news, issues, and expectations on the new horizon. Guess what I missed!! Anyway—as you’ve heard or read, the retail beverage trade on the economic landscape, supermarkets, big-box stores, and liquor retailers are seeing unprecedented sales spikes.

Wineries throughout the state are also enjoying a resurgence of winery-club sign-ups and on-line bottle sales. At least it’s something to be joyful about as we enter summer with such a weight on our backs. Enter now: Landmark Vineyards

Last week, I wrote on my first Zoom virtual wine tasting with the folks over at the fabulous Lodi winery, Oak Farm Vineyards. I guess that got the wine bottle rolling, because the very next week, I was on board rubbing virtual shoulders with Landmark Vineyards winemaker, Greg Stach, as we tasted on each side of our computers, three of his award winning wines: 2018 Overlook Chardonnay, 2017 Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir, and 2017 Hop Kiln Pinot Noir.

Many of you vino lovers have been enjoying Landmark Vineyards wine for some time now; especially those Chardonnay fans who have been quaffing Landmarks’ signature Overlook Chardonnay for a while, which has appeared on the Wine Spectator Top 100 list six times. For those of you wine enthusiasts who’ve yet to enjoy the wines from Landmark Vineyards, well—at least you have some joyful expectations of tasting some absolutely stunning wines for the summer!

Nestled at the base of the Mayacamas Mountain Range in the Sonoma Valley, Landmark Vineyards epitomizes the rustic grace and beauty of Sonoma County. Since 1974, Landmark has been dedicated to producing handcrafted, ultra-premium Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, sourcing grapes from unique vineyard sites throughout California to create rich, balanced wines.

A fun fact is that one of the original Landmark founders, was Damaris Deere Ford, the great-great-grandaughter of John Deere, inventor of the first steel plow. Further, it was Landmark, back in 1993, who hired the world-renown enologist, Helen Turley, to collaborate Landmarks signature style: whole-cluster pressed grapes; fermentation by native yeast strains; and, aging in French oak. Talk about pedigree!

The very amiable winemaker Greg Stach offered a very relaxed but informative virtual taste through his above-mentioned wines. And with ever-breaking technology, Greg was able to take same-time questions and inquiries from a slew of virtual Instagram tasters on-board. I know you’ve heard stuff like this before; but, between tasting real wine, hearing from the winemaker, and having instantaneous discussions—well, it was just as if we were there at the winery.

We also learned that Stach’s winemaking approach combines traditional techniques with a “less is more” philosophy. Believing that great wine begins in the vineyard, he is especially keen to intervene only to ensure consistency and quality, relying more on the fruit’s intense flavors and distinct vineyard characteristics. And that’s why Landmark has made its mark in the business.

And now—what we’ve gleaned at the virtual tasting:

The 2018 Overlook Chardonnay has aromas of ripe lemon, baked yellow apple, peach, butterscotch with chamomile flower and lemon grass notes. On the palate, flavors of ripe lemon, yellow apple skin, white peach and just-ripe apricot with hints of grilled pineapple on the entry. Toasted oak and barrel spice emerge on the textural mid-palate along with subtle, savory hints of pine nut. The finish is long, refreshing and textural with lingering zesty lemon, subtle peach and baking spice accents.

The Chardonnay is a complex and balanced mix of ripe fruit, savory flavors and crisp, textural elements. It’s great to drink on its own or paired with a variety of dishes from a roasted chicken breast with a lemon and rosemary sauce or a creamy fettuccine alfredo finished with a lemon zest accent. Greg said he especially likes fresh goat cheese with this wine.

Wine folk, no matter how hot it gets outside, will rarely give up their red wine at dinner time. And Pinot Noir is most often the go-to red for the summer season. The allure of Pinot from both Santa Lucia Highlands, and, Sonoma’s Russian River region is world famous.

The 2017 Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir is deep ruby red in color and displays enticing aromas of fruit and florals: spiced black cherry, cedar and clove, pomegranate, candied red plums, as well as a bouquet of iris and violet flowers. The palate is full and plush with flavors of plum compote, ripe cranberries and a savory spice finish.

For those wine enthusiasts who know their Pinot from Sonoma, they love the fruit from the Hop Kiln Estate. The 2017 Hop Kiln Estate Pinot Noir is bold and complex yet balanced on the palate. With three unique soil types, the grapes from this vineyard produce the famous plush and rich style of Pinot Noir of this region.

Harvested from a truly landmark vineyard, which is located on the coveted Westside Road in the Russian River Valley, this unique bottle label also features the iconic and historical stone hop kilns which the California Heritage Society have named a historical landmark.

This 2018 Hop Kiln Estate Pinot Noir is nearly full bodied with complex fruit of ripe strawberry raspberry and black cherry mixed with baking spice and licorice, toasted oak and savory autumn leaf elements joining sustained ripe fruit on the mid palate. The finish is long with moderate intensity fine tannins, balanced acidity with cherry cola and faint floral notes joining lingering ripe fruit.

Pair both of these wonderful wines with roasted fowl or spiced pork dishes. Yum!!

Landmark’s wines may be purchased via select wine shops and restaurants, or directly from Landmark’s Tasting Room, on-line store, or through membership in the Wine Society. Cheers!