Review: Viansa Sonoma – Sonoma, CA

Official Review by The Traveling Winers

Like most businesses, Viansa Sonoma has a story. One filled with times of joy and prosperity, as well as trials and hardships.

Viansa was founded in 1989 by Sam and Vicki Sebastiani, not newcomers to the winemaking industry. Sam’s grandfather, Samuele Sebastiani, an immigrant from Italy and stonemason by trade, came to the U.S. in 1895,

 

scraped and saved enough money to purchase a vineyard some nine years later. Many years later, Sam, following in his grandfather’s footsteps, left the family business to create his own brand, Viansa. The name, although quite romantic, really has a simple beginning. It comes from “Vicki” “And” “Sam”. Simple and cute.

In 2004, Sam and Vicki turned the reigns of the business over to their children and the downturn in financial success began. One year later, the children sold the winery only to see it continue to change ownership and even filed bankruptcy in 2007.

But change was in the air. In 2013, Vintage Wine Estates, a company that currently has 27 brands in their portfolio, purchased Viansa and has breathed into it new life. A new direction. A BRAND new start.

  

Tom Joe and Miki were the Traveling Winers that represented The Vineyard Trail on this visit and were happy to do so as this was, at one time in their wine journey about 12 years ago, their most favorite winery ever. They had visited Sonoma County for a one-week wine trail back in 2005, stumbled across an Italian looking villa sitting high atop a hill, saw the sign that announced it was Viansa Winery, and felt compelled to turn up the drive and take a peek. Miki says that they fell in love with several aspects of the winery. First was the wine – elegance and quality in every glass. Second was the retail side of the business. The large tasting room had a tasting bar at each end, but in the middle was a shopping area that displayed many wine-related items including boutique food items. (For those of you that know Miki, you know she likes to shop and cook!) And third, was their wine club. Miki and Tom Joe, at the time living in Minnesota where you can receive wine shipments in the mail, unlike backward states like Oklahoma (oops…did you hear us say that out loud?), remained members of the Viansa wine club for quite some time, receiving every couple of months two bottles of wine, a booklet of, as Miki calls it, fancy schmancy recipes and the specialty food items listed as the ingredients. Hence, their favorite winery ever.

Putting the Sonoma in Viansa

 Our meeting at Viansa was with Director of Operations, Phillip Hansell, a native Kiwi from New Zealand, which immediately put Tom Joe at ease as this is also his nationality. Phillip explained that one of the major new brand directions for Viansa is the focus on Sonoma, so much so that they have added it to their name. For years, comments from many visiting wine lovers would center around a comparison of the area to Tuscany, comparing the wines, the views, the ambiance. And this was especially true for Viansa because of its position at the top of a hill at the summit of Sonoma. Phillip goes on to explain that Sonoma, the Carneros Valley, and Viansa don’t need to be “like” anyone else. They ARE Sonoma. They are the Carneros Valley. They produce world-class wines all on their own and can stand alone. According to Phillip, the sometimes used all too often phrase “A Sense of Place” is actually not overused at all when it comes this region. And so, the new name, Viansa Sonoma, is born.

 

And because of this dedication to putting the Sonoma in Viansa, Phillip tells us that they also made a decision a couple of years back to regraft a large section of their vineyards to plantings of only Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, the two varietals that do so amazingly well in the Carneros Valley. Taking it back once again to “A Sense of Place” and focusing on what the region does very well…..and do more of that.

A BRAND new focus for the Viansa brand

Bye-bye shopping, bye-bye gourmet food products, bye-bye special wine club with recipes and ingredients to your door. (Sorry, Miki!) Hello to the new direction of “experience”. Experiences between consumer and wine that are intimate, thoughtful, insightful and forever memorable. Although it is definitely different than Miki and Tom Joe’s first experience, Miki did admit that she could feel the excitement of their new direction and that they have hit the mark on the head with their different “experiences” options. They have several to choose from (selections and prices as of June 2017, subject to change):

Private Outlook Tasting – You and your guest(s) will enjoy a private tasting of Viansa reserve wines paired with locally-sourced cheeses and hosted by a very knowledgeable Viansa wine educator. 90 minutes, $75 per person

Viansa Summit Tour & Tasting – Experience Viansa wines and scenery as you taste through a flight of specially selected wines and take a guided tour through the property, experience the vineyards and the surrounding valley. 45 minutes, $35 per person

Savor Sonoma – Take part in this unique tasting experience and sit beside a cozy fire sampling Viansa Reserve Wines and locally crafted cheeses. Present will also be your wine educator who will fill your head with knowledge on Viansa wine. 90 minutes, $50 per person

Signature Experience – Discover the best of Sonoma County’s growing appellations during their most exclusive experience and sample flights of their Signature Series wines seated in their distinctive wine library. Choose from a variety of privately hosted, elevated experiences personalized to your wine and culinary desires. 90 minutes, $70 per person

And then, of course, is the “plain Jane do-it-yourself experience”. But we’re here to tell you there is nothing “plain Jane” or “do-it-yourself” about it. But simple, easy and relaxing…YES! Purchase your bottle or glass of wine. Purchase your gourmet menu item from the Marketplace in the center of the tasting room. Plant yourself on their outdoor patio overlooking the valley and the wetlands below. Simply relaxing.

Other bits of Viansa trivia

With production of about 24,000 cases per year, it is quite interesting that all of that is sold through their tasting room. You can’t get Viansa wine in a restaurant or in your local liquor or grocery store. Only by walking through their winery doors, meeting their knowledgeable staff and creating your own Viansa experience. No wonder we stayed a member of the wine club for so long.

Viansa also plays a strong part in helping the environment. Three years ago, in conjunction with Ducks Unlimited, biologist and wildlife experts, Viansa set about restoring the surrounding 97 acres of California wetlands back to its natural beauty. Today, over 500 species of birds have been sighted, as well as 1,000 waterfowl have been counted in a single day’s time.

Visting Viansa

Which experience should you choose? Well, that’s a hard one because they all sound so wonderful. From our perspective, Tom Joe and Miki were treated to the Private Outlook Tasting and would highly recommend this experience. Their wine educator was Miguel, an employee of Viansa at the time of only 18 months. Boy, was Miquel wine smart?! He really explained the pairings between the wines that he had chosen for us and the cheeses and why. Here are some of the wines we sampled:

2013 Viansa Chardonnay – Sourced from a local vineyard in Los Carneros until their own Chardonnay vines are ready for the bottle, aged in French oak with flavors of lemon, peach and nectarine, a crisp medium bodied wine with only a hint of spice from the French oak. This was paired with a Brie cheese from a local cheese shop called Cypress Grove Chevre. Delich!

2013 Viansa Reserve Pinot Noir – Aged in 100% French oak, The bouquet for this Pinot was in full bloom with nuances of ripe cherry, coffee and cocoa. On the palate comes suggestions of under ripe plum, clove, licorice, and the classical Pinot Noir signature flavor of mushrooms. Per Miguel, this wine was added to the line-up to cleanse the palate between whites and reds and was therefore not paired with any cheeses. Well…..okay then!

2012 Viansa Reserve Sangiovese (95% Sangiovese, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon) In addition to the subtle nose of this Sangiovese with hints of strawberry and cassis comes the more pronounced and apparent mouth of red cherry, black currents and medium tannins on the finish. Very Italian! And lovely, especially when paired with the Cypress Grove Humboldt Fog. Scrumptious.

2013 Viansa Reserve Heritage Red Wine Blend (66% Sangiovese,  30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Malbec, 1% Petite Verdot, 1% Merlot) As is the intent of blends, this wine presents with nice, multiple layers, very well-balanced, and medium tannins. The dark berry fruit and herbal spices are left with a long finish of cocoa and cedar. St. George’s Cheddar was a perfect match.

To get a glimpse of what your experience could be like, watch this short video:

The next time you are in the Sonoma area make sure to stop by and have your own Viansa experience. We’re confident you will love it!

 

Tom Joe
“Hops ‘r Better” Winer

A different experience from our first visit 10 years ago, with more focus this time on the wine. The views are still amazing as are the wines. A little disappointed that some of the wine club options are changed, but still well worth the visit.

Elizabeth
“Hippie” Winer

Shared the Viansa Reserve Red Blend with our good friends and it was terrific. We had some dark chocolate with it and that really brought out the pepper and chocolate finish for me. Everyone laughed when I said it tasted like a campfire smells, warm, comforting and just….nice.  Who doesn’t like a campfire?

Miki
“This Is The Life” Winer

Even after 10 years since our first visit, Viansa is still one of my favorites! Although I miss the culinary recipes and items, I am lovin’ the new focus on their wine and wine experiences. Nice addition!

Brian
“Timeless” Winer

The Viansa Reserve Red Blend was VERY nice.  Smooth and full of ‘dark fruits’, like plums, and a wonderful chocolate finish.  ‘Why? Why only one bottle?!’ Cruelty, thy name is Miki. Well, Tom Joe also.

Photos

              

The Winer’s Experience

AMBIANCE GROUNDS & SCENERY TASTING ROOM
Excellence in wine and wine tasting experiences. A welcoming invitation to experience beauty in the glass and through the scenery. Amzaingly gorgeous! They are at the summit of Sonoma, high on a hilltop overlooking it all….vineyards, wetlands, etc. They also have a demonstration vineyard where you can sample the grapes. Extremely spacious with 2 large tasting bars on opposite ends. In the center is a nice, yummy deli where you can purchase a bite to eat to go with your glass of wine on the patio.
WINE TASTING EXPERIENCE CUSTOMER SERVICE TECHNICAL KNOWLEDGE
Several to choose from. We were lucky enough to be able to take part in a Private Outlook Tasting. This includes a flight of reserve wines paired with assorted cheeses, fruits and nuts, and your own personal host to lead you through the 90-minute tasting.  Well worth the money. These folks are extremely focused on making sure that you are having an enjoyable time and are learning something about the wine if that is your “thing”. Our host, Miguel, was WAY knowledgeable! He taught us so much during our tasting, about the pairing aspects of the wine and cheese. We also learned from Phillip, the Director of Operations, the effect that lime (acid) and salt in food play with wine.

Vineyard & Winery Information

WINERY NAME ADDRESS
Viansa Sonoma 25200 Arnold Dr., Sonoma, CA 95476
HOURS
Daily 10 am – 5 pm
EMAIL WEBSITE TELEPHONE
ViansaService@viansa.com http://www.viansa.com/ (800) 995.4740
MUSIC WINE CLUB TASTING FEE
Yes, Check calendar Yes $15/4 tastes (Social Tasting)
TOURS FOOD OTHER
Yes, by appointment Yes Several tasting operations available, see website

 

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