Many of us think we come up with great ideas while drinking wine but Carl Stanton actually did. In 1998, Carl and a circle of friends who shared his passion for wine, decided to take it to the next level and enter the crazy and wonderful world of winemaking. It took a few years to make those wine fueled dreams come to fruition, but that conversation was the catalyst for Westwood Estate Wines in Sonoma, California. In 2001, they started planting their Annadel Gap Vineyard and in 2005 the partners purchased the already existing Westwood Winery in the Sierra Foothills and moved it to Sonoma Valley. Westwood finally made its debut to the world in 2014 and the team includes Carl as the managing & founding partner, winemaker Ben Cane, and Sonoma legend David Ramey as the consulting winemaker.
I must confess that I knew nothing of Westwood until I received an invitation to join Carl and Ben for a dinner they were hosting at The Capital Grille in New York City. Discovering something new is one of the joys of wine, so I was excited to spend an evening exploring Westwood. I'm so glad I did. Upon arrival, I was warmly greeted by a perfectly tailored and smiling Carl. Ben has an endearingly robust laugh and a charming Australian accent. So far, so good.
image courtesy of Westwood
The warmth, elegance, and authenticity of Carl and Ben is expressed in their superbly crafted wines. Nestled between Hood Mountain to the north and the Sonoma Mountains to the south, Westwood is singularly focused on making world-class Burgundian and Rhone Varietals such as Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Roussanne, Viognier, and Syrah from their Annadel Gap Vineyard. Morning fog from the Pacific Ocean and gentle summer winds create ideal growing conditions. You won't find Westwood everywhere, fewer than 3,500 cases of their hand-crafted wines are produced, but these beauties are worth seeking out.
Westwood Estate "Sangiacomo Vineyard - Roberts Road" Chardonnay 2015 ($44)
Are you part of the ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) crowd? Westwood's lovely rendition may cause you to reconsider. California Chardonnay is so ubiquitous that many of us have become immune to its charms but Westwood is an elegant reminder of how delightful Chardonnay can be when not produced with a heavy hand. Rich and round but fresh and supple, this is a luscious Chardonnay that is creamy but not cloying. Lively acidity and minerality meld beautifully with citrus, vanilla, and subtle tropical fruit flavors.
Westwood Estate "Annadel Gap Vineyard" Roussanne Viognier Rhone Blend 2016 ($36)
A California wine with French finesse, this blend of mostly Roussanne with Viognier and a kiss of Chardonnay, is precise but unabashedly pretty. Citrus, stone fruit, apple, and herbal flavors are balanced out by crisp minerality and vibrant acidity.
Westwood Estate "Annadel Gap Vineyard" Pinot Noir 2015 ($44)
Very Burgundian in style, this graceful Pinot Noir is silky and juicy with soft tannins and flavors of red berries, tea leaves, and a touch of spice.
Westwood Estate, Annadel Gap Vineyard "Legend" Proprietary Blend 2015 ($44)
Robust and velvety, Legend is a surprising and unique blend of Syrah, Tannat, and Counoise. This rich red hits all the right notes: rich, juicy, supple, textured, fruity, and spicy. Tannat is notorious for its aggressive tannins but they are artfully tamed in this beautiful wine and add elegant backbone and structure.
If you are planning a trip to Sonoma, schedule a visit to the Westwood tasting salon to explore more of their exceptional hand-crafted wines. After a few glasses, maybe your own winemaking dreams will be ignited!