This post is long overdue. I first encountered the wines of Donati Family Vineyards when I attended the Wine Bloggers Conference (WBC) last July. I happened to be in search for a roommate when I met Brandy Bell, of Donati Family Vineyards, through the WBC forum and we formally met at the conference where I had the opportunity to learn about their wines.
Donati Family’s tasting room is located in the Paso Robles Wine Country, but they source fruit from their vineyards further north in Paicines, in California's Central Coast. This is situated between San Jose and Monterey CA, where they are the only brand making wines for this appellation.
According to their website, their winemaking philosophy is “to grow grapes of the highest possible quality, so that wines made from our fruit can meet the quality expectations of our customers,” says Matt Donati. “This requires attention to detail, evaluation of new grape growing and winemaking methods and technologies, and a passion for serving our customers.”
One thing I can say for sure, from my experience with them, is their attention to detail for serving their customers. They are among a few wineries to be successfully utilizing a variety of social media outlets to connect and build relationships with their customers. In fact, Brandy was asked to lead a conference session on effectively using social media for wineries. You can check out their social media space, called Wine Space, where customers and staff are open to share recipes, blog posts, and forums in one location, or on their website. You can also follow Donati Family Vineyards on Twitter.
As for their wine, I was able to sample a few at the conference and took two bottles home with me to try.
2005 Merlot, Estate Vineyard, Paicines
Blend: 92% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Petit Verdot
My first impression with the Merlot was that the wine had a strong and pungent nose, almost medicinal. But that quickly went away after a few more swirls and instead opened up into a very aromatic explosion of dark fruit. The wine had aromas varying from black cherry, cassis, plum, blueberry, ground black pepper and baking spices to vanilla and chocolate. In the mouth the wine was spicy, and by that I mean strong hints of fresh ground pepper and smoke. Something screaming for a rich peppered steak perhaps.
On the second day the spice had smoothed and balanced into an intriguing mix of mellow dark fruit, rich body, and softened tannins. The wine was still big and bold but the flavors seemed better integrated together. I loved the wine on the second day. My only regret was that I saved just enough for one glass. It was, however, enough to spark my interest in wanting to buy more of this particular wine. Especially now since winter is here. I can see this being a fantastic winter wine, especially one to drink while decorating your house for the holidays. Must be the spice component of the wine that reminded me of the holidays or just the fact that I have holidays on the mind! I do recommend decanting this wine, or opening it at least ½ hour before you plan to drink it, as it takes some time for the wine to open.
2006 Syrah, Paicines
I immediately noted bacon fat on the nose, along with dark fruit, black cherry, blackberries, smoke, pepper, along with hints of dark chocolate. The wine was medium bodied, yet had a deep lushness to it. I drank the wine without a food pairing, but imagine it would taste great with grilled or smoked meats. I would love to try it with smoked ribs or smoked beef brisket.
One of the benefits about attending conferences like WBC is the opportunity to meet people from wineries I may not otherwise have known about, get to know more about their history, wines, and people. As a sommeIier and educator I always try encourage anyone to try new wines, new regions and most importantly find their own expression in the wines that they like. Because of my experience with Donati Family (along with many other wines I was able to taste during the conference) I too was able to experience a new AVA and varietals that I am familiar with but with great nuances and hope more people will try to seek out their wines.
I definitely recommend checking out Donati Family wines if you ever get the chance. If you are in California you can find their wines distributed throughout the state or by visiting the tasting room. Outside of CA you can find a list where they ship to here. I hope they find an Oregon distributor soon so we can get some of their wines up here!