Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Best of Both Worlds

Loren Sonkin is a Cleveland attorney specializing in estate and planning and elder law. He is also a serious, methodical note-taking wine drinker, who gradually became a wine writer on the side. Now, his opinions are highly regarded by those in-the-know. He added vintner to his resume in 2007.

The second and third careers represent "a really geeky hobby that got out of control," Sonkin says.

But on a recent evening spent together in the tasting room at The Wine Spot, his wife, Jane Flaherty, begs to differ. "Wine is his mistress. And that's fine with me," she notes with a smile, taking a sip of Sonkin Cellars Persona 2010 Santa Barbara County Syrah and clearly enjoying the side benefits of his passionate relationship with grapes. That vintage earned 91 points from Wine Spectator's James Laube, who described the wine as "fresh and snappy with a mix of wild berry, fresh turned earth and savory herb notes, gaining complexity and nuance, ending with a bright cherry and tobacco leaf touch." I'll put my impressions of the wine more simply and succinctly — incredibly delicious.

The Wine Spot has bottles of the label's limited production blended reds. It was the end of October, and the 2011 had just been released. Sonkin Cellars' complex, flavorful and distinctive Syrahs are the result of careful combining of the varietal grown in two distinct California temperature zones. "I decided to blend cool and warm climate grapes to make something distinctive and tasty," Sonkin says. "In the right percentages we get the best of both worlds and something that's so much more than the sum of its parts." He also adds a little Viognier for the aromas.

Sonkin and his partners in this venture, who are mainly supporters that leave the work of wine making to him, don't own any land in Sonoma, California. They don't have a winery you can visit. Grapes are purchased from selected growers and crushed, aged and bottled in a leased space. But Sonkin is very hands on from harvest to finish, going out to the space six to eight times each year. "I've always known exactly the kind of wine I want do," he says. "I have a style, then I do what's needed to achieve it. The wine is very European, low in alcohol and food friendly."

He doesn't produce large quantities of wine. Most is sold online directly to consumers. It's also on the menus of The Greenhouse Tavern, Lola, Fire and Fahrenheit.

Sonkin wants to increase production and fantasizes about buying a vineyard. And though retirement is nothing that's coming soon, he now has a plan for how he wants to spend those years. Until then, he'll continue to mix and mingle his Cleveland and California efforts.

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