Wine of the week: the Corner 103, 2019 Sonoma Carneros Chardonnay
The Black Lives Matter movement has made people more aware of the diversity of wineries in the area, according to Lloyd Davis, vintner of Sonoma’s Corner 103.
“Having people more aware of options in tasting wine — whether at Black-owned, gay-owned or women-owned businesses — is helpful for groups who may not have had this kind of exposure,” he said.
The vintner is behind our wine of the week winner — the Corner 103, 2019 Sonoma Carneros Chardonnay, 13.8%, $40. This is a chardonnay that over-delivers. It has great structure and layered flavors of pear, pineapple, and apple. It’s an impressive, balanced chardonnay, with crisp acidity and a citrusy finish.
Other tasty chardonnays include: Cattleya, 2019 Cuvee Number Five, Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, 14.1%, $26; Keller Estate, 2019 Oro De Plata, Petaluma Gap, Sonoma County Chardonnay, 14.1%, $35; Rodney Strong Vineyards, 2018 Chalk Hill Sonoma County Chardonnay, 13.5%, $22; and Calera, 2018 Central Coast Chardonnay, 14.2%, $25.
Corner 103 was named one of the Top 10 Tasting Rooms in the nation in a story published in USA Today in 2018 and again in 2020. Davis, a Black vintner, said race didn’t present any obstacles for him in building his business. His wine club, The 103 Club, has 625 members, and it continues to grow.
“The main thing was opening up a winery in a very competitive market and trying to come up with something that would make Corner 103 different from everybody else,” he said. “I recognized that most people are intimidated by wine, and I wanted my guests to understand that they are ‘wine experts.’ This is because everyone knows what they like and don’t like.”
As for the Corner 103 winning chardonnay, Davis said most people are fond of it, even if they don’t typically like chardonnay, because it’s balanced.
“Some people like or don't like chardonnays that are buttery and creamy or acidic,” he said. “With my chardonnay, you get both.”
The key to producing great chardonnay, Davis said, is access to stellar grapes.
“I source my chardonnay grapes from a small vineyard in the Carneros AVA (American Viticultural Area) that consistently produces outstanding fruit,” he said.
Davis said he’s a hands-on vintner who works closely with his winemaker, Ron Goss, in producing his line-up of wines at Sonoma Valley Custom Wine in Sonoma.
Davis said he fell in love with wine while helping a former winery client, Vintage New York, with financial advice.
Davis, 63, graduated from New York City’s Adelphi University in 1980 with a bachelor degree in banking. But he left the financial world in 2008 to take control of Sonoma’s Viansa Winery.
“At that time Viansa was struggling, and I quickly returned it to profitability,” Davis said.
In 2015, he opened Corner 103, naming the tasting room after its location at 103 W. Napa St. in Sonoma.
“The advice I would give others is to follow their dreams,” Davis said. “Everybody’s afraid of making a change in their life, but sometimes you have to throw that proverbial caution to the wind and go for it.”
Wine writer Peg Melnik can be reached at email@example.com or 707-521-5310.
Wine, The Press Democrat
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