Pinot and Zinfandel dazzle among boutique winery’s food-friendly offerings.
Two reds vied for my heart at a June 2019 pairing of Bannister wines and food by chef Shane McAnelly. The lead photo shows a 2013 Campbell Ranch Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast) remarkable for its reeled-in, slightly mature fruit and stately personality. McAnelly paired it with duck breast, tatsoi greens, and shaved turnip salad, all atop beet puree.
Campbell Ranch lies in far northwestern Sonoma County 6 miles from the Pacific. It’s cool and windy there, but the vineyard is above the fog line, so the grapes receive sufficient sun.
The day’s second Pinot, a 2015 Campbell Ranch, also impressed, but the other wowser was the 2017 Saini Farms Zinfandel from 40-year-old Dry Creek Valley vines. An elegant Zinfandel play, it has soft tannins and a touch of back-palate spice. Delightful finish, by the way. It doesn’t do the wine (or the varietal) justice to say it’s made like a Pinot Noir, but the sensibility is there.
You’ll certainly find more robust Dry Creek Zinfandels than the 2017 Bannister, but few exhibiting this much finesse yet backbone — as Chef McAnelly proved by pairing it with hanger steak with morels, bacon, and kale.
No Slight to the Whites
Not to slight the whites, a 2018 Cole Ranch Riesling from old Mendocino County vines enlivened the first-course halibut crudo whose ingredients included English peas, fennel, nepitella (an Italian herb), and espelette pepper. Made like a red wine (more skin contact than a white wine would have in the fermentation process and just after), the Riesling is from a Mendocino County vineyard considered one of the country’s best for this varietal.
We dined on an Alexander Valley patio shaded by yards-long oak limbs; winemaker Brook Bannister stands under them with his mom, Marty, who started the boutique winery in 1989. Before starting Bannister Wines, Marty worked in the lab at Rodney Strong Vineyards and cofounded Vinquiry, a lab used by many local wineries.
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This story first appeared online in 2019. It was fact-checked and updated in early 2020.