They say you can’t judge a book by it’s cover, I somewhat did initially with Pangloss Cellars. The rustic typeface that sits above the door as you walk in is classic western. Think Wells Fargo. The typeface, mixed with the tasting room sitting across the street from the Sonoma Square made me think I was in for a California-western themed tasting room. And that was true, sorta. Welcome to Pangloss Cellars.
Upon walking in and sitting down at the tasting counter, I noticed the typeface used outside was also used with the logo, though incorporated with a scripted typeface as well, which is completely non-western. In a way, the logo represents the dual world that you walk into with Pangloss Cellars.
One wall is nothing but exposed building, a stone-like material, dating back over a century. It runs end to end, and I can only imagine this was truly the original material used to build the structure. Rustic brown couches and chairs mirror the color on that side of the tasting room.
Though the other side has a more French-inspired design. With small tables reminiscent of a cafe in Paris and a portrait of Voltaire. There is more to the story of Voltaire than simply there was an empty wall. The French writer penned the novel, Candide. The novel features the eternal optimist, Dr. Pangloss. And so the doctor’s name became the name of the winery, for when there is a glass of wine in your hand, the world is nothing but optimal.
You can choose to sit on either side of the tasting room or along any three sides of the bar. I chose the bar as I love talking wine, and I’ve got the tasting staff within an earshot of any random question I might have about the wine.
Upon sitting down, I noticed the first wine on the menu was a rosé. Sign me up. To add excitement, the staff informed me the rosé was made with cinsault and the coveted Grenache.
The tasting continued with a Chardonnay, classic and Californian, with a moderate amount of oak (2015 edition). There were a fair bit of tannins for Chardonnay, but, while I wouldn’t say it with many Chardonnay, lay this one down for a year two. That strong oak which is permeating more from the toast I think will soften into a beautiful butterscotch nose in the future.
From the Chardonnay, I moved into tasting a Pinot Noir from the Anderson Valley. The valley is about 100 miles north, as the crow flies. It’s a bit insulated from the coastline that far north and is the new hot spot for Pinot.
After the Pinot we moved into Zinfandel and then Cabernet, two classic California varietals. The Zin came from the Dry Creek region and the Cab from a few spots in Sonoma. What I really liked about their flight was they were choosing grapes from growing regions known to thrive in their respective areas.
For a tasting room located miles away from any vineyard, it was helpful to know where the grapes were being grown. The tasting staff aided by describing not only the region but also the altitude on occasion. One of the wines came from the Moon Mountain AVA, on well, Moon Mountain. It’s a quieter area of Sonoma County, though not as quiet as Fort Ross-Seaview. I expressed that region not being very big. A staff member corrected me and handed me a map showing where the grapes were being grown. I stand corrected.
If you’re loving the wines, I’d suggest looking into the wine club, as there are a handful of wines that are only sold through the club, due to a smaller production. The back of the tasting sheet features the additional wines, including a Chenin Blanc (hello Vourvay, France!) and a red blend made in the style of Bordeaux (again, hello France).
The tasting at Pangloss Cellars is $25 for a classic tasting or $30-$50 for a flight with food. I didn’t see if they waived the fee with purchase, but if you do purchase 6 or more bottles, they’ll ship them to you for free. A great thing to have if you’re staying on the square for a romantic getaway, and you want to remember the bottles you or your sweetheart tasted together.
At Pangloss, France meets California and California meets France. It’s a duality that is held together with an olive branch in the middle. Err, more olive tree that is growing in the center of the tasting room.
Even if you’re a local, this place is a great place to relax in the afternoon with your girlfriends or a date pre-dinner along the square. The intimacy of the room makes it a perfect spot to sit back and smell the rosé, as they are open until 7pm Friday and Saturday.
Open to the public from $25 | 35 East Napa Street, Sonoma, CA 95476 | 707.933.8565
P.S. For all of you typophiles out there, the typeface out on the front of the building and partially on the logo is Clarendon (or a very, very close version thereof). Yes, it was originally designed in London, but soon made its way out west. Hello Wells Fargo and any old WANTED! poster.