Earlier this year I was presented with an opportunity to take a look at a couple wines from a little winery I had never heard of before. It was Dawn’s Dream Winery, situated in Carmel by the Sea, just south of Monterey, CA.
Without knowing much more I of course jumped at the opportunity. A quick lookup of the winery, suggested this was right up my alley – a small batch production, artisan winery off the beaten path. The bulk of their offerings were Pinot Noirs for which this region – California Central Coast – is known for. It also told me there was a certain level of maturity in their craft as Pinot Noir can be one of the most unforgiving varietals to work with at every step of the wine making process.
A week later I received two bottles. One was their entry Pinot Noir (Rechael) which I reviewed here – Wine Review: 2017 Pinot Noir (Rachael) by Dawn’s Dream. The other was their Signature Pinot Noir (Bel Sogno) which sits at the top of their lineup and which I reviewed here – Wine Review: 2017 Pinot Noir (Bel Sogno) by Dawn’s Dream. This gave me a great perspective and appreciation for the dynamic range of this winemaker’s skill. I was delighted to find that both wines were very well made, especially the Ben Sogno which had a unique expression all by it’s own. I found it most interesting and intriguing.
COVID-19 and the Lockdown
Just as I was wrapping up my reviews, I began planning a trip down to Carmel, to learn more about this winery, do a deeper dive into their wines and an overall appreciation for what they do. Unfortunately COVID-19 and the ensuing Lockdown put all my plans on hold indefinitely.
A good ending
No sooner than wineries were allowed to reopen (under new health and safety guidelines), a new opportunity presented itself in the form of an invitation to come down and spend the weekend exploring Dawn’s Dream wines. Determined to not let this one slip away, I immediately checked my calendar and booked the next available weekend!
I left early Saturday morning and made the drive down from Sacramento in good time. Arriving about an hour before the noon opening time, I took some time to explore the local scene in Carmel by the Sea. It is a beautiful, quaint, little community with lots of texture, color, interesting architecture. It feels almost out of a fairy-tale with lots of small independently owned boutiques, coffee shops, restaurants and bistros.
Finally! I found it!
Tucked away behind a corner building, and set back with two narrow entryways, I finally found Dawn’s Dream Winery. You’ll probably miss it on your first pass but will surely find it on second glance or after checking your google maps. I arrived just before the Tasting Room opened. It was outdoor seating only and the weather was perfect! I found a cozy spot and my host immediately began walking me through the wines (see tasting menu below).
I found the atmosphere at Dawn’s Dream Winery Tasting Room to be calm, quiet and reflective. The decor and presentation was impeccable, deliberate and somewhat minimalist if not uncluttered. This was very much in harmony with their wines which I found to be all about subtle nuance. The service was professional, prompt and no more than was necessary. The wines were allowed to speak for themselves.
This leads me to my next point. I think their wines should appeal nicely to the Intermediate-to-Advanced palate. I can see a beginner or a less mature palate finding themselves a little lost here, primarily because their wines resemble more the traditional old world Burgundian style. They fall on the dryer side of the spectrum. Being primarily Pinot Noir, their expressions are delicate and nuanced with characteristics only a more experienced palate would be able to discern, recognize and appreciate. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, exploring the whispering notes in relative calm and tranquility.
In a part of the world where the “Big California Pinot” reigns supreme, I highly recommend Dawn’s wines, if for nothing else, to gain a good reference point for what I think Pinot Noir was really meant to look like. I was able to take tasting notes as I worked my way down the menu. Below are my notes (and some of Dawn’s notes) for each of their offerings.
2019 Pinot Noir Rosé
We agree. Light, crisp, refreshing. Complex for a Rosé. This is not surprising as it is in fact a Pinot Noir. Interesting. Tart white plum and stone fruits, Good earthy leather. Haha You don’t see that in a rose. Great concept. I obviously haven’t been paying attention to Rosé of Pinot Noir. I love the subtle nuance the grape brings. See Dawn’s notes below.
The new vintage of our award-winning Rosé draws you in with its delicate hue of peachy pink and introduces itself with lively hints of tangerine, lemon zest, and ripe apricot. Your mouth is flooded with a supple texture and notes of ripe strawberry and watermelon. This wine is best described as precise with its crisp acidity leaving your mouth watering, craving another
Very aromatic. Crisp. Clean. Just the right amount of acidity. See notes. Of whites, chardonnay tends to be my least favorite as most seem to be off balance but this one walks that fine line surprisingly well. This is a Chardonnay I can get behind. Nicely done! See Dawn’s notes below.
Our golden “Nugget” delights with characteristics of tropical fruit and a hint of lemon zest on the nose highlighted by refreshing and off-dry notes of pineapple and guava. With only 2 months on 75% new French oak and no malolactic fermentation, this wine is rich while still maintaining a crisp and playful acidity. It would be the perfect aperitif with oysters or aged Gouda.
2018 Rachael Pinot Noir
Fairly consistent across vintages. Echoes my notes on the 2017. Great pleaser for the advanced palate. Light, crisp, aloof, fun, easy. See Dawn’s notes below.
This beautiful vintage starts with a wonderful aroma of rich plum and dark cherry. An essence of fresh cedar is on display with a touch of cinnamon and clove. Your mouth is filled with flavors of bright, wild raspberry and it finishes with soft acidity, making this wine very approachable. Our Rachael Pinot is consistently a crowd favorite!
2018 Alyssa Pinot Noir
Deeper color, slightly bigger nose. More intense berries and a little plum. Feels rich. Fuller, rounder mouth feel. A touch more structure and more pronounced spice finish. A little more layered. More of a sipper. Subtle dry tannic grip on finish. Classic medium bodied Pinot. Nicely done. See Dawn’s notes below.
Ripe pomegranate and violet tickle your nose while candied orange peel dazzles the tip of your tongue with a sumptuous acidity. The finish is silk-soft and swift with touches of black cherry and spice, making this 2018 vintage a most promising release of our beloved “Alyssa” Pinot Noir!
2018 Nicole Pinot Noir
Love the color on this one. Vibrant ruby red. Great intensity on the nose. Good oak and caramel, touch of plum. Creamy body. Great tannic structure and balance. Long gentle but intense finish with lots of grip. Touch of spice. Right up my alley. Nicole demands your attention. Love it! See Dawn’s notes below.
Named after Dawn’s oldest daughter, the 2018 vintage of Nicole makes a bold statement right at the nose with aromas of intense cooking spices and a sweet touch of sugarplum. Hints of bright red cherries and violet on the palate roll into brown sugar and cardamom with daring tannins at the finish. An incredibly food friendly wine that will age extremely well for several years in your wine cellar.
2017 Bel Sogno Pinot Noir
See my in depth review of this wine here. See Dawn’s notes below.
“Bel Sogno” means Beautiful Dream, and this proprietary red blend is exactly that! This exclusive wine begins with dark, blue fruits and adds complexity with wet slate, anise, and vanilla. A rich textured mouth feel reveals notable chalky but balanced tannin giving power and length. This wine displays elegance and restraint despite this being a very substantial Pinot Noir.
2018 Eliza Jane Sangiovese
Dark rich color. off the bat. Nose with heavy punch of leather. Trying to pinpoint what spices I’m picking up but they are very present in the earthy leather, intense and unmistakable. Unlike your typical Sangiovese, this one is a touch jammy/chewy but dry (without being sweet). Lots of dark plum, bark cherry and black berries all most expressed in solid, imposing tannic structure (unlike the typical Sangiovese). This certainly is an interesting, unorthodox take on a Sangiovese. I like it. I would lay this down for a while. I keep drifting back to that earthy nose.
The 2018 Eliza Jane is our inaugural Sangiovese named after Dawn’s first granddaughter. This big, bold and beautiful wine expresses deep aromas of ripe strawberry and cherry which develop into darker fruits of blueberry and blackberry over light characteristics of coffee, dried earth, and thyme. This wine is lush and giving with fine silky tannins.
Meeting Dawn Herself
I did not expect to meet the woman behind this understated winery but at the end of my visit it was great to finally meet the mind behind it all and bring my experience full circle. I could see how it all came to be. I found Dawn to be a bit reserved, deliberate, measured and thoughtful in her delivery. She is clearly passionate about her vision for the winery and giving back to her community, specifically women and children in need. I found her conviction and passion for leaving the world a better place refreshing. The world needs more people like Dawn, especially in these times.
Great Wines for a Great Cause
Dawn’s dream has always been to help create dreams for others by donating her product, money or time to support nonprofit organizations both locally and globally. Dawn’s passion for helping women and children equals her passion for making wine. Dawn has produced award-winning wines of exceptional quality and elegance while maintaining a business model that allows for the opportunity to give back… [Read more here].
I look forward to checking on Dawn’s Dream Winery regularly and following their future releases. Thank you for sharing your dream with me Dawn!
Explore more Dawn’s Dream wines on WineSnob.