The Sun Drinks ~ Sonoma Valley Sun


Hangin’ at Corner 103

Posted on August 17, 2015 by Sonoma Valley Sun
Corner 103 tasting room photographed by Sarah Stierch
Corner 103’s Sonoma tasting room (Photo: Sarah Stierch)

When announcements were made that a new tasting room would open in the old Feed Store building in downtown Sonoma, we had no idea what to expect.

Word quickly traveled that Lloyd Davis, an investor and wine enthusiast who helped save Viansa Winery from bankruptcy, was the owner. In 2014 he sold Viansa and decided to venture out on his own – he had the winemaking bug.

Slowly and surely the tasting room was built, transforming the former art gallery into a modern, clean space tinted with caramel colors, leather, picture windows and elegance. Would it be a typical tasting room? Would there be a bar to get a glass of wine? Would it be pricy or affordable? So many questions!

After jumping through the usual, long, painful hoops of city ordinances and policies, Corner 103 opened in April. It isn’t your typical tasting room: it is food pairing based and has no bar. This won’t be a respite for drunken tourists and locals looking for a new hangout.

This would be an experience: “I wanted to create an experience that helps wine enthusiasts, of all experience levels, learn more about what makes wine special, and find what they like – this isn’t about us dictating what you will like, it’s about discovering it yourself through wine and food pairings,” says Davis.

Lloyd Davis of Corner 103 and Sarah Stierch
Lloyd Davis is at the tasting room most days and is one of the least pretentious, most genuine people in Wine Country. (Photo: Sarah Stierch)

I admit, I was less than enthused about food and wine pairings.  As a newer resident of the area, I was looking for a new wine-oriented hang out spot, something different than the usual joints.

But, the place sure looked beautiful and Davis is one of the most genuine, kind people you’ll ever meet. I see him around town and he always says hello, always is real, something that can be really hard to find when you’re new to Sonoma and looking to get your foot into the social set and you are under the age of 60.

Enough my challenges of socializing around Sonoma Valley – I went to Corner 103 and had a “wine tasting life changing” experience.

Sparkling rosé wine at Corner 103 in Sonoma, California
Sparkling rosé with informational coaster at Corner 103 (Photo: Sarah Stierch)

Upon arrival, we were instantly greeted and handed a glass of rosé sparkling wine. Yum.

The rosé, which comprises Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Syrah and Semillon grapes, is dry and crisp. When asked why he used Semillon, something you don’t see too often, Davis simply replied, “because I like it.” And I do, too.

We were then seated at a table for two in the corner (pun intended) of the tasting room, looking out into the busy streets. A collection of wine glasses sat in front of us, with a touch of wine in each. After finishing our bubbly, Davis led us on a tour of Sonoma County.

The presentation starts with a Chardonnay from Carneros and travels up county with a Russian River Pinot, followed by a Dry Creek Zin, an Alexander Valley Merlot, a red blend, and a Cab from Sonoma Valley.

With each wine we were provided commentary from Davis, who told us the stories of why he chose each varietal and what makes them special.

Coasters accompany each glass. The coasters are the most impressive I have seen at a tasting room yet – they don’t dictate how you should feel about the wine (no tasting notes or serving suggestions) – but there is a map, cases made, and a lovely first person narrative about each wine from Davis.

Food and wine pairing at Corner 103 in Sonoma, California
Food pairing at Corner 103 (Photo: Sarah Stierch)

As we proceeded, we explored each wine with a food pairing. For years I thought I knew what I was doing with food pairings – have a sip of wine, swallow, try a piece of food, and attempt to talk about the “experience” and you feel oh so cultured and smart.

Well, I’ve been doing it wrong all along – which is probably why I was so disinterested in food pairings.

Davis led us through the correct method of wine/food pairings: try a nibble of pate, swallow, then, take a sip of Pinot, while drinking the Pinot, take a nibble of pate, swallow, then, add the strawberry on top of the pate and take sip of Pinot and eat the pate with strawberry, and swallow.

I get it now.

We had multiple mind blowing, stand out moments – which helped us bring the wine and food both to another level. While tasting, Davis did not tell us what to think – but, he asked our opinion, appreciated each comment, and non-preteniously explained why we were having these “feelings” about our pairings.

We were so excited, we were grinning like school children who were finally figured out the multiplication tables: turkey and Merlot is “the bomb.” It brings out turkey’s sweet, poultry flavor and I started thinking about cranberry sauce. Mmm, cranberry sauce (from the can, of course).

Davis’ guidance and the great pairings helped us learn more about what we like, don’t like, and how we can enhance our meals with the right wine. I found myself annoyed that I didn’t figure this out sooner. But, that is where quality customer service from someone knowledgeable about food and wine helps – Davis knows his stuff.

My wine highlights from the visit included the 2013 Dry Creek Zin, which is a beautiful, deep ruby red, with a great, spicy flavor. It will be perfect for Fall and paired fabulously with the salami.

Fine red wine at Corner 103
Fine red wine at Corner 103

Another highlight was the Sonoma County 2012 Red Blend – one of the best blends I have had in years! It’s got a nice variety of Merlot, Zin, Syrah and Petite Verdot and isn’t as heavy as I expected – it’s not a fruit bomb, but has a nice flavor of cherry, a lighter cousin of a Cab.

Speaking of Cab, the Cab was great – a 2012 from Sonoma Valley. The Valley isn’t the first place you’d expect to have a mind blowing Cab, but, Davis had done it with his winemaking team. With grapes sourced from Nun’s Canyon, it’s deep, moody and really intense. If you like a classic Cab, get it (oh and it won a 2015 Gold Medal at the SF International Wine Competition).

So here’s the breakdown:

As a local I’d be down for another pairing when special or new menus are introduced. I surely plan on adding Corner 103 to my “regular local wine shop stop,” with wines starting at $25+ and being all Sonoma County.

When guests come into town – this will be one of my first stops. At $40 per person, it’s a crash course on wine tasting and food pairings, and it’s unpretentious, still classy, and the wines are really good.

Corner 103 is open seven days a week and offers food and wine pairings starting at $40. 103 W. Napa St., Sonoma; 931-6141;


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