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Siduri Wines: A Modest Winery with an Ambitious Range

Adam and Dianna Lee are accomplished self-taught winemakers who operate out of a modest warehouse in an industrial park in Santa Rosa, a no frills operation where the emphasis is on the wines. Since a quite launch in 1994 consisting all of 107 cases of Pinot Noir, the Lees have found an ambitious and changing number of excellent vineyard sources for Pinot Noir stretching all the way from Oregon’s Chehalem Mountains in the northern Willamette Valley to the Santa Rita Hills in California’s southern Central Coast. Their winery holds the distinction of producing more unique Pinot Noir bottlings than any other boutique winery in California. Adding to their impressive Pinot Noir offerings, the Lees also produce Syrah, Chardonnay and other varietals under the Novy Family Wines label, named after Dianna’s family, the Novys.

Siduri’s rise to success has been meteoric with critics fawning over the winery’s Pinot Noirs since the first release. Robert Parker, Jr., has called Siduri, “One of California’s top Pinot Noir producers,” and Matt Kramer has said, “To taste Siduri is to taste some of the best Pinot Noirs made in American today.”

Siduri has always been committed to quality. Grapes are purchased by the acre and crops are rigorously thinned. All work in the winery is hands-on with a commitment to top cooperage sources, and all wines are bottled unfined and unfiltered if possible. Stylistically, the Pinot Noirs have been generally full-bodied, fruit- driven and Caliesque in style, yet balanced and consistently reflective of their vineyard sources and vintages. The logistics of producing so many individual wines is daunting and occasionally a wine misses the mark, but the majority of Siduri’s production is first rate. A commendable achievement to say the least.

Over the years the Lees have modified their original hedonistic style of Pinot Noir, now offering more restrained and nuanced wines that I find much more appealing and easily recommendable. According to John Haeger, in his book, Pacific Pinot Noir, “Siduri Pinots seem to me to be the original poster children for a category of hedonistic, expressive, fruit-sweet, nicely textured, appealing American Pinots that would be popularized by producers such as DuMOL and Testarossa. Meanwhile, Siduri itself seems to have evolved toward slightly soberer, more elegant wines that are more expressive of their individual terroirs.” Perhaps, more attractive, is the fact that Siduri has not achieved the cult status reserved for some hi-brow California producers, and you can actually buy the wines, often at very sensible prices. The Lees have raised their prices little over the years and offer wines in every price range from under $20 to $70 among the 7,500+ cases of wine they produce annually.

For the full story on Siduri, refer to previous features in the PinotFile.

Winemaking at Siduri is in line with other premium Pinot Noir producers. Many wines are made from 100% destemmed fruit, with whole cluster inclusion determined by lignification of the stems and the grape source and vintage. Primary fermentations are driven by both resident and inoculated yeast, malolactic fermentations are naturally conducted if possible. The wines are aged 10 to 18 months in French oak barrels and bottled unfined and unfiltered. Ryan Zepaltas has been the assistant winemaker for several years.

I recently sampled a number of new 2009 Siduri Pinot Noir releases representing select appellation and vineyard-designate bottlings. The appellation bottlings are all solid wines that represent great value. They all show admirable balance and easy drinkability. Choosing between them boils down to personal taste. The vineyard-designate Pinot Noirs are a step up in texture, layering, flavor intensity and sophistication. The Lees are happy with the 2009 vintage in California, “We think it provided a great combination of richness and backbone and it seems like a vintage that will age successfully.”

2009 Siduri Sonoma County Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., 2,657 cases, $20, screw cap. A blend of several wellknown vineyards (Van der Kamp, Sapphire Hill, Sonatera and others) and clones (Martini, 667, 777, 115, Pommard and Mt. Eden). · An appealing perfume of spiced black cherries and raspberries with oak in the background, fading some over time in the glass. Moderately intense black cherry core with some strawberry and pomegranate flavor in the background. A little earthy and oak influenced with a finish that is a little shallow. A back porch Pinot that is definitely worth the tab. Decent.

2009 Siduri Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.3% alc., 1,132 cases, $30, screw cap. · Prototypical Russian River Valley nose of Bing cherry and baking spice with a medium-weighted core of tasty and richly flavored dark cherries. The tannins are restrained and a touch of oak in the background is complimentary. A solid drinker. Good (+).

2009 Siduri Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir

14.3% alc., 1,855 cases, $30, screw cap. 45% Rosella’s Vineyard, 26% Pisoni Vineyard, 20% Garys’ Vineyard, and 9% Sierra Mar Vineyard. Clones include Pisoni selection, 777, 828 and Pommard. · The deepest and darkest color in the lineup. Aromas of fresh plums, blackberry jam and a hint of oak. Intense, yet charming essence of black Pinot fruits with a substantial tannic backbone. A seamless and highly enjoyable wine that is clearly representative of Santa Lucia Highlands terroir. Very good.

2009 Siduri Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., 1,028 cases, $30, screw cap. · Exotic, demure aromas of berry compote and bacon. Moderately intense flavors of juicy dark berries and plums with a hi-tone backbone fueled by lively acidity. A lot to like here with plenty of tasty fruit, gossamer tannins and a refreshing finish. Good (+).

2009 Siduri Keefer Ranch Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., 247 cases, $48. · Subdued but alluring perfume of strawberries, red cherries, cream soda and dried rose petals. Delicious and vivid cherry and berry flavors with hints of baking spice and oak. A hi-collared wine with a lovely mouthfeel, comforting finesse, and a bright pop of cherry on the finish. This vineyard continues to impress.

2009 Siduri Garys’ Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., 298 cases, $50. Siduri is entering the second decade of working with this vineyard. A combination of Pisoni selection on 5C rootstock (33% whole cluster, indigenous fermentation), and Pisoni selection on 3309 rootstock (15% whole cluster, inoculated with a Williams Selyem winery yeast isolate). · Enticing aromas of black cherries, deeply colored berries and cola. A lip smacker with oodles of fruit that saturates the palate and persists on the finish with a clinging vengeance. Soft and smoothly textured, this is a kick-ass Pinot that will bring you to your knees.

Siduri Wines are sold primarily through a mailing list at www.siduri.com, but many larger production wines are in retail and restaurant distribution. An informative newsletter is sent out monthly. The wines are released throughout the year. A personal tasting experience is offered at the winery by appointment, 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM, seven days a week. Phone 707-578-3882 or e-mail at vino@siduri.com. In 2010, Siduri was named “Sonoma County’s Best Winery” by the San Francisco Chronicle online poll.


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