Pinots of Distinction
2008 Bjørnstad Hellenthal Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
alc., 194 cases, $40. Released 11/10.
Moderate reddish-purple color with slight haze
(unfiltered) in the glass. Earthy black stone fruit and berry aromas and
flavors predominate with an exotic bent. Well-mannered sinewy tannins
beautifully frame the fruit and the whole package is seamless. This wine
has that rugged, musky, wild appeal common to true Sonoma Coast
bottlings and is a joy to drink. Hellenthal Vineyard Pinot Noir typically takes a few
years to reach its full expression and this wine should follow that theme although
it is hard to resist now. Source: mailing list, website.
2008 Bjørnstad Van Der Kamp Vineyard Sonoma Mountain Pinot Noir
14.8% alc., 175 cases, $40. Released 10/10.
Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. Brooding nose offering shy aromas of blackberries and
cassis with a touch of toasty oak. Another beautifully crafted wine with a luscious core of berry flavors,
well-integrated oak, supple tannins, satiny mouth feel and a hint of savory herbs on the silky finish.
Mountain Pinots can sometimes be daunting, but this one is unplugged and very charming. I suspect
cellaring will bring the nose to life. Very good. Source: mailing list and website.
2009 Cartha Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., $26.
Deep reddish-purple color in the glass.
Nicely scented with aromas of dark stone fruits and ollaliberries, spice and a complimentary touch of
oak. Richly endowed with a striking dark fruit core accented with flavors of anise, tea and smoky oak
all robed in modest tannins. The fruit really attracts your attention and the smooth mouth feel is very
seductive. Very good (+).
2008 Dept C Vista Verde Vineyard San Benito County Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., pH 3.70, TA 0.55, $40. This
producer crafts small lots of Pinot Noir from family farmed vineyards. Pommard clone from a vineyard block
planted in 1988. 10% whole cluster. Aged in 20% new oak.
Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass.
Brooding nose with demure scent of black cherry and oak. Nicely flavored with discreetly concentrated black
cherry and raspberry essence supported by restrained oak. Supple tannins with a dry finish. Source: website.
2009 Dept C Paraiso Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., pH 3.60, TA 0.59, $35. Clone
777, de-stemmed. Aged in second year and neutral oak barrels.
Moderately light reddish-purple color in the
glass. Aromas of dark red cherries and berries with a hint of toasty oak, fading in the glass over time. A
delicate wine with demure flavors of cherries and strawberries and subtle oak. Decent.
2009 En Route Les Pommiers Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
$60. From the partners of Far Niente. A blend of grapes from Graton Vineyard,
Amber Ridge Vineyard and Manzana Vineyard and includes Pommard 5 clone, a
variety of Dijon clones, and heritage selections. Andrew Delos is the winemaker.
Aged 11 months in 50% new, 35% once-used and 15% twice-used French oak
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Lovely array of aromas including
Bing cherries, strawberry shortcake, sandalwood and vanillin. Medium weighted
flavors of fresh redder cherries and berries with supportive oak in the
background carrying through to the finish. A seamless and elegant wine with
supple tannins and easy approachability although further cellaring will allow for
better integration of the oak. Source: mailing list and retail. Very good.
2007 Eric Kent Freestone Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
Moderate reddish-purple color in glass. The nose offers considerable pleasure
as it emerges over time in the glass showing bright aromas of dark red stone
fruits and striking spice box perfume. Very soft and smooth in the mouth with
moderately intense flavors of redder fruits, offering a pleasing elegance and
balanced tannins. Some aromatic persistence on the finish adds to the
pleasure. Source: sold out. Very good (+).
2009 Eric Kent Small Town Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.7% alc., pH 3.67, TA 0.62, 288 cases, $45. From 65%
Freestone Vineyard and 35% Roberts Road Vineyard in the Petaluma Gap. Label photograph from
Moderately light reddish-purple hue in the glass. Shy but very pleasant perfume of dark red
berries, black cherries, Asian spice and cola, becoming more expressive in the glass over time.
Vigorous with dark red fruit flavor, complimented by notes of sassafras and spice including clove.
Possessing plenty of character with svelte tannins and welcoming acidity on the generous finish. Really
spectacular two days later from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. Best Pinot ever from Eric Kent. Source: mailing list and retail.
2008 Esterlina Cole Ranch Reserve Pinot Noir
13.8% alc., pre-release. From California’s smallest
appellation (253 acres) owned by the Sterling Family, proprietors of Esterlina. The appellation is located west of
Ukian on Highway 253 within the Mendocino appellation.
Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. Terrific
aromas of spicy black cherry, black raspberry and rose petal. Beautiful dark berry fruit accented by notes of
earth, cola and oak. Plenty of fine-grain tannins nicely support the hearty fruit core. Picks up intensity over
time in the glass. A very classy wine that should improve in the cellar. Source: website. Very good.
2009 Esterlina Cole Ranch Reserve Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., prerelease.
Moderate reddish-purple hue in the glass. The aromatic profile
is similar to the 2008 vintage of this wine but more reserved. Aromas of
spiced black cherries and blackberries. Lovely mid palate array of fruit
including black cherries and black raspberries with hints of spice and
vanilla. Silky and crisp with restrained tannins and a welcoming acid lift
on the fruit-filled finish. I kept coming back to this wine. Still a youngster, but
already spectacular. Source: website and wine club.
2009 Fulcrum Gap’s Crown Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
154 cases, $54. Release June 16, 2011. Aged 15 months in 33% new French
oak barrels and 6 months in bottle.
Moderate ruby color in the glass. This wine
aims to please with aromas of dark cherries and berries, anise, and spice and
similar flavors with an earthy, savory undertone. Medium weighted and
moderately dense with a well-honed tannic backbone and a seductive silkiness.
Much better with brighter fruit flavors the following day from a previously opened
and re-corked bottle. Decant if you open now, but patience will bring more
rewards. Source: mailing list and website. Very good (+).
2008 Ghostwriter Aptos Creek Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., $40.
Moderately dark purple color in the glass. Perfume of plum
pudding, cardamon and oak spice. Riper, sappy fruit flavors of black plums,
plum sauce and blackberries in a medium to full-bodied style. Admirable finesse
and smoothness on the palate with moderate tannins, complimentary oak and
some persistence on the finish. Source: website and retail. Good (+).
2009 Gracianna Bacigalupi Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
alc., 290 cases, $48. Released May 2011. From the Amador Family who have
been ranching in Sonoma County for generations. Young Trini Amador, IV,
began making wine at age 15 in his family garage, and went on to earn a degree
in enology and viticulture. Winemaking was traditional with aging in French oak
barrels for 11 months. Unfined and unfiltered.
Moderately light reddish-purple
color in the glass. Aromas of red cherries and strawberries backed by
complimentary oak. A lighter, elegant offering centered on cherry flavor with
accents of cola, sassafras, vanilla, spice and herbs. Picks up interest over time
in the glass becoming more vivid and praiseworthy. Gentle and easy to drink.
Source: website. Very good.
2009 J. Lohr Fog’s Reach Arroyo Seco Pinot Noir
14.9% alc., pH 3.62, TA 0.57, 1,113 cases, $35.
Pommard 4 and Clone 777, with small amounts of 115 and 667. 100% de-stemmed, 5-day cold soak,
inoculated primary and secondary fermentations, aged 8 months in 60% new and 40% third fill French oak
Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. Fruit-forward nose with bright aromas of black cherries,
plum reduction sauce, spice and vanillin. Well-endowed with generous sweet black stone and blackberry fruit
with a prominent accent of oak and a hint of brewed tea. The mouth feel is velvety and the tannins are supple.
Finishes with a little alcoholic heat. Will benefit from another year in the bottle to further integrate the oak.
Source: websites, tasting rooms, retail. Good.
2008 Lynmar Estate Quail Hill Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.8% alc., pH 3.63, TA 0.62, 729 cases, $60. Composed of 14 clones including
old Swan vines. De-stemmed, 7-10 day cold soak, native yeast fermentations,
total skin contact 14-18 days, basket pressed, aging on light to full lees for 15
months in 55% new French oak barrels. Unfined and unfiltered. Winemakers
Hugh Chapelle and Bibiana Gonzalez Rave; consulting winemaker Paul Hobbs.
Moderately deep reddish-purple color in the glass. The nose is very seductive
with a perfume of fresh cherries and berries, spice and graham. Delicious
essence of black cherry tart with hints of cola and Dr. Pepper and noticeable oak
presence. Smooth on the palate with polished tannins and a lingering finish. A
bold wine that is drinking beautifully now, but will last 7-10 years with proper cellaring. Source: tasting room,
website, some retail. Very good.
2009 Nuggucciet Cellars Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
pH 3.60, TA 0.68. 38 cases, $25. Inaugural release from Russ and
Nancy Briley. Sourced from Riverbench Vineyard. Martini clone. Name
is pronounced “New ga shay,” and is a combination of the owners’ two
dogs’ names: Nugget and Gucci. Vinified with consultant Mike Brown
of Cantara Cellars at RNB Wineworks in Camarillo, CA.
light garnet color in the glass. Aromas of strawberries and rose garden. An
elegant and easy drinking wine offering demure flavors of red berries and
cherries with a hint of spice and sandalwood. Soft on the palate with supple but
noticeable tannins, offering commendable balance. Unusually light and red
fruited (not in a negative sense) for a Martini clone Pinot Noir. Source: website. Good (+).
2009 Patianna Organic Vineyards Mendocino Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., $19.99, screw cap. Made
from organic grapes grown in certified organic vineyards. Proprietor is Patti Ann Fetzer, the first
woman in the Fetzer clan to launch her own label.
Moderate reddish-purple hue in the glass. Initially
the nose offers bright aromas of dark berries and black cherries with a touch of oak, fading a bit over
time in the glass. Fairly intense flavors of very ripe black cherries and berries with an underpinning of
oak and herbs adding a savory note. The fruit is framed by well-mannered dry tannins and supported
by a solid acid backbone. Impressive persistence on the slippery finish. Source: website, retail. Good.
2009 Patz & Hall Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., $42. Released
September 2010. Sourced from Gap’s Crown Vineyard (Petaluma Gap) as well
as fruit from growers including the Dutton Brothers, William Hill, the Martinelli
family, Charlie Chenoweth and Steve Hill. Wild and cultured fermentation. Aged
in 40% new Burgundian French oak barrels. Unfined and unfiltered.
dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Bright aromas of black fruits including
plum with complimentary oak spice. Moderately intense and tasty array of black
fruits, caressed by mild grippy tannins, exhibiting a vibrancy on the generous
finish. A smooth, almost milky, texture is pleasing. Seamless and well-crafted.
Year in and year out (since the first Sonoma Coast release in 1995) this is a
dependable Sonoma Coast bottling that is favored by sommeliers. Source: website and retail. Very good.
2007 Scherrer Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., $32. Unfined
Moderately deep reddish-purple color in the glass. Nicely
appointed nose with aromas of black cherries, dried rose petals, frambiose and
Moroccan spices. The aromas are strikingly fruity and become more spiced
over time in the glass. Rich core of black cherries, dark strawberries, black
raspberries, with baking spice and herbs in the background, framed by supple
tannins. The flamboyant finish clings to the palate. A voluptuous wine from a
superb vintage that has staying power in the glass and is hard to resist.
Source: website, mailing list, retail. Very good.
2008 Schug Carneros Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., $24.
Moderately light ruby color in the glass. The nose is
dominated by aromas of oak, smoke and herbs with cherries and berries in the background. A darker fruited
wine that is more savory than fruity with prominent smoky oak initially. Much better the following day from a
previously opened and re-corked bottle showing more vibrant fruit and less oak. Very “Burgundian” in style. A
silky texture makes for easy drinking and the bright acidity lifts the finish. Good.
2009 Valerie’s Vineyard One Acre Carneros Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., 75 cases, $40. From a small vineyard in
the southern Sonoma Valley farmed by three families. Produced and bottled at B.R. Cohn Winery. Aged 18
months in new and twice-used French oak barrels.
Medium reddish-purple hue in the glass. Lovely aromas of
ripe cherries, red plums and Provencal herbs. Moderately light in weight with “crunchy” red cherry and red
raspberry flavors and a sidecar of savory herbs, cola, raisin and vanillin. Picks up character and intensity in the
glass over time but veers a little to the raisiny, porto side. Admirable finesse and a zippy lift of acid on the
refreshing finish. A lighter weighted, redder-fruited vintage for this vineyard. Source: website and Hi-Time
Cellars in Costa Mesa, CA. Good.
2009 Waxwing Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 82
cases, $30. Released April 2011. A blend of two Sonoma Coast
vineyards: Toboni and Flocchini. Clones are Pommard, 115 and
Swan. Aged 14 months in once-used French oak barrels.
Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. Nicely composed
array of aromas including black cherries, baking spices and
sandalwood. Mouth watering cherry and raspberry fruits accented with the
slightest oak spice and vanillin finishing bright and crisp with a mineral note.
Elegant with silky fine-grain tannins. This is a very easy drinking, food-friendly
wine that I could drink all night long. Best yet from owner and proprietor Scott
Sisemore who is shifting his focus from Russian River Valley to Sonoma Coast fruit. Source: website.
2009 Windsor Sonoma Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
496 cases, $30.
Medium garnet color in the glass. Lovely and
complex nose offering bright scents of black cherries, black
raspberries, spice, pine and sandalwood. A blast of cherries saturates
the mid palate maintaining an impressive intensity on the long finish.
A touch of cola, pine, oak and roasted nut flavors add interest.
Moderate intensity with fine dry tannins. Plenty of Pinot pleasure at the right
price. Source: website and retail. Very good.