Tasting Crushpad-Produced Pinot Noirs
Crushpad is a custom winery for small-scale labels that was founded by current CEO Michael Brill in 2004.
Crushpad was founded by current CEO, Michael Brill. The opportunity to assist in the crafting of small lots of
wine (50 to 2,500 cases) has attracted many wine enthusiasts and more than 5,000 wines have been produced
at Crushpad (1 out of every 100 wines sold in the United States). Crushpad is the only wine services company
that provides a complete solution for winemaking, compliance, fulfillment, design, marketing and e-commerce
with a simple, all-inclusive pricing model. Crushpad moved to the Silverado Trail Wine Studios in Napa Valley
over a year ago, but has recently moved again to downtown Sonoma. Bill Foley, owner of Sebastiani
Vineyards in Sonoma, has made a major investment in Crushpad, allowing Crushpad to move its primary
winemaking facility to a dedicated portion of the historic Sebastiani Winery located a few blocks from Sonoma
Plaza at 389 4th Street East.
The latest move will allow Crushpad to significantly expand and improve its winemaking capabilities and allow
larger groups to partner and collaborate on the production of custom-made barrels of wine using the online
social winemaking platform on www.CrushpadWine.com. In addition, a tasting bar will be opened later this year at
this new location, allowing more than 100 Crushpad clients the opportunity to offer their wines for sale to
Sonoma visitors. The tasting bar will incorporate interactive wine education stations and automated wine
dispensers. The new facility will also offer wine blending and sensory analysis classes.
Crushpad is able to access fruit from well-regarded vineyards throughout California and Oregon. Notable Pinot
Noir vineyards include Brousseau (Chalone), Doctor’s (Santa Lucia Highlands), Hayley (Annahala - Anderson
Valley), Londer (Anderson Valley), Rita’s Crown (Sta. Rita Hills) and Split Rock (Sonoma Coast). The full list of
vineyards is listed at www.CrushpadWine.com/vineyardlist.
I recently visited Crushpad at Sebastiani Vineyards in Sonoma and tasted a number of Crushpad-produced
Pinot Noirs with current winemaker Adam Smith who joined Crushpad for the 2010 vintage. His background
includes winemaking stints at Craggy Range in New Zealand and Bethel Heights, Domaine Serene and Shea
Wine Cellars in Oregon. Smith focuses on working with clients who are making Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and
Syrah. Kian Tavakoli (formerly Clos du Val and Opus One) is the Chief Winemaker at Crushpad. Smith’s biggest challenges initially were putting faces
to the wines and crafting a wide range of wine styles based on client preferences. For instance, 250 different
Pinot Noirs were produced in 2009 at Crushpad, a vintage that Smith finished. His current stated goal is to
work very closely with clients through constant feedback, a goal that was more achievable in the 2010 vintage
as he became familiar with the program.
I sampled nine 2009 vintage Pinot Noirs and 2 2010 vintage barrel samples. My general impression was that
there was good diversity among the wines, the wines were technically sound, but they were of average quality
with some modest standouts among the 2009 Pinot Noirs. Retail pricing of the wines is determined by the
clients, ranging from $34-$55. I felt the wines priced above $40 did not offer a level of quality commensurate
with the asking price. In today’s economy and prevailing Pinot Noir wine marketplace, a Pinot Noir priced
above $40 must really delivery an exceptional drinking experience and often an established producer or brand
name is required as well. That said, with Smith at the helm and a new modern winemaking facility at his
disposable, the wines will only get better. The 2010 barrel samples showed exceptional promise.
2010 Amber Ridge Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir Barrel Sample
85% Pommard, 15% 115.
Native fermentation, 25 day maceration.
Moderately deep reddish-purple color in the glass. Fruity nose
displaying aromas of plums and raspberries. A softly textured, full-bodied wine that has a dense core of ripe
fruit but currently lacks nuance. Should take on more personality after it is bottled.
2010 La Encantada Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir Barrel Sample
Clones 777 and 667. 40% whole cluster,
A striking wine with a lovely mix of spiced red and black fruits that make a statement upon
entry and hold forth strongly to the long finish. Impeccably balanced with charm to spare. Only sexual
analogies can do this wine justice.
2009 Waveland Doctor’s Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., $34. Crafted under the
direction of Stuart Ake.
Moderately light reddish-purple hue in the glass. Shy initially, but picks up aromatic
intensity in the glass over time, offering aromas of red raspberries, cranberries and cherries. A soft, light and
simple wine featuring red fruits, an undertone of oak and herbs, and supple tannins. An easy drinker.
2009 Aeshna La Encantada Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., $39. Crafted under the direction of Brian
Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. Plenty of ripe fruit in this wine but little nuance. Flavors
of red plums and raspberries with hints of savory herbs, offering generous oak, soft tannins and a short, slightly
hot, finish. Decent.
2009 Bougetz Cellars Brousseau Vineyard Chalone Pinot Noir
$39. Crafted under thedirection of Tom Bougetz.
First bottle corked. Second
bottle reviewed. Moderately deep reddish-purple robe in the glass. Appealing
aromas of well-spiced black berries. Generous core of perfectly ripe, sweet, and
earth-kissed black cherries and black raspberries lingering on the fruit-driven,
slightly hot, finish. Good.
2009 Damian Ray Doctor’s Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., $39. Crafted under the
direction of Jon Tarabini.
Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Pleasant perfume of strawberries,
spice and red hard candy. A fruity, somewhat simple wine with a core of red berries and red cherries. Soft in
the mouth with bright acidity, restrained tannins and a hint of alcoholic heat on the finish. Good.
2009 Joelle Amber Ridge Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
alc., $39. Crafted under the direction of Chris Winslow.
reddish-purple hue in the glass. Bright scent of crushed red berries with a touch
of forest floor and barnyard. Soft and appealing on the palate with a delicious
core of mixed Pinot fruits, supple tannins, and a pleasing hint of oak on the
generous and persistent finish. Very good.
2009 Townley La Encantada Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., $48. Crafted under the direction of
Moderately deep reddish-purple color in the glass. Charming nose showing off plenty of red
fruit, especially Bing cherries. Nicely composed and medium weighted with classy dark red fruit, balanced ripe
tannins, and a slightly shallow finish. Good (+).
2009 Calicaro Split Rock Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.6% alc., $54. Crafted under the direction
of Dave Ball.
Moderately deep garnet color in the glass. The nose is aromatically shy with only faint whiffs of
dark fruit and oak. Moderately intense flavors of sweet black raspberries and plum reduction sauce with gentle
oak, supple tannins and a dry, slightly warm, finish. Decent.
2009 Lagniappe Wines Split Rock Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., $55. Crafted under the
direction of Jean-Marie Truchard.
Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. A floral nose with notes of
savory herbs and subtle oak. Light in weight with soft tannins. Pleasing flavors of dark red berries and spice
with some persistence on the fruity finish. Good.
2008 August Truth Hayley’s Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
alc., $38. Crafted under the direction of Tom Harlan.
Moderately deep ruby color
in the glass. Lovely aromas of black cherry pie and baking spices. Soft and
velvety on the palate, expanding in the mouth with generous and hi-tone flavors
of black cherries, finishing with a kiss of oak. Good (+).