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Arista Winery

These small lot wines are the result of the farming approach of noted vineyardist Ulises Valdez and the uncompromising winemaking of Leslie Sisneros. The Mononi and Toboni vineyard bottlings demonstrate the power of terroir since the two sites at the intersection of Olivet Road and River Road are separated by only a few hundred yards yet yield distinctly different wines. Beginning January 1, 2013, the new winemaker at Arista will be Matt Courtney, who has spent the past seven years at Marcassin Winery. The change was needed to have a winemaker who could devote their full-time energies to Arista. Leslie has her own label, Ispiri Wines.

2010 Arista Ferrington Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

14.4% alc., pH 3.58, TA 0.61, 216 cases, $58. Released fall 2012. From a 25-acre vineyard just off Highway 128 in Booneville. 100% Pommard clone. Aged in 45% new, 11% 1-year and 44% 2-3-year-old French oak barrels. · Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. The nose starts out with aromas of cherries, cherry skins, stem and smoky oak, evolving over time to reveal aromas of cherries, parchment and dried herbs. Appealing core of black cherry fruit with an earthy, herbal underbelly. Tastes of the soil. Lovely fruit backed by very firm tannins, finishing with a touch of citrusy acid. Still good the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. Good.

2010 Arista Perli Vineyard Mendocino Ridge Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., pH 3.80, TA 0.60, 240 cases, $52. Released summer 2012. The Perli Vineyard was planted in 2001 and is owned and farmed by Steve Alden. 2200 feet elevation, about 6 miles inland. Aged in 40% new, 20% 12-year and 40% 2-3-year-old French oak barrels. · Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Very shy initially, opening up beautifully over time to reveal seductive aromas of dark berry jam, pumpkin pie spice, and raisin. Dark red fruits including strawberries and raspberries are featured with a little blueberry and pomegranate in the mix. A hint of clove and oak adds interest. Elegant and creamy in the mouth with good tannin integration. Very good.

2010 Arista Toboni Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., pH 3.76, TA 0.54, 250 cases, $60. Released spring 2012. 15-acre vineyard planted to Dijon 115, 667 and 777, and Pommard 5. Mary and Joe Toboni are fourth generation San Franciscans whose roots can be traced back to San Francisco as early as the 1870s and to Sonoma County before the 1920s. Aged in 41% new, 33% 1-year and 26% 2-3-year-old French oak barrels. · Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Aromas of very ripe Bing cherries, black raspberries, and grilled plums. Deep black cherry and dark berry flavor with an underpinning of toasted oak and cola. Moderately rich with well balanced tannins and a silky mouth feel. Needs more time to shed some of the toasty oak on the finish. More intense cherry flavor the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. Very good.

2010 Arista Mononi Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.4% alc., pH 3.75, TA 0.53, 240 cases, $58. Released fall 2012. A 10-year-old vineyard planted to Dijon 113 and 115. Aged in 40% new, 50% 1-year and 10% 2-3-year-old French oak barrels. · Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. An earthy, savory wine offering aromas of dark berry preserves, herbs and oak. Moderately rich core of blackberries, black raspberries and black plums. Juicy, with good structural bones, and a long fruit and oak driven finish. Pushes the ripeness envelope but never crosses over. Very good.

2010 Arista Harper’s Rest Estate Grown Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., pH 3.77, TA 0.60, 90 cases, $60. Released fall 2012. 2.1-acre vineyard planted in 2007. Clay loam soils. Pommard clone on 101-14 rootstock, 3.5’ x 7’, yields 1.25 tons per acre. Aged in 17% new, 33% 1-year and 50% 2-3-year-old French oak barrels. · Medium reddish-purple robe in the glass. The nose starts out promising with aromas of fresh dark cherries and raspberries but becomes somewhat dull over time with hints of briar and stem. Black cherry and dark red berry flavors are featured with a subtle green note in the background. Moderately intense with a creamy texture and long finish. This wine should improve over time. Good.

2010 Arista Two Birds Estate Grown Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., pH 3.72, TA 0.58, 170 cases, $68. Released fall 2012. 3.1-acre vineyard planted in 2007. Clay loam soils. Pommard clone, Swan and Calera selections on 101-14 rootstock, 3.5’ x7’, yields 1.25 tons per acre. Aged in 37% new, 13% 1-year and 50% 2-3-year-old French oak barrels. · Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Aroma of dark berry pie filling. Not particularly expressive now, with modest flavors of an array of dark red and black berries. A little earthy, a little spicy. The most tannic of all the Arista Pinot Noirs reviewed here. Slightly more definition of fruit, more finish and more character than the other estate wine, Harper’s Rest. Needs time to soften the tannins and come together. Good (+).



Aubert Wines

The fall offerings included a quartet of single vineyard Pinot Noirs from Ritchie, Reuling, UV and UV-SL vineyards. Aubert produces a decadent, lush, high-alcohol, fruit-driven style of Pinot Noir. I wrote about the winery in a previous issue (www.princeofpinot.com/article/837/). The wines are very well made for this style. Aubert’s vineyard manager is Ulises Valdez. A tasting salon opened at 333 Silverado Trail in Calistoga in September 2012, after extensive remodeling of the former August Briggs winery. Aubert customers are able to visit the winery and taste both new releases and library wines by appointment. A Sonoma Coast appellation Chardonnay was also released in 2012, the first appellation-designated Aubert offering.

2010 Aubert UV Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

15.3% alc., $80. · Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. The nose highlights blackberry and black plum fruit with a noticeable oak contribution. Soft and smooth with generous flavors of blackberries and black plum sauce accented with hints of oak spice and vanilla. Good fruit-driven length on the finish that leaves a little heat in its wake. Good.

2010 Aubert UV-SL Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

15.0% alc., $80. · Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Aromas of smoky oak, tea leaf, oil and faint black fruit jam. Oak-infused flavors of dark berries, plum and cassis. Meaty with plenty of dry tannin, finishing juicy with good acidity. A man’s Pinot with full-on extraction displaying more oak at presence than I prefer. Wellcrafted in its style. Good.



Benziger Family Winery

Known for certified-sustainable, organically grown and Biodynamic® wines, Benziger Family Winery became the first Demeter-certified Biodynamic® vineyard in Sonoma County in 2000. The 25-acre Sonoma Coast de Coelo (day-chay-low) Estate (22 acres of vines) is a cool, windswept site, five miles from the Pacific Ocean, which is on the edge of where Pinot Noir can be grown successfully. De Coelo is divided into two distinctive blocks: Quintus and Terra Neuma. The vineyard team works overtime here to ensure that the vineyard capitalizes on every ray of sun.



2010 Signaterra Bella Luna Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., pH 3.56, TA 0.62, 629 cases, $50. Released September 2012. Demeter Certified Biodynamic® vineyard. Dijon clones 115, 667 and 777. Yields 2.52 tons per acre. Native yeast fermentation and spontaneous malolactic fermentation. Aged 18 months in 35% new French oak barrels. Unfiltered. · Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. Aromas of Bing cherries and espresso oak. Discretely concentrated core of dark cherry fruit with accents of clove, nutmeg and cola. Admirable restraint and appealingly delicate, with a lovely fruit core, but displaying too much of an oak topcoat at present. This wine will appeal to those who like plenty of oak with their Pinot Noir. Good.

2010 de Coelo Quintus Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

13.0% alc., pH 3.48, TA 0.63, 177 cases, $75. From a Freestone-Occidental very cool site that is Demeter Certified Biodynamic®. “de Coelo” translates to “that which is of heaven.” Clones are 667, 777 and Swan. 25% whole cluster. Fermented with native yeast. Aged 16 months in French oak barrels. Unfiltered. · Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Alluring scents of earth, dark red cherries and berries, spice and oak. This wine tastes of the soil as well as dark cherry and red plum flavors, complimented by oak, finishing with refreshing acidity and a flourish of cherry. A lighter weight vintage for this wine. Better the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle indicating cellaring is advisable. Very good.

2010 de Coelo Tierra Neuma Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., pH 3.48, TA 0.63, 177 cases, $75. Demeter Certified Biodynamic® vineyard. 25% whole clusters. Fermented with natural yeast, unfiltered. · Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Aromas of oak-infused cherries, espresso and Christmas spices. Driven by fresh and uplifting acidity, this wine features dark red fruits that have an earthy underpinning. A little more body, tannins and finish than Quintus, with more oak topcoat. More appealing the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. Very good.



Calera Wine Co.

The wines in this vintage have daunting tannins and I found it very difficult to get my arms around them. This is one of the least approachable vintages for Calera in recent memory. It should take years for them to soften and recant, and although there is enough fruit to stay the course, the wines will always be tannic. I found it challenging to pick out vineyard terroir at this stage, only finding Reed distinctive. These are definitely not wines for drinking tonight, even with decanting. I found them impenetrable the following day as well from previously opened and re-corked bottles.

2009 Calera de Villiers Vineyard Mt. Harlan Pinot Noir

14.4% alc., 1,460 cases, $35. 15.6-acre vineyard, yields 2.06 tons per acre. Made from organic grapes. Native fermentations, aged 16 months in 30% new French oak barrels. Unfiltered. · Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Aromas of ripe plum, blackberry and raisin with hints of damp earth and oak. Moderately rich array of very ripe purple and black fruits with a hint of Hoison sauce and Asian spice, backed by modest tannins. The most approachable wine in the 2009 lineup. Good.

2009 Calera Ryan Vineyard Mt. Harlan Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., 2,318 cases, $40. 13.7-acre vineyard, yields 2.33 tons per acre, aged 18 months in 30% new French oak barrels. Unfiltered. · Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Shy aromas and flavors of dark cherries and raspberries. The appealing fruit is buried in overwhelming tannins. Good.

2009 Calera Reed Vineyard Mt. Harlan Pinot Noir

14.8% alc., 281 cases, $52. 4.4-acre vineyard, yields 1.02 tons per acre. Aged 17 months in 30% new French oak barrels. Unfiltered. · Light reddish color in the glass. Enticing aromas of strawberries, red cherries and sandalwood. More vineyard terroir evident that the other vineyard-designated Pinots in this vintage. Flavorful core of cherries, brown spice and a hint of vanilla wrapped in balanced tannins. Not the fruit intensity of the other Pinots in this vintage, but the long aromatic finish leaves an enticing trail of cherries. A feminine wine in a dominatrix way. Very good.

2009 Calera Selleck Vineyard Mt. Harlan Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., 420 cases, $78. 4.8-acre vineyard, yields 1.21 tons per acre. Aged 17 months in 30% new French oak barrels. Unfiltered. · Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Nicely scented with aromas of blueberries, blackberries and clay. Fat in the mouth with generous flavors of black cherries, blueberries and boysenberries backed by muscular, firm tannins. The wine has an extra depth of flavor at the end just when you think it is finished. Very good.

2009 Calera Mills Vineyard Mt. Harlan Pinot Noir

14.9% alc., 1,599 cases, $45. 16.3-acre vineyard, yields 1.55 tons per acre. Aged 18 months in 30% new French oak barrels. Unfiltered. · Light reddish-purple color in the glass. Muted aromas of dark red cherries and berries and oak spice. Generous fruit intensity starring black cherries, finishing with good fruit presence. Very muscular tannins currently overwhelm the fruit. Good.

2009 Calera Jensen Vineyard Mt. Harlan Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 1,277 cases, $73. 13.5-acre vineyard, yields 1.34 tons per acre. Aged 17 months in 30% new French oak barrels. Unfiltered. · Moderately light reddish-purple hue in the glass. Restrained aromas of darker berries and subtle oak. Very pretty core of discretely concentrated black cherry fruit buried in flamboyant tannins. A captivatingly long finish exceeds that of any other Calera Pinot in this vintage. The future looks very bright but this wine will demand patience. Very good.



Flowers Vineyard & Winery

This winery has had a long and successful journey that began with the purchase of 321 acres in the northern true Sonoma Coast in Cazadero in 1990 by Walt and Joan Flowers. The site was named Camp Meeting Ridge after the Pomo Indians who camped in the area in the summer. A gravity-flow winery was added in 1997, and an additional 327 acres, named Flowers Ranch, was added the same year. Today, neighboring vineyards include Hirsch, Marcassin, Hellenthal, Blue Slide Ridge, Failla and Pahlmeyer. There have been a number of talented winemakers at Flowers who have gone to distinguish themselves at other wineries. Since 2008, the winemaker has been Darrin Low. The viticulturist, Larry Bradley, has been at Flowers since the early 1990s. Production is about 27,000 cases a year of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, 85% of which is estate grown. In 2009, Huneeus Vintners bought substantial interest in Flowers and Walt and Joan Flowers retired from their project. The 2010 vintage saw the inaugural production of block-designated Pinot Noirs.

2010 Flowers Camp Meeting Ridge Estate Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.0% alc., $70. Calera, Swan, Dijon, Wädenswil and Pommard clones. Schist, shale and sandstone soils. 1200 to 1400 feet elevation. Yields 1.89 tons per acre. 100% de-stemmed. Aged 16 months in 57% new French oak barrels. · Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Clean aromas of black cherries, black raspberries, dark strawberries, clove spice and smoky oak. The flavors replicate the aromas in a middleweight offering that has balanced tannins, and an appealingly soft and smooth mouth feel. Picks up interest over time in the glass. Good (+).

2010 Flowers Sea Ridge Estate Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.0% alc., $65. Heritage, 777, 825 and 115 clones planted in schist, shale, basalt and sandstone soil. 1400 to 1800 feet elevation. Yields 1.91 tons per acre. 5% whole cluster. Aged 16 months in 40% new French oak barrels. · Moderately light reddishpurple color in the glass. Shy aromas of raspberries and cranberries with a hint of briar. Dark red fruits are featured in a modest weight wine with balanced tannins, a sleek, smooth texture, and some generous fruit length on the finish. Very nicely crafted and rather sophisticated. Very good.

2010 Camp Meeting Ridge Estate Vineyard Block 11 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.0% alc., $75. 1.16- acre block at 1400 feet elevation. Schist and shale soil. Calera selection. Yields 2.21 tons per acre. Aged 17 months in 40% new French oak barrels. · Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Muted aromas of darker red berries. A solid offering with well-ripened dark red raspberry and cherry flavors, elevated by good acidity and framed by ripe tannins. Nothing really stands out, but drinks nicely. Should benefit from more time in the cellar. Good.

2010 Flowers Sea View Ridge Estate Vineyard Block 20 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.0% alc., $75. 1.55-acre block at 1700 feet elevation. Shallow volcanic clay loam over basalt, schist and shale soil. Clone 777. Yields 2.38 tons per acre. Aged 17 months in 40% new French oak barrels. · Moderately light reddish-purple hue in the glass. Penetrating, enthralling aromas of perfectly ripe black cherries and black raspberries. Luscious flavors of black cherry cola, griottes kirsch, and dark berries, modest dry tannins, bright acidity and a velvety mouth feel. I like this for its balance, texture and fruit persistence on the finish. A regal wine.

2010 Flowers Sea View Ridge Estate Vineyard Block 21 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

13.9% alc., $75. 1.15- acre block at 1400 feet elevation. Shallow clay loam over sandstone soil. Clone 777 and Swan selection. Yields 2.15 tons per acre. Aged 17 months in 16% new French oak barrels. · Light reddish color in the glass. Intense aromas of cherries. The lightest and most red-fruited of the Flowers Pinot Noirs in this vintage. Wellnuanced flavors of cherry hard candy, Asian 5-spice and pine tar. Beautifully crafted with gentle tannins and vivid underlying acidity. Has a unique chalky undertone. Very good.



Fogline Vineyards

A small producer of Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Syrah and Chardonnay launched in 2009. The estate Vineyard is on Sonoma Mountain situated at 900 feet directly above Gap's Crown Vineyard in the Sonoma Coast AVA. The property sits above the fog line, allowing additional exposure to the sun throughout the growing season. Temperature inversion results in warmer nights and cooler days than vineyards at lower elevations. This allows fruit to ripen while lessening the need to leave the fruit hanging for extended periods. Being above the fog line, also helps keep fungus and mold at bay.

The winery is a partnership between Brent Bessire and Evan Pontoriero. Brent learned the wine business from Gary Farrell and time spent at Mauritson Family Winery. Evan has had a successful career in film, but devoted his spare time to learning about wine, eventually becoming a hobby winemaker. He developed a friendship with Brent after the two met at a number of wine events. The first vines were planted on Sonoma Mountain in 2007 and the winery’s first wine was produced in 2009 from purchased grapes. The wines are available direct and from fine dining establishments in California.

2010 Fogline Vineyards Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

13.7% alc., pH 3.35, TA 0.67, 80 cases, $42. Released fall 2011. Sourced from the Sun Chase Vineyard on the western slope of Sonoma Mountain at 1200 to 1400 feet elevation in the Petaluma Gap. Clones 667 and 777. · Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Complex nose offering many scents that come and go including black cherries, plum sauce, strawberries, pipe smoke, dark chocolate, herbs, dusty earth and a floral note. Middleweight cherry-driven flavor with a hint of spice, dried herbs, tobacco and even peach. Elegant, with soft tannins and respectable acidity, finishing with a citrusy cherry flavor. An interesting chameleon of a wine, but a bit strange in its combination of aromas and flavors. Good.

2010 Fogline Vineyards Floodgate Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., pH 3.40, TA 0.65, 135 cases, $38. Vineyard is located in Middle Reach of Russian River Valley. Clones 115, 666, 777 and Pommard. · Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Smooth, spicy and sexy, with seductive aromas of dusty, dark cherries, graham and toast. A cherry bombast that is luscious yet refined and silky with complimentary hints of spice and cola. Nicely balanced with supple tannins and good staying power on the finish. The pedigree of this established vineyard shows through. A high-collared, impressive offering.



Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery

The wines in the 2009 vintage were crafted by former Gary Farrell winemaker Susan Reed. She was trained by Gary Farrell when he was still consulting at the winery and her style reflects his. All three of these wines are sourced from top notch vineyards.

2009 Gary Farrell Stiling Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., pH 3.42, TA 0.65, 287 cases, $50. Vineyard owners, Don (now deceased) and Barbara Stiling converted a 48-acre apple ranch to vineyards in 1988. The site has well-drained Goldridge soils. Field selection of Swan clone. · Light reddishpurple color in the glass. Shy scent of red cherries, red berries, candy jar and herbs. Elegant array of red fruits with a slight confected bent, finishing with lengthy flavors of cherry cola and herbs. The tannins are restrained and a very soft mouth feel adds to the appeal. I liked it more over time in the glass. Very good.

2009 Gary Farrell Hallberg Vineyard Dijon Clones Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., pH 3.42, TA 0.67, 307 cases, $60. Released February 1, 2012. 100-acre vineyard named for its previous owners, Don and Marcia Hallberg. Now meticulously farmed by owner Kirk Lokka, a Sonoma-Cutrer alumnus. Dijon clones. · Moderate reddish-purple hue in the glass. Shy, but pleasant aromas of dark red and black cherries and berries, picking up more intensity over time in the glass. Very soft and silky in the mouth, with flavors of earthkissed dark red and purple fruits, finishing with exuberant cherries and raspberries and a good cut of acidity. Not fully expressive now, but still leaves a nice impression. Very good.

2009 Gary Farrell Rochioli Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.0% alc., pH 3.48, TA 0.61, 406 cases, $65. Released November 1, 2011. Sourced from blocks planted in 1974, 1995 and 2000. Some of the fruit came from cuttings taken from the original “mother” block planted in 1968. Pommard clone. · Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Needs some swirling in the glass to open up. Attractive perfume of well-ripened black cherries and baking spice. Middleweight flavors of cherry cola, spice and subtle oak caressed by gossamer tannins, finishing with uplifting acidity. Beautifully crafted. Not very expressive now, but one senses this could become extraordinary with several years in the cellar. Always the best Pinot Noir in the Gary Farrell stable.



Heart & Hands Wine Company

Located on the eastern shore of Cayuga Lake, Heart & Hands produces less than 1500 cases of Pinot Noir, Pinot Noir Blanc, Brut Rosé and Riesling. I got to know proprietor and winemaker Tom Higgins several years ago on a trip to the Finger Lakes. He had his first serious winemaking experience at Calera Wine Company, subsequently returning to New York to work for Thirsty Owl Wine Company and Atwater Estate Vineyards while preparing to launch Heart & Hands. In 2008, he and his spouse, Susan, completed their winery building and tasting room and his dreams of owning a winery came to fruition. Tom also provides winemaking and vineyard consulting services throughout the Finger Lakes. An estate vineyard is now producing and seven clones of Pinot Noir were harvested in 2012.

The Finger Lakes region is a challenge to viticulturists and winemakers due to the very cool climate, but Tom has achieved remarkable success with Pinot Noir. All three vineyard-designated Pinot Noirs reviewed here are different and worthy of a vineyard designation. Visit www.heartandhandswine.com.

I was curious about how Tom managed to pick at low Brix and yet vinify his Pinot Noirs with 100% whole cluster. Here was his response. “Lower alcohol by volume (ABV) seems to be the norm here. I am always confused by the relationship between Brix and ABV when I talk to colleagues at tech symposia and can only presume it has a great deal to do with the glucose to fructose relationship. We normally pick our Pinot Noir somewhere between 22º and 25º Brix and for us, this translates into a 12.5% to 13.2% ABV. In 2010, fruit came in between 23.6º and 24.4º Brix. After we get above 20º, I toss out the refractometer and just go on the taste of the fruit and the numbers on the acidity. Also, I am looking for anywhere from 1” to 2” of lignification on the stems as a sign that the vines are beginning to pull their juices downward and set themselves up for winter. We have always had the 100% whole cluster program in place (the Barrel Reserve is our best representation of the blend of the single vineyards within the whole cluster framework and the “standard” Pinot Noir is typically 50/50).”

“Many of my colleagues here warned me of the vegetal sensations they had contended with in years past with their Pinot Noir program, but after my stint at Calera and sampling plenty of examples of whole cluster wines from the similar cool climate of Burgundy, I was hard headed about what I believed could be done in the Finger Lakes. Ironically, I heard that more than 50% of the producers of Pinot Noir in the Finger Lakes in 2012 were going to be incorporating some level of stem inclusion in their Pinot Noir programs.”

“The vegetal sensations are noticeable earlier in the fermentation process, but once things start cooking (our fermentation temperatures are usually between 82 and 92 degrees), those flavors have a tendency to blow off. I believe the softer oak treatment (with Francois Frères barrels) also reduces the impact and does not have the doubling down effect of those greener type flavor compounds that I would have encountered had I gone with an American oak program.”

“We have been working with the Cornell extension for a few yeas to better understand our stem program and how this and clones relates to color and tannin preservation. While the 2010 version has been published, the 2012 version is still in the process of being run in their labs and is much more extensive.”



2011 Heart & Hands Brut Rosé Finger Lakes Sparkling Wine

12.5% alc., 115 cases, $25.99. Grown on shore of Seneca Lake. Whole cluster pressed and fermented in a stainless steel tank. · Pretty pink salmon color. Perfume of alpine strawberries and cranberries. Red fruited with imbedded citrus and minerality and slight alpine, herb note in the background. Slightly creamy with a healthy bead. Very crisp and completely dry. A satisfying offering.

2011 Heart & Hands Polarity Finger Lakes Pinot Noir Blanc

12.8% alc., pH 3.41, TA 0.62, 101 cases, $26.99, Vino-Loc closure. Whole cluster pressed Pinot Noir with limited skin contact. Barrel fermented with gentle lees stirring. Aged 9 months in French oak. · Faint honey, apricot color in the glass. Aromas of baked pear, grilled peach and blonde caramel. Unusual and challenging to taste with flavors of white stone fruits, toffee, and vanilla. Relatively light on its feet with a good cut of acidity on the dry finish. Good.

2011 Heart & Hands Elaine’s Vineyard Finger Lakes Pinot Noir

13.4% alc., pH 3.86, TA 0.67, 24 cases, $30.99, Vino-Lok closure Vineyard is a tribute to Elaine Hazlitt, a pioneer in the Finger Lakes wine industry. Located on the shores of Seneca Lake. Vineyard manager is John Santos. Yields 2.4 tons per acre. 100% whole cluster. Aged in Francois Frères French oak barrels. Unfiltered. · Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Nicely perfumed with scents of deep red berries, black cherries and a hint of stem. Moderately light in weight but flavorful featuring dark cherries and cranberries. Elegant with mild dry tannins and some length on the finish. Whole cluster is evident but in a good, non-vegetal way. Very good.

2011 Heart & Hands Hobbit Hollow Vineyard Finger Lakes Pinot Noir

12.1% alc., pH 3.79, TA 0.65, 24 cases, $30.99, Vino-Lok closure. Vineyard is located on the shores of the western side of Skaneateles Lake. Owner is Mike Falcone and vineyard manager is Paul Wellington. Yields 1.4 tons per acre. 100% whole cluster. Aged in Francois Frères French oak barrels. Unfiltered. · Light reddish-purple color in the glass. An intriguing wine offering aromas of cherries, creme soda, vanilla, and sandalwood. Light and elegant with flavors of fresh cherries, oak vanillin, spice and bacon. Gentle, dry tannins and bright acidity make for easy drinking. Still holding nicely two days later from a previously opened and recorked bottle. Very good.

2011 Heart & Hands Patrician Verona Vineyard Finger Lakes Pinot Noir

12.7% alc., 24 cases, $30.99, Vino-Lok closure. Vineyard is located on the western side of Cayuga Lake. Vineyard manager is Cameron Hosmer. Yields 2.3 tons per acre. 100% whole cluster. Aged in Francois Frères French oak barrels. Unfiltered. · Light garnet color in the glass. Aromas of darker cherry pie filling, compost, and leather. Tasty array of cherry, raspberry and spice flavors on a light, elegant base. Fresh, juicy and round with some length on the finish. A little mushroom and green garden is noted in the background. Good



La Rochelle Winery

The vineyard sources change from year to year for this Livermore, California producer, but the wines have been consistently excellent. Founded by Steven Kent Mirassou, who acquired the label from the family in 2005, the winery focuses on small lots of Pinot Noir sourced from multiple appellations in California and Oregon. The winemaker, Tom Stutz, has a master’s degree in viticulture from University of California at Davis. His Pinot Noir winemaking experience has included time at Domaine Chandon in Napa Valley, Hanzell Vineyards in Sonoma County and Mirassou Vineyards in San Jose. Some wines are sold exclusively to members of the winery’s Pinot Noir Program. Visit www.lrwine.com for information.

The wines are produced as follows. After de-stemming and crushing, the fruit is fermented in 1.5-ton open-top fermenters. Primary and malolactic fermentation are induced. Aging is carried out for an extended time in 100% French oak.



2009 La Rochelle Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., 55 cases, $42. Released August 3, 2012. 100% Pommard clone grown on the Dutton’s Campbell Ranch with a small amount of Mission Ranch Swan selection blended in. Aged 17 months in 100% second used French oak barrels. · Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. Nicely perfumed with aromas of fresh picked black cherries, black raspberries, rose petals and spice. Deep, but not overbearing flavors of Bing cherries and cola, caressed by soft tannins, infused with vim by bright acidity, and offering a lengthy memory of cherries on the finish. Quintessential Russian River Valley Pinot Noir and one of the better appellation wines from that region on the market. Very good (+).

2009 La Rochelle Conzelman Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

14.6% alc., 115 cases, $48. Released July 14, 2012. Clones 115 and 777. Aged 28 months in 60% new, 20% second use and 20% American oak. · Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Savory nose with aromas of forest floor, stem and cherry with a touch of chemical peeking out. Slightly confected cherry flavor with an underlying savory herb riff. Moderately light in weight with mild sandy tannins, finishing very dry and herbal. Decent.

2009 La Rochelle Dutton Ranch Campbell Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., $48. Released January 14, 2012. Farmed by the Dutton family, this vineyard is located near the towns of Graton and Occidental. 100% Pommard clone. Aged 16 months in 50% new French oak barrels. · Medium reddishpurple hue in the glass. Really enticing nose that picks up considerable olfactory interest over time in the glass. Aromas of dark cherry pie glaze, dark berries and spice. Plenty to like with nicely ripened flavors of dark red cherries and berries, nicely spiced, picking up intensity over time. A spirited wine with supple tannins, really struting its stuff the next day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. Very good.

2009 La Rochelle Donum Estate Vineyard Carneros Pinot Noir

14.6% alc., 115 cases, $75. Released October 1, 2012. Inaugural release from this vineyard. 100% Donum clone (a massal selection from cuttings brought to California by Roederer). Aged 19 months in 40% new and 60% second use French oak barrels. · Moderate reddishpurple color in the glass. A very exotic wine exhibiting aromas of wild berries and musk that really draws you into the glass. Delicious array of dark red and black berries with a touch of spice and an earthiness which adds to the appeal. Very supply fine-grain tannins, a silky texture and generous finishing power. Significantly better the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. Like actress Keira Knightley, perfumed and sensuous.

2009 La Rochelle Tondre Grapefield Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir

14.8% alc., 125 cases, $48. Released September 8, 2012. Originally planted to 6 acres of Pinot Noir in 1997. Today the vineyard contains 80 acres of Pinot Noir and 25 acres of Chardonnay, farmed by Joe Allarid. Clones 943 and Pommard are in this bottling. Inaugural release from this vineyard. Aged for 18 months in 20% new and 80% second use French oak barrels. · Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Smells like the freshest blackberry jam you have ever experienced. Delicious and entirely seductive, with a moderately intense core of blackberry, cassis, Hoison sauce and vanilla flavors. Smooth and satiny, with well-balanced tannins, well-integrated acidity in the background and the most outrageously long finish of all the wines in this La Rochelle lineup. I have had several great wines from this vineyard and this one continues the trend.

2009 La Rochelle Sleepy Hollow Vineyard Block A Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir

14.7% alc., 275 cases, $48. Released August 2, 2012. Martini and 113 clones. Aged 26 months in 45% new and 55% second use French oak barrels. · Moderate reddish-purple hue in the glass. Smells like a smoke-tainted wine with strong aromas of wood smoke and tar. Unpleasant ash, smoke and tar flavors overwhelm the middleweight dark fruit core which is presented on a silky platform with supple tannins. Unsatisfactory, but I only had one bottle to review and this wine was definitely not consistent with the many wines I have had from this winery.



Pisoni Vineyards & Winery

2010 Pisoni Estate Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay

14.2% alc., $65. Unfiltered. · Light straw color with a faint haze in the glass. Lovely aromas of pear, lemon and lychee. Dry with spritely acidity, featuring flavors of lemon, baked pear, lychee, brown butter and dark caramel. Appealing restraint. Very good.

2010 Pisoni Estate Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir

14.3% alc., 580 cases, $55. Unfiltered. · Deep, dark purple color in the glass. Scent of dark berry preserves with a complimentary hint of smoky oak and vanillin. Delicious core of vibrant blackberry and black plum flavors with undertones of smoke, tar, vanilla, and earth. Full-bodied with masculine tannins, yet soft and quite approachable now. Offers grip, breed and length. A man’s Pinot that never disappoints and one of California’s most cherished iconic wines year in and year out.



Windy Oaks Estate Vineyards & Winery

These wines are from the 15-acre Schultze Family Vineyard located in Corralitos in the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA at 900 feet above Monterey Bay. The vineyard is farmed and the wines are vinified on site by the Schultze family. Since their beginnings in 1999, the winery has been a consistent performer with dedication to every detail of production: 100% gravity during harvest, crush, press and bottling. About half of the fermentation bins are done with indigenous yeast. All wines are unfiltered and unfined. The winery’s website has been updated and is now very informative (www.windyoaksestate.com).

2009 Windy Oaks Estate Proprietor’s Reserve Schultze Family Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir

13.9% alc., $60. Signature wine primarily from the 1.5-acre Bay Block of the original 3-acre vineyard. Unfined and unfiltered. Available only to Windy Oaks Wine Group members and at the tasting room. · Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Lovely perfume of fresh cherry pie filling, baking spices, compost and sandalwood. Light and elegant, gentle and calming, this wine offers flavors of red cherries, strawberries and spice balanced with ripe tannins and lively acidity. The cherry flavor holds on tight on the long finish. A little lighter in this vintage and needs more time in the cellar for the tannins to recede. Very good.

2009 Windy Oaks Estate Limited Release Wood Tank Fermented Schultze Family Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir

13.9% alc., $55. Fermented up to 8 weeks in 1-ton, open fermentation French oak tanks. · Medium garnet color in the glass. This wine has the type of nose that drives pinotphiles crazy. Effusive aromas of dark red cherries and berries, dark red rose petals and spice. Moderately rich dark red cherry and raspberry fruits accented with caramelized oak and spice. The tannins are a little more aggressive in this wine but they are not obtrusive and will moderate with time. I like this charming wine for its additional complimentary oak contributions including the exotic spice that marries with Pinot fruit so well. Rare to find an oak tank fermented Pinot Noir in California since it is more challenging to successfully vinify.

2009 Windy Oaks Estate Limited Release 100% Whole Cluster Schultze Family Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir

13.9% alc., $55. Available only to Windy Oaks Wine Group members and at the tasting room. · Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Brooding aromas of deep red cherries, dark berries, spice and oak vanillin. Middleweight flavors of darker red stone fruits and berries with a savory undertone. Soft and elegant with respectable length, showing firm tannins and a hint of stem. A little more open and appealing the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. Not as good as the bottle of this wine I reviewed earlier in the year. Good (+).

2008 Windy Oaks Estate Special Burgundy Clone Schultze Family Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir

14.3% alc., $75. Very limited. From a special half-acre section of the vineyard that is carefully hand-tended exclusively by Jim Schultze. The clone is a rarely propagated French Pinot Noir clone not available in the United States. Aged 27 months in 100% new French oak. Unfined and unfiltered. · Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. A very polished and sophisticated offering that reminds me of a Frédéric Mugnier wine from Chambolle-Musigny. Deep cherry and spice aromas and flavors that take on an extraordinary appeal over extended time, seemingly partnering with the glass. Comforting and silky with soft tannins and beautifully integrated oak. Very food friendly (try roast chicken). My wife was impressed and that is saying something. Still great the next day when we finished the bottle. Truly in a class by itself.



Wren Hop Vineyards

A small family winery run by partners James McDonough and his father, James McDonough, Sr.. The winemaker is Russell Bevan and Chris Walden of Hambrecht Vineyard Management is the vineyard manager and Virginia Lambrix is the viticulturist. Very appealing website and wine labels offering a first-class impression. The 2009 vintage wines were highly rated by the Wine Advocate. I found the wines in this vintage to be very bold expressions of Pinot Noir, rich and dense with very ripe fruit, and plenty of oak detailing. They may not be to my preference stylistically, but it is tough to argue dogma. It’s a little like complaining of a lover that he or she is too beautiful.

2010 Wren Hop Vineyards Stolen Crown Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.6% alc., pH 3.73, 75 cases, $62. Clones 667, 777 and 115. Aged 14 months in 100% new French oak barrels. · Dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Aromas of black grape juice, blackberry jam, cooked fruit and oak. Full-bodied, rich and dense with dark berry fruit, prodigious tannins including some oak tannins, notes of oak-driven dark caramel and anise in the background, finishing with a bit of heat. Decent.

2010 Wren Hop Vineyards Shriveled Hand Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.8% alc., pH 3.95, 50 cases, $62. Grapes sourced from Sun Chase Vineyard in the Petaluma Gap. Clone 777. Aged 14 months in 100% new French oak barrels. · Dark purple color in the glass. Aromas of dark mocha java with little fruit evident. Bigboned, with generous amounts of coffee-scented, sweet black cherry fruit wrapped in firm tannins. Promising fruit core which is buried in oak at present. Give this wine time in the cellar. Good.

2010 Wren Hop Vineyards The Fire Messenger Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.6% alc., pH 3.80, 100 cases, $62. Grapes sourced from Wren Hop and Gap’s Crown vineyards. Swan clone. Aged 11 months in 100% new French oak barrels. · Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. Appealing scents of black cherries, black raspberries and spice. A full mouth of luxurious black fruits with accents of cola and dark chocolate. This wine displays much better acidity and good integration of oak, and has a very seductive soft, velvety mouth feel. Very good for its style.

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