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Sips of Recently Tasted California Wines

The wines from Bailiwick in 2011 are all well-crafted, but overall lack the extraction, intensity and excitement of the previous vintage. I believe they will pick up more weight and interest with another year or two in bottle. Winemaker Paul Vais told me they have been able to significantly lower their prices in this vintage due to an increase in production efficiencies. Visit www.bailiwickwines.com.

2011 Bailiwick Borderline Marin County Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., pH 3.71, TA 0.64, 225 cases, $28. Sourced from Kendric and Chileno Valley vineyards which lie along the southern edge of the Petaluma Gap. Clones 777 and 667. 100% de-stemmed, post-fermentation maceration for several weeks, aged 8 months in 36% new French oak barrels. · Moderately light reddish color in the glass. Aromas of oak-dusted cherries and black tea flow from the glass and hold up over time. Upfront, crisp and pleasant with flavors of cherry, red licorice and tarry oak. Score: 87

2011 Bailiwick Foray Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

14.4% alc., pH 3.65, TA 0.63, 75 cases, $28. Sourced from Roma’s Vineyard, located at 1800 feet elevation east of the town of Boonville. Pommard clone, yields 2 tons per acre. 100% de-stemmed, inoculated yeast fermentation, two week post-fermentation maceration, aged 16 months in 33% new French oak barrels. · Moderately light reddish color in the glass. Very reserved on the nose offering demure aromas of cherry and strawberry. Rather primary and nondescript initially with delicate flavors of red cherries and berries. Tasted the next day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle, the wine offered more fruit flavor with pleasing hints of sandalwood and gingerbread, but the wine remained lean and somewhat dilute. Hopefully, the wine will put on weight with more time in bottle. Score: 86

2011 Bailiwick Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.6% alc., 700 cases, pH 3.68, TA 0.58, $28. Sourced from four highly regarded vineyards (RLR, Moore Ranch, Dutton-Lorenzo, and Hurst). Clones 113, 114, 115, 667, 777 and Pommard. 100% de-stemmed, several week post-fermentation maceration, aged 17 months in 37% new French oak barrels. · Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Aromas of fresh Bing cherries, baking spices and sandalwood spring from the glass. Delicious mid weight black cherry core that is thoroughly satisfying. Impressive structure and power for this vintage, yet displaying welcoming finesse. The finish is noticeably powerful and lingering. Score: 90

2011 Bailiwick Londer Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., pH 3.78, TA 0.57, 200 cases, $38. Clones 115 and 777 from this vineyard located 3.5 miles northwest of Philo. 33% whole cluster. Post-fermentation maceration for several weeks and aging for 17 months in 37% new French oak barrels. · Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Shy, but pleasant aromas of black cherry and dried rose petals with a whiff of oak and clay. Middleweight flavors of juicy cherries and raspberries caressed by mildly chiseled tannins, finishing with some aromatic persistence. A solid, well-composed wine that currently doesn’t emote, but should improve with more time in the cellar. Score: 88

2011 Bailiwick Silver Pines Vineyard Sonoma Mountain Pinot Noir

13.7% alc., pH 3.72, TA 0.64, 125 cases, $38. This vineyard is situated at 900 feet elevation overlooking nearby Bennett Valley on the northwestern flank of Sonoma Mountain. Planted in 2000 by owners Norm and Carole Silverman. The vineyard benefits from the maritime influence of the Petaluma Gap. 100% de-stemmed, macerated on the skins for several weeks post fermentation, and aged 17 months in 40% new French oak barrels. · Moderately light reddish-purple hue in the glass. Reserved nose offering scents of red berries, dried rose petals and oak spice. Light weighted, even lean, and elegant, with flavors of spiced red cherries and berries backed by juicy acidity, finishing with a tangy citrus-imbued cherry note. A little more expressive the following day when tasted from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. Could pick up intensity over time in bottle. Score: 88

2011 Bailiwick Michaud Vineyard Chalone Monterey County Pinot Noir

13.7% alc., pH 3.66, TA 0.65, 100 cases, $38. Sourced from a unique vineyard located at 1600 feet elevation at the front door of the Pinnacles National Monument. This vineyard is one of the only places where decomposed granite and limestone are present at the surface. Noted winemaker and vineyardist Michael Michaud tends the vineyard. Clones 115, 667, 777 and Swan. 100% de-stemmed, macerated on the skins for several weeks post-fermentation, and aged 17 months in 45% new French oak barrels. · Moderately light reddishpurple color in the glass. Haunting aromas of dark cherries and clove spice. Tasty core of well-spiced strawberry and cherry fruits. Light in weight but flavorful, with a modestly firm tannic backbone and a pleasing finish. Score: 89

2011 Banshee Marine Layer Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

13.7% alc., 100 cases, $45. A blend from four sources. Aged 15 months in 20% new French oak barrels. · Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. This is a perfect example of the challenge of reviewing Pinot Noir. After opening, the wine was good but not great, but when tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle, the wine had become considerably more expressive and nuanced. The bright fruit aromas of Bing cherry, blueberry and spicy red raspberry combined with a hint of red rose petals is very enticing. Modest in concentration but big on flavor, the wine shows off a juicy core of dark red cherries and berries caressed by soft tannins. The underlying acidity brings vibrancy to the palate and finish. A refined wine with style and grace. Score: 90

2012 Belle Glos Clark & Telephone Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir

14.6% alc., $44. Own-rooted Martini clone planted in 1972. Aged 9 months in 60% new French oak barrels. · Dark, deep violet color in the glass. This wine is oak vanillin-infused through and through. Moderately rich and plush flavors of candied plum, blackberry, black raspberry, exotic chocolate and spice are framed by good acidity and caressing, velvety tannins. Seductively soft and smooth on the palate, the wine finishes with a persistent wealth of fruit and a touch of heat. Score: 87

2011 Cambria Estate Winery Bench Break Vineyard Estate Grown and Bottled Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., pH 3.54, TA 0.60, 703 cases, $34. Sourced from four blocks that represent a structured fruit expression in contrast to the feminine qualities of the Julia’s Pinot Noir. Clones 667, 2A, 4, 23 and 115. Aged 10 months in 50% new French oak barrels. · Moderately dark reddish-purple robe in the glass. Aromas of oak-kissed black cherry, spice, new leather, anise, sweet smoke and ash. The full-bodied core of black cherry and blackberry fruit makes a statement on the mid palate and hangs on through a generous, long finish. The tannins are fine-grain and reserved and the mouth feel is quite smooth. The dark fruit is impressive, but is currently saddled with too much oak. The wine showed better the following day from a previously opened and re-tasted bottle. I would give this wine another year to allow the oak to better integrate. Score: 89

2011 Cambria Estate Winery Bench Break Vineyard Estate Grown and Bottled Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay

14.5% alc., pH 3.57, TA 0.65, 648 cases, $32. The Bench Break Chardonnay vines were planted in 1971 and a solo bottling first appeared in 1999. Clone is old vine clone 4. Aged 12 months sur lies with twice weekly stirring in 100% new French oak barrels. · Light golden yellow color and clear in the glass. The nose is appealing with scents of apple, citrus, straw bale, hazelnuts and brown butter. Slightly creamy on the palate with crisp, moderately rich flavors of lemon tart, green apple, lime zest, spice and vanilla. Score: 90

2011 Castalia Rochioli Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., pH 3.55, 300 cases, $55. I have been a long time fan of the Castalia Pinot Noirs produced from Rochioli Vineyard fruit by winemaker Terry Bering, the cellarmaster at Rochioli. This wine is 50% Rochioli River Block fruit and 50% from a 20-year-old block of Rochioli West Block selection planted in another vineyard on Westside and Rochioli Estate wine. Aged 15 months in 20% new French oak barrels. Terry told me his wines need time to evolve and I found this to be the case. I first tasted the wine last February and thought it was very good but not extraordinary then. My recent tasting found the wine had blossomed into something very special and it is certain to be one of my 2013 All-Americans. · Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Alluring aromas of Bing cherries, strawberries, spice and musk which literally jump out of the glass over time. The flavor of cherry syrup caresses the palate with complimentary notes of spice and vanilla. The classy, lush fruit is perfectly buffered by ripe tannins and brought to life by bright acidity. The lengthy finish is simply gorgeous. Quintessential Russian River Valley richness, yet sleek, balanced and refined. Score: 96

The four 2011 Davis Family Vineyards Pinot Noirs were released at the beginning of October (including the Russian River Valley bottling which is not reviewed here). The wines took Gold Medals at the prestigious 2013 Sonoma County Harvest Wine Competition. After a 5-7 day cold soak, gentle punch downs were done over a 3-4 week fermentation in small, temperature controlled, open-top fermenters. All wines were fermented with native yeast and spent 14 months in tight grain selections of French oak of which 30% were new, 30% were 1- year-old and 30% were 2-year old. Most of the wine has been allocated to wine club members (who receive discounts and free shipping on the first six bottles), but you may still snag a bottle or two by contacting Annie Rambo at the winery (707-569-0171) or visiting www.daviswines.com.

2011 Davis Family Vineyards Horseshoe Bend Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., $50. This vineyard is situated on a ridge top at the crown of the sub region of the Russian River Valley known as Occcidental Ridge on the extreme western edge of the appellation. Elevation of the vineyard is about 1,200 feet, keeping it above the fog line on most days. This location enjoys much lower overall temperatures due to the coastal influence, yet has full sun exposure throughout the day. The result is small, concentrated clusters and dark rich color in every vintage. · Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. Very fragrant and intoxicating upon opening with aromas of black cherries, spice, red licorice and oak. Deeply flavored black cherry core with accents of toasted oak, clove and cardamom spice and an earthy undertone. The chiseled tannins provide structural balance, the acidity is well integrated, and the juicy finish has notable intensity and persistence. Score: 91

2011 Davis Family Vineyards Starr Ridge Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., $50. This 20-year-old vineyard sits on the eastern edge of the Middle Reach sub region of the Russian River Valley. Soils are ancient Franciscan series, heavier decomposed volcanic rock and clays rich in iron. The site benefits from a combination of its warmer Middle Reach location and cooler east facing exposure. · Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Complex array of aromas including cherry, red berry, shoe leather and oak spice. Delicious essence of black cherry fruit in a modestly concentrated yet flavorful wine embellished with a welcome oak accent. Very smooth on the palate with supple tannins and a finish that goes on and on. I find I am consistently attracted to wines made from this vineyard. Score: 92

2011 Davis Family Vineyards Soul Patch Estate Grown Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., $50. A barrel selection from the Estate Vineyard. A combination of Pommard, 777, 667 and 115 planted in 1996. Farming has always been organic. The vineyard is in the sub region of the Russian River Valley known as Laguna Ridge featuring Goldridge series soils containing a high amount of volcanic ash. · Moderately dark reddish-purple hue in the glass. Initially this wine is quite reserved and takes some coaxing in the glass to bring it into the open. Enticing aromas of Bing cherry, red berry, fruit cake, spice and sandalwood. Bold and intense with a meaty core of black cherry, black raspberry and blueberry fruits backed by complimentary oak. The luscious fruit is pulled into line with fine tannins and acidity. The finish deserves special mention as it is extraordinarily long and intense. The wine was much better the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. In fact, it was so tasty you could nibble at it. Decant if you must drink now, but the wine will benefit from a few years in the cellar. It’s wines like this that make Pinot my paramour. Score: 94

2010 Dierberg Estate Grown Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir

14.0% alc., pH 3.52, $44. Dierberg Vineyard is planted with 11 different Pinot Noir clones. Brix at harvest was 25º. Aged in 33% new French oak barrels for 18 months and bottled unfined and unfiltered. · Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Aromas and flavors of black cherry, black raspberry, black currant, spice, tea leaf and oak-driven accents of tobacco, toast and herbs. The tannins are well managed, the mouth feel is smooth and comforting, and the finish is clean and uplifting. A slight green pepper background note was evident in this wine. Score: 87

2011 Dierberg Estate Grown Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay

13.5% alc. pH 3.15, $32. The Dierberg Vineyard is situated on a sandy loam mesa above the South Bank of the Santa Maria River in the near-extreme Western part of the Santa Maria Valley AVA. This cool site combined with the sandy, marine-based soils, creates Chardonnay with high acidity. Brix at harvest was 24.5º. No skin contact. Primary fermentation was carried out in 400 liter barrels of which 25% were new. Less than 10% of the wine went through malolactic fermentation. The wine was age 10 months, racked from its lees, blended, lightly fined, unfiltered and bottled after harvest. · Light golden yellow color and clear in the glass. The nose is appealing with scents of apple, lemon, brown butter, nuts and straw bale. Smooth on the palate with very agreeable crisp flavors of lemon tart, green apple, and lime zest. There is a definite oak imprint which adds to the complexity. Score: 89

2011 Domaine De La Côte Estate Bloom’s Field Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir

12.5% alc., 360 cases, $55. The vineyard is 7.5 acres planted to three California heritage selections of Pinot Noir (Mount Eden, Swan and Calera). The name comes from the planting date of the vineyard which was Bloom’s Day (6/16/07). The clay topsoil is rich in iron and well-drained. The Pacific Ocean is 8 miles to the West so it is a cold microclimate. Typically, the clusters are very small with high levels of acidity. 90% whole cluster. Unfined and unfiltered. · Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. This wine has the exotic perfume that can only come from whole cluster with waves of dark red and black berries, imported spices, and a floral whiff complimented by sweet oak. A delicious wine that makes you sit up and take notice of the plethora of plum, blueberry, black raspberry and pomegranate fruit supported by broad-shouldered tannins and bright acidity. Amazing sense of concentration despite the low alcohol level. The exhilarating finish seems to linger for half a minute. Even more enjoyable the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. Score: 92

2011 Dunstan Durell Vineyard Sonoma Coast Chardonnay

13.3% alc., pH 3.50, TA 0.80, 318 cases, $45. Sourced from the Durell Vineyard 8.5-acre Ranch House Block planted in 2005 with 3.5-acres of old Wente selection with the balance to 5 different clones of Pinot Noir. 50% whole cluster and 50% destemmed old Wente Chardonnay aged 14 months in French oak barrels. Malolactic fermentation was inhibited at the end of primary fermentation. · Medium golden yellow color and clear in the glass. Very lovely nose offering effusive aromas of lemon, brioche, vanilla and spice. Beautifully composed and balanced with appealing flavors of lemon, baked apple, banana and oak spice offering good richness of flavor. The overall impression is one of freshness and crispness with a finish that is outright lip-smacking. Score: 93

2010 Jeff Gordon Cellars Leo Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., pH 3.60, TA 0.62, 124 cases, $56. Jeff and Ingrid Gordon dedicate this wine to their son Leo Benjamin, born in August of 2010. Jeff is a four-time NASCAR Cup Series Champion and long time wine enthusiast. Sourced from Cummings Vineyard just west of Santa Rosa and Archer Vineyard just west of Windsor. Aged 9 months in 30% new and 70% 2- and 3-year-old French oak barrels. Unfined and unfiltered. · Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. The inviting aromatics feature aromas of blueberry, red plum, ripe strawberry, pine sap, spice and oak vanillin. Quite flavorful and easy to drink with a middleweight core of strawberry, cherry and blueberry fruits backed by juicy acidity and buffered by fine-grain tannins. Score: 89

2010 Highflyer Wines Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay

14.7% alc., 550 cases, $28. Sourced from lowyielding vines at Sierra Madre Vineyard located near the western edge of the Santa Maria Valley appellation. Winemaker and “pilot” is Craig Becker. Previously reviewed in April 2012 (that bottle showed better). · Moderate golden yellow color and clear in the glass. Aromas of lemon tart, buttered popcorn, lychee and haystack lead to flavors of lemon curd, banana, lychee, nuts and creamy pastry. Easy to drink with a slightly creamy texture and a refreshing cut of lemony acidity on the finish. Score: 86

2012 Santa Arcangeli Family Wines Split Rail Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains Rosé of Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., pH 3.61, 50 cases, $25. A combination of David Bruce selection and UCD 32 (a traditional sparkling wine clone) from a vineyard in the southern part of the Santa Cruz Mountains known as Corralitos. Grapes were specifically selected for this wine (not a saignée), 100% de-stemmed, pressed off the skins after 24 hours. Fermented in neutral Ermitage oak barrels with indigenous and inoculated yeasts. Aged 7 months on the lees with monthly battonage. Racked once, cold stabilized and filtered for clarity at bottling. · Moderately deep pinkish-red color and clear in the glass. The nose offers the fresh scent of strawberry, rose petal, bark and nutty oak. The flavors of strawberry, cherry, red currant and oak spice are satisfying and persist on the dry finish which has a bite of acidity and a hint of heat. Score: 86

2012 Sante Arcangeli Family Reserve Split Rail Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir

14.1% alc.,pH 3.65, 75 cases, $40. David Bruce selection, UCD 23 (Roederer) clone and Pommard. Harvested at 23.5º Brix. 20% whole cluster. Fermented, cellared and bottled separately from other lots. 20% whole cluster. Aged on the lees 10 months in 60% new French oak barrels. Unfiltered. · Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Inviting array of aromas including cherry, cranberry, potpourri, oak spice and cinnamon. A gentle, ethereal styled wine with enough cherry, sassafras and spice to satisfy. There is significant palate presence of oak but it is hard to complain about this polished, well-perfumed offering. Score: 90

2012 Shoofly Yarra Valley Victoria Australia Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., pH 3.60, TA 0.59, $14 (retail but available for as little as $9.99), screw cap. Imported by Old Bridge Cellars, Napa, CA. This winery was founded in 2003 and is led by noted Australian winemaker Ben Riggs. 50% whole cluster. Aged 11 months in second-use oak barrels. · Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Nicely perfumed initially with black cherries, dark raspberries and spice. Over time, the dark fruit recedes and oak comes to the forefront. The moderately intense flavors echo the aromas with modest smoky, tobacco oak highlights, and the appealing concentration is backed by crisp acidity. Very easy to drink, literally slipping off the back of the palate. A ridiculous value. Score: 88

2011 Stomping Girl Hyde Vineyard Carneros Chardonnay

13.8% alc., pH 3.50, TA 0.60, 150cases, $40. First established in 1981, Hyde Vineyard is widely acclaimed. It is planted on gently rolling hills and cooled by wind and fog from nearby San Pablo Bay. The soils is well-drained ancient creek beds of clay loam and rocks. Clones are Wente Hyde Field selection and Robert Young hand harvested at 22.2º Brix just before the October rains. Whole cluster pressed, barrel fermented sur lie with regular stirring, 100% MLF, aged 11 months in 15% new French oak barrels and bottled unfined and unfiltered. · Mild yellow blonde color in the glass. The aromas of nectarine, lemon, Fuji apple and hazelnuts draw you into the glass. A very polished and sophisticated wine offering refined flavors of lemon, pineapple, green apple, and brine with a pleasing kiss of lemon on the finish. The wine’s underlying bright acidity supplies plenty of vibrancy. This wine has a Burgundian soul and reminds me of a William Fevre Les Clos Chablis Grand Cru that I recently drank. Score: 94

2011 Varner Spring Ridge Vineyard Three Blocks Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir

14.6% alc., $40. · Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. There is some herbal and tobacco laced oak at play in this wine which features aromas of black cherry, spice, forest floor and smoke with mid weight flavors of black cherry, black raspberry, black currant, pepper and spice. A harmonious wine with modest tannins and energetic acidity, finishing with a welcome burst of aromatic cherry goodness. Even better later in the day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. Score: 91

2011 Walt Blue Jay Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

15.2% alc., 1,875 cases, $40. Sourced from Hein, Savoy, Anderson Creek and other vineyards. Native yeast fermentation, unfined and unfiltered. · Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. Lavishly perfumed with aromas of black raspberry jam, pepper, spice and oak with a very slight funky barnyard note. On the palate the wine is juicy and forward with flavors of dark red and black raspberries, black cherries, baking spices and seasoned oak. A discreetly concentrated offering with some finishing power. Score: 87

2011 Walt La Brisa Sonoma County Pinot Noir

14.8% alc., 1,051 cases, $40. La Brisa is Spanish for “The Breeze.” Sourced from multiple vineyards throughout the Russian River Valley including Widdoes, Martinelli, Gregori, and the Gap’s Crown in the Sonoma Coast. Native yeast fermentation, unfined and unfiltered. · Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Delicate aromas and flavors of Bing cherry, red berries and oak. Relatively light in weight but charming with soft tannins and some finishing length. A solid if not inspiring wine that displays plenty of oak imprint. Score: 88

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