Sips of Recently Tasted California Pinot Noir
I have quite a backlog of wine reviews to share with you so I am going to get into it without much commentary.
I can tell you that the Pinot Noir wines I have sampled from the 2012 vintage, in both California and Oregon,
are stunning. Pinotphiles have plenty to look forward among the 2012 releases in the coming year. Not only
are the wines superb, but they are plentiful. Even the inexpensive bottlings should be very good in 2012. One
of your New Year’s resolutions should be to stock your cellar with 2012 PInot Noir.
The quality of North American Pinot Noir is now at an all time high. If you are a pinotphile, you are lucky to be living in the
age of unrivaled excellence, whether you are primarily seeking wines priced under $35 that are relished for
their price value ratio, or collecting the ultrapremium gems where cost reflects the variety’s name: PINO (price
is no object).
2011 Anthill Farms Demuth Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
13.1% alc., $44. Demuth Vineyard is
located at 1,500 feet elevation above the town of Boonville and owned and farmed by Knez Winery.
Moderately light red in color. Aromas of strawberry, red cherry, clove spice and an imposing note of smoky oak.
Oak-kissed dark red strawberry and raspberry flavors on a mid weight frame, with a finish of modest length.
The delicate and juicy fruit is overwhelmed by the dark oak imprint.
2011 Anthill Farms Abbey Harris Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
13.4% alc., $48. Abbey Harris is a
2-acre vineyard located 1,100 feet above the town of Boonville and farmed by Dona Abbey and Dan Harris.
Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Aromas of red cherry, slate and bark. Middleweight flavors of dark
red cherry with an underpinning of humus and oak. Soft in the mouth with substantial tannins which tend to
wrestle with the fruit. Reasonably good cherry-driven finish. This wine doesn’t currently deliver a message, but
may surprise with more time in bottle.
2011 Anthill Farms Peters Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.7% alc., $40. This vineyard has been
farmed by Randy Peters for over 25 years.
Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. Aromas of Bing
cherries and spice lead to a rich, plush core of Bing cherry fruit with some blackberry and spice in the
background. Soft in the mouth with sinewy tannins and a good cut of acidity, with a finish which of noteworthy
2011 Anthill Farms Comptche Ridge Vineyard Mendocino County Pinot Noir
13.2% alc., $44. This vineyard is located a few miles from
the Mendocino coastline just north of the town of Navarro and is dryfarmed
by the Weir family.
Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass.
Enticing aromas of black cherry pie glaze, peat, potpourri, sea breeze
and a touch of oak. Delicious marriage of black cherry and blackberry
fruit with a compliment of spice and anise. A little earthiness grounds
the wine which really attracts your attention with impressive depth of flavor and
class. The tannins are nicely balanced, the acidity is harmonious, and the finish
is fruit-filled and generous. Extraordinary in this very cool vintage.
2011 Black Kite Kite’s Rest Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., pH 3.70,
TA 0.57, 953 cases, $45. Aged 11 months in 50% new French oak barrels.
Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. Nicely scented with aromas of
cherry, ripe strawberry and spice rub. Mid weight tasty cherry core with
undertones of strawberry and spice. Refined, elegant and on the lighter side in
this vintage. Appealing for its crisp, juicy presence and finish. Holds up nicely
over time in the glass.
2010 Black Kite Angel Hawk Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.9% alc., pH 3.50, TA 0.61, 114 cases, $80.
The best and most age worthy barrels from the 2010 vintage. Aged 20 months in 100% new French oak
Moderately dark reddish-purple robe in the glass. Complex and expressive nose featuring aromas of
black cherry, blackberry, anise, cardamom, wine cave and toasty oak. Much riper than the 2011 release, big
and rich but not overwrought, with juicy flavors of darker cherries and berries with inflections of cola, oak and
spice. Impressive mid palate concentration, structural backbone and finishing power. A luxurious wine that will
appeal to lovers of this hedonistic style of Pinot Noir. Because of the ripeness, a bit of heat shows up on the
2011 Black Kite Soberanes Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.6% alc., pH 3.70, TA 0.55, 273
cases, $55. Aged 11 months in 50% new French oak barrels.
Dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Muted
aromas of black fruits, cooked beets, and floral perfume. Extravagantly rich with intense flavors of black
raspberry, blackberry and black plum. A little earthy and beefy in character. Silky on the palate with balanced
dry tannins and modest length on the dry finish. Solid, but not exciting now, and should benefit from further
time in bottle.
The cold, foggy 2011 vintage produced some very appealing Dutton-Goldfield wines with aromatic brightness,
fresh acidity and good complexity. Winemaker Dan Goldfield marks 2013 as his 26th harvest and his
experience shows in the high quality of his 2011 vineyard-designated Pinot Noirs. It was Henri Jayer who said,
“Good wines are made in a great vintage, but great wines are made in a difficult vintage.” Dutton-Goldfield is
one of the most consistent producers currently crafting wine in California, and that includes all the different
varietals he offers. All the wines reviewed were impeccably crafted with harmony. The Pinot Noirs are crafted
with de-stemmed grapes, fermented in small open-top fermenters, and cold soaked for 5 to 7 days to gently
extract color, spice and fruit characters. Although the wines are approachable and even enjoyable now, they
will benefit greatly from a few years in the cellar. Eeny, meeny, miny, moe - pick any one, you can’t go wrong.
Deft winemaking here.
2011 Dutton-Goldfield Devil’s Gulch Vineyard Marin County Pinot Noir
13.2% alc., pH 3.52, TA 0.59, 217
cases, $58. Located in the far western reaches of Marin County, this vineyard is owned and farmed by Marin
County viticulture pioneer Mark Pasternak who has been ranching in Nicasio since the early 1970s. Dijon
clones are planted in a steep, terraced vineyard with shallow soils. Dijon clones.
Medium reddish-purple color
in the glass. Shy aromas of dark red and black fruits with a note of forest floor and cave cellar. Very tasty core
of purple fruits including plum and boysenberry, offering good depth and intensity on the mid palate, and
finishing long with a riff of electric and juicy red plum fruit. Needs some time in the cellar for the aromatics to
arrive and the fruit to maximize its charm.
2011 Dutton-Goldfield Azaya Ranch Vineyard Marin County Pinot Noir
13.5% alcl., pH 3.53, TA 0.60, 219
cases, $58. This vineyard is located in a cold, foggy valley in western Marin County. It was planted for the
McEvoy family by Mark Pasternak on an ideal south and west facing hillside in Hicks Valley. The 18-acres
contain clones 667, “828,” 115, 777 and 2A. This bottling has clone 667 and “828.” Aged 17 months in 50%
new French oak barrels.
Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Nicely perfumed with scents of
black raspberry, Hoison sauce and dried herbs. Very plush and polished on the palate, with magnetic flavors of
black cherry, black raspberry, plum and spice wrapped in fine-grain tannins and lively acidity. A marvelous wine
with a memorable finish displaying great grip. The velvety texture alone is reason to clap.
2011 Dutton-Goldfield Fox Den Vineyard Green Valley of Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., 383 cases, pH 3.56, TA 0.62, 383
cases, $58. This 8-acre vineyard is located at the far western edge of
the Green Valley on Stoetz Ridge. Low vigor soil and tiny crop. Clones
are 667, lesser amounts of 777 and a touch of 115. Aged 17 months in
50% new French oak barrels.
Medium garnet color in the glass. Terrific
nose that draws you into the glass with bright aromas of wild berries,
black cherries, tea leaf and spice. Super-delicious and captivating, with layers
of enticing flavors including black cherry, black raspberry, plum reduction sauce,
vanilla and spice. The depth of flavor really sets this wine apart. The oak is
complimentary, the mouth feel is creamy, and the lengthy finish offers a refreshing grip. A scintillating wine.
2011 Dutton-Goldfield Dutton Ranch - Freestone Hill Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., pH 3.57, TA 0.60, 503
cases, $72. This vineyard is located on a south-facing hillside above
the town of Freestone at the far southwestern edge of the Russian
River Valley only a few miles inland from Bodega Bay. A very cold
climate very suited to Dijon clones. Yields are low with tiny berries and
thick skins. Aged 17 months in 55% new French oak barrels.
reddish-purple hue in the glass. Shy, but very lovely aromas of wild berry
preserves, rose petals and spice. Delicious essence of blackberries and black
plums with a wonderful spice presence which makes itself more known over
time in the glass. An earthy, sous-bois underpinning adds interest. The svelte tannins are well balanced and
there is admirable length to the finish. Still young and somewhat closed, but clearly an extraordinary wine.
2011 Dutton-Goldfield McDougall Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.3% alc., 165 cases, $58 (wine
club only). This site is a south-facing ridge close to the coast owned by Mac, Barbara and Rich McDougall.
Planted in 1988 near Hirsch and Martinelli vineyards.
Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. Complex
nose offering aromas of dark red cherry, raspberry, iron-driven mineral, wild mint and redwood. On the palate,
the wine delivers a rush of dark red cherry fruit with a wild, feral character and accents of spice and conifer.
Very soft tannins make for easy drinking, and there is noticeable persistence on the cherry drop finish.
Definitely better over time in the glass.
Flowers Vineyard & Winery
2011 Flowers Camp Meeting Ridge Estate Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
12.8% alc., 300 cases,
$70. Estate grown and bottled. Blocks 2, 13-17. Swan, Pommard, 114, 115 and 2A clones. Planted at 1400
feet in schist and shale soils. Yields 1.67 tons per acre. 25% whole cluster fermentation in 2-ton wooden
fermenters. Aged 15 months in 25% new French oak barrels.
Moderately light reddish-purple color in the
glass. The aromas veer to the lean side with notes of red cherry, cranberry, dried green herbs, and toasty oak.
Light and delicate, even a bit austere, with demure flavors of red raspberry, red cherry, and strawberry. A green
thread runs through the background. A pleasant, lacy wine which is easy to drink but is lacking in fruit
2011 Flowers Camp Meeting Ridge Estate Vineyard Block 11 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
12.0% alc., 42
cases, $75. Estate grown and bottled. Calera clone planted in schist and shale soils. Yields 1.25 tons per
acre. 100% whole cluster
Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. The nose features dark red cherry and berry
fruits with a green vegetal scent in the background. Moderately rich dark red and purple fruits with a hint of
grilled Shitake mushroom and green herbs. The wine has bright underlying acidity and a rush of tannins on the
cherry flavored finish. The tannins were still daunting one and two days after opening a bottle. Give this wine
several years in the cellar for the tannins to soften and integrate, but I am afraid this will always be a tannic
wine and the whole cluster induced greenness will never fade completely.
2011 Flowers Camp Meeting Ridge Estate Vineyard Block 16 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
12.2% alc., 77 cases, $75. Estate grown and bottled.
Wädenswil 1A clone planted in schist and shale soils. Yield 2.43 tons per acre.
100% whole cluster fermented in new 2-ton wood fermenters. Aged 17 months
in one and two-year-old French oak barrels.
An intriguing wine with
considerable nuance. Aromas of wild berries, whole cluster spice, wet fur and a
little funky sous-bois. Welcome fullness on the palate with a very smooth mouth
feel. Middleweight flavors of dark red cherries and raspberries and an earthy
flora undertone are featured. The tannins are more tame in this wine which was
very supple in the mouth and highly flavorful two days after opening the bottle.
Hold this wine in your cellar for at least three years or decant a day ahead of time if you must drink it now.
2011 Flowers Sea View Ridge Estate Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.0% alc., 300 cases, $65.
Estate grown and bottled. Clones 777, “828,” 115, Pommard, Calera and Swan planted in schist, shale, basalt
and sandstone at 1400 to 1800 feet elevation. Yield 1.7 tons per acre. 10% whole cluster. Aged 15 months in
30% new French oak barrels.
Moderately light ruby red color in the glass. Very delicate but pleasant aromas
of black cherry syrup, rose petal and spice. Tasty mid weight mix of dark red cherries and berries, elegantly
composed with a welcome lift from lively mineral-driven acidity on the finish. Silky and soft in the mouth with
modest tannins. Very well crafted with admirable harmony and finishing grace.
2011 Fogline Vineyards Floodgate Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
13.7% alc., pH 3.42, TA 0.68,
195 cases, $38. Released April 2013. From an established and respected vineyard located just off River Road
in the Middle Reach of the Russian River Valley. Clones 667, 777, 115 and Pommard. Aged in 30% new
French oak barrels. A commercial strain of malolactic bacteria is used to produce low biogenic amines in the
Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. Very aromatic upon opening with bright aromas of
Bing cherry and spice. Oak tends to surface more prominently over time in the glass. The mid palate is lush
with deep red cherry and cola flavor and noticeable oak in the background. Fruit-driven with impressive
richness, this wine displays balanced firm tannins and a good cut of acidity on the finish which leaves some
oak in its wake.
2011 Fogline Vineyard Sun Chase Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., pH 3.30, TA 0.70, 195cases, $42. Released October 2012. This 40-
acre vineyard is situated at 900 to 1400 foot elevation on Sonoma Mountain in
the Petaluma Gap region of the Sonoma Coast. Clones 667 and 777.
Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Aromatically alive with dark
berry, spiced plum and wooded forest aromas. Well-endowed with prodigious
black cherry, black currant, blackberry and blueberry fruits typical of 667 and
777, accented with a touch of spice. The tannins are muscular but well matched
to the sappy fruit, and the lingering finish offers a pleasing riff of acidity.
Somewhat brooding at this stage, this wine will benefit from further cellaring.
Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery
2011 Gary Farrell Stiling Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., pH 3.37, TA 0.62, 266
cases, $50. Release date February 2014. Owners Don and Barbara Stiling converted a 48-acre apple orchard
to vineyards back in 1988. Goldridge soils, coastal fog intrusions. Field selection of Swan clone. Small crop
and delayed harvest. 100% de-stemmed, 5-day cold soak, aged 13 months in 40% new French oak barrels.
Racked and returned just once out of barrel before final blending and bottling.
Moderately light ruby red color
in the glass. Lovely aromas of Bing cherries, red roses and oak spice. An elegant wine that speaks of the cool
vintage with flavors of cherries, blueberries and plum with a hint of oak in the background. Silky and juicy with
lively acidity, picking up some intensity over time in the glass. Not a powerful wine by any stretch, but some
finishing vigor, very welcoming and easy to like.
2011 Gary Farrell Rochioli Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
alc., pH 3.55, TA 0.58, 294 cases, $70. Release date February 2014. Sourced
from several blocks in the 128-acre Rochioli Vineyard planted in 1974, 1995 and
2000. Very low crop size in this vintage due to delayed bud break and rain
during the peak of flowering. 100% de-stemmed, 5-day cold soak, aged 13
months in 40% new French oak barrels.
Medium reddish-purple color in the
glass. Nicely perfumed with aromas of ripe dark cherries, cola and a hint of
espresso. Light on its feet, even ephemeral in this vintage, with delicate flavors
of black cherry, sassafras, cola and spice. Some intensity on the dry finish, but
doesn’t deliver the punch that we have come to expect from this vineyard. Still,
it is a very classy wine that could pick up intensity over time in the bottle. Kudos to the winemaker for bringing
out the best the vineyard had to offer in this difficult vintage.
Gros Ventre Cellars
Chris and Sarah Pittenger launched the idea of this winery on the banks of the Gros Ventre River in Jackson
Hole, Wyoming, where they first met in 2003. Chris spent time as a sommelier and developed his winemaking
skills at Biale, Torbreck, Williams Selyem and Marcassin. Gros Ventre (gr!vant’) is French for big belly. Five
Pinot Noirs are produced from four vineyards with a total case production of about 700 cases in 2011. Native
fermentations, extended maceration, and no fining or filtering are the rule. Typically the wines spend 3-5 days
in cold soak, 2 weeks on the skins, with no extended maceration. They are aged 10 months on lees in 17% to
25% new French oak barrels except the First Born wine which spends 14 to 18 months in 33% to 50% new
French oak barrels. Whole cluster is dependent on vintage, clone, block and vineyard. In 2011, Chris held off
on whole cluster.
2011 Gros Ventre Cerise Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
13.4% alc., 176 cases, $48. Pommard 5
and Dijon 115. Aged 10 months in 20% new French oak barrels.
Moderate reddish-purple hue in the glass.
Aromas of cola, spice and smoky oak lead to a rich palate of plum and blackberry fruit robed in smoky,
tobacco-laced oak. Full-bodied, fruity and earthy with supportive tannins and well integrated acidity. Although
not particularly expressive now and showing too much oak sheen, this wine may integrate and surprise with
2011 Gros Ventre Campbell Ranch Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.8% alc., 110 cases, $54, sold
out. Inaugural release from this vineyard located in Annapolis and managed by Ulises Valdez. Clones 115 and
Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. The nose becomes more expressive over time in the
glass revealing aromas of dark berries, game, floral bouquet, and sweet mesquite smoke. Silky smooth on the
palate with flowery black cherry, plum and spice flavors in a full-bodied style. The tannins are nicely balanced
and the oak is well integrated. A slight vegetal undertone surfaces over time in the glass.
2011 Gros Ventre Baranoff Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., 97 cases, $48. This
vineyard is farmed by Paul Sloan of Small Vines. A 3-acre parcel located in the Laguna de Santa Rosa in
Sebastopol, the vineyard is planted to high-density 4’ x 4’ spacing of 7 clones. This wine is a blend of the 7
clones (Calera, Swan, 113, 115, 459, 667, 777). Unfined and unfiltered.
Medium reddish-purple color in the
glass. Nicely perfumed with aromas of black cherry liquor, cassis and bramble. Densely concentrated flavors
of black cherries, black raspberries and cola with a bit of smoky oak showing up in the background and on the
finish. Rather linear and bland now, the wine fails to reveal anything distinctive about its vineyard origins, but
clearly shows its Russian River Valley origins. Revisit in 6 to 12 months.
2011 Gros Ventre First Born Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., 155
cases, $58. A noticeable leap up in quality among the wines of this vintage. This
is the winery’s flagship cuvée which is a barrel selection of the best lots of the
vintage. This wine is dominated by fruit from a vineyard perched at 1,000 feet
above sea level along the true Sonoma Coast in the Fort Ross-Seaview AVA.
Moderate reddish-purple hue in the glass. Magnetic aromas of dark red fruits,
spice and seasoned oak. Discreetly concentrated black cherry, plum, cola, dried
herbs and toasty oak flavors wrapped in ripe, svelte tannins. Impressive
balance with noteworthy finishing length and intensity. Still young, but sends a
2011 LIOCO Klindt Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
alc., pH 3.85, TA 0.57, $50. This vineyard is located in the cooler deep
end of the Anderson Valley. Sandy clay loam soil with fractured rock.
Farmed by Bob and Claudia Klindt. Pommard, 115, 667 and 777 clones
co-fermented with wild yeast. 30% whole cluster. Harvest Brix 22.4º.
18-day fermentation, aged 16 months in 20% new French oak barrels.
Unfined and unfiltered.
The nose is exotic and intriguing, featuring
aromas of dark red cherries and berries including strawberries, dried rose petals
and Nutella spread. Two days later the wine had become even more aromatic,
taking on notes of grilled mushrooms with intense scents of spice and bright red
fruits. Flat-out delicious on the palate with layers of dark red cherry and berry flavors enhanced with a dollop of
exotic spice and toasty oak. The sweet, sappy mid palate attack is attention-grabbing and the finish is fruity
and generous. There is a firm backbone of tannin that should integrate with more time in the bottle. A special
offering that should age beautifully.
2011 LIOCO Hirsch Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.1% alc., pH 3.50, TA 0.64, $50. Mt. Eden,
Pommard and 114 clones planted in the early 1980s at 1100 to 1400 feet 3.5 miles from the coast on the
second ridge in calcerous seabed soils. Harvest Brix 22º. 40% whole cluster. 5-day cold soak, wild yeast
fermentation lasting 21 days. Aged 16 months in 20% new French oak barrels. Unfined and unfiltered.
Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Vigorous aromas of wild berries, balsam, forest floor and bark. Both
fruity and savory on the palate with a discreetly concentrated core of raspberry, strawberry and blueberry fruits
backed by firm tannins. Very silky on the palate with a delectable riff of berry fruit and herbal salad on the
2012 LIOCO Indica Mendocino County Rosé
12.0% alc., $17.95, screwcap. Sourced from a mid-century
planting of dry-farmed and head-pruned Carignan in Mendocino’s Redwood Valley. Soils are red clay
punctuated with fist-sized rocks. Berries were broke and whole cluster pressed to stainless steel tank.
Fermented cool and finished bone dry. Long, slow malolactic fermentation. Gentle filtration.
color and clear in the glass. Lovely aromas of strawberry, orange peel, rose water and yellow peach. Very
refreshing with crisp flavors of watermelon, strawberry, and Mexican lime. Light on its feet with cleansing
acidity on the finish which shows a lingering aroma of watermelon rind and lime juice. A superb domestic rosé
that, when chilled, is a perfect accompaniment to smoked salmon or shellfish.
Loring Wine Company
I haven’t tasted wines from siblings Brian and Kimberly Loring recently so it was a pleasant surprise to revisit
the latest offerings. These are bold, full-bodied expressions of Pinot Noir, but the oak is held in check and the
tannins are well managed. You will need your big boy pants on when drinking these wines. Both the fall and
spring releases were tasted here. We are tired of hearing the words “best ever” when talking about a winery’s
offerings, but there is no better way to put it in this case. The wines, which are very reasonably priced
considering their quality, are sold through a mailing list with some retail distribution. All the wines are 100% de-stemmed
and aged about 10 months in 33% new, 33% 1-year-old, and 33% 2-year-old French oak barrels.
The wines are bottled unfined and unfiltered.
2012 Loring Wine Company Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.8% alc., $32, screwcap.
color in the glass. Welcoming aromas of Bing cherry, spice and oak cask which tend to fade a bit over
time in the glass. Rich and juicy with plenty of sweet, sappy black cherry fruit accented with cola and peppery
spice. A fruit-driven wine with well-integrated tannins that aims to please.
2012 Loring Wine Company Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
14.8% alc., $32, screwcap.
Moderately dark reddish-purple
color in the glass. The nose veers to a very ripe and roasted fruit profile. The aromas include dark
berries, sarsaparilla, raisin, spice and bark. Very well-endowed with sappy, dark berry, black cherry and black
plum fruit with a hint of spice and dark chocolate. Despite its heft, the wine is polished with modest tannins.
Sta. Rita Hills really shined in 2012.
2012 Loring Wine Company Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Initially
brooding, the nose comes alive over time in the glass offering effusive aromas
of black berry and stone fruits, cardamom spice and a hint of toasty oak. Rich
and luscious on the palate offering an intensely flavored essence of
boysenberries with notes of black plums and other black fruits. The mouthfeel is
creamy and the tannins are beautifully integrated. The fruit is the star in this
wine, coating every nook and cranny in the mouth, and persisting with
uncommon intensity on the big finish. A tremendous value.
2012 Loring Wine Company Keefer Ranch Vineyard Green Valley of Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.9% alc., $50, screwcap.
Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Deep aromas of red cherries and
berries with hints of bramble, sandalwood and sous-bois. A tasty, moderately rich wine strutting an array of red
fruits accented with spice, red licorice and hazelnut. Very soft tannins and easy to drink, but brings a bit of heat
on the finish. Likable, but I believe this vineyard lends itself to earlier harvesting which can fully reveal the
crispness that the vineyard is known and revered for.
2012 Loring Wine Company Durell Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.8% alc., $50, screwcap.
Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Slow to evolve on the nose, but eventually very enticing with scents
of ollaliberry jam, black raspberries and baking spices. Full-bodied but streamlined, with a decadent core of
dark red berry fruits. Smooth and bright with well-proportioned tannin and a complimentary oak sheen. The
amazing finish is ridiculously long, returning over a minute for several encores. The longest finish of all the
Loring wines in this vintage.
2012 Loring Wine Company Clos Pepe Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
14.8% alc., $50, screwcap.
Moderately dark reddish-purple hue in the glass. This is the most seductive and elegant wine in the Loring
lineup for 2012. Aromatically enticing with deep aromas of ripe red cherries, sarsaparilla and sandalwood.
Very soft in the mouth with elegant tannins. A discreetly concentrated array of dark red fruits quite is pure and
vivid. The fruit veers to the ripe side but never crosses over to the dark side.
2012 Loring Wine Company Cargassachi Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
14.7% alc., $50, screwcap.
Dark reddish-purple color in
the glass. Alluring perfume of fresh blackberry tart, currants and earthy
flora. A killer on the palate with massive concentration of deep purple
and black berry fruits (but not jammy), with a subtle underlying earthy,
animale character. The tannins are reigned in and balanced, and the
striking finish grabs hold and won’t let go. An unabashed,
unapologetic, hedonistic wine of uncommon flamboyance. The expression of
earthiness in this vineyard sets it apart. A great vintage for Cargassachi Vineyard.
2012 Loring Wine Company Rosella’s Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.9% alc., $50,
Dark reddish-purple hue in the glass. An intoxicating nose reveals exotic spices and fresh red and
black berries, becoming more appealing over time in the glass. A big, rich pussycat of a wine with a sappy
core of spiced black cherry, blueberry, and dark raspberry fruits. The tannins are well-matched and the finish,
which throws a bit of heat, is powerful and generous. A big wine for this vineyard which is usually the most
feminine of the Pisoni-Franscioni assembly of vineyards.
2012 Loring Wine Company Garys’ Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.8% alc., $50,
Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Very ripe fruited with aromas of black cherries,
plums, and oak-driven vanilla and smoke. Rich, plush and decadent flavors of vanilla-infused black cherry cola
with a touch of oak sheen. Highly approachable, with modest tannins and some finishing presence that leaves
some oak in its wake. Very good for this style.
2012 Loring Wine Company Russell Family Vineyard Paso Robles Pinot Noir
14.9% alc., $50, screwcap.
Very dark purple color in the glass. Aromas of black raspberry, black currant, tar, cigar box and clay loam.
Full-bodied with a load of very ripe, dark berry fruit. Big, big, big, almost syrupy with a velvety presence and a
charge of oak on the finish. A brute of a Pinot Noir that lacks appeal.
2012 Loring Wine Company Aubaine Vineyard San Luis Obispo County Pinot Noir
14.7% alc., $50, screwcap.
Dark reddish-purple hue in the glass.
Well-spiced black raspberry aromas hinting of whole cluster. Delicious and
hedonistic, with full-bodied flavors of dark berries, black cherries, exotic spices
and mocha. A huge wine that still has some grip and lift and is appealing for its
tamed tannins and balanced composure.
Patz & Hall
2011 Patz & Hall Hyde Vineyard Carneros Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., 650 cases, $65. Patz & Hall have worked
with the fruit from this iconic vineyard since 1996. Several sections of the vineyard are planted exclusively for
Patz & Hall including older plantings of the Hyde-Calera selection. Yields of only 1.5 tons per acre. Wild and
cultured yeast fermentation aged in 65% new Burgundian French oak barrels. Bottled without fining or
Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Reluctant aromas of black cherry, dark berry, loam and
bramble. Very smooth and velvety on the palate with moderately rich flavors of dark berries and plum, finishing
with a touch of green herbs. The texture is very appealing but the flavors are not in a generous mode at this
time. More refined than the Sonoma Coast bottling but more closed now. Revisit in 2 to 3 years.
2012 Patz & Hall Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., $46. 25th vintage.
Released September 2013. The core of fruit for this wine is from Gap’s Crown
Vineyard. Grapes are also sourced from Dutton Ranch, the Martinelli family,
Charlie Chenoweth and Steve Hill. Wild and cultured yeast, aged in 42% new
Burgundian French oak barrels, bottled without fining or filtration.
dark reddish-purple hue in the glass. Vibrant aromas of raspberry and
blackberry, spice and rose petal leap out of the glass, becoming more intense
over time in the glass. Deeply flavored on the palate with an earth-kissed array
of dark fruits, encased in muscular, but not harsh tannins. A consistently
dependable bottling that delivers every year, especially in this phenomenal
2011 Three Sticks Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.6% alc., pH 3.58, TA 0.65, 206 cases, $60. Released
September 2013. Aged 14 months in 50% new French oak barrels. $60.
Medium reddish-purple color in the
glass. Dark red cherry and berry aromas and flavors are featured in this wine with a marked oak vanillin
accent. Modest in weight with fine-grain tannins, a soft mouth feel and admirable balance. Oak hovers over
2011 Three Sticks “The James” Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
14.6% alc., pH
3.64, TA 0.67, 163 cases, $60. Released September 2013. Sourced from
Burning Creek and La Riconada vineyards. Aged 14 months in 67% new French
Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Lovely black
cherry and dark raspberry fruit highlight the nose that shows a marked oak
presence. Delicious core of dark raspberry fruit, intensely flavored and nicely
spiced. Oak also stands out on the palate. Balanced tannins and bright acidity
are well matched to the fruit.
Tin Barn Vineyards
Tin Barn is a specialist in single vineyard wines from Sonoma County. The name of the winery derives from Tin
Barn Road that winds along the remote Sonoma Coast to the source of the debut wine, and the fact that the
winery is housed in a “tin barn” warehouse in rural Sonoma. The winemaker and co-owner is Michael
Lancaster, a graduate of the University of California at Davis enology program. He acquired winemaking
experience at Quail Ridge Cellars and Gloria Ferrer Champagne Cellars before forming a partnership with
friends and launching Tin Barn Vineyards in 2000 in a collective known as Eighth Street Wineries in Sonoma.
2011 Tin Barn Ricci Vineyard Carneros Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., pH 3.85, TA
0.38, 161 cases, $34. Released September 2013. This family owned vineyard is
located on a south facing slope facing San Pablo Bay in a cook foggy area. 66%
777, 34% Pommard. Aged 14 months in 30% new French oak barrels.
Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Persistent aromas of black
cherry, spice, dark chocolate and sweet smoke fill the glass. Very tasty core of
black cherry and black raspberry fruits with accents of cola and brown spice
including cinnamon. Oak highlights add a welcoming tone. Very uplifting and
juicy despite the lower acidity. I liked this wine the more I tasted it. The wine
definitely has a Carneros imprint with its darker fruit and earthy, mushroom tone.
This very small producer in the town of Fulton in Sonoma County was launched by “two kids,” Sara Vaughn
and Matt Duffy,who “didn’t really know any better.” Vaughn started out as a harvest intern at Siduri and then
spent three years working at the Vinify custom crush facility. The label was launched in 2009 when the couple
bought a ton of Pinot Noir grapes. Their first commercial wine was released from the 2011 vintage coinciding
with the birth of their first child. The label is eye-catching.
2012 Vaughn-Duffy Suacci Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
59 cases, $34.
Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Nicely appointed
nose with deep aromas of dark cherries and berries and baking spices.
Middleweight flavors of boysenberry and plum with a touch of spice and tarry
oak. Velvety smooth in the mouth with restrained tannins and a short, but
agree with Denise that the WesMar wines in this vintage are more feminine with lower alcohols and higher
acidity levels. She says these wines will take a little longer to harmonize and will age well in bottle. The
percentage of whole cluster was not increased so my perception of more whole cluster spice in these wines is
a reflection of the vintage. No wine was produced from Hellenthal Vineyard in 2011 since picking was not an
option before the rains because sugars were too low and the grapes picked after the rains did not make the
cut. WesMar wines can now be ordered on the winery’s website so I won’t have anything to nag Denise about.
2011 WesMar Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.0.% alc., $37. A blend of the three vineyard sources in
Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Gorgeous aromatics featuring bright scents of
blueberries, pomegranate juice, cherry, and whole cluster spice. The flavors echo the nose with plenty of Asian
5-spice compliment. The tannins are balanced and the finish has a good grip of refreshing acidity. A bit
unusual for Russian River Valley in that the fruit veers to blueberries rather than black cherries, but spice lovers
will relish this wine.
2011 WesMar Salzgeber Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., $42.
scents of black cherry, blueberry and exotic whole cluster spice. A gentle wine that is soft and velvety on the
palate, offering modest fine-grain tannins and good supporting acidity. Reasonably good depth of dark red
cherry and blueberry flavor with a welcome touch of spice. Needs time.
2011 WesMar Oehlman Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
13.2% alc., $40.
color in the glass. Hi-tone aromas of cherry, spice, BBQ sauce, sweet tobacco and grass you smoke.
Delicious and bombastic on the palate with a luscious core of red cherry, strawberry, plum, hay and pumpkin
spice flavors. Juicy, crisp and silky in the mouth with supple tannins, lively acidity, and an intense cherry-flavored
finish. A flamboyant sucker that leads with a cherry theme.
2011 WesMar Balletto Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
13.8% alc., $40.
Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass.
Intriguing aromas of black cherry, black raspberry, plum, dark rose petal
and whole cluster spice. Discreetly concentrated flavors of darker
cherries and berries and black plum which are long in the mouth.
Substantial structural bones match up to the fruit nicely. Very satisfying,
with a dramatic, drawn-out, Hollywood finish. The most tannin, the
most concentration of fruit, and the biggest finish in the 2011 WesMar lineup, yet
not as big a wine as the previous two vintages. I always seem partial to this
Pommard clone offering.
These wines received big scores from the Wine Enthusiast but I felt they were very good to outstanding but not
2010 W.H. Smith Maritime Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., 382 cases, $54. A blend of several
vineyards representing the best offering from the vintage. Aged 10 months in 100% new French oak barrels.
Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Aromas of cherry, toasty oak, sandalwood and campfire.
Luscious oak-kissed red cherry core wrapped in sinewy, balanced tannins. Plenty of current drinking appeal
with some finishing persistence. I am not a big fan of oak, but I could see how some might love the marriage of
oak and fruit in this wine.
2010 W.H. Smith Marimar Estate Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., $48. Sourced from Marimar Torres’ organic, 12-acre Dona
Margarita Vineyard. Located only 6 miles from the Pacific Ocean between the
towns of Freestone and Occidental in Western Sonoma County. High-density
planting of 2,340 vines per acre. Clones are Pommard 667 and 115. Aged 9
months in 100% new French oak barrels.
Medium reddish-purple color in the
glass. The nose offers an array of red cherry and berry aromas with a little
funkiness and earthy flora scent which reminds me why I love Pinot Noir.
Smooth and elegant on the palate with nothing out of place. Mid weight flavors
of dark red cherries and raspberries with a hint of peppery spice and
complimentary oak. The tannins are reserved, the acidity is supportive and the wine is drinking beautifully now.
This wine has the best integration of oak of the three wines tasted here.
2010 W.H. Smith Hellenthal Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., 226 cases, $48. This vineyard
is owned and farmed by Gard and Lori Hellenthal and lies only 5 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean. Clones
are Pommard and 777. Extreme growing conditions were challenging in 2010. Aged 9 months in new and
used French oak barrels.
Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Shy aromas of cherry, cranberry
and smoky oak. Gentle and light in weight in this vintage, with delicate flavors of spiced cherry, red berries and
oak-driven toast and smoke. Welcoming finesse with less tannin presence in this vintage and some finishing
length. The wine showed more oak presence the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle.
The Williams Selyem wines in 2011 are not big and lush, but very forward and easy to drink with supple tannins
and plenty of sneaky charm.
2011 Williams Selyem Rochioli Riverblock Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
13.8% alc., $79.
reddish-purple hue in the glass. This wine veers to the ripe side with aromas of blackberry, black currant and
spice, and flavors of darker cherry, berry, plum and tobacco-laced oak. Very easy to drink with a silky texture
and gossamer tannins. Well-crafted with impeccable balance, but lacks some flavor intensity and inspiration. This vineyard performs best when the grapes reach full, very ripe maturity, but did not apparently in this cool vintage.
2011 Williams Selyem Eastside Road Neighbors Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
13.7% alc., $52.
Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Aromas of dark red berries, bramble, green herbs, geranium
and earth. Medium weight flavors of dark red and black berries and silky smooth in the mouth with soft
tannins. A little green, earthy flora riff is evident in the background. Noticeable finishing length.
2011 Williams Selyem Calegari Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
13.7% alc., $55.
dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Elevating aromas of Bing cherry, spice, toasted brioche and woodshed.
Strikingly soft and ephemeral on the palate with juicy flavors of black cherry, cola and spice. Modest in
concentration, with very supple tannins, and a pleasing finish of some length. Plenty of Pinot singing in this
2011 Williams Selyem Foss Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
13.9% a;c., $55. This vineyard is located on Westside Road just
north of Williams Selyem.
Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the
glass. Dreamy nose that draws you into the glass with aromas of spiced
Bing cherry, cola and dark red rose petals. Ambrosial flavors of black
cherry, red and black raspberry and spice on a moderately rich frame
with supple tannins and a silky, raspberry-infused finish of considerable
persistence. Beautifully balanced and extremely soft and smooth on the palate.
Quintessential Russian River Valley character but with a lighter, immensely
appealing light footprint reflective of this vintage.
2011 Williams Selyem Ferrington Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., $65.
reddish-purple hue in the glass. This captivating wine really requires study to reveal all its many nuances.
Aromas of blackberry, ollaliberry, spice box and toasty oak. Flavors are complex and varied, including earthy
dark berries, tar, spice box including cinnamon, fennel, and seasoned oak. Sappy, with a noticeable mid palate
grip and tenacity, and a long finish. Beautifully balanced for long term aging.
2011 Williams Selyem Burt Williams’ Morning Dew Ranch Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., $75.
reddish-purple color in the glass. The nose is filled with hi-tone
strawberry, cherry and baking spice aromas. Vivid and flamboyant on
the palate with discreetly concentrated and sappy flavors of dark red
cherries and berries and a hint of spiced purple plum. An enchanting
wine with a velvety mouth feel, balanced tannins, bright acidity,
welcoming finesse, and an extremely long and intense finish that will leave you
saying, “Oh man!” In my opinion, Williams Selyem’s best Pinot Noir. Burt’s
legacy lives on in his vineyard.
2011 Williams Selyem Hirsch Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., $75.
color in the glass. Shy but pleasing aromas of black cherry, spice and brioche picking up intensity and interest
over time in the glass. A plethora of sweet, mouth coating black cherry and plum fruit is balanced by a good
grip of acidity and muscular tannins. Plenty of cherry goodness on the generous, soprano finish. Inviting
potential here, but this wine needs more time in the cellar.
2011 Williams Selyem Weir Vineyard Yorkville Highlands Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., $58.
robe. Very shy nose with demure aromas of cherries and berries and a hint of spicy oak. Modest in
weight but flavorful, with tastes of black cherry, black raspberry, dark chocolate and cola. The tannins are
reigned-in and there is a delightful vein of underlying acidity bringing the wine to life. The finish is crisp and
refreshing. Currently, the aromatics are lagging the flavors, but there is potential down the road.
Windy Oaks Estate Vineyards & Winery
2010 Windy Oaks Estate Limited Release Wood Tank Fermented Schultze Family Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., $55. Estate grown, produced and bottled unfined and unfiltered. Fermented
up to 8 weeks in French oak, one-ton, open fermentation tanks.
Moderately light reddish-purple color in the
glass. The nose is both complex and interesting, offering aromas of cherry, baking spice, mocha, and graham.
Crisp on the mid palate with vigorous flavors of black cherry, black raspberry, and toasty oak, finishing with a
long and juicy, oak-kissed cherry riff. Easy to like now.
2010 Windy Oaks Estate Limited Release Wild Yeast Schultze Family Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., $55 (wine club and tasting room only). Estate grown, produced and bottled unfined
Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. The nose draws you in with aromas of dark red
cherry pie glaze, baking spices including nutmeg, graham, black oak and dried rose petals. An earthy wine
with plentiful dark red cherry and berry flavor and a complimentary oak and leesy accent. Very well crafted
with a silky presence and some finishing aplomb.
2010 Windy Oaks Estate Proprietor’s Reserve Schultze Family Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., $60 (wine club or tasting room
only). The winery’s signature wine, primarily sourced from the 1.5-acre Bay
Block of the original 3-acre planting.
Moderately light reddish-purple color in the
glass. Dark red cherries and berries and spice are featured on the precocious
nose. Delicious core of mid weight dark red Bing cherry, blueberry and
blackberry flavors accented with well-integrated oak-driven notes of vanilla and
dark chocolate. More concentration and richness in this bottling, with more
spirit, and a grand cru finish of extraordinary length.
Still more Pinot
2010 B.R. Cohn Winery Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.6% alc., pH 3.60, TA 0.63, 2,400 cases, $40.
44% Lera’s and 56% Dutton vineyards. Clones 667, 777 and Pommard, average age 12 to 17 years. Whole
berry and whole cluster fermentation with natural and inoculated yeasts. Aged 19 months in 64% new and 36%
1-year-old French oak barrels from several cooperages. Previously reviewed 9/29/13.
hue in the glass. Aromatically alive with scents of strawberry preserve, cherry, vanilla and haunting oak. Mid
weight flavors of ripe strawberry, black cherry, cola, mocha and sassafras with some toasty oak in the
background. Very Caliesque in style with full-on extraction and generous oak treatment. The fruit is well
balanced by firm tannins, the mouth feel is velvety, and the wine finishes with good intensity albeit showing a
hint of heat.
2007 D’Alphonso-Curran Sanford & Benedict Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
14.6% alc., $55 (sold out at the winery, available discounted at retail). The
partners have nearly 50 years of combined winemaking experience who prefer
to age their wines before release. This is their current offering! 100% destemmed,
4-day cold soak before inoculation, macerated 23 days, aged in 100%
new French oak barrels for 56 months before bottling.
color in the glass. The nose shows an aged bouquet with notes of cherry pit,
root beer, cherrywood, old closet and leather. Ripe mid weight cherry and red
berry flavors with hints of baking spice, tea, and dried herbs. Easy drinking with
soft, yet firm tannins and a dry, drawn-out finish. An extended barrel aged wine
that will appeal to fans of aged Pinot Noir.
2011 Cutruzzola Vineyards Gloria San Luis Obispo County Pinot Noir
13.2% alc., p;H 3.75, TA 0.63, 38 cases, $N/A. The Cutruzzola Riven Rock Vineyard is
located 7 miles east of the town of Cambria on California’s Central Coast. 5 acres are planted to Pinot Noir
including Pommard 5, 667, “828,” 115 and 23. Aged 10 months in 60% French oak barrels and 40% in stainless steel.
Moderately light red color in the glass. Welcoming aromas of
red cherry, sandalwood and a hint of new oak. Elegant and supple on the palate, with modestly intense flavors
of fresh red cherries and a hint of wood tar and spice in the background. The tannins are silky and the acidity
adds enough verve for refreshing drinking. A very feminine, pleasing offering that is cozy and approachable.
2011 Husch Nash Mill Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., 26 cases, $38. A 4-acre vineyard
located in the hills above Husch. The vineyard takes its name from the history of logging at the site. Jim Barr
planted the 4-acre hillside vineyard in 2003 after adding a total of 150 tons of crushed limestone. 3 Dijon
Moderately light reddish color in the glass. Aromas of red cherries swamped by oak. A very demure
Pinot Noir with gentle flavors of red cherries and berries and oak under tow. A subtle green note is detectable
in the background. The tannins threaten to drown the shallow fruit. The more I taste this wine, the less I like it
although it retains some sneaky charm.
2011 Kutch McDougall Ranch Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.6% alc., 345
cases, $55. This vineyard is located 3.5 miles inland from the coast at 935 to
1,030 feet elevation. Clones are 114 and 115. Vine age is 15 years. Farmed by
noted vineyardist Ulises Valdez. Hirsch Vineyard is on the next southern ridge.
50% whole cluster. Aged sur lie for 10 months in 50% new French oak barrels.
Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Vibrant aromas of black
cherries and whole cluster floral spice. Delicious core of well-ripened black
cherries with complimentary spice and a very subtle green thread in the
background, finishing with depth of fruit, juicy acidity and a rush of dry tannins.
When tasted the following day from a previous opened and re-corked bottle, the
wine had dramatically transformed. The wine had really come together, the green thread had disappeared,
and the tannins had softened considerably. This will be a very enticing wine for whole cluster fans. I
recommend aging this wine at least 2 to 3 years.
2012 Laetitia Estate Arroyo Grande Valley Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., $25. The Laetitia Estate Vineyard is a
coastal terrace 3 miles from the ocean. Soils are rocky clay loam with a volcanic ocean floor parent material.
A blend of 10 clones including 113, 115, 459, 667, 777, “828,” Pommard 5, 2A, Martini 13 and Mt. Eden. Aged
in 30% new and 70% neutral French oak barrels for 11 months. Estate grown, produced and bottled.
Moderate reddish-purple hue in the glass. Aromas of black cherry, plum, boysenberry, white pepper and spice
box lead to a light weight core of fruit mimicking the aromas, with hints of spice, mocha and smoky oak. Mild
tannins and very approachable, finishing on a light, fruity note.
2011 Pisoni Pisoni Estate Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
Moderately dark reddish-purple hue in the glass. Complex nose exhibiting
an array of aromas including blackberries, spice, leather Prada coat, cigar box
and smoky oak. Very approachable with modest tannins in this vintage offering
well-endowed but not imposing flavors of black stone and berry fruits, with
touches of spice, exotic dark chocolate, tobacco and oak. The fruit is simply
gorgeous and perfectly ripened, and the pleasing finish is very generous. Still
young and showing a shadow of oak which should integrate over time. A
California treasure that is truly unique.