Small Sips of Pinot
J. Keverson Wines This is about four guys who got together often to play bocce ball and had so
much fun sharing food and wine afterwards that they started their own label. They began in a garage,
found out they could make pretty good wine and took it from there. The biggest challenge was finding
a name for their wines that wasn’t already taken. The result was J. Keverson, a figment of their imagination
representing a combination of all of their names - John Hazlewood (winemaker), Kevin Tompkins,
Scott Broome, and Eric Ulicny. Their first two releases, a 2005 Zinfandel and Sangiovese, were
medal winners. I was given a bottle of their 2006 Pinot Noir to taste while recently in Sebastopol.
2006 J. Keverson Labyrinth Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 210 cases, $38.
The wine leads off with sweet oak, blackberry
jam, a leafiness and a hint of alcohol. Blackberries, dark
cherries, tar, blood orange and vanilla carry the medium-weighted and noticeably oaked
flavors. The textural impression is soft and clean and the finish has
zingy acidity. I thought it was just decent, but my wife like it a lot.
J. Keverson website is www.jkeverson.com. The phone is 707-484-
3083. The Pinot Noir is not available on the website as yet but I am
assuming it will be released soon.
Martelletto Wines Greg Martelletto owns a wine distribution company based in San Diego.
Driven by his Italian wine heritage, he has started his boutique label, Martelletto Wines. He sent me a
bottle of his latest effort to sample and I was quite impressed. I should not have been surprised, however,
since he is a fellow Stanford alum and those guys are talented!
2005 Martelletto Gaia Vineyard Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir
14.6% alc.. Aged 17 months in French
Very appealing aromas of bright fresh red cherries with a complimentary touch of oak. Delicious
dark red stone fruits with a sidecar of Asian spice. Noticeable but dusty tannins and a protracted fruity
finish. The wine has an elegant bent which I like and avoids the ponderous and showy fruit that some
Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noirs exhibit. A very nice effort.
Martelletto Wines website is www.martelletto.com. Not much information as yet but check back. The
phone is 619-269-0874. Greg also leads tours to the Guadalupe Valley wine country in Baja. I visited
Baja not too long ago and I was pleasantly surprised by the high quality of wines emerging from this
region (no Pinot though as it is too warm).
Brown-Forman Wines Based in Louisville, Kentucky, Brown-Forman Wines sells 5.5 million cases
of wine annually. Most of the Pinot Noirs in the lineup fit into the “value” supermarket category and
will not appeal to hard-core Pinot geeks. The exceptions are the Sonoma-Cutrer Pinot Noirs which are
more high-end, limited release bottlings intended primarily for the restaurant market.
2004 Sonoma Cutrer Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., $40. Sourced from Sonoma Cutrer’s Vine
Hill Vineyard, Owsley Vineyard, Les Pierres Vineyard and The Cutrer Vineyard and include a “market
basket” of clones including Pommard, 667, 777 and 828. The wine is crafted with care typically given
to small lot boutique Pinot Noir producers. Terry Adams is the winemaker.
Vibrant wild berry fruit on
the nose with oak and green tea notes. Tasty cherry fruit enhanced with oak and herbs. Full in the mouth
with soft texture and refined acidity.
2005 Sonoma Cutrer Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., $40.
Oak and char dominate the aromas.
Rich dark fruit attack followed by oak and herbal notes that last to the clean finish. Still has some unresolved
tannins. More oak driven than the 2004 vintage.
2006 Gala Rouge Pinot Noir Vin De Pays D’OC
12.5%, $10. Vintage poster on the label which touts
the wine for bunco, poker and weddings.
Plenty of garnet color. Smoky dark fruits from start to finish
with very silky tannins. Soft, smooth and easy to drink with simple black fruit flavors. More Syrah than
Pinot in flavor and character (must be other red varietals added to this Pinot Noir). Very similar to the
Fetzer bottling but with less tannin.
2005 Fetzer Vineyards Valley Oaks Pinot Noir Vin De Pays D’OC
12.5% alc., $9. Pinot Noir grapes
are sourced from the Languedoc-Roussillon region. Dennis Martin is the winemaker.
(JuJu B’s) and violet aromas. Flavors of black raspberry, licorice, game and tar with plenty of tannin. A
hardy drink with substantial structure. Little resemblance to Pinot Noir.
2006 Jekel Vineyards Monterey County Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., $17. A more
serious bottling sourced primarily from Central Coast vineyards with a little
Sonoma Coast fruit added in. Fermented in stainless, MLF in barrel and aged in
French oak, 39% new or once-used barrels.
Initially the aromas are strongly herbal
and oakey but with air pleasing cherry fruit emerges and the oak fades to the background.
On the palate there is rich dark cherry fruit with a hint of spice, a touch of
cola, tea and oak and a fine herbal influence. Easy to drink, true to the varietal, and
a good value.
2006 Bolla Provincia Di Pavia Italy Pinot Noir
12.0% alc., 30,000 cases. 100%
Pinot Noir from northern Italy. Fermented in stainless steel and aged without oak. Imported by Brown-
Light in color. Confected red fruit (tutti-fruiti) on the nose. Thin , watered-down fruit with a bitter
and green edge.
2005 Michel Picard Bourgogne
12.5% alc., screw cap. Fermented and aged in stainless steel tanks.
One sniff and you know this is French with a tell-tale barnyard, gamey and Bretty aroma. Simple, light red
fruits with an iodine note and substantial tannins
Brown-Forman wines are widely distributed. The portfolio also includes Five Rivers Pinot Noir
sourced from Central Coast fruit . I recently sampled a current release and it was quite a good value
wine. A very limited amount of Sanctuary Pinot Noir is released by Fetzer’s winemaker, Dennis Martin.
Vino V WinesM Michael Meagher is one of the young turks crafting wine from vineyards in Santa
Barbara County. His first release in 2004 consisted of 200 cases. These are boutique wines crafted
with love. As Michael says, “All wines are truly made by hand employing only the laws of gravity (and
good beer) for moving and bottled by a group of friends and relatives.
2005 Vino V Solomon Hills Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 112 cases, $45. 18
months in barrel (20% new).
The aromas are a little funky and earthy with notes of wild red berries,
black cherry, hay, and oak. Soft red fruit and green tea flavors finish with tangy raspberry notes. Alcohol
peaks out on the nose and finish.
2005 Vino V Confundido Santa Barbara County
14.5% alc., 120 cases, $28. 80% Syrah and 20%
Dark ruby in color. Attractive scents of rich, dark fruits with cardamom and vanilla. A solid
fruit core with notes of anise and tar. A bit tangy and chippy on the finish. I am not usually a fan of blending
Pinot Noir with anything, but this is quite decent.
2004 Vino V White Hawk Vineyard Santa Barbara County Syrah
14.5% alc., 75 cases, $42. Released
last year but really reaching its stride now. Estrella River clone of Syrah. 21 months in barrel
Deep, dark purple. Plumy, dark stone fruits with oak and exotic spices on the pleasing nose.
Plush dark fruits with well-integrated oak and soft, drying tannins. A very nice black raspberry kiss on the
finish. The healthy acidic backbone is refreshing. I like this.
Vino V Wines website is www.vinovwines.com. The phone is 805-207-7426. The wines are available
on the website.
ZD Wines The founder of ZD wines, Norman deLeuze, passed away last October at the age of 75.
deLeuze was employed by Optical Coatings Laboratory in the 1960s when he formed a partnership
with another aerospace engineer to begin making wine commercially. By 1978, he was working at ZD
Wines in the Napa Valley full-time. He was an advocate of non-toxic treatment of diseases and had an
ongoing relationship with the University California Davis Oncology Department. ZD wines has a long
history of consistently excellent Pinot Noirs, Chardonnays and Cabernet
Sauvignons. The winery is still family run and Robert and Brandon
deLeuze carry on the winemaking duties with Chris Pisani.
2005 ZD Wines Carneros Reserve Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 950 cases, $50.. Sourced from the 7-acre deLeuze Family Vineyard in Carneros
planted entirely to the Hanzell clone.
A hearty and satisfying nose brimming
with dark fruits, toast and barnyard. Full-bodied mélange of dark
stone fruit preserves with plenty of oak and herbal influence. Nicely balanced
with a strong presence. I previous reviewed the regular bottling
which was quite good as well, but this is truly a reserve with more intensity
ZD Wines is located at 8383 Silverado Trail, Napa. The wines are distributed to fine wine retail stores
and are available on the website at www.zdwines.com. Tours of this 30,000 case per year winery are
by appointment at 707-433-1385. The tasting room is open daily from 10-4:30.