Sips of Recently Tasted Wines
Anaba (“anna-bah”) takes its name from the cool breezes called anabatic winds that frequently stream through
the estate vineyard in Sonoma during the warm summer months. These unique air currents make the vineyard
more temperate and slow down the ripening process. Proprietor John Sweazey sold his successful real estate
finance company in 2003 and launched Anaba Wines after buying a vineyard property in western Sonoma
Carneros. The Director of Winemaking and Vineyard Operations and General Manager is University of
California at Davis-trained Jennifer Marion. The winery offers Rhône and Burgundian varietals grown on the
estate vineyard, as well as wines from grapes sourced in other appellations. The tasting room is housed in a
converted farmhouse that stood on Anaba’s J McK Estate Vineyard property. Visit www.anabawines.com. An
interview with Jennifer Marion is on Grape Radio: www.graperadio.com/archives/2013/07/.
2011 Anaba Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., pH 3.48, TA 0.525, 518 cases, $34. Sourced from Sun
Chase Vineyard located on Sonoma Mountain in the Petaluma Wind Gap region of the Sonoma Coast. Clones
667, 777, “828,” and 114. Harvest Brix 23.2-25.1º. De-stemmed, 12% whole cluster, 4 to 6-day cold soak,
native fermentation, basket pressed, aged 11 months sur lie in 42% new French oak barrels.
reddish-purple color in the glass. Pleasant aromas of fresh cherries and spice. Juicy and bracing, with demure
flavors of cherry and cranberry with very subtle oak in the background. Fresh, forward and likable with
gossamer tannins and bracing acidity. A solid wine.
2011 Anaba Las Brisas Vineyard Carneros Pinot Noir
13.7% alc., pH 3.44, TA 0.54, 174 cases, $38. The
Las Brisas Vineyard is part of the Mahoney Estate and sits on the Sonoma side of the Carneros appellation. It
is named for the winds that drive morning fog away and bring in coolness in the late afternoon. Soils are
predominantly clay. Swan and 667 clones. Harvest Brix 23.2º. 85% de-stemmed, 15% whole cluster, 5-day
cold soak, native fermentation, basket pressed, aged 11 months sur lie in 33% new French oak barrels.
Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Aromas of dark cherry, oak and bark lead to a smoky black
cherry essence. On the light side and a bit flat, with silky tannins and a short finish. The oak tends to drown
out the delicate fruit in this vintage.
2011 Anaba Soberanes Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
alc., pH 3.52, TA 0.65, 142 cases, $48. Pisoni clone. Harvest Brix 25.1º. Destemmed
with 12% whole cluster, 4 to 6-day cold soak, native fermentation,
basket pressed, aged 11 months sur lie in 37% new French oak barrels.
Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Very ripe fruited with hi-tone
aromas of dark strawberries, muddled black cherries, raspberry jam and spice.
Delicious flavors echo the nose with an appealing earthy underpinning.
Impressive fruit presence with a balancing firm tannic backbone. The finish is
striking and returns in waves for encores.
2011 Anaba Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
14.0% alc., pH 3.45, TA 0.595, 432 cases, $28. Sourced
from Sun Chase and Denmark vineyards, both located in the Sonoma Coast. Clones are Wente,
RY17 and 95. Harvest Brix 22.8-24.0º. De-stemmed, 60% barrel fermented and 40% stainless steel
Moderate golden yellow color and clear in the glass. Very appealing nose offering fresh
scents of citrus, spiced pear, buttery brioche and flint. Tasty core of baked pear, peach, spice and
toffee flavors with a hint of salinity. Nicely balanced with bright acidity and a crisp, refreshing finish.
2011 Anaba Denmark Vineyard Wente Clone Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
14.1% alc., pH 3.54, TA 0.59, 240 cases, $35. 100%
Wente clone. Harvest Brix 23.3º. Whole cluster pressed, cold settled
for two days, 50% fermented in stainless vats, 40% in neutral French
oak barrels. 40% of the wine went through MLF. Aged 11 months sur
lie in 22% new French oak barrels.
Moderate golden yellow color and
clear in the glass. The nose alerts you to a serious wine, with a
perfume of ocean air, lemon curd and brioche. The lemon-based core
is accented with tastes of apple and marzipan. A wine of breeding that is refined
and sophisticated and possessive of a lip-smacking finish.
2012 Belle Glos Dairyman Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.8% alc., $44. This vineyard was
planted to Dijon clones 115, 667 and 777 in 1989 on the site of an old dairy farm and purchased by winemaker
Joseph Wagner in 2013. 100% de-stemmed, cold soak up to 2 weeks, proprietary yeast fermentation,
punchdowns and punch-overs, free-run juice only, aged in 60% new French oak barrels for 9 months. The
wine is typically racked twice during the aging process. The neck-dipped wax is appealing to look at, but the
bottle is a bitch to open.
Deep, dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Aromas of oak vanillin, cake shop and
marzipan with little fruit. Full-bodied, vanilla-infused flavors of dark berries, black plum and cassis with a heady
oak sheen. Bold and opulent, with balanced tannins. The wine is fruit-driven and hedonistic with little Pinot
character or site specificity.
2011 Champ de Rêves Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., pH 3.55, TA 0.57, $40. Sourced from the
estate Boone Ridge Vineyard perched on the hills 1,500 to 1,800 feet above the town of Boonville, first planted
in 2006. The 85-acre site is a patchwork of small blocks and seven clones. Clones 667, 777 and 115. !00%
de-stemmed with 70% whole berries in tank. 5 to 7-day cold soak, open tank fermentation. Aged 9 months in
29% new French oak barrels. No racking out of barrel until blending before bottling. Winemaker is Eric
Medium reddish-purple hue in the glass. Blackberry and blueberry fruits are featured on the nose
with hints of cut flowers and nutty, vanilla-infused oak. Medium to full-bodied flavors of ripe purple and black
fruits with toasty oak in the background. The refined tannins are well-matched and there is noticeably bright
acidity on the moderately long finish.
2011 Dutton-Goldfield Dutton Ranch-Emerald Ridge Vineyard Green Valley of Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., $63. This vineyard is located just outside the town of Graton and is planted in
Goldridge soil on an east-facing slope.
Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. Aromatically endowed with
scents of dark red and black berries and oak. Soft, smooth and tasty on the palate, featuring blackberry,
blueberry, savory dried herbs, and oak flavors caressed by supple tannins. Showing a touch more oak than I
prefer but displays a lovely demeanor and is tre Pinot.
2012 Domaine Drouhin Oregon Dundee Hills Pinot Noir
Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Quite aromatic
upon opening with scents of dark cherries, black raspberries, forest
floor and a hint of rose petal. Mid weight flavors of darker cherries,
raspberries and spice with a subtle oak sheen in the background. The
core is fruity rather than complex. Somewhat reticent upon opening
and a bit awkward. Big-boned and ripe for this bottling in this vintage and not
showing the elegance and finesse that this bottling is known for. When tasted
the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle, the wine was
much more expressive and together, with bright flavors of dark red berries
including strawberries, and cherries and spice. DDO wines have a history of admirable age ability and I would
be in no hurry to drink this wine which needs at least another year in the cellar. Available from the winery in
magnum and jeroboam formats.
2012 Kirkland Signature (Costco) Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., $12.99. Crafted by veteran
winemaker Anthony Austin. Cellared and bottled by DC Flynt MW Selections in Healdsburg.
purple color in the glass. Hi-tone aromas of Bing cherries, spice and raspberries with some new, sweet oak in
the background infusing the nose with mocha. Tasty mid to full-bodied flavors of dark cherries and raspberries
with a prominent oak sheen. Plush and velvety on the palate, finishing with more oak that I prefer. Very
Russian River Valley in character and highly approachable now. Will have wide appeal especially at this price
I have never had a bad bottle of Pinot Noir from La Crema and that pretty much sums it up. The prices have
crept up from around $20 to $40 over the past few years, but the quality justifies the price increase. Under the
Kendall-Jackson umbrella, La Crema has a large and diverse vineyard pallet to draw from in California.
2012 La Crema Panorama Vineyard Arroyo Seco Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., $40. A single vineyard bottling.
Aromas of dark berries, tea leaves, violets, and a hint of clove. Pleasing array of blackberry, ollaliberry and
plum fruit with a note of oak that is beautifully integrated. A very harmonious wine that delivers pleasure now
but has the balance to last another 6-7 years.
2012 La Crema Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., $40.
Moderately dark reddish-purple color in
the glass. Shy blackberry fruit is accented by spice and smoky oak on the nose. Full-bodied, with deep flavors
of black cherry, blackberry, black plum and cola. Atypical for the Russian River Valley in that it veers to the
purple and black fruit spectrum. Well-managed firm tannins give the wine muscle and the finish is broad and
generous. Seems a bit brooding at this stage and may blossom further with another year in bottle.
A newer Santa Barbara County producer of limited production Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir under
the direction of winemaker Kimberly Smith who was mentored by Wes Hagen of Clos Pepe. The first vintage
of La Montagne (“The Mountain”) was 2010.
2011 La Montagne Sierra Madre Vineyard Clone 667 Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., 75
cases, $48. Clone 667 planted in sandy loam soils in 1971 by Robert Mondavi. Aged 18 months in 25% new
and 75% neutral French oak barrels.
Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Aromas of dark stone fruits
and berries, spice and oak. The core of blackberry, black currant and black cherry fruit is juicy and flavorful,
but a green, vegetal streak, which could be oak-induced, runs beneath the surface and spoils the experience.
The tannins are well-mannered and their is some blackberry-driven finish with a flourish of oak. Tasted twice.
2011 La Montagne Huber Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
50 cases, $55. From an older vineyard first
planted in 1987. Clone 115. Aged 18 months in 50% new and 50% neutral French oak barrels.
reddish-purple color in the glass. The nose is aloof initially, offering little fruit. On the palate, the wine tastes of
tar and oily oak, with a modicum of dark berry flavor that is rather bland. The mouth feel is silky and the
tannins are well managed. Tasted the next day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle, the fruit still had
not shown up on the nose which exhibited aromas of dusty oak, stem and underbrush, and the flavor profile
had not changed. Tasted twice.
Pali Wine Co.
The following Cuvée Program wines are reasonably-priced, appellation-specific Pinot Noirs crafted by
winemaker Aaron Walker and consulting winemaker Kenneth Juhasz at the Pali Wine Co. winery in Lompoc.
These blends are crafted to show consistent style and flavor year after year.
2012 Pali “Huntington” Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., 9,218 cases, $22.50. Aged 10
months in 25% new French oak barrels. Sourced from 6 vineyards including Riverbench, Lucas & Lewellen,
Bentrock, Radian, Presq’uile and Pence Ranch.
Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. A very ripe,
exuberant wine displaying aromas of blackberry jam, plum, balsam and oak spice and full-bodied flavors of
black and purple fruits with a hint of raisin and oak. A pleasant, fruity wine with no special sense of place.
2012 Pali “Bluffs” Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 2,200 cases,
$22.50. Sourced from Windsor Oaks and Rockin ‘B vineyards. Aged 10 months
in 30% new French oak barrels.
Those nose offers aromas of black cherry,
baking spices and vanilla. Medium to full-bodied black cherry flavor with a hint
of spice. Very ripe fruit balanced by structured tannins, finishing with a sweet
2012 Pali “Summit” Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
14.6% alc., 2,434 cases, $29. Aged 10 months in 30% new
French oak barrels. Sourced from Bentrock, Radian, Fiddlestix, and Rancho La Vina vineyards.
Dark violet in
color in the glass. Nicely perfumed with aromas of black raspberry infusion, blackberry tart and spice. Bold
and assertive in a modern California style with decadent layers of sappy black raspberry and blackberry fruit.
Velvety on the palate with balanced tannins and some finishing intensity.
Patiné (pa-tee-nay) is a collaboration between Jim Fox, a former professional hockey player with the Los
Angeles Kings, Dean Nucich, and winemaker Mike Smith. The name means “to have skated” in French. Smith
mentored in the Napa Valley under noted winemaker Thomas Brown, and later founded his own label, Myriad
Cellars. His current client list is impressive. A single Pinot Noir is offered from Gap’s Crown Vineyard in the
Petaluma Gap region of the Sonoma Coast and sold through a mailing list at www.patinecellars.com. I believe
this is the inaugural offering.
2011 Patiné Gap’s Crown Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., $60. Clones 667 and “828.”
Moderately deep reddish-purple color in the glass. The wine continued to evolve in the glass over time to
reveal enticing aromas of black cherry, black raspberry and black plum accented with spice. Full-bodied, yet
harmonious in the mouth, with a luscious core of very ripe fruit, annotated by oak, finishing with generous
aplomb. Tasted six hours later from a previously opened bottle, the wine was still drinking nicely with an
appealingly smooth mouth feel. The fruit had become even darker, veering to black currant more than black
cherry. This wine does push the ripeness envelope presumably because of a heat spike before harvest. A bit of alcoholic heat peaks out over time. That
said, it is an enjoyable wine in the generous Caliesque style.
2011 Smith-Madrone Vineyards & Winery Spring Mountain District Napa Valley Chardonnay
14.2% alc., pH 3.30, TA 0.67, 463
cases, $30. Winemakers and winegrowers Charles and Stuart Smith.
A very cool growing season. From a dry-farmed 13-acre vineyard
planted in red and rocky volcanic soil. The vines are 39 years old.
100% barrel fermented in 100% new French oak barrels for 8
Moderate golden yellow color and clear in the glass. This
wine is about the soil and uniquely reflects the terroir. The nose is
replete with aromas of iron, paraffin, peach and citrus. Crisp and bright on the
palate, with layered flavors of lemon, green apple, spice, and iron. Beautifully
balanced with a remarkably long finish for a Chardonnay. This wine can be cellared for several years, but
drinks beautifully now.
Vineyard-designated Pinot Noir crafted by winemaker Andrew Berge using fruit sourced from Sonoma County,
Mendocino County and Yorkville Highlands. The winery has an impressive list of premium vineyards to draw
from and Berge has shown to be a very talented winemaker. The wines are sold through a mailing list and on
the website at www.spellestate.com.
2012 SPELL Nichole’s Blend Sonoma County Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., pH 3.70, TA 0.59, 902 cases, $39.
A blend of grapes from Lorenzo, Hurst, DeVoto, Marimar, Terre de Promissio and Alder Springs vineyards.
Aged in 25% new, 25% once used, and 50% older French oak barrels.
Moderate reddish-purple color in the
glass. Shy aromas of cherry cobbler, raspberry coulis and baking spices. Elegant in the mouth with tangy
acidity, featuring black cherry and raspberry flavors. Pleasant, with modest tannins and easy approachability.
Slow to open and may benefit from another 6 to 12 months in bottle.
2012 SPELL Terra de Promissio Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., pH
3.69, TA 0.60, 148 cases, $72. Clone 115. Aged in 40% new, 25% once used
and 35% older French oak barrels.
Moderately dark reddish-purple hue in the
glass. Very appealing nose with highly aromatic raspberry coulis scent.
Beguiling middleweight flavors of fresh, dark cherries and raspberries,
enveloped in submerged tannins, finishing long and generous with zippy acidity.
Highly satisfying and easy to drink now.
2012 SPELL Marimar Estate Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., pH 3.65, TA 0.61, 148 cases,
$72. Sourced from the Dona Margarita Vineyard located in Freestone. Pommard 4 and Dijon 115 clones.
Aged in 40% new, 25% once used and 35% older French oak barrels.
Moderately dark reddish-purple color in
the glass. Fresh aromas of raspberry tart, cherry glaze and spice. A polished wine with broad flavors of black
cherry and red raspberry with an earthy underpinning. The oak is nicely integrated and the tannins are modest
and focused. About the same the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. Seems to
need more patience.
2012 SPELL Weir Vineyard Yorkville Highlands Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., pH
3.68, TA 0.60, 194 cases, $50. Rochioli and “DRC” selection, Pommard and 2A
clones. Aged in 40% new, 25% once used and 35% older French oak barrels.
Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. The nose is initially closed for
business, emerging very reluctantly over time in the glass to reveal aromas of
Hoison sauce, soy and wet leaves. Mid weight core of luscious black raspberry
and plum fruit, supported by balanced tannins, finishing with a thrust of fresh
berry joy. When tasted the following day from a previously opened and recorked
bottle, the wine had opened up considerably, offering copious fruit and
spice aromas and flavors. This wine will require patience and understanding.
2012 SPELL Alder Springs Vineyard Mendocino Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., pH 3.75, TA 0.58, 149 cases, $50.
Dijon 459, 115, 667 and 777, Calera and “DRC” selections. Aged in 40% new, 25% once used and 35% older
French oak barrels.
Medium reddish-purple hue in the glass. Pleasant array of aromas including cherry, berry,
forest floor and oak spice. Discreetly concentrated but intensely flavored darker red berries and black plums
with an earthy bent. The wine offers a generous acid backbone and balanced firm, dry tannins with a smooth
texture. Very typical of this vineyard in my experience. About the same the following day from a previously
opened and re-corked bottle.