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Sips of Recently Tasted Wines

Anaba 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. · Moderately light 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. Score: 87

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. Score: 86

2011 Anaba Soberanes Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir

14.5% 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. Score: 92

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 fermented. · 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. Score: 90

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. Score: 92



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. Score: 86

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 Johannsen. · 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. Score: 88

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. Score: 89

2012 Domaine Drouhin Oregon Dundee Hills Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., $35. · 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. Score: 89

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. · Moderate reddish 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 point. Score: 87


La Crema

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., pH 3.68, TA 0.51, $40. Clones 667, 777, 23. A single estate vineyard bottling aged 9 months in 98% French oak, 28% new. · 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. Score: 91

2012 La Crema Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., pH 3.61, TA 0.54, $40. Clones are Martini, 667, 115, Pommard and 2A. 100% de-stemmed, 70% whole berries, 5-day cold soak, aged 9 months in 30% new French oak barrels. · 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. Score: 88


La Montagne

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. Score: 86

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. · Medium 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. Score: 84


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. Score: 86

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 cherry flourish. Score: 88

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. Score: 87


Patiné

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. Score: 89

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 months. · 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. Score: 93


SPELL Estate

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. Score: 87

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. Score: 90

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. Score: 90

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. Score: 91

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. Score: 89

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