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Recent California Winery Visits & Tastings

Inman Family Winery, Russian River Valley

Kathleen Inman, CoProprietor & Winemaker


2012 Inman Family Winery Russian River Valley Chardonnay

11.6% alc., $35, screwcap. Primarily sourced from Pratt’s Cornerstone Ranch. Native yeast fermentation. Dijon clones vinified 40% in oak and 60% in stainless steel for 11 months. 100% Malolactic fermentation. · Pale golden yellow color. Bright and crisp, driven by lemon-lime aromas and flavors, with only hints of oak contributions. Score: 89

2013 Inman Family Winery Endless Crush Russian River Valley Rosé of Pinot Noir

12.5% alc., pH 3.50, TA 0.62,1,237 cases, $25, screwcap. Composed of 85% estate fruit. Picked early from rows designated for Rosé production. Cold fermented in stainless steel. · Light pink color in the glass. Aromas of fresh strawberries, watermelon and cherries are echoed on the dry palate which is bright and refreshing. Kathleen calls this very popular wine, “Chef’s helper,” because of its versatility at the table. Score: 91

2011 Inman Family Winery Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

600 cases. Bottled for the Stanford Alumni wine program. A blend of OGV and Thorn Ridge vineyards. · Moderately light reddish purple color in the glass. Very crisp, smooth and easy to like, with vivid flavors of red cherry, cola and spice wrapped in supportive tannins. Score: 89

2011 Inman Family Winery Thorn Ridge Ranch Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

13.8% alc., $68, screwcap. 100% de-stemmed. · Moderately light reddish purple color in the glass. Invigorating aromatics of Bing cherry and spice. Soft and smooth on the mid palate with vivacious flavors of dark cherry, strawberry and raspberry with a hint of herbs in the background. Some tannins surface on the finish. Score: 89

2011 Inman Family Winery Olivet Grange Vineyard (OGV) Estate Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., 550 cases, $68, screwcap. 75% whole cluster. · Moderately light reddish purple hue in the glass. Very deep cherry-infused nose with a little savory, earthy highlight. The luscious core of fresh cherry fruit is framed in fine-grain tannins, leading to a very long and mighty finish. A subtle savory and spice note from the whole cluster gives the wine character. Score: 91

2010 Inman Family Winery Olivet Grange Vineyard (OGV) Estate Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

12.5% alc., pH 3.61, TA 0.55, 308 cases (40 cases left), $68, screwcap. Clones 114, 115, 667, 777 and “828.” 50% whole cluster fermentation. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Hi-tone scents of Bing cherry, baking spices, savory herbs and sandalwood. More savory and herbal than the 2011 vintage which is more fruit driven. Very elegant and smooth, with a delicious array of red cherry and berry fruits that offer good intensity on the mid palate and length on the broad finish. Score: 92

2009 Inman Family Winery Olivet Grange Vineyard (OGV) Estate Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

13.4% alc., $68. 4-day cold soak, 20% whole cluster native fermentation, aged 10 months sur lie in French oak. · Moderately light reddish purple color in the glass. Aromas of fresh Bing cherries, raspberry, and baking spice leap from the glass and persist over time. Great overall harmony, with a charge of delicious cherry and berry fruits accented with spice. The tannins are noble, and the fruitdriven finish is uncommonly persistent. Score: 93

2012 Inman Family Winery Russian River Valley Endless Crush Sparkling Brut Rosé

12.0% alc., pH 3.0, TA 0.81, 309 cases, $56. Disgorged March 14, 2014, released April 2014. Very slight dosage (1%). 100% OGV Estate fruit. · Light pink color with a good bead in the glass. Highly aromatic featuring aromas of fresh-picked strawberries, red cherries and peach. A special wine that offers intense strawberry and cherry flavor which embraces the mid palate and returns in waves on the dry finish. Score: 93

Inman Family Wines is open for tasting Thursday through Monday at 3900 Piner Road in Santa Rosa, CA. There is a charming farmhouse adjacent the winery available for rent. The website is www.inmanfamilywines.com.


Lynmar Estate, Russian River Valley

Shane Finley, Winemaker


Note: Some 2012 wines were vinified by Bibiana Gonzalez Rave (BGR), along with consulting winemaker Paul Hobbs. Rave left Lynmar in 2012. Some wines were vinified with both Rave and the current winemaker, Shane Finley (SF), and some were produced by Finley only. (The initials BGR and SF indicate the winemaker(s) for each wine)

2012 Lynmar Estate Russian River Valley Chardonnay

14.2% alc., pH 3.39, TA 0.74, 843 cases, $30. BGR & SF. A blend of about 50% Quail Hill Estate (40-year-old Rued clone) and Sweeney vineyards (29-year-old Wente 4 clone), with a small amount from Zio Tony Vineyard (Dijon 76 and 95). Aged 15 months in 32% new French oak barrels. · Light gold color and clear in the glass. Aromas of lemon curd, butterscotch, pineapple, green apple, baked pear and spice are echoed on the silky palate. Easy to like, with refreshing acidity, and complimentary oak highlights. Score: 89

2012 Lynmar Estate Quail Hill Vineyard Russian River Valley Chardonnay

14.1% alc., pH 3.35, TA 0.76, 623 cases, $55. BGR & SF. Primarily Rued clone. Aged 15 months in 40% new French oak barrels. · Light golden yellow color and clear in the glass. A step up from the solid Russian River Valley bottling with more flesh, intensity and finish. Aromas of lemon curd, baked pear and white peach lead to a very smooth palate of baked apple and pear fruits accented with honey and caramel. Score: 91

2012 Lynmar Estate Quail Hill Vineyard Old Wente Russian River Valley Chardonnay

14.2% alc., $55. SF. · Light golden yellow hue and clear in the glass. Nicely perfumed with scents of lemon and honeycomb. A little more buttery and oaky, but not overbearing, with notes of caramel and honey augmenting the core of baked pear and citrus fruits. Very polished and soft on the finish. Score: 92

2012 Lynmar Estate La Serenité Russian River Valley Chardonnay

14.1% alc., pH 3.35, TA 0.76, 245 cases, $70. BGR. 50% Quail Hill Estate and 50% Suzanne’s Vineyard, old Wente clone. Aged 15 months in neutral French oak barrels. · Pale gold color and clear in the glass. Elevating aromas of lemon curd, pear, butter brickle and apple. A little reserved on the palate with flavors of yellow and green apple and lemon, backed by bracing acidity. A subtle herbal note brings up the finish. A tad bit tight and could benefit from more cellaring. Score: 92

2012 Lynmar Estate Susanna’s Vineyard Russian River Valley Chardonnay

14.4% alc., $55. Old Wente clone. · Light gold color and clear in the glass. The aromas of spiced apple and honey are enchanting. Very crisp in the mouth, like biting into a cold, fresh apple. Some ancillary flavors include lemon and crème brûlée. A refined, sophisticated wine that finishes with grace and a spark of lemony goodness. My favorite Lynmar Chardonnay in this vintage. Score: 93

2012 Lynmar Estate Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., pH 3.64, TA 0.63, 1,510 cases, $40. SF. Aged 10 months in 23% new French oak barrels. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Aromatically alive with scents of cherry, baking spices and oak. Mid weight flavors of cherry, sassafras, spice and cola with complimentary oak highlights. Slightly creamy in the mouth with a juicy finish. Score: 89

2012 Lynmar Estate Quail Hill Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., pH 3.67, TA 0.61, 2,360 cases, $60. Available as a Collector Edition Magnum also. SF. A blend of 14 clones from the entire estate vineyard. Aged 10 months in 37% new French oak barrels. · Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. Deep aromas of fresh Bing cherry and baking spice. Mid weight flavors of dark cherry, cola and sarsasparilla with a touch of oak in the background. The tannins are suave and noble, and the finish is outfitted nicely with generous black cherry and black raspberry fruits. Score: 92

2012 Lynmar Estate Old Vines Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.3% alc., pH 3.65, TA 0.60, 301 cases, $70. SF. Swan selection from a 1971-1972 planting of 2+ acres. · Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. I loved this wine! Enticing aromas of cherry, raspberry, spice and cola lead to a full-bodied entourage of fruit flavors including black cherry, dark berry, plum, cola and rhubarb. Layers of pleasure with nuances showing up with each sip. The tannins are still a little firm and grippy in this young wine which will benefit from cellaring. The finish is spectacular, with a velvety array of fruits fanning out in peacock fashion. A glorious old vine offering. Score: 95

2012 Lynmar Estate Quail Hill Vineyard Summit Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.6% alc., pH 3.67, TA 0.58, 283 cases, $70. 20% whole cluster fermentation. Sourced from a specific block in the estate vineyard planted to Calera selection in the mid-2000s. Aged 15 months in 50% new French oak barrels. · Moderately dark reddish purple hue in the glass. Copious black raspberry and cherry fruits show up on the nose and palate, accented with seasoned oak, spices and a touch of herbs. Still young, but giving, finishing long and mighty with firm tannins. Score: 92

2012 Lynmar Estate Quail Hill Vineyard Block 10 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.8% alc., $70. SF. Equal amounts of clones 667 and 777. 25% whole cluster fermentation. · Moderately dark reddish purple hue in the glass. Demure aromas of black cherry and sweet oak. Bright, redder fruits on the palate are backed by subtle, toasty oak, finishing long with plenty of cherry goodness. Good overall harmony without a notable personality at this early stage. Score: 90

2012 Lynmar Estate Quail Hill Vineyard Lynn’s Blend Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.3% alc., $70. SF. Mt Eden clone and “828.” 20% whole cluster fermentation. Aged 15 months in French oak barrels. · Dark reddish purple color in the glass. The nose draws you attention with aromas of black raspberry, plum, spice and graham. Plenty of plush fruit that is well sustained on the mid palate, offering tastes of black raspberry, blackberry and black plum with a hint of anise. Noticeable sinewy tannins and a sweetly fruited finish of numbing concentration. Score: 92

2012 Lynmar Estate Quail Hill Vineyard Bliss Block Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., $70. SF. A massale selection of organically farmed fruit (? Dijon and Pommard). 10% whole cluster fermentation. Aged in 55% new French oak barrels. · Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. The fruit is remarkably expressive in this wine but not overwrought. The aromas and flavors of blackberry, black raspberry and plum strike the mid palate with a vengeance, expanding to coat every nook and cranny, before departing with uncommon density and length. The tannins and oak are beautifully integrated and supportive. A decadent wine that I really liked. Score: 94

2012 Lynmar Estate Five Sisters Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.3% alc., $100. SF. A special barrel selection consisting of five barrels. Includes Mt Eden, Swan, Calera, and Quail Hill selections. · Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. A full-bodied, voluptuous wine, with exuberant aromas and flavors of black cherry, black plum and black raspberry with a subtle earthy underpinning. Very smooth and seductive on the palate with balanced tannins and a remarkable finish that brings you to attention. This is a connoisseur’s wine that should age ten years effortlessly. Score: 94

2012 Lynmar Estate Jenkins Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.4% alc., $70. SF. This vineyard is located in the Sebastopol Hills. Clones 115 and 777 planted in Goldridge soils. A warmer site. Aged in 55% new French oak barrels. · Dark reddish purple color in the glass. Enticing aromatics that brighten the glass with aromas of Rainier cherry, black raspberry and pie spice. The flavors of dark berries and black cherries are accented with anise and dark chocolate. The wine is soft in the mouth and pleasant, but the fruit doesn’t pop at this stage. Score: 90

2012 Lynmar Estate Monastery Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.4% alc., $70. SF. This vineyard is located in the Sebastopol Hills at the border of the Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast. Clones 667 and 115. Aged 15 months in French oak barrels. · Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. Scents of black cherry, bark and spice lead to a full-bodied wine with a muscular backbone and more grip. The flavors of blackberry and purple stone fruits are earthy bent and there is a hint of sage. The oak sheen is noticeable. Score: 89

2012 Lynmar Estate Freestone Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.3% alc., $60. Largely sourced from Sexton Vineyard. Clones are “828,” 23, 115 and 777. · Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. A fine array of aromas include black cherry, basalt, graham, spice and oak. Very suave and smooth in the mouth with very tasty core of darker cherries and berries accented by oak-driven notes of dark chocolate and spice. Nicely balanced and very charming. Score: 92

2012 Lynmar Estate Terra De Promissio Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., pH 3.67, TA 0.59, 372 cases, $70. SF. Clones 115 and 777 grown in the Petaluma Gap region of the Sonoma Coast. Aged 10 months in 63% new French oak barrels. · Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. Multifaceted nose offering aromas of earthy dark fruits including raspberry, spice, and a hint of char. Mid weight plum, blackberry and spice flavors are satisfying. The texture is silky soft, and the gossamer tannins give an overall impression of elegance. The finish is noticeably intense. Score: 92

2012 Lynmar Estate Kanzler Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., $70. SF. Inaugural bottling from this vineyard. Clones 667, Pommard and 115. Aged 10 months in 50% new French oak barrels. · Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. Aromas of dark red and black berries, savory mushrooms and the slightest oak. Soft in the mouth, with a giving array of ripe berries supported by sinewy tannins. Still reserved, and will need cellaring for a year or two to bring out its best. Score: 91

2013 Lynmar Estate Russian River Valley Rosé of Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., pH 3.38, TA 0.60, 495 cases, $20. SF. Primarily a saignée. Vinified for 4 months mainly in stainless steel tanks along with some older oak barrels. · Moderately light salmon color and clear in the glass. Bright aromas of fresh strawberries, cherries, dried rose petal and spice. Wakes up the palate with refreshing flavors of strawberry, watermelon and a hint of orange-infused cranberries. An excellent choice for summer enjoyment. Score: 91



Dunstan Wines, Sonoma Coast

Kenneth Juhasz, Winemaker

2012 Dunstan Durell Vineyard Sonoma Coast Rosé of Pinot Noir

13.0% alc., 92 cases, $25 (sold out). Grapes picked a little earlier from a certain block in the Ranch House Block. Grapes were lightly crushed by foot before pressing to neutral French oak barrels for 6 months. Winemaker Kenneth Juhasz. · Light orange color in the glass. Lovely aromas and flavors of strawberry and blood orange with good body and intensity. Thoroughly enjoyable. Score: 89

2011 Dunstan Durell Vineyard Sonoma Coast Chardonnay

13.3% alc., $45. Aged 14 months in 40% new French oak barrels. No malolactic fermentation. · Bright yellow color and clear in the glass. Aromas of buttery pear, lemon curd and caramelized oak lead to a silky palate of pear, white peach lemon, and stony minerality. Bright and thirst quenching. Score: 90

2012 Dunstan Durell Vineyard Sonoma Coast Chardonnay

14.1% alc., 400+ cases, $45. Release September 20, 2014. Aged in 30% new French oak barrels. No malolactic fermentation. · Very fresh nose redolent of lemon curd, nutty oak and salt air. Crisp and bright on the palate with good intensity of lemon, nectarine, pear and honey flavors Score: 93

2011 Dunstan Durell Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 316 cases, $55. Bottled 14 months ago and just released. Composed of 5 clones grown in volcanic soils. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Endowed with hi-tone aromas of fresh cherry, strawberry, spice and a hint of oak. Rather exotic tasting with mid weight flavors of cherry, raspberry, other wild berries, red plum, and peppery spice. Silky with complimentary barrel management. Score: 90

2012 Dunstan Durell Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., Unreleased. Same vinification as the 2011 vintage. Aged in 40% new French oak barrels. Bottled 1 month before this tasting. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Subdued, but pleasant aromas of red cherry, loam and spice. Delicious with obvious potential, featuring vivid flavors of raspberry, cherry and spice. The oak is fully integrated and the fine-grain tannins are only modestly imposing. Terrific charm with a glorious cherry-driven finish. Score: 93

Photos below are of the Ranch House Block surrounding the owner’s home at Durell Vineyard. Planted in 2005 by owner Ellie Phipps Price, it is located at the southern end of the vineyard on an east-facing slope. It is subjected to cool coastal fog in the morning and warm, breezy afternoons. The vineyard is more densely planted than other area of the vineyard. All Dunstan wines come from this 8.5-acre Ranch House Block at Durell.




En Garde Winery, Sonoma Valley

Proprietor and Winemaker Csaba Szakal

It is a rarity to discover a winemaker of Hungarian origin crafting Pinot Noir along with other varietals in Sonoma Valley. Csaba grew up in a family that had made wine for four generations in Hungary. He successfully made Rosé and white wines in his garage using grapes from his grandfather!s vineyard, but yearned to seek a career in technology. He left Hungary in 1996 for work as a computer programmer in Silicon Valley. Csaba met his wife, Sandy Scott, a CPA who had grown up in Sonoma County, and because of her exposure to wine, urged him to make wine again.

Csaba began crafting wine again in his home garage in 2001, using Merlot grapes sourced from a Dry Creek vineyard in Healdsburg. The wine, which was aged in (surprise!) Hungarian oak barrels, won a gold medal in an amateur wine competition. By 2007, he had decided to start a commercial label, En Garde, in a leased space in Livermore. In 2010, the couple quit their jobs, with him crafting the wines and she managing the business side of the winery. Three years later, the family moved to Santa Rosa where he pursued fruit sources. A stylish tasting room was opened on Sonoma Highway in Sonoma Valley, and Csaba now makes his wines at the nearby Mayo Winery facility where I tasted barrel samples with him.

The first Russian River Valley Pinot Noir was released from the 2008 vintage and currently there is a Russian River Valley AVA blend and an AVA Reserve blend. The first vineyard-designated Pinot Noirs will be released from the 2012 vintage. Csaba crafts a number of other excellent varietals, including a 2012 Albarino ($28) that I am particularly fond of. His Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux-blend wines have won numerous awards.

The 2010 and 2011 vintage Pinot Noirs have previously been reviewed in the PinotFile. The 2010 vintage wines are riper, with more purple and black fruits. The 2011 wines are brighter, with redder fruits and spice. I am particularly fond of the 2011 Reserve which is mellow with vivid red fruits, spice and a very long finish. The 2012 wines tasted from barrel will be released in the late fall 2014.

2012 En Garde Olivet Court Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir Barrel sample. Martini clone. Still tight with oak dominating, but good mid palate attack, long finish, fine-grain tannins, and the telltale dark chocolate of Martini clone.

2012 En Garde Starkey Hill Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 25% “828,” 25% Pommard, 50% 23. Vineyard is owned by spouse's best friend. Invigorating nose offering aromatic cherries and spice. Very elegantly styled with refined tannins and a pleasing spice-driven finish. A winner.

2012 En Garde Reserve Russian River Valley Pinot Noir Martini and Starkey selections. A barrel selection. The biggest, most intensely flavored wine with a knockout nose of fresh stone and berry fruits and exotic spices. The oak is already nicely integrated. The finish is incredibly long and satisfying.

I don!t consider myself an expert when it comes to other red varietals, but the Malbec (10% Petit Verdot) and the Petite Sirah sourced from Livermore and aged in American oak were both great wines. Clearly, Csaba is a very talented and versatile winemaker.


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