Recent Sips of Pinot Noir & A Few Whites
Black Kite Cellars produces less than 2,500 cases annually of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from Anderson
Valley (estate vineyard), Santa Lucia Highlands and Sonoma Coast. The wines are available through the
winery mailing list and website at www.blackkitecellars.com, as well as select wine retailers and restaurants.
2013 Black Kite Angel Hawk Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.9% alc., 190 cases, pH 3.56, TA 0.58, $85. Clones 114, 115
Moderate reddish purple color in the glass.
Gorgeous label. The aromas leap from the glass, penetrating
the olfactory senses with black cherry, blackberry, peat, citrus,
cardamom and redwood timber scents. Luscious, but angelic on
the palate, with mid weight plus flavors of black cherry and black
raspberry fruits. A very sexy wine with a velvety mouthfeel, silky tannins,
complimentary oak, and enough acid to energize the luscious fruit load.
Even better the following day from a previously opened and re-corked
bottle, offering an incredible attack and finish and a just plain delicious drinking experience. A
serious wine with intentions.
2013 Black Kite Soberanes Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay
14.1% alc., pH 3.35, TA 0.74,
195 cases, $45.
Light golden yellow color and clear in the glass. A delightful, oak-infused, bold, full malolactic
style of Chardonnay that offers an array of aromas including yellow apple, pear, lemon oil, spice, and toasty
oak, and heady flavors of lemon, pineapple, apple, and toasty brioche. Slightly creamy, with discreet richness,
finishing dry with oak-kissed, lemon drop goodness.
2013 Black Kite Gap’s Crown Vineyard Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
14.1% alc., pH 3.39, TA 0.64, 236
Very light golden yellow color and clear in the glass. Compared to the Soberanes Chardonnay,
this wine is more mineral-driven with scents of salt air, green apple, and lemon meringue pie, reaching more
intensity over time in the glass. Refined, crisp and refreshing, with plenty of apple, lemon and tangerine fruit
flavors to satisfy. Very polished with admirable oak seasoning showing up as a touch of caramel. An excellent
food wine that can also satisfy on its own.
2012 CIRQ Treehouse Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
pH 3.54, TA 0.60, $100. Winemaker and proprietor Michael Browne’s great
grandfather, Reuban Warren Simonds, graces this label. He helped put
on many circus shows across the U.S. during the 1930s and 1940s.
Clones 23, Swan, 37, Pommard and Calera.
Moderate reddish purple
color in the glass. Lovely, effusive aromas of black cherry, black
raspberry, vanilla and spice. The wine offers a pleasant marriage of fruit
oak and an enticing texture. Very soft and approachable, with mid weight
layered flavors of black cherry, raspberry, Damsel plum, and boysenberry
fruits. Excellent harmony with a lasting, berry-driven finish with a kiss of
Clos De La Tech offered 5 wines in their fall release. Besides the wines reviewed here, there was a Domaine
Lois Louise Twisty Ridge and a Santa Cruz Mountain Estates (previously named Domaine Lois Louise). I have written in the past about this very impressive estate and winery. Owners and
spouses Rodgers and Valeta Massey, are self-taught winemakers who founded Clos De La Tech in 1994. The
wines are produced with no expense spared in a Burgundian style and have been received well by the wine
press. A number of consumers who have a California palate, on the other hand, have not been as receptive or
enthusiastic about the wines. Each bottle has a Cypress Semiconductor memory chip affixed to the neck of the
bottle. Rodgers and Massey are pictured below in their home vineyard. Visit www.closdelatech.com.
2010 Clos De La Tech Domaine Lois Louise Cote Sud Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., 190
cases, $62. Sourced from the Cote Sud block at Domaine Lois Louise Vineyard. The site is fully exposed and
buffeted by strong maritime winds off the Pacific Ocean 8 miles to the West. Whole cluster fermentation, native
yeast, foot crushed, unfiltered.
Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. Savory aromas of earth,
tobacco leaf, bramble, and wine cave with a hint of black cherry. Full-bodied flavors of black raspberry,
blackberry and black current with a touch of spice. Very ripe, but gorgeous fruit that is dense and somewhat
brooding at this stage, backed by firm, well-proportioned tannins. The wine finishes with plenty of fruit
goodness and slight astringency. Like Burgundy wines after it is fashioned, this wine should benefit from more
time in the cellar.
2010 Clos De La Tech Domaine Valeta Sunny Slope Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., 190 cases, $62. Vineyard site is cold
and windy situated at 2,350 feet above Silicon Valley. 30 acres with 3
acres planted to vines. Whole cluster fermentation, native yeast, foot
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Somewhat
vegetal on the nose reflecting the 100% whole cluster, with added notes
of toasty oak and mulch. Mid weight dark red cherry and strawberry
fruits with a touch of spice and sandalwood. More approachable than
the Cote Sud with less fruit intensity and sap, more vibrant acidity, and
showing somewhat aggressive tannins and generous sweet oak in the
background. Again, this wine will benefit from further bottle aging.
2010 Clos De La Tech Domaine Du Docteur Rodgers San Francisco Bay Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., 102
cases, $102. Sourced from a 1-acre hilltop vineyard in the town of Woodside at the base of the Santa Cruz
Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Very savory nose with aromas of bramble, conifer
herbal oak, spearmint, and vanilla. Oak and tannins dominate this wine at present, which offers mid weight
flavors of blackberry, black cherry and pomegranate fruits. The intense, long finish is the most striking feature
of this wine. Hopefully, the wine will outgrow the green thread in the background resulting from the 100%
whole cluster inclusion. When tasting the next day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle, the tannins
had ameliorated, but the oak still overwhelmed the fruit. Check back in five years.
Cutruzzola Vineyards (Koo-troot-ZOL-a) is located in a coastal valley stretching east from the town of
Cambria on steep, predominantly south-facing broken hills. The vineyard consists of five acres of Pinot Noir
(clones are Pommard 5, 667, “828,” 115 and 23), and two acres of Riesling (clones 2 and 10), planted mostly
on lime-bearing soils. The remaining portion of the 47-acre property has been left in its natural state. The vines
are now between 9- and 14-years-old.
2013 Cutruzzola Gloria San Luis Obispo County Pinot Noir
alc., pH 3.42, TA 0.59, 441 cases, $40. 10% whole cluster, inoculated
fermentation with Assmannhausen and RC212 yeasts. Aged 10 months
in 100% French oak barrels, 30% new.
Moderately light reddish purple
color in the glass. Welcoming nose alive with scents of boysenberry,
raspberry and a hint of herbs. Light to mid weight flavors of cherry,
raspberry and boysenberry with a touch of spice and oak seasoning.
Very pleasant on the palate, with a suede texture, good acid tension,
finishing dry with a slight grip of tannin. Even better the following day
from a previously opened and re-corked bottle.
2012 Cutruzzola Riven Rock Vineyard San Luis Obispo County Riesling
12.5% alc., pH 3.05, TA
0.62, 440 cases, $22. A long, cool fermentation was stopped at 2.3% residual sugar to balance the
Light golden yellow color in the glass. Drinks like a dry wine with aromas and flavors of lemonlime
(7-Up), blood orange, vanillin, petrol and rum cake. Moderately viscous with good supporting
acidity. A California-styled Riesling.
2013 Farmstead Long Meadow Ranch Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., $29. Grapes were
sourced from vineyards in Freestone. Primary fermentation in stainless steel followed by malolactic
fermentation in neutral oak barrels.
Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. Inviting
perfume of crushed berries, cherries, brown spices, herbs and sandalwood. Soft in the mouth, with
a pleasing attack of cherry and raspberry fruits accented with notes of cola, sarsaparilla, and savory
herbs. Commendable finesse and harmony, and easy to cozy up to.
2013 Joseph Phelps Freestone Vineyards Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
13.4% alc., 5,750 cases, $55.
Estate grown from Freestone Vineyards. 100% malolactic fermentation. Aged 13 months in 100% French oak
barrels and puncheons, 35% new and 65% 2-to-3-year-old. Unfiltered.
Light golden yellow color and slightly
cloudy in the glass. Appealing aromas of lemon, petrichor, apple and a hint of buttery oak. Crisp flavors of
green apple, lemon curd and complimentary oak seasoning framed by thirst-quenching acidity, finishing slightly
tart and thoroughly dry with a lemon drop note.
2012 Husch Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., $18. Small lot fermentation. Aged 9 months in French
Moderately light cherry red color in the glass. Aromas of black cherry pie glaze, dried herbs and
tobacco lead to mid weight flavors of black cherry and boysenberry with modest oak seasoning. Soft tannins,
and a juicy, tart cherry finish with decent cut.
Masút Vineyard and Winery is located in the newly approved Eagle Peak, Mendocino County AVA in Northern
California (see Pinot Briefs in this issue for further details). Masút Vineyard and Winery is part of the legacy of
the Fetzer Family, one of the original founding families of the modern Mendocino County wine industry.
Owners Jacob and Ben Fetzer are the third generation of Fetzer winemakers, the sons of Bobby and Sheila
Fetzer, and grandsons of Barney and Kathleen Fetzer, the founders of Fetzer Vineyards in 1968. After Fetzer
Vineyards was sold in 1992, Bobby Fetzer acquired a 1,500-acre ranch adjacent the family’s home ranch that
the Native Americans referred to as Masút, which means “dark, rich earth.” Bobby, along with his young sons
began planting vineyards there in 1997, creating the basis for the AVA. After Bobby passed away in 2006, Ben
and Jake decided to build upon their family legacy and create Masút Vineyard and Winery, releasing their first
Pinot Noir from the 2009 vintage in 2011. Visit www.masut.com.
2013 Masút Vineyards & Winery Estate Vineyard Eagle Peak Mendocino County Pinot Noir
1,500 cases, $40. Higher alcohol do to a heat spike in September. 94% clone 115 and 6% clone 23. Whole
berry de-stemmed into open-top fermenters for a 16 to 20-day fermentation. Aged 15 months sur lie in 100%
French oak barrels, 50% new. Unfined and unfiltered.
Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Lovely
perfume of black cherries and cedary oak. Intense attack of mid weight black raspberry, ollaliberry and
blackest cherry fruits back by a subtle tug of oak. Incredibly gorgeous fruit back by firm tannins that are tucked
in. Soft and smooth in the mouth, finishing with impressive drive and length.
2013 Masút Vineyards & Winery Two Barrel Eagle Peak Mendocino County Pinot Noir
15.1% alc., 50 cases, $60. Favorite two barrels of
the vintage. 100% clone 115. Whole berry de-stemmed into open-top
fermenters for a 20-day fermentation. Aged 15 months in 100% new
French oak barrels. Unfined and unfiltered.
Moderate reddish purple
color in the glass. Hi-tone aromas of fruit basket, spice and bramble. On
entry, the charge of blackest cherry, blackberry, and black raspberry is
delicious. Bombastic, but still nimble and balanced with well-integrated
fruit tannins, and a huge finish that takes intensity up a notch. More
brooding than the Estate bottling at this stage, but exhibiting more
2013 Owen Roe The Kilmore Yamhill-Carlton District Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.0% alc., $37. Clones are Pommard, Wädenswil
Moderately light reddish purple color in the glass. The scents
of black cherry, spice box, cardamom and wine cave are alluring. Very
attractive flavors of red and black cherries and a hint of strawberries.
Juicy, with balanced and supple tannins and a cherry force that lingers on
the finish. A superb forward-drinking wine that always delivers in every
Pali Wine Co. released three of their 2014 cuvée wines this spring. Founded in 2005 in Lompoc, Pali Wine Co.
produces both premium single-vineyard Pinot Noirs and value-priced appellation blends named for different
neighborhoods in the Pacific Palisades area of Los Angeles where the founding investors live and work. Visit
2013 Pali Wine Co. Summit Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
15.3% alc., 2,460 cases, $29, screwcap. Bent Rock,
Radian, Rancho La Vina and Huber vineyards. Small lot fermentations. Aged 12 months in 100% French oak
barrels, 30% new.
Moderately light reddish purple color in the glass. Aromas of black cherry, spice, potpourri,
smoke and toast. Tasty mid weight flavors of spiced black cherry with noticeable oak overlay. Intensely fruity,
but still nimble and easy to drink.
2013 Pali Wine Co. Huntington Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir
14.8% alc., 3,861 cases, $22.50, screwcap.
Sourced from Lucas & Lewellyn, Bent Rock, Radian and
Pence Ranch vineyards. Aged 12 months in 100% French oak
barrels, 30% new.
Moderately light reddish purple color in the
glass. A cherry-driven wine with added notes of raspberry and
cola in a middleweight style with well-integrated tannins. The
fruit is luscious and very satisfying, finishing with some intensity. Oak
shows up in the background over time in the glass.
2013 Pali Wine Co. Bluffs Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 1,977 cases, $22.50, screwcap.
Sourced from Windsor Oaks and Rockin’ B vineyards. Small lot fermentation. Aged 10 months in 100% French
oak barrels, 30% new.
Medium reddish purple hue in the glass. Brooding aromas of Bing cherry and dark red
rose petal. The generous core of crushed cherry flavor is complimented by hints of Coca-Cola and spice.
Somewhat jammy, with muscular fine-grain tannins that overwhelm the fruit.
Ponzi Vineyards is celebrating its 45th anniversary. Sisters Luisa and Maria Ponzi have been at the helm for
more than two decades. The two wines reviewed here are latest releases that are available in the national
market. Visit www.ponziwines.com.
2014 Ponzi Vineyards Willamette Valley Pinot Noir Rosé
13.2% alc., pH 3.25, RS 0.34, 1,500 cases, $20, screwcap. A
blend of fruit from Merten and Dion vineyards, and saignée
from Ponzi’s finest Pinot Noir lots. 100% de-stemmed,
stainless steel tank fermentation, malolactic fermentation
Moderately deep pink salmon color in the glass.
Perfume of fresh strawberries, crushed cranberries and rose
petal lead to pleasing flavors of strawberry, cherry and white stone fruits.
The experience is like biting into a fresh, ripe strawberry. Clean and
vivid, with balanced acidity and a dry finish.
2014 Ponzi Vineyards Willamette Valley Pinot Gris
13.2% alc., pH 4.2, RS 0.57, 17,000 cases,
$17, screwcap. Ponzi was one of the pioneers of this varietal, with first plantings in 1978. The wine is
produced from certified sustainable Ponzi Aurora, Avellana and Estate Vineyards, as well as multiple
other vineyards. Fermented in stainless steel tanks, malolactic fermentation prohibited.
platinum gold and clear in the glass. Invigorating aromas of fresh apple, lychee, pear, marzipan and
wet chalkboard. Clean, crisp and refreshing, with flavors of lemon oil, mango, pear and apple,
finishing with a bright cut of acidity. A versatile wine that will enliven a variety of foods or satisfy on its
2012 Premonition Cellars Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., 123 cases, $29.
purple color in the glass. Aromas of timber, floral garden and vanilla cream lead to a modest core of sweet
dark cherry liquor and blackberry jam flavors. Hints of green tea and cola are in the background. Very forward,
with easy tannins, and a dry, cherry-driven finish which has some alcoholic warmth.
The Withers Winery was founded by Andrew Tow, a Westchester, New York-based business executive, who
started out making a few barrels of wine for friends and family in conjunction with winemakers David Low and
Tyson Freeman at Anthill Farms Winery in Healdsburg. The response was so positive that a label was born in
2013. The name, “The Withers,” refers to the tallest point of the body in many species, and for horses, the
place from which height is measured. The winery was thus named in the spirit of striving for heights in wine
production and as a tribute to Mr. Burgess, the Irish Connemara pony who has been a member of Tow’s
extended family for almost 15 years. The winemaker is David Low, who has served in various winemaking
capacities at Williams Selyem Winery, Papapietro Perry Winery and Anthill Farms Winery. Visit
2013 The Withers English Hill Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.1% alc., 145 cases, $46. This vineyard in Occidental was planted in
2005. Clones include Vosne Romanee, 115 and 667. Fermented with
35% whole cluster and ambient yeasts at cool temperatures after a cold
soak. Aged in about 15% new French oak barrels. Racked once before
bottling, unfined and unfiltered.
Moderate cherry red color in the glass.
Lovely perfume of whole cluster-inspired spice, bark and rose petal
enhancing the fresh cherry fruit. Mid weight flavors of spiced cherry and
sandalwood, with modest backing tannins and a juicy finish. Admirable
smoothness on the palate and very harmonious.
2013 The Withers Charles Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
13.7% alc., 300 cases, $44. Clones include Pommard, 115 and 667. Fermented with 35% whole cluster and
ambient yeasts at cool temperature after a cold soak. About 15% new French oak barrels. Racked once before
bottling, unfined and unfiltered.
Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. This wine was rather
brooding and bland with aggressive tannins upon opening, improving some in the glass, but really achieved
expression two days after opened when tasted from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. Fresh aromas
of blackberry, black cherry and spice were followed on the palate with a ripe array of red cherry and berry
flavors accented with spice and herbs, and framed by supportive fruit tannins. A remarkable transformation that
proves again that Pinot Noir is an elusive challenge to evaluate. Decant this wine if you must pull the cork now.
2013 The Withers Peters Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.3% alc., 13.3% alc., $42. This vineyard
was planted in 1991 and 1996 on land that was previously an apple orchard. It is located southwest of
Sebastopol. Clones are Pommard, 115 and 777. Fermented with 35% whole cluster and ambient yeasts at
cool temperatures after a cold soak. Aged in 20% new French oak barrels. Racked once before bottling,
unfined and unfiltered.
Moderate cherry red hue in the glass. Aromas of red cherry, cranberry and earth are
echoed on the palate with an additional hint of cola and citrus. The tannins are well-matched and the finish is
thirst-quenching. When tasted two days later from a previously opened and re-corked bottle, the nose had
become more earthy and herbal and the wine was soft and pleasant in the mouth with a cherry theme. A solid,
but not exceptional wine.
2013 Underwood Oregon Pinot Noir
13.0% alc., $10. From Union Wine Co..
Light cherry red color in the
glass. Aromas of red cherry and potpourri hold up over time in the glass. Light to mid weight flavors of cherry,
black raspberry, black tea and red licorice. An easy drinker with soft tannins that displays more than an ideal
amount of oak overlay. Hard to complain at this price.