Download &
print (pdf)

Sips of Recently Tasted California Pinot Noir


Albatross Ridge, Carmel Valley, Monterey County

Albatross Ridge winegrower and winemaker Garrett Bowlus studied abroad at the University of Dijon, followed by internships in Oregon, and studied viticulture and enology through classes at UCLA and UC Davis, but he is largely a gifted, self-taught winemaker. His family established a vineyard in Monterey County and Brad began making wines solely from that vineyard.

The 25-acre Albatross Ridge Vineyard is seven miles from the Pacific Ocean at elevations reaching 1,250 feet, featuring unique limestone and shale soils. Located near Talbott’s famed Diamond T Vineyard, it is a cool, windswept site, where temperatures rarely exceed 85ºF. Heat accumulation is a mere 1,650 to 1,950 degree days putting it in the Region I or coolest area on the Winkler scale. Albatross Ridge is literally farming on the edge of cool climate viticulture.

The vineyard has twelve distinct blocks including eight blocks and four clones of Pinot Noir (“828,” 777, Pommard and 115) and four blocks and two clones of Chardonnay (96 and 15).

Interestingly, Brad’s grandfather, William Hawley Bowlus, was a pioneering sailplane designer and used the exact site of the vineyard to test his Albatross sailplanes in the 1930s so the name of the winery seemed destined to be Albatross Ridge. For more information, visit the website at www.albatrossridge.com.

2013 Albatross Ridge Cuvée Vivienne Estate Grown Carmel Valley Pinot Noir

12.5% alc., pH 3.62, 1,080 cases, $40. This wine is named after winemaker Garrett Bowlus’ young daughter Vivienne. It is a blend of all eight vineyard Pinot Noir blocks. Harvest Brix 21.5º-22.5º. Clone 777, 115, “828,” and Pommard. Yields 1.7 tons per acre. 85% de-stemmed, 4-day cold soak, native yeast fermentation, aged 11 months in 100% French oak barrels, 30% new, bottled unfined and unfiltered. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Engaging aromas of black cherry, cardamom spice, unlit cigar and humus. The mid weight, earth-kissed black cherry and black raspberry fruit core is backed buy juicy acidity. A riff of tobacco oak plies the background. The wine finishes modestly with redder cherry fruit. Score: 89

2013 Albatross Ridge Estate Reserve Carmel Valley Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., pH 3.68, 300 cases, $55. A selection of the twelve finest barrels of the vintage. Harvest Brix 21.5º-23.5º. Clones 777, 115, “828,” and Pommard. 90% de-stemmed, 4-day cold soak, native yeast fermentation, aged 11 months in 100% French oak barrels, 33% new, bottled unfined and unfiltered. · Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. A tug of oak currently spearheads this mid weight plus wine offering aromas and flavors of blackberry, black grape, cassis, spice and black tea. The fine grain tannins and acidity are well balanced and the silky texture is très Pinot. The wine is currently a bit tight and the oak overlay is a bit much, but these features should mollify with a few years in the cellar. Score: 90-91



Briceland Vineyards, Humboldt County

A stellar Pinot Noir specialist in Humboldt County producing wines that are reasonably priced considering their high quality. Winemaker Andrew Morris took over winemaking in 2011, and along with spouse Rosie Morris assumed ownership of Bricelands Vineyards from founding winemaker and stepfather Joe Collins in 2014, and the wines continue to shine. Tours and tasting by appointment: www.bricelandvineyards.com. Wines are sold locally and in the tasting room. Phone 707-923-2429 to order.

2013 Briceland Vineyards Ronda’s Vineyard Humboldt County Pinot Noir

13.6% alc., 98 cases, $35. Vineyard is located at 1,600 feet elevation a few miles west and north of Briceland. Unfined and unfiltered. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. The nose reminds of a walk in the forest with aromas of pine resin, pine needle, and wild blackberries. The mid weight boysenberry fruit core is accented with notes of oak and pine. Welcome presence on the palate, with folded in tannins, admirable finesse, and a good finishing grip of acidity. I like this wine for its forest spirit. Score: 90

2013 Briceland Vineyards Alderpoint Vineyard Humboldt County Pinot Noir

13.3% alc., 147 cases, $33. Vineyard is the most easterly of the southern Humboldt vineyards Briceland works with and although slightly warmer, the warmth is moderated by the vineyard’s proximity to the Main Fork of the Eel River. Planted in 1991 in consultation with Briceland’s founding winemaker Joe Collins and currently tended by viticultural expert Rey Sanchez. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Intoxicating aromas of black cherry, sous-bois and a floral note. Delicious mid weight plus flavors of black cherry and red currant. Juicy and luxurious, even chewy, with merged tannins, and perfect phenolic ripeness. Almost better than sex. Score: 94

2012 Briceland Vineyards Reserve Humboldt County Pinot Noir

13.7% alc., 25 cases, $45. A blend of grapes from Phelps, Ronda’s and Elk Prarie vineyards, held for more than 30 months in oak and bottled in the fall of 2015. · Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. Considerable nuances in this wine offering aromas of dark stone and berry fruits, woodfern, underbrush and bittersweet chocolate. The full-bodied flavors of blackest cherry and blackberry are augmented by an appealing peppery spice. Substantial tannins attack the finish with a vengeance, but are well matched to the fruit load. Decant if you drink now, but a few years in the cellar would be preferable. Score: 92



Byington Vineyard & Winery, Santa Cruz Mountains

Bill and Mary Byington bought 95 acres in the Santa Cruz Mountains in 1958 with the intent of using it as a family retreat. Bill was a wine collector and a winemaker suggested they plant a vineyard. The Byingtons planted 9 acres of Pinot Noir and Byington Vineyard & Winery was established with its inaugural release in 1987. In 2013, Los Altos Vineyards bought Byington and updated the grounds and facilities which sit on 95 acres and include a wine cave. Beside estate grown Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, Byington sources other grape varieties from California winegrowing regions. In 2014, Los Altos Vineyards bought a 240-acre ranch in Alexander Valley in the Pine Mountain-Cloverdale Peak AVA. The ranch has 36 planted acres of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Chardonnay. The website is www.byington.com.

2013 Byington Byington Estate Block 4 Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., pH 3.63, TA 0.56, 165 cases, $45. Reserved from the rest of the Estate Vineyard due to its distinct character and westward location that faces the Pacific Ocean. Aged 14 months in 100% French oak barrels, 35% new French oak plus 5% Hungarian oak and 60% neutral American and French oak blends. · Moderately light reddish purple color in the glass. This is a cherry-themed, forward-drinking wine that is quite palate pleasing. Bright cherry aromas lead to an impressive attack of black cherry fruit flavors that persist through a cherry-charged finish. A wine with exemplary Pinot essence, a satiny texture and seamless character. Score: 90



Camlow Cellars, Russian River Valley

The 2013 vintage represents the inaugural release of Camlow Cellars estate Pinot Noir, Magna Porcum (“The Big Pig”). The Magna Porcum Vineyard is the culmination of years of effort. Clones planted include Dehlinger selection of Swan, Calera, Pommard 4 and DRC. Camlow Cellars is a partnership between long time friends, grower Alan Campbell and winemaker Craig Strehlow (formerly grower at Keefer Estate and winemaker for Keefer Ranch wines). Visit www.camlowcellars.com.

2013 Camlow Cellars Green Valley of Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., pH 3.61, TA 0.61, 200 cases, $38. Released October 31, 2015. Harvest Brix 24.6º. Clones 23, “828,” 667 and 115 from Graham Family Vineyard. Aged 18 months in 100% French oak barrels, 40% new. · Moderately light cherry red color in the glass. A hint of reduction upon opening resolves quickly, revealing aromas of black cherry, boysenberry dried herbs and spice with a waft of toasty oak. Light to mid weight flavors of black cherry and raspberry with a hint of red hots in an elegantly styled wine with balanced dry tannins and juicy acidity. Score: 89

2013 Magna Porcum Estate Grown Green Valley of Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.4% alc., pH 3.58, TA 0.55, $45. Released February 10, 2015. Vineyard planted in 2007 in Goldridge sandy loam in the heart of the Green Valley. Clones are Swan, Pommard, DRC and Calera. Aged 15 months in a variety of new, once and twice-filled French oak barrels. · Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. Very shy nose, offering hints of dark berry jam and oak. Linear mid weight plus flavors of blackberry and black cherry with a modicum of oak seasoning. Rather blunt and dull, with balanced sandy tannins and a lack of zing. When tasted the next day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle, the wine still lacked aromatic interest and the palate experience was unchanged. I should revisit this wine in another year, although it has been in bottle for almost a year. Score: 88



Eric Kent Wines, Russian River Valley

I have followed winemaker Kent Humphrey since his launch thirteen years ago, and applauded his success. His wines are known to be consistent favorites of wine critics, and his wine labels, original works of art by very accomplished artists, make the wines even more enviable and even collectable. The wines are sold primarily through dedicated followers who belong to the mailing list, with limited retail distribution. Visit www.erickentwines.com.

2013 Eric Kent Stiling Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., pH 3.68, TA 0.58, 396 cases, $52. Released fall 2015. Label artist Eliza Frye, a Los Angeles comics artist and graphic novelist. Vineyard is 35 acres planted to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in the 1980s, located between Kistler and Dehlinger on Vine Hill Road in Sebastopol. 98% Swan selection 2% 115. Aged 14 months in 100% French oak barrels, 62.5% new and 37.5% neutral. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. The nose leads with aromas of herb garden and oak accents. Mid weight plus flavors of black cherry, blueberry and boysenberry exhibit good attack and mid palate presence with some finishing intensity. Easy to drink, with suave tannins and inviting harmony. The most robust wine of the three 2013 Pinot Noirs reviewed here. Score: 90

2013 Eric Kent “Small Town” Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., pH 3.58, TA 0.61, 382 cases, $50. Released spring 2015. Artist Kelly Puissegur. 40% Grand Vent, 23% Cleary Ranch, 20% V-C Ranch, 10% Michael Valentine, and 7% Stiling vineyards. 40% Pommard, 23% 667, 15% 115, 10% 113, 7% Swan and 5% 777. Aged 14 months in 100% French oak barrels, 50% new and 50% neutral. · Moderately light deep cherry red color in the glass. Engaging aromas of strawberry, cherry, spice, mulch and a touch of oak lead to a mid weight core of red fruits accented with an overlay of oak. Silky in the mouth, with modest tannins in a forward drinking style. Score: 88

2013 Eric Kent “Sascha Marie” Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.4% alc., pH 3.63, TA 0.61, 296 cases, $52. Released spring 2015. 67% Sangiacomo Roberts Road, 25% Grand Vent and 8% Stiling vineyards. 42% Swan, 33% 777, 12.5% Pommard, 6.25% 113, 6.25% 667. Intended to be a fuller-bodied style of Pinot Noir composed of more dramatically flavored Sonoma Coast barrels. Historically, tight on release. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Aromas of cherry pie, plum and dark chocolate are echoed on the mid weight palate. Noticeable mid palate fruit presence with a waft of toasty oak in the background. More sap than the Small Town bottling. Still tight and will benefit from more time in the cellar. Score: 89



Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery, Russian River Valley

Winemaker Theresa Heredia is carrying on the innovative work started by founding winemaker Gary Farrell many years ago. Both the exemplary Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines are noticeably higher in acidity than most wines produced today in the Russian River Valley, giving them an inviting vibrancy, age ability and serving as ideal food companions. Special bottles under the “Inspiration Series” challenge both the winemaker and the consumer to learn and discover. Visit www.garyfarrellwines.com.

2013 Gary Farrell Gap’s Crown Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., pH 3.42, TA 0.67, 495 cases, $70. Released September 2015. The Gap’s Crown Vineyard was planted in 2002 and consists of 106 acres of Pinot Noir and 32 acres of Chardonnay. Located in the cool and windy Petaluma Gap where the vines are exposed to considerable maritime influence. A blend of clones “828” and 667. Partially de-stemmed, leaving a portion of whole cluster. 5 to 7-day cold soak, 10 to 15-day post fermentation extended maceration, inoculated for malolactic fermentation, and racked into 40% new French oak barrels for 14 months of barrel aging on the primary lees. · Moderately light reddish purple hue in the glass. Vigorous aromas of black cherry, raspberry, violets and seasoned oak lead to a boisterous attack of dark cherry, black raspberry and savory herbs that unfold in layers. Silky, with substantial, but integrated tannins, and a welcome waft of toasty oak in the background. Score: 91

2013 Gary Farrell Gap’s Crown Vineyard Clone 667 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., pH 3.40, TA 0.67, 70 cases, $75. Released September 2015. Clone 667 produces rich, dark and bold flavors when grown in a cool site such as Gap’s Crown Vineyard, producing powerful and concentrated wines. Three favorite barrels were chosen for the exclusive “Inspiration Series,” designated by a black label. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. A distinctive and unique wine with aromas of earthy flora, fennel, cherries and spice. Mid weight plus flavors of blackberry and boysenberry fruits with a hint of Mexican spiced hot chocolate. Evident, but integrated tannins with an impressively long finish awash in fruit. Score: 92

2013 Gary Farrell Rochioli Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

13.9% alc., pH 3.45, TA 0.67, 539 cases, $70. Released September 2015. Sourced from several blocks of the 128-acre Rochioli Vineyard, planted in 1974, 1995 and 2000. Some of the vines come from cuttings taken from the original “mother” block planted in 1968. 100% de-stemmed, 5 to 7-day cold soak, 10 to 15-day extended post-fermentation maceration, inoculated for malolactic fermentation and racked into 40% new French oak barrels for 14 months of barrel aging on the primary lees. · Moderately light reddish purple color in the glass. The aroma of freshly baked Bing cherry pie bring the taste buds to attention. Delicious mid weight cherry core augmented by vibrant acidity. Rather elegant and lighter in this vintage, with interesting riffs of spice, dried herbs, and floral goodness. Very silky in the mouth, with a juicy finish. The pedigree of the vineyard shows through in this gorgeous wine. Score: 93


Kendric Wine Co., Sonoma

Owner and winemaker Stewart Johnson crafts a single Pinot Noir from the 8.5-acre Kendric Johnson Vineyard located in Marin County, just south of the Petaluma Gap. Planted in 2002 to Mt. Eden, 115, Martini and Pommard clones. There was no 2011 vintage produced and only a small amount of the 2012 vintage was bottled as a Reserve. Visit www.kendricvineyards.com.

2010 Kendric Vineyards Marin County Pinot Noir

13.4% alc., pH 3.50, TA 0.73, 580 cases, $36. Released fall 2013. 65% whole cluster fermentation, 10% saignée, native and proprietary yeast, 35-day extended post fermentation maceration for two-thirds, aged 23 months in French (and 1 Hungarian) oak barrels. Filtered. · Light reddish purple color in the glass. This wine (or at least this bottle) has taken on an aged character with fruit on the nose showing a slightly cooked and raisiny aroma. There is still plenty of cherry and raspberry fruit in a mid weight style with hints of oak-driven tobacco and vanilla. The wine finishes with both a sweet and tart cherry going away. Score: 87

2012 Kendric Vineyards Reserve Marin County Pinot Noir

13.9% alc., ph 3.70, TA 0.61, 40 cases, $50. Release spring 2016. The Reserve comes from one edge of the Kendric Johnson Vineyard with the thinnest soil which produces lower yields, more ripeness and concentration. Harvest Brix 24º. 2/3 whole cluster, native and cultured yeast fermentation, 35-day extended maceration, aged 26 months in 2 French oak barrels, 1 new. Unfiltered. · Light reddish purple color in the glass. Slowly emerging aromas of cherry glaze, spice and sandalwood lead to a abundance of black cherry, baking spice (particularly cinnamon) and cardamom spice flavors. The silky tannins offer a seductive mouthfeel, and the juicy grip on the nutty cherry finish is quite refreshing. I really like the spicy character of this wine. Much better the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. Score: 90

2013 Kendric Vineyards Marin County Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., pH 3.50, TA 0.61, 600 cases, $38. Release spring 2016. Harvest Brix 23.5º. 2/3 whole cluster, native and cultured yeast, 40-day extended maceration, aged in French oak barrels (23% new) and one Hungarian oak puncheon for 23 months without racking. Unfiltered. · Moderately light reddish purple color in the glass. The aromas of cherry, strawberry and spice are slow to emerge upon opening. A bit closed on the palate, but showing some spirited black cherry and black raspberry fruit flavors, backed by somewhat aggressive tannins. When tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle, the wine had undergone a remarkable transformation, offering vibrant aromas, more submerged tannins, and a lasting finish of uncommon generosity. The wine should benefit from more time before the planned release in 3-4 months, but will benefit from even further aging in bottle. Score: 90



MacPhail Family Wines, Russian River Valley

The two Pinot Noirs reviewed below and the two Chardonnays reviewed later in this issue are also current new releases. The Mardikian Estate Vineyard is now in its second release. More blocks are coming on line in this sixth leaf along with additional clones. The website is www.macphailwines.com.

2013 MacPhail Vagon Rouge Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., pH 3.73, TA 0.52, 150 cases, $65. Releaed fall 2015. Sourced from Lakeview, Susanna’s and Mardikian Estate vineyards. A mix of winemaker James MacPhail’s favorite 6 barrels throughout the year. Clones are heirloom (suitcase), Swan, 114, Martini and Pommard. Harvest Brix 23.1º-25.4º. 100% de-stemmed, 5-day cold soak, native and cultured yeast fermentations, native malolactic fermentation in barrel, lees stirring weekly for 3 months, aged 17 months on the lees in 100% French oak barrels, 50% new, bottled unfined and unfiltered February 24, 2015. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. The nose offers an appealing combination of savory woodland and spice savory notes along with fresh black cherry fruit. Charming and fruit-driven on the palate, with a sappy charge of black cherry, black raspberry, pomegranate, spice cake flavors framed by silky tannins and a subtle waft of oak. A solid, seamless wine with some finishing length. Score: 90

2013 MacPhail Mardikian Estate Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., pH 3.77, TA 0.56, 500 cases, $85. Released fall 2015. Harvest Brix 24.5º-25.0º. Clones are 2A, 114, 667, 777, Martini and Pommard. 100% destemmed, 5-day cold soak, native and cultured fermentations, native malolactic fermentation in barrel, barronage weekly for 3 months, aged 16 months on lees in 100% French oak barrels, 35% new, bottled unfined and lightly filtered on August 19, 2014. · Moderately light cherry red color in the glass. Lovely aromas of cherry pie glaze, Asian 5-spice and a compliment of oak. Flavorful on the attack and soft and smooth on the mid palate, with a juicy core of cherry fruit. More polished and elegant in the vintage, with less color and fruit intensity, finishing with polish. A velvet hammer of flavor. Score: 92



MacRostie, Russian River Valley

Several years ago, veteran winemaker Steve MacRostie took a step back from the business side of running his namesake winery to guide the winery’s vineyard program and work alongside winemaker Heidi Bridenhagen to make MacRostie wines. The vineyard program now includes a new estate vineyard in the Russian River Valley. As the vineyard program has expanded, so has the number of vineyard-designated Pinot Noirs, two of which are featured here. The new MacRostie Estate House is located at 4605 Westside Road in Healdsburg and offers an array of intimate seated venues for experiencing three tasting flight options. Visit the website at www.macrostiewinery.com.

2013 MacRostie Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

4,661 cases, $34. Sourced from vineyards in the Sonoma Coast AVA, including Champlin Creek and Wildcat Mountain in Petaluma Gap, Hellenthal in Fort Ross-Seaview, and Dutton-Winkler Ranch in the Russian River Valley. 100% de-stemmed, 3- day cold soak, inoculated yeast, punchdowns and pumpovers, aged 10 months in French oak barrels, 30% new. · Moderately light cherry red color in the glass. The nose is both fruity and savory with scents of cherry, strawberry, spice, dried herbs and turned earth. The flavors echo the aromas with some added raspberry notes. Light to mid weight in style and very pleasant, with good vibrancy and silky tannins, finishing modestly with red cherry goodness. Score: 89

2013 MacRostie Manzana Vineyard Green Valley of Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.6% alc., 95 cases, $56. This vineyard is farmed by the Dutton family. Only 4 best barrels were chosen from this vineyard for this wine. 100% de-stemmed, pumpovers and punchdowns, aged 12 months in French oak barrels, 25% new. · Moderately light cherry red color in the glass. Orchard cherry aromas are accented with savory dried herb scents. Richly appointed and intensely fruity, with flavors of black cherry, black raspberry and pomegranate that saturate the palate. Despite its hefty sap and defined tannins, the wine retains a silky texture and elegance, making for easy drinking now. A charismatic wine with both power and gentility. Score: 93

2013 MacRostie Cummings Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.6% alc., 184 cases, $56. This vineyard is owned by Bruce Cummings and is located in the Santa Rosa Plains neighborhood of the Russian River Valley. Charlie Chenoweth manages the vineyard. Clones 667, 777 and 115. 100% de-stemmed, inoculated yeast, combination of pumpovers and punchdowns, aged 12 months in French oak barrels, 25% new. · Moderately light cherry red color in the glass. Vivid Bing cherry aromas leads to a light to mid weight styled wine fueled by black cherry, black raspberry, boysenberry and color flavors. Quite elegant, flawless integration of silky tannins and acidity, and noticeable length on the sumptuous finish. Score: 92



Patz & Hall, Sonoma

Patz & Hall’s founders have discovered numerous vineyards that have become famous among Chardonnay and Pinot Noir enthusiasts. They have also helped to further elevate the perception of already highly regarded sites. Hyde Vineyard is a good example. Hyde Vineyard was just nine years old when Patz & Hall started working with it in 1990, but there was already a sense that Larry Hyde had established a remarkable vineyard. Patz & Hall is one of the first wineries to make vineyard-designate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from Hyde. The acclaimed Chenoweth Ranch was planted specifically for Patz & Hall by vineyard manager Charlie Chenoweth. The Patz & Hall founders developed a working relationship with the Martinelli family over the years, and new access Chardonnay from Martinelli’s Zio Tony Ranch and Pinot Noir from their Burnside Vineyard. For more information, visit the website at www.patzhall.com.

2013 Patz & Hall Hyde Vineyard Carneros Napa Valley Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., 1,079 cases, $70. Released October 2015. Sourced from a block that contains new and older plantings of the Hyde-Calera selection, and includes grapes from the “old field.” Wild and cultured yeast fermentations, 15% whole cluster, 100% malolactic fermentation in barrel, aged in 60% new French oak barrels, bottled without fining or filtration. · Medium reddish purple color in the glass. Purple and black fruits are featured in this wine which combines savory notes of mushroom and soy sauce with the mid weight fruit flavors. The mouthfeel is silky and the character is refined, although there is a noticeable tug of oak. When tasted the following day from a previously opened and recorked bottle, with wine’s seamless and smooth texture was striking, and the oak overlay reduced. This wine will benefit from further cellaring. Score: 91

2013 Patz & Hall Burnside Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., 269 cases, $75. This vineyard is located just west of Sebastopol and farmed by the Martinelli family. Primarily Dijon clone 115 with a small amount of 777. Wild and cultured yeast fermentations, 15% whole cluster, 100% malolactic fermentation in barrel, aged in 60% new French oak barrels, bottled without fining or filtration. · Moderately light reddish purple color in the glass. Aromas of cherry, raspberry and good barnyard lead off. Somewhat luscious black cherry and boysenberry fruits are well balanced by polished tannins and energetic acidity. When tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle, the wine was more enjoyable in all respects with plenty of spicy sweet fruit emerging. Score: 90

2013 Patz & Hall Chenoweth Ranch Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., 1,347 cases, $60. Released October 2015. This 7-acre vineyard is planted in Goldridge soils on the far western edge of the Russian River Valley in the Green Valley AVA. Dijon clones. Wild and cultured yeast fermentations, 15% whole cluster, 100% malolactic fermentation in barrel, aged in 70% new French oak barrels, bottled without fining or filtration. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Deep aromas of black cherry and dark berries with a hint of forest floor and oak. Plenty to like in this beautifully composed wine, awash in tasty blackberry and pomegranate goodness framed by balanced fruit tannins. Deft integration of oak, and a joyous finish filled with succulent fruit. Everything is in place to age beautifully. The best wine I have tasted from this vineyard. Score: 93



Presqu’ile Winery, Santa Maria Valley

Presqu’ile (pronounced press-KEEL) is run by two generations of the Murphy family, specializing in Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. The focus of its winegrowing program is the 73-acre Presqu’ile Vineyard, although additional grapes are sourced from local acclaimed vineyards including Bien Nacido Vineyard. Winemaker Dieter Cronje is crafting exciting wines here. Vinification includes native yeast fermentations, judicious use of whole clusters, appropriate new oak and extended aging in barrel. A modern gravity-flow winery has been built on the estate property designed to Matt Murphy’s and Dieter Cronje’s specifications. The structure is an impressive hospitality destination. Situated on top of a hill, with ocean and vineyard views, the winery is beautifully designed and offers one of the most memorable wine tasting experiences in California’s Central Coast. For details, visit www.presquilewinery.com.

2013 Presqu’ile Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir

13.1% alc., pH 3.70, TA 0.51, $42. Clones 115, 777 and 667. 47% whole cluster. Aged 18 months in French oak barrels, 55% new. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Aromas of whole cluster spice, black cherry and smoke. A wine with character featuring mid weight flavors of black raspberry, boysenberry, spice and a thread of oak. Welcome harmony, with mild tannins and some finishing power. Score: 89

2013 Presqu’ile Presqu’ile Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir

13.08% alc., pH 3.68, TA 0.52, $60. A barrel selection reflecting the essence of the vineyard. Pommard, Mt. Eden, 115, 667, and 777 clones. 65% whole cluster. Aged 18 months in French oak barrels, 60% new. · Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. Deep aromas of black stone and berry fruits with added scents of exotic spice, pine sap and subtle stem. An abundance of boysenberry fruit is complimented by notes of spice and floral intricacy. Luscious but light on its feet, with admirable balance and a berry-fueled finish of note. Score: 92

2013 Presqu’ile Steiner Creek Vineyard San Luis Obispo County Pinot Noir

13.4% alc., pH 3.76, TA 0.522, 612 cases, $48. Third release from this vineyard that is located on the Phelan Ranch, three miles north of Cambria. The vineyard was planted in 2007 to 13.25 acres of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The sandy, cobbled soils are unique for the Santa Maria Valley and yield very small quantities of grapes. Clones 667, 777, 115 and Pommard. 50% whole cluster. Aged 18 months in French oak barrels, 55% new. Unfined and unfiltered. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. The engaging nose becomes more likable over time in the glass, exuding aromas of dark fruits, spice, fennel and red clay pottery. The boisterous flavors of purple and black fruits saturate the mid palate, picking up accents of charcoal, oak, earth and spice as the finish evolves. The substantial but not intrusive tannic backbone guarantees age ability. Score: 92



Sant Wines

2013 Sant Wines Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir

13.8% alc., pH 3.45, TA 0.69, $47. Sourced from La Encantada and Rita’s Crown vineyards. Clones 115, 667 and 777. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Difficult to coax much from the nose other than woodland scents. Mid weight cherry, red grape and earthy flora flavors backed by soft tannins and bright acidity. Pleasant, with delicate, aromatic cherry on the demure finish. Score: 88

2013 Sant Wines “Buena Aventura” Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir

13.4% alc., pH 3.43, TA 0.72, $50. Sourced from La Encantada and Rita’s Crown vineyards. 115 and Pommard clones. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. The black cherry fruit on the nose seems ripe, even stewed, along with an aroma of brown apple and dried herbs. Flavors of purple berries, grape and cherry with a note of nutty oak in a ripely flavored, modestly concentrated style with zippy acidity. Score: 88



Sante Arcangeli Family Wines, Santa Cruz Mountains

Owner and winemaker John Benedetti’s great grandfather was named Sante Arcangeli (SAHNtay AreCANJuh Lee). He built a business in the small farming town of Pescadero on California’s north coast that became known as Arcangeli Grocery Company, a world famous bakery and gourmet market under the direction of Sante’s grandson, Norm Benedetti and his spouse Shirley. It is now owned by Sante’s great grandchildren, John’s brothers Mike and Don. There was a wine cellar under the store and Sante laid down many sought-after French and California wines in the 1970s. These wines turned John onto wine early in life.

John taught himself to brew beer by his late teens and early 20s, he moved onto wine by his mid-20s. Ryan Beauregard, the Brassfield family and James MacPhail all acted as mentors and teachers. It started as a hobby and soon became a hobby gone haywire. Now he produces wonderful Pinot Noir and Chardonnay primarily from vineyards in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

A tasting room is located in historic Pescardero, CA, adjacent Duarte’s Tavern. Check website for days and hours. The wines are also sold on the winery’s website. Visit www.santewinery.com.

2014 Sante Arcangeli Corralitos Cuvée Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir

13.9% alc., pH 3.59, TA 0.61, 425 cases, $39. Sourced from three Corralitos vineyards. Harvest Brix 23.0º-24.1º. 95% de-stemmed, 5% saignée, native and cultured yeast fermentations, aged on the lees in 45% new French oak barrels with weekly battonage for 3 months. Bottled unfined and unfiltered. · Light reddish purple color in the glass. The nose reminds of Beaujolais, with aromas of red cherry and raspberry, spice, floral bouquet and cedary oak. Light weight flavors of cherry, raspberry, spice and oak backed buy juicy acidity. Velvety in the mouth with soft tannins, and a tart cherry-infused finish. The wine’s best quality is its energy and juiciness. Score: 89

2014 Sante Arcangeli Split Rail Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir

13.7% alc., pH 3.61, TA 0.62, 175 cases, $45. This vineyard is located at 1,700 feet elevation on a Corralitos mountaintop. David Bruce selection, clone 32, Pommard, Swan, Martini, and Wädenswil. Harvest Brix 23.0º-23.8º. 90% de-stemmed, native and cultured yeast fermentations, aged on the lees in 30% new French oak barrels with weekly batonnage for 3 months. Bottled unfined and unfiltered. · Moderately light reddish purple color in the glass. Ebullient aromas of cherry, raspberry, spice, rose petal and toasty oak. The light to mid weight cherry and raspberry flavors are enhanced with a waft of oak. The wine has good energy, integrated ripe tannins, a silky mouthfeel and a lip-smacking finish. Score: 90

2014 Sante Arcangeli Lester Family Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., pH 3.60, TA 0.58, 125 cases, $45. Harvest Brix 24.1º. This vineyard is located at 450 feet elevation in the Pleasant Valley area of Corralitos. Clone 2A, Dijon 115 and a tiny amount of 23. 100% de-stemmed. 2.5% saignée. Native and cultured yeast fermentation, aged 10 months on the lees in 40% new French oak barrels with weekly battonage for 3 months. Bottled unfined and unfiltered. · Moderately light reddish purple color in the glass. Love the nose on this wine which displays hi-tone aromas of cherry, spice and redwood. The mid weight, chewy cherry core is well balanced by ripe tannins. A nutty oak and conifer note are complimentary. The tannins are evident but submerged, and the finish has pleasing pizzazz. Score: 91

2014 Sante Arcangeli Family Reserve “Selezione Susie” Mardikian Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., pH 3.61, TA 0.62, 100 cases, $75. This vineyard is the estate vineyard of MacPhail Family Wines and is a close collaboration between winemaker James MacPhail and grower Jim Pratt. The vineyard was planted in 2009, with the first harvest in 2013. A unique feature of the vineyard is that it overlaps 3 AVAs: Sonoma Coast, Russian River Valley and Green Valley of Russian River Valley. It is located only 4 miles from the Pacific Coast resulting in a strong maritime influence. Martini and 777 clones. Harvest Brix 25.5º. 100% destemmed. Native and cultured fermentations, aged on the lees in 30% new French oak barrels with weekly lees stirring for 3 months. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Deep aromas of black cherry coulis and vanilla pod. A showy wine, with pleasing flavors of dark cherries and purple berries accented with just the right note of oak and framed by soft, nearly invisible fine tannins. Powerfully flavored, yet elegant, with plush presence on the palate, and a generosity that persists through the attack and finish. A score magnet! Score: 93



Three Sticks, Sonoma

Former Williams Selyem winemaker, Bob Cabral, is now the Director of Winemaking for Three Sticks. The 2013 wines were crafted by winemaker Don Van Staaveren who joined Three Sticks in 2004. In January of 2015, Don transitioned to an emeritus winemaker at Three Sticks. The winery’s restoration of the historic Vallejo-Casteñada Adobe in downtown Sonoma has been completed and is open by appointment only. Visit www.threestickswines.com.

2013 Three Sticks Durell Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., pH 3.55, TA 0.67, 585 cases, $65. Three blocks at Durell Vineyard provide the grapes for this estate wine: The Extension (777), The Terraces (115), and Block R (667). 15% whole cluster, aged 16 months in 100% French oak barrels, 50% new. Winemaker is Don Van Staaveren. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Lovely aromas of black cherry, ollaliberry, and herbal tea. Both fruity and savory on the palate, with a charge of succulent cherry and raspberry fruit flavors accented with a thread of savory dried herbs and mushroom notes. Rather earthy and individualistic, with deft integration of oak, and a savory finish. A terroir driven wine of great interest. Score: 92

2013 Three Sticks Gap’s Crown Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., pH 3.55, TA 0.67, 329 cases, $65. This vineyard is located on the western slope of Sonoma Mountain at an elevation of 300’ to 800’. 15% whole cluster, aged 16 months in 100% French oak barrels, 50% new. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. The nose opens slowly over time, offering aromas of black cherry and cranberry relish. Noticeably bright fruit freshness, with flavors of black cherry, cranberry and black raspberry. A subtle note of oak adds support and interest, the tannins are quite modest, and the finish has admirable length. Score: 90



Westwood Wine Co., Sonoma

Winemaker Ben Cain joined Westwood Estate Winery in Sonoma Valley in 2014 after leaving Twomey (and a short stop at Hirsch) at the urging of David Ramey, who has been asked to bring this unique estate back to prominence. All wines are sourced from Annadel Gap Estate Vineyard, located in the northern reaches of the Sonoma Valley, in a tight passage between Hood Mountain and nearby Sonoma Mountain. The wines are just beginning to be released.

The upper portion of the Sonoma Valley is actually cooler than much of the Russian River Valley region and is more akin to the Petaluma Gap. The soils in the vineyard are varied, with fractured shale and sandstone interspersed with river gravels, clay and sand. Vine plantings began in 2001 and there are nine Pinot Noir clones including Calera, 777, 115, 943, Mt. Eden, Pommard and Chambertin. In all, there are 15.62 acres planted to Pinot Noir in ten distinct blocks, alongside a variety of Rhone varieties, for a total of 22.46 planted acres. Significant investments have been made in the vineyard with Biodynamic™ consultant Philippe Coderey helping to refine the approach to farming Annadel Gap Vineyard.

Plans are afoot for Pinot Noir from other appellations including a 2015 release from the Wendling Vineyard in Anderson Valley. A tasting room is located on the Square in Sonoma. Visit www.westwoodwine.com.

2014 Westwood Annadel Gap Vineyard Estate Sonoma Valley Pinot Noir

13.9% alc., pH 3.65, TA 0.56, RS 0.1g/L, 780 cases, $44. Released June 2015. 115, 777, 943 and Calera clones. Native fermentation, 20% whole clusters, 5 to 6-day cold soak, berries kept whole with each clone separated, native yeast fermentation, aged on lees in French oak barrels, 30% new, for 6 months. Gentle fining with no filtration. · Moderately light reddish purple color in the glass. Inviting aromas of black cherry, earthy flora and barrel. The mid weight black raspberry and blackberry flavors are complimented by a waft of oak. Seductively suave in texture with silky tannins. Noticeable harmony and forward drink ability. Score: 89

2014 Westwood Annadel Gap Vineyard Estate Heritage Clones Sonoma Valley Pinot Noir

14.3% alc., pH 3.65, TA 0.57, RS 0.8g/L, 98 cases, $54. Released December 2015. Pommard and Mt. Eden clones. Berries kept whole with 20% whole clusters, 5 to 6-day cold soak, native yeast fermentation, basked pressed, aged 11 months in French oak barrels, 45% new. Gentle fining and filtration. · Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. The nose reluctantly offers scents of dark fruits and a hint of vanilla. Robust and structured, showing delicious flavors of black raspberry, boysenberry and plum with a compliment of oak, finishing modestly with a wave of non astringent tannins. Great potential here, but needs more time in bottle. Score: 90

2014 Westwood Annadel Gap Vineyard Estate Pommard Clone Sonoma Valley Pinot Noir

14.3% alc., pH 3.67, TA 0.66, RS 0.6g/L, 98 cases, $54. Released December 2015. Berries kept whole and included 20% whole clusters, 5 to 6-day cold soak, native yeast fermentation, basked pressed, aged 11 months in French oak barrels, 45% new. Gentle fining and filtration. · Moderately light reddish purple color in the glass. The aromas of dark cherry, forest floor and shaved oak lead to middleweight flavors of oak-kissed black cherry and blackberry fruits. The tannins are generous and mildly astringent on the sweet black cherry finish. There is a good acid underbelly. When tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle, the astringent tannins still stood out. Score: 88

2014 Westwood Annadel Gap Vineyard Estate Clone 37 Sonoma Valley Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., pH 3.61, TA 0.79, RS 0.8g/L, 98 cases, $54. Released December 2015. Mt. Eden clone. 5 to 6-day cold soak, native yeast fermentation, basket pressed, aged 11 months in French oak barrels, 45% new. Gentle fining and filtration. · Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. Inviting aromas of dark berry preserves and underbrush lead to a mid weight plus core of tasty black cherry and black raspberry fruits. This is a seamless wine that finds balance between fruit, tannin, acid and oak. Enjoyable now, with a lingering sweet berry finish that leaves behind a memorable impression. Score: 92

2014 Westwood Annadel Gap Vineyard Estate Clone 90 Sonoma Valley Pinot Noir

13.6% alc., pH 3.56, TA 0.57, RS 0.6g/L, 98 cases, $54. Released December 2015. Chambertain selection (90). Berries kept whole, 5 to 6-day cold soak, native yeast fermentation, basket pressed, aged 11 months in French oak barrels, 50% new. Gentle fining and filtration. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. The cherry and raspberry fruit flavors of this wine are seasoned with savory notes of sous-bois and damp pine needles. The wine is still a bit tight, with the redder-toned fruit searching for expression. Nicely composed, with a light imprint of oak, integrated tannins, and a refreshing finish. Score: 91

2014 Westwood Annadel Gap Vineyard Estate Reserve Sonoma Valley Pinot Noir

14.6% alc., pH 3.65, TA 0.56, RS 0.8g/L, 220 cases, $64. Release March 2016. Pommard and 667 clones. 20% whole clusters, 5 to 6-day cold soak, native yeast fermentations, basket pressed, aged 11 months in French oak barrels, 50% new. Gentle fining and filtration. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Uplifting aromas of cherry pie and baking spices lead to a luscious and structured array of black cherry, raspberry and black tea flavors augmented with a deft touch of oak spice. The wine’s most remarkable feature is the finish, which is filled with aromatic cherry energy and lasts for what seems like a minute. Clearly, an exceptional but young wine that will continue to improve in the cellar and may be worthy of a higher score down the line. Score: 93



Williams Selyem, Russian River Valley

Winemaker Bob Cabral has now departed and Jeff Mangahas is now in charge of winemaking. Although the 2013 vintage in the Russian River Valley was reported as delivering bountiful yields with grapes achieving full maturity despite the threat of inclement weather late in the season, this small sampling of Williams Selyem Pinot Noirs seemed to fall short in quality compared to the previous 2012 vintage, at least now. The ideal drinking window is said to be about 2017-2027 for these wines and my scores may prove low over time. Williams Selyem wines are allocated through a mailing list at www.williamsselyem.com.

2013 Williams Selyem Allen Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

13.7% alc., pH 3.56, TA 0.64, $82. Released fall 2015. Aged 16 months in French oak barrels, 64% new and 36% 1-year-old. · Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. An array of inviting aromas include strawberry, cherry, raspberry, cardamom spice, and sweet smoke. On the palate, oak plays too great a role currently for me to thoroughly enjoy the wine. Mid weight fruit flavors of black cherry, spice and earthiness are dominated by oak-driven notes of toast and smoke. The wine finishes with a slightly tart (? acid addition), cherry-driven note. When tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle the luscious fruit was more expressive and the oak overlay had lessened a bit. Best to cellar this wine for another year or two. Score: 90

2013 Williams Selyem Rochioli-Riverblock Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., pH 3.57, TA 0.60, $79. Aged 16 months in French oak barrels, 62% new and 38% 1-year-old. Released fall 2015. · Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. The nose offers a paucity of fruit with overbearing oak and vegetal notes. Somewhat flat on the palate, with middleweight flavors of black cherry and black raspberry with matched tannins. Barrel work is a bit overbearing with the oak surfacing on the slightly tart finish. Unchanged when tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. Score: 89

2013 Williams Selyem Burt Williams’ Morning Dew Ranch Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

13.8% alc., pH 3.57, TA 0.63, $78. Released fall 2015. Aged 16 months in French oak barrels, 60% new and 40% 1-year-old. · Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. Moody, but pleasant, aromas of well-ripened black cherry, pomegranate and black raspberry. Superb intensity and length, featuring unctuous flavors of dark stone fruits and berries. Deft oak integration and modest tannins, finishing with a rush of dark berry goodness. This wine finds balance between fruit, tannins and acidity. Even better the following day from a previously opened and recorked bottle. Score: 92



Windy Oaks Estate Vineyards & Winery, Santa Cruz Mountains

Winemaker Jim Schultze along with spouse Judy and son Spencer, continue to craft remarkable Pinot Noir wines from his estate Schultze Family Vineyard and nearby estate Charmant Mountain Vineyard in his small, modern winery in Corralitos. His wines have appearing on my All-American lists multiple times and have maintained an impressive badge of consistency since the first vintage in 1999. Visit the tasting room at the winery or the new tasting room in Carmel-by-the-Sea and you will quickly see why I have been a fan for many years. The winery’s mailing list is one of the few that I continue to participate in. The website is at www.windyoaksestate.com.

2013 Windy Oaks Estate Terra Narro Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., $29. Unfined and unfiltered. This wine serves as an introduction to the Windy Oaks style as an everyday drinking wine. · Moderately light reddish purple color in the glass. Shy, but pleasing aromas of cherry, baking spices and red rose petal. Light to mid weight crisp and bright flavors of red cherry with a hint of red licorice and cola. A solid forward drinking wine with supple tannins and welcome acidity. Score: 89

2013 Windy Oaks Estate Cuvée Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., $39. 100% estate fruit from the 15-acre Schultze Family Vineyard at the southern end of the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA in Corralitos. Five clones. Unfined and unfiltered. · Moderately light cherry red color in the glass. The nose personifies what I love about the Pinot nose: aromas of cherry, spice, rose petal and sandalwood. Delicious core of well ripened black cherry fruit, accented with a hint of white pepper and other spices and root beer. Very sleek and silky, with suede tannins and an elegant, charming presence. The preverbal iron fist in a velvet glove. Score: 94

2013 Windy Oaks Estate Charmant Mountain Vineyard Diane’s Block Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., $45. A 5-acre, former apple orchard, 600 feet above Monterey Bay, slight warmer than the Schultze Family Vineyard. Unfined and unfiltered. · Moderately light cherry red color in the glass. Deep cherry aromas with a hint of rose petal. Forward drinking, mid weight plus flavors of black cherry framed by balanced dry tannins and a touch of oak. Seductive and silky in the mouth, with a broad-shouldered display of fruit on the finish. The beauty of this wine lies in the silky texture. Score: 93

2013 Windy Oaks Estate Limited Release Wild Yeast Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir

13.7% alc., $55. A limited release wine that features the unique aromas of wild yeast fermentation. Available to wine group members and visitors to tasting room. Unfined and unfiltered. · Light cherry red color in the glass. Interesting aromas of lees, black cherry, spice cake, mushroom and a touch of oak. Light to mid weight flavors of red cherry and blueberry in a vibrant style with lifted acidity, balanced tannins, and a modest finish. Score: 90



More

2013 Anaba Chenoweth Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.3% alc., pH 3.54, TA 0.62, 304 cases, $48. Sourced from Bootlegger’s Hill Vineyard planted and farmed by Charlie Chenoweth. It is situated close to the coast at 700 feet elevation and contains Goldridge soils. Harvest Brix 24.3º. Clones 115, Calera and Elite. 100% de-stemmed, 5-day cold soak, basket pressed to barrel, aged 11 months on lees in French oak barrels, 40% new. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Aromas of very ripe berries, iron and vanilla lead to a full-bodied mix of blackberry, black currant and boysenberry fruit flavors with supportive oak. Succulent and deeply flavored, with fruit veering to the riper side, yet very charming with good harmony. Score: 89

2013 Carmel Road Drew’s Blend Monterey Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., TA 0.58, 5,095 cases, $28. Winemaking partner of Kris Kato is Drew Barrymore. Sourced primarily form the Carmel Road Estate Panorama Vineyard in the foothills of the Arroyo Seco AVA. Clones 23, 115, 667 and 777. Aged 8 months in 95% French oak barrels (17% new). · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Interesting aromatic complex featuring black cherry, blackberry, peppercorn and toast. A forward drinking wine offering flavors of black cherry, blueberry, black tea and spice with haunting oak in the background. A friendly wine with balanced tannins and a heady finish. Score: 89

2014 Dutton-Goldfield Dutton Ranch Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., pH 3.64, TA 0.55, $44. A blend of seven Dutton Ranch farmed vineyards. 100% de-stemmed, 5-day cold soak, 14-20 days on skins, aged 10 months in French oak barrels, 40% new. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. A good amount of oak shows up in this wine that offers aromas of Bing cherry, strawberry, mulch and sandalwood, and light to mid weight flavors of cherry, strawberry and toast. An easy drinking, straightforward style with silky tannins and a dry finish. Needs more time to shed some of the oak overlay. Score: 88-89


Print entire newsletter

Wineries in this Article