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Father John Pinot Noir: Young Winemaker has French Sensibilities

Winemaker Nicholas Maloney is a Sonoma native who operates Father John Wines, dedicated to the late Reverend, John Weaver, a renowned Episcopalian priest and Nick’s grandfather. Nicholas has spent considerable time in Burgundy, having studied at and graduated from the world-renown Lycée Viticole in Beaune. He has developed his winemaker skills with stints at Maison Ilan in Nuits-Saint-Georges, and Domaine Rollin in Pernand-Verglesses as well as Clos du Bois and Porter-Bass in California.

Father John was launched in 2010 with a Pinot Noir from Oehlman Vineyard on Vine Hill Road in Graton. The 2014 Father John Pinot Noir is currently one of the few American Pinot Noirs to be found on restaurant lists in Burgundy and is especially popular with the Swiss, Belgians, Danish and English. With the 2015 vintage, he has added a vineyard in Mendocino County that has Martini clone Pinot Noir vines dating to 1968, and a vineyard on Mendocino Ridge. He is also releasing a Bourgogne wine he crafted in France and imported to the United States. Father John wines are sold mainly to Europe with exports making up over 60% of total sales. In the United States, New York, Colorado and the San Francisco Bay area are the top markets, with increasing interest from Asia.

I recently visited Nicholas at his family’s apple farm just outside the city limits of Sebastopol where he has planted a vineyard on the hillsides of the ranch. He is hoping to make a single vineyard Pinot Noir from this new planting in 2017. I tasted two barrel samples from Mendocino County with 100% whole cluster and found them very engaging. Each year that Nicholas has been making Pinot Noir he has used less new oak and de-stemmed less.

Father John Pinot Noir is sold through a mailing list at Tasting is available at the Maloney family ranch in Sebastopol by appointment.

2012 Father John Oehlman Vineyard Reserve Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., $55 (sold out). Some whole cluster. Aged 11 months on lees in French oak barrels. Fined but not filtered. · Light cherry red color in the glass. Aromas of cherry and sandalwood lead to a middleweight styled wine with vivid flavors of red cherry, cranberry and raspberry, framed by a kiss of oak. Elegantly composed, with very bright acidity complimenting the juicy, slightly tart finish. Score: 90

2013 Father John Oehlman Vineyard Reserve Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

12.5% alc., $55 (sold out). · Moderately light reddish purple color in the glass. Sexy aromas of Bing cherry, spice and raspberry preserves. Very elegant, but highly flavorful, featuring a cherry-driven core of vibrant fruit framed by silky tannins, integrated acidity, and finishing with plenty of cherry goodness. A beautiful wine that hits the mark in this vintage. Score: 93

2014 Father John Vine Hills Road (Oehlman Vineyard) Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

12.5% alc., $55. · t cherry red color in the glass. Effusive aromas of red cherry, rose petal and complimentary toasty oak. A feminine, ethereal wine with delicate flavors of red cherry and cranberry, spice and sous bois. Exquisitely balanced with a juicy finish that exudes cherry fruit. Chambolle Musigny anyone? Score: 91

2014 Father John Les Luteniéres Bourgogne France Pinot Noir

13.0% alc., $80. Imported by Maison Harbour LLC, Travelers Rest, South Carolina. · Moderately light reddish purple color in the glass. The nose offers a mix of cherry fruit and savory earthy aromas. Earth-blessed, modestly sweet flavors of cherry, raspberry and cranberry are quite inviting. The overall impression denotes sauvage, with a noticeable oak input. Nicely balanced, improving over time in the glass, with a modest but satisfying finish. This wine was tasted two days after opening from a re-corked bottle indicating it has good prospects for longevity. Score: 90

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