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
Father John Pinot Noir is sold through a mailing list at www.fatherjohnwinery.com. 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.
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.
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.