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WesMar Winery Celebrates 15th Vintage

In the fall of 2017, WesMar Winery (pronounced “Wes-Mare”) will be releasing its 15th vintage, When I began the PinotFile in 2002, WesMar was one of my first featured wineries. Kirk Wesley Hubbard and Denise Mary Selyem left their corporate world jobs in the early 1990s upon the urgings of Denise’s father, Ed Selyem, and joined Williams Selyem Winery. Wile working there, they learned the wine business and the secrets of producing great Pinot Noir. When Williams Selyem Winery was sold in 1997, Kirk and Denise launched their own winery in the mold of the Williams Selyem garagiste model.

Their winery is located in a former apple processing facility on Gravenstein Highway in Sebastopol. There is no fancy sign calling attention to the winery, just some grape bins outside with the name “WesMar” stenciled on them. The winery is strictly a two-person operation, with Kirk and Denise sharing all winemaking and winery management duties without the assistance of employees, consultants or brokers.

Both appellation-designated and vineyard-designated Pinot Noir are produced, with each wine vinified in an identical fashion. The wines are vinified in five-ton, double-walled, rectangular open-stop, stainless steel, former milk shipping containers that maximize surface area relative to height and weight. These halved containers were originally used by Burt Williams and Ed Selyem when they owned the Williams Selyem Winery. There is usually an inclusion of a modest amount of whole cluster. Punch downs are by hand, the winemaking process is by gravity flow only using no pumps, and aging is carried out in a generous proportion of new Francois Frères oak barrels for about 11 months. The wines are usually bottled unfined and unfiltered.

In 2012, the first two acres of an estate vineyard were planted in Sebastopol using Pommard and Martini clones, but subsequent replanting was required so the 2018 vintage will be the first usable harvest.

The 2014 vintage wines reviewed here were the result of a warm and dry period during flowering set, moderate conditions throughout June and July, August cooling that slowed fruit maturity, and harvest with lower sugars in the range of 23.0º to 23.9º Brix. Denise says, “The 2014 Pinot Noirs are expressive even at a young age. These are some of the most balanced wines we have produced among recent vintages dating back to 2007. The harmony the wines offer along with higher acidities and low alcohol levels will allow the wines to age wonderfully.”

WesMar wines are sold through a mailing list and the winery’s online website store at Visitors are welcomed with open arms by appointment (707-829-8886). The 2014 wines were released in the spring 2017. Magnums and Jeroboams are available. A Chardonnay was also offered from the 2014 vintage.

As Denise noted, the wines are quite expressive now and when tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle, they continued to shine, predicting age ability.

2014 WesMar Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., 175 cases, $40. A blend of grapes from Oehlman, Balletto and Salzgeber vineyards meant to reflect the vintage in the RRV AVA. · Moderately light reddish purple color in the glass. Aromatically pleasing with scents of Bing cherry, spice, cola and sandalwood. Light to mid weight in style, with a juicy core of black cherry fruit set off by complimentary oak spice and cola notes. Easy to cozy up to, with silky tannins and admirable balance. Score: 90

2014 WesMar Oehlman Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

13.9% alc., 175 cases, $42. 11.92 acres on Vine Hill Road in Sebastopol. Goldridge soil. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Lively red and purple berry aromas as well as a bit of barnyard that may or may not appeal. Much better on the palate, with forward mid weight flavors of cherry, raspberry, spice, brewed tea and cola. Silky tannins and juicy acidity work amicably in tandem, and the wine finishes pleasantly albeit modestly. Score: 88

2014 WesMar Balletto Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

13.9% alc., 175 cases, $42. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Enticing perfume of dark berry, allspice, burnt tobacco and subtle oak. Very satisfying on the palate, with a discreetly concentrated core of blackberry and black raspberry fruits complimented with spice and oak in the background. Noticeable structure and intent, with sleek tannins and finishing with both power and length. Score: 92

2014 WesMar Salzgeber Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.4% alc., 150 cases, $45. · Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. Soaring aromas of cherry, raspberry, and vanilla lead to an assertive middleweight palate replete with beautifully ripened black cherry fruit. Impressive attack, mid palate presence and finish, with polished tannins, and deft oak enhancement. Score: 92

2014 WesMar Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.4% alc., 250 cases, $40. A blend of grapes from Hellenthal and Balletto vineyards. · Moderately light reddish purple color in the glass. The aromas arrive slowly in the glass, but peaking with interest as notes of purple and black berries, mulch, earth and underbrush show up. An array of earth-kissed purple berry and plum flavors are offered in a mid weight plus style. Very savory and earthbound, with only a hint of nutty oak. Highly engaging mouthfeel, with some finishing generosity. Score: 91

2014 WesMar Hellenthal Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., 200 cases, $50. 14.66 acres located on Bohan Dillon Road in Cazadero in the Fort Ross-Seaview AVA. Vineyard has three interplanted clones planted at 1053 feet elevation. · Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. The nose is primary, even when checked the following day. More expressive on the palate, with opulent flavors of blackberry and boysenberry, as well as iron and earth. Good harmony, with slick tannins and power to spare on the finish. A bit of an enigma now, this wine will need more time in the cellar to unleash its aromatics and nuances, but its nobility is evident. Score: 92-93

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