Sips of Recently Tasted Pinot Noir & Chardonnay
Airlie Winery, Monmouth, OR
This winery was profiled last year: www.princeofpinot.com/article/1855/. Located in the foothills of Monmouth,
Oregon, this unpretentious winery is quintessential Oregon in character. Mary Olson, the owner, and Elizabeth Clark, the winemaker, produce a wide range of varietals, sourced from the estate Dunn Forest Vineyard and
the nearby BeckenRidge Vineyard. The wines are reasonably priced considering the high quality. Visit
2014 Airlie Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.3% alc., 1,335 cases, $28. Sourced from the estate
Dunn Forest Vineyard and the BeckenRidge Vineyard.
Moderately light garnet color in the glass.
The nose offers aromas of dark cherry, black raspberry and smoky spices. The mid weight flavors
of black cherry, pomegranate and blackberry satisfy. Some dry tannins arrive on the modest finish.
Much more giving with more intensity of flavor when tasted the following day from a previously
opened and re-corked bottle.
2014 Airlie Vintner’s Blend Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
150 cases, $40. 50% Dunn Forest Vineyard and 50% BeckenRidge
Moderate garnet color in the glass. The nose offers an
appealing marriage of fruit (purple and black berries) and oak. Similar
in flavor profile to the Willamette Valley bottling but with more attack,
mid palate sap and longer finish. Beautifully balanced, with the right
touch of oak spice, a creamy texture and blessed tannins. Even more
generous and pleasing when tasted the following day from a previously
opened and re-corked bottle.
2014 Airlie Estate Willamette Valley Chardonnay
13.5% alc., 376 cases, $20. Dunn Forest
Vineyard has some of the first plantings in Oregon of Dijon clones of Chardonnay. Mostly neutral
barrel fermented and aged 10 months in oak.
Light golden yellow color in the glass. Reading off
are aromas of lemon pie, ripe pear and brioche. Silky and easygoing on the palate with demure
flavors of apple, baked pear, spice and vanilla. True to the Airlie style of lower alcohol, bright
acidity and food friendliness.
2016 Airlie Willamette Valley Pinot Blanc
13.1% alc., pH 3.26, RS <0.1%, 565 cases, $20,
Very light golden yellow color in the glass. The aromas really pop, including apricot,
white peach and pear. Bright flavors of nectarine, pear, lemon-lime and lychee with good length on
the palate and a dry, quenching finish. A terrific food wine that is a masterful expression of this
often neglected grape variety.
cedar + salmon, Dundee, CA
This Pacific Northwest label comes from 3 Badge Beverage Corporation. in Sonoma CA, a company that
produces a diverse portfolio of wine, spirits and beer, founded in 2009 by August Sebastiani. The name comes
from an old fire service badge from the Sebastiani family. 4th-generation vintner, August Sebastiani leads the
company out of an old fire station in Sonoma, CA. Labels in the portfolio include Leese-Fitch, Moobuzz,
Gehricke, Pennywise and Hey Mambo, as well as these inaugural releases from cedar + salmon. Visit www.
3badge.com. Vinted and bottled by 3 Badge Beverage, Dundee, OR.
2016 cedar + salmon Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., pH 3.78, TA 0.56, $25. Fermented on skins
for 15-20 days, aged in a mixture of oak and stainless steel for 7 months before racking prior to blending and
Complex nose offering aromas of savory herbs, timber, sweet pipe smoke, pine and timber.
Middleweight flavors of boysenberry, blackberry and Damsel plum with an underlying herbaceous oak thread.
Balanced tannins, with juicy acidity and a dry, modest finish.
2016 cedar + salmon Willamette Valley Pinot Gris
pH 3.28, TA 0.59, $19. Sourced from several vineyards
with bracketed harvest dates. Fermented in stainless steel tanks, minimal racking and blending for balance.
Light golden yellow color in the glass. Very shy aromas of pear, peach and lemon. True to the varietal, with
flavors of nectarine, pear and lychee. Rather shallow with vivid acidity and a short finish.
Ken Brown Wines, Buellton, CA
Ken Brown is one of California’s most veteran winemakers, crafting wine in the Santa Barbara County area
since 1977. He was the founding winemaker at both Zaca Mesa Winery and Byron Winery, as well as his
eponymous label, Ken Brown Wines, founded in 2003. The winery’s focus is Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, with
many single-vineyard offerings. Ken has consulted for many larger labels and has mentored many current
Santa Barbara County winemakers. You can depend on his wines for consistent high quality. Visit
2013 Ken Brown Radian Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
14.7% alc., pH 3.49, TA 0.61, 247 cases, $70.
This vineyard is located at the extreme west end of the Sta. Rita Hills AVA and is one of the coldest vineyards
on the entire West Coast. 59% clone 115, 41% clone 667. 100% de-stemmed, aged 18 months in French oak
barrels, 35% new.
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Very shy aromas of boysenberry pie, potpourri
and pipe smoke. Mid weight plus in style and a bit rustic and rugged in character, with very intense sappy
flavors of boysenberry, blackberry, cassis, anise, and earth backed by energetic tannins, reflecting the cool,
windy location of the vines.
2014 Ken Brown Rita’s Crown Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., pH 3.70, TA 0.54, 279 cases,
$60. One of the highest vineyards in region at 600-950 feet elevation planted in 2007. Shallow soils, abundant
ocean breezes and southern slope. Clones 777, “828,” 115, and 667.100% de-stemmed, aged 11 months in
French oak barrels, 33% new.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Aromas of black cherry, spice, clay and
fertile earth lead to a mid weight plus assortment of purple and black berry fruit flavors. Earthy, with toasted oak
in the background. The finish is notable for its eager persistence.
2014 Ken Brown La Encantada Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., pH 3.60, TA 0.54, 178
cases, $60. Vineyard is located at the cool westernmost end of the Sta. Rita Hills AVA. This 100-acre vineyard
was planted in 2001 by Richard Sanford and was one of the first vineyards in Santa Barbara County to be
certified organic. Swan selection and Dijon 115 clone. 100% de-stemmed, aged 11 months in French oak
barrels, 33% new.
Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Aromas of dusty cherry, cranberry and oak cask.
Light to mid weight flavors of cherry and spice with an underlying earthy tone. Juicy, with redeeming acidity, a
silky mouth feel, and immersed tannins. Quite forward and can be enjoyed now but has the balance to age.
2015 Ken Brown Zotovich Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., pH 3.63, TA 0.5777, 92 cases, $55. Clone 114. 100% destemmed.
Aged 11 months in French oak barrels, 29% new.
garnet color in the glass. Inviting aromas of darker cherries and berries,
with complimentary notes of burnt tobacco and oak. Vivid and juicy on
the palate, with plenty of black raspberry, blackberry and peppery spice
flavors. Silky in texture, with suede tannins and oak in the background.
The extended finish leaves an impression.
Rain Dance Vineyards, Newberg, OR
Ken and Celia Austin acquired the Anam Cara Nicholas Estate Vineyard in 2014 and produce the two wines
reviewed here from this Chehalem Mountains vineyard at Alexana Winery in Newberg. Less than 1,000 cases
of Pinot Noir, Pinot Noir Rosé, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, and Riesling are produced annually from the
estate Nicholas Estate Vineyard along with Pinot Noir from the estate Rain Dance Vineyard. Since the first
release from the 2013 vintage, the wines have increased in quality. Visit www.raindancevineyards.com.
2015 Rain Dance Vineyards Estate Nicholas Vineyard Chehalem Mountains Oregon Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., pH 3.63, TA 0.525, 220 cases, $30. Produced from LIVE certified grapes grown in
Laurelwood and Jory soils. Harvest Brix 25.5. 115, 667, 777 and Pommard clones. Aged 10
months in French oak barrels, 33% new, 22% once-filled and 45% neutral.
garnet color in the glass. Aromas of black cherry and marionberry lead to a mid weight plus styled
wine with a powerful attack of purple berry, plum and spice flavors framed by notable grainy
tannins and supported by balanced acidity. The lingering finish leaves quite an impression. Still a
youngster and will undoubtedly benefit from more time in the cellar.
2016 Rain Dance Estate Nicholas Vineyard Chehalem Mountains Oregon Chardonnay
13.5% alc., pH 3.37, TA 0.60, $30. Released
November 2017. Harvest Brix 22.8º. Clone 95. Aged
in Fresh oak barrels, 33% new, 33% once-filled and
Moderately light golden yellow color in
the glass. Complex and persistent aromas of lemon
curd, spice, white flower blossoms, tropical fruits and biscuit lead to a
wine of lovely composure that is discreetly endowed with flowing flavors
of citrus, apple, white peach, banana and vanilla. Very slightly viscous,
with a gracious acid backbone and some finishing brightness and
resolve. A complete wine and one of the best Chardonnays that I have
recently tasted from Oregon.
Ryan Cochrane Wines, San Francisco CA
A boutique producer of Central Coast Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Ryan learned his winemaking working
alongside Roger Nicolas at RN Estate in Paso Robles. Two Pinot Noir and a Chardonnay are offered through
the website store and a mailing list. Visit www.ryancochranewines.com.
2015 Ryan Cochrane Solomon Hills Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., 220 cases, $46.
20% 115, 40% 667 and 40% 777. 15% whole cluster fermentation. Aged 10 months in French oak barrels, 20%
new. Bottled unfixed and unfiltered.
Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Endowed with lovely aromas of
strawberry, red cherry, bark, anise and oak spice. Light in weight yet flavorful, featuring an array of red fruit
flavors with a compliment of spice and smoky oak. Elegant, with lacy tannins and some staying power on the
2015 Ryan Cochrane Fiddlestix Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., 150 cases, $46. 60% 115, 20% 113 and 20% 667. 15%
whole cluster fermentation. Aged 10 months in French oak barrels,
20% new. Bottled unfixed and unfiltered.
Light ruby red color in the
glass. Aromas of cherry, savory earthy flora and sandalwood. Light
weighted but highly satisfying flavors of red cherry and berry backed by
warm spices and a touch of savory herbs. Elegant and juicy with tame,
suede tannins. The proverbial iron fist in a velvet glove.
2015 Ryan Cochrane Solomon Hills Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay
13.4% alc., 74 cases, $36.
Previously this bottling was made from Wente clone 4, but this bottling is made from Dijon 96 clone. Barrel
fermented, 100% malolactic fermentation, lees stirring. Aged 10 months in French oak barrels, 33% new.
golden yellow color in the glass. Beautifully perfumed with aromas of fresh pear, lemon rind, yellow grapefruit
and brioche. Appealing leanness on the palate, with flavors of citrus, white flower water, tropical fruits and
buttered toast. Nicely balanced with restrained oak and a succulent finish. This wine is ideally suited to food.
Scherrer Winery, Sebastopol, CA
Winemaker Fred Scherrer flies a bit under the notoriety buzz, but ask any Sonoma County winemaker about
him and they will smile and praise his virtues. He is a bit of an iconoclast, looking more like a bearded
winemaker from Oregon and disdaining submission of his wines to any wine publications for review. His winery
is very modest and located in a somewhat remote outpost among farm residences in Sebastopol. He is a bit
self-deprecating, yet when you spend some time with him you realize his brilliant winemaking talents. He has
been at it since 1991, meaning 26 years of hard earned experience. He is in no hurry to release his wines,
offering them only when he feels they are ready to drink. Those in the know buy Scherrer wines through a
mailing list at www.scherrerwinery.com. The following wines were recently released. Magnums are available.
2013 Scherrer Hallberg Vineyard Green Valley of Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 48 cases,
$75. Released November 2017.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Aromas of black cherry, pomegranate,
exotic spices and burnt tobacco (suggesting some whole cluster). A middleweight style with welcome elegance,
offering flavors of black cherry, strawberry and pomegranate with noticeable smoky oak in the background,
Nicely balanced with a pleasurable and extended finish. This wine grows on you the more you sample it, and
was even better when tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle.
2014 Scherrer Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 1,190 cases, $50. Released November 2017.
Unfined and unfiltered.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Enticing perfume of dark pie cherries and spice.
Tasteful cherry core with good length and finishing persistence. Refreshing, sleek and polished, with gossamer
tannins, brotherly oak, and a riff of cherry cola on the finish.
2015 Scherrer Helfer Vineyard Russian River Valley Chardonnay
14.5% alc., 140 cases, $50. Released
November 2017. Vineyard is located in the Vine Hill area of
the Russian River Valley. The vines are densely planted and
must be hand cultivated.
Moderate golden yellow color in
the glass. Noble aromas of green apple, honey, spice and
ginger. Delicious flavors of lemon, lychee, apple,
honeycomb, toast and caramel in a robustly fruited style with a slightly
creamy texture and some finishing persistence. Year in and year out
one of Russian River Valley’s best Chardonnays, yet lightly recognized.
The Four Graces, Dundee, OR
This winery was named for the four daughters of the Black family who established this winery. The Blacks
bought an existing vineyard in the Dundee Hills in 2003 and later added the Doe Ridge Vineyard property in
Yamhill Carlton in 2005. The Doe Ridge Vineyard site is interesting because of the 40 acres planted to Dijon
and Pommard clones of Pinot Noir, 20 acres are farmed using sustainable agriculture while the other 20 acres
are farmed using biodynamic viticulture. More recently, the winery and vineyards were acquired by Foley
Family Wines, and the vineyard adjacent the winery is named Foley Family Vineyard. The winery specializes in
Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc. The winemaker is Marc Myer, a graduate of University of California at
Davis (2008). His Pinot Noir chops were developed in stints at Gran Moraine and La Crema. The historical
farmhouse, now named Foley Family Estate, has been renovated and re-opened as a tasting room on Hwy 99
in Dundee. Visit www.thefourgraces.com. Note: these wines were shipped FedEx ground October 17 at a time
when temperatures were quite high at the receiving wine locker, reaching triple digits by October 22. There waswhen temperatures were quite high at the receiving wine locker, reaching triple digits by October 22. There was no external evidence of heat damage to the bottled wines.
2015 The Four Graces Willamette Valley Oregon Pinot Noir
13.8% alc., pH 3.60, 14,140 cases, $32.
Sourced from The Foley Family Estate in the Dundee Hills and Doe Ridge Estate in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA.
Aged 9 months in French oak barrels, 15% new.
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Shy, but pleasant
aromas of black cherry, baking spice and biscuit. Forward drinking mid weight wine with plenty of dark cherry,
blueberry and pomegranate fruit flavors to satisfy. Satiny texture with modest tannins that stick out on the
finish. A little more oak than I prefer is apparent.
2015 The Four Graces Reserve Dundee Hills Oregon Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., pH 3.60, 1,279 cases, $75.
Sourced from Foley Family Estate Vineyard. A specific row and block selection. Aged 9 months in French oak
barrels, 25% new.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Shy aromas of tobacco, conifer, cherry and strawberry.
Discreetly concentrated flavors of earth-kissed cherry and blackberry with a thread of supportive oak. Silky
tannins, bright acidity and a modest finish that still shows some unresolved tannins. Needs more time in the
cellar for full aromatic and flavor expression.
Wonderment Wines, Napa, CA
South Carolina native Stephanie Cook has had a varied career including model, event planner, caterer and
finally winemaker and winery owner. She made her first wines including Pinot Noir in 2011 after honing her
winemaking skills at Spottswoode, Anomaly Vineyards, Spy Valley Wines in New Zealand, and Staglin Family
Vineyard. Visit www.wondermentwines.com.
2015 Wonderment Dr. Stan’s Vineyard Carneros Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., 25 cases, $65. Release December
15, 2017. Vineyard is less than 1 acre of 30+-year-old Pinot Noir vines located on the northern edge of the
Sonoma portion of the Carneros AVA. Clone 115.
Moderately light ruby red color in the glass. Aromas of cherry,
strawberry and potpourri lead off. Admirable attack, length and finish in a mid weight style offering flavors of
dark red cherry and berry framed by soft tannins and invigorating acidity. Very giving and enjoyable now with
the balance to age nicely.
2015 Wonderment Dutton-Campbell Vineyard Green Valley of Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., 260 cases, $44. Release
December 15, 2017. A 14-acre vineyard planted in the mid 1990s.
Pommard 4 clone.
Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Seductive
aromas of fresh cold berries, spice and turned earth. A mouthful of
Pinot goodness in a mid weight plus style featuring an impressive
expression of black cherry fruit underlain with notes of warm spices and
tobacco. Easy to like now, with micro grain tannins, supportive acidity,
and a flattering finish. As I have said many times, Pommard is my
2015 Arthur Cellars Pride & Joy Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., pH 3.34, TA 0.69, 50 cases,
$40. Released September 2017. Grapes are sourced from Green Valley of Russian River Valley. Aged 13
months in one-year-old French oak barrels.
Moderately light ruby red color in the glass. Very shy aromas of
cherry, blueberry and bramble. More engaging on the palate with light to mid weight flavors of cherry,
strawberry and vanilla. Easygoing, with silky tannins and a noticeable cut of citrus-imbued acidity on the finish.
Better when tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle.
2015 Benovia La Pommeraie Russian River Valley Chardonnay
4.5% alc., pH 3.51, TA 0.66, $48.
Vineyard is located at edge of the Green Valley AVA and planted at a very high density of 2420 vines per acre.
Dijon clone 548 and 95. Indigenous yeast fermentation in French oak barrels and aged 16 months in French
oak barrels, 35% new.
Moderate golden yellow color in the glass. Aromas arrive nicely over time in the glass
including crusty lemon pie, grilled pear and toasted brioche. Delish flavors of lemon, green apple, grilled
pineapple and honey. Somewhat boldly fruited, but with cleansing, steely acidity on the long finish.
2015 Bravium Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
12.5% alc., pH 3.42, TA 0.65, 1,934 cases, $34. Released
September 1, 2016. Valley Foothills, Donnelly Creek and Wiley Vineyards. Aged 11 months in French and
Hungarian oak barrels, 33% new.
Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Aromas of cherry and cranberry
are pressed by more notable aromas of toast and cigar. Light to mid weight flavors of cherry and cranberry shot
through with a citrus note. Plenty of oak char and tobacco flavor intervenes. Demurely fruited with a tightlywound,
tart cherry finish. The oak continues to dominate the fruit when tasted the following day.
2015 Bravium Russian River Valley Chardonnay
alc., pH 3.46, TA 0.55, 1,934 cases, $20. Released
September 1, 2016. Sourced from Windsor Oaks Vineyard,
clone 17. Aged 11 months in French and Hungarian oak
barrels, 33% new.
Moderate golden yellow color in the
glass. Invigorating aromas of lemon oil, curt apple, pear and
pineapple. A richer, riper styled wine with good length and
finish featuring flavors of pear, golden apple, toast and
creme brûlée. Impressive balance in a wine that is classically Russian
River Valley in style.
2015 Briceland Vineyards Humboldt County Chardonnay
13.5% alc., 161 cases, $25. 40% Rhonda’s and
60% Ishi Pishi Ranch vineyards. Organically grown grapes. Fermented and aged in stainless steel tanks (no
oak contact). Full malolactic fermentation.
Light platinum yellow color in the glass. Very slight reduction initially.
Aromas of green apple, lemon zest and white floral blossoms. Lean and steely in style, with flavors of lemon,
pear and apple and a slight flint and green pepper note.
2015 Briceland Vineyards Humboldt County Sauvignon Blanc
13.5% alc., 135 cases, $21.
Sourced from several small family-owned vineyards around Humboldt County. Organically grown
grapes. Fermented and aged in stainless steel, no malolactic fermentation.
Light golden yellow
color in the glass. Aromas of lime zest, white stone fruit and the varietal characteristic whiff of
green pepper. Impressive typicality in a refreshing style with impeccable balance. The core of white
peach is complimented by notes of green pepper and herbs. I really enjoyed this wine.
NV Eye Chart California Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., $16.99. Eye Chart Wines is a collaboration between Joel
Gott and Dave Phinney (St. Helena, Napa County). Cellared and bottled by Joel Gott Wines, St. Helena, Napa
County. I saw this at a market and was curious to try it as I am a retired ophthalmologist.
Aromas and flavors of
blueberry, blackberry and pomegranate in a ripe-fruited, mid weight wine with a sweet tone. Some tobacco oak
chimes in. Very silky mouthfeel with a modest finish. True to its Pinot Noir origins, but a very simple quaff.
2015 Luli Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
$21 but often discounted to $17.99. Master Sommelier
Sara Floyd teams with California’s Pisoni Family to make
this wine. Doctor’s, Highlands, Montelinda and Leavens
vineyards. 12% whole cluster. Oak barrel aged and bottled
unfixed and unfiltered.
A tasty core of black cherry and
black raspberry fruit is framed by smoky oak. Silky in the
mouth, with balanced tannins in a mid weighted style, with a short, but
pleasurable finish. Better over time in the glass as the oak overlay
fades. Rare to find a Pinot Noir of this quality for under $20.
2014 Purple Hands Freedom Hill Vineyard Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., 500 cases, $38.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Aromas of dusty black cherry, baking spices and toasty oak. The flavor
profile veers to purple and black fruits with an earthy, mineral tone. Some oak plies the background and shows
up on the finish. The tannins are somewhat robust consistent with wines from this vineyard.