Recently Tasted California Pinot Noir & Chardonnay
Briceland Vineyards, Redway (Humboldt County), CA
Owner and winemaker Andrew Morris works off the beaten Pinot trail in the tiny town of Redway in
southern Humboldt County. The winery was first established 33 years ago by winemaker Joe Collins
who turned over ownership to Andrew in 2014. The wines have won many medals at wine
competitions and represent terrific values.
Tasting and tours of the winery can be arranged by appointment. You must contact the winery by
email or phone to order wines. Visit www.bricelandvineyards.com.
2015 Briceland Vineyards Humboldt County Pinot Noir
12.9% alc., 163 cases, $32.
Light ruby red color in the glass. Pleasant aromas of red cherry and berry and earthy flora.
Light in weight, offering juicy flavors of red cherry, raspberry and cranberry framed by
gentile tannins. Elegant and refined, with some staying power on the finish. A very good
2016 Briceland Vineyards Alderpoint Vineyard Humboldt County Pinot Noir
12.3% alc., 162 cases,
$35. Vineyard planted in 1991 in consultation with
Briceland’s founding winemaker Joe Collins.
Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Earthy
aromas of blackest cherry and blackberry fruits.
Engaging mid weight flavors of black cherry and purple berry with
a touch of baking spice. The soothing texture results from felty
tannins. Some of the fruit fragrance returns to haunt the
2017 Briceland Vineyards Phelps Vineyard Humboldt County Chardonnay
173 cases, $26.
Moderately light golden yellow color with a little spritz in the glass. Aromas
of lemon-lime, pear, sea breeze and grassiness. A crisp, clean style with redeeming acidity,
offering flavors of lemon-lime, green apple, lemon creme and vanilla. A spry wine that aims
Foursight Wines, Boonville, CA
A family owned winery producing Pinot Noir from the estate Charles Vineyard. The winery was
launched in 2007 by Bill and Nancy Charles, daughter Kristy Charles and her winemaker spouse
Joseph Webb. The vineyard was planted in 2001, and a winery and tasting room opened in 2009 on
the vineyard property on Highway 128 in the Anderson Valley. Visit www.foursightwines.com.
All wines are vinified with wild yeast (no yeast inoculations have ever been done at the winery) and
bottled unfined and unfiltered. The back labels list all the ingredients in the wine including grapes,
tartaric acid and sulfur dioxide, and are suitable for vegetarians or vegans.
2015 Foursight Charles Vineyard ZERØ Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., pH 3.64, TA
0.61, 320 cases, $39. Released July 2018. A blend of estate clones 114, 115, 777 and Pommard 5.
Fermented with 20% whole clusters.. Pressed in a gentle, Champagne-style basket press. Aged in
second year and older French oak barrels (zero new oak).
Light ruby red color in the glass. Perfumed
and sensuous with flowing red cherry and red berry fruit aromas. Light to mid weight in concentration,
featuring regal dark red fruits that make an impression on the mid palate and last with vigor through
the refreshing finish. A savory herb thread adds interest. Easy to drink, with gossamer tannins.
2015 Foursight Charles Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., pH 3.76, TA 0.60, 300
cases, $48. Released July 2018. Clones 777, 114, 115 and Pommard 5. 20% whole clusters, native
yeast and native malolactic fermentations. Aged in French oak barrels, 33.3% new.
garnet color in the glass. Appealing aromas of black cherry compote, dark red raspberry and dusty
earth. The deeply flavored dark cherry core is expansive in the mouth and forthright on the finish. A
little oak-driven barbecue spice and toast adds interest. The tannins are immersed and the juicy
acidity adds good lift. A veritable cherry jubilee with a delectable finish.
2016 Foursight Charles Vineyard Clone 05 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., pH 3.75, TA
0.60, 262 cases, 125 cases, $54. Released July 2018. 25% whole clusters, native yeast fermentation.
Aged in French oak barrels, 43% new. Five favorite barrels.
Moderately light ruby red color in the
glass. Robust aromas of Bing cherry, rose petal and red gum drops. Delicious core of fresh cherry
fruit with accents of spice and anise. Juicy acidity, with fine-grain tannins and a noticeably long finish.
A real cherry delight.
2016 Foursight Paraboll Charles Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., pH 3.77, TA
0.59, 200 cases, $60. Released July 2018. The name
of this wine is derived from the Boontling language
unique to Anderson Valley: “Para” is a term for a
deep, cherry red color and “Ball” or “Bahl” means “of
excellent quality.” Put together, Paraboll means “a great red.” The
wine is a homage to the Londer family where the name originated
and to a heritage language of Anderson Valley. This wine is
produced with a different ripening schedule and barrel regimen.
The grapes were given additional hang time before harvest for a
darker fruit profile and then aged in 50% new French oak barrels for 11 month with heavy and
medium-plus toast barrels. It is a homage to the Londer family where the name originated and to a
heritage language of Anderson Valley.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Vivid aromas of cherry,
dark chocolate and cigar box. Virile, well-ripened black raspberry, black cherry and blackberry fruit
flavors fill the mouth with pleasure. The weighty sap is buttressed by gutsy tannins that compliment
rather than intrude. The comfortable texture provides appeal. A little rustic and earthy in a good way
creating an individuality distinct from the other expressions of the Charles Vineyard.
Maryetta Wines, Boonville, CA
Owner Phil Jones founded this winery focusing on Pinot Noir from Mendocino County. Winemaker
Damon Bailey crafts the wines at Venge in Napa Valley, but the winery has a tasting venue in the
historic Live Oak building in Boonville in Anderson Valley.
2016 Maryetta Wines Nash Mill Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
13.2% alc., ph
3.68, 69 cases, $40. Farming by Jason Drew and Vineyards Logistics. Winemaking by
Damon Bailey and Venge Vineyards crew. Clones 667 and 115. Whole berry native
fermentation. Aged on the lees in French oak barrels, 2 to 5-year-old, for 11 months.
Bottled unfiltered, without Velcorin.
Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Nicely
scented, with aromas of fresh cherry, raspberry and oak spice. Fresh, wholesome and
giving, with a mid weight core of black cherry fruit. Slightly earthy, with a satin texture and some
2016 Maryetta Wines “Black Hoop” Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
12.8% alc., pH 3.71,
140 cases, $32. Farming by Jason Drew and Vineyards Logistics. Winemaking by Damon
Bailey and Venge Vineyards crew. 50% Valenti Ranch and 50% Nash Mill Vineyard.
Clones “828,” Pommard, 667, 115 and a Rochioli selection. Whole berry native
fermentation. Aged 11 months on the lees in French oak barrels, 2 to 5-year-old. Bottled
unfiltered, without Velcorin.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Nicely perfumed with
aromas of red cherry, spice, sandalwood and earthy flora. Impressive balance with buried tannins and
a soothingly sleek mouth feel, offering discreetly concentrated red cherry and raspberry fruit flavors.
The oak is deftly managed and the cherry-fueled finish is a delight.
2016 Maryetta Wines Valenti Ranch Mendocino Ridge Pinot Noir
12.7% alc., ph 3.59, 67 cases,
$45. Clones are 667, “828,” Pommard, and a Rochioli selection. Whole berry native fermentation.
Aged 11 months on the lees in French oak barrels, 2 to 5-year-old. Bottled unfiltered, without Velcorin.
Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Aromas of oak-kissed cherry and burnt tobacco. Flavors of
red cherry and berry, spice and delicate oak. Juicy, with charming crispness and freshness. Modest
tannins and some finishing length.
2017 Maryetta Wines Valenti Ranch Mendocino Ridge Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., pH 3.73, 92 cases,
$45. Vineyard farmed by Jason Drew and Vineyards Logistics. Clones are Pommard, “828,” and a
Rochioli selection. Whole berry native fermentation. Aged on the lees for 11 months in French oak
barrels, 2 to 5-year-old. Bottled unfiltered, without Velcorin.
Light garnet color in the glass. Initial
aromas are skewed more toward wood, earth and crusty bread with little purple berry charm. A little
more ripeness and concentration than the 2016 version of this wine, with more tannin and more oak
infusion, and overall a little less charming. The finish is mildly astringent. The aromatics arrived with
more fruit and spice when tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle.
Migration Wines, Hopland, CA
Winemaker Dana Epperson, a third generation Sonoman, has been making Pinot Noir her entire
professional life (photo below). She says, “I love Pinot Noir. It can be such a complex wine. A great
Pinot can be transcendent when it comes from the right vineyard, farmed the right way, with the
perfect climate, clones and soils.” She is one of the precious few women making Pinot Noir in
Her passion shows through in these excellent wines. These vineyard-designated wines are the best of
the best, in that they are produced from carefully selected lots and barrels. Because these four wines
are vinified identically, except for small differences in cooperage toast levels and timing of pressing,
they reflect where they came from.
Migration Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are part of the Duckhorn Wine Company. The label was
originally a second for Goldeneye. The wines are sold on the website at www.migrationwines.com.
tasting is available (appointments preferred) at Goldeneye Winery in Anderson Valley.
2016 Migration Bien Nacido Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., $70. Aged 10 months in
French oak barrels, 40% new, 60% neutral.
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Vigorous
aromas of black cherry, baking spice, black tea and
cigar hold up over time in the glass. An excellent
charge of sumptuous black cherry fruit is complimented by a hint
of oak and an earthiness. Impeccably balanced with a redeeming
cut of acidity, and an intense, black cherry-fueled finish. Pretty
much all you can ask for in a Pinot Noir.
2016 Migration Drum Canyon Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., $70. Vineyard
planted in 2003 and farmed by the Dierberg family. Aged 10 months in French oak barrels, 40% new
and 60% neutral.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. The nose is “down and dirty,” offering aromas of
fertile earth and clay with a hint of blackish fruit. More savory than fruity in a mid weight style, with
flavors of red and black cherry and red and black raspberry accented with botanical, tar and black tea
notes. Nicely balanced, with good acidity and some finishing length and boldness.
2016 Migration Dutton Ranch Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., $70. Sourced from two
cool vineyards in the Green Valley sub appellation of the Russian River Valley. Aged 10 months in
French oak barrels, 40% new, 60% neutral.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Aromas of dusty black
cherry, raspberry, vanilla and striking spice. Black cherry-driven in a middleweight style with a
compliment of Asian spices. Satisfying harmony, with reserved tannins, engaging acidity, and a lovely
spiced cherry finish.
2016 Migration Running Creek Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., $70. Aged
10 months in French oak barrels, 40% new, 60% neutral.
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass.
Soaring aromas of bing cherry, cola and red rose petal. Packed with voluptuous black cherry and
blackberry fruit in a mid weight plus style, yet sleek and welcoming. Balanced tannins hold the
prodigious fruit in check, and the overall impression is one of polish. Clearly, the ripest fruited of the
four wines tasted in this vintage.
Sea Smoke Cellars, Lompoc, CA
Sea Smoke is now approaching its 20-year anniversary. As the vineyard has slowly evolved with each
new vintage, so has the winemaking team’s approach to crafting the wines. This includes harvesting
the grapes at lower Brix levels, gradually reducing the amount of new oak used during aging, refining
the cooperage selection, and reducing the amount of sulfur used for the Chardonnay.
The name, “Sea Smoke,” refers to the Pacific Ocean marine layer of fog that covers the Pinot Noir
and Chardonnay hillside Sea Smoke Estate Vineyard.
This winery does not buy grapes or sell grapes. There is no public tasting room and no club or events,
so winemaker Don Schroeder and his team can focus all their energy on the vineyard and
winemaking. This includes labor-intensive farming required to earn biodynamic and organic
To join the “the list,” visit www.seasmoke.com.
2016 Sea Smoke ‘Southing’ Sea Smoke Estate Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
14.8% alc., pH 3.45, TA 0.61, $65.
Released October 2018. 100% gently de-stemmed, 5-day cold
soak, inoculated with cultured yeasts, total maceration time of
14-18 days. Aged 16 months in French oak barrels, 45% new.
Bottled unfined and unfiltered.
Dark garnet color in the glass.
Patience is required to fully appreciate this wine. The ripe black
fruit aromas are muted initially and only come to life over time.
Stacked and packed with luscious blackberry, boysenberry and
cassis fruit flavors framed by bold, yet well-mannered tannins.
Mouth filling, yet elevated by bright acidity, finishing long with
copious fruit persistence. This wine was considerably more suave and charming when re-tasted from
a previously opened and re-corked bottle one and two days after opening. Decanting or further
cellaring is advised.
2016 Sea Smoke Sea Smoke Estate Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Chardonnay
14.9% alc., pH 3.35, TA
0.63, $65. Released October 2018. Whole cluster pressed into a steel tank and cold settled. Then
racked to a stainless steel fermenter and inoculated for primary fermentation. Finally, racked to
French oak barrels, 26% new, and aged 16 months with periodic lees stirring. Bottled without fining or
Moderate golden yellow color in the glass. The nose offers a cornucopia of aromas including
apple, citrus, pastry cream, crushed shells and a hint of flint. Richly composed, offering flavors of
grilled lemon, pineapple, and toasty oak. Opulent and mouth-filling, with good alcohol integration. The
texture is particularly appealing with a sleekness rather than creaminess. Spirited acidity typical of the
Sta. Rita Hills infuses vigor into the luscious citrus core.
2016 Cobden Wini Reserve Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., pH 3.68, TA 0.60, 100
cases, $75. Produced from south-facing, hillside blocks on the estate vineyard. Rich clay soils, a cool
microclimate, and low yields. A four barrel selection by winemaker Mark Davis. These barrels were
kept on the lees an additional 7 months (for a total of 18 months), with each barrel stirred monthly.
The wine was bottled unfined and unfiltered.
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Leading off
are aromas of black grape, black berry, prune and vanilla, with a slight bit of volatile acidity that
dissipates. This is a very ripe-fruited wine offering mid weight flavors of black cherry and blackberry
accompanied by underlying toasty oak. Sleek in texture, finishing smooth, long and ingratiating. When
tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle, the wine was less appealing,
with a roasted fruit tone and more aggressive oak accompaniment.
2017 Decoy Sonoma County Chardonnay
13.5% alc., 64,000 cases, $20. This label is part of the
Duckhorn Wine Company portfolio. A value play that is widely available in the marketplace. Aged in
10% French oak barrels and 90% stainless steel.
Moderately light golden yellow color with a little
spritz in the glass. Aromas of lemon creme, pear, forest path and maple lead to similar flavors. Light
weighted, even a little shallow, with reserved oak and likable balance. An easy-to-drink, everyday
quaff that does what it is asked to do.
2017 Dutton-Goldfield Devil’s Gulch Vineyard Marin County Chardonnay
13.5% alc., not released, very
limited. Sourced from a small block of Chardonnay
planted in 1980 and farmed by Mark Pasternak.
Fermented and aged on the lees in stainless steel
Pale golden yellow color in the glass. The nose
will wow you will soaring aromas of golden apple,
poached pear and lemon pith. Ridiculous fruit purity and energy,
featuring citrus, apple and pear flavors unadorned with oak. The
purest expression of Chardonnay in a very clean and crisp style
with a slightly creamy mouthfeel. A very special wine of
uncommon breeding that will stun Grand Cru Burgundy (Chablis)
geeks. Still wonderful when tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle.
Devil’s Gulch Vineyard Chardonnay
The Chardonnay vines at Devils Gulch Ranch in Marin County were planted in 1980 by Mark Pasternak. He believes
the clone is Wente 4, but at the time he purchased the vines to plant his original vineyard, you did not ask nurseries for
a specific clone. One simply specified Chardonnay. Given the age and presence of a virus on many vines, and the mostly
“chicks” among the hens in the clusters, it is unlikely though it is a cleaned up version of Wente and possibly is Old
Wente. The mystery is part of the attraction.The rootstock is AxR1.
Yields vary from 1.5 tons to 3.5 tons per acre. Bud break is very early, sometimes in February. Because the vineyard is
at the top of a ridge, and subject to maritime influences from the Pacific Ocean to the West and the San Francisco Bay
to the East, the vines due not have frost pressure. The vineyard is warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer than
most other vineyards except perhaps those in the Sta. Rita Hills and Santa Maria Valley.
The first harvests of Chardonnay, 1986, 1987, 1988 and 1990, were all sent to Kalin Cellars for their sparkling wine. In
1990, there was too much fruit for Kalin so Mark sold a few tons to Dan Goldfield at La Crema. From then on, Dan
purchased all the fruit from Devil’s Gulch Ranch until around 2000 when Mark started selling the Chardonnay to
Schramsberg for their sparkling wines. Around 2010, Mark stopped selling to Schramsberg and Dan resumed
purchased half and some went to Couloir and Easkoot.
The 2018 Chardonnay all went to Dan at Dutton-Goldfield. For the past few years, Dutton-Goldfield has produced both
still and sparkling Chardonnay from Devil’s Gulch Ranch.
2015 Ken Brown La Encantada Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
14.4% alc., pH 3.58, TA 0.60,
$60. 50% 115 and 50% Swan selection. 100% de-stemmed, cold soak, aged 11 months in French oak
barrels, 37% new.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Very enticing aromas of chocolate-covered
cherries and spice. Mid weight flavors of black cherry, black raspberry, toast and tobacco. Plenty of
sweet fruit to delight, with finely-tuned tannins and some finishing generosity. A pleasing wine, but
displays more oak seasoning than I personally prefer.
2016 Ken Brown Sta. Rita Hills Chardonnay
13.9% alc., pH 3.37, TA 0.67, 141 cases,
$38. 75% Rita’s Crown and 25% Chapel vineyards. Both vineyards are windy and cool
westerly sites leading to low yields. Barrel fermented and aged on the lees in French oak
barrels, 14% new, for 11 months.
Light golden yellow color in the glass. Appealing flinty
aroma, with added notes of pineapple, yellow apple and buttery biscuit. Lighter weighted
and elegant with flavors of pear, grilled pineapple, lemon, and blond caramel. Easy to like,
with a creamy texture and welcome harmony.
2017 Siduri Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir
14.7% alc., TA 0.65, $34, screw cap. winemaker
Adam Lee’s first Santa Barbara County appellation wine. Primarily from vineyards in the Sta. Rita
Hills. A mix of de-stemmed grapes and whole clusters.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Aromas of
black cherry, spice and fertile earth lead off. Silky in the mouth, with middleweight flavors of cherry,
strawberry and sneaky oak. Fresh, forward and simple with a modest finish.
2017 Siduri Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., pH 3.48, TA 0.58, $35, screw
cap. A blend of 12 vineyard sites. Fermented and aged separately in French oak barrels,
30% new. Married in tank after 8 months in barrel and then returned to barrels to finish
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Enviable aromas of dark fruits, wilted
rose, pepper and mulch. The mid weight core of black cherry and blackberry fruit is
expansive in the mouth, holding on with vigor through the finish. Nicely composed with
good harmony, a silky demeanor, and a pleasing finish.
2015 Windvane Carneros Pinot Noir
14.5%alc., pH 3.69, TA 0.54, 1,964 cases, $45. Sourced from
Windvane’s 335 acres of certified sustainable estate vineyards in Carneros.Winemaker is Steven
Urberg. Clones are Pommard, Wente, Colmar, and Mt Eden. 100% de-stemmed, lightly crushed and
cold soaked for 2 days. Free run juice only was transferred to French oak barrels, 46% new, for aging
for 9 months.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. There is significant oak-related smoke, toast and
tobacco aromas obscuring the black cherry fruit. Discretely concentrated in a mid weight style, with
flavors of black cherry, cola and toast with an earthy bent. Spirited and silky with modest tannins and
a cherry-filled finish.
2016 Windvane Carneros Chardonnay
pH 3.25, TA 0.67, 2,700 cases, $40. Clones include
96, 4, 5, and 108. Whole cluster pressed and
transferred to stainless steel tanks for cold settling.
The racked juice was inoculated and transferred to
French oak barrels, 25% new, for 9 months of aging.
About 21% of the wine underwent malolactic fermentation. Lees
stirring was done during monthly toppings.
yellow color in the glass. Nicely perfumed with aromas of lemon
oil, pineapple, buttery brioche and toast. Rich in the mouth with
layers of pineapple, pear, white peach and lemon goodness. Moderately viscous on the palate. The
underlying bright acidity is well-integrated as is the thread of enhancing oak. A quintessential
California, sun-kissed style of Chardonnay.