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More Recently Tasted California Pinot Noir & Chardonnay


Calera, Mt. Harlan

Calera is one of California’s iconic Pinot Noir focused wineries, offering consistency of style each vintage from its own estate vineyards. Winemaker Mike Waller has been at the helm for more than a decade ensuring that consistency. The estate vineyard complex in Mt. Harlan has a high elevation, marine climate and limestone-rich soils and is unlike any other place in California. Founded in 1975 by Josh Jensen in the remote Gavilan Mountains, today’s 85 certified organic acres spread across six small Pinot Noir vineyards, along with plantings of Chardonnay and Viognier. The winery is now part of the Duckhorn portfolio. Visit www.CaleraWine.com.

2016 Calera de Villiers Vineyard Mt. Harlan Pinot Noir

13.95% alc., pH 3.66, TA 0.67, 1,220 cases, $65. 15.6 acres planted in limestone soil at 2,200 feet in 1996. 1,290 vines per acre, yield 1.09 tons per acre. Calera selection. Harvest Brix 24.0º. Aged 17 months in French oak barrels, 30% new, 20% second vintage and 50% neutral. · Moderate garnet color in the glass. A complex nose offers scents of black cherry, fertile earth and mushroom. Mid weight flavors of earth-kissed purple and black fruits are charming and infused with only a hint of oak-driven notes of dark chocolate and vanilla. Silky in the mouth, with a good cut of acidity and a satisfying, slightly drying finish. More fruity and revealing when tasted the following day from a previously opened and recorked bottle. Always the boldest and most tannic of the vineyard-designated bottlings. Score: 93

2016 Calera Reed Vineyard Mt. Harlan Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., pH 3.71, TA 0.63, 375 cases, $75. 5.94 acres planted at 2,200 feet in limestone soils in 1975. 726 vines per acre, yield 1.0 tons per acre. Calera selection. Harvest Brix 25.4º. Aged 17 months in French oak barrels, 30% new, 20% second vintage and 50% neutral. · Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Aromatically pleasing, with scents of fresh, dark cherry and boysenberry, spice and modest toasty oak. Dark red cherry and purple berry fruits are featured in this mid weight styled wine that is sleek in the mouth and finishes long with waves of sweet strawberry and boysenberry fruit. The wine is exquisitely balanced with tannins that are more reserved than the de Villiers bottling. Much more engaging when tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. A superb wine. Score: 94

2016 Calera Jensen Vineyard Mt. Harlan Pinot Noir

14.8% alc., pH 3.69, TA 0.63, 1,000 cases, $95. 13.6 acres planted in limestone soils in 1975 at 2,200 feet elevation. 726 vines per acre yield 0.9 tons per acre. Calera selection. Harvest Brix 24.5º. Aged 17 months in French oak barrels, 30% new, 20% second vintage and 50% neutral. · Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Engaging aromas of plum, blackest cherry, and sous bois. Gracious in the mouth, with a mid weight core of black cherry and black raspberry fruits with deft oak dressing. Firm, but not intrusive tannins and noticeable cut on the the finish that goes on and on. There are several features of this wine that make it special including the seductive texture, the energy imparted by good natural acidity, the purity of fruit flavor, the subtle savory thread, and the extremely long, grand cru finish. Much more appealing when sampled the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. An exceptional wine. Score: 95

2017 Calera Mt. Harlan Chardonnay

14.5% alc., pH 3.29, TA 0.66, 1,900 cases, $50. 9.4 acres of ownrooted vines first planted in limestone in 1984 along with a 1998 newer block. Calera selection, some vines own-rooted. Yield 2.7 tons per acre. Harvest Brix 24.5º. · Moderate golden yellow color in the glass. Inviting aromas of white peach, lemon curd, spice and arrowroot. Soft and gracious in the mouth with flavors of yellow stone fruits, apple, and pineapple. There is some appealing chalkiness with a trace of tannins showing up on the dry finish. Score: 91



Minus Tide, Anderson Valley

Minus Tide was founded by Senior Account Executive Miriam Pitt at JAM PR, in collaboration with her fiancé, co-winemaker Brad Jonas, and their best friend, co-winemaker Kyle Jeffrey - all of whom met while studying at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. All three are passionate students of wine. Kyle is currently the winemaker for Campovida in Hopland and consulting winemaker for Bluxome Street Winery in San Francisco. Brad has made wines in California, New Zealand and Australia and has over 12 harvests under his belt. He is the assistant winemaker for Toulouse Vineyards.

The winery’s name, Minus Tide, comes from the very low tides that expose hidden gems of the sea, and to evoke the feeling of the Mendocino Coast.

Minus Tide focuses on cool-climate wines from sustainable and organic vineyards of Mendocino County. The 2017 Mariah Vineyard Chardonnay is the winery’s debut Chardonnay. The vineyard, located in the wind-swept Mendocino Ridge at an elevation of 2,600 feet, is one of only 18 vineyards in the AVA.

The winery’s mentors have included winemaker Michael Fay (formerly of Goldeneye and now of Domaine Serene), winemaker Web Marquez (of Anthill Farms), and Vern and Maxine Boltz, who owns Toulouse Vineyards and let Minus Tide craft their wines there.

The lineup of varietals includes Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Carignan, Malbec and Syrah. The wines are meant to be drunk with food and therefore tend to be high in acid and low in alcohol.

For more information, visit www.minustidewines.com. The wine is sold online through the winery’s website store.

2017 Minus Tide Mariah Vineyard Mendocino Ridge Chardonnay

13.4% alc., pH 3.30, TA 0.58, 125 cases, $36. Whole cluster pressed. Native yeast barrel fermentation in neutral French oak puncheons for 13 months. Bottled unfined and unfiltered. · Moderately light golden yellow color in the glass. Alluring scent of apple pastry, lemon butter, pineapple and flint. Bright and lively in the mouth, blessed with sound acidity and showing no distracting oak overlay. Flavors of lemon-lime, green apple, pear, a hint of pineapple and a saline note are immensely satisfying. The finish is clean and refreshing. The winemakers have done a commendable job of balancing acidic verve with enough fruit richness. Score: 93



Martellotto Winery, Buellton

Martellotto Winery focuses on Bordeaux varietals from the Happy Canyon AVA of Santa Barbara. That said, Greg Martellotto ’s nearly two decades in the wine business has given him the tools to utilize modern blending and fermenting techniques to craft Pinot Noir as well. The consultant winemaker is veteran Mike Roth, an authority in the fields of biodynamics and natural winemaking.

The Martellotto label was designed by Professor John Langdon who is famous for creating Ambigrams and inspiring Dan Brown to incorporate his graphics in the books and movie around The DaVinci Code. Langdon has only designed one label and that is for Martellotto Winery. The label features a spiritual totem, symmetrical

For wine availability and more information, visit www.martellotto.com.

Greg also owns Big Hammer Wines, a top California wine retailer. Visit www.bighammerwines.com.

2017 Martellotto Le Bon Temps Roule Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., 500 cases, $35. Sourced from the new and organic Spear Vineyard that is located between Sea Smoke and Foley and across Hwy 246 from Dierberg. 66% Pommard, 20% 115, 14% Wädenswil 2A. Aged 12 months in French oak barrels. Aged 11 months in French oak barrels, 10% new. · Light ruby red color in the glass. Aromas of red cherry and red raspberry combine with pipe smoke and baking spice aromas to draw you into the glass. Fresh and juicy with a dark red fruit character in a mid weight style. Elegantly composed, with good harmony and the slightest hint of friendly oak. My cup of tea. Score: 92



Tolosa, San Luis Obispo

The winery’s home vineyard, Edna Ranch, is located a mere 5 miles from the Pacific Ocean. The northwest to the southeast orientation of the transverse Edna Valley allows fog and prevailing winds to funnel into the valley and vineyards from Morro Bay. A myriad of soil types includes volcanic remnants, calcium-rich sediments from deposits of tiny shells, and limestone. More information is available at www.tolosawinery.com.

Although these three Pinot Noir wines are vinified with modest amounts of new oak, they all show significant oak embellishment, even when tasted from a previously opened bottle 24 hours after opening. Some readers will find this perfectly acceptable and even desirable.

2017 Tolosa 1772 Edna Ranch Edna Valley Pinot Noir

13.4% alc., 902 cases, $68. Released November 5, 2018. A blend of five clones of Pinot Noir from five blocks of Edna Ranch Estate Vineyard. Aged 9 months in French oak barrels, 30% new. · Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Aromas of cherry, sandalwood and espresso lead to a charming middleweight offering with a tasty core of vivid cherry and raspberry fruits, baking spices and tobacco. Silky in the mouth, with gracious tannins and a very long cherry-fueled finish. Better oak integration and more enjoyment when tasted from a bottle a day after opening. Score: 91

2017 Tolosa Hollister Edna Ranch Edna Valley Pinot Noir

14.6% alc., $125. Black label. Released November 5, 2018. Composed primarily from the Hollister portion of Edna Ranch planted to clone “828”. Aged 9 months in French oak barrels, 25% new. · Moderate garnet color in the glass. Aromas of black fruit reduction, spice, dark chocolate and fertile earth. Mid weight plus in style, offering rich flavors of black cherry and blackberry with oak embellishment. A masculine wine that is deeper and darker flavored than the 1772 bottling with a bigger tannic backbone. Silken in texture, with nice harmony including alcohol integration, and a noticeable long and fruity finish. A good steak wine that would benefit from decanting. Score: 92

2017 Tolosa Primera Edna Ranch Edna Valley Pinot Noir

13.2% alc., $140. Heavy bottle, wax closure, metal badge. Released November 5, 2018. A blend of the best of the best. The best of up too 100 small lots from Edna Ranch are chosen. Aged 9 months in French oak barrels, 25% new. · Moderately light garnet color in the glass. The nose opens slowly to release heady aromas of cherry, dark rose petal, underbrush, toast and burnt tobacco. A cherry-fueled mid weighted wine with a noticeable imprint of oak. The tannins are sleek, the mouthfeel is silky and the wine is quite approachable. This wine is a more feminine offering with redder fruit and a pleasing, but not persistent finish. Unchanged when tasted a day after opening. Score: 91



More Enticing Wines

2018 1849 Wine Company Au Jus Monterey County Chardonnay

13.5% alc., pH 3.62, $24.99. Aged 6 months in French oak barrels. · Light golden yellow color in the glass. Aromas of confected lemon, vanilla and dried herbs. Better on the palate, with flavors of lemon, yellow apple, spice and a subtle herbaceous thread. A lighter, rather austere style that is soft and creamy in texture and has appealing gentleness, but I wanted more acid verve. Score: 87

2018 Cuvaison Napa Valley Los Carneros Pinot Noir Rosé

13.5% alc., pH 3.40, TA 0.66, $30. Estate grown, certified sustainable. Grapes grown specifically for Rosé and harvested earlier at lower Brix. Fermented in stainless steel, aged 5 months on the lees in stainless steel. No MLF. · Light pinkish orange color in the glass. Aromas of macerated strawberries, white peach, blood orange and vanilla. Elegant and charming, with a silky texture and fresh flavors of red raspberry, strawberry and apricot. Completely dry, with some finish. A wine of relaxation and cheer. Score: 90

2017 Duckhorn Napa Valley Chardonnay

14.1% alc., 37,700 cases, $36. Barrel fermented with lees stirring. · Light golden yellow color in the glass. Aromatically fine, offering scents of lemon, pineapple, honey, spice and vanilla wafer. Straightforward flavors of lemon, grapefruit, honey and vanilla. Slightly creamy with redeeming balance. A reliable everyday drinker. Score: 88

2018 Etude Santa Barbara County Rosé

13.2% alc., pH 3.15, TA 0.675,10,800 cases, $22, screw cap. Primarily Pinot Noir from the estate North Canyon Vineyard in the Sana Maria Valley. Dijon 115, 667, 777 and 113. Grapes grown specifically for Rosé. Fermentation in stainless steel fermenters, no MLF. · Moderate pink color in the glass. Fresh aromas of strawberry, peach and white flower blossoms. Crisp and bright, with flavors of strawberry, orange flower water, edible flower and dried herbs. The finish is satisfying and quenching, featuring orange and lemon pith. Score: 88

2018 Etude Grace Benoist Ranch Carneros Pinot Noir Rosé

13.5% alc., pH 2.19, TA 0.69, RS 0.6 g/L, 798 cases, $34. Estate grown. Martini, Pommard and 115 clones. Grapes picked and vinified specifically for this bottling. Fermented in older French oak barrels, then aged on the lees for four months with no MLF. · Moderately light pink color in the glass. Fresh aromas of cherry, strawberry, watermelon and pastry creme. More body and intensity than the Santa Barbara Rosé offering, bringing a cordial flavor profile of yellow nectarine, blood orange and Rainier cherry. A noticeably long finish, rare for Rosés, features yellow peach. This is always a fine example of the varietal and a long-time featured wine of this winery. Score: 91

2017 FEL Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., $38. Sourced from the estate Savoy Vineyard as well as Ferrington and Donnelly Creek vineyards. Aged 16 months in French oak barrels, 36% new. · Light ruby red color in the glass. Heady aromas of dark red cherry and berry and cardamom spice. Light to mid weight styled with a gloriously fresh cherry core. A very friendly wine, with dog’s paw tannins, a compliment of oak and a juicy finish. An excellent everyday wine. Score: 90

2016 Goldeneye Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 28,000 cases, $58. Primarily estate vineyard fruit. Aged 16 months in French oak barrels, 60% new, 20% second vintage and 20% neutral. · Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Deep, dark cherry, blueberry-pomegranate and spicy oak aromas. Light to mid weight in style with heady flavors of black raspberry, blackberry and spice with a toasty oak frame. Forward drinking, with modest tannins. The most accessible wine in the 2016 Goldeneye lineup. Score: 89

2016 Goldeneye Gowan Creek Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 1,350 cases, $86. Vineyard planted in 2000. Aged 16 months in French oak barrels, 60% new, 20% second vintage and 20% neutral. · Moderate garnet color in the glass. Brooding aromas of cherry, ripe strawberry, wine cave, anise, char and vanilla. A hardy wine with good vibrancy and expressive dark fruits. The tannic backbone is sturdy revealing some astringency on the finish. Silky in the mouth, finishing with generous blackberry and pomegranate fruits and the slightest hint of alcoholic warmth. Score: 90

2016 Goldeneye Confluence Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 521 cases, $86. Vineyard planted in 1996. Aged 16 months in French oak barrels, 60% new, 20% second vintage, 20% neutral. · Moderate garnet color in the glass. Good aromatic expression of blackberry jam, graham, underbrush and piquant herbs. A full-bodied wine with a deep well of fruit yet with balancing tannins and acidity, offering flavors of blueberry, blackberry and cassis. Fruit-driven, with integrated tannins and inconspicuous oak. Score: 91

2016 Goldeneye Split Rail Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 360 cases, $86. Aged 16 months in French oak barrels, 60% new, 20% second vintage, 20% neutral. · Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Nicely perfumed with vivacious aromas of black cherry and friendly oak. Welcome charm in this mid weight plus offering that offers a suave texture that satisfies. The black fruits are well ripened, accented with oak spice and framed by modest tannins. The wine has satisfying vibrancy that shows up on the juicy finish. There is slight alcoholic warmth on the finish. Score: 92

2016 Goldeneye The Narrows Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 462 cases, $86. Vineyard planted in the :deep end” of the Anderson Valley with vines dating to 1991. Aged 16 months in French oak barrels, 60% new, 20% second vintage, 20% neutral. · Moderately light garnet color in the glass. The nose is medicinal and woody with shy fruit aromas. Lighter in weight in comparison to other wines in the 2016 lineup, featuring flavors of dark red fruits and tobacco. The wine seems flat with a modest finish. This bottle could be corked so I reserve judgment (no second bottle available).

2016 Goldeneye Ten Degrees Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 1,156 cases, $125. The winery’s finest lots and considered the “pinnacle of the winemaking portfolio.” Aged in 100% new French oak barrels. · Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Aromas of blackest cherry, blackberry and pain grille emerge slowly over time in the glass. This wine has a strong physique, with loads of black raspberry and blackberry fruit tangling with muscular tannins. A big boy wine that comes at you with intent. Still compact and unyielding, with a generous infusion of oak. The finish is mildly astringent and this wine will need more time in bottle to meld the tannins and integrate the oak. A wine for the cellar. Score: 92

2016 J. Lohr Highlands Ranch Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir

14.8% alc. pH 3.76, TA 0.56, 585 cases, $35. · Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Aromas of dark red and black wild berry mash, biscuit and char. A very ripe array of purple and black berry fruits are composed in a mid weight plus style that has noticeable sweetness. There is enough acidity and tannins to balance the hedonistic fruits and the alcohol is submerged, but toasty oak chimes in. Too much sweet fruitiness and not enough acidic verve for my taste. Score: 86

2017 J. Lohr Fog’s Reach Arroyo Seco Monterey Pinot Noir

14.7% alc., pH 3.58, TA 0.57, RS 0.10 g/100 ml, 1,173 cases, $35. Clones 115 and 777. Harvest Brix 26.7º. Aged 8 months in French oak barrels, 60% new. · Dark garnet color in the glass. Brooding aromas of blackberry and cigar oak. A full-bodied flood of oak infused blue and black fruits greets the palate. A huge wine, yet maintains some balance. Lacks classic Pinot Noir character which is subjugated to the sheer volume and ripeness of fruit as well as aggressive oak. The wine tastes good, but this is a Pinot Noir for Cabernet fans. Score: 86

2017 Joseph Jewell Eel River Valley Mendocino County Pinot Noir

13.2% alc., pH 3.62, TA 0.61, 125 cases, $36. Sourced from organically farmed Elk Prairie Vineyard (Martini, Pommard and 115 clones) and Alderpoint Vineyard (Martini clone). Harvest Brix 23.5º-24.4º. 100% destemmed, aged 11 months in French oak barrels, 33% new. · Moderate garnet color in the glass. Dark red cherry and berry and spice are featured in the nose and on the palate in a middleweight style. The wine has a charming personality, is easily accessible and displays superb barrel management. Score: 91

2016 Nelson Hill Deep End Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., $44. Clones 114, 115, 777 and Pommard. Estate grown. · Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Aromas of black cherry, sous-bois, and rose petal. A charge of black cherry fruit and spice greets the palate. Nicely composed with gracious tannins, finishing with black raspberry goodness and a hint of alcoholic warmth. Score: 89

2017 Sanglier Tusque Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

14.0% alc., pH 3.60, TA 0.62, 444 cases, $36. Clones 667, 777, 115, “828”, Pommard and Swan. 100% de-stemmed. Aged 10 months in French oak barrels, 20% new. · Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Aromas of cherry tart and toasty oak. Richly flavored with black cherry fruit framed by modest tannins. The texture is quite sensual, there is less oak input on the palate, and the finish is modest but pleasing. Score: 90

2014 Sea Smoke Sea Spray Sea Smoke Estate Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Sparkling Wine

12.01% alc., pH 3.09, TA 0.75, $80. Released October 2018. A no dosage méthode champenoise blanc de noirs from Pinot Noir grapes. Sur lie aging in neutral French oak barrels for 12 months, then extended bottle aging for 24 months prior to disgorging, with 10 months under cork prior to release. · Moderate golden yellow color in the glass. Complex nose offering aromas of pear, pineapple, apple, hay, yeast and pistachio. Completely dry with an excellent mousse, offering flavors of quince, pear, white peach, green apple and roasted nuts. This excellent wine is “sparkling” with excellent energy along with some finishing generosity and edgy cut. Score: 93

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