Memoirs of a Wine Trip Well-Taken
The Crew went on a California road trip recently and there was plenty of good Pinot along the way. California
is a schizophrenic state in that Southern California is all about what you have, that is, cash and flash, while
Northern California is all about how you live, more real and genteel. The food and wine gets noticeably better
and better the father north you go, until you reach Sonoma where it is as good as it gets. In Southern California
you eat, in Northern California you dine. We managed to do our share of drinking and dining. - much like the
saying, “some days you feed the fish; some days you drink like a fish.”
We hit the road on October 28, and by November 1, all of the Pinot Noir had been picked throughout California.
It remains a very beautiful time to visit the wine country, for the vineyards take on a kaleidoscope of yellows,
reds, and oranges and the few lonely clusters of second growth grapes hang tenuously to life.
Our first stop was Cambria in the Central Coast. On the way, we slipped into Fiddlehead Cellars in the
Lompoc “wine ghetto” to pick up some fortification for the long trip. It is always a treat to talk wine
with Kathy Joseph. Besides Pinot, we picked up some “Sweetie,” the dessert wine she makes from
Sauvignon Blanc and a touch of Muscat. This is the perfect wine (and so aptly named) for Valentine’s
In Cambria, we stayed at the venerable Blue Bird Inn on Main St,, walking distance to two very fine
restaurants I recommend: Robin’s and the Sow’s Ear. Both have excellent wine lists and wine service.
It was here we began a scientific study that was never really completed. One of our travelers claimed
that after you empty a bottle, you can lay it on its side for a few minutes, and still get ten more drops of
wine out. Well we immediately challenged this supposition and spent the entire trip testing each
bottle to verify this theory. I know the wait staffs thought we were all loony as we discouraged them
from removing the supine bottles from our table until we had tested them. Someone actually kept a
count and the same person was assigned to be the counter (she was given the title, “The Countess”).
The results are a bit vague in my memory (most testing was done at the end of the meals), but the
average was at least 10 drops and probably a few more. One wine we drank in Cambria did stand out
in my memory for excellence: 2004 Littorai Les Larmes Anderson Valley Pinot Noir.
Jack Creek Cellars
When you hear Paso Robles wine country, you think Zinfandel and Rhone varietals. But, the York
Mountain area lies west in the Templeton Gap where maritime influence reaches far enough inland to
produce cool microclimates and creates an ideal growing region for Pinot Noir. Foggy mornings,
warm days and cooling afternoon breezes suit Pinot Noir just fine. Adelaida Cellars and its historic
HMR Vineyard (planted in the early 1960s), and Windward Vineyard have produced some very
credible Pinot Noirs from this region. Still others, including Bianchi Vineyards, Casa De Caballos
Vineyards, Wild Horse Winery & Vineyards, and York Mountain Winery, have made Pinot Noir
fanciers take note. The latest kid on the block is Jack Creek Cellars.
You won’t meet another couple who are more passionate about Pinot Noir than Doug and Sabrina
Krause. Doug is a burly, lumberjack-like figure with a soft spot for Pinot Noir. He was in the grain feed
business in Southern California and acquired enough financial resources to start his own winery. He
sold his business and bought the front 75 acres of JRK Ranch located in Templeton, 7 miles inland from
the Pacific Ocean. The site is located at the southern end of the Santa Lucia Mountain Range. In 1997,
he planted 20 acres to Pinot Noir (115, 2A, Pommard), 4 acres to Chardonnay, and a little to Syrah.
Recently, he has planted more Pinot Noir (Dijon 828 and 943) and more Syrah and Grenache.
The photo shows the new plantings from the winery’s pad.
The layout at Jack Creek Cellars and the Kruse Vineyard is dreamy. The gorgeous home sits on the
top of the hill surrounded by vineyards and the modern winery and adjacent storage barn is tastefully
positioned among the vineyards as well. Inside the winery, Doug has a comfy couch and a large TV
(tuned to an NFL game on the day we visited).
Doug and Sabrina are totally immersed in their new lifestyle and eagerly travel the country to sell their
wines. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that they have to service major accounts in Hawaii, Chicago and Scottsdale. Currently they produce about 1500 cases, primarily Pinot Noir with a little Chardonnay
and Syrah. Eventually, they plan to reach 2500-3000 cases. They also sell some of their grapes to
notable producers like Tony Craig at Sonnet Wines.
Doug is not shy in admitting he prefers a bigger style of Pinot Noir. He produces two Pinot Noirs: an
estate bottling that is more traditional for California and a reserve bottle that is fat and opulent. He
says that his customers are split - about half preferring the regular bottling and half relishing the
reserve bottling. We tasted through his latest releases and also did some barrel tasting from the 2005
vintage of individual clones in both neutral and new oak. The winery and my three drinking partners
on the trip are pictured.
2004 Jack Creek Cellars Kruse Vineyard York Mountain Templeton Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., $32.
A medium-bodied wine
with a warm robe of dark violet. The nose is substantial with notes of
dark cherries and licorice. With air time the wine becomes really
plush on the palate - as smooth as a baby’s bottom. The finish lingers
with black raspberry, oak and fine dusty tannins. A wine that
really reflects the terroir of this vineyard.
2004 Jack Creek Cellars Kruse Vineyard York Mountain Templeton Reserve Pinot Noir
Everything is ramped up here. The color is dark. The nose is a bit closed at this point
with buttery toast and earth notes and a hint of alcohol. This is a rich, full-bodied wine with mountainous
fruit, especially plum flavors. There is a solid backbone of oak and tannins that works in harmony with
the fruit. The finish is pure and clean. A Big Gulp for lovers of hardy Cali Pinot Noir.
Jack Creek Cellars is located at 5265 Jack Creek Road, Templeton, CA (just off Hwy 46, a short drive
from Hwy 1 or Hwy 101). Tasting by appointment. The phone is 805-226-8283. Wine may be ordered
on the website: www.jackcreekcellars.com. The Syrah is one big fruit bomb and deserves attention for
those with a Rhone bent.
Half Moon Bay and Burrell School Winery
The second leg of our journey took us to Half Moon Bay on
the coast, 30 miles south of San Francisco. We stopped on
the way in the Santa Cruz Mountains to visit good friends
Dave and Anne Mouton and Laura Ness at Burrell School
Winery. Just a mile from the winery is a terrific gourmet
food store, the Summit Market, where we loaded up on
picnic rations and sat out on the tasting room deck (photo
right) at Burrell School overlooking the vineyard on a glorious
I have detailed the history of this winery in previous issues of the PinotFile. Dave and Anne Moulton
bought an 1890 one-room schoolhouse on Summit Road at 1600 feet elevation in the Santa Cruz
Mountains. They restored the schoolhouse and built their own living quarters adjacent. The original
schoolhouse was used as a tasting room for a number of years, but it now has become the Moulton’s
living room with the recent opening of a new tasting room. The tasting room is a very classy place to
enjoy one of the many excellent wines made here.
On a blackboard behind the tasting bar is written the winery’s
motto, “I Promise to Sip My Wine,” in many different languages.
2003 Burrell School Veranda Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
14.6% alc., 700 cases,
$38. The Veranda Vineyard is at the southern end of the Santa Cruz Mountains. It is planted to a mixture
of Dijon clones. Aging is in 70% new French oak.
A dark and rich Pinot that packs plenty of punch.
The nose is appealing with multiple Pinot fruits evident enhanced by floral notes. It is a balanced wine on
the palate showing strawberries, rhubarb, spice and mushrooms. The generous oak tannins are nicely
immersed. A well-schooled Pinot.
2003 Burrell School Estate Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
14.6% alc., 325 cases, $42. The estate
vineyard is planted to a mixture of Dijon clones (05,115,667, and 777). The wine is aged in 70% new
This is the more elegant of the two wines. The aromatics are particularly appealing with wild
strawberries, cherries and fields of flowers. There were plenty of strawberries in the flavors as well with a
nice touch of mocha. Fine, dusty tannins and lively acidity characterize the finish. A+
Burrell School Vineyards & Winery is located at 24060 Summit Rd, Los
Gatos, CA 95033. The phone is 408-353-6290. Wines may be ordered on
the website at www.burrellschool.com. The tasting room is open Thursday
through Sunday, 11:00 to 5:00 and by appointment. Laura Ness, who
assists the Moultons with the operation of the winery, writes about the
Santa Cruz Mountains wine scene for Appellation America and is an
organizer of Pinot Paradise, March 24 and 25, 2007. For more information
on Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir, go to www.scmwa.com. Santa Cruz
Mountains has its own Pinot Noir Wine Club, offering periodic shipment
of a variety of Santa Cruz Mountains boutique Pinot Noirs
Half Moon Bay is the “Pumpkin Capital” of California with multiple pumpkin growers and an annual
pumpkin festival. The one street town has plenty of boutiques that can keep women happy for hours.
For big spenders there is the Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay, but I recommend The Beach House on
Cabrillo Highway which sits smack on the Bay. We had the best meal of our trip on Halloween at
Cetrella Restaurant. Wines of note were 2004 Varner Hidden Block Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot
Noir and 1990 Domaine de la Romanee Conti Echezeaux. (As a side note: Varner also makes some
of the best Chardonnays in California. Production is tiny, prices are very sensible - around $28.)
Devil's Gulch and Marin County Pinots
By now our cars were bulging with pumpkins and various “deals” our wives accumulated, not to
mention the multiple boxes of wine we were acquiring along the way. It was now off to the Russian
River Valley, but not before stopping in Marin County to visit Mark and Myriam Pasternak at their
Devil’s Gulch Ranch in Nicasio. Mark is a city boy (grew up in Southern California) who knew early on
he wanted to be a farmer. He purchased Devil’s Gulch Ranch in the 1970s, built his own ranch house
residence, and stocked the farm with rabbits (he raises them for Bay Area restaurants), pigs, horses,
and various other livestock. This 75-acre diversified working ranch is a 45 minute drive north of San
Francisco and is located in and surrounded by the pristine Golden Gate National Recreation Area. In
1980, Mark planted a few acres of Pinot Noir (Martini clone) and Chardonnay and sent the grapes to Schramsberg and Kalin Cellars to be used for sparkling wine. By 1991, he realized the grapes were
good enough quality to make still Pinot Noir. Currently, his 20 acres of grapes still supply Schramsberg
but are also sold for vineyard designate Pinot Noirs by Dutton-Goldfield and Sean Thackery.
Over the years, Mark has become a highly-respected grape farmer and now farms or consults on practically
every acre of Pinot Noir in Marin County (about 80 acres at present). His reputation may eventually
overtake the much-beloved Grateful Dead in Marin County.
Mark cooked some of his delicious rabbit and we sat down to lunch with a lineup of practically every
current Pinot Noir release in Marin County. The wines varied considerably in structure and taste, but
they all had in common the wild and concentrated flavors and lively acidity for which Marin County is
known. I felt like a kid in a candy store. Marin County Pinot Noirs are made in small quantities and
hard to find, but the search is worth the trouble.
2004 Orogeny Marin County Pinot Noir
14.1% alc.. A hillside vineyard above the town of Nicasio owned
by Chalone and farmed by Mark. 20 acres are planted to Pommard and Dijon 115, 667, 777 and 828.
This is definitely farming on the edge. The first harvest in 2005 yielded no usable grapes. This year,
however, delivered 36 tons. Mark thinks this vineyard has the potential to be the best Pinot Noir vineyard
This is a very fruit-driven wine which is rich and deep. (Note: there is also a Orogeny
Green Valley Pinot Noir from Sonoma County.)
After lunch, Mark took us for a tour including his swimming hole. Every summer he runs the Devil's Gulch Ranch Summer Day
Camp for kids 6-17 who have the opportunity to work with the
animals and in the gardens, learn skills and crafts from the past,
climb, hike, and swim and explore the neighboring Samuel P.
Taylor State Park. Visit www.devilsgulchranch.com for details.
The phone number is 415-662-1099. I can’t imagine a better way
for city kids to experience farm life. Below is the Crew at the
swimming hole with Mark in the center.
Russian River Valley
The end of our journey was the Russian River Valley and a home on the River a couple of miles from
Healdsburg. The rental, Firefly Lodge, was a modern home with four bedrooms, a fully-equipped
gourmet kitchen, and expansive decks that looked out on a serene river view. Wine Country Lodges
(www.winecountrylodges.com) has several properties for small and larger groups in the area and I
highly recommend them. The home was so comfortable, we ended up cooking dinner there two
nights. Memorable wines included 2000 Domaine Serene Marc Bradford Willamette Valley Pinot
Noir, 1998 Vincent Girardin Grands Echezeaux, 2003 WH Smith Maritime Vineyard Sonoma
Coast Pinot Noir, 2002 Robert Stemmler Nugent Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, and
2005 Miner Rosato (magnum).
It was a rainy day when we arrived at Lynmar Winery on Frei Road in Sebastopol. The setting couldn’t
have been more inviting. The winery’s new hospitality center has vistas of the Russian River Valley
and surrounding vineyards from every viewpoint. The inside is very serene and relaxing. We had a
marvelous lunch cooked by the Lynmar resident executive chef, Sandra Simile, accompanied by and
perfectly matched with Lynmar wines.
Lynmar has been a reputable producer of Pinot Noir in the Russian River Valley for many years.
Recently the winery underwent a complete renovation with new caves and the construction of a tasteful
hospitality center. The wines have always been good, but now seem even more refined under the
direction of winemaker Hugh Chapelle (formerly Flowers), and consulting winemaker Paul Hobbs. At
present, they offer two Pinot Noirs: a Russian River Valley blend, and the estate Quail Hill Vineyard
designate. Hugh Chapelle told us they are planning to add a number of single vineyard Pinot Noirs to
their portfolio in the coming years.
We preceded lunch with the:
2005 Lynmar Russian River Valley Vin Gris
14.1% alc., 474 cases, $24.
This is the third vintage of Vin Gris sourced from several vineyards in the Russian River AVA including
the Quail Hill Vineyard. It is composed of 92% Pinot Noir and 8% Syrah. The winemaking employed
two methods: (1) the saignée method was used to bleed some Pinot Noir and Syrah juice soon after
destemming and processed like Chardonnay (except fermented in neutral oak barrels) and (2) 40% of
the wine came from fruit grown specifically for the rosé program, processed as usual for Pinot Noir and
aged in stainless and neutral barrels.
The wine is the finest example of Vin Gris I have ever drunk.
Bright, fresh and crisp, but with plenty of aromas and flavors to keep your attention, it is the perfect
aperitif wine. Watermelon and spice and everything nice. The winery is currently offering their Vin
Gris for $18 as a promotion for the holidays. A steal.
2005 Lynmar Russian River Valley Chardonnay
14.2% alc., 4520 cases, $30. Here you have the
best of both worlds. 60% of the grapes are vinified in stainless steel tanks to retain crisp acidity and
40% is transferred to French oak barrels. 100% of the wine undergoes malolactic fermentation. This is
a Russian River blend of grapes from several vineyards. It was paired at lunch with brown clamshell
This is a very classy Chardonnay with plenty of palate-cleansing acidity, but yet a complex
of flavors including tropical fruits and fresh bread with a hint of butter and toast from the MLF and
oak. The pairing was magical. (Note: all recipes are on the winery’s website).
2004 Lynmar Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.4% alc., 2674 cases, $36. Several select vineyards
and Lynmar’s 42-acre Quail Hill Vineyard supply the fruit for this wine. Winemaking was traditional
for California Pinot Noir (picked cold, de-stemmed, open-top fermenters, cold-soak, punch downs,
MLF in barrel, aging on light lees, aging in French oak barrels, 30% new for 16 mo). A wonderful example
of the new classy and refined style of Lynmar Pinot Noir. This was matched with sautéed boneless
breast of Rocky chicken with Pinot Noir sauce, grilled vegetables, and rosemary roasted potatoes.
This Pinot is a terrific food wine. The aromatics feature ripe berries, cherries and herbs. There is the signature
Russian River cola and spice in the background. Sleek and balanced with plenty of style and
grace, the wine finishes with spice and vim.
2004 Lynmar Quail Hill Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.4% alc., 976 cases, $50. This wine is composed from the
finest barrels from the best vineyard blocks in each vintage. There
is plenty of Swan selection grapes in the final mix, along with Dijon
clones playing a supporting role. The wine is aged 18 months in
40% new French oak barrels. Tasted at home.
This is a Pinot Noir of
great breeding - a thoroughbred. It is a big, plush wine that, like all
great wines, keeps getting better and better in the glass with air time.
It is sophisticated, complex and balanced. There is more earthiness, mushrooms and minerality than in
the above Pinot Noir. The texture is velveteen. This is a serious wine with years of bottle development
ahead of it and I recommend cellaring it.
Lynmar Winery is located at 3909 Frei Road, Sebastopol, CA 95472. The phone number is 707-829-
3374 (Ext 113 for ordering). The website is www.lynmarwinery.com. The Lynmar Experience, a
pairing of food with Lynmar wines is available Friday-Monday, 11:00-4:00. Lynmar wines enjoy a wide
retail distribution as well.
Pellegrini Family Vineyards
Bob Pellegrini is one of the wine patriarchs of the
Russian River Valley. He has been involved with
wine in one way or another his entire life and he
can weave many fascinating tales about the wine
business both during and after Prohibition. He
talked to us about the days of Prohibition in San
Francisco when grapes were delivered to
markets and everyone in town (at least the
Italians) had a small winery in their basement. He
proudly displays photos of his family and their
wine business on the wall of his tasting room.
Bob was fresh out of school and had taken a tour of Burgundy when he had the crazy idea of planting
Pinot Noir on Olivet Road in the Russian River Valley. At the time, Pinot Noir vineyards were far and
few between (Joe Rochioli first planted his East Block Pinot Noir in 1968). He started the Olivet Lane
Vineyard in 1972 with the only Chardonnay and Pinot Noir vines available at the time and never
looked back. Fortunately, he had a wine import business which kept him afloat as he developed his
winegrowing business. He says today he was just naïve enough at the time to think it would work, but if
he knew then what he knows today, he would have never done it. The Olivet Lane Vineyard is now
one of California’s cherished heritage vineyards and continues to thrive on rootstock vulnerable to
The group tasted through Bob’s current Olivet Lane Pinot Noir releases as well as the Hamel Sonoma
Coast Pinot Noirs made by Pellegrini Family winemaker Kevin Hamel. Bob (on the left, Kevin to the
right) looks rather serious in this photo, but I assure you that Bob has a great sense of humor.
2004 Olivet Lane Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., 2,900 cases, $24
This Pinot has an attractive
nose of herbs, cola, spice and cherries. Flavors of dried fruit, herbs and cherry-pie filling are linger
on the finish which has plenty of zip and zing. As Mick Jagger would say, “It’s only Pinot Noir, but I like
2005 Olivet Lane Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
$30 Kevin loves working
with Olivet Lane fruit for he says the wine makes itself; no tricks,
additives, modifications required. 10% whole clusters used. Aged 11
months in French and Eastern European oak, 33% new.
This has been in bottle
only a short time so will only get better. Still, it is pretty flashy already, with
aromas of earth, leather, and spiced black cherries. This is a Pinot that has
finesse over fruit heaviness and great verve and style. It is a little showier than
the 2004. So juicy and tasty you want to ‘nibble’ at it.
2003 Hamel Campbell Ranch Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.6% alc., 553 cases, $28
nose has blackberries, exotic woods, a little leather and chocolate. It is soft and silky on the palate. The
coating tannins are well-integrated. Pure pleasure.
2004 Hamel Campbell Ranch Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.6% alc., 568 cases, $28 This is from a
vintage that was very warm at the start of harvest. The result was a powerful and structured wine.
time I tasted it earlier this year it was still a debutante waiting to come out. Now it is the belle of the ball.
This Pinot is a cherries jubilee and my wife actually got excited about this one. She insisted I buy some
and put it aside in a corner of my cellar just for her. Patty’s pick of the litter.
Pellegrini Family Vineyards is located at 4055 W Olivet Road, Santa Rosa, CA 95404. The tasting
room is positioned next to barrel storage in the winery and very charming. It is open daily. The phone
is 707-545-8680. The website is www.pellegrinivineyards.com. Pellegrini was featured in the PinotFile,
Volume 5, Issue 22. The winery produces several other varietals which are also high quality including
Chardonnay, Zinfandel and Carignan. Hamel Wines are sold through retail distribution (for example,
the Wine Club in Santa Ana, CA, www.thewineclub.com). The phone number is 707-433-9055.
Freeman Vineyards & Winery and August West
We met up with winemaker Ed Kurtzman in the caves at Freeman Cellars and tasted through the lineup
of 2005 Freeman Pinot Noirs ( bottled 3 months ago but will not be released until the Fall of 2007), and
August West Pinot Noirs (recently bottled and to be released next year). This is an impressive facility
that contains 6,000 sq ft of caves and houses 12,000 cases (300 barrels) of wine. In its original incarnation,
this facility was smaller and much less attractive and was the place where Williams Selyem made
some of their first wines in 1986-1987. Up until last year, Kosta Browne leased space in this facility from
Ken Freeman (they have since moved to Deerfield Ranch in Sonoma Valley). Freeman Cellars owners
Ken and Akiko Freeman have spent their investment so far on much-needed wine-making equipment
and technology and upgrading the facility. The cosmetic improvements are secondary at this point
and are yet to come. We tasted with Ed in a corner of the caves (above right).
University of Massachusetts. He worked in a wine shop at the time and later moved to California to sell
wine in the Bay Area. He quickly realized that he would rather make wine then sell it and went to
Fresno State to obtain his degree in enology. His 16 years of winemaking experience include four harvests
each at Bernardus, Chalone, Testerossa, and Freeman Cellars.
Ed says that 2005 was a perfect growing year for Pinot Noir, “THE Pinot year.” 2006, in contrast, was
“The botrytis year,” which required special efforts in the vineyard and careful sorting in the winery
after harvest. The 2005 Freeman Pinot Noirs have around 14% alcohol, lower than in the 2004 vintage.
The 2004 Sonoma Coast wines were bigger and richer than the Russian River wines; in 2005 the roles
were reversed, the Russian River wines being plumper. Generally the wines see about 40-45% new
French oak from five different coopers.
All of the wines were tasted briefly and I came away with the general impression of consistency in
style here with complex aromas and flavors, an unctuousness on the palate, finishes which leave a
lasting impression, and all elements in proper harmony. Because they are so young and only recently
bottled (you might call this infanticide), they are shy and reserved, but there is no mistaking their
potential for greatness.
2005 Freeman Akiko’s Cuvee Pinot Noir
425 cases Akiko Freeman selects her favorite barrels for
this wine. Both Ken and Ed also pick out their favorite barrels and challenge her, but in every vintage,
from 2002 to 2005, her blend is always the trio’s favorite. Poor Ed, his blend of his favorites never gets
picked. We enjoyed this at lunch at K & L Bistro in Sebastopol (recently awarded one star by the
Michelin Guide and one of my favorite restaurants in Sonoma wine country).
Cherries and spice and
everything nice in the aromatics, delicate red fruit flavors with cola and tea, a soft, silky texture, and a
generous finish of aromas and flavors that persist. An excellent food wine. Drinking window is 1-5 years.
2005 Freeman Keefer Ranch Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
500 cases. This
vineyard has produced grapes for many distinctive bottlings from several producers. Currently Ed is
helping the Keefers bottle their own estate wine for 2006.
This is the only single-vineyard
Pinot Noir from Freeman. Bottled separately because of its unique fruit, the grapes have a distinctive
rose petal aroma, high acidity and plenty of fruit to back up the generous use of new oak.
Freeman Vineyards & Winery is located at 1300 Montgomery Road, Sebastopol, CA, 95471. The
winery is not open to the public. Pinot Noirs are sold primarily through a mailing list and to restaurants.
Production was 2200 cases in 2004 and about 3000 cases in 2005. The phone is 415-831-4756.
Sign up for the mailing list at www.freemanwinery.com.
August West is a partnership formed in 2003 between winegrower Gary Franscioni, business man
Howard Graham, and winemaker Ed Kurtzman. The name is from a Grateful Dead song, Wharfrat, in
which August West is down and out and drinks a lot of “Burgundy.” The winemaking is essentially the
same as for the Freeman wines, but the grapes come from different sources and only two coopers are
used. In this, the second year for Graham Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, Ed made the wine
in the “Michael Browne” style, that is natural yeasts, no punch downs during cold soak. It is the most
muscular Pinot Noir Ed has ever made. Howard Graham loves Kosta Browne wines, so Ed decide to
make the wine from Graham’s vineyard “like Michael.”
2005 August West Rosella’s Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
This Pinot is still closed from recent bottling. We took it to lunch
and over time it began to blossom and strut out some unctuous Pinot flavors. It
is similar to the Freeman wines, but with a little more dark fruits and structure
typical of this vineyard. The 2004 vintage of this wine was a knock-out and this
one should follow in step when ready to drink.
August West wines are available at fine restaurants and retail markets. There is a mailing list signup at
www.augustwestwine.com. Prices hover around $50. The winery’s address is 1300 Montgomery Rd,
Ste 2, Sebastopol, CA, 95472. The phone is 415-225-2891. Ed is also producing a small amount (120
cases) of Sandler (his middle name) Syrah from a cool vineyard in the Bennett Valley region of Santa
Rosa. His model for this wine is the French producer, Guigal, and he patterns his winemaking after
Guigal. He uses 100% whole cluster, striving for the aromatics, tannins, and structure of Guigal
Syrahs. A very impressive wine that will surely become a cult favorite among Syrah fanciers. Ed will
be selling it soon when he acquires a resale license.
The Last Day and the Sonoma Coast
On the last day of the trip, the Crew motored out to the Sonoma Coast. We picked up rations at the
Fiesta Market in Sebastopol and the Wild Flour Bakery in Freestone. If you like great bread, and who
doesn’t, Wild Flour is an oasis in the tiny town of Freestone. Wild Flour bread is made in a wood-fired
brick oven with organic ingredients and just may be the best bread on the planet. The artisan loafs are
baked each morning from Friday thru Monday and are often sold out by noon. Owner Jed Wallach is
out front, offering bite-sized samples of each of his creations. The San Francisco Chronicle wrote: “Day
trippers from all over the Bay Area drive to Freestone to sample Wallach’s creations.” The bakery is
located 5 miles west of Sebastopol at 140 Bohemian Highway.
At Bodega Bay, we found a small beachhead called School House Beach. The parking lot was empty
and the only picnickers were a flock of seagulls. A single, lonely picnic table welcomed us. We broke
out the crusty bread, cheese, fruit, cold cuts and several bottles of wine, and like young kids on their
first school outing, reveled in the great food, the views, and the camaraderie. We reminisced about
the great wines we had drank this past week and how marvelous it is that wine can bring friends
together for so many special times. I was reminded of a wine quip by Robert Farrar Capon: “With
wine at hand, the good man concerns himself with drinking in all the natural delectabilities of wine:
taste, color, bouquet; its manifold graces; the way it complements food and enhances conversation;
and its sovereign power to turn evenings into occasions, to lift eating beyond nourishment to conviviality,
and to bring the race, for a few hours at least, to that happy state where men are wise and women
beautiful, and even one’s children begin to look promising.”
I leave you with a parting image: the Prince sitting at the picnic table, catching up on his reading and
finishing a bottle of Half Moon Bay Red in a plastic cup. Life is good.