tasting george pinot vertically
Regular readers of the PinotFile know the story of george wine company since I have profiled the winery
several times. George levkoff, who has an infatuation with lower case, had his wine epiphany when a friend
shared a bottle of 1991 and 1992 Williams Selyem Rochioli Vineyard Pinot Noir. Four years later, George left
his job as a bond trader on Wall Street, and headed west to Sonoma. He interned at Williams Selyem from
1999 to 2002, learning Burt Williams’ winemaking process. He also worked later at the smaller Brogan Cellars
owned by Burt’s daughter, Margi. With grapes from David Hirsch’s vineyard on the Sonoma Coast, he
released 150 cases of his inaugural Pinot Noirs in 2003. George subsequently sourced grapes from vineyards
in the Russian River Valley and his wines quickly caught the attention of top sommeliers at restaurants in Las
Vegas and New York, becoming something of a cult wine. I have been a fan from the beginning.
George is practically a one-man show performing every step of winemaking, marketing and delivering. He
even hand numbers the back label of every bottle. George prefers casual dress and is usually spotted in his
home town of Healdsburg or on the road wearing cutoffs and sandals. He is an unpretentious and lovable guy
who crafts high-collar, sophisticated Pinot noir.
George’s winemaking regimen is not extraordinarily unique. He de-stems 100% of the grapes, cold soaks a
few days, uses Williams Selyem yeast from Jackass Vineyard Zinfandel for inoculation, bottles only free-run
juice (except in the Sonoma Coma Pinot Noir), ages in 100% new Francois Freres French oak barrels, and
bottles without fining and filtration. Total annual production is less than 1,000 cases. George is pictured in blue
below at Pinot Days.
I tasted a complete vertical from 2003 to 2008, labeled Vintage I to Vintage VI. Unfortunately, I have misplaced
my tasting notes on Vintage I and Vintage II. I recall that Vintage I needs to be drunk up now and Vintage II
was outstanding. I am sure I will run across the missing notes in the future and will add them to this feature.
The george wines typically show good consistency, admirable balance and restrained tannins. The wines are
elegantly styled and approachable young. Colors and flavors trend to the redder spectrum and the wines are
moderately light in color. They are made for instant gratification and are not long term agers. I have found that
the george style is loved by practically everyone and when sharing a bottle with others, I have heard nothing
but superlatives and the question, “Where can I get some of that?” Since Vintage II, I have never been
George Pinot is available primarily through a mailing list with some retail distribution. Visit the website at
www.georgewine.com. A listing of restaurants that carry george Pinot is available on the website. The last few
years, there have been small lots of multiple vineyard-designates and a blend labeled Sonoma Coma. The
Nuptial Vineyard was renamed Ceremonial Vineyard accounting for the change with Vintage V. If you have spent any time in Healdsburg and were looking for some nightlife, you will understand the humor behind the
name, Sonoma Coma.
2008 george Sonoma Coma Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., 250
Very typical of Russian River Valley Pinot Noir displaying aromas of
deep red cherries, wood shavings, sandalwood and brown spice. Generous but
discrete herb-inflected and spiced cherry and raspberry fruit clothed in supple
tannins. Goes down easy with a soft and smooth riff of tasty fruit. Very good (-).
2008 george Vintage VI Ceremonial Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., 315 cases, $50.
A signature george Pinot.
Welcoming aromas of fresh cherry cobbler, wooded forest, spice and
seasoned oak. Layers of flavors including cherries, raspberries, nutmeg,
white pepper, and exotic Asian spices. Rich, full and lip-smacking with
impressive persistence on the back end. The fruit really grabs your
attention. A cherry lollapalooza.
2006 george Vintage IV Nuptial Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.7% alc., 324 cases, $50.
Bright Bing cherry aromas with hints of
Middle Eastern spices, cherry Life-Saver and a little good funk. Delicious
essence of ripe cherries, raspberries, blueberries and cranberries. Juicy
and vivid with gossamer tannins. Elegantly styled but packed with flavor.
2005 george Vintage III Nuptial Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., 322 cases., $50.
Stunning nose initially featuring deep cherry aromas with a subtle whiff of clove spice. With time in the glass
aromas of porto and charred wood take over. Lush tasting red cherry and berry core that picks up intensity
over time in the glass. Beautifully balanced with bright acidity on the refreshing finish. Good richness and
staying power. Very good.