PinotFile: 7.17 May 7, 2009
- Life is Good for Pinot Lovers
- Papapietro Perry Pinot Noir
- C. Donatiello
- Mr. Pinot’s 30th Vintage
- Clos Pepe Vineyards: A Window Into Time and Place
- Valerie’s Vineyard
- Shandel’s Oppenlander Vineyard
- Aubin Cellars “Verve”
- Kastania Vineyards: Pinot to Hoot Over
- J. Lynne: Pinot Noir with a Soft Touch
- Paul Lato Wines: So Much with So Little
- MacMurray Ranch: Pinot Noir with a History
- ZD Wines: Honoring the Founder
- Sonoma Coast Vineyards: West County Pinot Noirs
- Castalia Wines: A Little Known Gem
- Keefer Ranch: A Russian River Valley Treasure
- Twomey Cellars
- Small Sips of More California Pinot
- Anam Cara Cellars: Celtic Pride in Every Bottle
- Arterberry Maresh: Dundee Hills Tradition Carried On
- Evesham Wood: Commendable Pinotosity
- Scott Paul Wines: Fine Oregon Pinot Noir and Burgundy too!
- Small Sips of More Oregon Pinot
- Station Imports: Central Otago Schist-Kissed Pinot Noir
- More Sips of Pinot from Down Under
- Recently Released Wine Books
- Prince of Pinot Impostor!
Life is Good for Pinot Lovers
In the eight years I have been composing the PinotFile I have never written an issue with such glee and
conviction. The California and Oregon Pinot Noirs you will read about in the following pages are astonishingly
good, and as a group, I have never tasted so many stellar wines. Winemakers have put to rest the “heartbreak
grape” moniker that Josh Jensen popularized over twenty-five years ago and the derogatory title bestowed on
the fickle grape, “a woeful beast,” by Burgundian Roger Capitain.
Andre Tchelistcheff, who some have called America’s greatest winemaker, would have thoroughly enjoyed the
latest brood of North American Pinot Noirs. Tchelistcheff passed away at the ripe age of 92 years, fifteen years
ago. Known as the “Wine Doctor,” Tchelistcheff was a proponent of low alcohol, restrained oak, freshness and
acidity in wines and would have balked at some of the styles of Pinot Noir made today. Despite this, he would
have been proud of the fact that today’s growers and winemakers are making Pinot Noir from the heart.
I never had the pleasure of meeting Tchelistcheff and regrettably have not tasted his 1946 Beaulieu Pinot Noir,
a benchmark wine for Pinot Noir from California, but I feel like the legacy of that wine lingers on in the breeding
of today’s wines. Tchelistcheff was more a romanticist than a technician and his emphasis on the aesthetics of
winemaking remains a lesson that today’s best winemakers often take to heart. In 1994, Robert Balzer, an
esteemed wine writer for the Los Angeles Times, related a story shortly after Tchelistcheff’s death that
demonstrates this point. Tchelistcheff told Balzer, “I could not find the French Burgundy taste or perfume in the
wines made in the cellar (at Beaulieu) before I came here.” When asked about Pinot Noir in California,
Tchelistcheff said, “Young man, as the sun sets, go into the garden of Madame de Latour and pick one of her
fine red roses, just as it has begun to open. Take it home. Put it into a vase....without water. Next morning, put
your nose into the heart of that dying rose. Inhale the unique perfume. There you will have the scent to guide
you to a perfect Pinot Noir.”
Sit down in a comfortable chair, pour yourself a glass of Pinot and ogle over some marvelous wines. Its good
for your heart and healthy for your psyche. Great Pinot Noir is a valuable aspect of the well-lived life.
Papapietro Perry Pinot Noir
Williams Selyem has spawned more of today’s most notable Pinot Noir producers in the Russian River Valley
than any other winery. The two principals behind Papapietro Perry are Ben Papapietro and Bruce Perry, both
of whom were inspired to craft wine by the co-founder of Williams Selyem, Burt Williams. The trio met while
they were all coworkers for the San Francisco Newspaper Agency, publisher of the San Francisco Examiner
and Chronicle. As their friendship evolved, they all discovered they shared grandfathers who had made wine
that was served nightly on the dinner table. In the 1970s, Ben lent Burt a hand in producing wine in Burt’s
garage in Sonoma County. By 1980, Ben began making his own garagiste wines, including Pinot Noir, and
Bruce joined him a few years later. Friends and family soon warmed to the wines and the two launched
Papapietro Perry Winery in 1998 with their first commercial release of 75 cases.
Early on, the winery’s biggest challenge was obtaining high quality Pinot Noir grapes. As their reputation grew
and they began winning Gold Medals at major wine competitions, they enlisted a number of exceptional
vineyard sources. They now have long term contracts in place with both Peters Vineyard and Leras Family
Vineyard, both located in the Russian River Valley. Other Pinot Noir vineyards now include Charles Vineyard in
the Anderson Valley and the Elsbree Vineyard in the Russian River Valley. Excellent Zinfandels, crafted in a
Pinot Noir style, are sourced from the Elsbree Vineyard and Pauline’s Vineyard in the Dry Creek Valley.
Papapietro Perry wines were initially crafted by Ben and Bruce at Rutz Cellars and then Balverne Winery. In
2005, they moved their winery and tasting room to its present location at 4791 Dry Creek Road, just a 10
minute drive north of downtown Healdsburg. The winery is truly a family operation with Ben’s spouse, Yolanda,
and Bruce’s spouse, Renae, actively involved in the sales and marketing side of the business. The four of
them have created a very warm and unpretentious atmosphere at their winery and Papapietro Perry was
recently recognized by the San Francisco Chronicle as one of the top tasting rooms in Northern California.
David Low (one of three winemakers at Anthill Farms who trained at Williams Selyem) shoulders most of the
winemaking duties now with Ben and Bruce making major blending decisions. Production is 6,000 to 8,000
cases annually depending on the vintage. The clones are picked and vinified separately (except Elsbree
Vineyard which is composed of a field blend), cold soaked for two to four days, fermented in 3/4-ton t-bins with
two strains of commercial yeast (Burgundy and Assmannshausen), and aged 11 to 12 months exclusively in
Francois Freres oak barrels. Appellation wines are aged in 1/3 new, 1/3one-year-old and 1/3 two-year-old barrels
while vineyard-designate wines are raised in 50% new oak barrels (with selected lots receiving up to 100%
new oak treatment).
Papapietro Perry recently won the Pinot Cup at the 4th annual Pigs and Pinot Celebration at Charlie Palmer’s
Dry Creek Kitchen in Healdsburg on March 20, 2009. When I visited the “Pappy-P” tasting room recently, I
shot the following photo of Ben (right) and Bruce (left) proudly displaying their pig trophy from this event. At
Pigs and Pinot, 50 of the world’s top Pinot Noir producers were evaluated by a renowned panel of judges.
Some of the prestigious wineries in the competition were Anthill Farms, Benovia Winery, Brogan Cellars, Buena
Vista, Craggy Range, De La Montanya (runner-up), Domaine Serene, Hanzell Vineyards, Kosta Browne,
Lynmar, Merry Edwards, Paul Hobbs, Rochioli, Siduri, Talley Vineyards, Vincent Girardin, Willakenzie Estate,
Williams Selyem and Zepaltas.
I tasted through the lineup of 2007 Papapietro Perry Pinot Noirs both at the tasting room and the next day in
my usual tasting environment at home. The wines sampled at home had been opened the day before at the
tasting room and re-corked, then traveled over 400 miles in my car and still tasted stellar. I was very
impressed with all the wines. They all featured moderate color, beautiful harmony and a panoply of luscious
red fruits. The two appellation Pinot Noirs and the Leras Family Vineyard Pinot Noir are ready for drinking now,
but the others will benefit from more bottle age. Some of the wines have been released to Wine Club
members, while the Leras Family Vineyard Pinot Noir has been released to distribution, and the remainder of
the 2007 vintage wines will be available periodically this year. Magnums of some wines are available. I
suggest you make a point of calling, or preferably visiting, and claim your prizes now. Just don’t attempt to
rapidly say, “Papapietro Perry Pinot Noir,” after consuming a glass or two of Pinot unless you love ridicule.
2007 Papapietro Perry Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 1,211 cases, $45.
The nose is highly
nuanced with bright Bing cherry, cardamon, white pepper, herbs, musk and a hint of oak. Tasty cherry and
berry flavors with a sidecar of oak and underbrush. Admirable acidity, a velvety texture and a pleasing finish.
2007 Papapietro Perry Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 715
Deeper colored than the Russian River Valley bottling.
Aromas of slightly confected cherries and strawberries with hints of herbs,
spice and mocha. Reasonably concentrated flavors of dark red cherries
complimented by brown spice and a touch of earthiness. Nicely composed
with minimal tannins making it thoroughly enjoyable now. Like Drew
Barrymore, very successful at a young age.
2007 Papapietro Perry Charles Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 740 cases, $49.
wine isn’t ready to drink. The nose is quite austere, displaying reluctant aromas of red fruits and herbs. A bit
awkward and closed, there is a luscious berry core lurking in the background but it is drowned out by healthy
dry tannins and a citrus tang that carries the finish. Definite potential here, but currently zippered up.
2007 Papapietro Perry Elsbree Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 937 cases, $49. This vineyard consists of a field blend of
about 20 clones on multiple rootstocks. Farmed by Chuck Elsbree.
complex and alluring nose displaying red plum and red current fruit with a
sniff of cactus flower, roasted nuts, herbs and oak vanillin. A demure wine
that is packed with flavors of spiced stone fruits and berries. Youthful
tannins are evident and there is good grip, even a slight tartness to the
refreshing and lingering finish. Still not showing all of its charms. I really like this
wine and salute its uniqueness.
2007 Papapietro Perry Leras Family Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 1,235 cases,
$49. This vineyard is located centrally in the Russian River Valley, one road east of River Road behind
Martinelli Winery. Several clones including Pommard, Beringer and Dijon 115, 667, 777 and 828.
smells of the forest with oak and floral highlights. Juicy strawberry, cranberry and cherry fruit flavors. Herbs,
oak and toast are evident but subtle. The fruit is pulled into line by a spark of acidity. Hi-toned, elegant and
2007 Papapietro Perry Peters Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 963 cases, $49. The Peters Vineyard is owned and farmed by
Tom Mukaida. He originally was an apple grower who switched to farming
Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in the 1980s. He sold his grapes to Gallo for
several years. Composed of Pommard and Dijon 777 clones.
This wine is
a real showoff. Very bright cherry fruit, even sensual, with a spicy touch of
oak in the background. Plush and mouth filling attack of raspberry and cherry fruit
with added flavors of savory herbs and baking spices. Perfectly harmonious with
lithe tannins, this beautiful wine seduces with its smoothness and silkiness. You
will need a cold shower after drinking this one.
2007 Papapietro Perry 777 Clones Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 342 cases, $70. A unique
wine composed of Dijon 777 clones from five different Russian River Valley vineyards. Debuted at this year’s
World of Pinot Noir. A popular wine in Las Vegas.
The heady aromas of black cherries, oak toast and
Provencal herbs draw you in. Good concentration of layered berries and rustic cherries with a touch of brown
spice. A vein of acidity runs through creating a slight tartness and a grapefruit tang on the finish. A wine
showing great promise for the dinner table.
2007 Papapietro Perry Pommard Clones Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 436 cases, $70.
Deep aromas of black cherries, brown spice, barnyard and herbs. Medium-weighted dark red cherry and berry
flavors that pick up intensity with air time. A touch of cola adds interest. Supple tannins and bright acidity. A
very tasty wine, but still a Lolita, and needs another 6 to 12 months of bottle age.
2007 Papapietro Perry Mukaida Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 218 cases, $75.
Restrained but pleasing deep red fruit aromas and
flavors that build in intensity in the glass. The fruit has a distinctive tropical bent.
Impressively soft and smooth in the mouth. Oak is evident but not intrusive. I had
the feeling that this wine might be the best in the lineup with another year in the
2006 Papapietro Perry Mukaida Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., $75. This label
should have read, “Mukaida Block,” since the wine is an homage to Tom Mukaida and is sourced from his
Peters Vineyard (he refuses to name the vineyard after himself). 8 best barrels aged in 80% to 100% new oak
Smoky oak and dark raspberry red fruit dominate the aromas and flavors. Smoothly textured with
admirable balance. Picks up interest with time in the glass. Close to the 2007 vintage in character.
Papapietro Perry sells their wines through a mailing list, at the tasting room and via the winery’s Wine Club.
There is some retail distribution of the larger production Pinot Noirs. The tasting room is open daily from 11:00
AM to 4:30 PM. 707-433-0422. The website is www.papapietro-perry.com. They stock some cool and
suggestive swag including tee shirts for men that say, “LONG LASTING..with a big finish,” and for women that
proclaim, “Full Bodied & Delicious, With Lots to Admire,” and “Papapietro Perry, So Good You’ll Want to
Christopher Donatiello, a former New York based wine and spirits distributor, has teamed with investment
banker Bill Hambrecht to transform the site of the former Belvedere Winery on Westside Road in Healdsburg
which was acquired by Bill Hambrecht in 1989. The winery has been completed updated with all the latest
winemaking technology. The spectacular 14.5-acre estate has an organically farmed vineyard (Maddie’s
Vineyard), a contemporary wood and glass hospitality center and tasting room designed by noted winery
architect and landscaper, Ken Munson, and an organic garden that introduces visitors to flora that have a
natural affinity with the aromas found in the Burgundian varietals produced at the winery. The C. Donatiello
label was launched on June 21, 2008, and the winery has quickly become a welcome addition to the Westside
Road family of famous wineries, a lineup some have anointed the “Rodeo Drive of Pinot Noir.”
The focus of C. Donatiello Winery is small lot Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays from the organic estate vineyard
and specially chosen vineyards in the Russian River Valley. Winemaker Webster Marquez developed his skills
at Williams Selyem and Anthill Farms where he is partnered with two other winemakers. The entire operation is
very classy with considerable thought given to a distinguished image and tasteful presentation of the wines.
Premium quality is the goal here and the 2007 lineup of Pinot Noirs indicate that this precocious producer is a
fast rising star in the Russian River Valley.
I recently visited and sampled the 2007 C. Donatiello Pinot Noirs and re-tasted some of the wines later in my
usual tasting environment at home. All three wines are benchmarks for Russian River Valley Pinot Noir in the
2007 vintage. I just can’t say enough good things about them!
Web Marquez told me the fruit was “perfect” in 2007 and the wines are bright and fresh with good age ability
and more finesse than the 2006 wines. There were no special problems in 2007 except reduced yields due to
fruit set issues. July was very moderate for the Russian River Valley, which is critical for proper flavor
development. The 2006 vintage Pinot Noirs are maturing earlier while the 2007 vintage Pinot Noirs are tight at
this point and need decanting or time in the glass. The 2007 C. Donatiello Pinot Noirs were bottled in August,
2008. The 2007 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir needs more time and has not been released. The stylistic
goal for the winery’s Pinot Noirs is layered, elegant wines. Most of the winery’s Chardonnays will be released in
2007 C. Donatiello Floodgate Vineyard Block 15 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., 198 cases, $55. Clones 667 and 777
from the hillside block of this vineyard located in the northern Vine
A marvelous nose composed of bright aromas of red
cherries and berries, Provencal herbs, vitamins and a touch of oak.
Plenty of body and weight with layered flavors of sweet dark cherries
and raspberries exotically spiced and framed beautifully by supple tannins
and restrained acidity. Built for the long haul with more body and spice than
Tyra Banks on the Victoria Secret runway.
2007 C. Donatiello Maddie’s Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.4% alc., 175 cases, $62. From the organically certified estate vineyard in
front of the winery. Aged 10 months in 50% new French oak barrels.
wine rewards the patient. A bit shy initially, the nose blossoms in time with
intense berry jam aromas and a riff of oak. Very tasty spiced cherry and
berry flavors pulled into focus by fine acidity and ripe tannins. Not as rich
as the Floodgate Vineyard bottling, but very satisfying in its own right.
2007 C. Donatiello Hervey Vineyard Green Valley Pinot Noir
13.6% alc., 515 magnums, $142.
Grapes from this vineyard were previously part of a blend for a large winery. This 9-10-acre vineyard
in southwestern Sebastopol consists of 8-year-old vines planted to clones 115, 667 and 777 at a very
cool site with plenty of fog. The result is an extra 3 to 4 weeks of hang time. Farmed by John Hervey,
a Spanish teacher and dedicated winegrower. This wine comes from a block of 667 clone only. Aged
10 months in 100% 1-year-old French oak barrels.
This is one of those wines you keep coming back
to. Bright and complex perfume of Bing cherries, fresh herbs, vanilla and soft oak. Stone fruit-driven
rich middle palate that has plenty of structural power yet retains an appealing elegance. The finish is persistent
like a dreamy three hour movie that never ends.
2006 C. Donatiello Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., 2,750 cases, $48. A blend from the winery’s
two estate vineyards.
A charming if delicate wine displaying aromas and flavors of red cherries and
strawberries, herbs and spice with a soft and pleasing texture and a clean and vibrant finish.
C. Donatiello wines are available through a mailing list and at the comfortable tasting room (pictured below) at
4035 Westside Road, just minutes from downtown Healdsburg. Robert Conrad is the accommodating Director
of Hospitality (707-431-4409). Private tours and extensive tastings are available by appointment. The website
Mr. Pinot’s 30th Vintage
Calera Wine Company celebrated its 30th vintage with the release of its 2005 vintage wines. When Josh
Jensen first planted his vines on a remote property in the Gavilan Mountains in 1975, he was among a few who
were pioneering Pinot Noir wine growing in California. Dick Graff had preceded Jensen by ten years at Chalone,
located just north of Calera in the same Gavilan Mountain Range in San Benito County. Others included
Richard Sanford in Santa Barbara County, David Bruce and Merry Edwards, both in the Santa Cruz Mountains,
Joseph Swan, Bob Pellegrini and Joe Rochioli, all in the Russian River Valley, Tony Husch in the Anderson
Valley, and Francis Mahoney in Carneros. As it would turn out, despite the diversity of microclimates, all of
them would prove successful. There was only one innovator other than Graff, however, who based his whole
success on limestone which was rarely found in California soil in areas appropriate for viticulture. That was
Jensen was a student of and fervent lover of Burgundy, and was convinced that it was the limestone in the soil in
Burgundy that made the wines so special. Jensen has said, “Here in this country, the establishment doesn’t
think limestone is important. I didn’t waste my time debating it. I just saw where the great Burgundies grow
and decided to let my wines do the talking.”
When Jensen released his first Pinot Noir in 1978, his was oblivious to the saga that would follow. He was
completely focused on producing fine Pinot Noir in California and admittedly it was a big gamble. Jensen
would say in later years, “In my case, I just gambled. Pinot Noir was immensely unfashionable when I started.
I was young enough that I didn’t realize I couldn’t do it, so I just did it. I was too dumb to realize I couldn’t.”
When Jensen returned from four years in Burgundy in 1973, he searched California for a site that combined
limestone soils and a suitable climate for growing Pinot Noir. In 1974, he purchased 324 acres at 2,300 feet
above sea level in the Gavilan Mountains for $18,500. The site had at one time been a limestone quarry. It
was extremely isolated with no paved roads and Jensen did not own land that provided access to the property
until 1982 when he bought adjacent land that became available. Most of the property consisted of steep
hillsides and there was no electrical power or telephone lines. It was located on what the United States
Geographical Survey termed “the central creeping zone” of the San Andreas Fault. This was about as unlikely
a spot for growing Pinot Noir as one could find. What it did have, however, were soils with plentiful limestone
and a perfect climate for Pinot Noir. The fog often rolls in from the neighboring valleys creating the potential for
very long growing seasons and Calera often harvests well into October, after both Carneros and Sonoma
Jensen chose the name Calera, which is Spanish for lime kiln, referencing the old lime kiln left on the land
when he acquired it. In 1975, while living on the property with his family in a trailer, he cleared enough land to plant the initial three Pinot Noir vineyards, all at 2,200 feet: Jensen Vineyard was named after his father,
Stephen, Selleck Vineyard was named in honor of Dr. George Selleck who first introduced Jensen to wine, and
Reed Vineyard was named after Jensen’s business partner. Mills Vineyard, which was named after John
Everett Mills who built the infrastructure on the property on Cienaga Road for the original mining operation, and
the Chardonnay and Viognier plantings followed in 1984. The most recent planting in 1998 and 2001 is the
Ryan Vineyard, named for Jim Ryan, the vineyard manager at Calera since its founding. There are also some
unnamed plantings of Pinot Noir that have not yet produced commercially viable grapes. Jensen feels that
there are locations on his property that may have even more potential for Pinot Noir than his original plantings.
Jensen won’t say where the original clones of Pinot Noir came from that are planted at Calera. Selleck, Reed
and two-thirds of Jensen are probably “suitcase clones” either originating directly from Domaine Romanee-Conti
or indirectly from Chalone. The rest of the plantings are presumably nursery bench grafts sourced within
California. The Mills Vineyard and the Chardonnay and second planting of Viognier are own rooted, the rest of
the plantings are grafted onto nursery rootstock.
By 2006, Jensen had 83.6 acres planted on his property consisting of nearly 1,100 acres. The winery, the
world’s first and only completely gravity-flow facility, was built into a hillside on seven different levels. Calera is
the only winery in the Mt. Harlan appellation (Jensen can also use the Central Coast AVA and the San Benito
AVA designations as well). Curiously enough, the vineyards are located in the Mt. Harlan AVA, but the winery
technically is not, so the Calera label cannot use the “estate bottled” designation.
The first 30 vintages has brought Jensen many struggles. Yields have been consistently low, even less than a
ton per acre in some vintages. He had to make Zinfandel from bought grapes until 1985 to provide some cash
flow. Jensen constantly battled rattlesnakes, rabbits, gophers, deer, wild pigs and squirrels. He fought for
recognition, and although by 1999 his wines had received considerable accolades from the wine press, the
public seemed to turn their attention to newer and more fashionable cult Pinot Noir producers. Jensen was a
firm advocate of the Burgundian idiom of Pinot Noir and lashed out at what he called “smasher-blasters,”
California Pinot Noir fruit bombs that he said were “mostly one-dimensional, simple but potent drinks that
merely lose their fruit, their main if not their only appeal, with the passing years and just turn into.....expensive
For years, the Calera Pinot Noirs were shy and closed upon release, reaching their best drinking window
between five and twenty years after the vintage. This may have been one of the reasons that the
unsophisticated wine-drinking public was disenchanted with the wines. I have noted that recent vintages have
been a little more approachable after release.
The first winemaker at Calera was Steve Doerner, a microbiologist who had never made wine. He worked
closely with Jensen until 1992, when he left for Cristom Estate in the Willamette Valley of Oregon.
Subsequently, many future winemaker stars passed through Calera learning their trade from Mr. Pinot (Josh’s
moniker). Calera’s winemaking regimen is as follows. The grapes since 1984 have not been de-stemmed except for some purchased
grapes and grapes from young vines. No cold soak is employed. Typically, tartaric
acid is added, native yeasts drive fermentation, punch downs are by hand two to three times a day, and the
wines undergo 100% malolactic fermentation in Francois Freres barrels, typically 30% of which are new.
Racking is done twice into the fining tank (egg whites are used) and bottling tank. The single-vineyard Pinot
Noirs are aged for 16 months before bottling. The Central Coast wine is aged in 12-15% new barrels for 10 to
Jensen’s vision for the perfect Pinot Noir is one “that is perfectly balanced on the cusp of richness and
complexity, of fruitiness and subtlety, and is neither one nor the other.” He describes the typicality of each of
his single-vineyard Calera Pinot Noirs as follows.
Jensen Vineyard: 13.8 acres. Deliciously accessible aromas and flavors of blackberry, raspberry and
strawberry jam. This vineyard produces wines of impeccable balance, rich, round and long-lived,
sometimes developing with age to a thrilling combination of raspberry sauce richness, swished with the
rasping perfume of leather. A complex wine and for me consistency of complexity is really the ultimate
compliment to a Pinot Noir.
Reed Vineyard: 4.4 acres. Aromas of exotic wild raspberries, cherries and chocolate combine with
savory fumes and herbal notes of sassafras. Chocolaty, raisiny character most years. It has a
creaminess and softness and a less dense style than Calera’s other single-vineyard Pinot Noirs. It is a
precocious wine and the first of the single-vineyard wines to be released.
Selleck Vineyard: 4.8 acres. My personal favorite almost every vintage. Usually the most complex
and dense of the single-vineyard Pinot Noirs made by Calera. Magnificently perfumed, full of the classic
Burgundian entangled mysteries of cherry and plum, wild raspberry and blackberry, toast and cinnamon
spice. The flavors are deep with black fruits, spice and mint all present in these rich, full-bodied wines.
It is also the fastest to evolve. It seems to have one more layer, one more bit of depth and complexity
than the others, and since that’s what I appreciate the most, it appeals to me the most. This wine seems
to have the greatest aging potential.
Mills Vineyard: 15.4 acres. Fragrant, spicy, cedar-like aroma, with underlying cherry and red berry
fruit. Flavors include plums, olives and bittersweet chocolate. Long finish and broad round tannins.
Terrific structure but it often seems leaner than the other three. Compared to any other Pinot Noir
from any other producer, it is rich, full-flavored, dark and complex. Compared to our own
vineyards, it seems less rounded and supple and fat.
Ryan Vineyard: 13.1 acres. Very bright and lovely, exhibiting bright red fruit, a hint of wild herbs, soft
body and definitive Mt. Harlan minerality.
Recently I enjoyed sampling all the single-vineyard Calera Pinot Noirs from the 2005 or 30th vintage (Note: I
previously reviewed the 2005 Ryan Vineyard so this issue features the 2006 Ryan Vineyard which is the
current release). When you consider the pedigree, the impeccable winemaking, the uniqueness, the startling
complexity and the age ability of these magnificent Pinot Noirs, the prices ($40-60) seem absurdly modest.
These wines speak of terroir reflected in the distinctiveness of each of the vineyard-designate Pinot Noirs. I
believe the Calera Pinot Noirs are among the greatest wines and most certainly among the most magnificent
examples of their genre ever produced in California. I am not alone, for last year, Wine & Spirits Magazine
named Calera Wine Company “Winery of the Year.” There are only a handful of California producers crafting
wines like these.
2006 Calera Ryan Vineyard Mt. Harlan Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 2,155
cases, $40. Crop yield 3.29 tons per acre (average crop yield for this
vineyard over last 10 years is 1.53 tons per acre). Average Brix 25.1º at
harvest. Native fermentation. Aged 16 months in 30% new French oak.
Potent and seductive aromas of black cherries, black
raspberries, spice, white pepper and red hots. Luscious black cherry
core which is a bit earthy and kissed by minerals. Plenty of good tannin
for the long haul. Rich and mouth filling, persistent, with lively acidity. Perfect in
every way. I’m buying a case.
2005 Calera 30th Anniversary Vintage Mills Vineyard Mt. Harlan Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., 1,351
cases, $40. Average 10 year crop yield from this vineyard is 1.3 tons per acre. Aged 16 months in 18%
new French oak. Unfiltered.
Fabulous intoxicating perfume of strawberry and raspberry jam. I could
only shake my head after sticking my nose into this one. Unbelievable! The concentrated flavors echo
the aromas. Plenty of vibrant Pinot fruit finds every cranny in the mouth and is pulled into line perfectly
by adeptly proportioned t n‘ a. Hey bro, you won’t find a wine like this from Dijon clones.
2005 Calera 30th Anniversary Vintage Reed Vineyard Mt. Harlan Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., 436 cases, $45. Average 10 year yield 1.48 tons
per acre. Aged 16 months in 18% new French oak. Unfiltered.
perfume of dark red plums and cherries with a thin oak cloak. Relatively
light compared to the other Calera vineyard-designates and more
approachable. Moderately demure red fruits touched by baking spice,
cola and oak. Very supply tannins and bright acidic spine. A lovely debutante.
2005 Calera 30th Anniversary Vintage Jensen Vineyard Mt. Harlan Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., 1,264 cases, $60. Average 10 year yield from
this vineyard is 1.51 tons per acre. This vintage 1.4 tons per acre.
Average Brix at harvest 24.2º. Aged 16 months in 18% new French
A haunting aromatic profile that is highly nuanced
featuring plum, blueberry, black cherry, oak and forest floor. Not as
thick or chewy as the Ryan at this stage, showing more silkiness and
brightness. Moderate tannins and a refreshing riff of citrus on the dry finish
portend a long life ahead. A connoisseur’s Pinot.
2005 Calera 30th Anniversary Vintage Selleck Vineyard Mt. Harlan Pinot Noir
15.0% alc., 287 cases, $63. Average 10 year crop yield 1.35
tons per acre. Yield in 2005 was 1.19 tons per acre. Aged 16 months in
18% new French oak. Unfiltered.
Stick your nose in this one and you
won’t leave the bright cherry, fresh herb and brioche aromas. Healthy
spiced cherry core that is rich and full without being jammy. Very soft and
smoothly textured with moderate fine-grain tannins and an endless finish. The
alcohol is perfectly integrated. Can you make a California Pinot Noir that is
balanced at 15% alcohol? Check this wine out for your answer. This wine was
still strutting its stuff the next day from a previously opened re-corked bottle. A
Calera Wine Company is located at 11130 Cienaga Road, Hollister. Tasting is available daily from 11:00 to
4:30. Directions are on the website at www.calerawine.com. 831--637-9170. Jensen’s newsletters are very
entertaining but I haven’t seen one since 2007. The wines, including a number of library releases, are
available on the website. In addition, there is wide retail distribution.
Besides the single-vineyard Pinot Noirs, Calera produces a Mt. Harlan Cuvée Pinot Noir and a Central Coast
Pinot Noir from bought grapes. Chardonnay and Viognier round out the lineup. All the single-vineyard Pinot
Noirs are released in the half bottle format allowing the consumer to enjoy the wines at a younger age while
preserving their full bottles for future enjoyment. Calera also offers a half bottle sampler containing the four
oldest single-vineyard Pinot Noirs plus the winery’s Chardonnay and Viognier so one can sample to plan buys
of full-sized bottles. The wines above are still available thorough internet retailers (the 2005 Jensen and 2006
Ryan can be bought directly from Calera). Damn the recession, buy Calera!
The back label of the Calera wines contains an astonishing amount of information that Pinot Geeks will savor.
For the remarkable complete story of Josh Jensen and Calera Wine Company, I would highly
recommend the book, The Heartbreak Grape, A Journey in Search of the Perfect Pinot Noir,
written by Marq de Villiers (McArthur & Company, paperback, $10.99).
Clos Pepe Vineyards: A Window Into Time and Place
“Vigneron” Steve Pepe and vineyard manager and winemaker Wes Hagen are at the forefront of viticulture in
the Santa Rita Hills. In less than ten years, the name Clos Pepe Vineyard on a bottle has become
synonymous with quality. Think California Grand Cru quality. The Sta. Rita Hills appellation, nestled in an
east-west valley, sits only a few miles inland from the Pacific Ocean. Morning fog, bright daytime sunshine and
afternoon ocean breezes contribute to a terroir where Pinot Noir and Chardonnay can thrive. The resultant
lengthy growing season slowly guides grapes to ripeness while allowing the fruit to retain the acidity that is so
critical for a wine to perform at the dinner table and in the cellar. The sandy loam soils, rich in calcareous shale,
contribute minerality and complexity to the finished wines. Pepe and Hagen have taken the right site and
infused their knowledge, passion and commitment to create a vineyard that can produce wines of uncommon
In Hagen’s own words, he says, "We strive to produce wines that represent a time and a place. In a landscape
where critics heap praise on 'heavy metal' wines more akin to fortified wine than a beverage for table, we
believe that wine should integrate into a meal--we hope our customers discuss the flavors of wine and food and
how they combine to make an experience. Great craft impresses not with an insistence that it be the sole focus
of a room, but instead by its ability to integrate. I like to make wines that tell a story: a story of wind, fog,
sunshine and the hard work of our crew. This vineyard has as much potential for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir as
we are willing to imagine and draw from it with passion and labor. In this sense I want the wines to be 'jazz'
over 'heavy metal'--a reflection of craft embedded in an ever-changing environment instead of a homogenized
attempt to kowtow to the gods of concentration." You sense that Hagen is quite dedicated, cerebral and
insightful and when you are trying to make premium Pinot Noir, these traits come in very handy.
The name, Clos Pepe (“Clo Peppy”), comes from the French word “clos” and the vineyard proprietor’s name,
Steve Pepe. In France, a clos may signify a walled vineyard or denote a winery in the same manner as the
word “domaine” or “chateaux.” So Clos Pepe = Pepe’s Winery.
Steve Pepe oversees the entire operation, freeing Wes Hagen to carefully hand-farm the vineyard which is
planted to 24 acres of Pinot Noir (four clones) and 4 acres of Chardonnay (two clones). Hagen’s spouse,
Chanda, assists him with the winemaking duties. A full-time vineyard crew of three insures that the vineyard is
meticulously maintained. Farming is sustainable, organic and biodynamic. Yields are extremely low, averaging
1 to 2 tons per acre.
25% of the fruit from Clos Pepe Vineyard is retained for the Clos Pepe Estate wines which include a Pinot Noir,
a Chablis-styled Chardonnay, a Rosé and a sparkling wine. The remainder of the fruit is distributed to some of
California’s highest-profile wine producers including A.P. Vin, Brewer-Clifton, Copain, Ken Brown, Loring Wine
Company, Ojai, Roessler and Siduri. A total of 800 cases of Clos Pepe Estate Pinot Noir and 100 cases of
Clos Pepe Estate Chardonnay are produced. The first commercial Clos Pepe Estate wine was released in
Winemaking is non-interventional and traditional for California. The grapes are fermented in small open-top
fermenters, cold soaked for 2 to 3 days, allowed to begin fermentation with natural yeasts followed by
inoculation with RC-212 yeast, aged in 25-50% new French oak barrels depending on the vintage, and bottled
with minimal fining and little or no filtration. Hagen has really refined his style in recent vintages and the
magnificent 2007 Pinot Noirs are easily drinkable now while possessing the structural power to age for 6 to 10
2007 Clos Pepe Estate Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., 650 cases, $54.
A marvelous drinking experience beginning with the clean and fruity nose hinting
of spice and minerals followed by a delicious, sappy black raspberry and
blackberry core that explodes in the mouth and saturates every taste bud.
Ridiculous! Modest tannins, deft use of oak and perfectly harmonious.
2007 Clos Pepe Estate “Vigneron’s Select” Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
alc., 72 cases, $59. A blend of the favorite barrels in the cellar.
As good as the
regular 2007 bottling is, this one raises the ante a notch. Really heady aromas of
black cherries and raspberries with herbs adding interest in the background.
Smooth and seamless pie-filling fruits on the palate, showing a perfect marriage of
finesse and power. Plenty of fruit to thrill, beautifully framed by supple tannins and a
lively vein of minerality and acidity, culminating in a long and scented finish.
2006 Clos Pepe Estate Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 700 cases, $56.
fruit here is on the ripe side, with the wine displaying aromas of black currents and
marzipan and flavors of macerated dark berries with a riff of dark chocolate and raisin.
Beautifully composed, juicy, vibrant and alive with dusty tannins and a spark of acidity.
2005 Clos Pepe Estate Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., 650 cases, $56,
Dark reddish-purple color. Appealing mix of aromas of black cherries,
herbs and a slip of oak. Loamy black cherry and blackberry coulis which is
focused and polished. The tannins are suave, the texture is smooth and there
is an edginess to the dry and lingering finish. Plenty of Pinot singing here. This
wine reminded me of a 2005 Esmonin Hospices de Beaune Mazis Chambertin
I drank the night before. The Clos Pepe was every bit as good.
Visit the excellent Clos Pepe Vineyards website at www.clospepe.com to view videos of the vineyard and
extensive information about farming of the vineyard, winemaking philosophy, tasting notes and relevant insights
about the artwork on the labels. Joining the mailing list is the best way to insure an allocation of the wines. An
online store is available. Hagen contributes an informative blog about Clos Pepe on the website as well. Tours
and tasting are available by appointment (consult the website). Customer service is professional and attentive.
This 1-acre vineyard is a partnership between long time Sonoma County public relations man Michael Coats,
his wife Valerie, her parents and sister, and Chuck and Jerry Hanson who are owners of Hi-Time Cellars in
Costa Mesa, California, a well-known wine retailer. All the partners share in the work of the vineyard which is
organically farmed and overseen by viticulturist Phil Cotourri. The 1-acre vineyard was planted in 2000 by
vineyardist Chuy Ordaz on resistant rootstock and a secret Russian River Valley clone. Yields are just under 2
tons per acre. The land sits less than 500 feet from the appellation line with Sonoma Valley and is in Sonoma
Carneros. Previously the site was a plum orchard.
The estate Pinot Noir was crafted by B.R. Cohn Winery’s winemaker, Tom Montgomery, at B.R. Cohn Winery,
Glen Ellen. All three recent vintages have sold out.
2006 Valerie’s Vineyard Carneros Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., 132 cases,
$40, very heavy bottle. Aged in a mix of new and two-year-old French oak
barrels for 17 months.
The nose offers the aromas of a fresh berry tart
with a dusting of oak. Plenty of body and weight to the cherry and berries
flavors which are framed by healthy tannins. The most striking feature of
this wine is the velvety texture. Over time in the glass, the wine really
grows on you as it reveals many nuances of flavor including cola and tea but it is
the sensual mouthfeel that lures you back for another sip.
Shandel’s Oppenlander Vineyard
Oppenlander Vineyard is located in Comptche in Mendocino County, just north of Anderson Valley. It is owned
and farmed by fifth generation owners Bill and Norm Shandel. The property was homesteaded in the 1860s
and Bill and his family still live in the original log home. The property was known as Oppenlander Ranch for
nearly a century, then Shandel Ranch for over a decade, and now Surprise Valley Ranch, Inc. since 1963.
The vineyard is located 8 miles as the crow flies from the Mendocino coast. Pommard and Dijon clones 114
and 115 are planted in Oppenlander (510) heavy clay loam which is unique to Comptche. The vineyard was
first planted in 1997 and today there are 20 acres in vines.
Winemaker John Pepe has been crafting superb and distinctive Pinot Noirs from this vineyard since the 2002
vintage and this low-profile label as been winning many awards in major wine competitions. This is not a
beautifully landscaped and picturesque vineyard and the Shandel’s label is plain and simple. What is important
here is what is in the bottle and that is great terroir-driven Pinot Noir. Phillips Hill Estates in Anderson Valley
crafts an excellent version of Pinot Noir from this vineyard as well.
2007 Shandel’s Oppenlander Vineyard Comptche Mendocino County Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., >400
cases, $40, unreleased.
Moderately dark in color and darkly floral on the nose with full-bodied flavors of
wild blackberries and raspberries, red plum and bittersweet chocolate. The taste is quite exotic and
distinctive. The wine is nicely composed and charms with its satiny texture. The remarkably persistent
finish leaves a hint of warmth in its wake. Still young and not as expressive as it will be, this one is a
Shandel’s Oppenlander Vineyard Pinot Noirs can be ordered through the website at www.shandels.com. The
2006 vintage is the current release and is an excellent wine as well. A world-class blackberry jam is also
available for sale.
Aubin Cellars “Verve”
Aubin Cellars is a boutique producer of multiple varieties including Pinot Noir under the “Verve” label. The
2006 Pinot Noirs are sourced from the Russian River Valley, Sonoma Coast and Dundee Hills of Oregon.
French-born owner Jérôme Aubin is an importer of oak barrels from Rousseau of Burgundy, St. Martin of
Bordeaux, Allary of Cognac, A&K of Missouri and Balazs of Hungary. He also imports wine concrete tanks
from Nomblot of Burgundy. The label was founded in 2001. The name “Verve” translates as “crafted with
enthusiasm, vigor and integrity.” Verve is also a bilingual French-American noun reflecting Aubin Cellars’
The winemakers are Loren Tayerie (California bottlings) and Ray Walsh, formerly of King Estate and now with
his own label, Capitello (Oregon bottlings). The wines have been consistently fine with attractive artwork on
the labels and sensible prices. I have reviewed the wines a number of times very favorably. The two wines
below are the best I have sampled from this producer to date. For the 2007 vintage, Pinot Noirs will be
produced from Stoller Vineyard and Momtazi Vineyard in the Willamette Valley. Four California bottlings will
include appellation wines from the Sonoma Coast, Russian River Valley, Monterey and Santa Cruz Mountains.
2006 Verve Dundee Hills Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
alc., 110 cases, $33 ($264 a case). Sourced from Stoller
Vineyard. Label artist is Michelle Bonnetain of France.
is quite pleasant featuring aromas of strawberries and red
raspberries, a touch of good barnyard and a nice oak spin.
Delicious darker red fruit and pomegranate flavors saturate the palate with a
sidecar of oak and a touch of brown sugar. Juicy with refreshing acidity,
gossamer tannins and a silky mouth feel. Very enjoyable.
2006 Verve Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.6% alc., 425 cases, $33.
Label art by Gerard Schnieder of France. Yields 2.2 tons per acre average.
Clones are Pommard, 777, 828, Beringer and Cruz. Harvested at 27º Brix. 100%
de-stemmed. Aged 17 months in 40% new French oak barrels. Unfined and
Bright effusive Bing cherry and strawberry aromas with a hint of
cardamon spice and marzipan. Crisp and juicy dark red ripe cherry fruit with a
little sassafras, root beer, raisin and spice accents. No rough edges, no
discernible tannins. An easy drinking wine that is a bit on the ripe side but quite
Verve Pinot Noirs are available on the website at www.aubincellars.com. This is a producer with a bright
Kastania Vineyards: Pinot to Hoot Over
Hoot and Linda Smith lovingly maintain a beautiful property overlooking the eastern portion of the Petaluma
Gap and the Petaluma River. Their 5-acre vineyard sits on a knoll welcoming northerly travelers on Highway
101 to southern Sonoma County wine country. The vineyard was planted in 1995 primarily to Pinot Noir and
currently consists of three clones: 115, 667 and a Rochioli Vineyard selection. A small amount of Cabernet
Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc are also successfully grown. For the first eight years, Kastania Vineyard
supplied grapes for a vineyard-designate Pinot Noir made by Landmark Vineyards in Kenwood. Beginning with
the 2005 vintage, the Smiths have kept the grapes for their own label named Kastania which translates as
“chestnut” in Italian. Hoot said it just didn’t seem right to name the winery “Smith.” The winemaker is Leslie
Cisneros who also crafts the wines at Arista in the Russian River Valley. Total production is 800-1,000 cases.
A relatively new winery and tasting room sit at the top of the property. The inviting tasting room is decorated
with owl-themed memorabilia that Linda has collected over the years. Linda collected owls a long time before
she met her husband, and likes to joke that she “ended up marrying a “Hoot.” A pair of owl-themed door
handles greet visitors to the tasting room and a golden owl is prominently displayed on the Kastania label.
There are two Kastania Pinot Noirs for 2007: Jaden & Keira’s Cuvée (named after the Smith’s granddaughters)
and a Proprietor’s Reserve. Both wines are impressive, reflecting deft winemaking and the complexity that can
only come from established vines.
2007 Kastania Vineyards Proprietor’s Reserve Estate Grown Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.6% alc., 336 cases, unreleased. Aged 11 months in 43% new French
This wine is a step up in intensity with deeper aromas of cherries, tea
and oak toast and perfectly ripened fruit. Vigorous with flavor and character showing
a rich core of spiced cherry fruit complimented by oak smoke. Saucy and fat, yet
retaining an edge of finesse. A great mouthful of Pinot.
The excellent 2006 Kastania Pinot Noirs (Estate - $35 and Proprietor’s Reserve - $45) are still available from
the website at www.kastaniavineyards.com. They were reviewed in Volume 6, Issue 58. Check with the winery
for release date of the 2007 Pinot Noirs. The winery’s tasting room is open on weekends or by appointment
(707-763-6348). The address is 4415 Kastania Road (entrance just south of the gas station). The Smith’s are
wonderfully personable and you will enjoy a visit here immensely.
J. Lynne: Pinot Noir with a Soft Touch
Jennifer (Jen) Lynne Wall is a talented winemaker who has accumulated a slew of medals for
the Barefoot Cellars label since joining that winery in 1995. Barefoot still and sparkling wines
are value-priced and directed at the millennial generation. The label’s tag line says, “Get
Barefoot and have a good time!” Fans of Barefoot wines are called “barefooters,” and
Barefoot Wine & Bubbly events are held nationwide. Owned by E. & J. Gallo Winery since
2005, Barefoot Wine Cellars produces over two million cases of ten different still varieties and
four different sparkling wines.
Lynne began college at University California Santa Cruz intending to study medicine but
headed to Sonoma County after graduation and became hooked on becoming a vintner. She
acquired her winemaking skills under the distinguished winemaker, Erin Green, now the
winemaker at Pahlmeyer. Like many accomplished winemakers, Lynne yearned to have her own label. With
the assistance and support of her husband, Mike, she debuted a Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in 2003 under the
J. Lynne label and many accolades have followed.
The current release, the 2007 J. Lynne Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, won a Gold Medal at the prestigious
2009 Sonoma Grand Harvest Awards. The wine was sourced equally from two vineyards: Cameron Ranch
and Saralee’s Vineyard, both in the Russian River Valley. The clones are Martinelli and Dijon 777. The wine
was 100% de-stemmed, cold soaked for several days, and partly whole berry fermented in tank with
proprietary yeast. The wine was matured for 8 months in French oak barrels.
2007 J. Lynne Russian River Valley Sonoma County Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 973 cases, $25.
Vivid perfume of cherries, strawberries and
Asian spices. Refined and compelling flavors of fresh picked cherries,
raspberries and strawberries with a hint of cola. Moderately light in
weight with suave tannins, lively acidity and admirable elegance. A
welcoming wine that is easy to drink and notable for its pinotosity.
J. Lynne Pinot Noir is available online at www.jlynnewines.com and is distributed in retail stores in CA, WI, LA,
NJ, MN and VA. In California, customers can ask a retailer to bring it in through the distributor, MEGAWINE.
Paul Lato Wines: So Much with So Little
On my way back from the World of Pinot Noir in March, 2009, I stopped by Central Coast Wine Services in
Santa Maria to visit Paul Lato and taste his 2008 Pinot Noirs out of barrel. Paul is a Polish-born professionally
trained and educated sommelier. In 2002, he decided to follow his dream to make his own wine and arrived in
California’s Central Coast. That first year he made six barrels of wine and developed his skills while being
mentored by Jim Clendenen at Au Bon Climat and Bob Lindquist at Qupe. He has closely studied the
winemaking of the late Henri Jayer of Burgundy, while his stateside admiration is reserved for the older style of
Williams Selyem wines. He has tasted wines from those producers and carefully studied their approach
reaching the conclusion that “true artisanal winemaking is based on intuition, sensitivity and passion.”
It is astonishing to visit and see Paul’s working space - a 20’ by 30’ cage containing maybe 20 barrels of wine,
a table that serves as a chemical lab, a small desk and a few boxes of bottled wine on a single pallet. It seems
to fit Paul well, however, because he purposely intends to remain small. He is passionate about quality, often
declassifying up to half of his production that fails to meet his high expectations. He has grown slowly and
methodically, limited by his own resources (he spurns investors) and by his insistence on doing every step of
the winemaking process himself. Chardonnay was added to the mix of Pinot Noir (80% of production) and
Syrah in 2007. Total output varies depending on the vintage but does not exceed 500 cases.
Paul only works with special vineyards that have a strong personality. Almost all contracts are per acre so he
can work intimately with the vineyard managers to achieve his goals. Paul employs long cold soaks, quite
warm fermentations, gravity racking only when necessary, and gentle fining with no filtration. He makes it clear
that he has no recipe, varying his punch downs, new oak regimen and aging period (generally 14 to 18
months) depending on the vintage on the vineyard source of the wine. His goal is the perfect balance between
elegance and intensity. His wines have always been admirable for their purity and refinement, finesse and
balance but also for their distinctive reflection of each vineyard’s terroir.
My previous comments about Paul are poignant. “Paul Lato bleeds Pinot Noir. He is a rare individual of great
passion who is humble, yet aristocratic, both humorous and charming, and with a smile that shows a zest for
wine and the good life.”
My tasting notes of the 2008 Paul Lato Pinot Noirs from barrel and the 2007 Paul Lato Pinot Noirs from bottle
2008 Paul Lato “Sine Cera” Fiddlestix Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
“Sine Cera” is a Latin
idiom meaning “without wax.” Wax was used historically to cover imperfections in statues. One new barrel of
Lovely aromas of dark cherries and berries with a touch of chocolate and violets. Smoothly
textured with supple tannins and a soft and scented exit.
2008 Paul Lato “Suerte” Solomon Hills Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
From a block at
the top of the vineyard planted to clones 115 and 667. Solomon Hills is the most westerly vineyard in the Santa
Maria Valley and is clearly visible to travelers on Highway 101. “Suerte” means luck and Paul chose this name
because he had suffered a string of accidents and survived without significant injury. This wine seemed to
bring him luck.
Darker fruited, nicely spiced with plenty of structural power, noticeable oak, soft tannins and a
tangy finish that lasts and lasts.
2007 Paul Lato “Sine Cera” Fiddlestix Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
14.7% alc.,125 cases, $73.
Deep, dark brooding nose showing
aromas of black cherries, raspberries and white pepper. A distinctive wine
with woodsy and earthy dark stone fruits that are both lush and mysterious.
Deft touch of oak and admirable corralling of tannins. A hint of citrus shows
up in the finish which is unbelievably persistent. This is a wine that comes at
you, grabs hold and demands your attention. Screams for duck.
Paul Lato Wines are sold through a mailing list at www.paullatowines.com. There is very limited retail and
restaurant distribution. Check www.vinquire.com for internet availability from several sources. Paul is not the
best businessperson and a number of followers have not received offerings despite joining the mailing list. If
you want the wines, and you do, either call Paul (805-260-3210) or visit him in Santa Maria (by appointment).
Paul’s Chardonnay is outrageously good and I will report on this and other California Chardonnays in a future
MacMurray Ranch: Pinot Noir with a History
The MacMurray Ranch property dates back to the early 1850s when the land was first settled by Colonel Hugh
Porter. He had returned from the Mexican War and chose a site for his home adjacent a bend of Porter Creek,
a small river that empties into the larger Russian River. Porter’s family lived on the land for generations and
successfully farmed crops on the rich soils. In 1941, Fred MacMurray, a legendary actor of Hollywood’s
Golden Era, and his wife, June Harver, bought the ranch as a getaway from his home in Los Angeles.
He became a gentleman rancher and frequently brought his wife and family to this picturesque setting in the
Russian River Valley. MacMurray raised prize-winning cattle on the property and his children rode horseback
through the hills. The family was an integral part of the local agricultural community. He nurtured the land for
50 years, acquiring open land when neighbors moved away. In 1996, the MacMurray family sold the ranch to
the Gallo family. The original buildings were restored, trees were planted along Porter Creek, and vines were
established behind the farmhouse with the first vintage of wine coinciding with the new millennium. The current
vineyard layout is depicted in the map below.
Kate MacMurray, who was one week old when her parents bought the ranch in 1941, still lives on the property,
hosting Sonoma County community and wine events such as the Russian River Valley Winegrower’s “Grape to
Glass.” She represents the heritage of the MacMurray Ranch and is the perfect spokesperson for the Ranch’s
The ranch encompasses more than 1,500 acres on both sides of the Russian River. Only about 450 acres are
planted to wine grapes to preserve the land’s natural habitat. Plantings are predominantly Pinot Noir and Pinot
Gris with small blocks of Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel and Syrah. Multiple clones of Pinot Noir, including
Pommard, Dijon and Wädenswil are planted to match specific parts of the ranch land.
Talented winemaker Susan Doyle is a native of Tasmania with a degree in Environmental Geography from
University of Tasmania and a postgraduate diploma in Viticulture and Enology from Canterbury University in
New Zealand. Susan’s task is unique for a winemaker in California, for she crafts Pinot Noir from multiple
appellations, including the Central Coast, Sta. Rita Hills, Sonoma Coast and of course, the Russian River
Valley. Oregon is in her future as well. She says, “In the Russian River Valley it’s all about black fruit and silky
tannins and mouth feel. In the Sonoma Coast, it’s tighter, more structural with red fruits. In the Santa Rita Hills,
it’s more layered and herbal and earthy. We’ve found another spot in the Central Coast where the Pinot has
red cherry flavors along with the traditional earthy tea notes. It’s different in the character detail, but it’s all
Pinot Noir at its core. And that’s exactly the point, isn’t it?
2006 MacMurray Ranch Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., $35.
Hand harvested, de-stemmed, cold soaked for 5 days, fermented with a mixture
of natural and Burgundian yeasts.
This is a dense fruit-driven wine which lacks
the trademark spice and cola features of many Russian River Valley Pinot Noirs.
There is plenty of dark fruit and tannin but this wine could be from anywhere.
2007 MacMurray Ranch Central Coast Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., $24.
Primarily sourced from Olson Ranch in the Santa Lucia Highlands.
Harvested in the early morning, de-stemmed, cold soaked, fermented
with a mixture of natural and proprietary Burgundian yeasts.
Pretty red tinged
violet color. Shy, but appealing aromas of dark berries, wooded
forest and oak spice. Rich melange of berry fruit and a hint of oak with
gossamer tannins and bright acidity. A nice drink for the money.
2006 MacMurray Ranch Winemaker’s Block Selection Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 400 cases, $60. Clones 828 and
37 (Mt. Eden). Hand sorted and de-stemmed into open top 1 to 3.5 ton
fermenters with a target of 95% whole berries. Cold soaked for 5 to 7
days and inoculation with a mixture of natural and Burgundian yeasts.
Pressed gently using a basket press. Aged in a combination of new
and 1-year-old French oak barrels with an additional 6+ months in
bottle before release.
Now we’re talking. Really attractive aromas of black
cherry and cherry cola. Plush core of cherry and berry fruit with some spice,
leather and graham. Long, stylish and silky with tannins reigned in and oak
playing a subtle supportive role. Clearly more sophisticated, refined and
elegant than the other MacMurray bottlings. This wine will match up with the any of the very best Pinot Noirs
currently made in California. This Pinot was kissed by an angel.
Other E. & J. Gallo Pinot Noirs:
2006 Gallo Family Vineyards Sonoma Reserve Sonoma County Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., $18. De-stemmed, cold soaked with other
details not disclosed. Gina Gallo is the winemaker and Matt Gallo is
Deep reddish-purple color. Highly nuanced nose
displaying aromas of black fruits, forest floor, mushrooms, cola and
toasty oak. Rich attack of black raspberry and blackberry fruit which
is mouth filling and pleasing and builds in intensity in the glass. The
tannins are soft and supple, the oak is deftly managed and a pleasing lift of citrus
complements the finish. A good crossover wine for Merlot and Cabernet drinkers.
Andrew Frei bought land in the Russian River Valley and Dry Creek Valley in the 1890s. His sons and
grandsons took over and named the business Frei Brothers. Today, Frei Brothers Reserve wines still use
grapes from Andrew’s original properties. Jim Collins is the chief viticulturist now for Frei Brothers Reserve.
Farming is sustainable and incorporates ideas from organics and biodynamics. A falconer is employed to
prevent starlings from eating grapes at some of the vineyards.
2006 Frei Brothers Reserve Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., $30.
Picked in the cool morning,de-stemmed, not crushed to retain whole berries,
cold soaked for a few days, several yeast strains employed, aged in oak barrels
for 24 months. 97% Pinot Noir.
Slightly confected nose of raspberries and black
cherries with a modicum of oak. Copious, dark, well-oaked fruit that is a bit
overwhelmed by flamboyant tannins most evident on the dry finish. This wine will
perform best at the dinner table with some hearty short ribs.
MacMurray Ranch Pinot Noirs are widely distributed and sold online at The Barrel Room
) as are all the E. & J. Gallo wines. The MacMurray Ranch website is
. The MacMurray Ranch Winemaker’s Block Selection is an extraordinary wine and
shows that the Ranch has the grape sources and talent to craft ultra-premium Pinot Noir. For me, the other
MacMurray Ranch appellation Pinot Noirs are good, but not special, and are not Pinot Noirs connoisseurs will
fawn over. They are directed more at the mainstream daily drinker market and fill that role admirably. The
uppermost tier of quality in Pinot Noir is always a matter of economy of scale and these appellation wines are
produced in large quantities.
ZD Wines: Honoring the Founder
While most wine history buffs like to rhapsodize about the early days of Pinot Noir and its origins in the Central
Coast (Chalone and Calera), the Russian River Valley (Joseph Swan and Rochioli), the Santa Cruz Mountains
(Martin Ray, David Bruce)), and Santa Barbara County (Richard Sanford), ZD Wines has quietly been
continuously producing Pinot Noir for 40 years. Two former aerospace engineers from Sacramento, Norman
deLeuze and Gino Zepponi started ZD Wines in a small rented farm building in Carneros in 1968 with the
dream of producing the classic Burgundian varietals, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The name “ZD” was short for
“zero defects,” a reference to their aerospace engineering background. Their winery permit was the first to be
issued in Sonoma County in nearly twenty years. Their first vintage in 1969 produced 300 cases of Pinot Noir
from René di Rosa’s Winery Lake Vineyard in Carneros and a small amount of White Riesling. This Pinot Noir
was historically significance because it was the first wine to have the Carneros designation on the label. A
Chardonnay followed in 1971.
The winery was a family run boutique operation initially with the partners and their families working on
weekends and during vacations. In 1978, the partners acquired a 6-acre plot of land in the Rutherford district
of Napa Valley on the Silverado Trail and 3 acres were planted to Cabernet Sauvignon. The next near a new
winery was built on the site and deLeuze left his aerospace job to pursue the wine business full time. In 1993,
the winery was enlarged and updated. Gino Zepponi died in an automobile accident in 1985, and the de Leuze
family bought his shares in the winery.
In 1996, ZD Wines bought a historic vineyard in Carneros and planted 7 acres to Pinot Noir. Christened the
DeLeuze Vineyard, both Swan and Hanzell heritage selections were planted. The first vintage from this
vineyard was 1999 and today grapes from this organically farmed vineyard make up the backbone of the ZD
Reserve Pinot Noir.
The de Leuze family, now with the third generation becoming involved in the business, continues to manage
ZD Wines. Norman’s son Robert was the winemaker until 2001, when he handed the reigns to Chris Pisani
who had worked at the winery for several years. Robert continues in the role of Winemaster and CEO.
In April, 2009, ZD Wines released the 2007 Founder’s Reserve Pinot Noir, a tribute to the memory of Norman
deLeuze, ZD’s founder who passed away in October, 2007 at the age of 75. He was an advocate of the non
toxic treatment of diseases and had an ongoing relationship with the University California Davis Oncology
Department. This spring, ZD Wines is donating $1 for every paid tasting in the tasting room to the DeLeuze
Family University California Davis Endowment for a Non Toxic Cure for Lymphoma. The Founder’s Reserve
Pinot Noir is packaged in a bottle displaying a vivid portrait of Norman deLeuze.
2007 ZD Wines Carneros Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., $40.
Heady aromas of black cherry liquor with a faint hint of
oak and alcohol. Tasty earth-kissed black cherry and blackberry fruits which are accented by flavors of cola
and herbed tea. Lighter-weighted and a tad dilute but offers an appealing soft texture and easy drinking.
2007 ZD Wines Norman de Leuze ZD Founder’s Reserve Carneros Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., 750 cases, $65. Very cool label. The de Leuze family wanted to reproduce the original photograph from the book Napa-Behind the Bottle by author Bill Tucker. This special release honors Norman de Leuze's favorite varietal and also coincides with the winery's 40th anniversary. Sourced from an
organically farmed Napa Carneros vineyard using deficit irrigation,
crop thinning and hand canopy management. Aged 15 months in
French oak barrels.
A vibrant and expressive nose brimming with
aromas of black cherries, strawberries and raspberries in harmony
with a subtle riff of herbs. Multifaceted flavors of cherries, raspberries,
currants, sassafras, and game. Richer and darker than the regular bottling and
packed with flavor, yet almost ephemeral in quality. The tannins are fine grained
and the texture all silk and satin. Still drank beautifully the next day
from a previously opened re-corked bottle. A very stylish wine displaying the
hand of a talented winemaker.
ZD Wines is located at 8383 Silverado Trail in Napa Valley. The winery’s tasting room is open daily from 10:00
to 4:30. The wines are sold on the website at www.zdwines.com and through fine wine retail stores. Tours of
the 30,000 case per year winery are available by appointment (707-433-1385).
Sonoma Coast Vineyards: West County Pinot Noirs
John and Barbara Drady founded this label in 2002. John is a reserve-duty Gold Ridge Sonoma firefighter who
assists with winemaking and directs the marketing of the Sonoma Coast Vineyards portfolio of wines. Barbara
is well known in wine circles for her company, Affairs of the Vine, which conducts educational wine tastings for
corporations and other groups, offers several weekend “Wine Boot Camps” where wine enthusiasts can obtain
hands-on grape farming and winemaking experience, and directs the yearly “Pinot Noir Shootout and Summit.”
The pair have used their experienced palates to develop a label that focuses on Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and
Sauvignon Blanc from the extreme or “true” Sonoma Coast. The extreme Sonoma Coast is referred to as
“West County,” and is roughly from Jenner in the South where the Russian River empties into the Pacific
Ocean, to Annapolis in the North, and from the beaches to 5 to 6 miles inland including the first two ridges of
the Coastal Range of mountains and the western slope of the third ridge. Ft. Ross, Occidental and western
Sebastopol and Freestone are included, although all are south of Jenner. The Dradys are committed to
producing ultra-premium wines that have age ability.
The vineyards selected for Sonoma Coast Vineyards wines are situated within a 4 mile radius of Freestone and
are complemented by vineyards in the far southwestern reaches of the Sonoma Coast. According to Barbara
Drady, the following distinctions typify the true or extreme Sonoma Coast: (1) Long growing seasons, (2) Cool
temperatures which are marginal for ripening, (3) Production limited by temperatures, (4) Vines that produce
grapes with mature fruit at lower sugar levels, (5) Crop loads that are very small, and (6) Thin, rocky and
shallow soils that have not been farmed previously.
In 2008, Sonoma Coast Vineyards was sold to Leslie Rudd, who along with business partner Pat Roney, owns
interests in a number of specialty food stores in Northern California including the Oakville Grocery and Dean &
Deluca, a restaurant in Napa, and six wineries. He transformed Girard Winery into Rudd Winery, together with
Roney bought Windsor Vineyards in 2007, acquired Grove Street Winery in Healdsburg in 2008, started a new
label, Windsor Sonoma Winery, with a planned future production of 50,000 cases of Pinot Noir and
Chardonnay, and has now entered the super-premium Pinot race. John and Barbara Drady remain intimately
involved with Sonoma Coast Vineyards but the infusion of capital has allowed the label to expand production
from 4,000 to 20,000 cases.
The winemaker is Anthony Austin (pictured below), who this year enters his 35th vintage. A University
California Davis graduate in enology, Austin studied under the great Andre Tchelistcheff. He directed the first
crush at Firestone Winery in 1976. Firestone was the first modern day commercial winery in Santa Barbara
County. In 1981, Austin left to establish his own label, Austin Cellars, in Los Olivos. He made two legendary
Pinot Noirs in 1982 from the Sierra Madre Vineyard and the Bien Nacido Vineyard.
The Sonoma Coast Vineyards Pinot Noirs are Burgundian at heart in that they are made for food and are not a
meal in themselves. None of them have aggressive tannins but do have the lively acidity that predicts age
ability. The prices below are roughly what you can expect on the current secondary market.
2006 Sonoma Coast Vineyards Petersen Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., 380 cases, $63. Clones 115, 667. 10% whole clusters, 8-day cold
soak, hand punch downs, wild and Assmanhausen yeast fermentation, aged 10
months in 50% new 3-year-old air-dried tight grain French oak barrels. Lightly
Enticing aromas of cherries and strawberries with hints of forest floor and
oak char. Brimming with juicy flavors of cherries, cranberries and pomegranate
with a vein of earthiness, oak and herbs running through to the finish. Silky with
gossamer tannins. The most precocious wine in the Sonoma Coast Vineyards
lineup that is ready for drinking now.
2005 Sonoma Coast Vineyards Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.4% alc., 487 cases, $60. Clones 115, 667
and 777. 50% Koos Family Vineyard, 50% Zephyr Ranch Vineyard. 30% whole clusters, cold soaked 8-10
days, hand punch downs, spontaneous wild yeast fermentation supplemented with Assmanhausen yeast.
Aged 20-22 months in 50% new French oak barrels. Lightly fined and filtered.
Moderately dark reddish-purple
robe. On the nuanced nose there are aromas of black raspberry, forest floor, sage and oak toast. Darkly
fruited with prominent plum jam flavors framed by seasoned oak. Admirable elegance and silkiness with brisk
acidity showing a bit of citrus peel on the finish. Improves when tasted later in the day suggesting age ability.
Wants, needs and should have food if drunk now.
2005 Sonoma Coast Vineyards Freestone Hills Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., 270 cases, $62. Balistreri (4%) and Zephyr (96%)
vineyards. Yields one-half to one ton per acre. 75% de-stemmed, 25%
whole clusters, 8-10 day cold soak, hand punch downs, fermentation
initiated with wild yeast and finished with Assmanhausen yeast. Aged 21
months in 50% new 3-year-old air-dried tight grain French oak barrels.
Lightly fined and filtered.
Ripe berries and cherries create a glass-filling
presence on the nose. High-collared ripe dark fruit with a riff of herbs and loam
and a healthy acidic spine leaving an impression of grapefruit peel on an
amazingly long finish. This wine has more cajones, the ripest fruit and the most comforting mouthfeel of any of
the other 2005 vintage Pinot Noirs from Sonoma Coast Vineyards. Tasted again the next day from a previously
opened re-corked bottle, it was even better portending a long life ahead.
2005 Sonoma Coast Vineyards Balistreri Family Vineyard Freestone View Block Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., 72 cases, $67. Clones 114, 115,
667 and 828. 30% whole cluster, 11 day cold soak, hand punch downs two to
three times a day, wild and proprietary yeast fermentation. Aged 21 months in
50% new 3-year-old air-dried, tight grain French oak barrels. Lightly fined and
Aromas of a fresh dark cherry pie entice. Demure dark stone fruits with
plentiful oak and a vein of citrus that lingers on the finish. A bit austere and tight
now but showing respectable finesse and soft tannins. This wine will perform
beautifully at the dinner table.
2003 Sonoma Coast Vineyards Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.16% alc., 783
cases, $60. Clones 113, 114,115, 667, 777, Pommard 3, Swan from six
vineyards. Aged 19 months in 50% new French oak barrels.
On the aged nose
there are aromas of dark fruits with a hint of porto, forest floor and crusty bread.
Very ripe fruit accented by cigar box, root beer and raisin. Very smooth and silky
with a pleasing dry finish.
2002 Sonoma Coast Vineyards Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.28% alc., 715
cases, $60. Clones 113, 114, 115, 667, 777, Beringer from four vineyards. Aged
19 months in 50% new French oak barrels.
Strange fruitless aromatics
resembling ranch dressing. Grape flavors, a touch of raisin, leather and oak.
Moderately light with a very silky texture and moderate fine-grained tannins.
The back labels are quite unique and informative:
Sonoma Coast Vineyards Pinot Noirs are widely distributed through Wilson Daniels Ltd (St. Helena, CA,
707-963-9661) and are available from the website at www.sonomacoastvineyards.com. I have seen some of
the wines significantly discounted from internet retailers. An excellent Chablis-styled Chardonnay is quite age
able and a Sauvignon Blanc is among the best made in California. 707-836-5617. Contact me through my
website and I can arrange a private tasting of Sonoma Coast Vineyard wines and a tour of their vineyards with
Castalia Wines: A Little Known Gem
Terry Bering has been the Cellar Master at J. Rochioli Vineyards for nineteen years. Part of his pay is fruit from
the estate, more specifically, prime fruit from a 19-year-old block of River Block and a hillside 18-year-old block
planted to cuttings from the original West Block vines. Bering has been quietly crafting small amounts of a
single Pinot Noir every year since 1992. The name, Castalia, refers to Apollo’s favorite spring on Mount
Parnassus in ancient Greece that bestowed drinks of the spring gifts of poetry and inspiration. Since 2006,
Bering has put Rochioli Vineyard on the label, the only Pinot Noir in California other than those from J. Rochioli
Vineyards so designated. Last year’s 2006 vintage was stunning and the current 2007 release is equally
spectacular. Considering the pedigree of the fruit, this little known gem is pretty much a no-brainer.
2007 Castalia Rochioli Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., 326 cases, $50. Aged 15 months in 30% new French oak
Effusive aromas of cherries, berries, mocha and minerals jump
out of the glass. Delicious black cherry fruit which grabs your attention
and lingers like a romantic kiss. Richly fruited and highly nuanced with
hints of earth, tea, herbs and oak. The perfect harmony of optimally ripe
fruit, vital acidity and refined tannins. The wine was opened in the morning and
was even better later in the day. A dreamy wine of great charm.
2006 Castalia Rochioli Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., 328 cases, $50.
nose is brimming with black cherry fruit accompanied by subtle dried herbs, smoke and char.
Restrained but generous dark red fruits, especially black raspberry, coat the mouth and are
complimented by stylish oak spice. The wine sports a refined mouth feel and the right touch of acidity.
An engaging Pinot Noir of the highest quality and one that Apollo would have surely enjoyed.
Castalia Wines Pinot Noir is sold in 6 and 12 bottle lots on the website at www.castaliawines.com. There is
limited retail and restaurant distribution.
Keefer Ranch: A Russian River Valley Treasure
Keefer Ranch vineyard is located near the headwaters of Green Valley Creek in Sebastopol. Marcy Keefer, a
nurse, and her husband, Robert Keefer, a doctor who is now deceased, bought the property, a former apple
orchard, in 1985. Planting started in 1988 and now consists of 40 acres of Pinot Noir and 10 acres of
Chardonnay. The Pinot Noir clones are a mixture of Dijon 114, 115, 777, Pommard 5, Mariafeld (23), Wädenswil (2A), Swan and Calera.
Keefer Ranch is now farmed by Marcy Keefer and her son Craig Strehlow who is also the winemaker.
Part of the Green Valley sub appellation of the Russian River Valley, Keefer Ranch vineyard is planted on
Goldridge Loam which is particularly suited to Pinot Noir. The Green Valley is defined by fog and is usually the
first area of fog intrusion through the Petaluma Gap and the last place the fog burns off, making it the coolest
and foggiest part of the Russian River Valley.
For many years, Keefer Ranch has supplied grapes to notable Pinot Noir specialists including most recently,
A.P. Vin, Failla, Freeman, Kosta Browne, Loring Wine Co., Pali and Siduri. Beginning with the 2006 vintage,
Marcy and Craig launched their own Keefer Ranch label. They source from a newer 1-acre block planted to a
Swan selection as well as some Pommard clone from elsewhere in the vineyard. The inaugural Pinot Noir was
impressive as is the latest release.
2007 Keefer Ranch Green Valley of Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., 243 cases, pH 3.45, $42. 9 day cold soak, 11 day fermentation, 20% whole cluster, aged 12 months in 25% new French oak.
A gently perfumed, ethereal style of
Pinot Noir, very feminine in character, but not delicate in flavor. The
nose is quite charming featuring crushed strawberries and
raspberries, summer herbs and violets. Fresh and juicy raspberry
juice in the mouth with some gregarious spice and marzipan. Soft and
silky with powdery tannins and a refreshing edge on the finish. A
perfectly composed wine with great purity of fruit. You will want to dance with
Keefer Ranch Pinot Noir is sold through a mailing list and on the website at
www.keeferranch.com. 707-829-5950. A new cult wine for pinotphiles in the know.
Twomey Cellars originated in 2000 from a goal of owners Raymond Twomey Duncan and his family to use a
labor-intensive approach, soutirage traditonal, employed by the classified growths in Bordeaux to make a Napa
Valley Merlot of great distinction from a single vineyard, Soda Canyon Ranch. The soutirage traditional is a
slow process of decanting the wine from one barrel to another without the use of pumps. The wine transfers by
gravity using special barrels from France (a video of this process is on the website). The Twomey Merlot was
initially released in 2000 and has been well-received.
Duncan, who was a long time owner of Silver Oak Cellars, acquired a 9-acre vineyard (West Pin Vineyard) on
Westside Road in the Russian River Valley in 2000 which became the centerpiece of the winery’s new Pinot
Noir program. The vineyard is planted to Pommard and Dijon clones and is meticulously farmed with rigorous
canopy management and crop thinning. The 2004 vintage marked the first that new plantings from this
vineyard were included in the blend. In 2006 Twomey began also sourcing Pinot Noir from Crinella Vineyard in
Forestville to blend with the West Pin fruit. The Roshambo Winery in Healdsburg on Westside Road was
acquired by Twomey and retrofitted to produce Pinot Noir.
Twomey has gradually developed relationships with growers in various other regions of California and today
winemaker Ben Cane, who joined Twomey in 2007, oversees the label’s four Pinot Noirs including wines from
the Sonoma Coast, Russian River Valley, Anderson Valley and Santa Barbara County. A Sauvignon Blanc from
the family’s estate vineyard in Calistoga has been added recently to the portfolio.
Winemaking is traditional. The fruit is harvested in the early morning and rigorously sorted. Whole clusters are
added to open-top fermenters and the must undergoes a 7-day cold soak. The clones are fermented
separately. The Pinot Noirs are typically aged 13 months sur lies in 50% new French Burgundy barrels and
racked only once for blending and bottling.
2007 Twomey Cellars Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., $50.
Moderately light in color. Delicate aromas of Bing cherries, roses, freshsawn
oak and baking spices. The cherry core is rich and flavorful
enhanced with oak spice and buttressed with ample acidity. Raspberries
linger on the long and dry finish. The velvety texture is heavenly. A
seamless wine with that signature Pinot Noir ephemeral character.
Twomey offers tasting at both their Calistoga Estate and Healdsburg Estate Monday through Saturday. Tours
of the wineries are available by appointment. The wines are sold on the website (www.twomeycellars.com)
and through retail channels. 800-505-4850.
Small Sips of More California Pinot
2008 Forestville California Pinot Noir
12.5% alc., $3.99 (with a cork and capsule!). Sourced from Northern
California vineyards. The first finished 2008 Pinot Noir I have sampled from bottle. Can it be done for $3.99?
Very funky nose highly reduced with aromas of burnt match and burnt banana obscuring all fruit.
Cherry and strawberry fruits on the palate that have a roasted or burnt quality. Soft and smooth, moderate
tannins and a hint of citrus on the finish. About what you can expect at this price.
2007 D&L Carinalli Vineyards Estate Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
13.6% alc., $16. Domenico
Jr. and spouse Linda nurture the vineyard. Aged in French and American oak barrels.
color. A simple, clean and delicate wine showing mainly strawberry aromas and flavors. Soft in the
mouth and easy to drink. A good value wine to pair with simply prepared salmon or chicken.
2007 DeLoach Vineyards Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., $18.50.
The nose exhibits aromas of slightly
confected black cherries with floral and herbal notes (“field nose”) and noticeable dark oak. Decent fullness on
the palate with flavors of strawberries and black cherries with a tang on the mildly persistent dry finish. This
will work at the table.
2007 Lucas & Lewellen Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir
13.0% alc., 2,096 cases, $20. Release date is August, 2009.
Sourced from the Goodchild and Los Alamos estate vineyards.
Several clones. Crafted by winemaker Megan McGrath.
Fermentation took place in small, 1.5-ton fermenters. Aged 9
months in neutral French oak.
Very alluring aromas of strawberry
jam and subtle oak toast (strawberry jam on toast) which fade a bit
over time. An elegant and feminine wine which is soft and smooth with no
discernible tannins. The red berry fruit flavors are substantial and pleasing and
persist on the finish which is marked by refreshingly brisk acidity. This is an
excellent everyday drinker with low alcohol which will perform beautifully at the
dinner table. Drink up within the first two years.
2007 Melville Estate Verna’s Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., $23 (sold out). Clones 2A, 667, 777 and
828. Yields were 1.9 tons per acre. 67% of fruit was de-stemmed and 33% fermented as whole clusters. Total
skin and stem contact averaged 30 days. Aged in 18% new French oak.
The nose is similar to the regular
Estate bottling with bit more raspberry and strawberry fruit and more persistent barnyard. Demure sweet dark
red fruits with hints of tea and minty leaves. Mild dry tannins and brisk acidity on the finish. A simple wine that
you don’t need to contemplate to enjoy.
2007 The Table Once Sommelier Series Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., $24. 60%
Oregon grapes and 40% California grapes. Cool label.
Herbed dark red fruits on
the nose with barnyard in the background. Dark red plum fruit core with some
loaminess. Smooth and silky with dusty tannins. A skosh flat and dilute.
2007 Melville Estate Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
15.3% alc., $32. 14 Pinot Noir clones.
Yields were 1.7 tons per acre. 67% of fruit was de-stemmed and 33% fermented as whole
clusters. Total skin and stem contact averaged 30 days. Aged in 16% new French oak.
wine needs some time to open up in the glass. On the nose there are primarily dark red fruits
with hints of oak spice and minerals. Tasty red berry fruit accented by tea and pepper drops
off on the finish. Medium weighted with mild dry tannins and a good spark of acidity. Holds its
alcohol well. The flavors trump the aromas at this stage.
2007 A.P. Vin Kanzler Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
15.2% alc., $39,
On the nose there are aromas of black cherries, roasted nuts,
toasted oak and a hint of alcohol. A plush bolt of black cherry fruit attacks the
palate with some oak in the background. The tannins are powdery and the dry
finish is pleasing. Pretty good but not extraordinary.
2007 Lionheart Wines Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.61% alc., 48 cases, $40.
This is a small boutique winery founded by winemaker Leon C. Glover III whose
goal is crafting food-friendly wines. This wine is composed of clones 115, 667,
777 and 828.
The nose displays dusty dark fruit which is a touch candied and
nicely accented by herbs. Some alcohol shows up over time in the glass.
Moderately rich dark red fruits on the attack with a sidecar of savory herbs. The
tannins are powdery and the finish is dry and pleasing. The wine picks up
intensity in the glass and grows on you over time.
2007 Sojourn Gap’s Crown Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.6% alc., $47. This vineyard is located on west-facing slopes of
Sonoma Mountain, where the winds and cool fog from the Petaluma
Gap are frequently evident. The vineyard is owned and farmed by
Premier Pacific Vineyards. Multiple wineries source from this large
vineyard of about 140 acres planted to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
Pinot Noir clones are Swan, 114, 115, 667, 777 and 828 on four
Really attractive nose composed of bright black
cherries, red plums and a dusting of oak. Black cherry and black
raspberry fruits cascade easily through the palate complimented by a vein of
citric peel and vanillin. Moderately rich with good purity of flavor and a refined mouth feel. A good effort that is
very well crafted.
2006 Hangtime Force Canyon Vineyard Arroyo Seco Pinot Noir
$15. Named for the lengthy hang time (123 days) of the grapes in
Ripe, jammy berries with hint of new oak on the nose.
Thrust of ripe fruit flavors which are slightly raisiny with a touch of tea
and mocha dust. Fruity and flavorful, lightly weighted but satisfying.
Balanced and clean with admirable finesse. A recession buster.
2006 Cambria Julia’s Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Estate Bottled Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., $20. This well known
vineyard is located at the western end of the Cambria Estate on the Santa Maria Bench 17 miles inland
from the Pacific Ocean. Named for the owner’s youngest daughter.
Deep red color. Highly nuanced nose of
cherries, strawberries, oak, cinnamon and green grass. Light strawberry and cherry flavors with a touch of
savory herbs and a grassy finish. Decent acidity and very soft tannins. An easy drinker which will perform well
at the dinner table.
2006 Ken Brown Duncan’s Cuvee Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., $25. Sourced primarily from Rio
Vista Vineyard with contributions from other local vineyards.
This wine has a strange “diaper” aroma which
passes through to the flavors and ruins the experience. There is a decent dark red-fruited core which is
moderately sappy. The texture is rich and velvety and the tannins are well managed.
2006 Ken Brown Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., $30.
Primarily sourced from the Babcock Vineyard in the Santa Rita Hills.
The nose is a bit reserved but pleasant showing scents of black cherries
and heavy oak. A fruit-driven wine propelled by dark stone fruits and
accents of root beer and toasty oak. Plenty of punch and richness that
picks up intensity in the glass. Very drinkable now.
2006 Sanctuary Bien Nacido Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
alc., 1,853 cases, $30. Crafted by Fetzer winemaker Dennis Martin who has
worked with the Miller family, owners of Bien Nacido Vineyard, since 1985. This
is Martin’s private label produced at Fetzer’s winery in Hopland.
garnet color. Needs air to open. Earth kissed berries and cherries which are
bright and focused augmented by hints of earth, herbs, oak and petrol. Supple
tannins make for pleasant drinking. Much better when re-tasted later in the day
from a previously opened bottle. I would suggest decanting if you choose to pop
a cork now but patience for another year or two will be aptly rewarded.
2006 Iron Horse Vineyards Estate Green Valley Pinot Noir
Strawberries, cherries and good barnyard attract you to the glass. A melange of
lightly weighted red berries and cherries is complimented by flavors of mocha,
oak char and mushrooms. This is a wine dominated by high-voltage acidity and
marked tannins which compete with the fruit. Not particularly appealing to me,
this wine may be attractive to those with a palate attracted by more austere
wines over intensely fruity ones.
2006 Kendric Vineyards Marin County Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., $33.
Third vintage from the 8.5-acre Kendric Johnson Vineyard leased to winemaker Stewart Johnson who crafts the wine at Starry
Night Winery in Novato. The clones are 115, 828, 667, 777, Pommard
and a mystery clone. Kendric Vineyards was established in 2001 and
produces 600 cases of Pinot Noir and Syrah.
An intriguing nose that
constantly changes in the glass. Many aromas surface including red
berries and cherries, root beer, wet leaves and soy. Bright cherry and cranberry
fruit is offered in an elegant style with crisp acidity. Some root beer and spice
flavors show up. Juicy and fresh, this is a fun drink that I admire for its finesse
and its uniqueness. Check out Marin County - the wines will surprise you.
2006 Paul Mathew Vineyards TNT Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.6% alc., $34. Crafted by owner and winemaker Mat Gustafson. Wild yeast
and MLF bacteria.
Ripe aromas and flavors of black cherries and dark red
berries, herbed meats and black currants. Tasty with a good acid grip and
admirable balance. Would enjoy this wine more if the fruit didn’t veer to far to the
ultra ripe side.
2006 Sand Hill Wines Durell Vineyard Sonoma Valley Pinot Noir
13.6% alc., $47. Durell Vineyard is a long time
acclaimed producer of Chardonnay for Kistler Vineyards. Durell Vineyard II climate. The vineyard manager is
Steve Hill and the winemaker is Don Van Staaveren. 100% de-stemmed, 80% whole berry fermentation, 5 day
cold soak, manual punch downs, basket-pressed and gravity-fed into tight grain, medium-plus toast French oak
barrels. Aged 14-16 months in barrel and 10-12 months in bottle.
Intense aromas of black cherries, savory
herbs and oak. Well-oaked light cherry fruit on the palate with a vegetal edge. Smoothly textured with supple
tannins. Tasted twice on different occasions.
2006 Bohème Stuller Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
15.5% alc., 120
cases, $53. This vineyard is located on a ridge top 6.4 miles from the Pacific
Ocean. Aged 17 months in 50% new French oak barrels.
and current aromas with slightly roasted flavors. Not as over ripe as the Taylor
Ridge bottling but still a little raisiny. Huge, succulent core of dark fruits with
plenty of tannins. Not a wine for sissies. Tried it with dinner and it was too hot
(alcoholic) to compliment the fare. This is a sipping wine, not a table wine.
2006 Bohème Taylor Ridge Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., 190 cases, $53. This vineyard
is located on a bluff 5.3 miles from the Pacific Ocean at 715 feet above sea level. There is notable fog
influence in late summer. This wine is sourced from a 2.7-acre plot planted to the Swan selection. Yields were
1.35 tons per acre. Kurt Beitler is the grower and winemaker.
Fragrant super ripe fruit smelling of raisins, soy
and roasted nuts. The fruit was picked at an advanced stage of phenolic ripeness and the plush dark fruit
tastes of raisins. Good mix of t n’ a. Well-crafted, but disappoints. Only in California!
2006 Evening Land Vineyards The Occidental Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.9% alc., 120 cases, $150. 3.51 acres, 15 year-old vines, yield 1.28 tons per acre of Calera clone.
This wine is crafted by Sashi
Moorman in Lompoc.
reddish-purple color. A shy and brooding nose which starts out with woodsy and
barnyard aromas but evolves nicely revealing bright fresh berries, violets and a
hint of tobacco. Rich, plush and multilayered on the palate featuring dark stone fruits and flavors of fig and
cola framed by a lively edge of acidity. The texture is pillowy and the finish, which has a citrus peel note, lasts
and lasts. There still are substantial tannins to shed. Decant if you drink now and pair up with substantial food.
This wine will cellar very well.
Anam Cara Cellars: Celtic Pride in Every Bottle
Nick and Sheila Nicholas lovingly nurture a 30-acre vineyard located on the southeastern slopes of the
Chehalem Mountains, just north of the town of Newberg. The property was originally an overgrown walnut,
plum and hazelnut orchard with a neglected Christmas tree forest and included a quaint farmhouse dating to
1902 and several wooden outhouses. Lying between 450 and 650 feet in elevation, the well drained soils are
primarily Jory series. Five blocks of Pinot Noir were planted in 2000-2001 to Pommard, 114, 115, 667 and 777
clones. There is also one acre each of Riesling and Gewürztraminer. Plans call for the planting of 6 more
acres to Wädenswil clone Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and more Riesling. Farming is sustainable with both organic
and biodynamic practices.
The words Anam Cara are Celtic for “friend of my soul” and symbolize the journey the Nicholas’s have taken to
make their wine and the relationship they have with their vineyard. The label depicts the vineyard. Production
is 1,000 cases annually of primarily Pinot Noir with small amounts of Riesling and a Gewürztraminer dessert
wine. The winemaker is Aron Hess (Daedalus and several other wineries) and the vineyard managers are
Evan Bellinger and Buddy Beck.
I have sampled the 2006 lineup of Anam Cara Cellars Pinot Noirs on two occasions and my notes follow. The
wines are reflective of the warm 2006 vintage in Oregon which resulted in darker colors, higher alcohols and
tremendous concentration of Pinot fruit. These are hearty wines that are beginning to hit their stride now and
have enough tannins (beautifully integrated and barely noticeable) and acidity to last a number of years. They
will work both as wines for contemplation and wines for drinking at the table. I would recommend decanting if
you plan to drink them now.
2006 Anam Cara Cellars Nicholas Estate Reserve Chehalem Mountains Pinot Noir
15.0% alc., $45. A few select barrels in the cellar.
The most fragrant
wine in the lineup with alluring aromas of red plum, black cherry and dark red
raspberries framed by toasty oak. Delicious raspberry fruit core that is full and
rich with a touch of anise, tea and oak. A big-boned wine yet it dances smoothly
across the palate, leaving a little heat in its wake.
2006 Anam Cara Cellars Heather’s Vineyard Chehalem Mountains Pinot Noir
15.0% alc., 50 cases, $65. This wine is named after the Nicholas’s
daughter and is the most feminine wine in the lineup. Sourced from a 5-acre
block of Dijon 114.
Aromas of ripe black cherries, herbs and oak char.
Smooth and velvety in the mouth with rich but not jammy dark stone fruits and
berries, herbs and a deft touch of oak. Clean and juicy with a refreshing acid driven
tang on the finish. I like this wine for its elegance.
2006 Anam Cara Cellars Mark I Chehalem Mountains Pinot Noir
15.0% alc., 50 cases, $65. This wine is an estate vineyard barrel
selection aged in 50% new French oak barrels. Primarily Pommard
clone. Named for son, Mark, and is the first vintage of this wine.
Intended for the cellar.
Reserved scents of dark cherries and
strawberries with a hint of oak. Thick and chewy dark fruits which are at
first brooding but pick up life and interest with time in the glass. Nicely
composed and balanced. Like a big bear in hibernation who has yet to emerge.
Potentially the most magnificent wine in the lineup, but 3-5 years away from
The Anam Cara Cellars wines are sold through a mailing list and on the website at www.anamcaracellars.com.
Tours and tasting are available by appointment. If you visit, check out “Digger,” who roams the property
controlling the gopher population.
Arterberry Maresh: Dundee Hills Tradition Carried On
Jim Maresh is only twenty-five years old, but is already becoming touted as the “Best Young Oregon
Winemaker” (see http://www.avalonwine.com/Arterberry-Maresh-Pinot-noirs-Reviews.html). His father, Jim
Arterberry, was a well-known early Oregon Pinot Noir winemaker in the Dundee Hills. In 2007, his son, Jim,
revived the Arterberry Cellars label as Arterberry Maresh, releasing his inaugural wines from the 2005 vintage.
His 2006 Pinot Noirs were quite impressive and were reviewed in Volume 7, Issue 2. Jim’s mother, Martha
Maresh, owns and farms the Maresh Vineyard in the Dundee Hills (pictured below). Maresh Vineyard is the
fifth oldest Pinot Noir vineyard in the Willamette Valley.
The 2007 vintage Pinot Noirs are lower in alcohol and more lean than their 2006 counterparts. The Maresh
Vineyard bottling is always impressive.
2007 Arterberry Maresh Dundee Hills Oregon Pinot Noir
13.0% alc., $34.95.
Moderately light reddish-in color. The nose is all hay and grass with restrained
red fruits. A light and elegant wine featuring demure cranberry and strawberry
fruit with a grapefruit peel finish. Rather dilute, but plenty of acidity for refreshing
drinking. Close to a rosé and I would drink this wine chilled like a rosé.
2007 Arterberry Maresh Maresh Vineyard Dundee Hills Oregon Pinot Noir
13.0% alc., $74.95.
A little more color than the appellation bottling. Very heady
and penetrating aromas of dark red cherries. Sumptuous red berry and cherry
fruits with a sidecar of herbs and a slight green note. Plush, yet elegant with
adequate tannins and acidity to support the fruit. Still somewhat reserved and
will benefit from another year in bottle.
The wines are sold at Avalon Wine, a retailer in Corvallis, Oregon (www.avalonwine.com) and by phone
(503-434-7689). The basic website, www.arterberrymaresh.com, offers an e-mail contact for the winemaker.
Evesham Wood: Commendable Pinotosity
Alison Ruch, Avalon Wines Staff Writer wrote an excellent feature about Evesham Wood wines and winemaker
Russell Raney (www.avalonwine.com/Evesham-Wood-Wines.php). Raney’s career in wine began as a
winemaker in Germany and subsequently he worked in retail and as a wine buyer for a wholesale company in
the United States. He was attracted to Pinot Noir but found few examples in the 1980s worth getting excited
about. He decided to craft his own Pinot Noir and began a search for an appropriate setting in North America.
He settled on Oregon’s Eola Hills west of Salem and founded his label in 1986. He named his winery Evasham
Wood after the Vale of Evesham in the Cotswold Hills of England because the site bore a resemblance to this
part of the English countryside.
Farming of the 13-acre estate vineyard, named Le Puits Sec (“The Dry Well”), has been organic from the start
and the vineyard was certified organic by Oregon Tilth in 2000 (the winery is also certified organic). The
vineyard is dry-farmed and Raney is a firm believer in avoiding irrigation of vineyards after the vines are
established if the climate is conducive. Ruch notes that Raney said, “But once the vines are into production our
feeling is, in addition to wastefulness, the wines that are created from irrigated sites - they may be quite nice
wines - are often less distinctive and tend to be very similar from year to year. This is because they’re trying to
give the vines, by way of irrigation, the same amounts of water each year.” Raney is a member of the Deep
Roots coalition, an advocacy group for wines produced exclusively from non-irrigated vines.
Raney has been heavily influenced by Burgundian winemaking techniques and two of his former distant
mentors were the famous Henri Jayer of Vosne-Romanee and the less well-known, but equally accomplished,
Michelle Niellon. Raney’s admiration for the French is shown in the French names he uses for his wines.
Production is kept small (less than 5,000 cases of primarily Pinot Noir and Chardonnay). Raney is committed
to elegance and restraint, to balance and expression of terroir, what I refer to as “pinotosity.” Evesham Wood
wines are never fruit bombs, even in a warm vintage like 2006. These are connoisseur's wines.
2007 Evesham Wood Eola-Amity Hills Pinot Noir
13.0% alc., 225
cases. $20.95. 65% Hill Vineyard and 35% Bryn Mawr Vineyard which
is close by. Aged in 10% new French oak barrels and bottled unfined
Reserved scents of cherries, peaches, herbs and hay.
Light and elegant cherry and strawberry fruit with some structural
power due to modest tannins. A thoroughly enjoyable value-priced
Pinot Noir that gets the job done.
2007 Evesham Wood La Grive Bleue Eola-Amity Hills Pinot Noir
13.0% alc., 300 cases, $24.95. Made from the Evesham Wood estate
vineyard which is a younger (12-year-old vines) part of the vineyard
planted to clones 114 and 777. Ripest fruit on the estate in 2007.
Aged 15 months in 15% new French oak barrels and bottled without
fining or filtration.
The fruit comes in waves on the nose. Medium weighted
red Pinot fruits on the palate with a little citrus note and
subtle oak riff on the back end. Tasty and smoothly textured. A little more
oomph and character than the regular Eola-Amity Hills bottling.
2006 Evesham Wood Cuvée J Eola-Amity Hills Pinot Noir
alc., 171 cases, $44.95. This is Raney’s top Pinot Noir created for
cellaring. Sourced exclusively from the estate vineyard, Le Puits Sec,
with the fruit from the older Pommard section of the vineyard. Aged in
50% new French oak barrels and bottled without fining or filtration.
Riper and darker fruit highlighted with flavors of root beer, cola,
marzipan and tea. This wine has a glass-filling presence yet retains an
admirable elegance. The mouth feel is refined and the finish is remarkably
persistent. The balance is spot on portending a long life ahead. Impressive
Evesham Wood Vineyards and Winery is located at 3795 Wallace Rd NW in Salem. The above wines are
available from Avalon Wine in Oregon (www.avalonwine.com). Visitors are welcome for tours and tasting by
appointment. 503-371-8478. Open houses are held on Memorial Day weekend and the weekend before
Thanksgiving each year.
Scott Paul Wines: Fine Oregon Pinot Noir and Burgundy too!
Proprietor and winemaker Scott Paul Wright had a thirty-year career in the music business. A well-known radio
disc jockey (“Shadow Stevens”), he later worked in marketing and promotion for the radio and record
industries. His successful career allowed him to enjoy the pleasures of famous wines. Eventually disenchanted
with the music business, he left to become a winemaker. He would become the Managing Director of Domaine
Drouhin and later started his own winery in Carlton, Scott Paul Wines.
Scott Paul Wines is a boutique winery dedicated to producing ultra-premium Oregon Pinot Noir. Scott’s co-winemaker,
Kelley Fox, has years of experience at Eyrie Vineyards, Hamacher Wines and Torii Mor. Scott’s
spouse, Martha, is the Brand Manager for Scott Paul Wines.
Scott is a Burgundy aficionado and imports Burgundies under the name, Scott Paul Selections. In addition,
Scott will be producing a Scott Paul wine in Burgundy. The first wine is a 2008 Chambolle-Musigny Les
Bussieres and will be released in 2010. Scott is a confirmed Chambolle freak. Who isn’t?
Scott’s wines are crafted in the Burgundian tradition with low yields in the vineyard and hands-off vinification in
the winery which has no pumps. The winemaking employs no inoculations, no enzymes, no additives, no fining
and no filtering. (What exactly does Kelley and Scott do all day?). Small amounts of new French oak are used
(20% at most). Each vintage there are three cuvées sourced from several of Oregon’s finest vineyards
including Maresh, Momtazi, Shea, Ribbon Ridge and Stoller. The three wines are Le Paulée, Cuvée Martha
Pirrie and Audrey. The Audrey bottling recently has been sourced only from Maresh Vineyard.
Like many of the Oregon Pinot Noirs from the 2007 vintage, the Scott Paul Wines are gentle, reserved and
subtle. Given enough attention, they will charm you.
2007 Scott Paul Cuvée Martha Pirrie Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
$25, screw cap. A selection from five sub-appellations of the Willamette Valley.
Named after the Wrights’ daughter.
A light and delicate wine with pleasing
aromas and flavors of red berries, spice and herbs. Simple and easy to drink, I
like it for its finesse.
2007 Scott Paul La Paulée Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
$30, screw cap. Made from the finest lots of the vintage from Ribbon
Ridge, Momtazi, Shea and Stoller Vineyards.
Darkest in color of the
three 2007 wines. Very lovely nose that is deep and satisfying,
featuring ripe strawberries, red plums, cherries and savory Asian spice.
Tasty and focused dark red fruits with a hint of earthiness and oak.
The mouth feel is silky and the whole package is very harmonious.
2007 Scott Paul Audrey Dundee Hills Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.1% alc., $65, screw cap. A barrel of the finest, most elegant and
silkiest wine of the vintage. Sourced from blocks of Maresh Vineyard in
the Dundee Hills planted in 1970. The name of this wine comes from
Audrey Hepburn and is crafted to reflect her stylish grace and elegance.
Also available in magnums.
This is not a “reserve” wine that is pumped
up with fruit and oak. Restrained but very alluring perfume of crushed
red berries, Provencal herbs, Chinese five-spice and gentle oak. Light, feminine
and very satiny, yet delivers plenty of vibrant fruit flavor. The tannins are
gossamer and the pleasing finish hints of fresh herbs and oak. The pedigree of
the vineyard shows through and this is the most sophisticated wine of the Scott Paul trio.
The Scott Paul Wines tasting room is housed in a restored circa-1915 creamery and is the only one I know of
in the United States that offers the visitor both New World and Old World Pinot Noir side by side. The Tasting
Room is open daily from 11:00 to 4:00 Wednesdays through Sundays. Guided tastings are also available by
appointment (contact Kelly Karr at 503-319-5827). The website is www.scottpaul.com. Listen to my interview
with Scott Wright on Grape Radio: http://www.graperadio.com/archives/2008/03/31/shadow-stevens-and-thewines-
of-scott-paul/. The Burgundy Express Wine Club offers two shipments each year of Scott Paul
Selections Burgundies. Each shipment is intended as an educational and informative tasting flight with a
specific topic covered in each group of four to six wines.
Small Sips of More Oregon Pinot
2007 Cardwell Hill Cellars Estate Bottled Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.2% alc., $25. Made from original plantings of Wädenswil
(1985) and more recently planted Pommard, 115 and 777. The estate
vineyard is dry farmed and lovingly nurtured by Dan and Nancy
Dark-fruited, brambly, herbal nose with hints of Moroccan
spice and roasted nuts. Dark and brooding, with rich, showy and
mouth filling dark red cherries and raspberries leading to a dry finish.
Impressive extraction and ripeness for the 2007 vintage. Still has some tannins
to shed and will benefit from another 6 months in bottle. A great value.
Note: Cardwell Hill Cellars is located in Philomath, just west of Corvallis. The Chapels poured their 2006
vintage, now sold out, at last year’s International Pinot Noir Celebration. The Chapels also happen to be my
neighbors and live a block away. They split their time between Orange County and Philomath, not an easy
task. Read more from a previous issue (www.princeofpinot.com/article/176/).
2007 Lenné Estate Karen’s Pommard Yamhill-Carlton District Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., 73 cases, $55.
The aromas recall an
exotic perfume exhibiting wild dark red fruits and spring bouquet. The
wine is powerfully flavored yet retains the delicacy and velvety texture
that is so sensual in Pinot Noir. Multilayered flavors of red plums, ripe
berries, currants, spice and a little earthiness. Perfect integration of t n‘
a. There is something magical about this vineyard.
Note: Lenné Estate was reviewed in Volume 7, Issue 15 (www.princeofpinot.com/article/648/). The wines are
sold through a mailing list and on the website at www.leneeestate.com. The 2007 lineup of Pinot Noirs were
Station Imports: Central Otago Schist-Kissed Pinot Noir
Many people have an image in their mind of snow when they think of New Zealand’s South Island and it would
seem that the climate is not conducive to growing Pinot Noir. The truth is that Central Otago, which sits in the
most southerly part of New Zealand’s South Island, lies at the same latitude as Burgundy (45 degrees) but in
the Southern Hemisphere. In an otherwise maritime country, Central Otago surprisingly has a continental
climate because of its location surrounded by mountains which shield the region from ocean influences.
Central Otago is the driest part of the country. The landscape has been created by volcanos and shaped and
carved by glaciers creating deep beds of loess, schist (a metamorphic rock type that has a schistose fabric -
coarse mineral grains which split into thin layers), quartz and greywacke (a hard, darkly colored sandstone)
that provide the vineyards of Central Otago with good minerality and low organic matter that compare to the
bare bone soils of Burgundy.
Station Imports is owned by Penny and Andy Loving (pictured below) who import wines to the United States
from the Central Otago Wine Company and Rippon Vineyard as well as select producers in Marlborough. You
have probably seen them in recent years pouring their wines at events like the World of Pinot Noir. The
winemaker at Central Otago Wine Company, Dean Shaw, is often in toe as well and he is quite a character with
a droll sense of humor and a serious passion for Pinot Noir. Shaw has a postgraduate degree in Viticulture and
Wine Science from Lincoln University in Canterbury, New Zealand. He first came to Central Otago to work at
Rippon Vineyard in 1994-1995. Later he settled in Cromwell as a partner in the Central Otago Wine Company
that provides contract winemaking facilities for many local producers. It might be the impressive stereo system
that he serenades his wines with or the minimal intervention or the use of wild yeasts, that gives his wines the
many accolades from the wine press.
The Pinot Noirs from Station Imports are reasonably priced and offer a sensible opportunity to satisfy your
curiosity about the Pinot Noir from down under. The 2007 vintage in Central Otago was quite successful as
Joshua Greene proclaimed in the February, 2009 issue of Wine & Spirits magazine. “The 2007s will likely mark
a turning point for the Central Otago region, with a critical mass of great Pinot Noir grown in schist.”
2007 Kawarau Estate Central Otago Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., $19.80, screw cap.
Made from an organically-farmed vineyard located on the Pisa Flats of Cromwell.
Certified organic by Biogrow NZ. Imported by Station Imports LLC, Colorado
Restrained fruit with prominent oak char on the nose. Red
plum and berry flavors with a vein of oak and citrus running through. A simple,
fruit-driven wine that will appeal to oak lovers.
2007 Freefall Central Otago Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., $23.25. Cool package.
Imported by Station Imports LLC, Colorado Springs, Colorado.
color. Funky reduction initially blows off. An earthy nose that smells of
the soil and is heavily perfumed with blackberry and black plum fruit.
Substantial dark fruits with a dusting of dark chocolate and oak spice framed
by plentiful acidity. A very smooth mouthfeel makes for easy drinking.
2007 Sleeping Dogs Blair Gum Block Central Otago Pinot Noir
13.0% alc., $26.75, screw cap. From a vineyard on Old Gibbston Rd.
farmed by owner Roger Donaldson and managed by viticulturist
Richard Williams. Imported by Station Imports LLC, Colorado Springs,
Very showy and persistent aromas of dark berries and black
cherries with a hint of Moroccan spice. Terrific nose. Drinks like a
berry smoothie with some herbs added in for health. Gossamer
tannins, pillowy texture and racy acidity. A delightful drink with plenty of zip and
2006 Nevis Bluff Central Otago Pinot Noir
13.0% alc., $26.50, screw cap.
Sourced from vines planted in1993 in Gibbston and vineyards nearby. Imported
by Station Imports LLC, Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Dried herbs and daisies on
the nose followed in the mouth by rich, mouth filling strawberries, raspberries
and cherries. The finish has good cut. A well-crafted, decent wine that is a bit
bland but represents reasonably good value.
2006 Rippon Lake Wanaka Central Otago Pinot Noir
13.0% alc., $50, Diam
closure. From a biodynamically-farmed vineyard. The proprietor and winemaker
is Nick Mills. Aged 16 months in French oak barrels. Unfined and unfiltered.
have nothing but superlatives for this wine which is filled with grace and vibrancy.
Lovely strawberry and cherry fruit with a hint of spice supported by fine-grain
tannins and crisp acidity. Elegant and refined with a smooth and velvety texture.
Very Chambollesque. At 13% alcohol you can drink this comfortably with a good meal.
The best Pinot Noir yet from Rippon.
All the wines above are available through Station Imports on the website at www.stationimports.com.
Discounts are offered for multiple-bottle buys. If you are traveling to Central Otago, ask the Lovings to set up
appointments for you to visit the Central Otago Wine Company and Rippon Vineyard.
More Sips of Pinot from Down Under
2004 Pipers Brook Vineyard Reserve Tasmania Pinot Noir
13.6% alc., $40.
Made from the best parcels from the best vineyards. Macerated on the skins for
up to 25 days, aged 14 months in French oak barrels. Winemaker is René
Bezemer. Imported by American Estate Wines Inc., Philadelphia, PA.
has a paucity of fruit in the aromas and flavors showing instead dried herbs,
brown spice, coffee and toast. Flamboyant tannins and bright acidity overwhelm
the demure and faded fruit. Might drink better with food.
2005 Frogmore Creek Estate Bottled Tasmania Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., $25.
Winemaker is Andrew Hood. Imported by Hathaway Trading Co., Inc., Ladera
Moderately light garnet color. Lovely aromas of spiced red fruits with
savory herbs. Very Pinot. Lightly weighted, even a bit dilute, with notes of herbs,
white pepper and grapefruit accenting the delicate red fruits. Supple tannins,
easy and approachable.
2005 42º S (Forty-Two Degrees South) Tasmania Pinot Noir
12.6% alc., $16.
Part of the Hood Wines portfolio. Imported by Hathaway Trading Co., Inc.,
Ladera Ranch, CA.
The aromas are not terribly appealing featuring pungent
herbs, coffee, roasted nuts and a whiff of alcohol. Ripe fruit tending toward raisin
and root beer flavors. Very smoothly textured with soft tannins and a tangy finish.
The flavors trump the aromas but nothing special here.
2006 Wild Earth Central Otago Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., $24, screw cap. Labels
feature original art by New Zealand artists. Vineyards are located on Felton
Road overlooking Lake Dunstan. Pommard and Dijon clones. Imported by San
Francisco Wine Exchange, San Francisco, CA.
Ripe fruit profile on the nose
showing black cherries, raisins, forest floor and a touch of cigar box. Tasty cherry
and raspberry core with a hint of orange peel and oak. Notable tannins and
bright acidity. Decent.
2008 Innocent Bystander Victoria Australia Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., $16.
Sourced from 8 cool-climate vineyards. Imported by Old Bridge Cellars, Napa,
Lightly colored with reddish highlights. The nose is dominated by
herbaceous oak with little fruit. Light raspberry and cherry fruit on the palate with
a riff of oak evident from entry to finish. Velvety with supple tannins in a feminine
style. This wine is an easy quaff.
Penfolds, founded in 1844, and now part of the huge Foster’s Group, produces over 2 million cases of wine
annually. In the mid 1990s, they quietly began developing a line of “boutique” wines crafted by winemaker
Peter Gago and his team. Penfolds has made its reputation on Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz, either singly
or in blends, but the new Cellar Reserve label features varietals like Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Grenache,
Tempranillo and Sauvignon Blanc. The first commercial release was the 1997 Adelaide Hills Pinot Noir. The
Cellar Reserve wines are made in tiny quantities by hand at Penfold’s Magill Estate winery in Adelaide.
Penfold’s flagship wines, Grange and Bin 707, are also made in small quantities, so Penfold’s may qualify as
the world’s largest boutique winery.
2005 Penfolds Cellar Reserve Adelaide Hills Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., $35.
After a cold soak, the grapes are fermented in open-top fermenters driven by
natural yeast with the use of hand punch downs. Unfined and unfiltered.
wine is quite different from what we have come to expect from Pinot Noir
crafted in North America. I found it difficult to describe the components of the
aromatic profile but did identify raisins and a hint of porto. Dark fruits,
sassafras, root vegetables on the palate. Looks and tastes slightly brown.
There is some appealing textural softness and stylistic finesse. Tastes of Pinot
Noir grown in California in the early 1980s on sites that were too warm. Only
for the curious.
Recently Released Wine Books
Adventures in Burgundy
This book is a result of a serendipitous meeting between the author, Lincoln Russell, and Burgundian
winemaker, Etienne de Montille, while skiing the French Alps in January, 2005. Montille suggest to Russell that
he do a book on harvest although Russell had never set foot in Burgundy. Russell was a Francophile at heart
and he had twenty-five years of experience in photography, so off he went to Burgundy, spending large blocks
of time there for three years. He was taken in warmly by the tight-knit community of Burgundians and allowed
special access for many of his photographs.
Although the name would suggest a book filled with prose about wine travels, Adventures in Burgundy is a
photographic impression of Burgundy, representing a selection of photos out of tens of thousands Russell took
over a three year period. The beautiful pictures speak a language of their own conveying the spirit of the
people and the land that together produce the world’s most glorious wines. The magnificent portrait-quality
photographs capture the face of famous vignerons such as Jacques Seysses, Charles Rousseau, Christophe
Roumier, and Patrick Bize. Some of the photographs sent chills down my spine, causing me to dream of
Burgundies I have enjoyed in the past: the head of a Francois Freres barrel imprinted with the words,
“Romanee-Conti,” unlabeled dusty bottles with tags reading 1845 Clos Vougeot, the 17th century cellar at
Chateau de Chamirey, the wine cellar at Restaurant Tallevent in Paris, and harvest at La Tache.
I have traveled to Burgundy and returned with many personal photographs that bring back fond memories, but I
will always cherish this book for it captures Burgundy like I could never do. You cannot have enough
photographs of Burgundy if you are captivated by the history, the landscape, the tradition, the impassioned
folks who craft fine Burgundy, and, of course, the wines. As Allen Meadows wrote in the Introduction for this
book referencing a great Burgundy wine, “I have seen grown men cry, and, on more than one occasion, seen
entire dinner parties struck silent by the unmatched genius of a magic bottle.”
The large book is packaged in an appropriate Burgundy-colored cover with a tastefully simple label. Included
are a Forward by Aubert de Villaine of Domaine Romanee-Conti, an Introduction by noted Burgundy expert
Allen Meadows, and an Afterword by respected vigneron Guillaume Marquis D’Angerville. Published by Pinot
Press/Stockbridge, hard bound, 168 pages, 2008, $50.
If you want to honor a good friend or spoil a spouse, give them this book along with a great bottle of Burgundy.
California Wine for Dummies
This is the seventh book Ed McCarthy, CWE, and Mary Ewing-Mulligan, MW, have written for the Dummies
series of books written for beginners. The pair are married, having met at an Italian wine tasting many years
ago in New York. McCarthy is a noted wine journalist and Ewing-Mulligan is a Master of Wine and together
they have more than a half century of wine experience between them. Their original title for the Dummies
series, Wine for Dummies, covers the very basics. Consider this book a sequel that focuses only on California
The introductory chapters (“The Big Picture”) cover the major varieties of grapes grown in California and a
short history of the major wine-producing regions. There is a comprehensive listing of appellations but it would
have been helpful to include appellation websites as they are excellent sources of region-specific information.
Explanations of confusing wine terminology are included such as the words variety and varietal, and
unregulated terms like estate grown, estate bottled and reserve. Curiously, the section on decoding a label has
no illustration of a label for reference and doesn’t explain that the alcohol percentage may be on the front or
back label of a bottle.
The major varieties of California wine are featured in “The Headliners” chapters including Chardonnay,
Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel. Less common varieties such as
sparkling wines, rosés and dessert wines are also included. Recommended wines are categorized according
to three price categories, $12-$20, $20-$50, and $50-$100. The lists of wines are very comprehensive.
Sprinkled throughout the text are pearls such as, “When in doubt, reach for a Cab since they are more
consistent in quality,” Embrace etiquette of tasting and spitting,” “There is plenty of wine at whatever price you
choose,” and “Your personal taste, not what other people tell you, must dictate your final choice of wine.” The
chapter on visiting tasting rooms and staying reasonably sober including the etiquette of spitting contains
This book should be required reading for millenials, who are currently embracing wine drinking in this country.
The young generation will take to the book because it is a quick read that is well organized. “Technical stuff”
icons provide detailed information on certain topics but can be skipped or revisited. The reader can pick up at
any point in the book and use it as a quick reference. Its handy size make it easy to pack for wine country
trips. The book is also available in a smaller pocket edition for even more portability.
California Wine for Dummies is published by Wiley Publishing, Hoboken, N.J., paperback, 269 pages, 2009,
The Vineyard Cookbook
Barbara Scott-Goodman has compiled three menus for each of the four seasons (12 multi-course menus)
comprising 60 recipes inspired by our country’s wineries. Along with the recipes, there are brief profiles on
wine varieties, wine recommendations offering different options arrange by price (four to nine options per
course), and simple vignettes of 32 wineries from California, Oregon, Washington, Virginia and New York.
The most redeeming feature of this book is that the recipes are SIMPLE! I would not call this a gourmand’s
collection of recipes but that’s not the idea. It is a utilitarian book that even a kitchen klutz like myself can use
to turn out great dishes. Most of the recipes have only 7 to 8 ingredients and the instructions are clearly stated
in three steps in many cases. These are dependable recipes without exotic ingredients that anyone can be
prepared in a reasonably short period. Examples are grilled tuna with mango salsa, pork loin with orange marmalade
glaze and slow-roasted cherry tomatoes. Complimenting the recipes are 100 food, vineyard and
winery scenes beautifully photographed.
There is a helpful section included on hosting a wine and cheese party with descriptions of the major types of
cheeses and appropriate wine pairings.
The book has an excellent index of recipes and the recommended wines are indexed by producer. The
emphasis of the book on seasonality is commendable as Americans have come to realize the value of dining
on foods that are fresh and local. This is a very useful cook book for SIMPLE to prepare satisfying meals and
appropriate wine pairings.
Searching for the recommended wines should not be daunting. Simply consult your nearby fine wine retailer or
search on the internet using wine-searcher.com, vinquire.com or winezap.com.
The Vineyard Cookbook is published by Welcome Books, New York, hard bound, 160 pages, 2009, $24.95.
Prince of Pinot Impostor!
My friend, Dale Bartley, a home winemaker of little repute with a fondness for Zinfandel (Zin from Dale), was
traveling to Middle Earth recently and found a Prince of Pinot impostor at Rockburn Winery in Central Otago.
Malcolm Francis, Rockburn’s award-wining winemaker, had a copy of a publication to prove his provenance. I
was aware of only one other impostor, Larry McKenna, of Escarpment Winery in Martinborough. Don’t be
fooled by these tricksters. There is only one true Prince of Pinot.