PinotFile: 9.21 March 23, 2013
- Along the Pinot Trail
- Three Sticks Wines: Three Superb Varietals
- The Donum Estate: The “Ultimate Pinot Noir Project”
- Onward Wines: Loving Hands & A Feminine Touch
- Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery: New Winemaker Carries on Tradition
- John Tyler/Bacigalupi Wines: Honoring the Legacy
- Davis Family Vineyards: Russian River Valley Delights
- Siduri Wines: Variety is the Spice of Life and Pinot Noir
- Inman Family Winery: Constantly Evolving
- Reuling Vineyard: Established Grower Debuts New Eponymous Pinot Noir
- Castalia: Insider’s Rochioli Pinot Noir
- Soliste: A Renowned Chef with Roots in Burgundy Succeeds with Wine
- Recent Sips of Pinot Noir
- Pinot Briefs
- The California Directory of Fine Wineries Central Coast Edition
Along the Pinot Trail
I hit the road in February for the first time in 2013, determined to see what the 2010 and 2011 vintages
have delivered for California, and what is in store for the 2012 wines still in barrel. I spent a week in the
Russian River Valley, Sonoma and Carneros, and several days in the Central Coast region of the Santa Maria
Valley which included my annual visit to the World of Pinot Noir (WOPN) event. The weather was dead
gorgeous for both trips, so I was able to travel topless some of the time. The Central Coast and WOPN report
will follow in an upcoming issue.
You can read all you want about wine, but you need to visit the vineyards, kick some dirt, and b.s. with the
winemakers and growers to get the real lowdown. I often return to this quote from Tim Atkin MW. “I believe
that the place where a wine was made, not to mention the character, ambition and talent of the person who
made it, is highly relevant to how that wine tastes. I want to know about these things, just as I want to know
about vintage conditions, personal eccentricities and a winemaker’s take on the world. All these things make
wine different: all these things make wine special.” A good pimp of Pinot Noir needs to know the talent out
If you want to talk vintages with a winemaker, there is no better person than Adam Lee to corral, the proprietor
and winemaker at Siduri Wines and Novy Family Wines. He crafts many wines from an assortment of
vineyards that stretch from the Willamette Valley in Oregon to the Sta. Rita Hills in the southern Central Coast
of California. I have invoked some of his comments in my summaries below.
2012 was an ideal growing season in California with moderate weather and resulting generous yields of grapes
with nicely balanced chemistries. It was the rare vintage that offered both quantity and quality. The total crush was 4.4 million tons according to the California Department
of Food & Agriculture, 1% higher than the previous record set in 2005. California’s Pinot Noir crop was
247,000 tons, up 45% from 2011 according to Ciatti Co., who noted, “Yields per ton for Pinot Noir in many
areas were at a level never thought possible.” Pinot Noir crops were up 85% year-over-year for Monterey and
Sonoma Counties. Some wine sages have already anointed it a “Marilyn Monroe vintage,” and the “Best
California Vintage Ever,” while others have used words like “epic,” “ideal,” and “exceptional” to describe it, but it
is way too early to tell. Many of the barreled wines had not finished malolactic fermentation when I visited due
to the coolness of the past winter. From the barrel samples I did try, it looks to be at least a very good vintage
and this was Adam’s impression as well. The weather was also consistent and warm in Oregon leading to an
early, abundant harvest
2011 was the coolest vintage that Lee has experienced since he started making wine in 1994. Cold weather and frost during flowering several limited yields in many northern and northerly central coast regions. In the Santa Cruz Mountains, for example, yields were reduced in many vineyards to 25% to 50% of normal. 2010 was
actually cooler if the two heat spikes that occurred in the North Bay on August 23 and September 23 are
excluded. These two significant heat spikes pushed sugars higher. 2011 had essentially no summer and no
heat spikes, but late season rain was a major factor in the North Bay. Rain started in the North Bay on
October 3 and lasted for four days and a second, unexpected storm, struck on October 10. The two storms
soaked many North Bay vineyards. One of Lee’s vineyards on the Sonoma Coast had almost 6.5 inches of
rain over this period.
To the south of the Santa Cruz Mountains there was considerably less rain, and the Santa Lucia Highlands was
spared the second storm. The Sta. Rita Hills was minimally affected. After October 10 in the North Bay, there
was grape dilution, little sugar increase and rot pressure. Essentially nothing good happened after the rains.
Grapes that were brought in before the rains were pretty good. As Lee noted, “In the North Bay, there were
three broad categories of harvest timing in 2011: before the rain, after the rain, and before the rain but only
because it is going to rain.” Pinot Noir was harvested in all three categories.”
Lee also observed during blending that grapes from the many areas in California performed differently in
disparate sections of vineyards. “Sections seemed to perform either extremely well or extremely poorly with no
in-between.” For example, several clones from Keefer Ranch had to be declassified, and a clone 115 block
produced no usable grapes from Rosella’s Vineyard.
As far as Oregon in 2011, Lee said, “Oregon sucked.” He was picking Pinot Noir in November at 19º Brix
because the weather was even colder than California, and was unable to bottle any single vineyard Pinot Noirs
from Oregon. His dim outlook is not shared by all Oregon winemakers.
Brian Marcy, winemaker at Big Table Farm in the Willamette Valley told me the following. “2011 was even
cooler to begin with, but the warm and driest September in memory saved the vintage. The total degree
growing days were almost identical to 2010, and the juice chemistries were proof of this: in some cases the two
years were almost identical. The skins matured during the warm September, but the seeds and
pulp lagged behind with the large clusters and berries contributing to the disparity in skin and seed ripening. I remember as I
walked through the vineyards as harvest approached that the juice I spit was very dark and this is apparent in
the wines, too. Early October rains increased the botrytis pressure, but most of our fruit was clean and picked
by Halloween. We are really happy with our 2011s. They are taking a little longer to fatten up than the 2010s,
but I don’t think this is a bad thing. They are more effusive aromatically, slightly more tannic, but with similar
acidity and more concentration than the 2010s.”
Like any vintage, talented producers manage to produce some superb wines despite difficult growing conditions.
Those vintners who crafted quality wines in 2010 and 2011 had to spend an inordinate amount of time and
effort in the vineyards. I was told this repeatedly as I visited with winemakers recently. Winemaker Paul Lato
likened it to “babysitting a classroom of unruly children who needed constant attention and discipline.”
Remember that it is not the year, but the wine in the glass that determines your pleasure. That said, there are
more lighter weight, lower alcohol, less layered and fewer appealing Pinot Noirs from the 2011 vintage, even
among top vintners, than I have ever experienced in California and Oregon in vintages of recent memory. You won’t find
many large breasted Pinots with a big behind. The wines are more Audrey Hepburn than Pamela Anderson.
Winegrower Anne Moller-Racke of The Donum Estate made an important point. “The 2011 wines may need more
time to come into balance the way the vintage needed more time, albeit the ripening curve was certainly off.
Because of the challenges in 2011, yields were markedly reduced and this is probably good. Be wary of the
inexpensive Pinot Noir wines from negociant producers whose blends are often composed of declassified wine.
In 2011, this wine was generally mediocre to crappy in quality.
2010 was a very formidable vintage. In Northern California, low spring temperatures and an April frost in some
regions delayed bud break, damaged vines and fostered mildew (see left photo of frost damage). The summer
remained very cool, even downright cold, exhibiting the second lowest temperatures in Napa and Sonoma
counties in 50 years. The result was delayed vine growth and the spawning of bunch rot. A late August to mid-
September heat wave, with temperatures soaring over 100ºF, caused sunburn scald on grapes. White grape
varieties such as Chardonnay are more susceptible to sunburn than purple varieties like Pinot Noir (see right
photo of sunburned Chardonnay grapes). Rain at harvest created mold that severely damaged some
vineyards, especially those planted to Chardonnay. The result was a very late and shortened harvest with
reduced yields. Sugars were generally reduced resulting in lower alcohol levels and some spotty wine quality.
The Central Coast had an extended growing season as well in 2010 and yields were also reduced. The marine
influence tempered the August heat spike in the Santa Maria Valley and Sta. Rita Hills, but the October rains
were unwelcome challenges.
For Oregon, a wet spring and cool summer delayed ripening by two to three weeks. The later days of the
growing season saw slightly cooler than normal temperatures with few heat spikes. The late harvest was
devastated in many vineyards by voracious feasting birds, but the quality of the harvested fruit was generally
excellent and I have favorably reviewed many wines from the 2010 vintage in Oregon.
Brian said, “2010 was cool but even, the berries matured uniformly and the clusters were normal to small size.
Although we did have some rain, botrytis pressure was not too high. Grapes were picked at the end of
October. The resulting wines are pleasant and tend to have a balance of fruit, mouth feel and tannin.”
Read on and discover a number of Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays from Northern California that should pique
Three Sticks Wines: Three Superb Varietals
“Billy Three Sticks” was a teenage nickname given to Bill Price, the founder of Three Sticks Wines, by his
surfing friends who teased him about his formal name, William S. Price III. Three Sticks was started in 2002,
with the first release in 2004, and has since become one of the few California wineries to succeed with the
glamorous trifecta of wine: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. The Three Sticks wines come
from the 130 acres of Durell Vineyard that Price owns (his ex-wife, Ellie Phipps Price owns 60 acres), as well
as purchased fruit.
Only a few barrels of wine were produced from 2002 to 2003 and the wine was largely distributed by word of
mouth. These were “gypsy” wines produced by several winemakers at several locations. Veteran winemaker
Don Van Staaveren joined Three Sticks in 2004 and finished the wines in that vintage. Don was formerly the
winemaker at Chateau St. Jean (1985-1997), Sand Hill and Dunstan. He is a devoted surfer and proudly
displays his surfboards from the past and present at the Three Sticks winery in Sonoma as shown in the photo below.
Beginning in 2005, Three Sticks became a bona fide winery with the leasing of a warehouse space in Sonoma
and the establishment of a winery in that locale primarily geared for Pinot Noir. The winery is of modular
design and very compact, allowing the equipment to nest inside other equipment when not in use. There are
multiple open top 2.5-ton stainless steel fermenters fitted with glycol temperature control. A few square
concrete fermenters are also in use offering desirable fermentation dynamics. The concrete fermenters are
slow to warm and slow to cool so that peak temperature plateaus and remains relatively stable. Concrete eggs
are also used for Chardonnay. The winery is a California Sustainable Certified Winery and is the only winery in
its complex to have a solar instillation.
The Pinot Noir winemaking at Three Sticks is simple. Nearly all the grapes are picked at night and brought into
the winery cold. The grapes are extensively sorted, then de-stemmed but not crushed. The cold soak varies
from 2 to 5 days and fermentation may be launched with inoculated yeast although indigenous yeast
fermentations are often in the mix as well. Don says, “Good Pinot Noir is all about texture,” and he uses
various yeast ferments to bring out alluring texture. Ferments are relatively cool, at about 85º, with pneumatic punch downs. 80% of the fermentation is whole berry with 10% to 20% whole cluster in the bottom of the open
After the free run juice is drained off, the wine is pressed to barrel. Occasionally the press wine is kept
separate depending on taste, but is usually combined. Alcoholic and malolactic fermentations finish in barrel
and frequent lees stirring is employed until malolactic fermentation is completed. The wines are aged 14-15
months in about 50% new French oak barrels (except the Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir which is aged in up to 100%
new French oak barrels). There is one racking before bottling and the wine may or may not be filtered
depending on the wine’s status, but is usually not filtered. The finished wine is aged 10 months in bottle before
Durell is the estate vineyard for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The vineyard’s rocky soils and cool climate are
ideal for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Due to its unique location, the 400 acres of land on which Durell Vineyard
is situated has vines in three different appellations: Carneros, Sonoma Coast and Sonoma Valley. The
backbone Pinot Noir clones in the vineyard are 114, 115, 667, 777 and 828 but the newer plantings include
Swan and Calera selections and the Emeritus “Elite clone” from the Hallberg Vineyard in the Russian River
“The James” Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir is sourced from the Burning Creek Vineyard and is named for Bill’s son
who has a free-spirited personality. In 2009, The James was declassified, but produced in 2010. In 2010,
Silver Eagle Vineyard in the Russian River Valley was added as a vineyard-designate. In 2011, two blocks
were added from La Rinconada Vineyard in the Sta. Rita Hills AVA and will be included in the James bottling at
some point. In 2012, an additional block of grapes was obtained from Sanford & Benedict Vineyard, Bien
Nacido Vineyard and Gap’s Crown Vineyard (which Bill now owns). The winery is expecting to add grape
sources from Anderson Valley and the Santa Lucia Highlands in 2013. In 2014, two new vineyards will come
online: DuPont Vineyard near Silver Eagle Vineyard and Wilson Vineyard north of Sebastopol at which time
Silver Eagle will be discontinued as a fruit source. The evolution of grape sources is a work in progress and
will not be solidified for several years.
The Pinot Noirs are produced in very small lots of 200 to 250 cases. The biggest bottling of Chardonnay is
1,000 cases, and the Cabernet Sauvignon lots are about 250 to 300 cases each.
I tasted a number of Pinot Noirs with Don and the Director of Vineyard Operations for Durell Vineyards, Rob
Harris, who also gave me a tour of Durell Vineyard. The 2010 wines will be released March 23, and that date
is none to soon, for the winery has been out of Pinot Noir to sell for four months and even longer for
Chardonnay. The wines are sold primarily through an allocation list and are featured in many fine-dining
establishments. Visit the website at www.threestickswines.com. Why buy these wines? They are primarily
sourced from a relatively old-vine vineyard (Durell) farmed by an experienced vineyard manager, crafted by a
talented, veteran winemaker, and produced by a winery under a management with years of involvement and
expertise in the wine business.
2007 Three Sticks Durell Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.7% alc., pH 3.60, 375 cases. Clones 115
and 777. Clones 115 and 777. Aged 15 months in 50% new French oak barrels.
Moderately dark reddish-purple
color in the glass. Aromas of fresh black raspberries, black cherries and vanilla. Delicious mid weight
core of dark berry fruits with a hint of anise-infused oak. Silky, with mild tannins and bright acidity, finishing with
good fruit intensity, leaving a touch of heat in its wake. Very good.
2008 Three Sticks “The James” Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
14.6% alc.. 13-year-old vineyard planted to
clones 113, 114, 115.
Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. Interesting aromatic profile that includes
dark cherry, oak, vanilla and savory herbs. Soft and easy to drink with supple tannins, featuring bright cherry
flavor accented with oak. Good.
2009 Three Sticks Durell Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.7% alc., pH 3.70, TA 0.63, 253 cases.
10% whole cluster. Clones 667, 115 and 777.
Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Shy initially,
opening with swirling to reveal aromas of spiced dark berries, herbs, and dark rose petals. Striking mid palate
presence with a vanguard of black cherry fruit that really coats the mouth and hangs on for a memorable,
long finish in which the fruit slips off the back of the palate like a silk sheet. Fine grain tannins add structure
and oak is beautifully integrated. A lot to like. Very good (+).
2010 Three Sticks “The James” Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
14.6% alc., pH 3.62, TA 0.71, 145 cases, $60.
10% whole cluster. Aged 14 months in 70% new French oak barrels.
Moderately light reddish-purple color in
the glass. Very shy cherry fruit with notes of stem, herbs and oak on the nose. Crisp and lively on the palate,
with exotically spiced dark cherry fruit, featuring very fine grain tannins and complimentary oak in the
background. Finishes long and vibrant. Very good.
2010 Three Sticks Silver Eagle Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
15.50% alc., pH 3.67, TA 0.62,
50 cases, $60. Just north of Occidental in the Green Valley of Russian River Valley AVA. Calera selection. 70%
whole cluster. Aged 14 months in 50% new French oak barrels.
Medium reddish-purple color in the glass.
Super ripe fruit profile on the shy nose. Full-bodied essence of dark red cherries and berries with a prominent
nutty note in the background. Balanced, modest tannins. Linear and rather closed today which could be
related to the significant whole cluster. Need to spend more time with this wine. Good.
2010 Three Sticks Durell Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.7% alc., pH 3.65, TA 0.70, 282 cases,
$65. From 3 blocks, 667, 115 and 777. 15% whole cluster. Aged 14 months in 50% new French oak barrels.
Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Very shy fruit on the dusty, earthy nose. Juicy plum and dark cherry
middleweight flavors clothed in balanced tannins, offering a silky mouth feel and a good cut of acidity on the
finish. Still young and needs more time to fully integrate the oak, but the potential is obvious. Very good.
The Donum Estate: The “Ultimate Pinot Noir Project”
Donum translates from the Latin to “gift” and refers to grapes as a gift of the land. The winery is devoted to
estate Carneros Pinot Noir and Chardonnay (The Donum Estate and Ferguson Block Vineyard), and estate
Russian River Valley Pinot Noir (Nugent Vineyard), with a 2011 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir (Angel Camp
Vineyard) making its debut soon from the 2011 vintage.
Winegrower and President, Anne Moller-Racke first arrived in Carneros in 1981 from Germany to help run
Buena Vista which had been acquired by the German company, Racke. Anne trained with industry icons
including Andre Tchelistcheff. She became Vineyard Manager in 1983 and expanded the vineyard acreage at
Buena Vista Carneros from 540 in 1981 to 935 a decade later and planted what was then the Tula Vista Ranch
in 1989-1990. With the sale of Buena Vista Carneros to Allied Domecq in 2001, Anne and Markus Moller-
Racke divorced, and Anne split off 147 acres of the Buena Vista estate, retaining Tula Vista Ranch, but
renaming it The Donum Estate. She also grew grapes for the rejuvenated Robert Stemmler label which had
been acquired. Today, Anne farms 45 acres of vines at the home ranch, 20 acres of the old-vine Ferguson
Block Vineyard nearby, the 16-acre Nugent Vineyard in the Russian River Valley (which Anne planted originally
in 1997), and the 11-acre Angel Camp Vineyard in Anderson Valley.
Upon acquiring The Donum Estate, Anne began an extensive rehabilitation of the Donum Ranch vines with all
blocks individually and precisely farmed, and each vine hand worked to reach its greatest potential. The
Donum Ranch sits on Diablo clay and is divided into eleven blocks with several heirloom selections (Calera,
Chalone, Hanzell, Martini, Roederer and Swan) and Dijon clones 115, 667 and 777. The Anderson Valley
Angel Camp Vineyard is 11 acres of David Bruce, Martin and Swan selections, Dijon clones 115, 667 and 828
and Wädenswil clone. The 16-acre Nugent Vineyard in the Russian River Valley is planted to Dijon clones 115
and 667 and Pommard clone.
The Donum Estate Pinot Noir, first produced in 2001 (150 cases of Roederer and Martini selections), was
intended to be a complex wine with clonal diversity, and it soon became a benchmark for Carneros Pinot Noir.
In addition, certain blocks were eventually selected to provide special designated bottlings including West
Slope and East Slope. West Slope is a Roederer selection that was considered a cru and bottled on its own
beginning in 2007. The 6-acre East Slope block is the coolest site, grafted to a Calera selection in 2004, and
bottled on its own beginning in 2009. A third designated bottling appeared in 2008 from the 4A01 block (old
Martini selection) of Ferguson Block Vineyard that Anne has farmed for over 25 years. This was bottled as a
stand alone wine to commemorate the 100th birthday of the vineyard owner, Thomas Ferguson, and was
In late December of 2011, Anne sold The Donum Estate to Winside, Inc., a partnership of Danish investors.
The acquisition kept in place the team that developed The Donum Estate over the past decade. With the
infusion of capital, new vineyards are being developed in the Russian River Valley and Anderson Valley as well
as an expansion of plantings at The Donum Estate to include, for the first time, Pommard clone vines.
Kenneth Juhasz began working with the original winemaker, Ken Bernards, in 2002, and became the
consulting winemaker for both The Donum Estate and Robert Stemmler labels in 2005. His assistant, Dan
Fishman, who worked with Kenneth for five years, became the consulting winemaker in recent months. Since
the first release of The Donum Estate Carneros Pinot Noir was 2001, the winery is currently celebrating “A
Decade of Donum” with the release of the 2011 vintage. Visit www.thedonumestate.com/DonumVideo.html to
view a video about “A Decade of Donum.” Current production is 2,300 cases for The Donum Estate and 9,000
cases total including The Donum Estate and Robert Stemmler labels together.
The Donum Estate wines are sold primarily through the winery’s wine club, with some wines available through
the website store at www.thedonumestate.com. A Carneros Chardonnay from old Wente selections of
budwood from the Winery Lake and Larry Hyde vineyards was first produced in 2007. The Donum Estate is not
open to the public, but tasting is available by appointment. Why buy these wines? It is a hackneyed phrase,
“Wine is made in the vineyard,” but it is a truism. At the Donum Home Ranch in Carneros, Anne has managed
the vines for 30 years and at the estate vineyard in the Russian River Valley she has done the same for 16
years. She has led the renaissance in Carneros that left behind much of the mass farming of grapes of the
past, advancing the precision viticulture that is prevalent today that in turn has lead to distinctive ultra-premium
I tasted with Anne and Dan at The Donum Estate and later sampled the latest 2010 releases at home.
We tasted Pommard clone Pinot Noir from a 5-acre 2009 planting at Nugent Vineyard. The 2011 vintage was
light in weight with appealing cherry and strawberry flavors. A 2012 early pick bottling aged in 40% new oak
was beautiful with attractive crispness. A 2012 late pick aged in 70% new oak had a riper, darker fruit profile,
more intensity, and more lusciousness.
The Angel Camp Vineyard in Anderson Valley shows promise. Yields here have been kept low to about 1 to
1.5 tons-per-acre. The wines are all free-run juice. A 2012 blend of clones from the vineyard displayed
precocious aromas and flavors with a vibrant fruit core. A 2012 Wädenswil clone bottling featured dark plum
fruit and was more rustic and austere. A 2012 Wädenswil clone 100% whole cluster was showing its youth with
a more noticeable firm tannic structure, a slight green note on the finish, but with an appealingly soft texture. A
2011 Angel Camp Vineyard Pinot Noir was still primary (fruity) but with a delicious black raspberry core and
very soft tannins. A 2011 Angel Camp Vineyard Reserve bottling was darker in color, exhibited more structure
and intensity, and more potential.
Finally, we looked at two Donum Estate bottlings from the 2008 vintage: one filtered and one unfiltered. The
filtered wine was simple in comparison and fruitier, becoming somewhat dull over time in the glass. The
unfiltered wine was more vibrant, nuanced and savory. I took the opened wines with me and sampled them the
following day. The filtered wine was fruit-forward and spicy. The unfiltered wine had more color, more
complexity, and continued to blossom beautifully over time in the glass. Clearly, I preferred the unfiltered
The 2010 Donum wines are not dainty. They are richly fruited with vibrant aromas. When I opened the wines
at home to taste, the room was instantly filled with a sweet Pinot perfume. The 2010 wines have a hard act to
follow as the 2009 Donum wines were extraordinary, but they are charming in their own right. Anne feels that
patience will be needed for the 2010 wines to bring them into balance.
2010 Donum Estate Grown Gold Label Carneros Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., $72.
Moderately dark reddish-purple
color in the glass. Aromas of dark red fruits, sweet oak, spice, mocha and pine. Very flavorful, featuring very
ripe dark strawberry, raspberry and cherry fruits with a well-spiced finish. Oak is well integrated and the
tannins are nicely balanced. The wine exhibits good focus and definition, showing more delicacy than the Black
Label Estate bottling. Tasted over two days from a previously opened and re-corked bottle, the wine lost a bit
of mid palate and finishing intensity. Good (+).
2010 Donum Estate 10th Anniversary Black Label Estate Grown Carneros Pinot Noir
100 cases, $120. A best barrel blend from Donum Ranch crus. Aged in 25% new French oak barrels.
Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. Enticing aromas of fresh black cherries, strawberries,
spice and complimentary oak vanillin. A little richer and more structured than the 2010 Estate Gold
Label bottling. The wine offers layers of flavor including very ripe black cherry, black currant, dark
chocolate, grilled meat, and tantalizing oak. Much better the next day from a previously opened and
re-corked bottle showing better integration of oak, aromas that jumped out of the glass, and a finish to
die for. Exceptional.
2010 Donum Estate Grown East Slope Carneros Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., $90. Martini clone.
reddish-purple color in the glass. The aromas draw you into the glass, with notes of purple grapes, black
cherries, cassis and mushrooms on the grill. Impressive fruit concentration with lip-smacking black raspberry
and black plum fruit flavor, with the signature Carneros earthiness in the background, still sporting firm tannins
which will need time to soften. Tasted two days later from a previously opened and re-corked bottle, the wine
was more giving and clearly displays the goods to age. Very good.
2010 Donum Estate Grown West Slope Carneros Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., $90. Limited production in this
vintage and available only to wine club members.
Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Vibrant
aromas of black cherries, peppery spice, stem and flowered meadow. Delicious core of perfectly
ripened black cherry and black raspberry fruit with an undertone of dark chocolate and anise. The fruit
really sings, reaching a crescendo on the powerful finish. Tasted over two days from a previously
opened and re-corked bottle, the wine is clearly built to age and will benefit from cellaring to bring the
oak and tannins into optimum balance. The jewel of the Donum Estate.
2010 Donum Estate Grown Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., $72.
Moderately dark reddish-purple
color in the glass. Lovely and intense aromas of ripe Bing cherries with a hint of spice, brewed tea, hazelnut
and mocha, becoming more effusive over time in the glass. Dark cherries are featured with a hint of Coca-
Cola, stem and oak. Nicely crafted in a middleweight style, offering a juicy, lively drinking experience. Good.
2010 Donum Estate Grown Reserve Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., $90.
Dark purple in the glass.
A brooding wine at present, offering shy aromas of black cherries, cassis and black raspberries with subtle new
oak scents that are evident from entry to finish. Full-bodied, displaying very intense, ripe blackberry and
boysenberry fruit flavors with an undertone of cola, black tea and earth. Incredible power, with a firm tannic
backbone, finishing with both length and impressive fruit presence. This wine definitely needs more time in
bottle and may warrant a more glowing rating over time. Good (+).
Onward Wines: Loving Hands & A Feminine Touch
Faith Armstrong-Foster’s story is quite an endearing one for a winemaker. She began her career as the
Tasting Room Manager at Ironstone Vineyards, later working in marketing and promoting wine events in San
Francisco. She hatched a plan to attend University of California at Davis, become a winemaker, and return to
her native British Columbia. She did attend University of California at Davis on a full Regents Scholarship and
graduated in 2006 with highest honors. However, her marriage to Sean Foster, now the Senior Winemaker at
Merryvale Vineyards, derailed her plans and she settled into life in Napa.
After graduation, Faith became a Lab Technician for Frank Family Vineyards, quickly moving up to Enologist
and then Assistant Winemaker. In 2009 she launched her own label, Onward Wines, when she was offered
fruit from Cerise Vineyard. Since early 2011 Faith has focused on her own wines while consulting for Napa
Station. This sounds easy enough, except that she has three boys and a new baby girl. During the 2010
harvest, she delivered the girl between harvesting grapes from two of her major Pinot Noir vineyard sources.
The name, Onward, comes from the name of a childhood dinghy that was her family’s primary mode of
transportation including her trips to school growing up on Victoria Island. The label pictures the stern of that
boat upon which vineyard sites are listed like a boat’s hailing port.
Faith has crafted many varietals but loves to make and drink Pinot Noir. She usually produces about 600
cases annually of Onward Rosé and Pinot Noir from two excellent vineyard sources. In the 2010 vintage, total
output was 150 cases of Cerise Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir and 250 cases of Hawkeye Ranch
Redwood Valley Pinot Noir. Cerise Vineyard is well known for its superb fruit. This steep hillside vineyard sits
at 650 to 1000 feet and is sustainably farmed using organic and biodynamic principles (I wrote a feature on
Cerise Vineyard: www.princeofpinot.com/article/1223/). Ten clones of Pinot Noir are planted on seven
rootstocks. Soils are thin, hard and marginal with resulting yields in the range of 1 ton per acre. The vines at
Hawkeye Ranch are 35-year-old Martini clone. The vineyard is fifth generation family owned and the resident
winegrowers are good friends with Faith, working closely with her to satisfy her farming preferences.
I met Faith at Starmont Winery in Napa Carneros where she custom crushes her wines, and tasted barrel
samples and finished wines. The Pinot Noirs are crafted with loving attention beginning with a long cold soak,
100% de-stemming without crushing, and aging in 25% new French oak barrels with gentle lees stirring every
three weeks when the barrels need topping off. After 10 months of maturation in barrel, the wines are bottled
without fining or filtration. The low use of new oak and gentle handling at every stage leads to true vineyard
expression. The Cerise Vineyard Pinot Noir typically is slower to reach a desirable drinking window so she advises more patience with this bottling. Faith would like to hold back the wines longer, but economical
considerations and consumer and restaurant demands dictate that she release them sooner.
The 2013 vintage Rosé from barrel was tasted from both vineyards. The juice was bled over 3 days from tank fermented
Pinot Noir that had been racked to barrel and was undergoing aging. Both wines were high-spirited,
fine examples of Rosé. The 2012 is the current release ($18). Both vineyard Pinot Noirs were tasted out of
barrel with the 2011 vintage more elegant and delicate, the 2012 vintage more intense and pleasurable,
especially the Cerise. Clearly, these wines reflect impeccable winemaking.
The finished 2010 wines were tasted from bottle. The 2010 Onward Hawkeye Ranch Redwood Valley Pinot Noir ($38) is a fine example of
Martini clone Pinot Noir. Darkly fruited with a savory, earthy component, admirable balance and reasonable
approachability. The 2010 Onward Cerise Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir ($58) is an exceptional wine that shows its breeding. Light in color, but
exceedingly flavorful, with a delicious core of raspberry and cherry fruit framed by hints of spice and oak, and
clothed in soft tannins. I tasted this wine also the following day from a previously opened bottle and it had
blossomed further, and was one of the better Pinots I tasted on this road trip.
Onward wines are sold through a mailing list at www.onwardwines.com and may be purchased by contacting
email@example.com. The wines have some distribution in restaurants and the states of
California, New York and Texas. Why should you buy these wines? Pinot Noir responds to gentle, attentive
care and small scale production, both of which Faith’s loving winemaking exemplifies. Any woman that
can manage a family of four small children and a household, and still produce wines of this caliber deserves
admiration and support. She definitely impressed me. Onward and upward!
Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery: New Winemaker Carries on Tradition
When I first met Theresa Heredia a few years ago working as part of a team of winemakers at Freestone
Vineyards, I was impressed by her gumption, dedication, and innovative ideas. The relatively large new and
modern Freestone winery owned by Joseph Phelps, which opened in 2007, permitted her the opportunity to
experiment with a number of leading edge winemaking techniques, and she responded by crafting some
remarkable Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines at Freestone.
On May 1, 2012, Theresa joined Gary Farrell Winery, replacing Farrell-trained Susan Reed, and bringing with her
invaluable experience in small-lot, single-vineyard Chardonnay and Pinot Noir winemaking. She quickly
embraced the Gary Farrell Winery house style developed over the past 30 years which emphasizes elegance
and balance, while putting a finespun personal stamp on the wines. It also gave her the opportunity to work with a diverse pallete of vineyards managed by legendary
One example of subtle change that Theresa is instituting is in the production of Chardonnays. The
Chardonnay grapes at Gary Farrell have always been picked earlier, but in 2012, Theresa harvested even
earlier, at about 22º to 23º Brix. She prefers to “build” the Chardonnay in the cellar where the effect of barrels
and lees management lead to secondary characters and allow the wine to put on more weight. The other
option that is commonly practiced by winemakers is to build in the character of Chardonnay on the vine, letting
the grapes hang to 24º to 25º Brix, a less preferable option for Theresa because of the potential for ripe and
premature oxidative characters (and sometimes the need to resort to alcohol reduction).
Winemaker Gary Farrell, who left in 2006 to concentrate on his own label, Alysian, left behind a legacy of
winemaking protocols. The techniques for Pinot Noir
include native yeast fermentations, saignée to add depth, foot treading to allow extraction but avoid over
extraction, and a modest
percentage of whole cluster to contribute tannin, backbone and spice (9%-22% in 2012).
Fermentation is carried out in 4-7 ton jacketed open top fermenters following a 5-7 day cold soak.
As fermentation reaches
completion, the wine is gently pressed (primarily free run and some press fraction juice are used for the
Russian River Valley Selection Pinot Noir, while single-vineyard Pinot Noirs are made from 100% free-run juice
only). The wine is then transferred by gravity to medium-toast French oak barrels from Burgundian coopers
where the Russian River Valley Selection typically ages for 10 months and the single-vineyard Pinot Noirs
spend up to 15 months. New oak varies from 40% to 50%. The wines are racked only once before bottling.
Theresa has added
new coopers to the barrel mix based on her experience and plans to use some oak tanks (5 ton) which allow warmer, natural ferments and gentler extraction.
Chardonnays are fermented in 100% French oak barrels (40% new) from several Burgundian cooperages,
undergo full malolactic fermentation, and age on their yeast lees, with weekly stirring during malolactic
fermentation and monthly thereafter, for seven months before bottling. Theresa plans to incorporate the use of oak puncheons (500L) which facilitate the integration of oak aromas and flavors.
Both Russian River Selection Wines (Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc) and Vineyard-Designate
Wines are produced at Gary Farrell. The close grower relationships developed over three decades allows
Gary Farrell Winery access to many highly desirable vineyards in cool growing regions such as Bacigalupi,
Rochioli, Allen, Westside Farms and Hallberg.
Gary Farrell Winery is owned by The Vincraft Group, which also owns Kosta-Browne. The owners are not
content with the status quo, always striving to push quality to a higher level. To this end, they are seeking
additional elite grape sources within the Russian River Valley. Production is estimated to expand from its
current 20,000-case level to 30,000 cases, but not beyond that.
I highly recommend a visit to the inviting
tasting room that is open daily. Many of the single-vineyard wines are only sold through the tasting room and
to Grand Crew wine club members. A new set of wines will be offered beginning with the 2011 vintage known
as the Inspiration Series. These will be small lot unique wines reflecting the “inspiration” of the winemaker.
Visit the website at www.garyfarrellwinery.com.
I met with Theresa in the winery’s ridge-top tasting room on Westside Road one morning, admiring the
breathtaking view, and chatting at length about Theresa’s future goals at Gary Farrell Winery. We tasted
through the lineup of 2010 Gary Farrell Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs (these were crafted by Susan Reed) and
a few barrel samples of the 2012 vintage as well. I have reviewed a number of Gary Farrell wines in the past,
so I was not surprised by the consistent high quality of every bottling. Theresa was quite excited about the
2010 vintage which produced wines more “European” in style, especially the Chardonnays. I shared her
enthusiasm after tasting the wines. Why buy these wines? Just look at the exceptional vintage sources. Any
2010 Gary Farrell Russian River Selection Russian River Valley Chardonnay
14.2% alc., pH 3.22, TA
0.73, 2,752 cases, $32. Released August 2012. A blend from four notable Russian River Valley vineyards.
Light straw color and clear in the glass. Lemony, buttery, nutty and slightly smoky on the nose. Light and crisp,
with lemon custard and peach flavors, lifted by bright acidity, finishing with a refreshing zest of lemon. Good.
2010 Gary Farrell Westside Farms Russian River Valley Chardonnay
14.4% alc., pH 3.29, TA 0.74, 372
cases, $38. Released May 2012. From a 40-acre vineyard planted in 1989 to Clone 4. Large spacing, tall
vines, moderately high yields yet good concentration and balance.
Light straw color and clear in the glass.
Shy, but pleasing aromas of lemon, lime, roasted nuts and a tropical note. Good concentration of baked apple,
white peach, honey, caramel and nutty flavors. Very good.
2010 Gary Farrell Rochioli Vineyard Russian River Valley Chardonnay
14.1% alc., pH 3.27, TA 0.65, 288
cases, $45. Released November 2012.
Light straw color and clear in the glass. A little tight this morning,
offering delicate aromas of lemon curd, almond skin and vanilla. Crisp, juicy core of lemon and pear flavors
with a powerful and lengthy finish. Very good.
2010 Gary Farrell Rochioli-Allen Vineyards Russian River Valley Chardonnay
14.0% alc., pH 3.35, TA
0.66, 298 cases, $45. Released February 2013. Multiple clones from both the renowned Rochioli and Allen
Light straw color and clear in the glass. Shy aromas of citrus, baked pear, and spice lead to a well-composed
palate-filling wine featuring flavors that echo the aromas. This wine is all about concentration and
length, yet has the vivid acid backbone needed to energize the flavors and lift the finish. Exceptional.
2010 Gary Farrell Russian River Selection Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., pH 3.45, TA 0.65,
6,842 cases, $42. Released December 2012. Sourced from seven notable Russian River Valley vineyards.
Aged 8 months in 40% new French oak barrels.
Moderate reddish-purple color and clear in the glass. The red
fruit spectrum of strawberry, raspberry, cranberry and cherry is featured with appealing accents of spice and
oak. Good acidity makes for refreshing drinking. A solid, even impressive appellation wine. Good.
2010 Gary Farrell Bien Nacido Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., pH 3.38, TA 0.724, 483
cases, $55. Released May 2012. Sourced from the legendary “Q Block.” Aged 8 months in 50% new French
Moderate reddish-purple hue and clear in the glass. Hold on to your seat when you taste this
one. Aromas of dark red cherries and spice leap out of the glass. Clean and juicy on the palate with
middleweight flavors of well-ripened cherries and raspberries, set off by the signature peppery spice of this
region. Finishes with plenty of verve. Exceptional.
2010 Gary Farrell Rochioli Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., pH 3.41, TA 0.72, 291
cases, $65. Released November 2012. Sourced from blocks planted in 1974, 1995 and 2000 with some
cuttings taken from the original “mother” block planted in 1968. Pommard clone. Aged 13 months in 50% new
French oak barrels.
Moderately dark reddish-purple color and clear in the glass. This wine is still very young
but the potential is obvious. Shy aromas of Bing cherries and spice with a hint of citrus and mint. Discreetly
concentrated flavors of black cherries, rhubarb, cola and spice wrapped in balanced tannins and finishing with
uncommon power. Very good.
2010 Gary Farrell Hallberg Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., pH 3.41, TA 0.64, 520
cases, $55. Released September 2012. A 100-acre vineyard on Highway 116 in Sebastopol farmed by owner
Kirk Lokka. Clones 667, 777, 828 and Pommard. Aged 13 months in 50% new French oak barrels.
reddish-purple color and clear in the glass. This wine reflects nicely the terroir of this vineyard displaying
aromas of chocolate-covered black cherries and black plums with a slight savory tone, and flavors of black
cherry, cola, anise and dark chocolate. The most concentrated wine in the lineup with firm, fine-grain tannins,
and a fruit-driven finish. Very good.
John Tyler/Bacigalupi Wines: Honoring the Legacy
The Bacigalupi family are Russian River Valley originals, with a history of farming dating back to 1956 when
Charles and Helen Bacigalupi purchased the 121-acre Goddard Ranch on Westside Road. Through his dental
practice, Charles got to know a local grape grower, Paul Heck, who along with Paul’s brother and Carl Wente
had acquired Korbel Champagne Cellars in Guerneville. Charles was interested in expanding the limited wine
grape plantings on his property and Paul advised him to plant Pinot and Chardonnay. In 1964, Charles
obtained Pinot Noir and Chardonnay budwood from Karl Wente’s vineyard in Livermore and these plantings
were among the earliest in the Russian River Valley.
On March 21, 2013, the Healdsburg Museum & Historical Society honored Charles and Helen Bacigalupi at the
society’s 15th Annual Pioneer Award Dinner at Trentadue Winery.
Today, the Goddard Ranch has 120 vineyard acres and is the oldest ranch that the Bacigalupis farm. This
property contains the Chardonnay planted to an old Wente clone that was one of the main sources (40%) for
the legendary 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay that won the 1976 Paris Tasting.
Charles son, John, was raised on the Goddard Ranch and after a lifetime of winegrowing experience, teamed
with his spouse, Pam Heck Bacigalupi, and fourth-generation nephew and winemaker Tyler Heck to found John
Tyler Wines. The Bacigalupi’s twin sister daughters, Nicole and Katey, are now the face of John Tyler Wines
and were instrumental in the building of a tasting room on Westside Road to feature the wines.
John Tyler Wines first produced a Pinot Noir from estate grapes in 2002, with Tyler Heck as the winemaker. I
have visited the family in the past, tasted every Pinot Noir release, and featured them in a previous article:
www.princeofpinot.com/article/1194/. I recently visited Katey and Pam at the tasting room to find out the latest
scoop on the winery.
The original Chardonnay vineyard planting at Goddard Ranch, dating to 1964, is still untouched, but production
is very limited. To preserve the legacy of the vineyard, the Bacigalupis have taken cuttings from the original
vineyard, grafted them over to a new planting, and released the first Bacigalupi Chardonnay from the old
Wente clones in the 2011 vintage. The new label is similar to the original Bacigalupi label that began as a
collaboration between the Bacigalupi family and the neighboring Belvedere winery. The new label (see below)
is reminiscent of the old one, but with an updated look and an elegant etched bottle.
To honor the legacy of winegrowing of the Bacigalupi family, the name of the winery is being transitioned from
John Tyler Wines to Bacigalupi Wines. This transition will be completed for the winery’s Pinot Noirs beginning
with the 2012 vintage. The winery’s lineup will include Bacigalupi Rosé, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Petite Sirah
and Zinfandel. The winery’s Pinot Noir is known for its extended age ability.
Along with the name change, the winery has hired a new consulting winemaker, Ashley Hertzberg, who will be
crafting the Bacigalupi line of wines. Ashley is another of many aspiring doctors who decided to pursue winemaking instead. She began her wine career as a laboratory technician at Owl Ridge Wine Services in
Sebastopol, and developed her winemaking skills from producers such as Merry Edwards, Anthony Austin and
Scott Covington. Ashley then became the assistant winemaker at Mauritson in Dry Creek Valley, and later a
consulting winemaker for Saini Vineyards and Amista Vineyards.
John Tyler/Bacigalupi wines are available through the winery’s tasting room which is open daily and the online
website store at www.johntylerwines.com. Why buy these wines? These wines have a pedigree, a legacy and
a distinctive stamp. The Bacigalupi family embraces the consumer’s interest and seeks to educate. This is a
winery you can enjoy, with many happenings such as the Spring Release Party, Pinot & Paella, on Saturday,
April 13, 2013.
2011 Bacigalupi Russian River Valley Chardonnay
$52. 86% malolactic fermentation. Unfined and
Light straw color in the glass. Classic and classy Chardonnay, featuring aromas of lemon, lime,
tropical fruits, and banana with a savory hint. Slightly creamy on the palate with crisp apple, pear and citrus
flavors finishing with a refreshing juiciness. Got lobster? Very good.
2009 John Tyler Bacigalupi Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
825 cases, $45. 1-year of bottle
age. Release April 1, 2013.
Moderate reddish-purple color and clear in the glass. Very European in style with
a savory nose of leaf, herbs, cherries and strawberries. Deep, lip-smacking cherry flavor with a spicy
undertone. Impeccable balance and appealing elegance. This is a show-stopper from a superb vintage.
Davis Family Vineyards: Russian River Valley Delights
Proprietor and winemaker Guy Davis and I go way back. I have tasted every Pinot Noir Guy has crafted over
the past ten vintages, and he has shown me the ability to capture the complex aromas and flavors, the silky
textures, and the essence of Russian River Valley terroir. The perfect Pinot Noir has not been produced yet,
but some of Guy’s ephemeral Pinot Noirs have come darn close. In the last couple of years, I have gotten to
know Guy’s son, Cole, who has become increasingly involved in the winery’s winemaking. I recently visited the
Davis Family Vineyards tasting room in Healdsburg, and although Guy was vacationing over Valentine’s Day
with his wife in Paris, Cole was able to lead me through a tasting of the 2010 vintage Pinot Noir wines. The
Davis family is pictured below with Guy and family in the center and Cole and family to the right.
Guy farms 7 acres of Pinot Noir on a vineyard adjacent his home on Laguna Road in the Russian River Valley
which provides the fruit for the Russian River Valley, Soul Patch and Pinnacle Pinot Noir bottlings. He also
produces vineyard-designated Pinot Noir from Starr Ridge and Horseshoe Bend vineyards, both in the
Russian River Valley. Guy is a talented winemaker who makes many varietals besides Pinot Noir all of which are
top notch, and even crafts an olive oil.
The 2010 vintage Pinot Noirs are nearly sold out. Robert Parker rated them very highly and the wines flew out
the door. Forty percent of the 2010 crop was lost due to the weather, with Soul Patch ending up with the
largest production. Some wines are reserved for Wine Club members. Visit the website at
www.daviswines.com for information and availability or contact Annie Rambo at 866-338-9463.
The wines are made from low-yielding vineyards, 100% de-stemmed, and generally aged in 33% new, 33% 1-
year, and 30% 2-year-old French oak barrels.
Why buy these wines? If you are a fan of Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, you can’t find any better examples
anywhere. Year in and year out, the wines are stellar. Family owned by warm, classy people.
2010 Davis Family Vineyards Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., $40 (sold out). A blend of four
Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Bright aromas of Bing cherries and spice with
optimum fruit ripeness. Vivid middleweight flavors of cherry cola, rhubarb and spice supported by soft tannins.
The least layered wine in the lineup, but very appealing for current drinking. Good (+).
2010 Davis Family Vineyards Soul Patch Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., $50. A favorite
barrel selection from the estate vineyard planted by Guy Davis in 1996 featuring Dijon and Pommard clones
planted in Goldridge soil in the Laguna Ridge area.
Moderately light reddish color in the glass. Intense cherry
perfume with complimentary notes of oak and allspice. Delicate and lighter in this vintage, but with good
intensity of flavor, featuring a core of cherry fruit underlain with cinnamon and cardamom spice, and cola. Very
supple tannins and appealing upfront drink ability. Very good.
2010 Davis Family Vineyards Horseshoe Bend Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
$50. A ridge top cool vineyard above the town of Occidental at 1000 feet above the fog banks of the Russian
River Valley below. The coolest and most coastal of the three Davis vineyard designates.
reddish-purple color in the glass. Savory on the nose and palate featuring blueberry, dark cherries and purple
berries. Relatively elegant and light in weight, with an amazing finish of flamboyant black cherry fruit. Wow!
2010 Davis Family Vineyards Starr Ridge Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., $50.
Owned by the Baker family of Thomas George Estates, this is the warmest of Davis’ sites.
reddish-purple hue in the glass. The nose is a little fruity and a little savory. Elegant and charming on the
palate with flavors of fresh black cherries, raspberries and baking spices. Juicy, with good acidity and
gossamer tannins. A seamless wine of impeccable breeding. Very good.
2007 Davis Family Vineyards Pinnacole Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
A special barrel selection only
made in certain vintages (2007 was the last vintage). The wine spends more time, 14-15 months, in barrel
untouched and takes on more oak. Cole calls it “Soul Patch times 2.”
Deep reddish-purple color in the glass.
A full-bodied wine with explosive aromas of black plum, black cherry, blackberry, cola and spice mirrored in the
flavor profile. Firm, but not aggressive tannins. My experience with this wine is that it benefits from decanting,
but I only had a glimpse after Cole was kind enough to open a bottle. Very good.
Special note. I received a notice from Annie Rambo on February 22, 2013, that the 2012 vintage wines are
being offered for ordering as futures through the second weekend in March with a 25% discount. The 2012
Estate Pinot Noir, Soul Patch, 2012 Starr Ridge, and 2012 Horseshoe Bend Pinot Noir wines are available
( and Estate Chardonnay, Old Vine Zinfandel and Estate Syrah). 6 bottle minimum. E-mail Annie at
firstname.lastname@example.org or call 866-338-9463. You may receive this notice a little late, but contact Annie and tell her the Prince sent you.
Siduri Wines: Variety is the Spice of Life and Pinot Noir
Adam and Dianna Novy Lee travel the states of California and Oregon sourcing grapes for their appellation-designated
and vineyard-designated Pinot Noirs. When I asked Adam why he takes on the challenge of so
many cuvées in each vintage, he told me he likes Pinot Noir from practically everywhere and finds it a joy to
make wines from diverse terroirs.
Siduri is a real success story. The Lees arrived in California from Texas and began modestly in 1994 with an
initial $24,000 investment and 107 cases of Anderson Valley Pinot Noir. They made that wine together and
continue to do so for every wine they produce to this day. They quickly became renown as well as a model for
other young Pinot Noir specialists such as Brian Loring (Loring Wine Company) and Andrew Vignello (A.P. Vin).
Today, the Lees work out of a modest, utilitarian warehouse facility in Santa Rosa, but it is well equipped and
adequately sized for their production (12,000 cases in 2011 and 23,000 cases in 2012). Each wine is vinified
separately by block, clone and barrel type, with the end products being harmonious blends that best reflect the
sites of origin. Both natural and inoculated ferments are employed. New French oak is kept to 25% or less.
The wines are never fined or filtered.
The Lees team up with about 27 growers stretching from Oregon’s Willamette Valley to California’s Sta. Rita
Hills to establish viticulture regimens that suit them. They purchase all grapes by the acre to maximize quality,
reducing yields as necessary to accomplish their goals, and always look to champion the origin of the wines.
I spent a thoroughly enjoyable tasting session with Adam at his winery and in between the many hilarious
stories he told me, we really did taste some wine. One tale that stood out was related to his close relationship
with growers. He gave Gary Franscioni as an example. After Adam obtained an appropriate license, he
married Gary at Gary’s request, and did an admirable job even though he was “half in the bag.” Adam has a
very admirable positive spin on wine and you cannot help but see his gregarious personality in the Siduri
I previously summarized Adam’s thoughts on the 2011 vintage in this issue. Adam had to sell off wine in bulk
for the first time in many years and declassified more than the usual number of lots into the appellation Pinot
Noirs. The Keefer Ranch bottling, for example, is usually 1,000 cases, but was only 320 cases in this vintage.
Only 30% of the Clos Pepe wine made the vineyard-designate bottling.
Along with tasting all 16 Pinot Noirs produced at Siduri in 2011 with Adam, I re-tasted the wines at home in my
usual fashion a few weeks later. The wines are generally less extracted in this vintage, with refreshing
juiciness from bright acidity and easy approachability due to modest tannins. It is not a blockbuster vintage
exemplified by husky wines, but rather a vintage of grace and concentration without weight. All wines are
bottled under screwcap. Because of this, there is no worry about a corked wine, and I can report that I have
never had a noticeable “off” wine from Siduri. The appellation wines were bottled August 2012 and the
vineyard-designate wines January 2013. Siduri’s prices remain very reasonable.
Drink the appellation wines over a casual dinner at home while your kids are fighting and complaining about
homework and your wife is fretting over a stressful day. Drink the Garys’, Soberanes or Pisoni when your out
to a special restaurant with your wife and you can spend some time with the wine.
Why buy these wines? If you like variety, there is something for everyone in the Siduri lineup. Vineyard
sources are superb, the vineyards are carefully farmed, and close grower relationships pay dividends. Anyone
who can pull off vintage 2011 like Adam did, is a Houdini of wine.
2011 Siduri Chehalem Mountains Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.1% alc., 613 cases, $29. Grapes were
picked at low Brix (20º) in November (first time for Siduri) and luckily heavy rains held off. Severe crop thinning. Only 17% of fruit made the cut for this bottling, mostly from old vines.
A simple but easy drinking
wine with shy cherry, sandalwood and espresso aromas, cherry and raspberry flavors, good acidity and very
soft tannins. Respectable concentration in an elegant, light weight offering. Decent.
2011 Siduri Sonoma County Pinot Noir
13.1% alc., 1,251 cases, $22. Primarily sourced from Van der Kamp
Vineyard on Sonoma Mountain and Castro and Sexton Sonoma Coast vineyards.
Light reddish-purple color in
the glass. Aromas of black cherries, new leather and subtle oak. Reasonably concentrated dark red cherry and
berry flavors with a hint of cola, oak and savory spice. Light on its feet with an appealing delicacy. Decent.
2011 Siduri Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
12.9% alc., 1,252 cases, $32. 50% Sonatera Vineyard, 37% Castro
Vineyard, 10% Ewald Vineyard and 3% Hirsch Vineyard. A blend of 8 clones from 11 different vineyard blocks
picked both before and after the early October rains.
Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass.
Surprisingly concentrated and flavorful considering the very low alcohol (according to Adam, "This is one of the leanest Pinot Noirs at 12.9% alcohol we have ever made, and yet it is rich and concentrated"). Aromas of darker berries, plum and
new oak but never really opens up over time in the glass. Moderately rich red fruit flavors are accented by
savory herbs and oak. Soft in the mouth with good acidity that adds verve. Good.
2011 Siduri Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., 2,434 cases, $32. A blend of fruit from
five vineyards including 7 clones and 17 blocks, all of which were fermented and aged separately.
Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Quintessential Russian River Valley Pinot with deep, lush
cherry cordial aromas and flavors, restrained tannins, good acidity, and a noteworthy cherry cola
2011 Siduri Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 1,333 cases, $32. A blend of fruit from
Santa Lucia Highlands vineyards that are sourced by Siduri.
Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Very
shy scent of darker berries and plum with a hint of oak. Never really opens up on the nose. Middleweight
flavors of blackberry and black currant with a lacy oak overlay, softly textured with moderately muscular
2011 Siduri Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., 1,014 cases, $32. A blend of fruit from
Cargassachi, Clos Pepe and Sebastiano Vineyards.
Moderately light reddish-purple color in the
glass. Appealing aromas of black raspberries, forest floor, and tobacco oak. Concentrated flavors of
fresh black cherries, dark berries, spice, Hoison sauce and complimentary oak. A solid wine with
redeeming balance that will have fans. Good (+).
2011 Siduri Sonatera Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
13.2% alc., 307 cases, $32. 5 clones.
Light reddish-purple color in the glass. Nicely perfumed with intense Bing cherry aromas underlain with oak-driven
espresso. Dark red cherry and berry fruits accented with baking spice are featured in a richly fruited
wine with reasonable mid palate presence, styled with modest tannins and bright acidity, tailing off to a shallow
finish with oak highlights. Decent.
2011 Siduri Ewald Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.9% alc., 149 cases, $48. A 3.1-acre
vineyard in the Vine Hill area near Kistler. All fruit goes to Siduri. Clones 115 and 777.
hue in the glass. Aromas of well-ripened cherries, cigar box and eucalyptus. Bright, juicy and crisp with a
middleweight core of smoky black cherry and plum fruit, finishing with intensity. Has good concentration yet
light on its feet. Still sporting a noticeable oak topcoat. Good.
2011 Siduri Keefer Ranch Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., 320 cases, $52.
classy wine with a velvety array of red cherry and strawberry fruit accented with baking spices and oak, which
last through the generous aromatic finish. The acidity stands out in this wine. Adam likes to point out that the
best 2011 wines have concentration without weight and this wine personifies that. My only nit is that there is a
green thread running through this wine in the background. Good (+).
2011 Siduri Hirsch Vineyard Fort Ross-Seaview Pinot Noir
12.9% alc. $55. Siduri has purchased Hirsch fruit from the oldest section of the vineyard since 1995. 2011 was the last year for most of the old vineyard due to leaf roll virus. Very small crop, 20% whole cluster. Indigenous yeast fermentations. Only 3 out of 5 barrels made the cut and 2 of the barrels were aged in new French oak.
Light reddish color in the
glass. Very reticent nose with extremely shy aromas of cherries and spice. Cherry fruit is featured with a confected gum drop and pastry overlay, but with some unusual, indescribable flavors. Very light with fine tannins peaking
out on the finish. Decent.
2011 Siduri Soberanes Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
235 cases, $48. Adjacent
Garys’ Vineyard but rows are oriented differently so the winds pass through the vineyard more evenly
and because it is more fertile, the vines are planted closer together. Fourth leaf. Pisoni selection,
Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Aromas of dark currants, ripe plum and
brandied raisins. Delicious and harmonious, with gorgeous flavors of black plum and blackberries
with a note of spice and citrus in the background. The fruit really sparkles in this wine and lasts and
lasts on the finish that offers a teasing hint of spice and mocha. Spectacular the following day from a
previously opened and closed bottle showing an Elvis on velvet mouth feel. A complete wine that is
very refined and sophisticated and clearly the jewel of this vintage for Siduri.
2011 Siduri Garys’ Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.4% alc., 419 cases, $52. Grapes picked prior to October rains. Pisoni selection on two rootstocks. Some whole cluster. Aged 14 months prior to bottling.
Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass.
The nose explodes upon opening with fresh cherry aroma and hints of
spice, herbs and redwood. On the palate, the layers of flashy cherry and
raspberry fruit really draw your attention and hold it through a finish like
a three hour movie you don’t want to end. Spend some quality time with this
one as it will gradually become significantly better in the glass.
2011 Siduri Rosella’s Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., 613 cases, $52. 38% 777, 27% Pommard, 27% 828 and 8% Pisoni clones. 115 did not make the final wine. Picked at 23.9º to 24.7º Brix. Mix of native and inoculated fermentations.
Medium dark reddish color in the glass. Nicely perfumed with bright aromas of cherry pie glaze,
sandalwood and rose petals. Dark red strawberry and cherry flavors are featured in a mid weight style with
balanced fine-grain tannins and some welcome finishing intensity. Offers some textural interest as well.
2011 Siduri Pisoni Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.9% alc., 536 cases, $55.
Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Typical aromas and flavors of Pisoni but more approachable
and welcoming in this vintage. The nose offers scents of black currants, black grapes, and
blackberries with hints of black licorice, dark chocolate and oak. Delicious, full-bodied core of black
fruits including plum and grape with a hint of root beer, clothed in noticeable but relatively restrained
tannins, finishing with power. The velvety mouth feel is very seductive. A wine of recognizable
breeding, crafted with great skill.
2011 Siduri Sierra Mar Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.4% alc., 445 cases, $52. Vineyard
planted over several years (2007, 2008, 2010) by Gary Franscioni at the southern end of the Santa Lucia
Highlands. Clone 23 (Mariafeld), Pommard and 943 (777 didn’t make the cut).
Deep, dark purple color in the
glass. Aromas of spicy black raspberry with tobacco-laced oak in the background. The fruit really emerges
with conviction as the wine is swirled in the glass over time. The mid palate infusion of nicely ripened dark red
and black cherries and berries with a hint of Hoison sauce, anise, brown spice and oak is quite pleasurable.
Soft and smooth on the palate with admirable balance and noticeable finishing presence. Very good.
2011 Siduri Clos Pepe Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., 196 cases, $54.
Only a third of the
grapes harvested from this vineyard made it into this wine. Very modest reddish-purple color in the glass. The
aromas never show up despite extended swirling in the glass. However, the flavors explode on the palate with
intense flavors of black plum, black currant, and exotic brown spice. The fruit really makes an impression and
finishes with power and length. Very soft in the mouth with supple tannins. Give this wine some time in the
cellar. Very good.
Inman Family Winery: Constantly Evolving
Kathleen Inman reminds of the song by Alicia Keys, “The Girl is on Fire.” Her winery is one of the most ecofriendly
in the Russian River Valley, she is a proponent of screwcap closures, her sparkling Brut Rosé is one of
the finest in all of California, she has began to tweak her Pinot Noir style with the inclusion of significant whole
clusters in her ferments, and she now offers a special sit-down tasting by appointment where she offers a
tasting of her higher-end offerings as well as library wines and some face time with her.
In 1998, Kathleen and Simon Inman left their careers behind in England and arrived in California where she
learned winemaking while they looked for a suitable property to grow grapes. The discovered a farm for sale at
the junction of Olivet and Piner Roads in the Russian River Valley. The Inmans acquired the property and
named it Olivet Grange, after the family’s English country home known as The Grange at Elvington. In 2000,
they planted a little over 7 acres of Pinot Noir (Dijon clones) and Pinot Gris on the 10.45-acre property.
Kathleen started out modestly with an estate and Russian River Valley blend Pinot Noir, a Rosé and a Pinot
Gris. She has since added a Russian River Valley Chardonnay, a Brut Rosé, and a Pinot Noir from Thorn
Ridge Vineyard in the Russian River Valley. She plans to produce a Blanc de Noir style sparkling wine soon.
When I visited, I tasted two OGV (because of a challenge from Australia’s famous wine label, Grange, the
Inmans display OGV instead of Olivet Grange Vineyard on their label) Pinot Noirs. Kathleen used 20% whole
cluster in her 2009 vintage OGV Pinot Noir, liked the results, and has pushed whole stem inclusion to 50% in
the unreleased 2010 OGV and 2011 OGV (still in barrel) Pinot Noirs. I much preferred the 2010 and 2011
wines over the 2009 vintage wine because the wines displayed more interesting savory and spice notes, more
nuance, and more appealing textural qualities.
The winery’s tasting room is housed in a tasteful barn set among the property’s vines and is open Thursday
through Sunday. As noted, a special private tour and tasting is available with Kathleen by appointment. Visit
the website at www.inmanfamilywines.com. Wines are sold primarily through the winery’s wine club and
tasting room. A restored farmhouse on the property is available for rent and is ideally located for touring the
Russian River Valley.
Why buy these wines? Spend some time with Kathleen and you will be caught up in her ambition and focus.
Her wines are beautifully crafted with a feminine, charming touch. She is innovative, current and energetic.
You can’t help but feel her fire in her wines.
2009 Inman Family “Endless Crush” Nature Sparkling Late Disgorged Russian River Valley Brut Rosé
138 cases, $68. The Inman’s 25th wedding anniversary in 2009 was Kathleen’s impetus to create her first
sparkling wine. This Méthode Champenoise version is from the OGV Estate. The wine is a Brut Nature with
no sugar added in the final dosage.
Clear coral pink color in the glass. Very dry with appealing aromas and
flavors of strawberries and cherries with hints of brioche, roasted huts and yeasty lees. This beauty can hold
its own with any fine French Rosé Champagne and is beautifully packaged for celebrations. Exceptional.
2010 Inman Family “Endless Crush” Russian River Valley Rosé
$30. Almost sold out (a new
release will be offered in April, 2013, with a new label).
Soft red color in the glass. Delightful aromas of
fresh-picked strawberries and melon. Bright and crisp, with light flavors of red berries and a subtle
herbal note. Very good.
2011 Inman Family Russian River Valley Chardonnay
12.6% alc., $35. 100% malolactic fermentation.
Light straw color in the glass. Tropical, apple and melon fruits accentuate the underlying citrus core of this
crisp wine which finishes with a subtle nutty, lemon peel note. A bit austere for my taste, but well crafted.
2009 Inman Family Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
13.7% alc., $35.
Moderately light reddish-purple
color in the glass. Fresh aromas of cherries, strawberries and rhubarb. Nicely spiced mid
weight cherry core with a lively cut of acidity and very soft, supple tannins. Not terribly complex, but
a very solid, highly drinkable wine that is a very good value. Good (+).
2009 Inman Family OGV Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
13.4% alc., $63. Native, relatively cool
fermentation, 20% whole cluster (first vintage with whole clusters in the fermenters). Aged 19 months with lees
stirring in French oak barrels.
Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. Well-endowed with aromatic and
flavor interest displaying scents of ripe cherry, raspberry and allspice. Soft on the palate with an elegant array
of cherry and cranberry fruits accentuated with subtle herbal and spice notes. Some dusty tannins add textural
interest and support. Very good.
2009 Inman Family Thorn Ridge Ranch Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., $63. Farmed by Ted
Klopp and his daughter Lauren Klopp William. Pommard, Swan and 777. Native fermentation, 100% destemmed,
aged 19 months in 25% new French oak barrels, crossflow filtered and bottled.
color in the glass. Very aromatic with intense dark red berry fruits and spice. Veers to the darker red and black
fruit spectrum on the palate in a full-bodied style with underlying notes of savory herbs, tar and black tea.
2010 Inman Family OGV Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
12.5% alc., unreleased. 50% whole cluster.
striking wine displaying power without weight. Refreshingly fruity with flavors of red cherry and berry, but with an equally
appealing savory side of herbs and brown spice. Quite approachable with ripe, fine-grain tannins. Finishes
bold and long. Whole cluster brings this wine to a whole other level. Exceptional.
Cat watches over tasting room at Inman
Reuling Vineyard: Established Grower Debuts New Eponymous Pinot Noir
The 14.4-acre Reuling Vineyard in Forestville is familiar with those who are fans of Aubert Wines and Peter
Michael Winery. Both wineries have sourced the vineyard’s grapes, and in the case of Aubert, single-vineyard-designated
bottlings have been offered. The vineyard was planted in 2000 by owners Tim and Jackie Reuling
with the help of Peter Michael Winery.
In 2011, the Reulings decided to keep all their own fruit and start their own brand. The first Pinot Noir, 500
cases from the 2011 vintage, and a Rosé from the 2012 vintage will be released in April 2013, and both a Pinot
Noir and Chardonnay will be released in 2014. The Reulings plan to produce an elegantly styled Pinot Noir. A
preview was offered at this year’s World of Pinot Noir in early March where I met the Reulings. They are very
warm people and actively involved in the farming of their vineyard.
The Reulings originally planted the vineyard to 12.2 acres of Pinot Noir including three clones: Calera and two
different “suitcase” clones from the Vosne-Romanée region of Burgundy. The 2.2-acres of Chardonnay are
planted to budwood from the Montrachet vineyard in the Cote de Beaune. Goldridge soils are predominant at
this site which is relatively warm but with cooling marine influences.
The Reulings enlisted Matthew Taylor, a dynamic winemaker who has quite a resume both in viticulture and
winemaking expertise. Matt most recently worked at Araujo Estate Wines where he was both winemaker and
vineyard manager. He currently oversees the Biodynamic® Front Porch Farm in Healdsburg where he grows
vegetables, manages orchards, produces olive oil and wine. Matt’s passion for Pinot Noir first developed when
he worked at Joseph Swan Vineyards and Domaine Dujac.
When I visited the Reuling Vineyard on a glorious sunny day in February, I toured the property and spent a
delightful time with Matt over a glass of 2011 Reuling Vineyard Pinot Noir. We talked about his reverence for
the Joseph Swan property, his dedication to organic and Biodynamic® farming, his preference for whole cluster
fermentation and the attributes it brings to wine, and his general winemaking philosophy for the Reuling wines.
He has instituted a number of measures in the Rueling vineyard to bring it into balance (the grapes tend to be
lower in acidity than in neighboring vineyards, for example), but he considers the vineyard of high caliber with
“gorgeous soils.” Very little irrigation is required with only a shot of water usually needed in August to get the
grapes to the finish line. A permanent cover crop has been instituted to vitalize the soils.
Matt’s winemaking goals include bringing balance to the wines and allowing the vineyard to speak more in the
wines while still retaining some richness. The Reuling Vineyard Pinot Noirs will not reflect the bold Aubert
wines that were made from the vineyard using extended maceration and 100% new oak.
When I left Matt, and later met the Reulings, I was impressed by their approach and commitment. In fact, I was
so taken by Matt’s background and goals, and the potential of this project, that I plan to buy some of the
Reuling wines myself. I think this is reason enough to consider adding the wines to your cellar.
Reuling wines will be sold through a mailing list and sign ups are now accepted on the website at
2011 Reuling Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., pH 3.78, TA 0.54, <500
cases, $70. 25% whole cluster. Aged 10 months in 40% new Remond French oak barrels.
Unfined and unfiltered.
Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Bright
aromas of fresh black cherries, spice and refined oak. Delicious mid weight
essence of dark stone fruits with a hint of cola, clove and black raspberry.
Gentle tannins and a velvety texture make for easy drink ability. The appealing
soft mouth feel is a trade off for lower acidity. Reminds me of a Volnay.
Castalia: Insider’s Rochioli Pinot Noir
I met with Terry Bering, the cellar master at J. Rochioli Vineyards since 1990, and we talked at length about his
latest release and winemaking experience at Rochioli. Terry has been crafting Pinot Noir with grapes from
Rochioli Vineyard since 1992 under his own label, Castalia, which refers to Apollo’s favorite spring on Mount
Parnassus in ancient Greece that bestowed drinkers of the spring gifts of poetry and inspiration.
If you like Rochioli fruit, and I don’t know anyone who likes Pinot Noir that doesn’t, and you aren’t a member of
the Rochioli mailing list in good standing, you only have a few options: Castalia (from the Rochioli River Block
Vineyard and a nearby vineyard adjacent Williams Selyem planted with Rochioli West Block cuttings), Alysian
(Gary Farrell’s latest label), or Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery. There are others who source Rochioli fruit, but
they are not permitted to put the Rochioli name on their label so you are on your own with those wines.
The 2011 vintage was a lean one at Rochioli. The weather was cold and rainy until June which led to
considerable shatter and the harvesting of only half the crop of a normal year. The 2011 Castalia Rochioli
Pinot Noir is a shade lighter with less alcohol. Terry calls it, “A classic Pinot Noir that gives you that Pinot
High.” His wine is still a little closed in and if he had his choice, he would keep it in bottle for a year before
release. He believes his wines hit their stride about a year after bottling (December 2012 for the 2011 vintage).
Terry had to put some Rochioli Estate wine in his blend since yields were so low from his usual sources of
Rochioli River Block Vineyard and a nearby vineyard on Westside Road. He is not currently using any whole clusters, only whole berries, but says that there are
experiments ongoing at Rochioli with four vineyards using some whole cluster. He finds whole cluster gives
the Rochioli Pinot Noirs a more candied cherry flavor presumably due to the carbonic maceration. Terry says it
will take a few years to decide whether to implement whole cluster in the Rochioli and Castalia wines.
The 2012 vintage looks promising and better than either 2010 or 2011 at this stage. 2012 was one of the biggest harvests ever at Rochioli, producing exceedingly high gallons per ton, but it was an orderly and manageable harvest. That said, Terry never
judges a vintage too early, saying, “Pinot Noir is just too unpredictable.” He recalls, “I made a Pinot Noir in
2005 in my garage that I absolutely hated for three years. It eventually came out of its funk and is one of my
favorite wines that I have ever crafted.”
However, it was an orderly harvest making it quite manageable.
As a Rochioli insider, Terry can talk at length about the character of the Rochioli fruit. He says that the most
desirable flavors and textures do not appear in the wines until the grapes are very ripe. This has required
some watering back in certain vintages to avoid high alcohols.
When I sat down to taste with Terry, there was a bowl of cherry cordial M & Ms on the table. I didn’t think much
about it. In time, Terry told me he discovered that these candies went really well with his Pinot Noir. I tried the
match, and surprisingly, he was absolutely correct.
Castalia Pinot Noir is sold through a mailing list and the website at www.castaliawines.com. The wine is
offered for sale in 6 and 12 bottle lots and in magnum format. Rochioli winery on Westside Road, where Terry crafts his wine, is pictured
Why buy this wine? Two words: Rochioli fruit.
2011 Castalia Rochioli Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 300 cases, $55.
reddish-purple color in the glass. Very bright and spicy cherry aroma which builds in intensity over time in the
glass. Ornate cherry flavor with accents of Chinese five-spice, cola, anise and oak, displaying soft tannins, no
rough edges, and finishing with a hi-tone cherry presence and juicy acidity. More body and nuance the
following day from a previously opened bottle. I would suggest cellaring for a year. Very good.
Soliste: A Renowned Chef with Roots in Burgundy Succeeds with Wine
Claude Koeberle is quite a fascinating study and has been called a “force of nature.” He is opinionated (“Many
of California’s fruit-forward wines do not pair well with food”), devoted to Pinot Noir with religious fervor
(“Cabernet Sauvignon is an evil weed”), and talkative. He could impress you with his culinary
accomplishments (Apprenticed under Paul Bocuse and Alain Chapel, became the youngest 3 Star Michelin Chef in Paris, Chef at Ma Maison and L’Orangerie in Los Angeles, James Beard Award as a master chef,
French Laundry partner, and one of the driving forces behind Creative Culinary Concepts, Inc., and K World
Cuisine, Inc.), but he would rather talk at length about how he has taken old world (Burgundian) beliefs and
applied them to produce wines with finesse and balance that work in harmony with fine cuisine.
Together with long time friend and partner, Donald Plumley (photo right), and their respective spouses
(Elisabeth and Beth), Claude started Soliste in 2005 with the release of a Sonatera Vineyard Pinot Noir. The
name Soliste is derived from the special barrel or “soliste” that Burgundian winemakers reserve for their family
and friends. The winemaker is Ryan Zepaltas (Zepaltas Wines and Siduri Wines). A vineyard property in the
Sonoma Coast is being negotiated for acquisition, and a new Soliste winery to be built on the property is in the planning stages.
Claude has released four MonoClone® Pinot Noirs from select Sonoma Coast vineyards in the 2010 vintage.
He is a believer in Single Vineyard, Single Clone and Single Cooperage wines - what he calls MonoClone®
and since 2009, all Pinot Noir releases have reflected this. A single clone, married with a specific site, climate
and exposure, and then aged individually in a single cooperage. I had the opportunity to sample all four wines
at lunch with Claude recently and came away impressed by his "single minded" devotion to producing “Beaune
in the USA.” The wines include L’Ambroisie (clone 828), L‘Esperance (clone 115), Nouveau Mode (Pommard
clone) and Forêt (clone 23). Two of the wines I tasted in depth at home are reviewed below. A Sauvignon
Blanc and Chardonnay are also offered.
The Soliste team manages its vineyards 100% regardless whether they own or lease them.
Soliste wines are produced in very small quantities and are allocated through a mailing list. They are also
available from fine dining partners. Visit the website at www.soliste.com. Soliste was recently one of the
featured wineries at In Pursuit of Balance. Why buy these wines? How many Pinot Noir producers in
California were born in Burgundy, are accomplished chefs, and are offering food-friendly wines that reflect a
2010 Soliste Forêt Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., 149 cases, $85. Clone 23 (Mariafeld).
Mariafeld clone came to the US from the government agriculture research station in Wädenswil,
Switzerland in 1966. Infrequently bottled as a stand-alone clone. From Guidicci Vineyard in
Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Very clean, bright and fresh aromas of black
cherries and potpourri. The wine delivers a delicious mouthful of dark berry and black cherry fruit,
expanding on the palate with nuance and class, and finishes with a statement. A subtle cola and
earthy accent add interest. Juicy, with soft tannins. When tasted a day after opening and re-corked the,
wine was still pumping out Pinot goodness.
2010 Soliste L’Ambroisie Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
12.8% alc., 23 cases, $100 (sold out). Clone 828 from
Guidicci Vineyard in Occidental. Tasted a day after opening from a re-corked bottle.
color in the glass. Red fruits are featured in the nose and on the palate. An acid-driven wine that is more
austere than the Soliste Forêt with less ripe fruit flavors including red cherry and cranberry, finishing with a
cleansing riff of citrus. A very pretty, elegant wine with gossamer tannins. If the Forêt is akin to a leather
jacket, this wine is more like a silk shirt. Very good.
Recent Sips of Pinot Noir
August West Consistently stellar wines from a partnership between winemaker Ed Kurtzman and
winegrowers Gary Franscioni and Howard Graham, showcasing grapes from their Santa Lucia Highlands and
Russian River Valley vineyards. 2011 saw a rainy winter followed by a cool spring and summer, with early fall
rains. Yields were lower than usual from both SLH and RRV appellations. Ed says, “Despite the difficulties of
the vintage, the wines turned out surprisingly well with focused fruit and age worthy structure.” The wines were
released in January 2012 and are available from the winery website at www.augustwestwine.com. Feel free to
call Ed directly at 415-225-2891 for questions.
2011 August West Rosella’s Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.6% alc., pH 3.59, TA 0.68, 382
cases, $45. Clones 113, 667 and Pisoni. Aged 10 months in 50% new, 44% 1-year-old and 6% 2-year-old
French oak barrels.
Moderately light reddish color in the glass. Pleasing aromas of cherry pie glaze, spice and
sandalwood. Middleweight array of dark red fruits, most prominently strawberries. The most elegant and redfruited
of the Santa Lucia Highlands’ wines with modest tannins and a strawberry-infused finish. Not a
powerhouse, buy oozes charm. Very good.
2011 August West Graham Family Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., pH 3.79, TA 0.60,
167 cases, $45. Clones 667, 777, 828 and 23. Aged 10 months in 71% new and 29% 1-year-old French oak
Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Lovely aromas of Bing cherries and smoky oak.
Mid weight flavors of cherries, raspberries and baking spices. Nicely balanced and easy to like, finishing with a
kick of fresh cherries. Very good.
2011 August West Sierra Mar Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.6% alc., pH 3.66, TA 0.63,
129 cases, $45. Swan selection and clone 23. Aged 10 months in 66% new, 17% 1-year-old and 17% 2-yearold
French oak barrels.
Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Shy aromas of black cherry, spice
and vanilla. Fairly intense and concentrated dark red berry and cherry fruit with complimentary oak in the
background on the mid palate, finishing with some oak-laced, fruit-driven power and a rush of tannins. Tasted
the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle, the aromatics still had not appeared and the
wine still displayed muscular tannins. This wine should benefit from cellaring at least a year. Good.
2011 August West Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., ph 3.62, TA 0.66, 406 cases,
$32. From Rosella’s, Sierra Mar and Soberanes vineyards. Aged 10 months in 12% new, 59% 1-
year-old and 29% 2-year-old French oak barrels.
Medium reddish-purple color in the glass.
Aromatically alive with scents of purple grapes and plums with a hint of spice and brioche. Full-bodied
flavors of plum and boysenberry with a hint of spice and smoky oak in the background. Juicy
and vibrant with firm tannins. A solid appellation wine. Good (+).
2011 August West Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., pH 3.61, TA 0.64, 215 cases, $32. Clones
667 and 777, Swan and Calera selections. Aged 11 months in 10% new, 40% 1-year-old and 29% 2-year-old
French oak barrels.
Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Aromas of cherry liquor, dark red berries, toasty oak, and tea leaf. Light, elegant and slightly savory, with flavors of cherries, cola, leaf and vanillin oak supported by mild
balanced tannins. Tasted twice. Decent.
Byron is located on the site of Uriel Nielson’s first commercial vineyard in Santa Barbara County planted in
1964. Over the years, Byron has found the best farming protocols, clones, rootstocks and trellising for the
region and is currently undergoing an extensive replanting of the estate vineyards. Byron produces
Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from estate and other notable vineyards throughout the Santa Maria Valley. Visit
2011 Byron Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., pH 3.74, TA 0.50, 15, 207 cases, $29.
100% estate-owned Nielson Vineyard fruit. This wine comes from both older Pinot Noir vines
planted on their own rootstock and new vines planted to high density spacing with the latest clones
and rootstocks. Aged 10 months in 20% new French oak barrels.
Moderately dark reddish-purple
color in the glass. Very appealing aromas of black raspberries, black plums, spice, pine and nut-scented
oak. Mid weight flavors of dark berries, cherries and plums with pleasing hints of cola,
spice and herbal oak. A little earthy tone fills the background. This wine is noticeably lighter, fresher and
crisper in this vintage. Good.
Campesino Cellars Griselda Montoya grew up in the Carneros region of Napa and spent her childhood at
Papi y Chula Vineyard which is owned and farmed by the Ceja family. Her brothers and their spouses founded
Ceja Vineyards and together with Macario Montoya, she started Campensino Cellars. Campensino translates
in English as “fieldworker.” The Campesino Cellars wines are a homage to all campesinos. “A mis carnales y
mis carnala gracias por su trabajo”: “To my brothers and sisters thank you for your work.” The Papi y Chula
Vineyard is farmed by Griselda’s brother, Armando Ceja. Located about a mile north of San Pablo Bay, this 5-
acre vineyard is exposed to cooling winds during the day and fog at night. The vineyard’s shallow clay-loam
soil produces a low vigor vine, resulting in low yields. Visit www.campesinocellars.com.
2010 Campesino Papi y Chula Vineyard Los Carneros Napa Valley Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., pH 3.68, TA
0.65, 56 cases, $38. Aged 18 months in 100% second fill French oak barrels.
Medium reddish-purple hue in
the glass. Enticing aromas of cherries, oak, hazelnut, chocolate and rose petals. Very flavorful mid weight
core of cherries, brambly raspberries and black plum with an earthy and subtle oak undertone. Easy to drink
with supple tannins, and a refreshingly crisp and teasing finish. Gets better over time in the glass and even
better the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. Very good.
Paraiso Vineyards consists of over 3,000 acres of grapes farmed by the innovative Smith family who have
perfected mechanical harvesting, mobile vineyard pressing, and advanced trellising and irrigation systems for
the region. They helped outline and establish the Santa Lucia Highlands Viticultural Area. The winemaker is
son-in-law David Fleming, making this a true family wine estate. Paraiso offers a Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot
Noir, a “West Terrace” Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir, individual clonal bottlings under the Faite label, and a
Faite top-of-the-line Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir. Visit www.paraisovineyards.com.
2009 Paraiso Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., 14,672 cases, $25, screwcap.
Double Gold Medal at San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. Third generation growing family
with first vines planted in 1973. First winery in region to receive SIP™ Certified Sustainable in
2008. A blend of six clones from estate vineyard. 70% fermented in 5-ton open top fermenters
with the balance in 10-ton tanks. Aged 11 months in French oak barrels.
Moderately light reddishpurple
color in the glass. Scent of cherries, raspberries, brown spice and maple syrup. Tasteful in
an elegant style, featuring cherry and strawberry flavors with a hint of baking spices and oak.
Juicy, with soft tannins. A satisfying drink that was even better the following day from a previously
opened and re-corked bottle. Very good, especially at this modest price.
ROAR is a partnership between Gary and Rosella
Franscioni, owners of the Garys’ (with Gary Pisoni) and Rosella’s vineyards. The name “ROAR” is
derived from the sound of the ocean winds that are characteristic in the Santa Lucia Highlands winegrowing
region. In 2007 and 2008, Gary planted Sierra Mar Vineyard, located six miles south of Garys’ Vineyard and
the Soberanes Vineyard, just south of Garys’ Vineyard which he is developing in partnership with the Pisoni
family. Roar was launched in 2001 with the goal of producing small lots of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah
from Rosella’s, Sierra Mar, Soberanes, Garys’ and Pisoni vineyards. The winemaker is Ed Kurtzman. The two
wines reviewed below are already sold out at the winery. The next release of 2011 ROAR wines will be July
2013. Join the mailing list at www.roarwines.com.
2011 ROAR Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.9% alc., pH 3.73, TA 0.54, 1,158 cases, $40. Pisoni, Swan
and Pommard clones harvested at 26.5º Brix. Aged 11 months in 46% new and 54% 1-year-old French oak
barrels. Unfined and unfiltered.
Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. Nicely perfumed with bright
aromas of dark berry jam, plum pudding and fresh brioche. Tasty essence of dark stone and berry fruits with
good concentration and a reasonably full, satiny finish. A solid, impressive appellation wine. Very good.
2011 ROAR Garys’ Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.9% alc., pH 3.62, TA 0.58, 641
cases, $52. Pisoni clone harvested at 26.8º Brix.. Aged 11 months in 77% new and 23% 1-year-old
French oak barrels. Unfined and unfiltered.
Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. Welcoming
aromas of red and black berry cobbler, black cherries and clove. Delicious core of dark red fruits with a
slight savory accent. Full-bodied with a seductively soft texture and very fine tannins. Beautiful
integration of oak. A little big and high in alcohol for me personally, but this is a great wine in its style.
Garys’ Vineyard seemed to perform beautifully in this vintage.
Sinor-LaVallee was founded by the husband and wife team of winemaker Mike Sinor and Cheri LaVallee Sinor
in Arroyo Grande in 1997. Mike started his career at Corbett Canyon Winery and then became assistant
winemaker under noted Central Coast vintner Ken Brown at Byron. He left after the 2000 harvest to become
winemaker at Domaine Alfred Winery in San Luis Obispo at the site of Chamisal Vineyard. It was here that he
met his stride and received considerable notoriety, directing vineyard operations, instituting biodynamic
farming, and crafting wines that brought the winery considerable national acclaim, particular for Pinot Noir. In
2006, Mike left Domaine Alfred (now Chamisal Vineyards) to focus on Ancient Peak Winery and the Sinor-
LaVallee label. Mike is one of the founding members of the World of Pinot Noir and has often served on the
board of that event. He crafts small lots of Pinot Noir and Syrah under the Sinor-LaVallee label from vineyards
that are within a bicycle ride from his home in Arroyo Grande. The label features Mike’s thumbprint on the left
and Cheri’s on the right with the kids’ thumbprints on the back label. Visit www.sinorlavallee.com.
2011 Sinor-LaVallee San Luis Obispo County Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 135 cases, $30. A blend of
fruit from Talley-Rincon Vineyard in Arroyo Grande and Squire Canyon Vineyard in Avila Beach.
Average yields 2.8 tons per acre. 25% whole cluster. Native and natural fermentation, pressed off
with a basket press. Aged 12 months in 50% new Francois Frères French oak barrels. Unfined
Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. The aromas have not arrived in
this wine yet, but with swirling, delicate scents of very ripe stone and berry fruit emerge with a
pleasant oak backing. The mid palate attack of strawberry, raspberry and plum fruit flavors are
moderately intense. The tannins are well managed and the wine finishes with modest but pleasing length.
2011 Sinor-LaVallee Talley-Rincon Vineyard Arroyo Grande Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 93 cases, $40.
Seventh vintage from this block. Yield 2.23 tons from one acre. 100% de-stemmed. Inoculated and native
fermentation. Aged 17 months in 50% new Francois Frères French oak barrels. Unfiltered.
reddish-purple color in the glass. Aromas of black cherries, black plum sauce, flint stone and forest floor. A
savory wine with layers of intense flavor and finishing power, featuring ripe dark red and purple fruits. Very
open and inviting with good structural bones and a bold demeanor. Very good.
2011 Sinor-LaVallee Aubaine Vineyard San Luis Obispo County Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 143
cases, $40. This 12-acre vineyard is south of Laetitia Winery on the eastern side of Highway 101.
Primarily 667 with a small amount of 777. 33% whole cluster. 50/50 inoculated and native
fermentation. Aged 17 months in 50% new Francois Frères French oak barrels. Unfiltered.
purple color in the glass. Scent of loganberry jam, raw beef, and roasted plum. Deep plum flavor with
a subtle sidecar of spice, dark chocolate and citrus. Very seductive velvety mouth feel with a robust,
long, long finish. Beautiful integration of oak. This wine can be a ball buster, but it is a chiseled
ballerina in this vintage that is oozing charm. Always a terroir-driven wine of distinction.
Waterstone Winery is a collaboration between winemaker Phillip Zorn and longtime wine executive Brent
Shortridge. The two men founded the label in 2000 in Napa Valley to produce luxury wines at affordable
prices. Zorn has winemaking experience at Sunny St. Helena, Gauer Estate, Paraiso Springs and Tria. The
portfolio includes Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc. The wines are available for
tasting at the Taste at Oxbow in downtown Napa. Visit www.waterstonewines.com.
2009 Waterstone Carneros Pinot Noir
14.4% alc., pH 3.63, TA 0.59, 1,241 cases, $22. A blend
of several clones from mature vines. 100% de-stemmed, whole berry fermented in open top
fermenters, aged 14 months in 35% new and 65% used French oak barrels. Gently fined and
filtered. Winemaker Philip Zorn.
Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Appealing
array of aromas quite accessible upon opening including dusty plum, cherry and strawberry with a
hint of rhubarb. Light and elegant in style, featuring dark red and purple fruits graced by gentle
tannins and accented with a spicy tone. An easy drinking, food-friendly wine. Good.
Zepaltas Wines is the eponymous label of Ryan Zepaltas, a young winemaker who assists at Siduri Wines
and started his own label with the 2005 vintage. He originally planned a career in skateboarding and moved to
Sebastopol to live with relatives and explore opportunities in the San Francisco Bay area. He soon made
friends with people in the wine industry including Mike Mendenhall, who was the cellar master at the time at La
Crema and he offered him a job. Ryan gradually took to winemaking and went to New Zealand to work a
harvest. Upon returning to California he found a harvest position at Siduri and has been there ever since.
Most recently he has been crafting the wines for Soliste as well. For more information and to order wines, visit
www.zepaltaswines.com. The 2011 wines will appeal to fans of lower alcohol, elegantly-styled Pinot Noir.
2011 Zepaltas Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.2% alc., pH 3.59, TA 0.60, 219 cases, $31. A blend of fruit from
four vineyards. Aged 14 months in 33% new French oak barrels.
Moderately light reddish-purple color in the
glass. Aromas of cherries, red berries, and spice with a slight pungent note. Light and delicate with soft
tannins, featuring cherry, red raspberry and strawberry flavors with a flowery note in the background. Decent.
2011 Zepaltas Nunes Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
13.8% alc., pH 3.65, TA 0.60, 48 cases,
$42. Clones 777 and 115. Aged 14 months in 40% new French oak barrels. Unfined and unfiltered.
reddish-purple color in the glass. A melange of aromas including dusty dark cherries, blueberries, rose petal,
cocoa and a hint of straw. An elegant, easy drinking wine with the tasty essence of fresh cherries with a touch
of spice and oak. Light in weight, with gossamer tannins, and a kiss of cherry on the finish. Good.
2011 Zepaltas La Cruz Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., pH 3.60, TA 0.60, 98 cases, $42.
Seventh vintage from this vineyard. 115, Pommard and 114 clones. Aged 14 months in 33% new French oak
barrels. Unfined and unfiltered.
Light reddish-purple color in the glass. The nose is expressive, offering
aromas of dark berries, plum, cooked cherries and a hint of fecundity. Light in weight with an elegant
demeanor, offering flavors of red raspberries and strawberries with a pleasing savory riff. A charming wine with
a delicate finish. Good (+).
Winemaker Ehren Jordan Leaves Turley At this year’s WOPN, I learned that Turley Wine Cellars
winemaker, Ehren Jordan, had left after eighteen years to concentrate on his highly successful personal label,
Failla. Failla was started in 1998 by Ehren and his spouse Anne-Marie Failla, specializing in cool-climate,
North Coast Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah. Ehren was a featured panelist at this year’s In Pursuit of
Balance and a lengthy interview with him was conducted at this event by Eric Anderson and myself for Grape
Radio (look for posting soon at graperadio.com).
New Oregon and California Pinot Noir Projects According to Wine Spectator (March 12,
2013), Mark Tarlov, who started Evening Land Vineyards in 2005 and left in January 2012, has launched a new
Willamette Valley label, Chapter 24, which produced 4,200 cases of Pinot Noir from the 2012 harvest. The
consulting winemaker will be Burgundian Louis-Michel Liger-Belair, working with winemaker Mike D. Etzel, the
son of Beaux Frères winemaker Michael Etzel. Chapter 24 has also developed a marketing partnership with
Patricia Green Cellars and the two wineries will have a joint project, Two Messengers, which in 2011 will
consist of a barrel selection of Patricia Green Cellars Pinot Noir. Chapter 24 has a number of notable vineyard
sources, including the Patricia Green Estate, Hyland Estates, Shea Vineyard, Lachini Vineyard and Nysa
Vineyard. Tarlov plans to set up his own winemaking facility soon and is planning to purchase one or two
vineyards in the Willamette Valley. In 2012, Evening Land sold its four Sta. Rita Hills vineyards, a total of 40
acres, to winemaker Sashi Moorman, sommelier Rajat Parr and their business partners who plant to launch
their own estate label, Domaine de la Côte, this year. The site is very marginal and the resulting wines will
have lower alcohols and be vinified with whole cluster and indigenous yeast.
Jackson Family Wines Entering Oregon The Wine Spectator (March 13, 2013) reported that
Jackson Family Wines is negotiating to buy three vineyards in the Willamette Valley as part of a plan to
increase the offerings of the La Crema label. Winemaker Joe Dobbes will be the winemaker for the 2012
vintage for La Crema Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. La Crema currently produces 900,000 cases of wine annually. The vineyard
acquisitions are part of CalPERS Oregon properties. This will definitely raise the profile of the Willamette
Valley, although it remains to be seen if this turns out to be good or bad for Oregon’s Pinot Noir reputation.
Napa and Sonoma All Stars Tasting The respected wine retailer in Los Angeles, Wally’s, is
holding an All Stars tasting under the Big Top at Wally’s on Sunday, April 21 from 1-4 PM. Nearly 100 wineries
will be pouring including Pinot Noir notables Belle Gloss, DuMOL, Flowers, Fort Ross, Hartford Court, Hirsch
Vineyards, Merry Edwards, Patz & Hall, Paul Hobbs, Robert Sinskey, Walter Hansel, and more. All Stars event
special pricing on wines will be extended to attendees. Visit www.wallywine.com for tickets.
Williams Selyem Shatters Auction Record A 9-Liter bottle of Williams Selyem Westside Road
Neighbors Pinot Noir won the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo™ Reserve Grand Champion and Best of
Show award. A 9-Liter bottle of the winning wine was auctioned at the Champion Wine Auction and Dinner on
March 2, 2013, and sold for a record $205,000! The proceeds go to youth programs in Texas.
Pruning Video This time of year there is pruning going on in many California vineyards. Check out this
good video from Kerith Overstreet at Bruliam Wines, seen pruning with a crew at her Torrey Hill Estate
Vineyard in the Russian River Valley. Visit www.vimeo.com/61071625.
Vintage Wine Weekend at Four Seasons Resort Maui A three day wine and culinary event
on May 24-26, 2013, that will feature vintners Gary Burke of Costa de Oro, Steve Clifton of Brewer-Clifton,
Donald Patz of Patz & Hall, and Dan Kosta of Kosta Browne. The weekend starts with a special dinner at
which guests are asked to bring a favorite magnum. The second night offers three wine-paired dinners. The
third night offers an Oceanfront Gala featuring local foods and 40 exclusive wines. To reserve, contact
email@example.com or call 1-808-874-2201.
Second Annual Oregon Chardonnay Symposium This event will be held May 4, 2013, at Red
Ridge Farms and will feature a new wave of smaller producers who have set out to define their signature style
of Willamette Valley Chardonnay. The event will begin with an educational and interactive panel discussion,
featuring eight artisan producers and nationally renowned wine writers. The discussion will include a technical
tasting of very limited production Chardonnays. The moderator is Katherine Cole, wine columnist for The
Oregonian, and the panelists are Paul Gregutt, wine columnist for The Seattle Times and NW editor of Wine
Enthusiast Magazine, and W. Blake Gray, author of the Gray Report blog. Participating wineries are Arterberry
Maresh, Big Table Farm, Crowley, Division Winemaking Company, Durant Vineyards, EIEIO, Matello and
Walter Scott. A walk-around tasting at Durant Vineyards Tasting Room will follow the panel discussion. Sixty
tickets available ($60). Call Red Ridge Farms at 503-864-8502.
Hedges Family Estate “Rules for Attending a Wine Festival” I received this in a recent email
from Hedges Family Estate in Red Mountain, Washington, and it made me laugh out loud.
Don’t tether your wine glass to your neck
Don’t pinch your fingers and say, “Just a little.” Dump it if you don’t want to finish it, but I’m going to pour as
much as I damn well please.
Don’t violently lift your glass mid-pour and say, “That’s enough.” Same deal as above.
Don’t say, “Give me the biggest thing you have.” This isn’t NASCAR.
Don’t say “smooth.” Give this word the day off from your vocabulary....the whole day.
Don’t shove. I mean....really.
Don’t say you hate Merlot. We all saw ‘Sideways.’ Remember the bottle Miles drank at the end of the movie was
Cheval Blanc which has plenty of Merlot in it.
Don’t tell every winemaker about the winery that was down the street when you lived in Lodi.
Don’t ask how the wine scored....ever.
Don’t lick your glass....pig.
Don’t talk about your sulfite allergy. There is a good chance you have no idea what you are talking about.
Don’t dump wine into the water pitcher. And, always look before you drink out of it.
Don’t talk about the legs after you swirl the glass. Here is a tip: the legs have little do with wine quality.
Don’t take your heels off and puke in the lobby.
Don’t ask what the most expensive wine on the table is.
Don’t proclaim that you don’t like white or rosé because we will make fun of you when you walk away.
Don’t wear after shave or perfume. And, go light on the lipstick, honey.
Don’t try to impress your date by contradicting the pourer. You are going to fail. Try me.
Do keep the rim of your wine glass food-free.
Do practice spitting at home. It will come in handy.
Do wear a “Wine’er, Dine’er, 69’er” T-shirt.
I added a few of my own:
Don’t grab a bottle and help yourself.
Don’t carry two glasses.
Don’t sign up for a mailing list unless you really mean it.
Do say thanks for the pour(s).
Do drink water, eat some food, and drink responsibly.
Outstanding in the Field 2013 Tour Details The 2013 North American schedule for farm dinners
is now posted on the website at www.outstandinginthefield.com. Tickets go on sale March 20, the first day of
spring. This year there are dinners at Scribe Winery in Sonoma Carneros and Robert Sinskey Vineyards in
Napa as well as Pinot Noir grower Devil’s Gulch Ranch in Marin County.
Gallo Releases 5.5% White Wine There has been interest in low-alcohol wines in the UK and
Europe and that popularity has begun to spread to the US. Gallo has released a “Summer White” with 5.5%
alcohol which is a blend of Chenin Blanc, Colombard, Moscato and Riesling. According to The Drinks
Business, this wine is a sister wine to Gallo Summer Red which launched in the UK in 2011. The type of dealcoholization
process used was not specified. Reportedly, the wine tastes of “ripe apple, pear and citrus with
subtle floral notes.” Gallo also offers a 9% Barefoot Pink Moscato.
Conservation Fund Buys Preservation Ranch in Northwestern Sonoma County
The Press Democrat (February 26, 2013) reported that a conservation group has bought 20,000 acres of
timberland near Annapolis that was scheduled for 1,769 acres of commercial vineyard development by
CalPERS, the California workers pension fund. The Cal PERS project had been hotly contested by
Mediterranean Diet Study Significant Spanish researchers reported a study in the New England
Journal of Medicine (Estruch, R., et al., “Primary prevention of cardiovascular disease with a Mediterranean
diet.”) recently that found among persons of high cardiovascular risk, a Mediterranean diet (Med-Diet)
supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts reduced the incidence of major cardiovascular events. 7,447
subjects were followed for several years. Two versions of the Med-Diet (one with large amounts of extra-virgin
olive oil and one with a supplement of mixed nuts) were compared to a control group of subjects who followed
a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet. The first two groups who followed a Med-Diet were found to have a 30% less
rate of heart attack, stroke and death due to cardiovascular disease. Many nutrition experts touted the
findings. A large majority of the subjects consumed wine at baseline, some consuming 7 or more glasses of
wine a week during the trial. Alcohol consumption was not evaluated specifically for its effects. The
International Scientific Forum on Alcohol Research reviewed the study. They concluded the following. “The
striking reduction in risk shown in the study from the Med-Diet provide further evidence of the effectiveness of
such a diet in reducing cardiovascular disease. A very large amount of scientific data now support advice to
follow a Mediterranean-type diet that does not restrict calories, but encourages the intake of selected fats
(which may include extra-virgin olive oil or canola oil), as well as more fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and wine.
It may be the most effective approach for reducing cardiovascular disease.”
Helicopter Rides Over Vineyards an Exhilarating Experience in Sonoma County
Wines & Vines (February 20, 2013) reported that helicopters have been used for some time for surveying
vineyards. I have noticed an increasing number of aerial shots of vineyards on winery websites. Helicopters
can also be used for frost control, mildew control and the application of pesticides and cover crop seeds.
Unmanned drone mini-helicopters may be employed in the future. Besides these commercial applications,
helicopters are being used for wine tourists to view the topography of Sonoma County. Sonoma Helicopters at
Charles M. Schultz Airport in Santa Rosa offers a package of wine tasting and a helicopter tour above the Dry
Creek, Alexander and Russian River Valleys. Clos Du Bois and Mazzocco Sonoma have offered deals with
Sonoma Helicopters. The most popular charter is a 1-hour flight for three people over the Russian River out to
the Jenner coast ($600). Visit www.sonomahelicopter.com.
Summer Alaska Wine Cruise Handley Cellars and Greenwood Ridge Vineyards will be pouring
aboard a Celebrity ship on this cruise. Seven nights from August 16-23, 2013. Set sail from Seattle for visits to
the ports of Ketchikan, Tracy Arm Fjord, Juneau, Inside Passage, Skagway and Victoria. Wine tasting
seminars, wine pairing luncheon, Champagne galley tour. Special offer if you book between March 15 - April
15. For information contact Marie Lewis at 800-301-9673 ext 543. Sponsored by Touring & Tasting, The
Premier Guide to Wine Country.
Pinot Noir 2013 Video Wine journalist Jamie Goode posted a video on his website
(www.wineanorak.com) about the Pinot Noir 2013 conference recently held in Wellington, New Zealand. Go to
Patz & Hall 25th Anniversary Video Who says wine is too serious? A video on wine that won’t put
you to sleep! Cameos from people like Gary Pisoni. Best six minutes you can spend. Visit http://youtu.be/FAPDG2JYQzA.
German Pinot Noir Receiving Recognition There have been a number of articles in the press
recently on German Pinot Noir. German wine expert Stuart Pigott says, “A new generation of winemakers and
wine drinkers take serious indigenous Pinot Noir wines for granted. But the world is still catching up on this
development....these wines often hold their own in aroma, concentration and harmony.” One of the problems is
that really good German Pinot Noir rarely leaves the country so there is low visibility in international markets.
At a recent spring auction of the “Hessische Staatsweingüter Kloster Eberbach,” a 1953 Assmannshäuser
Höllenberg Spätburgunder fetched $3,300. The Kloster Eberbach domain has a library of Spätburgunder
dating back to 1882. The price for this wine reflects the admiration for German Spätburgunder.
Oregon Passes Wine Growler Bill House Bill 2443, which was discussed in the last issue, allows
wine to be sold in large, customer-supplied containers. It was passed in March by the House and will likely
pass the Oregon Senate as well. Wine and cider would be available in 2 gallon jugs that can be washed and
reused and will assist wineries who want to sell their wine in kegs.
Emeritus Hosts End of Frost Party Emeritus Vineyards is a small, estate vineyard and winery
producing Russian River Valley Pinot Noir. Emeritus farms over 180 acres of Pinot Noir across three
vineyards. The party will be held at Emeritus’ home, Hallberg Ranch on Highway 128. For the first time,
Emeritus is opening up their Annual End of Frost Party to everyone. President Brice Cutrer Jones will lead the
festivities including vineyard tours with Vineyard Manager Kirk Locca, barrel tastings with winemaker Nicolas
Cantacuzene, along with new releases, live music and food. Tickets are $40 per person and available from the
Emeritus Vineyards website at www.emeritusvineyards.com/events or at the door.
16th Annual Anderson Valley Pinot Noir FestivalGet your tickets now because this event
sells out every year by April 1. The dates are May 19-20, 2013. Technical conference Friday, BBQ Friday night
at Scharffenberger Cellars, Grand Tasting from more than 40 producers on Saturday, winemaker dinners at
Apple Farm, Little River Inn, Roederer Estate, and Aquarelle Saturday night. Visit www.avwines.com for details
The California Directory of Fine Wineries Central Coast Edition
This hard bound, beautifully illustrated book hits all the high notes for those interested in wineries of the Central
Coast regions of Santa Barbara County and San Luis Obispo County. It is not an all-inclusive guide, but a
selection of prominent wineries that are among the best California has to offer. Many of the wineries chosen
among the fifty featured are those with picturesque winery facilities and tasting rooms, beautifully photographed
by noted travel and wine country photographer, Robert Holmes.
The authors give a detailed history of each winery and extensive valuable information including location, hours,
tours, varietals produced and specialty varietals offered, winemaker, and other special features of each winery.
No wine reviews are offered or judgments extended concerning wine quality, just inviting, succinct and colorful
vignettes of each winery.
Maps are included for those inclined to bring this reference along on their wine touring escapades. For those
who want to hone in on one or several varietals, there is a comprehensive listing of the varietals produced by
each of the included wineries, a valuable summary that is difficult to find from any other source.
If you are a Pinot Noir lover, you will find wineries such as Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards, Cambria Estate
Winery, Carr Vineyards & Winery, Chamisal Vineyards, Laetitia Vineyard & Winery, and Presqu’ile Winery
described inside the Directory.
If you have ever longed to visit the wine country in the Central Coast of California, this book will provide the
impetus to find a babysitter, pack some comfortable, casual clothes and sunscreen, jump in the car, and head
out for a joyous road trip. Be sure to have this handy guide by your side.
The California Directory of Fine Wineries Central Coast Second Edition, K. Reka Badger and Cheryl
Crabtree, writers, Tom Silberklett, editor and publisher, Wine House Press, 2013, 144 pp. $13.57. Available at