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W.H. Smith

Owner(s) Bill Smith, Joan Smith
Web site www.whsmithwines.com
 
Link to this site

Friend and winemaker Helen Turley inspired Bill Smith to try his hand at Pinot Noir. He had already been very successful with La Jota Vineyards on Howell Mountain which he eventually sold in 2000. In 1982, under a new W. H. Smith Wines label, the Smiths released their first vintage of Sonoma County Pinot Noir. Passionate for Pinot, in 1994 Bill and Joan Smith purchased 360 acres along the Sonoma Coast on a ridge high above the town of Cazadero. The first vintage of Maritime Ridge Vineyards—the Smith's rising star—was harvested in 2002 and was released in the spring of 2004. W.H.Smith now has four Pinot Noirs: a Sonoma Coast blend, Marimar Estate Vineyard, Hellenthal Vineyard, Umino Vineyard and the flagship Maritime Vineyard all from the Sonoma Coast appellation. The Maritime Ridge Vineyard was sold to Del Dotto in the Napa Valley in 2004. At 78 years of age, Smith still does most of the winemaking for his label assisted by Carlos Montero.

The wines have been lauded and are sold through a mailing list with some retail distribution. The Pinot Noirs are quite prodigious, thick with fruit and extract and tannin, and need time in the bottle to mellow. No tours or tasting. Production is 4,400 cases including Piedra Hill Cabernet Sauvignon.

Reviewed Wines

2010 W.H. Smith Hellenthal Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., 226 cases, $48. This vineyard is owned and farmed by Gard and Lori Hellenthal and lies only 5 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean. Clones are Pommard and 777. Extreme growing conditions were challenging in 2010. Aged 9 months in new and used French oak barrels. · Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Shy aromas of cherry, cranberry and smoky oak. Gentle and light in weight in this vintage, with delicate flavors of spiced cherry, red berries and oak-driven toast and smoke. Welcoming finesse with less tannin presence in this vintage and some finishing length. The wine showed more oak presence the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. Score: 88. Reviewed December 18, 2013 ARTICLE »

2010 W.H. Smith Marimar Estate Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., $48. Sourced from Marimar Torres’ organic, 12-acre Dona Margarita Vineyard. Located only 6 miles from the Pacific Ocean between the towns of Freestone and Occidental in Western Sonoma County. High-density planting of 2,340 vines per acre. Clones are Pommard 667 and 115. Aged 9 months in 100% new French oak barrels. · Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. The nose offers an array of red cherry and berry aromas with a little funkiness and earthy flora scent which reminds me why I love Pinot Noir. Smooth and elegant on the palate with nothing out of place. Mid weight flavors of dark red cherries and raspberries with a hint of peppery spice and complimentary oak. The tannins are reserved, the acidity is supportive and the wine is drinking beautifully now. This wine has the best integration of oak of the three wines tasted here. Score: 92. Reviewed December 18, 2013 ARTICLE »

2010 W.H. Smith Maritime Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., 382 cases, $54. A blend of several vineyards representing the best offering from the vintage. Aged 10 months in 100% new French oak barrels. · Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Aromas of cherry, toasty oak, sandalwood and campfire. Luscious oak-kissed red cherry core wrapped in sinewy, balanced tannins. Plenty of current drinking appeal with some finishing persistence. I am not a big fan of oak, but I could see how some might love the marriage of oak and fruit in this wine. Score: 88. Reviewed December 18, 2013 ARTICLE »

2007 W.H. Smith Maritime Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., $44. · Herbal oak dominates the aromas and carries over in the flavor profile background. Medium weighted dark red fruits with a wild and feral character backed by savory herbs. Smooth in the mouth. Good without being special. Reviewed April 23, 2010 ARTICLE »

2006 W.H. Smith Marimar Estate Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

13.6% alc., $48. Note: with first pass, the W.H. Smith Pinot Noirs from the 2006 vintage were disappointing to me. I re-corked the bottles and re-tasted the next day. What a difference! This was a lesson in wine tasting and a realization that wine is almost a living, breathing organism. All of the wines were different and much better the next day, showing a softer and smoother side with fruit more front and center. I think the lesson to be learned here is that if you don't particularly like a wine at first, try it later or even the next day and sometimes you will be surprised. That said, the W.H. Smith Pinot Noirs are endowed with plenty of fruit and tannin, and are structured in a California Neuvo style that may not appeal to everyone. Ex-Cab drinkers will probably find the wines quite attractive. (Smith formerly produced Cabernet-based wines at La Jota). · The nose is closed down but with coaxing there is a hint of black cherries, spices and forest floor . The flavors shine with very nice raspberry, black cherry and plum fruit with deft oak highlights. Well-balanced with reserved tannins and lively acidity. The best of the 2006 W.H. Smith Pinot Noir lineup. Reviewed April 7, 2008 ARTICLE »

2006 W.H. Smith Marimar Estate Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

13.6% alc., $48.

Note: both this wine and the 2006 Maritime Vineyard Pinot Noir were a noticeable departure from the 2005 vintage Pinot Noirs from W.H. Smith. The 2005 wines were dense, tannic and big, requiring decanting to enjoy. The 2006 wines are much more approachable. · An elegant, even feminine wine featuring nicely oaked dark red cherry fruit with a sidecar of baking spices. Powdery tannins create a smooth texture and the clean finish shows balanced acidity. Reviewed October 1, 2008 ARTICLE »

2006 W.H. Smith Umino Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

13.6% alc., $48. See notes on Marimar Estate Pinot Noir. · Upon early sampling the nose featured spiced dark fruits which carried over on the palate. Finishes with plenty of fruit energy. The next day from the re-corked bottle the fruit was more integrated with a nice smoky accent and the texture had softened. Much more appealing the following day. Reviewed April 7, 2008 ARTICLE »

2006 W.H. Smith Maritime Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., $54. No website. 707-965-9726. See notes on Marimar Torres Pinot Noir. · A woody bent to the nose and flavors. Shy red fruits a medicinal note in the aromatics followed by black cherry, earth and iodine flavors. After drinking this, I said, “What’s the fuss about?” This was a reference to the generous scores this wine received in past. Not so fast! The next day from a re-corked bottle, the wine was quite good with deep dark showy fruit and exotic wood accents. The medicinal note had completely resolved. The mouth feel was pure velvet and the wine was quite enjoyable. Reviewed April 7, 2008 ARTICLE »

2006 W.H. Smith Maritime Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., $54. · This is a well oaked wine featuring redder fruits including Maraschino cherry. Dried herbs are prominent as is a slight green note. Very soft and drinkable, with bright acidity on the back end. Reviewed October 1, 2008 ARTICLE »