Ehren Jordan's biography reads like something out of a Ken Kersey novel. While a young adult studying art history and classic archeology at George Washington University, he took a part time job in a retail wine shop. The experience convinced him to flee to the West, eventually settling in Aspen, Colorado, where he skied, worked busing and waiting tables and eventually becoming a resident sommelier. Armed with the accumulated experience from his retail and restaurant exposure, he set his sites on the coastal region of California.
Arriving in the Napa Valley, he applied for a job as a part time tour guide at Joseph Phelps where he met Bruce Neyers, the Vice President of Phelps. Jordan quickly advanced within the company, and became the head of regional and national marketing, eventually hired to do cellar work and winemaking.
He then moved to Europe to work for Jon Luc Columbo in France's Rhone Valley where he honed his Syrah-Grenache skills. After returning stateside, he renewed his association with Neyers, taking the winemaking job at Neyers in 1994 and then at Turley in 1996.
Failla (pronounced FAY-la) was originally founded as Failla Jordan in 1998, taking its name from the husband-and-wife team of winemaker Ehren Jordan and fellow debtor Anne-Marie Failla. That year the Estate vineyard on the Sonoma Coast was planted and together they began buying fruit for their first releases, the very Rhône-style ‘98 Alban Vineyard Viognier and ‘98 Que Syrah Syrah. Jordan also obtained Pinot Noir from Summa Vineyard on the Sonoma Coast years ago. After three vintages, legal issues over the use of the word Jordan (as in Jordan Winery) in the name forced them to continue the label as simply "Failla".
"Failla" debuted with a new Chuck House-designed label in the fall of 2002. The original label, designed by Anne-Marie's sister Marybeth, has been archived and the first three vintages will join either the pantheon of collectors' items or the fraternity of the oddities bin.
Ehren spent several years looking for unique, cool-climate Pinot Noir sources. After tasting Marcassin's Pinot Noir from the Fort Ross-Seaview region of the Sonoma Coast, he bought 43 acres from a couple of pot farmers on what is known as the Gualala Ranch. The Failla Estate Vineyard consists of 11 acres of organically farmed Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah.
The portfolio has included Pinots from the Hirsch Vineyard on the Sonoma Coast (added in 2001) as well a Keefer Ranch in Green Valley. The 2005 vintage brought Pinot Noirs from Occidental Ridge on the Sonoma Coast, and Rancho Santa Rosa in the Santa Rita Hills north of Santa Barbara. 2006 included Appian Way Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley, as well as Peay Vineyards and Estate Pinot from the Sonoma Coast. In 2011, vineyard sources include Hudson Vineyard (Chardonnay), Haynes Vineyard (Chardonnay), Pearlessence Vineyard (Sonoma Coast), Whistler Vineyard (Sonoma Coast).
Chardonnay is produced with native yeast fermentations, 100% malolactic fermentation with no battonage. The wines are unfined and unfiltered. Pinot Noir is also fermented with native yeasts, pressed gently with a basket press, and are never racked, fined or filtered. Single-vineyard Pinot Noirs include 5%-10% whole cluster and are aged 12 months in 25%-30% new French oak barrels.
The lineup of wines (which includes Chardonnay, Viognier and Syrah) are sold through a mailing list. Pinot Noir represents 70% of production. The winery and tasting room is located at 3530 Silverado Trail in St. Helena. 707-963-0530
Articles About Failla Wines
12th Annual World of Pinot Noir: Wines that Caught My Interest (9.4 3/21/2012)
2014 California Chardonnay All-Americans (10.2 12/22/2014)
2014 California Pinot Noir Honorable Mention All-Americans (10.2 12/22/2014)
Along The Pinot Trail: 2013 World of Pinot Noir (9.23 4/13/2013)
Blast from 2011 World of Pinot Noir (8.33 3/12/2011)
Celebrated Vineyards Focus Tasting (7.24 8/28/2009)
Embarrassment of Riches: California (9.1 1/11/2012)
Failla Wines (9.38 2/22/2014)
Green Valley Pinot Noir: The Secret is a Three Letter Word (8.11 2/15/2010)
In Pursuit of Balance: A Discriminating Goal (9.20 2/26/2013)
Marcy Keefer & Craig Strehlow: Keefer Ranch (6.62 7/19/2008)
Part II: History of Fort Ross-Seaview Area (9.28 8/14/2013)
Part III: Fort Ross-Seaview AVA Today (9.28 8/14/2013)
Part IV: Tasting Pinot Noir from the Fort Ross-Seaview AVA (9.28 8/14/2013)
Pinot Briefs (9.21 3/23/2013)
Pinot Briefs (9.39 3/29/2014)
Sips of California Pinot Noir: Recently Sampled Wines (9.23 4/13/2013)
Sips of Recently Tasted California Pinot Noir (& Chardonnay) (10.1 12/11/2014)
Tastes of World of Pinot Noir (10.7 4/6/2015)
The 9th Annual World of Pinot Noir (7.16 4/18/2009)
West Sonoma Coast Vintners (8.32 3/1/2011)
2013 Failla Occidental Ridge Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.8% alc., · Moderately light reddish purple color in the glass. The dreamy aromas of cherry pie and brown baking spices are intoxicating. Impressive harmony and flavor, featuring mid weight black cherry and black raspberry fruits with good tension and slightly steely acidity. Impressive finishing drive and length. I really liked this wine for its bright demeanor. Score: 92-94. Reviewed April 4, 2015 ARTICLE »
2012 Failla Pearlessence Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.6% alc., 325 cases, $45. A 2-acre vineyard located near the town of Sebastopol. Aged in about 25% new French oak barrels. · Moderate reddishpurple color in the glass. Fragrant with scents of dark cherries and berries, red plum, nutmeg and cozy oak. Delicious dark plum and purple berry fruits enhanced by a hint of spice and citrus, wrapped in balanced tannins, finishing with a very long, acid-driven finish. The darkest fruited of the three Pinots tasted here and showing the longest finish. Score: 91. Reviewed February 22, 2014 ARTICLE »
2012 Failla Keefer Ranch Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., 900 cases, $48. 100% de-stemmed, aged sur lie in 33% new French oak barrels. · Moderately light reddish-purple hue in the glass. Vibrant aromas of fresh cherries, baking spices and sandalwood. Juicy and crisp, like biting into an iced cherry. Subtle touches of spice, earth and oak add interest. Very forward and easy to cozy up to with a long, aciddriven, mineral-laced finish. This wine really shows off the terroir of this Green Valley vineyard and could be a poster child for that cool-climate appellation. Will age beautifully. Score: 94. Reviewed February 22, 2014 ARTICLE »
2012 Failla Whistler Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.1% alc. 260 cases, $52, This site lies in the northern most reaches of Sonoma County and all three acres are exclusively sold to Failla. Aged in 33% new French oak barrels. Some whole cluster inclusion during fermentation. · Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Shy aromas of forest floor and black cherry pick up interest over time in the glass. Mid weight flavors of darker cherries and boysenberries with a subtle undertone of oak and stem. More body than the Keefer with less acidity. The tannins are well proportioned and the wine drinks seamlessly. Pleasant now, but not exciting and needs more time in the cellar. Tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle, the stem note had disappeared and the wine offered an appealingly soft mouth feel. Score: 90. Reviewed February 22, 2014 ARTICLE »
2012 Failla Occidental Ridge Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., 575 cases, $55. · Medium reddish purple color in the glass. Pleasant aromas of mixed berries, sous-bois, and subtle oak and vanilla. A nuanced wine with considerable charm, offering flavors of boysenberry, black raspberry, black cherry, plum, spice and a woodsy conifer edge. Impeccable harmony with an impressive finish lifted by refreshing acidity. Quintessential west Sonoma Coast gem. Score: 92. Reviewed December 10, 2014 ARTICLE »
2011 Failla Estate Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.45% alc., pH 3.85, TA 0.55. Southeast aspect, clones 777, Swan and Calera, 101.14 rootstock, Franciscan Complex soil. Average Brix 23.5º, 20% whole cluster, aged 12 months in 30% new French oak. · Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Deep, dark fruit is the theme on the nose and palate. Juicy, with good acidity, balanced tannins and a generous finish. Picks up a spicy, savory bent over time. Reviewed August 14, 2013 ARTICLE »
2011 Failla Occidental Ridge Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., $N/A. · Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Nicely perfumed with cherries and red rose petals. The flavor doesn’t match the aroma, offering highly delicate red fruits backed by very lacy tannins. Shallow but pleasant. Decent. Reviewed April 13, 2013 ARTICLE »
2011 Failla Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., $35. · Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Well-perfumed with fresh berry jam and spice. Middleweight flavors of black cherries and black raspberries which show good ripeness, backed by suave tannins and zingy acidity. The finish comes up a bit short. Not extraordinary, but a solid wine for the dinner table. Good. Reviewed April 13, 2013 ARTICLE »
2011 Failla Keefer Ranch Russian River Valley Chardonnay
14.1% alc., 425 cases, $42. Very cool growing season. 25% of grapes were fermented in concrete egg vessels and 75% in 33% new French oak barrels. · Pale yellow color and clear in the glass. Appealing aromas of pear, applesauce, pastry cream, toffee and vanilla wafer. Slightly creamy and plush on the palate with vivid flavors of poached pear, baked apple, finishing with a Carmel apple note and a charge of bright acidity. This wine has the apple by the tail. Score: 94. Reviewed February 22, 2014 ARTICLE »
2011 Failla Keefer Ranch Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., $46. · Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Shy aromas of red cherries and berries, oak, stem and balsam. Mid-weight flavors of red cherries with a savory herb and smoky oak accent in the background. Soft in the mouth with gentle tannins and bright acidity. Well-crafted, but doesn’t have the ripeness and stuffing I have come to expect from this stellar vineyard. I do like it for its femininity. Good. Reviewed April 13, 2013 ARTICLE »
2011 Failla Chuy Vineyard Sonoma Valley Chardonnay
14.1% alc., 300 cases, $58. Dry-farmed, head-trained site tended by Chuy Ordaz since he planted the vineyard in 1964. Very tiny yields from Wente clone planting. · Moderate golden yellow color and clear in the glass. Fresh aromas of ocean air, apple pie and See’s toffee. Seamless on the palate, with assertive flavors of lemon and apple, and a silky mouth feel. Well-crafted with impeccable balance. The stony acid structure in this wine will lend itself to food. Score: 92. Reviewed February 22, 2014 ARTICLE »
2009 Failla Hirsch Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.9% alc.. Unreleased. · Delicious and seductive, this beautifully crafted wine has the whole package of modest alcohol, bright and fresh berry aromas, discreetly concentrated dark berry flavors, bright acidity, well-proportioned tannic backbone, smooth mouth feel and lengthy aromatic intensity. Still very young, but possesses a very bright future. One of the best Pinot Noirs I tasted over the three days. Very good (+). Reviewed March 12, 2011 ARTICLE »
2009 Failla Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., $30. · Dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Complex nose offering scents of dark berries, brier, redwood, oak cask, bacon and rose petals. Fairly intense array of dark red raspberry and red plum flavors with a savory oak and floral undertone. Straightforward with a pleasingly rich mouth feel. Good (+). Reviewed January 11, 2012 ARTICLE »
2007 Failla Vivian Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., unreleased. Founded in 1998, Failla is the project of winemaker Ehren Jordan and his wife Anne-Marie Failla. Jordan has a distinguished history of winemaking at Neyers Vineyards and Turley Wine Cellars. His Pinot Noirs, which are sourced from prime California coastal vineyards, have been superb of late. · The nose is light, airy and slightly grassy. Tasty and intense boysenberry core with lively acidity on a lingering finish. Reviewed April 18, 2009 ARTICLE »
2007 Failla Keefer Ranch Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., $47. · The nose is dominated by purple fruits, mushrooms, oak and brioche. On the palate, the flavors echo the aromas with added interest offered by savory herbs. Smooth and full-bodied, even muscular, with silky tannins, good acidity and some persistence on the fruity finish. Decent. Reviewed February 15, 2010 ARTICLE »
2006 Failla Keefer Ranch Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., $45. · Confected cherries, exotic spices, and dried herbs fill the nose. Delicious and juicy black cherry flavor with a sidecar of anise and savory herbs. Silky smooth and seamless with diaphanous tannins. A little bigger than the Keefer Ranch label, but hard to choose between them. Reviewed July 19, 2008 ARTICLE »
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