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Scott Sisemore is the only stay-at-home dad and winemaker that I know of. Scott has an impressive winemaking background that followed his graduation from Oregon State University with a BS degree in microbiology. From 1993 to 2000, he worked at a custom crush facility in Mendocino County and was involved with the Mark West label. He spent time making wine abroad in both India and Chile. After stints at Rosenblum and Ravenswood learning red wine making techniques, he returned to school obtaining an MS degree from University California Davis. He then became the assistant winemaker at Pellegrini Family Vineyards where I met up with him originally. Scott left Pellegrini in 2006 to stay at home with his newborn son. His wife had a well-paying job for a biotechnology company with good benefits so it made more sense for Scott to take over the daily household duties.
To keep his professional drive alive, he founded a small winery, Waxwing Wine Cellars, to enable him to create ultra-small lot, handcrafted, cool climate Pinot Noir and Syrah. I visited with Scott at his leased space at Domenico Wines in San Carlos, California. We talked a little Pinot but mainly about his hobby ultimate Frisbee and the origin of the name Waxwing. The waxwing is a migratory bird named for beads of shiny red material (“sealing wax”) on the tips of the secondary wing feathers, the function of which is open to much speculation. The bird has a propensity for over eating (they have been known to be so gluttonous as to be unable to fly) and constant chatter.
The inaugural Waxwing wine, the 2007 Toboni Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, was released early in 2009. Scott met Joe Toboni while working at Pellegrini and the friendship allowed him to source grapes from this excellent vineyard. Production is less than 100 cases per year.
The Waxwing Pinot Noir and Syrah are sold on the website. Tasting is by appointment (415-902-3468).
2016 Waxwing Blair Vineyard Arroyo Seco Pinot Noir Rosé
12.7% alc., 42 cases, $23. Release March 2017. Pommard 4 clone. Whole cluster pressed, fermented in stainless steel. Aged in barrels with weekly lees stirring. Bottled January 27, 2017, after 3 months in barrel. · Delicate apricot color in the glass. This is a people-pleasing wine with many admirable attributes. The nose is alive and sustained in the glass, offering aromas of apricot, strawberry, cherry, blood orange and a floral note. The delicious flavors of cherry, strawberry white peach and apricot have good weight and are bright and lifted. The wine is perfectly balanced with fresh acidity, finishing with a blood orange tang. The best domestic rosé that I have experienced in quite awhile. Serve chilled of course. Score: 93. Reviewed February 13, 2017 ARTICLE »
2014 Waxwing Blair Vineyard Arroyo Seco Pinot Noir Rosé
13.1% alc., 86 cases, $23. Released April 2015. Dijon clones. Aged 7 months in stainless steel. · Light pinkish orange color in the glass. Aromas of nectarine, strawberry, raspberry, blood orange, and dried herbs are replicated in the flavors. Impressive complexity with good polish and harmony, finishing with a good cut of acidity. A highly enjoyable rosé that hopefully won’t be sold out by the time you read this. Score: 91. Reviewed June 14, 2015 ARTICLE »
2014 Waxwing “Bohemian Blend” California Red Table Wine
13.9% alc., 98 cases, $28. Released October 2015. 50% Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir from the Lester Family Vineyard and 50% Bennett Valley Syrah from Three Creeks Vineyard in Sonoma County. 100% of the fruit was crushed by foot whole cluster and fermented with indigenous yeast in open-top fermenters. Aged 11 months in once-used French oak barrels. · Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. Engaging aromas of blackberry, black cherry, tobacco and oak spice. This mid weight plus wine is enjoyable and silky in the mouth, but it drinks more like a Syrah and the Pinot Noir fruit is swallowed up by the Syrah fruit and tannins. The core flavors are black cherry, blackberry, spice and vanilla, maintaining some intensity on the finish that displays a noticeable rush of tannins. A marvelous foil for a steak. Score: 88. Reviewed November 5, 2015 ARTICLE »
2014 Waxwing Spring Hill Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
12.5% alc., 89 cases, $39. Released March 2016. Fifth bottling from this vineyard located between the town of Petaluma and the northern tip of Point Reyes in the center of the Petaluma Gap. 20 acres were planted between 2001 and 2003 to Swan, Pommard, Calera, and Dijon 667, 777 and 115 clones. This bottling is 100% Pommard clone. Harvest Brix 22.7º. All fruit crushed by foot whole cluster and fermented with indigenous yeast and no sulfur addition in open-top fermenters. Aged 11 months in once-used French oak barrels, with a light filtration before bottling. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. The nose offers a complex array of aromas including red berries, white pepper, earthy flora and a hint of tobacco. The tannins and acidity battle the fruit for supremacy in this wine that is spearheaded by flavors of dark red cranberries, strawberries and cherries. A touch of anise-laced oak adds seasoning. Texturally, the wine’s ruddy tannins create some interest but stick out. The wine’s hi-strung acidity creates an uplifting finish. Score: 89. Reviewed April 2, 2016 ARTICLE »
2014 Waxwing Lester Family Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
13.7% alc., 138 cases, $45. Released October 2015. Vines planted in 1998 on a sandy loam hillside bordered by redwoods. Nearly dry farmed. Two-thirds clone 115 and one-third 667. Harvest Brix 24º. Crushed by foot whole cluster and fermented in open-top fermenters with indigenous yeast. Aged 11 months in once-used French oak barrels and bottled with a light filtration. · Moderately light cherry red color in the glass. Lovely aromas of red cherry, baking spice, rose petal and sandalwood lead to an elegantly composed and delicious wine offering vivid red cherry and raspberry flavors and an appealing whole cluster spiciness. The dreamy texture adds to the pleasure as does the lip-smacking, cherry fueled finish. A seamless wine that offers loads of Pinot character. Still terrific the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. Score: 93. Reviewed November 5, 2015 ARTICLE »
2013 Waxwing Lester Family Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
13.4% alc., 123 cases, $39. Vines planted in 1998 on a sandy loam hillside bordered by redwoods. Sustainable viticultural practices, careful canopy management, minimal late season deficit irrigation. A mix of Dijon and heritage clones including Mt. Eden, Wädenswil and Mariafeld. 50% of fruit de-stemmed as whole berries and 50% foot-stomped whole cluster. 5-day cold soak, native fermentation, aged 11 months in once-used French oak barrels. · Moderately light cherry color in the glass. Plenty of lovely whole cluster spice on the nose along with aromas of cherry, rose petal and sandalwood. Delicious middleweight flavors of red cherry, red raspberry, spice and crystallized rose. Bright with good tension and balanced tannins, finishing clean and uplifting. I could drink this all day. Score: 94. Reviewed January 23, 2015 ARTICLE »
2013 Waxwing Spring Hill Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., 208 cases, $39. Released late 2014. 75% de-stemmed as whole berries with 25% foot-stomped whole cluster in the fermenter. 5-day cold soak, punch downs 2 to 3 times a day, and pressed to barrel at end of fermentation. The wine was aged 11 months in once-used French oak barrels and bottled with no filtration. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. The nose offers demure aromas of cherry and dried herbs. In the mouth, tannins and oak currently overwhelm the mid weight core of black cherry fruit which offers promise. The finish is dry and slightly astringent and laced with oak. This wine needs at least a year or two in bottle for the ruddy tannins to soften and the oak to integrate. Score: 88-89. Reviewed January 23, 2015 ARTICLE »
2012 Waxwing Spring Hill Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir Rosé
12.9% alc., 26 cases, $23. Released April 20, 2013. From a cool and windy vineyard situated in the center of the Petaluma Gap. Grapes picked a week earlier that for regular Pinot Noir. A dedicated rosé, not a saignée meant to concentrate a Pinot Noir wine. Clone 777. The fruit was stomped in the bins to release a touch of color into the juice and whole cluster pressed an hour later. The juice was racked after 24 hours and fermented in stainless steel. Aged 5 months in stainless steel. · Pale pink color in the glass. Delicate aromas of red strawberries, cranberries and honeydew. Light, dry and refreshing, with elegant flavors of red berries and cherries, finishing with bright acidity. Good. Reviewed May 5, 2013 ARTICLE »
2012 Waxwing Lester Family Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
13.0% alc., 57 cases, $39. Released late 2013. Vines planted in 1998 on a sandy loam hillside bordered by redwoods in Corralitos. Farmed by Prudy Foxx. Dijon, Wädenswil, Mariafeld and Mt. Eden clones (this wine contains 667 and 115). 80% de-stemmed, 20% foot stomped whole cluster. 5-day cold soak followed by native fermentations. Age in once-used French oak barrels for 11 months and bottled with a light filtration. · Moderately light reddish-purple hue in the glass. The nose is captivating with a bright, exotically spiced raspberry aroma. Delicious and polished, with discreetly concentrated flavors of deep red cherry, raspberry, and spice arriving in waves on the palate and leaving with aplomb. The tannins are very supple and the whole package is appealingly elegant. Still delightful two days later from a previously opened and recorked bottle indicating age ability. Clearly, the fruit was picked at the ideal time. Score: 94. Reviewed January 20, 2014 ARTICLE »
2012 Waxwing Spring Hill Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.1% alc., 191 cases, $39. Released late 2013. A cool and windy site in the western reaches of Petaluma. 20 acres planted to Swan and Calera selections, Pommard, 115, 667 and 777 clones planted from 2001 to 2003 (Swan, Pommard and 115 in this wine). Owned and farmed by Chris and Karen London. 100% de-stemmed. 5-day cold soak in open-top fermenters. Aged in once-used French oak barrels for 11 months with light filtration. · Moderately light reddish purple color in the glass. Aromas of plum, elderberry, dried cherry and bark lead to a middleweight core of darker stone fruit flavors accented with an earthy, smoky, tarry riff. Nicely balanced with mild dry tannins and easy drink ability, picking up interest and flavor nuance over time in the glass. I have had several wines I have had from this site, and this wine is highly reflective of this vineyard’s terroir. Score: 91. Reviewed January 20, 2014 ARTICLE »
2011 Waxwing Spring Hill Ranch & Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
12.1% alc., 97 cases, $33. Released early 2013. 15% whole cluster. Aged 10 months in 30% new French oak barrels. From a very cool site in the Petaluma Gap. Pommard, 115, Swan and Calera clones. · Light reddish color in the glass. Restrained aromas of spiced cherry, smoky oak and rose petals. Lean flavors of red cranberries and cherries with a grip of green tea, leaf and tar. Light on its feet with nervy acidity, leaving a little deep cherry flavor behind on the finish. The fruit in this wine appears to have struggled to get ripe, and although the winemaker did admirably with the hand he was dealt, this is an austere wine. Decent. Reviewed February 27, 2013 ARTICLE »
2010 Waxwing Spring Hill Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.8% alc., 75 cases, $33. Clones are Pommard, 115 and 777. Aged 12 months in onceused French oak barrels. A heat spike just before picking drove the sugar levels up. The wine is crafted in a shared boutique winery space in San Carlos, California. · Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Extroverted nose displaying aromas of fresh dark red berries with a hint of sandalwood and spice. Tasty core of mixed berries with noticeable oak spice and vanilla. Elegant in style, but packed with flavor which lingers on the long finish. A charming wine that needs more time in the cellar to integrate its oak. Very good. Source: www.waxwingwines.com. Reviewed February 22, 2012 ARTICLE »
2009 Waxwing Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 82 cases, $30. Released April 2011. A blend of two Sonoma Coast vineyards: Toboni and Flocchini. Clones are Pommard, 115 and Swan. Aged 14 months in once-used French oak barrels. · Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. Nicely composed array of aromas including black cherries, baking spices and sandalwood. Mouth watering cherry and raspberry fruits accented with the slightest oak spice and vanillin finishing bright and crisp with a mineral note. Elegant with silky fine-grain tannins. This is a very easy drinking, food-friendly wine that I could drink all night long. Best yet from owner and proprietor Scott Sisemore who is shifting his focus from Russian River Valley to Sonoma Coast fruit. Source: website. Reviewed July 1, 2011 ARTICLE »
2007 Waxwing Wine Cellars Toboni Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., 55 cases, $30. Aged in 1 year-old French oak barrels. · Alluring aromas of Bing cherries, baking spice and sandalwood. Soft in the mouth with appealing elegant cherry pie flavors kissed gently by oak displaying a refreshing tang on the finish. A lighter-bodied wine that is almost ethereal and very easy to drink. The admirable acidity makes this wine a good food companion. Reviewed April 18, 2009 ARTICLE »