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Papapietro Perry: Stellar Lineup in 2008

Ben Papapietro attributes his passion for Pinot Noir to a friendship he shared with vintner Burt Williams of Williams Selyem fame while both were working at the San Francisco Newspaper Agency in the 1970s. Ben began helping Burt make his wine at home and continued to work each harvest at Williams Selyem after the winery was launched in the early 1980s. Ben began making his own garage wine in 1980, and a few years later was joined by Bruce Perry, another fellow worker at the San Francisco Newspaper Agency. Their garage wines were beloved by family and friends leading them to start Papapietro Perry in 1998 with a release of 75 cases of Pinot Noir. Today, the pair, along with their spouses, Yolanda Papapietro and Renae Perry, produce 6,000 cases of appellation-designated, vineyard-designated and clonal-designated Pinot Noir from prime vineyards in the Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast. They also craft small lots of Zinfandel and a limited production Chardonnay (100 cases) from Peters Vineyard. Bruce (left) and Ben during their garagiste days are pictured on the left. Bruce and Renae (left), Ben and Yolanda (right) in their winery on the right.

I recently stopped in at the welcoming Papapietro Perry Tasting Room on Dry Creek Road in Healdsburg and sampled the lineup of 2008 Pinot Noirs. I was able to meet growers Nick Leras and Randy Peters and talked at length with them, primarily about restoring old cars! I also re-tasted the Leras Family, Peters Vineyard and Pommard Clones Pinot Noirs at home. The wines impress, not only for their individuality, but for their food friendly bent. The wines straddle the middle ground between voluptuous big-boned styles and classic, delicate examples of Pinot Noir. Winemaking is traditional beginning with a 2-4 day cold soak, inoculation with Pinot Noir appropriate proprietary yeasts, hand punch downs, and aging in Francois Frères oak barrels for 11 months with the percentage of new oak varying depending on the vineyard source. Bruce feels the 2008 vintage is more restrained, slightly less deep in color, and less concentrated than the 2007 vintage, but has its own appeal. The recommended best drinking window for the 2008 Pinot Noirs is now through 2015, but some wines will age well beyond this.

The two couples are extremely receptive to visitors, harboring no signs of pretentiousness, so typical of family owned wineries in Sonoma County. They do not take their wines too seriously (one of their tee shirts sports the slogan, “So good you’ll want to swallow”) but the wines are seriously good. The Papapietro Perry lineup of wines is available through the winery’s website ( and limited retail channels. The best way to climb on board is through the winery’s Wine Club which offers significant discounts and benefits. Magnums are available.

2008 Papapietro Perry Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., pH 3.68, TA .623, 1,220 cases, $46. A blend of five vineyards. 30% new, 50% 1 and 2-year old and 20% 3-year old French oak. · Lovely aromas of red Bing cherries with hints of herb garden. Moderately rich with a pleasing array of spicy cherry, cranberry and raspberry fruits. Gossamer tannins make for a silky drinking experience. Good.

2008 Papapietro Perry Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., pH 3.53, TA .633, 780 cases, $46. From Gap’s Crown Vineyard in the Petaluma Gap. Aged 11 months in 50% new and 50% 1 and 2-year old French oak. · Shy perfume of black cherries and spring herbs. Bright and savory, with a light-weighted core of dark cherry and berry flavors. Good.

2008 Papapietro Perry Elsbree Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., pH 3.63, TA 0.570, 730 cases, $49. A mix of clones on varied rootstocks. Aged in 50% new and 50% 1 and 2-year old French oak. · Enticing aromas of dark cherries, anise and wet bark. Hi-tone melange of fresh cherries and berries wrapped in ripe, firm tannins and finishing with an intense aromatic berry note that lingers. Admirable finesse. Very good.

2008 Papapietro Perry Leras Family Vineyards Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., pH 3.66, TA 0.701, 1,020 cases, $54. Pommard and Dijon 115, 667, and 777 clones. The Pommard is about 13 years old.Aged 11 months in 50% new and 50% 1 and 2-year old French oak. · Very lovely perfume of Bing cherries, red roses and spice box with a subtle with a subtle notion of oak. Medium-weighted flavors of black cherries, ripe berries, cola and sassafras. Fruit flavors veer to the ripe side but remain in tune. Silky and charming with fine-grain tannins. Very good.

2008 Papapietro Perry Nunes Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., pH 3.61, TA 0.619, 295 cases, $54. Inaugural bottling from this vineyard farmed by Fred Nunes. Vines are about 12 years old. Aged 11 months in 50% new and 50% 1 and 2-year old French oak. · Spectacular aromatics featuring an onslaught of fresh cherry tart scent. Discretely concentrated core of spiced cherries with moderate ripe tannins, a touch of herbal oak, and noticeable persistence on the finish which leaves a touch of heat in its wake. Good.

2008 Papapietro Perry Peters Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., pH 3.74, TA 0.57, 900 cases, $54. This vineyard is a few miles west of Sebastopol on the edge of the newly expanded Russian River Valley appellation. Aged 11 months in 50% new and 50% 1 and 2-year old French oak. · Nicely perfumed with oak-scented dark red berries and cherries, a roseate note, and hints of anise and smoke. Considerable flavor impact on entry, lingering on the fruity finish. Tasty spiced cherry and berry fruit underlain with restrained oak, and enrobed in restrained fruit tannins creating a welcoming elegance and silky texture. This wine has interest beyond the fruit. Very good (+).

2008 Papapietro Perry 777 Clones Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., pH 3.64, TA 0.676, 440 cases, $70. Aged 11 months in 80% new, 20% 1 and 2-year old French oak. 777 clones from six vineyards. · Appealing perfume of crushed black cherries and raspberry coulis. Earthy and darkly fruited on the palate with a tea and herbal accent. Generous tannins beg for protein (short ribs or steak). Good (+).

2008 Papapietro Perry Pommard Clones Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., pH 3.75, TA 0.66, 440 cases, $70. Sourced from Leras Family Vineyards and Peters Vineyard. Best three barrels from each source. Aged 11 months in 90% new and 10% 1-year old French oak. Third bottling of this clonal mixture. · Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Bold and fruity nose picking up intensity with time in the glass, showing accents of vanillin and oak. Luscious and vivid black cherry and black raspberry fruit that really makes an impression. The most intensely flavored wine in the lineup, but also nuanced with contributing flavors of cola, spice, confection and vanilla. A fantastic match with lamb. Clearly the star of this vintage.

2008 Papapietro Perry Mukaida Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., pH 3.77, TA 0.611, 195 cases, $75. The 8 best barrels from Peters Vineyard. Aged 11 months in 90% new and 10% 1-year old French oak. · An earthy and savory nose leads to a charge of cherry and berry fruit in the mid palate persisting on the generous finish. A gentle, elegant wine that packs a punch. Will benefit from more time in the cellar. Very good.

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