Download &
print (pdf)

More Sips of California Pinot Noir & Chardonnay

2011 Belle Glos Clark & Telephone Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir

14.4% alc., $44. Released October 2012. Own-rooted Martini clone planted in 1972. Aged 9 months in French oak barrels. Dark violet color in the glass. 100% de-stemmed, extended cold soak, aged 9 months in 60% new French oak barrels. · Plenty to like on the nose with hi-tone aromas of spicy black plums, fresh blackberries and vanilla cream. A big gulp of exotically spiced plum and dark berry fruit is front and center, very seductive, expanding in the mouth, permeating every nook and cranny, and finishing with power, length and a velvety appeal. The creme soda-laced oak and cinnamon and clove spice flavors are complimentary. Similar to the 2010 version which was an “All-American.” This wine has something unique and recognizable to me. Not even close to classic or Old World traditional Pinot Noir, but it tastes great and drinks seamlessly. Cool package too.

Gloria Ferrer was the first sparkling wine house in Carneros. After five years of specializing only in sparkling wine and inspired by the character of the estate fruit, the winery began crafting Chardonnay and Pinot Noir still wines in 1991. The winemaking team has dozens of interesting clones to draw on including Colmar 538, Martini (UCD 13), Wente, Wädenswil (2A), Dijon 115 and Pommard 4 from the 335 acres of estate vines. The clones have been carefully matched to soil types. Visit the tasting room open daily at 23555 Hwy. 121 in Sonoma or the website at

2010 Gloria Ferrer Estate Grown and Bottled Carneros Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., pH 3.65, TA 0.61, $18. Nineteenth Carneros Pinot Noir produced. 100% de-stemmed, partially crushed, exclusively free run juice, barrel aged 9 months in 33% new French oak barrels and bottled unfined. · Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Inviting aromas of oak-infused black cherries and a hint of dried herbs. Mid weight core of dark red cherry fruit with complimentary oak. A real cherry bomb that makes an impression on the mid palate and finishes intense and long. A very soothing, easy drinking wine and an incredible value. Very good.

2008 Gloria Ferrer Estate Jose S. Ferrer Selection Carneros Pinot Noir

13.8% alc., pH 3.83, TA 0.58, 538 cases, $40. A barrel selection from the most exceptional blocks in the estate vineyard. Primarily Dijon 115, Colmar 538, Trefethan/Wente, and Martini. 100% de-stemmed, aged for 9 months in 38% new French oak barrels. · Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Approach this wine with patience as it needs time to open in the glass, gradually becoming more expressive. Aromas of dark berries and cherries, spice and old wine cellar. Dense and dark, featuring earthbound flavors of black cherries, blackberries, black plum, mushroom and tar. Firm, balanced tannins and a very long finish. A brooding wine on day one, but two days later from a previously opened and re-corked bottle, the wine was transformed, becoming alive aromatically and more giving on the palate. Suggest decanting if you open this wine now. Very good.

2007 Hanzell Vineyards Sonoma Valley Pinot Noir

14.4% alc., $80. 200- acre estate with 42 acres of vineyards planted to heritage clones. · Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. Fresh aromas of dark berry tart, cassis, dark chocolate, and anise-laced oak. Very earthy and somewhat brooding with bruising tannins. Moderately richly flavored with dark berries, black cherries and anise. Much better the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle and especially good with beef that counteracts the tannins. This wine needs more time to integrate and soften the tannins but has a special rugged mountain character that is appealing. Very good.

2010 James Family Cellars Estate Grown Stony Point Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.3% alc., $36. Best of Class and Double Gold 2012 Sonoma County Harvest Fair. · Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Appealing aromas of ripe Bing cherry pie glaze, cola and spice with oak that becomes more noticeable over time. Middleweight core of ripe cherries with hints of nutmeg and cherry cola, framed by silky, balanced tannins. A cherry bombast that has a little more oak topcoat than I prefer, but as indicated by the exalted competition award, this wine will definitely find fans. Good.

Kessler-Haak Vineyard is located on Highway 246, 11 miles west of Buellton in the cool northwestern section of the Sta. Rita Hills AVA. Planted in 2005 by winegrower and winemaker Dan Kessler and his wife Ellen Haak (“hawk”) Kessler, the 30-acre vineyard is planted to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. A few select wineries also source grapes from the vineyard. The website is

2010 Kessler-Haak Kessler-Haak Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 225 cases, $38. Yield 1.2 tons per acre. Clones 115, 667 and 777. Aged in 33% new French oak barrels for 9 months. Unfined. · Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Dusty earth and oak vanillin aromas compliment the spicy black raspberry nose. Moderately full bodied with flavorful dark red and black fruits, a sidecar of spice, and a good lick of citrus-driven acidity on the back end. Shows the intense fruit balanced with a firm structure and bright acidity so typical of Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir. Held up well over night from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. Very good.

2010 Kessler-Haak Kessler-Haak Vineyard Clone 2A Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., 50 cases, $42. Yield 0.7 tons per acre. Aged 9 months in neutral French oak barrels. Unfined. · Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Dark red and black cherry and berry preserve aromas and flavors are featured in a mid weight wine with muscular tannins and a good kick of acidity on the finish. A little smoother and less tannic the next day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. For those who like their Pinot rugged and firm. Good.

2010 Kessler-Haak Kessler-Haak Vineyard Pommard Clone Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., 50 cases, $42. Aged 9 months in 50% new French oak barrels. Unfined. · The nose leads with aromas of deeply colored cherries and berries, plum sauce, beet root and dried rose petal. Striking black cherry flavor which expands in the mouth, picking up accents of spice along the way, finishing with a big kiss of cherry. Complimentary backbone of lively acidity and well-mannered tannins. I have said it many times and I will say it again: Pommard is my paramour (and the alliteration is pretty good too). Very good.

2010 La Follette Van Der Kamp Vineyard Sonoma Mountain Pinot Meunier

14.2% alc., 94 cases, $37. At 1400 feet, one of the oldest Pinot Meunier plantings in California. Whole cluster fermentation, raised 10 months in neutral French oak barrels. · Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Rustic, very restrained aromas of dark raspberry, tobacco and tea leaves. Much more appealing on the palate with a hardy core of plum, black raspberry, black grape, cola and spice flavors with a faint note of smoke and tar in the background. Well-managed tannins with bright acidity on the finish where the fruit returns repeatedly for an encore. Good (+).

Pali Wine Co. launched a series of appellation Pinot Noirs beginning with the 2007 vintage that are moderately priced ($21 to $29). Five wines are offered in the 2011 vintage. The winemakers are Aaron Walker and consultant Kenneth Juhasz. The winery is located in Lompoc, but a tasting room opened in downtown Santa Barbara in the fall of 2012. The website is

2011 Pali Wine Co. Huntington Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir

14.2% alc.,3,535 cases, $22.50, screwcap. Aged 10 months in 25% new French oak barrels. · Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Nicely perfumed with staying power in the glass offering aromas of very ripe black cherries, black raspberries, cola and spice. Upfront appeal with flavorful black cherry, dark berry and tea tastes backed by supple tannins. Nothing exceptional, but solid. Good (+).

2011 Pali Wine Co. Summit Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir

14.6% alc., 1,020 cases, $29, screwcap. Aged 10 months in 30% new French oak barrels. · Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. Enticing aromas of earth-kissed dark red and black berries, tea leaves and rose petals. Flavorful mix of purple berries with a hint of oak in the background. Modest tannins, a soft texture and a relatively short finish. A basic, very quaffable, fruity wine. Decent.

2010 Sean Minor Carneros Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., $14. · Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Earthy black fruit on the nose which is very shy. Somewhat rich flavors of red and black plum with a hint of spice and oak. The wine has a silky presence on the palate with good tannic spine and a refreshing cut of acidity on the finish. A pleasant drink and solid for its price range. Decent.

Tuck Beckstoffer is well known for the many notable Napa Valley vineyards that bear his family name. Tuck is a lover of Burgundy and makes a small amount of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from the Sonoma Coast under the Semper label. The consulting winemaker is Kenneth Juhasz (Auteur). Honestly, these wines are not my preferred style of Pinot Noir. They have oodles of flashy fruit, and are unabashedly macho, akin to Syrah without the tannins. That said, they will find fans among those who like big-fruited wines that have “Made in California” stamped all over them.

2009 Semper Silver Eagle Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., $85. Vineyard grower and owner is Ulises Valdez. Planted to Calera selection and a Vosne-Romanée selection. · Very dark purple color in the glass. Bright aromas of ripe plum and black raspberry with a hint of graham, losing some appeal over time in the glass. Soft and seductive on the palate with prodigious fruit expression, finishing with an intense peacock tail of fruit that lingers. Flavors of black cherries, black raspberries and dark chocolate are featured and the juicy acidity brings some vibrancy to the wine. Tasted two days later from a previously opened and re-corked bottle, the wine tasted of very ripe fruit, and was not as appealing. Made for consumption now. Good.

2009 Semper Ellenbach Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.7% alc., $85. This vineyard is located just above the fog line just two miles in from the Pacific Ocean in the far northwestern corner of the Sonoma Coast AVA. · Dark purple color in the glass. The nose is appealing initially with aromas of dark berry jam, forest floor and oak. Over time, porto notes creep in. Full-bodied core of black plum, boysenberry and black currant fruit which veers to the far ripe side. The tannins are well-managed, the wine drinks effortlessly, and the finish is monstrous. Good.

2009 Semper Gold Ridge Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.4% alc., $85. This vineyard is named for a vein of gold loam soil running from the western edge of the Russian River towards the town of Annapolis on the Sonoma Coast. · Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Demure aromas of black cherries, dark chocolate, graham and wood shavings. Amazingly intense and sappy fruit presence which coats the mouth and fuels a big, long finish. Flavors of black plum, black cherry and blueberry with an earthy, mineral undertone. Tasted two days later from a previous opened and re-corked bottle, the nose had checked out and the wine was flat. Good.

2009 Sonnet Tondre’s Grapefield Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., $25. · Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Nicely perfumed with the scent of black stone fruit, black current, cardamon spice and vanilla. Full-bodied and velvety on the palate with dark red and black fruit flavors with a compliment of spice and cola. No intruding tannins, a soft and sensuous mouth feel, and a crisp finish with good staying power. Very good.

2010 The Bohan-Dillon Hirsch Vineyards Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

13.1% alc., $28. · Light reddish-purple color in the glass. Aromas of cranberries, alpine strawberries, raspberries, spice, oak and forest floor. Delicate but pleasing red fruit flavors including pomegranate with a hint of baking spice, and a thrust of citrus peel acidity on the tangy, crisp finish. Very supple tannins make for a satisfying daily drinker. Good.

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.

2010 Wren Hop Vineyards Rebel & Martyrs Sonoma Coast Chardonnay

14.5% alc., pH 3.43, 165 cases, $48. Sourced from Sun Chase Vineyard, located where the Petaluma Gap joins with Sonoma Mountain at an elevation of 900 to 1400 feet on a southwestern facing hillside. Dijon clone 96. Aged 11 months in 100% new French oak barrels. · Light straw color with a very slight haze in the glass. Shy aromas of citrus, wet stone and dried seeds. Dry, soft and smooth on the palate, offering more nutty, yeasty and toasty flavor than pear and citrus fruit. Still, a refreshing wine with admirable acidity that finishes clean and bright. Good.

2010 Wren Hop Vineyards Trial by Lightning Sonoma Coast Chardonnay

14.4% alc., pH 3.47, 325 cases, $48. Sourced from Gap’s Crown Vineyard, located on the western edge of Sonoma Mountain. Dijon clone 76. Aged 11 months in 100% new French oak barrels. · Light straw color with a very faint haze in the glass. Delicate aromas of lemon curd, buttered toast, and spice. The wine has an appealing steeliness to invigorate the lemon, lime and baked pear flavors. Oak jumps in to offer notes of maple syrup, almonds, toast and marshmallow. Good (+).

Print entire newsletter