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Talisman: 2010 Pinots are a Giant Step Up from the Ordinary

I need to do a shout out about the outstanding 2010 Talisman Pinot Noirs. I have been a long time fan of the wines, but somehow I drifted away and did not taste the lineup of the 2009 wines. I am here to tell you that the 2010 Pinot Noirs are incredibly beautiful wines with impeccable balance and superior age worthiness. The 2010 vintage is the current release for Talisman as winemaker Scott Rich holds the wines back a minimum of one year since he feels strongly that they benefit from extra time before release. Believe me, they are READY to drink now. The impeccable balance suggests a long life ahead and I would not hesitate to cellar these wines for ten years. Winemaker Scott Rich learned his craft under Tony Soter while working at Etude in Carneros. Along with his spouse Marta, who is also the National Sales Manager for Calera, they started their own label in 1993. Scott is a lover of unique terroir and he searches judiciously for vineyards that are challenging and on the edge. He says, “I like to express terroir and that is the beauty of Pinot Noir. Terroir comes through in the more extreme vineyards.”

Each of his wines are vinified in about 5 barrel lots. I have tasted a number of older vintages and can testify that they age extremely well. The wines were bottled in July of 2012 and represent both fall 2013 and spring 2014 releases.

The winery is in a bare bones warehouse in Sonoma as part of the Eighth Street Wineries. Nothing fancy, just great wines. The winery is open several times a year during regional and local open house events, and Scott and Marta pour at many major Pinot Noir festivals including this recent World of Pinot Noir event in Santa Barbara. Tasting by appointment is available in a building that is over 110 years old in the heart of historic Glen Ellen. The tasting room is open Thursday through Sunday by appointment. Visit

I can’t tell you how impressed I was with every Pinot Noir I tasted in the 2010 lineup. They are all outstanding, so the scores simply reflect my personal taste and critical preferences. In any case, you can’t go wrong with any of the wines.

2010 Talisman Spring Hill Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.3% alc., 244 cases, $44. Release April 2014. The vineyard is located on a wind-blown ridge west of the town of Petaluma. · Medium reddish purple color in the glass. The aromas are so appealing one wants to dive into the glass. Scents of red cherry, spice, herbs and oak in perfect harmony. The cherry core of fruit is complimented by an oak sheen. Lighter in weight with mild tannins and some finishing intensity and length, offering good lip-smacking acidity. A good example of how oak brings out the best in Pinot Noir. The most interesting wine I have had from this vineyard. Score: 92

2010 Talisman Weir Vineyard Yorkville Highlands Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 243 cases, $65. Released October 2013. A unique site with very cold night time temperatures and gravelly, well-drained soils. · Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Shy, but pleasing aromas of cherry, raspberry, blueberry and dark chocolate. Charming essence of sweet, dark red cherries and berries with a hint of lovable spice on the palate. Seamless with integrated tannins and a long, intensely fruited finish. This wine just speaks class. Everything you like in Pinot Noir from a very special vineyard. Score: 96

2010 Talisman Wildcat Vineyard Los Carneros Pinot Noir

14.3% alc., 242 cases, $44. Release April 2014. This vineyard has the highest elevation of any vineyard in the Los Carneros AVA. Red, pebbly clay loam soils born of decomposed volcanic basalt. The site is exposed to a cool air flow from San Pablo Bay. Clones are Dijon 115, 667, 777 and Swan. · Moderate reddish purple hue in the glass. The nose is spectacularly endowed with aromas of boysenberry, wood spice and anise. Soft in the mouth with a plethora of purple and blue berry flavors underlain with an earthy riff. Very mild fine grain tannins, perfect integration of oak, and a satisfying, intensely flavored finish. An evocative wine. Score: 94

2010 Talisman Red Dog Vineyard Sonoma Mountain Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 241 cases, $52. Released October 2013. This vineyard is located high above Bennett Valley at 800 feet elevation on the northwestern side of Sonoma Mountain. A very low-yielding site. · Medium reddish purple color in the glass. Lovely aromas of red cherries, cinnamon and other spices, and old cask. Round and polished on the palate, featuring flavors of black cherries with a hint of tobacco and oak in the background. The most rustic, earthy and savory of the lineup. A noticeable lift of acidity on the finish is refreshing. Score: 92

2010 Talisman Adastra Vineyard Los Carneros Pinot Noir

14.8% alc., 243 cases, $56. Release April 2014. An organically farmed and certified vineyard tended by Chris Thorpe and his son-in-law Edwin Richards. Clones are Wädenswil, Swan, 113 and Pommard. · The nose brings you to attention with deeply fragrant notes of Hoison sauce, black grapes, blackberries and cardamom spice. Very softly textured, perfectly composed with a judicious use of oak. Typical Los Carneros flavors of darker berries, black plum, mushroom and damp soil pervade. The sweet, perfectly ripened fruit attack makes an impression on the front of the palate, expands its reach across the mid palate like a silk sheet, and finishes with a flourish. A transcendent, “Oh My God” wine. Score: 95

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