Sips of Recently Tasted California Pinot Noir (& Chardonnay)
There are some amazing wines in this issue from the 2012 vintage. In fact, there are more high scoring wines
than I have ever sampled as a group in my twelve years of tasting for the PinotFile. Quantities are generous in
this vintage so you should be able to stock your cellar with the most desirable wines.
Winemaker Mike Sullivan has waited patiently 8 years to develop and properly farm Benovia’s Martaella and
Tilton Hill estate vineyards. The 2012 releases from these two vineyards joins the historic Cohn Vineyard to
complete the vision of producing three vineyard-designated, estate-grown, Benovia Pinot Noirs. Ultimately,
Benovia plans to produce nearly all wines from estate fruit. The 42-acre Martaella Vineyards surround the
Benovia wineries (a new large winery is currently under construction which will be used for red wine
production, increasing potential output to 10,000 cases) and visitor center. This vineyard is planted to ten
heritage clones of Pinot Noir. The 12-acre Tilton Hill Vineyard is perched on a ridge top near the town of
Freestone and is Benovia’s coldest vineyard site. This vineyard is a high-density planting in Goldridge soil.
Benovia wines are sold primarily through a mailing list. Sullivan now has the vineyard material to realize his
ultimate winemaking goals that have evolved over several years, and the 2012 lineup of wines rewarded him
with the most refined and enticing lineup ever offered at Benovia. Tasting is available by appointment. Visit
2012 Benovia Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., 1,500 cases, $38. Produced with almost 95%
Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. An array of scents including Bing cherry, spice and
pipe smoke lead to a mid weight core of fresh cherry fruit with a hint of herbs, cranberry sauce, and smoky oak.
A solid, elegant wine with a soft, cherry-fueled finish.
2012 Benovia Cohn Vineyard Sonoma County Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., 350 cases, $70. Sourced from Benovia’s historic Cohn
Vineyard planted in 1970. This dry-farmed, 18-acre vineyard is
planted to a massale selection of Pinot Noir (likely Martini and
Pommard). Organically farmed for 6 years. Low yields of 1.25 tons
per acre. 100% de-stemmed.
Moderately light reddish purple color
in the glass. Vibrant, even exhilarating aromas of fresh cherries, spice and
bark that hold up remarkably over time in the glass. Delicious layers of
flavor featuring black cherry, black raspberry, brown spice, cherry licorice
and toasty oak. Seamless, seductive and classy, with a finish of
uncommon persistence. Lighter and more refined in this vintage, with more
suavity and Pinot character. Still great two days later from a previously opened and re-corked bottle.
2012 Benovia Martaella Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 425 cases, $56. The first
single vineyard Pinot Noir from this estate vineyard named in honor of the mothers of owners Joe Anderson
and Mary Dewane. A blend of Calera, Pommard, Mt. Eden and Swan selections. 30% whole cluster
Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. The nose opens slowly to reveal appealing aromas
of black cherry, dark raspberry preserves, exotic spices, sous-bois, and floral goodness. The flavors of purple
berries and black cherry are bright and juicy, accented with spice and cola. Softly textured and balanced with
modest tannins and a bright, cherry-driven finish. Perfect interplay of tannin and acidity. The long finish is
particularly impressive. Still superb two days later from a previously opened and re-corked bottle.
2012 Benovia Tilton Hill Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., 325 cases, $56. Vineyard is located at the
Russian River Valley-Sonoma Coast border. Shallow and well-drained Goldridge soils. High-density planting.
Clones are “828,” Calera, 777 and 943. Aged in 30%-40% new French oak barrels.
Dark violet color in the
glass. Lovely aromas of blackberry, black currant, loamy earth and complimentary oak. Full-flavored with a
sappy core of black fruits offering a boatload of pleasure. The concentrated fruit veers to the very ripe side and
a little raisin peeks out the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. An underlying forest
floor and conifer note adds interest. There is both more tannin and acidity evident in this wine compared to the
other two vineyard-designates.
2012 Benovia La Pommeraie Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 375 cases, $56. Sourced from George
Martinelli Vineyard (Zio Tony). This dry-farmed vineyard is planted to Dijon 777 and “828.”
purple color in the glass. Aromas of black cherry, blackberry, forest floor and a touch of rose petal. Full-bodied
charge of boysenberry, black raspberry and black cherry fruit awakens the palate and expands through a
decadent finish where the fruit hangs on tenaciously. Despite its richness, the wine is sleek and polished, with
excellent integration of oak. Well-done in this “New World style.”
2012 Benovia Russian River Valley Chardonnay
13.5% alc., 1,200 cases, $36. Primarily Wente clone from
the estate Martaella Vineyard. 70% malolactic fermentation. Aged 16 months sur lie in <30% new French oak
Light golden straw color in the glass. Aromas of citrus and almond lead to a full-flavored wine featuring
flavors of pear, lemon, and apricot with complimentary oak seasoning. Refreshing, with bright acidity and lift.
2012 Benovia Fort Ross-Seaview Chardonnay
14.2% alc., $48. If you are a fan of Marcassin Chardonnay,
note that this wine is sourced from the same 15 to 20 year-old Dijon vines on the Three Sisters Vineyard
owned by the Martinelli family, and formerly used by Marcassin for years for their Three Sisters Chardonnay.
The vineyard is adjacent Marcassin Vineyard on the West Sonoma Coast. 100% malolactic fermentation, aged
in 40% new French oak, unfiltered.
Light golden straw color in the glass. A classy wine with aromas of
lemongrass, citrus, spice, poached pear and floral goodness. A delicious wine with flavors echoing the
aromas, and offering noticeable attack and finish. Oak adds a subtle note of caramel and brioche. There is
good tension provided by citrus-fueled acidity, and some textural interest. A connoisseur's Chardonnay.
2012 Benovia La Pommeraie Russian River Valley Chardonnay
14.5% alc., 350 cases, $48. Sourced from
George Martinelli Vineyard (Zio Tony) located at the edge of the Green Valley AVA. The vineyard is planted at
a very high density of 2420 vines per acre to Dijon clones 548 and 95. The site was once an apple orchard, so
Benovia pays homage to the Martinelli family and the history of the site by naming the wine ‘La Poommeraie’ -
French for apple orchard. Indigenous yeast fermentation, 100% malolactic fermentation, and aged sur lie for 16
months in 40% new French oak barrel.
Light golden straw color in the glass. The perfume of pear, caramel
and toffee leads to a rich, full, smooth palate of lemon curd, pear and spice flavors. A luscious Russian River
Valley style Chardonnay that offers plenty of pleasure.
Anderson Valley-based Foursight Wines is the first winery in the country to label all its wines with ingredients
alongside a vegan/vegetarian statement. Starting with the 2012 vintage, all the Foursight wines are labeled
with “grapes, sulfur dioxide,” or “grapes, tartaric acid, sulfur dioxide,” and “this wine is suitable for vegans and
vegetarians.” This last statement is permitted by the TTB because the wines are unfiltered without the use of
animal-derived products. The winery produced its first ingredients-labeled wine in 2010 - an estate Semillon -
and decided to expand the effort to its entire portfolio due to positive responses from consumers. Copies of the
labels can be found on the winery’s website at www.foursightwines.com.
Foursight wines are made with estate grown grapes, fermented with wild yeast and malolactic cultures, and
bottled unfined and unfiltered. Pinot Noirs are always produced with a percentage of whole cluster
fermentation (10 to 50 percent depending on the vintage).
2012 Foursight Charles Vineyard Zero Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., pH 3.73, TA 0.58, 173
cases, $38. Release November 2014. Clones are Pommard 05, 777, 115 and 114. 30% whole cluster
fermentation. Aged in second-year and older barrels with no new oak.
Moderately light reddish purple color in
the glass. Bright cherry fruit is the focus of this juicy wine which is very soft and seamless on the palate.
Added accents of raspberry, brown spice and sandalwood add interest. Inviting balance and harmony and
highly approachable now.
2012 Foursight Charles Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
13.6% alc., pH 3.72, TA 0.58, 224 cases,
$46. Release May 2015. Crafted from all four clones grown in the estate vineyard (777, 114, 115, and
Pommard 05). 30% whole cluster fermentation. Wooden basket-pressed. Aged in 40% new, 10% secondyear
and 50% three-plus-year-old French oak barrels.
Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. The nose is
infused with the lovely scent of Bing cherry glaze and complimentary oak in the background. Very soft and
sexy, with mid weight flavors of cherry, raspberry and plum caressed by suede tannins. Oak seasoning plays a
favorable role. This wine, which has a little more body and generosity than the Zero, finishes silky and full of
2012 Foursight Charles Vineyard Clone 05 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., pH 3.74, TA 0.70, 130 cases, $49. Release January 1, 2015.
Four favorite barrels of 100% Pommard 05. 30% whole cluster
fermentation. Aged in 40% new and 40% second-year French oak barrels.
Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. The hi-tone aromas of
black cherry and dark raspberry fill the glass. Soft and velvety on the
palate, even ephemeral, like angels dancing on a cloud. Discreetly
concentrated and highly flavorful, featuring dark cherry and dark red berry
fruits with oak seasoning in the background. Nicely composed with
balanced tannins and a finish that sports refined acidity. This wine will get
george wine company
george levkoff prefers lower case, but his wines are upper case in quality. His winery is a one-man operation,
with george hand crafting Pinot Noir that is cherished by sommeliers countrywide (see the website for the
impressive list of restaurants carrying george Pinot on their wine lists). This vintage is sold out, but you may be
able to beg a few bottles if you call george.
2013 george Sonoma Coma Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., $50.
Moderate reddish purple
hue in the glass. Aromas of cherry tart and beef brisket. Although a blend of vineyard sources, the wine
seems to have a large percentage of Hansen Vineyard with its telltale fecal note. Smoky oak envelopes the
modest black cherry core which is supported by substantial tannins.
2013 george Vintage XI Leras Family Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., 148 cases, $60.
Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. The nose is generously endowed with lovely aromas of
black cherry, dark rose petal, conifer forest and a hint of oak. The mid weight essence of Bing cherry really
impresses on the mid palate, carrying over with lushness and length on the finish which lasts at least 30
seconds. Very juicy, with hints of black raspberry and oak vanillin. Substantial youthful, dry tannins guarantee
2013 george Vintage XI Ceremonial Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.9% alc., 257 cases, $60.
ruby red and slightly cloudy in the glass. Dancing aromas of red berries, red plums, pomegranate and
seagrass. Light to medium in weight with flavors of strawberry, cherry, red plum and brown spice. Oak plays a
significant role and needs time to integrate. More flavor intensity the following day from a previously opened
and re-corked bottle.
2013 george Vintage XI Buena Teirra Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.8% alc., 148 cases, $60.
Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. Enticing aromas of Bing cherry, rose petal, and baking
spices including nutmeg. Soft and smooth on the palate, with a giving essence of cherry flavor. Nicely
balanced with supple tannins, seamless oak integration, and a cherry-laden finish. Definitely more appealing
the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle.
2013 george Vintage XI Hansen Vineyards Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
alc., 148 cases, $60.
Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass.
Distinctive aromas of black cherry, sweet manure, dark chocolate and
smoky oak. A terroir-driven wine with its signature fecal character in the
background. Silky on the palate and very well crafted, with balanced
tannins and a delicious black cherry essence. This is a wine with
personality and one unlike any you have ever tasted. The best Hansen
Vineyard Pinot Noir from george to date.
I am a fan of these very stylistic wines crafted by Katy Wilson (photo below) whose wines are very similar in
character to those crafted by her winemaking partner, Ross Cobb. Grapes are picked earlier than many, whole
cluster fermentation plays a big role, and the wines have a juiciness and acidity that is bright and uplifting. Oak
is never an issue and tannins are refined. Those looking for big, extracted fruit bombs, should look elsewhere.
2012 LaRue Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.0% alc., 220 cases, $60. A blend of Rice-Spivak and Emmaline
Ann vineyards. Dijon clones and Swan selection. Goldridge sandy loam soils at both sites. Aged 17 months
in 35% new French oak.
Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Plenty of whole cluster goodness in this
wine with aromas of cherry, raspberry, cola, rose and spice. An elegant wine. but packs plenty of flavorful
spiced cherry and raspberry fruits with a note of pomegranate, cranberry and rose water in the background.
High grade tension, nicely accented with oak, finishing with crisp, tart cherry goodness.
2012 LaRue Emmaline Anne Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
12.4% alc., 50 cases, $70 (two bottlesper person). From a 3-acre
vineyard near the town of Freestone. Dijon clones are planted in
Goldridge sandy loam soils. Aged 17 months in 50% new French
Moderately light reddish purple color in the glass. Similar to
the Sonoma Coast bottling, but a step up in nuance and
sophistication. Wondrous aromas of wilted rose, red cherry and
spice led to a delicious palate of crisp, juicy red plum, cherry and red
raspberry fruits. A faint note of oak and floral bouquet lurks in the
background. Refined and classy, with a mouthwatering finish.
Ted Lemon is one of California’s most respected winegrowers and vintners. The quality of the wines is based
on low yields and careful site and vine selection. Ted’s focus is not on technology, but rather on farming and
nature, particularly biodynamic and agro-ecological farming techniques. Cultured yeasts, cultured bacteria,
yeast additives, yeast or malolactic nutrients, enzymes, acidification and de-acidification are avoided if
possible. Ted does not make wine for competitions, ratings or trends. His wines are typically elegant and
complex, and often need cellaring for full expression. Visit the Littorai model farm and innovative winery
located between Sebastopol and Freestone (by appointment) to properly understand the effort expended to
produce wines of terroir. The website is www.littorai.com.
2012 Littorai One Acre Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
13.4% alc., $75.
Moderate reddish purple color in the
glass. A very young wine that will need patience for full enjoyment. Aromas of black raspberry, pipe smoke
and sous-bois lead to a mid weight palate of dark red cherry, red raspberry and red plum flavors with a leafy,
dried herb note playing in the background. The fruit is embedded in young tannins and oak at this point. The
wine is much more expressive over time in the glass, and significantly more appealing the following day from a
previously opened and re-corked bottle with more overt fruit expression and decreased savory input. Cellar
this special wine for a few years.
2012 Littorai B.A. Thieriot Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., $75.
Moderately dark reddish purple hue in the glass.
Engaging aromas of fresh berries, black cherries, mushroom,
conifer and subtle oak. A very refined and classy wine that offers an
intense attack and length. Mid weight dark red cherry and berry,
and blueberry flavors are featured with a touch of savory dried herbs
in the background. The dark red raspberry finish is delightful. Even better
the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle indicating a
promising future. This is always my favorite Littorai bottling.
Patz & Hall
2012 Patz & Hall Jenkins Ranch Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
15.4% alc., 957 cases, $55. Released March
2014. This 18-acre vineyard is located two miles west of Sebastopol on Pleasant Hill Road (Sebastopol Hills).
Goldridge sandy loam soil planted to Dijon 667 and 777. Vineyard planted by Charlie Chenoweth in 2001.
Wild and cultured yeast fermentations. 15% whole cluster. Aged in 66% new French oak barrels. Unfined and
Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. A very appealing nose filled with savory
goodness including mushroom and sous-bois complimented by aromas of dark raspberry, blackberry and
spice. Mid to full-bodied with a tenacious palate of purple and black berries complimented by oak. There is
plenty of balancing structure to match the sappy fruit, and the finish is powerful and lasting. Clearly a special
wine somewhat defined by the richness and depth bestowed on the wine by the alcohol which is well
2013 Patz & Hall Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
14.2% alc., $38. Inaugural wine replacing the Napa Valley
Chardonnay after 20 vintages. Released July 2014. Predominant sources include Zio Tony Ranch, Durell,
Dutton Ranch, Parmalee Hill, Sun Chase, and Gap’s Crown vineyards. Whole cluster pressed, indigenous
yeast fermentations, aged sur lie with weekly stirring, 100% malolactic fermentation in barrel. Aged in 35%
new French oak barrels.
Moderate straw color and clear in the glass. Aromas of lemon, yellow applesauce,
lemongrass and nutty oak. Lemon flavors drive the pleasure with hints of apple and melon. Slightly creamy on
the palate with nicely integrated oak and a tart lemony finish. Easy to like.
2012 Patz & Hall Hyde Vineyard Carneros Napa Chardonnay
alc., 1,303 cases, $60. Released October 2014. Hyde-Wente selection.
24th growing season working with this fruit. Whole cluster pressed.
Indigenous fermentations, aged sur lie with weekly stirring, 100% malolactic
fermentation in barrel. Aged in 50% new French oak barrels. Unfiltered.
Moderate straw color and clear in the glass. Lovely perfume of fresh lemon,
white rose, and brioche. Hi-tone flavors of lemon, nectarine, apple,
lemongrass and nutty oak working in harmony. Bright, with excellent grip
and follow through on the crisp finish. A stylish wine with excellent
Sommelier Rajat Parr, the wine and spirits director for the Michael Mina Group, joined with Charles Banks, the
former owner of Screaming Eagle, and winemaker Sashi Moorman, to produce Pinot Noir and Chardonnay
from select vineyards in Santa Barbara County. The name, Sandhi, is an ancient Sanskrit word meaning
“alliance” or “collaboration,” and reflects the partnership of the winery. Parr spearheaded the “Pursuit of
Balance” movement, and the stylistic goal of the wines reflects this: avoidance of extreme ripeness, oak and
alcohol while emphasizing finesse, minerality, acidity, structure and balance. The Pinot Noirs are most whole
cluster fermented and are unfined and unfiltered. A tasting room is in Lompoc. Visit www.sandhiwines.com.
For 2012, a Mt. Carmel ($50) and La Cote Pinot Noir ($90) are also offered.
2012 Sandhi Sanford & Benedict Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., $65. Sourced from the original 1971 plantings at
Sanford & Benedict Vineyard.
Medium reddish purple color in the
glass. Very engaging nose that is whole cluster inspired with
aromas of rose petal, spicy cola, cherry and spiced pear. Soft and
silky on the palate with succulent flavors of red cherry and red
berries with a hint of dried leaf and rose water in the background. More
brightness and more savory than the Rinconada bottling. Plenty of bones
for aging, with a nice interplay of juicy acidity and suede tannins on the
finish. A sommelier’s wine built for food. Considerable better and more
expressive the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle
with plenty of spice, cola and fruit flavors dancing on the palate.
2012 Sandhi Rinconada Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., $55. 100% whole cluster fermentation.
Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. Exhilarating nose offering aromas of dark cherry, rose petal,
exotic spices and a little sous-bois at play. Seductive elegance upon entry with layers of dark red and purple
berry fruits backed by youthful, muscular tannins. A wine to contemplate with nuances arriving over time
including a floral riff. Silky in the mouth with a good spark of acidity to buffer the tannins. Still very enjoyable
the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. This wine needs cellaring for the tannins to
Sea Smoke Estate Vineyard was planted in 1999 on a hillside site. Each evening, the unique geography of the
region funnels a marine fog layer (“sea smoke”) up the Santa Ynez River canyon, cooling the vines and
extending the ripening period. Winemaker Don Schroeder has been at Sea Smoke since 2003, and he has
continued to fine tune his winemaking approach. For the Southing Pinot Noir, some untoasted oak barrels
were used and 10% of the wine was aged in 600-liter demi-muid barrels which slow oxygen ingress and
preserve freshness. The 2012 Southing is the twelfth vintage and is featuring the vineyard in its prime.
2012 Sea Smoke Southing Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
alc., pH 3.42, TA 0.65, $60 (1.5 ml $125). The name refers to the
south-facing hillside block of the estate vineyard. Grapes spent an
evening in the cold room after picking and sorting and then 100%
de-stemmed. Musts were cold soaked for 1 to 4 days, then
inoculated with cultured yeasts. Manual punchdowns were carried
out three times a day, with a total maceration time of 14 to 18 days.
Free-run juice was transferred to tank for settling. Pressing was carried out
at very low pressure. After settling, both free-run and press wines were
racked to 55% new French oak barrels for 16 months aging.
reddish purple color in the glass. Gorgeous nose featuring spiced berries,
violets, sous-bois and a hint of vanilla. The flamboyantly flavored core of
black raspberry and plum is accented with spice and an undertone of earthy flora. Amazing fruit flavor, yet
angelic, with a very soft and seamless demeanor, with oak adding complimentary seasoning. The fine-grain
tannins are beautifully integrated and the typically bright Sta. Rita Hills acidity adds vibrancy. The finish is long
and pleasing, filled with spicy plum goodness. This wine demands your attention from the get-go. Still
stunning the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle, when I drained the bottle.
2012 Sea Smoke Sea Spray Blanc De Noirs Sta. Rita Hills Sparkling Wine
11.9% alc., pH 3.15, TA 0.90,
$80. A methode champenoise wine with limited production. A long, cool fermentation began in stainless tanks,
and was completed in once-used and neutral French oak barrels. After 6 months of sur lie aging in barrel, the
was bottle aged an additional 16 months en tirage before disgorging, and finished with no dosage to preserve
Delicate light salmon color in the glass with an effusive bead. Aromas of brioche, lily bouquet and
sandy beach lead to discreetly intense flavors of cherry, strawberry, blood orange, apricot and rose water. A
bone dry sparkler that is expansive in the mouth, finishing with mouthwatering, steely, orange-infused acidity.
Tasting through Siduri’s wines gives a window into the 2013 vintage in the Russian River Valley, Santa Lucia
Highlands and Sta. Rita Hills. The wines are magnificently balanced with bright, up front fruit flavors and
modest tannins. The appellation blends are skillfully assembled by winemaker Adam Lee as always and
represent exceedingly good values.
2013 Siduri Sonoma County Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., 4,489 cases, $22, screwcap. A combination of Sonoma Mountain, Sonoma Coast and Russian River Valley fruit. Unfined and unfiltered.
reddish purple color in the glass. The aromas really pop upon opening with notes of black cherry,
deep raspberry and spice, but fade a bit in the glass over time. The tasty core of black cherry fruit is
tasty, silky and forward, with plenty of richness to satisfy. The tannins are well-proportioned and the
finish is juicy and pleasing. A solid wine that will perk up any mid week dinner.
2013 Siduri Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., 2,922 cases, $32, screwcap.
reddish purple hue in the glass. Aromas of Bing cherry and raspberry are slow to arrive in the glass
but satisfy over time. A bit of an atypical flavor profile for Russian River Valley with black raspberry,
blueberry and pomegranate dominating the mid weight palate. Nevertheless, this sleek wine has
admirable balance with complimentary oak and a finish of some persistence.
2013 Siduri Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 2,764 cases, $32, screwcap. 30% of blend from Pisoni Vineyard, the oldest vines that Siduri sources in the region. Also Rosella's, Soberanes, Sierra Mar and Garys' vineyards. 63% of wine comes from vines that are at least 14 years old.
dark reddish purple color in the glass. Very ripe scented nose with aromas of blackberry, spice and
conifer. Silky and juicy on the palate with alluring flavors of boysenberry, blackberry and black
currant with a substantial, but not imposing tannic backbone. The lengthy finish is especially
noteworthy for an appellation blend wine.
2013 Siduri Bucher Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., 388 cases, $49.
reddish purple color in the glass. Well-endowed with generous aromas of ripe Bing cherries, cola and loamy
earth. Discreetly concentrated, cherry-driven flavor on the palate with an undertone of savory spices, smoky
oak, and what the French call merde, a fecal or decaying vegetative note that some drinkers (not me) prize. I
have experienced this in only one other California wine - the Russian River Valley Hansen Vineyard Pinot Noir
produced by Brogan Cellars and George Wine Company.
2013 Siduri Elsbree Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.4% alc., 103 cases, $45, screwcap.
Moderately light reddish purple color in the glass. This wine shows the most oak imprint of the lineup but it is
not imposing. Aromas of dark cherry, cola, rose petal and espresso. Very smooth and creamy on the palate
with very taste dark cherry and berry flavors accented with cola and dark chocolate notes. Very inviting with
2013 Siduri Parson’s Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.9% alc., 389 cases, $49, screwcap.
Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Very charming aromas of black cherry pie glaze, brioche and rose
petal. Juicy and silky on the palate, with a generous essence of well-ripened cherries with a riff of purple
berries mixed in. Beautifully balanced with a healthy tannic backbone, finishing with teasing, pleasing charm.
2013 Siduri Rosella’s Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.6% alc., 378 cases, $54, screwcap.
Moderate reddish purple hue in the glass. A little riper profile in this vintage, offering an array of red and purple
berry and stone fruits. Inviting attack with impressive fullness on the palate, with immersed tannins, finishing
with a charge of fruit excellence. This wine also has textural interest to compliment its refined character.
Always the most feminine wine of the Rosella’s-Garys’-Pisoni trilogy.
2013 Siduri Garys’ Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.4% alc., 350 cases, $54,
Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. Very shy initially, picking up aromatic and
flavor interest over time in the glass. Aromas of dark cherry, dark berry, spice and floral bouquet lead to
a mid to full-bodied rainbow of black cherry, boysenberry, purple grape and plum flavors. The fruit is
flat-out gorgeous. Well-proportioned tannins and a caressing, creamy mouthfeel complete the picture.
2013 Siduri Pisoni Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.9% alc., 450 cases, $60,
screwcap. High yields but many berries in each cluster created an
ideal situation. Grapes were picked over a month. A good
percentage of whole clusters were used in the fermentation as the
clusters had very ripe stems. 18 barrels (34% of the lot) were
selected for this wine which includes barrels from the Big Block,
Hermanos, and Tina’s sections of the vineyard.
Dark reddish purple
color in the glass. Typical Pisoni with a rich load of purple and black berry
fruits that balance the wine’s broad shoulders of tannins. The boldest wine
in the Siduri lineup with a remarkable palate-staining, grand cru finish. The
penetrating energy of the wine is striking. When I left a re-corked bottle for 4
days and re-tasted it, I was astonished by its brilliance. The tannins had
thoroughly melded and the wine was all velvet, highly flavorful, and I
experienced stars. This vineyard is truly the source of one of California’s greatest Pinot Noirs.
2013 Siduri Clos Pepe Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 420 cases, $54, screwcap. Excellent stem ripeness in this vintage so whole clusters used in three out of four lots with only part of the Pommard completely de-stemmed. Only 34% of the barrels made it into the final wine.
Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. The explosive perfume of cherry, raspberry, brown spice and
brioche is captivating. Very soft and pleasing on the palate with light to mid weight flavors of fresh cherry pie
glaze, baking spice and raspberry coulis. Impeccable balance and glorious Pinot character. You can
thoroughly enjoy it now, but the balance predicts a long cellar life.
2013 Siduri Cargasacchi Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., pH 3.32, TA 0.78, 201 cases, $54.
I found this to be a curious wine with a noticeable departure from Cargasacchi wines I have sampled over the
years. Adam Lee told me he used 15% whole cluster, but for some reason the stems really stood out in this
wine. It is the highest acid Pinot Noir for Siduri in 2013 and the reason for using stems to bring down the
strength of the acid. Many wine writers and consumers have liked it, while others have not. Although I am
generally a fan of whole cluster wines, I am in the not group. You can decide for yourself.
garnet color in the glass. Aromas of raspberry, strawberry, smoke and woody stem lead to a light to mid weight
core of red and black raspberry and blueberry fruits with a floral, spicy undertone. The fruit lacks intensity, but
does show persistence on the soprano, sour cherry finish.
2013 Siduri Van der Kamp Vineyard Sonoma Mountain Pinot Meunier
14.1% alc., 123 cases,
Moderately light ruby color in the glass. A lovely, nicely balanced wine, with aromas
of cherry and baking spices, and flavors of black cherry, boysenberry and grape. Modest tannins
and easy drink ability with the added bonus of lush finishing goodness.
Small Vines Wines
All Small Vines Pinot Noirs are estate grown with high-density plantings of 2,722-3,630 vines per acre (1 to 2.5
lbs. per vine). Farming adheres to Grand Cru standards, hand selecting each cluster and berry in the vineyard
by starting with a framework of no more than 10 buds per vine followed by 28 hand-worked passes touching
each vine. This meticulous organic farming and attention to detail makes for special wines of unusual high
quality. All small lot wines are bottled unfined and unfiltered. The Sloans advise decanting the wines if enjoyed
young. The wines, including magnums, are available only to release wine club members. Visit
www.smallvines.com, or email Kathryn Sloan at Kathryn@smallvines.com.
2012 Small Vines Wines Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.2% alc., 169 cases, $50. Released August 5, 2014.
The newest single-vineyard Pinot Noir from the estate Barlow Homestead Vineyard.
Medium reddish purple
color in the glass. Very appealing aromatic goodness with scents of black cherry, black raspberry and sousbois.
Juicy, mid weight flavors of cherry, raspberry and cranberry with a touch of spice and a note of citrus in
the background. Good tension and modest tannins make for easy drinking.
2012 Small Vines Wines MK Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.6% alc., pH 3.72, TA 0.52, 143 cases,
$65. Released August 5, 2014. Vineyard planted in 1999 by Small Vines on an eastern-facing ridge above
Occidental. Farmed organically using biodynamic practices. Clones 114, 115, 667 and 777. Native yeast
fermentation and native MLF. 25% whole cluster. Aged 15 months on fine lees in 45% new French oak. 100%
free run. Unfined and unfiltered.
Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. A well-endowed wine
offering bright scents of cherry, black raspberry, earthy flora and a hint of bark, and very tasty flavors of black
cherry, black raspberry, cola and spice. Very polished and beautifully balanced with a healthy structure for
aging. The wine finishes with a charge of deep black raspberry goodness.
2012 Small Vines Wines Baranoff Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
13.4% alc., pH 3.69, TA 0.57, 93 cases, $65.
Released August 5, 2014. Vineyard planted in 2001 at top of ridge
above the Laguna de Santa Rosa, Sebastopol. Sustainably farmed
by Small Vines Viticulture, Inc.. Mostly Calera clone with some 115
and 777. Native yeast fermentation and native MLF. 35% whole
cluster. Aged 15 months on fine lees in 25% new French oak. 100% free
run. Unfined and unfiltered.
Moderately dark reddish purple color in the
glass. Glorious nose over time, sporting aromas of black cherry, balsam,
baking spice and Christmas kitchen. Amazing presence on the palate with
numbing fruit intensity rarely seen in Pinot Noir. The dark berry and cherry
fruit sap grabs on tenaciously through a very long finish. The firm, youthful tannic backbone holds the fruit in
check and there is enough acidity to brighten the wine. This is a powerhouse wine that will need a few years
for the tannins to soften. Don’t even think about drinking this wine now unless you decant for several hours.
2012 Small Vines Wines Estate Cuvée Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
13.6% alc., pH 3.73, TA 0.54, 383
cases, $N/A. About 56% Baranoff Vineyard, 25% Old Mill Vineyard, 12.5% MK Vineyard, and 6% Barlow
Homestead Vineyard. Organically farmed by Small Vines Viticulture, Inc.. Clones are Dijon 113, 114, 115, 459,
667, 777, Swan, Calera and Pommard. Native yeast fermentation and native ML. 27% whole cluster. Aged 15
months on fine lees in 31% new French oak. 100% free run.
Medium reddish purple color in the glass.
Aromas of dark berry pie and sweet oak lead to a mid weight core of flavorful cherry, raspberry, ollaliberry and
spice. Admirable integration of oak and complimentary tannins make for easy drinking. A forward-drinking
wine that aims to please with a soft mouthfeel and a finishing spurt of rich fruit goodness.
2013 Small Vines Wines Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
14.1% alc., pH 3.45, TA 0.55, 353 cases, $sold out.
Sourced from the estate Barlow Homestead Vineyard planted in Sebastopol in 2009. Vineyard is farmed
organically by Small Vines Viticulture, Inc.. 3,630 vines per acre in Goldridge sandy loam. Clones are Hyde,
Wente and Kistler Mt. Eden Wente selections. Barrel fermented with native yeast and native MLF. Aged 10
months on fine lees in 10% new French oak, 10% stainless steel and 80% neutral French oak. Unfined and
Moderately light golden straw color and clear in the glass. Pleasing aromas of lemon, apple, apricot and salty minerality. Bright, with excellent grip and tension, featuring juicy flavors of lemon and green apple, with subtle oak adding interest in the background. A superb food wine.
This is the fifth vintage from this winery and the 2013 lineup of Pinot Noirs are new to Tessier. The name,
Tessier, is the original French version of proprietor and winemaker Kristie Tacey’s last name. Her initial career
path was biotechnology and in 2000 worked on the Human Genome Project. Switching to winemaking, she
designed a label that depicts a photograph through a microscope of yeasts budding, a clever depiction since
yeasts are the work horses of winemaking. Kristie considers 2013 her favorite vintage. Visit
2013 Tessier Winery After Hours California Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., 50 cases, $30. A tribute to
the Velvet Underground and the last tract on their self-titled album, one of Kristie’s favorites: “If you
close the door, the night could last forever. Leave the wineglass out and drink a toast to never.”
50% Saveria Vineyard and 50% Morelli Lane Vineyard. Aged in neutral French oak.
light garnet color in the glass. Uplifting aromas of cherry, cranberry and strawberry with a
complimentary touch of dried herbs. Elegant and lighter in weight, but not wimpy flavor wise, with a
juicy core of red fruits accented with notes of spice and a hint of red hots. A forward drinking wine,
slightly chilled, perfect for the back porch after a long work day.
2013 Tessier Winery Saveria Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
13.0% alc., 100 cases, $38.
Aged in 25% new French oak.
Moderately light reddish purple color in the glass. Aromas of cherry, strawberry,
and dried rose petal really draw you into the glass. Very suave and pleasurable on the palate with a juicy attack
of fresh cherry and cranberry fruits wrapped in fine-grain tannins. Nicely balanced with good oak integration,
finishing strong with plenty of red berry delight.
2013 Tessier Winery Morelli Lane Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., 170 cases, $38. Aged in 30% new French oak.
Moderately light reddish purple color in the glass. Nice contrast to the
Santa Cruz Mountains bottling, showing the typical luscious fruit the
Russian River Valley is known for. Hi-tone aromas of Bing cherry,
raspberry, cola and baking spice set the stage. In the mouth, there is a
striking attack of intensely flavored fruit, primarily black cherry, with a hint of
sarsaparilla, mocha and vanilla. Nicely balanced tannins make for easy
drinking now and the finish has impressive generosity.
Misfortune struck this year at WesMar’s young estate vineyard in Sebastopol. The vines were infected with
Young Vine Decline, a fungal disease that prevents the young vines from taking up water and nutrients.
Apparently the vines were infected when they were delivered for planting. Removal of infected vines is the
only cure and so in March 2014, all 3264 vines were removed and in May 2014 the vineyard was replanted
with new rootstock. Next May (2015), the vines will be grafted to chosen clonal selections and hopefully some
estate fruit will be harvested in 2017. Bummer.
2012 WesMar Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.8% alc., $39. A blend of Hellenthal and Balletto vineyards.
Moderately light reddish purple color in the glass. Elevating aromas of fresh dark berries, brewed tea and (?
whole cluster) spice lead to a very satisfying mid weight mix of nicely ripened cherry and berry fruits that are
snug with youthful tannins. Not terribly complex, but highly enjoyable, with impeccable balance.
2012 WesMar Hellenthal Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
Moderately light reddishpurple color in the glass. Shy initially, but
teases over time with vibrant aromas of wild berries, potpourri, spice and
conifer. Delicious mid weight flavors of mixed berries, dark cherries and
black plum with an appealing conifer note in the background. Highly
nuanced, with plenty to discover over time including hints of sarsaparilla,
cola, earth and smoke. Softly textured with a very long and engaging finish
that demands contemplation. The pick of the litter.
2012 WesMar Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., $39.
Moderately light reddish purple hue in the
glass. Deep cherry aromas with hints of sous-bois, oak spice and floral bouquet. Soft and sleek in the mouth
with a pleasing mix of cherry and cranberry flavors accented with spice and cola. A top notch Russian River
Valley appellation blend that begs to be enjoyed now.
2012 WesMar Oehlman Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., $42.
reddish purple color in the glass. Pleasant aromas of ripe cherry and raspberry with a hint of floral bouquet.
Cherry-driven on the palate with inviting attack and finish. A touch of spice and savory herbs add interest.
Considerably more enjoyable the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle with brighter fruit
expression and more finishing power. Decant if you must drink now, but I would wait a year or two.
2012 WesMar Salzgerber Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., $45.
reddish purple color in the glass. A multitude of fruits are layered in this beauty, including cherries, blueberries,
red grapes and strawberries. This wine has noticeably more mid palate intensity and appeal. Very juicy, with
balanced tannins, bright acidity, complimentary oak management, and admirable harmony. More approachable
now than other single vineyard wines in this lineup.
Williams Selyem has gradually acquired estate vineyards since the winery was bought by John and Kathe
Dyson in 1997. Drake Estate Vineyard was added in 1998, the Estate property in 2001, and the property on
the east side of the Russian River known as Eastside Estate almost opposite the winery on Westside Road. In
2014, a Luella’s Garden Pinot Noir will be released honoring the original owner of the Williams Selyem
Westside Road Williams Selyem Estate Vineyard, Luella Litton. It will join the Block 10 Mass Selection Estate
Vineyard Pinot Noir and the Vista Verde Chenin blanc as special wines that can be tasted and purchased only
at the winery. Tasting is by appointment at www.williamsselyem.com. Wines are sold exclusively through a
mailing list. The 2012 wines reviewed here made me wish I had ordered more Williams Selyem Pinot. The
wines are stunning.
2012 Williams Selyem Williams Selyem Estate Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
$105. Primarily Swan, Mt. Eden selections and Pommard clone.
Moderate reddish purple color in the glass.
Intriguing aromas of black cherry liqueur, raspberry, spice, humus, herbs and toast. Impressive fruit intensity
and finishing generosity. Mid weight flavors of Bing cherries, red raspberries, baking spices and cola are
wrapped in well proportioned young tannins. Seamless, with inviting composure and potential.
2012 Williams Selyem Allen Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., $82.
Moderately dark reddish purple color in
the glass. The knockout nose is orgasmic, featuring spicy black
cherry, berry wonderland and dark chocolate aromas. Soft, smooth
and polished on the palate, the dark red cherries and berries attack
with intent, and the epic flavor circus finishes with a grand cru level
of bombastic cherry goodness. The texture is very seductive and
the fruit is vibrant and pure. Superlatives don’t do this spectacular wine
2012 Williams Selyem Burt Williams Morning Dew Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
alc., $78. This vineyard is located in the northern end or “deep end” of the Anderson Valley.
Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. Effusive aromas of black cherry cola, blackberry
jam, underbrush and oak-driven vanilla and anise. Mouth numbing flavors of black cherry, baking
spice, dark chocolate, tea and anise with sequestered tannins and a huge, long, and I mean long,
finish. Very soft and suave on the palate making for easy drinking now, but this wine can go the
distance. A glorious wine that has many nuances to offer.
2012 Williams Selyem Weir Vineyard Yorkville Highlands Pinot Noir
13.8% alc., $58.
reddish purple color in the glass. Aromas of blackberry, spice, bark, expensive dark chocolate and
smoky oak. Velvety on the palate, offering a burst of blackberry, black currant and boysenberry fruits
backed by supple tannins. Tremendous polish with a crazy long finish featuring spicy and very juicy
2013 Byron Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., pH 3.56, TA 0.56, 50,000 cases, $19,
screwcap. Aged 8 months in 3% new French oak barrels.
Moderately light reddish purple color in
the glass. Fragrant with aromas of cherry, rose and oak. A solid, easy drinking wine, with juicy mid
weight black cherry flavor and a pretty good tug of oak. There is an earthy undertone and a hint of
iron-driven minerality adding interest. The tannins are supple and the velvety mouthfeel is appealing.
Amazing quality given the very large production.
2012 Carpe Diem Cellars Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., $32. Crafted by Roederer Estate’s
winemaker, Arnaud Weyrich.
Medium reddish purple color in the glass. The nose is dominated by toasty,
smoky oak with little fruit evident. Better on the palate with a flavorful core of berry and plum fruit with oakdriven
notes of tobacco leaf and smoke in the background. Creamy on the palate with balanced tannins and a
short finish. Unchanged the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. The heavy oak
overlay is too much for my taste.
2012 Failla Occidental Ridge Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., 575 cases, $55.
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.
2012 Gehricke Los Carneros Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., RS 2.5 g/L, 1,050 cases, $50. The first entry into the
premium wine market by The Other Guys known for laid back labels like Hey Mambo, Pennywise and
Plungerhead. This wine resulted from a collaboration between August Sebastiani and his brother-in-law and
winemaker, Kendrick Coakley. Aged 9 months in French oak.
Moderately dark reddish purple color in the
glass. Oak aromas and flavors dominate the lovely fruit in this otherwise appealing wine. The nose offers
scents of dark chocolate coated black cherries, smoke and coffee. Silky smooth on the palate, with a mid
weight core of sweet, fresh black cherry and black raspberry fruits with anise, spice and dark chocolate notes
in the background. Modest tannins and some length on the fruit-laden finish. Your pleasure will depend on how
big a role you want oak to play in your Pinot.
Supporting the community has always been part of the mission at Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards. The
Ferrer family proudly served as honorary co-chairs of this year’s Sonoma Wine Country Weekend, whose
auction raised more than $4 million dollars for local charities. The 2012 Gloria Ferrer Willmar Artist Series
Pinot Noir marked the second vintage of supporting the Willmar Grief and Healing Center in Sonoma. All
proceeds from the sale of this limited-release Pinot Noir, which features an original artwork label created by a
young Willmar artist, benefit the center. In October, Gloria Ferrer hosted “Yoga for Hope” in support of the
Northern California chapter of the City of Hope. Gloria Ferrer also poured at two of amFAR’s Inspiration Galas
in support of AIDS research. This year for the first time, Gloria Ferrer was the exclusive wine for GLAMOUR
magazine’s 24th Annual Women of the Year Awards in November.
2012 Gloria Ferrer Estate Grown Carneros Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., pH 3.75, TA 0.55, $27. Aged
9 months in 94% French oak and 6% Hungarian oak with 25% of barrels new. A variety of Pinot Noir
clones and selections planted in this 365-acre estate vineyard.
Moderate reddish purple hue in the
glass. Lovely aromas of spice, black cherry and pomegranate. Forward-drinking and juicy with a
luscious core of dark cherry, purple berry, cola and spice flavors. The mid palate attack is tenacious,
the tannins are fine grain and supportive, there is enviable integration of oak, and a satisfying finish.
A terrific wine at this reasonable price.
Robert Pellegrini took over sole proprietorship in 2013 of the Pellegrini Wine Company that includes Olivet
Lane Estate and Pellegrini labels. The last vintage of Pellegrini Pinot Noir bottled was in 2009 and Chardonnay
in 2010, as all fruit was sold to Merry Edwards and Williams Selyem until the 2013 vintage (a 2011 Pellegrini
Pinot Noir was reviewed by me in July 2014, and it had 5 tons of Olivet Lane fruit in it but it was blended with
other Russian River Valley fruit and crafted off the property). Going forward beginning with the 2013 vintage
there will be two labels: Olivet Lane Vineyard that will include a single vineyard estate grown Pinot Noir and
Chardonnay, and Pellegrini, to include regional appellation wines and some single vineyard wines such as
Hurst and Toboni Oakwild Ranch Pinot Noirs. The current Pellegrini Pinot Noir has only a small fraction of
estate fruit and is a blend of several Russian River Valley vineyards. I recently stopped by the winery and
tasted the 2013 Olivet Lane Estate, Hurst and Toboni PInot Noirs from barrel with winemaker Lynn Krausmann,
and was very impressed. Krausmann has impressive credentials including stints as a winemaker at Esterlina
Vineyards and Williams Selyem. Look for exciting wines to come. A new outdoor tasting bar is now available
Thursday through Monday from 11:00 to 4:30 by appointment.
2013 Pellegrini Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., $30.
Moderately light reddish purple color in
the glass. Aromas of black cherry, black tea and smoky oak lead to a tasty core of ripe strawberry, cherry and
cola flavors accented with oak. Medium weighted with good balance and some finishing persistence. A solid
2012 Windy Oaks Estate Special Release Les Deux Grands Cru Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., one barrel (24 cases), $85
(futures). Offered to Wine Group members only. A co-fermentation of the
estate vineyard special Burgundy clone and a little half-acre of the newly
certified Chambertin clone.
Moderately light reddish purple color in the
glass. Very pleasing aromas of cherry and red berry with a compliment of
toasty brioche. Light to medium weight flavors of red berry preserves with a
seasoning of oak. Softly textured with admirable balance, and a long red
cherry and red berry fueled finish. This wine grows on you over time in the
glass, picking up intensity and nuances. A cellar-worthy wine of