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First Encounters of Noteworthy Pinot Noir Producers in 2014

New wineries continue to join the Pinot race. Not a week goes by that I don’t find out about a new producer of Pinot Noir. The Pinot winery universe has become very crowded, but I found the following producers noteworthy based on my initial sampling of their wines. Because they are new, many of these wineries offer Pinot Noir that has a high quality to value ratio. A few of the wineries are established but 2014 was the first year I met with their wines.


Alma Fria West Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from the Holtermann family. Wines are crafted by Carroll Kemp (Red Car).

Angel Camp Vineyard Brian Zalaznick and Cindy Storman bought the Angel Camp property in the Anderson Valley in 2005 and planted 9 clones of Pinot Noir over 12 acres in 2006. Winemaker for Angel Camp Vineyard Pinot Noir was Jon Keyes for the 2011, 2012 and 2013 vintages, with Phil Baxter stepping in beginning with the 2014 vintage. Grapes are also sold to Dutton-Goldfield, Chanamé and Donum Estate.

BARDEN A collaboration between winemaker Doug Margerum of Margerum Wine Company in Santa Barbara and winemaker Jason Barrette.

brick & mortar Owner and winemaker Matt Iaconis launched this label in 2011 specializing in Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from Napa Valley’s Antinori Vineyard.

Brooks Note A Marin-based winery focusing on Pinot Noir. Garry Brooks and Joanne Brooks launched the label in 2011. He left a lucrative job in technology and earned a degree in viticulture and enology from University of California at Davis. He has trained at Acacia, Kosta Browne and Dutton-Goldfield.

Chanamé James Hahn and spouse Mila Chanamé released their first Pinot Noir from Anderson Valley in 2011. The wines are made from grapes sourced by James’ childhood friend, Norman Kobler, who is a partner and general manager of Ardzrooni Vineyard Management.

Cosa Obra Wines An excellent Pinot Noir is offered using grapes sourced from vineyards and in the Russian River and Bennett valleys. The consulting winemaker is Kent Humphrey (Eric Kent Wines).

Dolin Malibu Estate Vineyards A leading producer in the burgeoning Malibu Coast AVA. Besides Malibu Chardonnay, a line of Pinot Noirs from Central Coast vineyards was released in 2014 (see reviews next issue).

Domaine Anderson This new Anderson Valley winery was founded by the Rouzaud family of Louis Roederer and is located in Philo across the street from Goldeneye’s tasting room. The winery is surrounded by the 17- acre Dach Vineyard planted to Pinot Noir. Production is complimented by grapes from Roederer’s additional 35 acres of vineyards in Anderson Valley. The winemaker is Jerry Murray and the consulting winemaker is Jeremy Seysses of Domaine Dujac. The inaugural releases from the 2012 vintage included an Estate Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wine, and two single vineyard Pinot Noirs from Dach Vineyard and a single vineyard Chardonnay from Walraven Vineyard.

E16 Wine Company Third generation winegrower Robert Jones is assisted by winemaker Daniel Moore, producing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from sourced grapes.

En Garde Winery Proprietor and winemaker Csaba Szakal is a fourth generation winemaker from Hungary. En Garde was started in 2007 producing multiple varietals from sourced grapes including a Russian River Valley and Russian River Valley Reserve Pinot Noir. A tasting room is on Sonoma Highway in Kenwood.

Ernest Vineyards Co-owners Todd Gottula and Erin Brooks produce Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir and Russian River Valley Chardonnay with winemaker Kent Humphrey (Eric Kent Wines). The brand is named after Ernest Gottula, Todd’s paternal grandfather who graces the front label of the wines.

FEL Wines A new winery from the Lede Family Wines portfolio who bought Savoy Vineyard in the Anderson Valley. Pinot Noir and aromatic white wines are crafted by winemaker Ryan Hodgins using fruit sourced from Anderson Valley (include the estate Savory Vineyard) and Sonoma Coast. The inaugural releases came from the 2012 vintage.

Jeff Cohn Cellars (JC Cellars) A small urban winery located in Jack London Square in Oakland, California owned by winemaker Jeff Cohn. After graduating from California State University at Fresno, he worked for Rosenblum Cellars, and his Jeff Cohn Cellars became one of the first urban wineries to offshoot from Rosemblum Cellars, the original Bay Area urban winery. Cohn left Rosenblum in 2006 to concentrate on his own wines. Most of production is Rhone varietals and Zinfandel.

Kitá Winemaker Tara Gomez is a graduate of California State University at Fresno with a degree in enology. After school, she worked nine years at J. Lohr Vineyards. After a stint making wine in Spain, the Santa Ynez Band of Chumesh Indians acquired the Camp 4 Vineyard and hired Tara as winemaker. The assistant winemaker is Tymari LoRe, a graduate of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in enology and viticulture. Several varietals are produced including Pinot Noir from Hilliard Bruce Vineyard in the Sta. Rita Hills.

Les Voleurs Wines This is an urban San Francisco winery founded by Matthew Purdon and Keith Crowell. Both owners have a background in winemaking. Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are produced from Sonoma Coast grapes.

Lombardi Wines Tony Lombardi, the Director of Brand Management and Public Relations at Kosta Browne Winery started his own label beginning with the 2012 vintage, producing small lots of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from Sonoma County vineyards.

LUTUM A collaboration between Bill Price, owner of Classic Wines and Price Family Vineyards, and Santa Barbara County winemaker Gavin Chanin. The first releases from the 2011 vintage included a Durell Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir and a La Rinconada Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir.

Martin Ray Winery The historic Martini & Pratti Winery was acquired by Courtney Benham in 2003 and renamed Martin Ray Winery. Both value-priced and ultra-premium wines are produced. My first experience this year was three limited production Pinot Noirs were of very high quality.

Patiné Cellars A partnership between Jim Fox, a former professional hockey player with the Los Angeles Kings, and winemaker Mike Smith. Pinot Noirs are offered from Gap’s Crown and Sun Chase vineyards located in the Petaluma Gap region of the Sonoma Coast.

Picayune Cellars Owners Jennifer Roberts (spouse of Nathan Roberts, co-owner of Arnot Roberts Winery) and Claire Weinkauf (spouse of Aron Weinkauf, the winemaker at Spottswoode Winery) produce exciting wines at reasonable price points.

Press Cellars Proprietor Patrick Campbell works with vinyardist Sal Galvan to produce a Pinot Noir from the Helluva Vineyard in Anderson Valley.

Ram’s Gate Winery Veteran winemaker Jeff Gaffner (Black Kite Cellars, Saxon Brown) crafts the wines for this popular destination Sonoma Carneros Winery. Multiple Pinot Noirs are offered from Sonoma County vineyard sources.

Sandhi Wines Sommelier Rajat Parr joined with Charles Banks, the former owner of Jonata Wines and Screaming Eagle, and winemaker Sashi Moorman, to produce Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from selected vineyards in Santa Barbara County. The Pinot Noirs are mostly whole cluster fermented with wild yeast and aged in a low percentage of new French oak.

Sanglier Cellars Glenn Alexander owns Bacchus Vineyard Management which manages over 400 acres of vineyards for prestigious wineries such as Kosta Browne, Copain, Paul Hobbs and Pahlmeyer. Since 2006, the Alexander family has produced wine from family farmed vineyards.

Schermeister Cellars Winemaker Robert Schermeister offers a vineyard-designated Napa Carneros Pinot Noir from Paladini Vineyard. Schermeister was mentored by Mark Aubert. His inaugural release was from the 2012 vintage.

Senses Wines Three childhood friends, Christopher Strieter, Max Thieriot and Myles Lawrence-Briggs reunited after many years to produce Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from vineyards near their hometown of Occidental. The winemaking consultant is Thomas Brown (Rivers-Marie).

Ser Wine Company Nicole Walsh is a veteran winemaker including a long stint with Bonny Doon Vineyard. She launched her own label in 2012 producing multiple varietals including Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir.

Signal Ridge Roger Scommengna planted a vineyard off Signal Ridge Road in the Mendocino Ridge AVA in 1999. At 2,642 feet, it is the highest altitude vineyard in the North Coast. The inaugural Signal Ridge Pinot Noir is from the 2013 vintage, crafted by winemaker Nicole Scommengna.

Wayfarer Vineyard This vineyard in the Fort Ross-Seaview AVA of the Sonoma Coast is owned by Jayson Pahlmeyer. Fruit from the 2012 vintage was deemed suitable for a separate Wayfarer Vineyard label. Winemaker Bibiana Gonzalez Rave oversees the vineyard and wine production, and in the fall of 2014 released the first estate Wayfarer Vineyard Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines from the 2012 vintage.

Wait Cellars Robert Wait crafts limited lots of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay at Bluxome Street Winery in San Francisco’s SOMA district.

Wild Ridge Wild Ridge Pinot Noir comes from a vineyard on the far western edge of the Sonoma Coast near the hamlet of Annapolis. The winemaker is New Zealand native Craig McAllister.

Witching Stick Wines Owners Van and Anne Williamson produce Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, along with other varietals, from primarily Anderson Valley vineyards.


Chapter 24 Mark Tarlov, the former owner of Evening Land Vineyards, launched this winery in 2012 producing Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. The winemaker is Mike D. “Mikey” Etzel and consulting winemaker is Louis Michel Liger-Belair from Burgundy. Three price levels include Two Messengers, Fire + Flood, and Last Chapter.

Durant Vineyards The Durant Family has farmed vineyards in the Dundee Hills of Oregon since 1973 and have supplied grapes to many premier Willamette Valley wineries. Over 60 acres are dry farmed. Wines were first produced under the Durant Vineyard label in 2003. Several winemakers are involved.

Ghost Hill Cellars A small family owned vineyard and winery in the Yamhill-Carlton District of the Willamette Valley. The winemaker is Rebecca Pittock-Shouldis.

Formagalini Vineyards David de Lancellotti launched this label as a family project with the first Pinot Noir release from the 2012 vintage from a small, non-irrigated and biodynamically-farmed vineyard in the Chehalem Mountains.

Guillén Family Wines A very small winery owned by talented winemaker Jesus Guillén who is also the assistant winemaker at White Rose Estate. Pinot Noir is crafted from Dundee Hills vineyards using the “neoclassical objective” employed at White Rose Estate.

Gypsy Dancer Estates The label founded by deceased winemaker Gary Andrus has been revived by his widow, Christine Andrus beginning with the 2012 vintage. Rebecca Pittock Shouldis is the winemaker.

J.Wrigley Vineyard The Wrigley family produces small lots of Pinot Noir, Riesling and Pinot Gris from the 6-acre estate vineyard in the McMinnville AVA and some purchased fruit. The label was launched in 2010 with the first estate wine offered the following year.

J.K. Carriere An established winery in the Chehalem Mountains owned by winemaker Jim Prosser. Both estate and sourced fruit are used in production of wines that have a reputation for longevity.

Knudsen VineyardsThe children of noted winegrower Cal Knudsen are carrying on his tradition by creating Knudsen Vineyards in 2013, focusing on Pinot Noir from grapes their father planted in the Dundee Hills.

Olenik Vineyards Pinot Noir from a 14.7-acre vineyard split off from the Jacob-Hart Vineyard in 2005. The winemaker is Christopher Mazepink (Archery Summit).

The Potter’s Vineyard Bill and Sandy Sanchez acquired the former Laura Volkman property before harvest in 2012. The new label invokes the memory of the Laura Volkman label.

Purple Hands A small winery producing Willamette Valley Pinot Noir owned by winemaker Cody Wright, the son of noted Oregon winemaker, Ken Wright. Cody is also an assistant winemaker at ROCO Winery.

WildAire Cellars Proprietor and winemaker Matt Driscoll crafts his wines at Illahe Vineyards in the Willamette Valley. He sources grapes from several AVAs, including the noted Shea Vineyard.

Youngberg Hill Vineyards 21 acres of vineyards and a spectacular 50-acre hilltop estate incorporating an inn in the McMinnville AVA. The Bailey family crafts Pinot Noir from estate and purchased fruit. The tasting room is located within the inn.

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