Sips of Recently Tasted Pinot Noir
Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery Winemaker Theresia Heredia has been at Gary Farrell a few years now and has familiarized herself with the vineyard sources. The quality of the wines shows it. Visit www.garyfarrellwines.com.
2013 Gary Farrell Bacigalupi Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., pH 3.48, TA 0.64, 588
cases, $60. Released February 2016. Sourced from the Bacigalupi’s Frost Ranch and Block 9 that is planted
entirely to a Wente selection of Pinot Noir. Small % of whole clusters. 5 to 7-day cold soak, both punch downs
and pump overs, 10 to 15-day extended post-fermentation extended maceration, aged 14 months on the
primary lees in French oak barrels, 40% new.
Moderately light cherry red color in the glass. I was drawn to this
wine immediately, with its forward aromas of perfectly ripe Bing cherries, cake spices and rose bush. A cherry
bombast on the palate, with uncommon vivid and juicy character, flanked by integrated tannins. I was enamored by the freshness of this wine making it the best
bottling of this vineyard designate to date in my opinion.
2013 Gary Farrell Rochioli-Allen Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., pH 3.46,
TA 0.70, 414 cases, $70. Released February 2016. Sourced from Rochioli Vineyard and Allen Vineyard
located nearby on opposite sides of Westside Road. Predominantly Pommard from old (1974) and new
(1996) Allen Vineyard plantings with the balance is Pommard from the Rochioli River Block. Small % of
whole clusters, 5 to 7-day cold soak, inoculated fermentations, 10 to 15-day post-fermentation
extended maceration, aged on primary lees for 14 months in French oak barrels, 40% new.
light cherry red color in the glass. Nuances abound in this wine, with aromas of cherries, red rose
petals, spice, earth and woodland. Lovely cherry flavor tip toes on entry, tap dances mid palate, and hip hops
through a boisterous and remarkably sustained finish. A beautifully composed, harmonious wine that will
please now yet enthrall for several years to come.
2013 Gary Farrell Westside Farms Russian River Valley Chardonnay
13.7% alc., pH 3.43, TA 0.68, 747
cases, $50. Released February 2016. David Ramey grows Chardonnay on his 40-acre Westside Farms
Vineyard. Clone 4 was planted in 1989 in deep, river-deposited sandy loam soils. Harvest Brix 22º-23º. Gently
whole cluster pressed, inoculated ferment, aged 8 months on creamy lees in French oak barrels, 40% new.
Moderately light golden yellow color and clear in the glass. The lean nose offers demure aromas of cake spice,
lemon-lime and apple. Much more expressive on the palate, with citrus-driven flavors that charm with
brightness and integrate beautifully with a deft touch of oak. Vibrant and clean, with a refreshing lemon-driven
finish, this is a soulful Chardonnay that will be marvelous at the dinner table.
Graton Ridge Cellars A producer of Russian River Valley Pinot Noir located in Sebastopol that was recently
acquired by Furthermore Wines. The purchase included the Graton Ridge Cellars label, tasting room, winery
and estate vineyard. Erica Stancliff will continue as winemaker. Both labels which will be available for tasting in
the new home of Furthermore at 3561 Gravenstein Hwy N in Sebastopol. Visit www.furthermorewines.com and
2013 Graton Ridge Cellars Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., $45.
Moderate reddish purple
color in the glass. Aromas of cherry, dried herbs and chalky earthy lead to a mid weight styled wine with flavors
of Bing cherry, red berry, tobacco and oak char. Easy to drink, with silky tannins and a slightly tart cherrydriven
finish which leaves a trail of oak.
2013 Graton Ridge Cellars Paul Family Estate Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., $55. Moderately light cherry red color in the glass.
Lovely marriage of Bing cherry, cola and sandalwood aromas.
The delicious core of Bing cherry and strawberry fruits are nicely accented with brioche and baking spice
flavors framed by suave tannins. A very sexy wine that is all satin in the mouth and impeccably balanced.
2013 Graton Ridge Cellars Reserve Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 241 cases, $50.
Moderately light cherry red color in the glass. Deep cherry pie and pie spice aromas lead to a mid weight core
of attacking Bing cherry, strawberry and baking spice flavors. Beautifully composed, with matching tannins, deft
oak management, and a generous finish. Quintessential Russian River Valley character.
Helioterra A small, artisan producer of Oregon and Washington wines crafted at Bjornson Vineyard in Salem,
Oregon by winemaker Anne Ebenreiter Hubatch. The name draws on geological inspiration, symbolizing
Heliolite, the Oregon gemstone. Also, Helio and Terra combine the Greek words for sun and earth, natural
partners for grape growing. Anne is a Wisconsin native whose degree in Geology and Environmental Studies
from the University of Wisconsin meant her career path would be connected to the land. Upon moving to
Oregon, she had extensive wine training with Eric Hamacher (Hamacher Wines), David Adelsheim and Dave
Paige (Adelsheim Vineyard), Joe Dobbes (Dobbes Family Estate), and Alfredo Apolloni (Apolloni Vineyards).
Her first vintage under her own Helioterra label was 2009. Multiple varietals are produced including the two
Pinot Noir blends reviewed here. Visit www.helioterrawines.com.
2014 Helioterra Willamette Valley Oregon Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., pH 3.59, TA 0.57, 531 cases, $30. Five vineyards, multiple Dijon clones and Pommard. Aged 13 months in French oak barrels, 22% new.
Moderately light reddish purple color in
the glass. Demure, but pleasant aromas of black cherry and oak spice. Very tasty juice, featuring ornate flavors
of black cherry, black berry and pomegranate framed by structured tannins, and finishing with a burst of juicy,
dark berry fruit. Supple and polished.
2013 Helioterra Vintner’s Select Willamette Valley Oregon Pinot Noir
12.5% alc., pH 3.67, TA 0.62, 125 cases, $38. Sourced from five vineyards, multiple Dijon clones and Pommard. Best of the
cellar: vintner's favorite barrel from each of the five vineyards. Native yeast fermentation, aged 11 months in French oak barrels, 32% new.
Light cherry red color in the glass.
Fruity nose offering aromas of red cherry, cranberry and complimentary oak. Silky and charming on the palate,
with a modest attack of red cherry and red berry fruits with savory bent. Well-concealed tannins, good cherry
and oak counter play, finishing with some cherry goodness. A solid offering, but in this vintage lacks engaging
Saffron Fields Vineyard Chemical engineers, Dr. Angela Summers and Sanjeev Lahoti, hail from Houston,
Texas. As they became wine enthusiasts, they visited the Willamette Valley in 2003, met with a realtor and
found a grass seed farm on Laughlin Road in Yamhill near Willakenzie Estate, Lénne Estate and Deux Verts
Vineyard in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA. They developed the property, traveling to the site several times a year,
staying in a small shack on the vineyard. They planted the first 12 acres of Pommard clone Pinot Noir in 2007,
and added 12 more acres in 2009. Today there are 32 acres of Pinot Noir (clones are Pommard, Wädenswil,
115, 667, 777, and “828”) and 3 acres of Chardonnay (clones 76 and 548). The vineyard is dry farmed using
sustainable practices (LIVE certified). Their initial grapes were bought by winemaker Tony Rynders who
became their winemaker. The barn on the property was disassembled and the wood salvaged to be used in a
tasting room constructed on site. The architecturally alluring and serene tasting room opened in 2013 and
contains the owners’ personal collection of contemporary art and houses art exhibits as well. A Japanese-styled
garden, orchard, vegetable garden and sculpture garden were added.
2013 Saffron Fields Vineyard Willamette Valley Oregon Pinot Noir
13.4% alc., 300 cases, $40. Released September
7, 2015. 39% Yamhill-Carlton, 33% Eola-Amity Hills, 17% Chehalem Mountains, and 11% Ribbon Ridge. Aged
15 months in French oak barrels, 25% new.
Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Very shy nose, offering
a hint of cherry fruit, but mainly woodland flora. Light to mid weight flavors of cherry, pomegranate, toasty oak
and woody spice. Delicate, with suave tannins, and some uplifting cherry goodness on the finish.
2013 Saffron Fields Vineyard Yamhill-Carlton Willamette Valley Oregon Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., 700 cases, $55.
Released September 7, 2015. Flagship bottling of 4 clones (Pommard, Wädenswil, 115, 777) from Saffron
Fields Vineyard. Aged 16 months in French oak barrels, 39% new.
Moderate reddish purple color in the glass.
The nose is quite engaging, with aromas of black cherry, blackberry, tea leaves and cassis. Juicy and flavorful,
offering notes of blackberry, black raspberry and blueberry fruits with an earthy underpinning. The fruit is very
expressive and expansive in the mouth, supported by well-concealed, finely ground tannins. The fruit seems to
have been picked at the peak of ripeness.
2013 Saffron Fields Vineyard Heritage Clones Yamhill-Carlton Willamette Valley Oregon Pinot Noir
501 cases, $50. Released September 7, 2015. 100% Saffron Fields Vineyard. Pommard and Wädenswil
clones. Aged 17 months in French oak barrels, 50% new.
Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. The nose
opens slowly to reveal enticing aromas of ripe strawberry, black cherry pie glaze, and dark red rose petal. The
black cherry, black raspberry and mushu plum sauce flavors are front and center in this mid weight plus
offering that combines pleasing extraction with well-honed and balanced tannins. The finish is particularly
notable, with power and length that goes on and on. A charming wine with the guts to age.
Tessier Winery Owner and winemaker Kristie Tacey, CSW, founded her winery in 2009 to focus on small lots
of Pinot Noir, Grenache and Viognier. I have reviewed past vintages with pleasure. Visit
2014 Tessier After Hours California Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., 50 cases, $30. A blend of Saveria
(Santa Cruz Mountains) and Morelli Lane (Russian River Valley) vineyards. Aged in neutral French
Moderately light cherry red color in the glass. Lovely perfume of fresh cherries,
cranberries and a hint of spicy oak. Light in weight, but flavorful, with a juicy core of cherry fruit
framed by modest tannins. A forward, easy drinking wine that has commendable balance and a
pleasingly silky finish.
2014 Tessier Morelli Lane Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., 95 cases, $39. Clones
114 and Pommard. Aged in 25% new French oak barrels.
Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Deep
aromas of black cherry with a bit of dried herbs. A mid weight complement of black cherry and black raspberry
fruits aims to please, accented with echoes of oak, and backed by ripe fruit tannins that are in sync. The fruit
persists through the mid palate to a vigorous finish of some note.
Wedell Cellars Several Pinot Noir wines from winemaker Maurice Wedell have been reviewed favorably by me in the past year. Visit www.wedellcellars.com.
2011 Wedell Cellars The Row Find Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., pH 3.28, TA 0.668, 20 cases, $110.
New release. This wine is sourced from a small section of a renowned vineyard in the Sta. Rita Hills AVA and
represents the very best barrel from 2011. 100% de-stemmed, 6-day cold soak, fermented in open top micro
bins, gently pressed with a basket press with only free-run juice used. Aged on the lees 30 months in French
oak, 48-month air-dried, second use. Bottled unfined and unfiltered.
Dark reddish purple color in the glass.
Very ripe fruit aromas including blackest cherry, raisin and black currant. Soft and silky on the palate, with
flavors of dried plum, blackberry and spice and a subtle riff of oak. The wine has the signature Sta. Rita Hills acidity making for
juicy drinking. It can best be described as an individualistic wine with a mature character due to the extended elevage, and has the acidity
to last many years.
2012 Wedell Cellars Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., pH 3.48, TA 0.67, 320 cases, $75. New release. A
blend of clones 5, 113, 115, 667 and 777 from Fiddlestix Vineyard. 100% de-stemmed, 3 to 6-day cold soak,14
days on skins, gently basket pressed. The wine is more than 95% free-run juice. Aged on the lees almost 20
months. Bottled unfined and unfiltered.
Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. Aromas and flavors
of black cherry, tea, dark chocolate and toasty oak in a discreetly rich style featuring silky tannins, and a suave
finish with some persistence.
Windrun Vintners & Négociants A Buellton-based négociant offering wines from grapes grown in vineyards
of Santa Barbara County and coastal California, that represent outstanding value. Industry veteran Ken Brown
oversees the purchase, blending, finishing and bottling of these wines that are produced at Terravant Wine Co.
2012 Windrun San Luis Obispo County Pinot Noir
13.6% alc., pH 3.72, TA 0.53, 1,648 cases,
$23. Sourced from Edna Valley vineyards.
Moderately light reddish purple hue in the glass. The
deeply aromatic nose offers a very pleasing marriage of black raspberry, dark cherry and rose petal
scents. Noticeable fruit presence and a deft touch of oak make this cherry-driven offering a delight.
Nicely balanced, with a modest, but gratifying and elegant finish.
2013 Windrun Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., pH 3.66, TA 0.68, 2,530 cases, $23. A blend of
5 clones grown primarily in the Santa Maria Valley. Fermented in stainless steel and aged in new and used
French and American oak barrels for 6 months.
Moderately light reddish purple color in the glass. Shy aromas
of cherry, sandalwood, and tobacco lead to a middleweight styled wine with juicy flavors of cherries and purple
berries. Easy to like, with bright acidity, mild tannins and a pleasing cherry-driven finish, although the oak
overlay is a bit heavy-handed.
2013 Windrun Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., pH 3.48, TA 0.67, 479 cases, $33. A blend of
5 clones from the Lafond Vineyard (Pommard, 115, 777, “828,” and 667). 100% de-stemmed,
fermented in open tanks. Aged in neutral 500-liter puncheons for 10 months with complete
malolactic fermentation in barrels.
Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. Aromas of
blackberry jam and woodland lead to a full-bodied charge of blackberry and black raspberry fruit
flavors with an earthy undertone. The prodigious fruit is framed by bold tannins that stick out a bit on
the finish. A fruit-driven wine that is a bit one-dimensional, and the wine’s devilish tannins supersede
the acidity. That said, the fruit is ripe and luscious, and the fruit intensity really holds on to the finish.
2013 2013 [Noble Vines] 667 Monterey Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., $13.99. Dijon clones.
Moderate reddish purple color in
the glass. The nose is replete of fruit, offering scents of earth, mushroom and organic flora. Light to mid weight
flavors of black cherry and black tea have an earthy underpinning. Forward drinking, with very modest tannins
and a short finish.
2013 Mark West Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., $14.99. A Mark West Appellation Series
Moderate dark reddish purple color in the glass. The uplifting aromas of blackberry, dark cherry and
toasty oak hold up nicely over time in the glass. Plenty to like in this wine with mid weight flavors of black
cherry, black tea and dark chocolate clothed in silky tannins. A solid drinker with a reasonable price as well as good
Santa Lucia Highlands character.
2014 Turtle Vines Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
13.8% alc., pH 3.90, TA 0.58, $34. 50% Pommard and
50% Dijon 667 clones from an estate vineyard planted in 2010. 5% whole clusters. Aged in 25% new French
Moderate reddish purple hue in the glass. The nose is flush with earthy flora and savory herb aromas.
The palate is more fruity, offering middleweight spiced cherry flavor with a pinch of smoky oak. Very sleek and
silky with invisible tannins.