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Sojourn Cellars: 2014 Pinot Noirs are Wines of Emotion

Sojourn Cellars takes its name from something Plato said, “It is a common saying, and in everybody’s mouth, that life is but a sojourn.” Owners Craig Haserot and Erich Bradley took the meaning of sojourn as a rest or respite to be enjoyed, and started Sojourn Cellars, appropriately displaying a lawn chaise on their label and putting superb Pinot Noir in the bottle. They could easily have modified Plato’s quote to be, “It is a common saying, and in everybody’s mouth, that life is but a Pinot Noir.”

Craig and Erich are two buddies who met on the tennis courts of Sonoma, and along with Ellen Haserot, formed Sojourn Cellars in 2001 with the production of 100 cases of Cabernet Sauvignon. They released their first Pinot Noir in 2004 at the height of the ‘Sideways’ frenzy. Erich’s considerable winemaking talent led to instant praise from the wine press, and Craig’s sales, marketing and management expertise have put a visible face on the winery. The winery’s focus has never wavered, concentrating on vineyard designated Pinot Noir and small bottlings of Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Erich has a solid winemaking background inspired by his family’s purchase of a 26-acre ranch in Sonoma County’s Valley of the Moon complete with a vineyard and 500-case winery. As part of the sale, the Bradley family was taught winemaking. Erich later studied winemaking and viticulture at University of California at Davis and Santa Rosa Junior College. He was smart to pick out two of California’s most iconic winemakers, Richard Arrowood of Arrowood Vineyards & Winery and David Ramey of Ramey Wine Cellars to mentor him. Erich then made acclaimed wines for Audelssa Estate Winery in Glen Ellen, a position he still holds today. He has also consulted for a number of wineries including Hop Kiln and HK Generations.

Craig left a career in computer software sales and moved to Sonoma County to pursue a new path. His background in sales and marketing provided an instant compliment to Erich’s winemaking expertise. Also, he addresses grower relations with multiple vineyards and engineered the opening of a unique Sojourn Tasting Salon, just off the square in the town of Sonoma. Guests are welcomed to seated comparative tastings featuring flights of Sojourn Cellars wines served in Riedel stemware in a relaxed setting. The tastings are available by appointment daily at Take a sojourn and enjoy some special Pinot Noir.

The small production Sojourn Cellars wines are sold primarily through a mailing list, with limited fine restaurant distribution. Visit the website at

The 2014 vintage had early bud break and the earliest harvest on record. March rains fueled the drought stricken vines and moderate summer weather allowed grapes to evenly ripen. Picking began in August and ended by the end of September. Thicker skins and even ripening led to balanced and complex wines.

I have always enjoyed Sojourn Pinot Noirs and have reviewed a number of vintages. The 2014 wines were stunners to say the least, capable of eliciting emotion, something only great Pinot Noir can do. The wines I tasted were impeccably balanced and had everything you could ask for in a California Pinot Noir, including vineyard individuality. It is rare to have tasted a winery’s entire lineup of Pinot Noirs and found every one stellar and worthy of celestial scores. The Riddle Vineyard, Reuling Vineyard, Ridgetop Vineyard and Wohler Vineyard Pinot Noirs will be released in the fall 2016. A Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir and Gap’s Crown Pinot Noir were also produced in the 2014 vintage and were part of the spring release.

2014 Sojourn Riddle Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.4% alc., pH 3.61, TA 0.58, 350 cases, $59. Released fall 2016. Vineyard is located north of Occidental on the second ridge from the Pacific Ocean in the Green Valley of Russian River Valley AVA. Clones are 115, Mt. Eden and Pommard planted in sandy loam Goldridge soils in 2008. 100% de-stemmed. Open-top fermentation with native yeasts, aged in French oak barrels, 50% new. Bottled unfined and unfiltered. · Moderately dark reddish purple hue in the glass. Beautifully perfumed with hi-tone scents of dark berry jam and Asian 5-spice. Mid weight plus in style with a strong physique, yet charming and nimble. The dark berry core really grabs on to the mid palate and holds through a fruit-laden finish. The wine has a trim oak compliment and a thick yet lubricating texture. Score: 94

2014 Sojourn Reuling Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.4% alc., pH 3.68, TA 0.58, 275 cases, $69. Released fall 2016. This 12.2-acre vineyard is located between Graton and Forestvllle. Planted in 2000 under direction of Mark Aubert and Peter Michael Winery. Heritage clones (Calera and two suitcase selections from Vosne-Romanee) are planted in Goldridge soils. Native yeast fermentation in open-top vats, aged in French oak barrels, 50% new. Bottled unfined and unfiltered. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Heady aromas of black cherry, sous-bois, woodland and nutty oak. Both fruity and savory on the velvety palate, with flavors of black cherry and dark red raspberry enhanced with a light tough of toasty oak. A subtle savory herbal imprint runs in the background. Juicy, with noticeable but tame tannins and impressive length on a finish that is reluctant to give up. Score: 93

2014 Sojourn Ridgetop Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.4% alc., pH 3.66, TA 0.56, 250 cases, $59. Released fall 2016. Vineyard is owned and managed by Thomas Rivers Brown, Fred Schrader and Ulises Valdez and is located in the northern Sonoma Coast near Annapolis. The site is surrounded by redwoods at about 1,100 feet elevation. There is a notable maritime influence, with fog ever present and receding each day. Clones 115, 667 and 777 blended together after being separately fermented in open-tops with native yeast. Aged in French oak barrels, 50% new. Bottled unfined and unfiltered. · Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. Gorgeous aromas of strawberry cherry and rose petal. Intriguing on the palate with a charge of black cherry, black raspberry, blueberry and spice flavors delivering a real mouthful of pleasure. Impeccably balanced, with a cashmere mouthfeel and a remarkable finish that offers good cut, length and a baby oil exit. Score: 94

2015 Sojourn Wohler Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., pH 3.62, TA 0.59, 500 cases, $48. Released fall 2016. This vineyard was replanted in 2006 and is located in the heart of the Russian River Valley in Forestville. Clones are Wädenswil 2A, 115, 667 and “828” planted in Goldridge soil. 100% de-stemmed, open-top native fermentation, aged in French oak barrels, 50% new, and bottled unfined and unfiltered. · Moderate reddish purple hue in the glass. Shy, but pleasing aromas of cherry and sandalwood that pick up intensity over time in the glass. Like cherry pie day at baking class, with a discreetly concentrated core of fresh red cherries and baking spices. Quite elegant and charming, with a silky countenance, weightless tannins, and cherry goodness that hangs on at the finish. The lightest weighted wine in the 2014 lineup, but one that I liked more and more as I tasted it over time in the glass. It seemed to sneak up on me and give up its charms slowly. Score: 93

2014 Sojourn Sangiacomo Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., pH 3.64, TA 0.57,1,350 cases, $59. Released spring 2016. Sourced from Roberts Road Vineyard in the Petaluma Gap region. Clones 115, 777 and Swan. Grapes were allowed to hang on the vine until late harvest. 100% destemmed, native yeast fermentation, aged in 50% new French oak barrels. Bottled unfined and unfiltered August 2015. · Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. The intoxicating nose is complex, offering scents of cherry, strawberry, spice, earth and exotic bouquet. A vibrant wine on the palate that features well-spiced redder fruits framed by poised acidity and toned tannins. Silky in texture, and deftly balanced, with an intensely fruited finish reminiscent of a perfectly ripened, sweet strawberry. This wine is the best I have ever tasted from this vineyard. Score: 95

2014 Sojourn Rodgers Creek Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., pH 3.68, TA 0.57, 775 cases, $48. Released spring 2016. This vineyard is located in the Petaluma Gap high on a ridge. Some whole cluster fermented Pommard clone is blended with clone 777. 15% whole cluster. Native yeast fermentation, aged in 50% new French oak barrels. Bottled unfined and unfiltered in July 2015. · Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. The nose is more savory than fruity, offering aromas of potpourri with redder fruits in the background. The intense attack of perfectly ripened cherry fruit is almost numbing, yet the wine is focused and refined. There is plenty of savory spices and a light hand with oak. The satiny texture is very comforting, and the finish has grand cru length. A perfect marriage of fruit and savory nuances. Score: 94

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