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On the Pinot Trail: Soliste


In May this year, I visited the Soliste winery in Santa Rosa during their Open House and tasted several wines with Don Plumley who founded Soliste along with Claude Koeberle. Don was proudly pouring many of the current releases as well as some library wines. Soliste wines are available by allocation through a mailing list and can also be enjoyed at many prominent restaurant partners throughout the United States. Beginning with the 2009 vintage, Soliste wines returned to the roots of Burgundy and the craftsmanship of the Cistercian monks of Vougeot to focus on single clones from single vineyards and wines matured in single cooperage. The winery’s limited production MonoClone® Pinot Noirs reflect a commitment to harness the purity and complexity of one clone from one vineyard. Visit

2014 Soliste Lune et Soleil Lake County Sauvignon Blanc

12.4% alc., 836 cases, $25. Whole cluster pressed, aged 4.5 months in 600L French oak barriques. · Pale golden straw color in the glass. A very generous wine replete with aromas and flavors of fresh citrus, melon, stone fruits and tropical fruits, finishing with a vibrant note of grapefruit and lime. Score: 89

2012 Soliste St. Andelain Lake County Sauvignon Blanc

12.9% alc., 212 cases, $55. Whole cluster pressed, aged in a cigar-shaped barrique, in homage to the late Didier Dagueneau. The wine comes from a single organically farmed vineyard. The grapes are de-stemmed, allowed 36 hours of skin contact and pressed to barrel where it is fermented and aged for 16 months. There is no malolactic fermentation to preserve acidity, vibrancy and length. · Pale golden yellow color in the glass. Clearly a special wine from the get-go. Aromas of salty sea breeze, lime and tropical fruits give it a fascinating start. Bright on the palate, with flavors of lime peel, gooseberry, apple and saline-infusion. The stunning finish has uncommon persistence for this varietal. Like no other. Score: 93

2012 Soliste L’Age D’Or Russian River Valley Chardonnay

13.1% alc., 298 cases, $50. The model for this wine is the Meursault 1er Cru Blagny from Francois and Antoine Jobard. · Light golden yellow color in the glass. The nose leads with scents of lemon oil, green apple, pear and white flower bouquet. Slightly creamy on the palate, with flavors of salted apple, brioche, lemon curd and baked apple. Impressive finesse yet satisfying drive. A Somm’s wine. Score: 90

2015 Soliste Soleil Rouge Sonoma Coast Rosé de Pinot Noir

13.2% alc., 148 cases, $22. A serious offering in the Provence style. Primarily sourced from La Cruz Vineyard. 43% 12 hour skin contact, 85% whole cluster pressed, aged 4.5 months in neutral French oak barrels.

Note: I also tasted the 2014 vintage of this wine demonstrating that serious rosé can improve with some bottle age contrary to what many wine drinkers believe. The 2014 Rosé de Pinot Noir was even better, less fruit driven, but more complexity and tertiary character. Buy a few bottles of the 2015 Rosé and keep some in your cellar for a year or two to see what I mean. Best when chilled. · Moderate salmon color in the glass. Inviting aromas of strawberry, cherry, dried rose petal and herbs. Crisp and vibrant on the palate, with plenty of strawberry, blood orange and tangerine flavors that linger on the clean finish Score: 90

2011 Soliste Sonatera Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

13.0% alc., 123 cases, $85. Single vineyard and single clone = MonoClone®. 30% whole cluster, aged 16 months in 30% new French oak barrels. · Moderately light reddish purple color in the glass. Lovely perfume of wild cherry, Oriental spices and rose petal. Elegantly composed, yet highly flavorful, with a barrage of well-spiced dark cherry and pomegranate fruits. Score: 92

2012 Soliste L’Espérance Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

13.1% alc., 241 cases, $85. Clone 115. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Streaming aromas of darker stone fruits, spice and graphite. Quite charming, with an ephemeral quality, yet demands attention for its display of intensely flavored black cherry and black raspberry fruits, energized by racy acidity. A more generous offering that is reflective of the vintage. Score: 93

2012 Soliste Forêt Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.0% alc., 241 cases, $85. Clone 23 (Mariafeld) from Guidicci Vineyard. 50% whole cluster. Aged 16 months in French oak, 0% new. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Engaging, exotic, even intoxicating fragrance of black cherry, spiced plum, rose petal, and forest floor. The nose defies adequate description. Both weight and weightlessness, with soft tannins and impeccable balance, featuring flavors of Bing cherry pie, baking spices, cardamom, and earthy herbs. The finish offers racy energy and fruit flavors that return in waves. The whole cluster inclusion heightens the texture. This wine is Pinot Noir heaven. Even better than when originally reviewed six months ago. Score: 95

2011 Soliste Forét Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

This was a special treat offered in magnum format. · The nose was filled with aromas of whole cluster spice, potpourri, rose petal and pine sap. On the palate, the wine had taken on tertiary characters including mushroom, leather and earth bound flora. The dreamy texture was captivating. Nothing more exhilarating than a great wine aged in magnum. Score: 96

Look for these upcoming releases of Soliste Pinot Noir. I tasted them briefly over lunch on another date with Claude who told me that Soliste will be focusing primarily on Pinot Noir in the future.

2013 Soliste L’Esperance Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir Dijon clone 115. 123 cases. No whole cluster. 20% new oak. The most Chambolle-like. Red cherry, raspberry fruits, plenty of spice, chalky tannins, very elegant.

2013 Soliste Renaissance Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir Dijon clone 777. 147 cases. 50% whole cluster. 25% new oak. Quite elegant for a 777 wine. Darker in color, darker fruits, and a particularly complex nose offering aromas of black cherry, peppery herbs and rose petal. Also from Sonatera Vineyard like L’Esperance, but completely different with every aspect magnified, showing the distinct clonal differences.

2013 Soliste Les Griottes Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir Dijon clone “828.” 73 cases. 20% whole cluster. 0% new oak. Reminiscent of La Tache, with exotically spiced wild cherry flavor imbued with a redwood forest air.

2013 Soliste Nouveau Monde Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir Pommard clone. 149 cases. 0% whole cluster. 20% new oak.

2013 Soliste Forêt Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir Clone 23 (Mariafeld). 123 cases. 50% whole cluster. 22% new oak.

2013 Soliste L’Ambroisie Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir Dijon clone “828.” 49 cases. 20% whole cluster. 0% new oak. Claude’s tasting note: “Once you have tasted L’Ambroisie, I assure you, words cannot adequately describe how you will feel. I will retreat with a bottle and my glass, as a hermit without any distraction to experience it in deep Zen and simple bliss. This exceptional vintage captures all the alchemy that becomes great Pinot Noir, the intoxicating nose, powerful yet refined with layers of spice, sous-bois, truffles and wild cherry, amazing length and complex finish (if there is one). Magical!”

2013 Soliste Solitaire Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir Clone 23. 65 cases. 100% whole cluster. 33% new oak for 12 months, and extended aging in a single 600L neutral oak barrel for a total of 28 months.

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