Download &
print (pdf)

Soliste Pinot Noir: Fanatical Devotion Shows in the Superb Wines

Partners Don Plumley and Claude Koeberle launched Soliste MonoClone® wines with the 2009 vintage, returning California Pinot Noir to its roots in Burgundy and the craftsmanship of the Cistercian monks of Vougeot, focusing on Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir: wines produced from single clones, single vineyards, and matured in single cooperage. The winery’s limited production Pinot Noirs reflect a fanatical commitment to harness the purity and complexity of one clone from a single vineyard.

You won’t find scores for Soliste wines in the major wine publications. The wines are darlings of sommeliers throughout the United States and are offered on wine lists of many highly regarded and Michelin-starred restaurants (visit the website for a listing of restaurant partners). They are produced in tiny quantities and sold only through an allocated mailing list. If you are a lover of Pinot Noir and have the wallet to match, these wines are required acquisitions. Soliste Pinot Noir is one of the few that I buy personally for my cellar.

The following extraordinary wines were part of the 2016 fall release of Soliste wines. Soliste began modestly with the release of 143 cases of Pinot Noir from the Sonatera Vineyard in 2005. In 2009, the proprietors challenged themselves to make Pinot Noir from a single vineyard, single clone and allocate a single cooperage barrel house in France to deliver focus without compromise to each wine. The MonoClone® designation was trademarked, but Don and Claude were not infatuated with the idea because the wines had to deliver. If they did not, they would have gone back to blending the clones. The MonoClone® wines have turned out to be spectacular.

The three wines offered here were the result of an ideal growing season for Pinot Noir. Since 2005, Soliste has dealt with drought, fires, rain at the wrong time when it finally came, heat spikes days before harvest, red blotch, years with minuscule yields, to name a few challenges. When 20013 arrived, it seemed the weather was finally cooperative and as Claude put it, “Darth Vader did not show up.”

Typically, L’Espérance is the most feminine and ethereal Pinot Noir that Soliste produces and L’Ambroisie is the most masculine and enigmatic and that difference is reflected in the wines in this vintage. At a time when most wineries are releasing their 2014 vintage Pinot Noirs and even 2015 vintage Pinot Noirs, Soliste has released 2013 vintage wines that have clearly benefitted from the additional time in bottle. Pinot Noir is all about aromatics, texture and refinement, and these wines are blessed with all three.

2013 Soliste L’Espérance Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

13.3% alc., pH 3.66, TA 0.59, 123 cases, $85. Sourced from Sonatera Vineyard in Sebastopol, with vines planted in Goldridge sandy loam. Dijon 115. 0% whole cluster. Aged 16 months in French oak barrels, 20% new. · The most Chambolle Musigny in style with an ephemeral quality that seduces the drinker. Moderately light reddish purple color in the glass. I thought sure this wine had whole cluster inclusion based on its savory components. Rapturous aromas of black cherry, raspberry, spice, rose petal and cigar. Velvety in the mouth, with a well-spiced black cherry core that is highly expressive. Lightest in weight of the three Pinot Noirs tasted today, but not light in flavor. Floral and toasty oak notes add interest. The delicate tannins make for an elegant impression. When tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle, the wine was aromatically intoxicating and the spiced fruit core continued its exuberance. Tres Pinot. Score: 94

2013 Soliste Renaissance Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

13.2% alc., pH 3.50, TA 0.67, 147 cases, $85. Sourced from a special few rows of Sonatera Vineyard. Dijon 777. 50% whole cluster. Aged 16 months in French oak barrels, 25% new. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Deep aromas of fresh black cherry reduction sauce, sous-bois, and dark red rose petals. An “Oh Man!” nose. The mid weight flavors of cherry and raspberry combined with more subtle floral and spice notes tug at your taste buds. Silky in the mouth, with soft, fine-grain tannins and a bombastic cherry-fueled finish. When tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle, the nose almost brought me to my knees. Harmony personified. Score: 95

2013 Soliste L’Ambroisie Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

12.9% alc., pH 3.55, TA 0.56, 49 cases, $100. Sourced from the secluded Guidici Vineyard surrounded by redwoods in the Sonoma Coast AVA near Occidental, only 6 miles from the Pacific Ocean. Dijon “828.” 20% whole cluster, Aged 16 months in French oak barrels, 0% new. Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. · The most intensely fruity and darkest fruited nose of the three Pinot Noirs tasted here. Black raspberry, blackberry fruits are complimented by an assortment of spices including nutmeg. Impressive attack of bold black raspberry, black cherry and spice flavors that find every crevice in the mouth, but an even more impressive finish that dances on for minutes. Impeccable balance, with a silk and satin texture, and inviting acid backbone. When tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle, this wine was charming, sexy and loquacious with considerable nuance and a harmonious personality. I was taken by this wine not so much for its sappy fruit, but its complexity and finish. Score: 96

You may be able to secure an allocation at or contact Don at Still to come from the 2013 vintage: 2013 Soliste Solitaire Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir (clone 23, 100% whole cluster), 2013 Soliste Les Griottes Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir (clone “828,”), 2013 Soliste Nouveau Monde Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir (Pommard clone), and 2013 Soliste Forêt Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir (clone 23).

Print entire newsletter