Rivers-Marie: Past & Present
As was the case for many California Pinot Noir producers in 2015, quantities at Rivers-Marie were tiny. Pinot
Noir production was off 70% of early season projections. Owner and winemaker Thomas Rivers Brown said
that the 2015 wines reminded him of his 2005 wines. “The concentration was unusually high that is only
achieved by naturally occurring low yields. Weight without heaviness is the overreaching characteristic of the
2015 vintage. The shorter growing season allowed the fruit to retain plenty of natural acidity.” Allocations were
tiny and if you were not on the mailing list, you won’t be able to acquire these wines. However, 2016 saw a
return to normal for yields so there will be more wine available. Visit www.riversmarie.com to join the allocation
I found the 2015 wines to be pumped up, highly concentrated wines with significant but deft barrel work. The
wines are fruit driven and hedonistic in a plump and showy way with minimal savory aspects. They are
technically sound, but at this early age, do not deliver as much charm and nuance as they undoubtedly will
over time. Consider my scores conservative based on the youth of these wines.
In addition to the wines reviewed here, in 2015 Rivers-Marie offered a Sonoma Coast Chardonnay (300 cases,
partial malo, Joy Road, Thieriot, Riddle and Lucky Well vineyards), a Joy Road Vineyard Sonoma Coast
Chardonnay (100 cases), B. Thieriot Vineyard Sonoma Coast Chardonnay (90 cases), Sonoma Coast Pinot
Noir (450 cases, produced from almost every vineyard grapes are sourced from), and Summa Vineyard
Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir (55 cases, 1 ton off of 3 acres, abysmal set).
In 2016, Rivers-Marie added Platt Vineyard for both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Thomas has also entered into
a lease agreement with Max and Lexi Thieriot to plant 5 acres of Pinot Noir on their new home site in
Freestone, a location where several high profile vineyards dot the surrounding hillsides. The first fruit from this
new vineyard will be available in 2019 or 2020.
I reached into my cellar to taste a few older bottles of Rivers-Marie Pinot Noir that have been impeccably
stored. I have found that many readers are interested in reviews of older California Pinot Noirs since there is
very little of this information available in the wine press.
2015 Rivers-Marie Kanzler Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., 130 cases, $50. The last vintage of Kanzler Vineyard as the
family is retaining a little more of their estate fruit to help build their own
label. Whole cluster percentage was increased to balance the abundant
Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Aromas of black
cherry, grape pomice, spice and nutty oak are attractive. Rather luscious
and bold mid weight plus flavors of blueberry, boysenberry, black berry,
plum and spice are underlain with noticeable barrel work. Good natural
acidity provides vibrancy, the fruit tannins are well integrated, and the
finish is soothing. This wine developed more Pinot grace over time in the
2015 Rivers-Marie Occidental Ridge Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., 110 cases, $50.
reddish purple color in the glass. The nose is rather muted and primary, offering delicate aromas of ripe dark
fruits and spice. Extremely sappy in a kinky way, but not jammy, with a full-bodied core of sweet, teeth-staining
ollaliberry and blackberry goodness. Noticeable, but engaging tannins, enough natural acidity for juiciness, with
an intensely fruity and explosive finish. Typical of this vineyard (see tasting of older vintages) but with
heightened concentration in this vintage.
2015 Rivers-Marie Silver Eagle Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., 200 cases, $50. Vineyard
is farmed by Ulises Valdez. Primarily Vosne-Romanee and Calera clones. Some added whole cluster in this
Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. The nose is largely oak-driven with aromas of coffee
and roasted nuts initially, slowly revealing black fruit flavors. Rich and sappy in the mouth, with flavors of
blackberry, cassis and Hoison sauce with a noticeable play of oak in the background. Fruit driven, with nicely
balanced tannins, and a pleasing but not extraordinary finish. Little nuance, but offers an irresistible opulence.
2015 Rivers-Marie Bearwallow Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., 120 cases, $60. Located
in the deep end of the Anderson Valley and sourced from blocks planted by owner Kevin Harvey of Rhys
Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. This wine is quite tight both on the nose and
palate and reveals the most tannin of the 2015 wines tasted here. There is some tasteful purple and black fruit
trying to emerge, but the oak and tannin dominate. Considerably better when tasted two days later from a
previously opened and re-corked bottle, with a more engaging perfume and better tannin integration and
harmony. Score this one largely on future potential.
2015 Rivers-Marie Summa Old Vines Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.3% alc., 70 cases, $75. 1.25
tons off of 1.75 acres. Aged in 100% new French oak barrels.
Moderately dark reddish purple color in
the glass. The nose is initially replete with aromas of woodland, smoke, smoldering embers, grilled
mushroom and spice, presumably due to 100% new oak still relatively soon after bottling. When tasted
two days later from a previously opened and re-corked bottle, the oak was more subdued and the sexy
fruit aromas were beginning to arrive. Much better on the palate with a mid weight core of charming
black cherry and black raspberry flavors. Very silky in the mouth, with gentle tannins. Not as sappy as
the other 2015 Rivers-Marie wines and thereby more sophisticated and alluring. This wine definitely needs a few years in the
cellar and will reward your patience. It will turn out to be the best wine in the 2015 lineup.
Older vintages follow.
2008 Rivers-Marie Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
Dark reddish purple color in the glass. Upon
opening, aromas of blackberry jam and cassis leap out of the glass, replaced with time by aromas of old
leather, wet earth, spice, barrique and mulch. Mid weight plus flavors of blackberry, anise and charcoal grill,
what I call “Pinot over the coals.” Mild chalky tannins and a decent finish. This wine will appeal to those who
like aged domestic Pinot Noir. Drink up.
2009 Rivers-Marie Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
Dark reddish purple color in the glass. Leading off
are scents of blackberry jam and oak char. Sappy black fruits saturate the palate but there isn’t much else to
note. The tannins are soft, the texture is plush, and the finish is filled with fruit and a hint of nutty oak. Drink
now to 2020.
2008 Rivers-Marie Occidental Ridge Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
Gorgeous deep reddish purple color
with some thinning of color on the rim. Aromas of black cherry, dusty rose. wood spice and sweaty saddle
leather (? Brett). Impressive freshness on the palate, with a charge of opulent black cherry and purple berry
fruits accented with cake spice and a subtle infusion of oak. Diaphanous tannins with a lingering, sweet fruited
finish. Drink now to 2020.
2010 Rivers-Marie Occidental Ridge Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
Dark reddish purple color in the glass.
Aromas of black raspberry, fig, tobacco smoke and oak rise up from the glass. Concentrated flavors of sweet
dark berry and plum with immersed tannins. Still young, without significant tertiary characters, a pleasingly silky
mouthfeel, and a well-endowed finish filled with copious sweet fruit. Drink now to 2022+.
2004 Rivers-Marie Summa Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
Dark reddish purple with slight
yellowing of rim in the glass. Tertiary bouquet of earth, mulch and toast woven together with fruit input. Still
retains some dark strawberry and black cherry fruit flavors that are hanging in there. The dry tannins are well
integrated and there is some length to the dry, cherry finish. Really quite nice for a 13-year-old Pinot. Drink up.
2008 Rivers-Marie Summa Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
Moderately dark reddish purple
color in the glass. Off aromas of root beer, medicine cabinet and oxidative notes. The mid weight core of black
fruits has noticeable nutty and toasty oak support. There is a hint of rubber that spoils the experience. Flawed.
2010 Rivers-Marie Summa Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
Dark reddish purple color with
slight yellowing of the rim in the glass. Aromas of oak, leather saddle, soot and floral bouquet lead to mid
weight plus flavors of blackberry, black raspberry, olive and toast. Plush in the mouth, with a good attack but
less impressive finish. Unchanged when tasted the following day. Drink up to 2020.
2006 Rivers-Marie Summa Old Vines Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
Light cherry red color withsome yellowing of the rim in the
glass. Lovely bouquet of dried cherry, tinder box, pipe smoke, old leather
and walnuts. Light to modest in weight with fading fruit flavors of dried
black raspberry and blackberry with a hint of vanilla. Gossamer tannins
with bright acidity and an uplifting finish. A tired warrior that still offers
charm. Drink up.
2008 Rivers-Marie Summa Old Vines Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
Moderate reddish purple color with slight yellowing of the rim in the glass. Robust aromas of black
cherry, blackberry, cassis, rose petal and hazelnut with a slight oxidative note. Rather bold with a copious core
of very ripe cherry and berry fruits and a subtle riff of smoke taint in the background. Still giving of plenty of
fruit, but offering little tertiary character. Drink now to 2020.