Recent Sips of California Pinot Noir
Freeman Vineyard & Winery, Sebastopol, CA
Ken and Akiko Freeman began their winery in 2001, offering appellation-designated and vineyard-designated
Pinot Noirs from Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast vineyards that were crafted by veteran winemaker
Ed Kurtzman. Ed eventually passed the winemaking duties to Akiko and assumed a consulting posture. This is
one of the most charming wineries in the Russian River Valley to visit, with the winery and barrel caves built
into a hillside in western Sebastopol. In 2007, the Freemans added a 4-acre estate vineyard (Gloria) located on
a steep hillside behind the winery. The Yu-ki Estate Vineyard on the Sonoma Coast has been planted over the
past seven years and produced its first crop in 2014. The wines have been consistently superb and are sold
primarily through a mailing list at www.freemanwinery.com.
As I have noted previously, the 2014 vintage was a drought year in the North Coast, with a warm winter
causing an early start to bud break. For the most part, the crop had a good set and the warm summer led to
one of the earliest harvests on record. The quality of the wines in this vintage were very high.
2014 Freeman Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
13.8% alc., 1,008 cases, $44. The largest part of this wine
comes from the winery’s Gloria Estate Vineyard and includes all five clones planted there (Calera, Pommard,
Martini, Swan and 115). There were also contributions from Thorn Ridge Vineyard (Swan clone) and Sexton
Vineyard (clone 2A). Only a few barrels of Keefer Ranch contributed due to low yields in that vineyard. 5-day
cold soak in open-top fermenters, hand punch downs, free run juice sent directly to barrel, press wine barreled
separately. Aged 11 months in French oak barrels, 25% new.
Light cherry red color in the glass. Complex nose
that builds over time in the glass offering aromas of cherry cola, blueberry, sous-bois, baking spices, grape
must and timber. Cherry driven with accents of oak and spice and nicely composed with balanced tannins and
modest finishing power. Rather elegant and aims to please in a typical Russian River Valley style.
2014 Freeman Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., 1,002 cases, $45. The largest contribution to this wine
came from Rayhill Vineyard (115 and 777), with small amounts of grapes from Campbell Ranch (777), and the
very young Yu-ki Estate Vineyard located just five miles from the Pacific Ocean at 1,000 feet elevation (114,
667, “828,” 2A and Mariafeld). 5-day cold soak in open-top fermenters, hand punch downs, free run juice
directly to barrel, press wine barreled separately. Aged 11 months in French oak barrels, 22% new.
red color in the glass. Aromas of black cherry, blueberry, Damsel plum and amphora lead to mid weight flavors
of earthy cherry that make an impression. A bit of nutty oak shadows the fruit, the tannins are chalky and
supportive, and the finish ends with appealing savory and juicy fruit notes.
2015 Freeman Gloria Estate Vineyard Green Valley of Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
13.8% alc., 333 cases, $62. Five clones (Swan,
Calera, Martini, Pommard and Dijon 115) planted in Goldridge soil and
sustainably farmed. Vineyard named after Hurricane Gloria that first
brought Ken and Akiko Freeman together in 1985. Very low yields in
2015 due to cool weather during flowering in May. Uneven set and tiny
clusters only yielded six tons of fruit from 8 acres. 5-day cold soak in
open-top fermenters, hand punch downs, free run sent directly to barrel,
press wine barreled separately. Aged 11 months in French oak barrels,
Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. A nose with
purpose, that opens nicely with swirling, revealing aromas of dark
raspberry, spice and sous-bois. Very charming and silky in the mouth
with vivid flavors of black cherry and purple berry fruits underlain with a
thread of savory herbs. Expansive and layered in the mouth, with nice harmony and a gentle demeanor. Much
better when tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle.
Fulcrum Wines, Sonoma, CA
I have followed owner and winemaker David Rossi’s Fulcrum wines since the 2006 vintage (the winery was
launched in 2005) and the wines have become progressively better with each vintage. I am not crazy about his
black labels with gold print that are hard to read and photograph, but the wines are unquestionably superb. The
name, Fulcrum, refers to the point on which an object balances, a name chosen years before balance became
the center of discussion about New World Pinot Noir. The wines are produced in limited quantities from
premium vineyards in the Anderson Valley, Russian River Valley, Sonoma Coast, Carneros and Chalone
appellations. The wines are sold through a mailing list at www.fulcrumwines.com, and can be tasted daily at the
winery’s tasting room just off the historic Sonoma Plaza at 25 E. Napa St.. David’s first Chardonnay from Durell
Vineyard in 2015 will be reviewed elsewhere.
2015 Fulcrum Brosseau Vineyard Chalone AVA Pinot Noir
14.1% alc.,103 cases, $60. Clones 113, 114,
115 and Mt. Eden. Aged 11 months in French oak barrels, 40% new. Bottled unfined and unfiltered.
dark reddish purple color in the glass. Enviable aromas of dusty black cherry, earth, stone and iron are followed
on the palate by mid weight flavors of fresh black cherry and red currant with an earthy thread in the
background. Graceful tannins, impeccable balance and a purposeful finish replete with cherry aroma. Still
superb when tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle indicating potential for
2015 Fulcrum Gap’s Crown Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., 235 cases, $65. Clones “828” and 667. Aged
11 months in French oak barrels, 50% new. Bottled unfined and
Dark reddish purple color in the glass. The nose
soars with intense aromas of black raspberry, blackberry, spice,
violets and vanilla. Filled with glorious California fruit kissed by
the sun, this mid weight plus beauty is polished and silky, with
rich flavors of purple and black berries with a compliment of toasty oak in
the background. Sappy, but not compotey, with balanced tannins, juicy
natural acidity, and a generous finish that taps into the pleasure centers
of the brain. A bit hedonistic, but true to character of this vineyard.
2015 Birichino Saint Georges Central Coast Pinot Noir
13.0% alc., $24, screwcap. A blend of grapes from four diverse
sitesAmbient yeast with a dollop of whole cluster. (20%) Aged
in neutral oak and bottled unfiltered.
Light reddish purple color
in the glass. Lovely aromas of cherry, red berry and
sandalwood. Lighter styled, with bright flavors of strawberry
and cherry composed in a charming fashion with easy tannins
and no noticeable oak influence. This delightful wine offers great value
and will satisfy your Pinot urges without the need for contemplation.
2015 Sebastiani Robert’s Vineyard Carneros Sonoma County Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., pH 3.64, TA 0.55,
300 cases, $45 (sold out). Pommard (55%),115 (42%) and 32 (3%) clones. 100% de-stemmed, 3-day cold
soak, pump overs 3 to 3 times a day with maceration lasting 11 to 13 days. Aged on light lees for 8 months in
72% new and 38% 1-year-old French oak barrels.
Moderately light cherry red color in the glass. Very magnetic
nose, offering scents of cherry, rose petal, spice and seasoned oak. Bright and clean on the palate, with mid
weight flavors of black cherry, black plum, blackberry and black tea complimented with a touch of oak. Highly
enjoyable, with impressive harmony and a pleasing finish. Easily approachable now.
2013 Stomping Girl Beresini Vineyard Carneros Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., pH 3.48, TA 0.54, 450
cases, $36. Released spring 2016. Vineyard planted and meticulously farmed by Steve Beresini in
1989. Calera, Pommard and Dijon 777 clones. Harvest Brix 24.4º. 100% de-stemmed, 3-day cold
soak, aged 11 months in mostly neutral French oak barrels. Bottled unfined and unfiltered.
reddish purple color in the glass. The nose offers a profile of very ripe fruits including boysenberry,
cassis and raisin, along with aromas of spice, toast and earthy flora. Robust on the palate, with
a mid weight plus core of black cherry and purple berry fruits framed by firm but well-proportioned
fruit tannins. Somewhat lush in mouthfeel with sap to spare, missing some vibrancy, but finishing with welcome intensity and length.