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Sips of Recently Tasted California Wines

Cosa Obra Wines, Santa Rosa, California

I received a shipment of two wines from Cosa Obra in April but there appeared to me to be an issue with the quality of the wines possibly due to shipping. I did review the 2016 Pinot Noir Rosé (88), but the 2015 Pinot Noir was not pristine. I asked owner Gregory Hayes to re-ship in June and both wines were reviewed again. The reviews below reflect pristine examples of the two wines. The winery’s website is

2015 Cosa Obra Sonoma County Rosé of Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., $18. · Moderate pinkish orange color in the glass. Pleasing aromas of orange rind, peach and white flowers. Noticeable attack and intensity of strawberry, red cranberry and orange peel flavors. Bright acidity, with a mouthwatering finish replete with Mandarin orange and white pepper flavors. Score: 91

2015 Cosa Obra Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., $32. Release October 1, 2017. · Moderate garnet color in the glass. The nose opens slowly over time revealing aromas of dark cherry, spice, fertile earth and mesquite. Mid weight plus flavors of black cherry, blueberry-pomegranate and cherry cola are embellished with toasty oak in the background. Wellrounded, integrated tannins and texturally appealing with a soft and sleek mouthfeel. The wine leans a little too much on oak for my personal taste, but those who favor oak-embossed Pinot Noir will love this wine. Score: 91

The Donum Estate, Carneros, California

The entire 2014 portfolio of The Donum Estate wines are adorned with new labels designed by Chinese artist, Ai Weiwei, whose Circle of Animals installation is displayed at the estate. Each year, the label will change to reflect and honor the Chinese animal zodiac, with the 2014 vintage commemorating the Year of the Horse.

The Donum Estate is overseen by president and winegrower Anne Moller-Racke and the winemaker is Dan Fishman, who has been part of the winemaking team for ten years. Now celebrating its sixteenth vintage, The Donum Estate comprises 187 acres north of San Pablo Bay just off Highway 121.

Donum is home to The Donum Sculpture Park, displaying sculptures from recognized global artists and can be appreciated by appointment only at 707-939-2290.

Donum will soon open the Donum Home, an elegant new hospitality space located on the south side of Donum’s property with vast views of the estate vineyards, neighboring wineries, and San Pablo Bay. The intimate space will provide an ideal environment for private, personal tastings.

Donum has limited distribution with about 3,000 cases, with some availability in fine retail stores and ready availability by contacting the winery or through the mailing list. The winery’s website is

The 2014 portfolio of wines includes the flagship Carneros Estate Grown Pinot Noir ($72), and additional single-vineyard wines including Anderson Valley Estate Grown Pinot Noir ($72), Anderson Valley Angels Camp Pinot Noir ($90), Russian River Valley Estate Grown Pinot Noir ($72), Russian River Valley Ten Oaks Pinot Noir ($72), and Carneros West Slope Pinot Noir ($90).

The Donum Estate Pinot Noirs are sourced from estate owned or leased vineyards and are distinctive. Grapes tend to be picked at higher Brix, the wines are broadly and richly extracted and vinified in a large percentage of new French oak barrels. The resultant wines are voluptuous, mouth coating interpretations of Pinot Noir. There is too much oak overlay for my personal taste, but that is a stylistic choice.

2014 Donum Single Vineyard Estate Carneros Pinot Noir

14.3% alc., pH 3.80, TA 0.60, 575 cases, $72. From the 50-acre Donum Ranch planted to a diverse collection of clones and heritage selections. A selection from the best blocks in the vineyard and the most appealing barrels within each lot. Aged in French oak barrels, 55% new. · Moderate garnet color in the glass. Extroverted nose, offering scents of blackest cherry, black raspberry, cardamom, clove and toasty oak. Mid weight plus in style, featuring earth-toned black cherry, blueberry-pomegranate and black tea flavors. Silky in the mouth with modest tannins and a prolonged fruit-driven finish. Oak plays a notable role in the background. Score: 90

2014 Donum Single Vineyard Estate Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., pH 3.88, TA 0.55, 459 cases, $72. From Angels Camp Vineyard located in the deep end of the Anderson Valley. A barrel selection from all blocks. Pommard, Swan, Martini, David Bruce, 2A, and Dijon 115, 667, 777 and “828.” Aged in French oak barrels, 59% new. · Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Shy, but pleasant aromas of blackberry, blueberry, spice and bittersweet chocolate. Full-bodied, with a charge of blackberry and prune flavors underlain with oakdriven notes of dark chocolate and coffee. There are noticeable fruit tannins and there is a slight bit of alcoholic warmth on the finish. Score: 89

2014 Donum Single Vineyard Estate Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.7% alc., pH 3.61, TA 0.66, 627 cases, $72. Sourced from the Winside Vineyard planted in 1997 by Anne Moller-Racke and Joe Nugent to 10 acres of Dijon 115 and 667. Some fruit from the Pommard block is also included. Aged in French oak barrels, 55% new. · Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Demure aromas of black fruits, dark rose petal and oak spice and toast. The fruit pushes the ripeness envelope with flavors of blackberry jam, plum reduction sauce and cassis. The oak is better integrated on the palate. Full-bodied and velvety in the mouth, with balanced tannins and a sweet-fruited, generous finish. Score: 90

Spell Wines, Santa Rosa, California

2015 Spell NIchole’s Blend Sonoma County Pinot Noir

14.4% alc., pH 3.71, TA 0.58, 445 cases, $41. Sourced from Morris Vineyard and declassified barrels of Terra de Promissio, Umino and Alder Springs vineyards. Aged in French oak barrels, 40% new. · Dark garnet color in the glass. Aromas of blackberry, black current, prune and spice lead off. A charge of sappy black fruits saturates the palate and finish. The dry fruit tannins are well-proportioned. Easy to drink and like able, but lacks nuance and uplifting acidity. Score: 88

2015 Spell Alder Springs Vineyard Mendocino County Pinot Noir

14.3% alc., pH 3.68, TA 0.59, 102 cases, $50. Grapes sourced from the 3Tiers Block located at an elevation of 1,700 feet on a southeastern facing slope. Dijon clone 459 and DRC and Calera selections. Low-vigor, sandstone-based soils. · Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Wellappointed aromas of dark red berries and underbrush lead off. The fruit is vivid and juicy in the mouth, displaying a full-bodied load of fresh, wellripened black cherry and blackberry fruits. Although quite sappy, the firm tannic backbone keeps the fruit in line. There is an appealing Old World rusticity to this wine. The prominent fruit tannins combined with balanced acidity predict age ability. Score: 92

2015 Spell Weir Vineyard Yorkville Highlands Pinot Noir

14.4% alc., pH 3.70, TA 0.58, 150 cases, $50. Clones are Rochioli Pommard selection, DRC selection and Wädenswil 2A. Aged in French oak barrels, 33% new. · Moderate garnet color in the glass. The nose entices with vibrant aromas of strawberry, black cherry and sweet grape. The glorious dark red cherry and berry fruits demand attention as do the muscular tannins. A supportive oak thread plies the background. The wine finishes with some astringency. Further time in bottle should mellow the tannins. Score: 90

2015 Spell Russian River Valley Chardonnay

14.2% alc., pH 3.49, TA 0.63, $38. Sourced from the Dutton- Sullivan Vineyard located near Graton and planted in the 1980s to a heritage selection of Wente Chardonnay on its own rootstock. Aged in French oak barrels, 33% new. · Moderate golden yellow color in the glass. Very shy aromas of buttery citrus. More expressive on the palate, with flavors of yellow apple, nectarine and lemon. Nicely balanced, with good acid integration and brightness, but lacks enthusiastic flavor. Score: 88

Weatherborne, Lompoc, California

Chris Carter uses the most minimalist winemaking methods. He only makes two wines per year. One man, two wines. He attended University of California at Davis at the tender age of eighteen and his only jobs have been in vineyards, labs and cellars. What you find in his wines is the result of years of work and learned travels from New Zealand to Oregon to Chile to Tasmania, not some whim. Visit

2015 Weatherborne Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir

13.9% alc., pH 3.65, 350 cases, $40, screwcap. 88% John Sebastiano Vineyard and 12% La Encantada Vineyard. Harvest Brix 22.0º-23.5º. 25% whole cluster. Aged in 10% new French oak barrels. · Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Pleasant aromas of cherry, purple grape, pomegranate and brown spice. A forward drinking, mid weight styled wine, with a healthy core of cherry fruit lifted by juicy acidity. Nicely balanced with inviting poise, finishing with righteous black cherry, exotic spice and cola aromatics. This wine picks up intensity and appeal over time in the glass and the aromatics eventually soar. This wine is so easy going you can drink it all night long. Score: 93

2015 Weatherborne La Encantada Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir

12.9% alc., pH 3.53, 50 cases, $50, screwcap. Harvest Brix 22.0º. 50% whole cluster. Aged 10 months in neutral French oak barrels. · There is enough whole cluster character in this wine to add another dimension. Aromas of Bing cherry, underbrush, tobacco leaf and Asian 5-spice lead to a mid weight plus charge of black cherry fruit alerting the mid palate and donating goodness to the finish. A little more extract, tannin and length of finish compared to the Sta. Rita Hills bottling. Toned and trim, this wine carries more earthy and savory notes in a good way, while the mouth coating fruit leaves an impression. Score: 92

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