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Tasting 2015 Pinot Noir at Drew Estate in Elk with Jason Drew

I met up with Jason Drew at his Drew Family Wines Estate in Elk to tour his newer estate vineyard and taste through his 2015 Pinot Noir lineup.

Jason has been crafting wine since 1991. In 2000, he founded the Drew label with his spouse Molly while he was an associate winemaker at Babcock Vineyards & Winery in the Santa Rita Hills. In 2002, he left Babcock to concentrate solely on his own label, and in 2004, he acquired a 25-acre ridge top property in Elk that was a noted, dry-farmed apple orchard. The site overlooks the Anderson Valley to the East and the Pacific Ocean three miles to the West at 1,250 feet elevation in the Mendocino Ridge appellation.

A 7.5-acre vineyard was eventually planted (as yet unnamed) and is one of the most westerly vineyards on the North Coast. The soils are ideal ocean floor decomposed sandstone and shale, high in iron and quartzite, with a perfect ratio of sand, gravelly loam and clay. The site’s marginal fertility is combined with excellent water holding capacity and good drainage. Clones planted include Pommard, Dijon 943, 115 and 667, Mt. Eden, and a Swan selection. The first Pinot Noir from this vineyard was released from the 2014 vintage.

Vineyard sources have changed through the years with new vineyard owners, but Jason continues to seek out the best possible sites that he deems suitable for his style of winemaking. He has sourced fruit from the Anderson Valley, Mendocino Ridge, Sonoma Coast and Yorkville Highlands appellations. (For a definitive article on the Mendocino Ridge, refer to Volume 8, Issue 9 and Volume 9, Issue 8 of the PinotFile). ,p> Jason vinifies with feral yeasts, employs a variable but usually significant amount of whole cluster inclusion, and ages in about 30% new French oak barrels.

Production is 1800-2000 cases per year, increasing with the 2017 vintage to an estimated 2800 cases due to increased fruit from the estate vineyard. Wines are released in February, June and the fall. The Morning Dew Ranch bottling is sold out.

Vintage 2015 offered low yields, with production at some vineyards off 50% or more. The result was small berries with concentrated sap, pronounced acids and increased tannins. The flavors arrived at relatively Brix and trended more red fruit.

Drew wines are available for tasting at 9000 Hwy 128 in Philo in the Madrones Friday through Monday. The website is To guarantee access to all wines, join the mailing list or the wine club.

2015 Drew “The Fog-Eater” Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

13.6% alc., 350 cases, $45. Goal is a quintessential Anderson Valley wine. Vine age averages 20 years. Yields 1.1-2.2 tons per acre. A blend of 30% Valenti, 21% Balo, 21% Fashauer, 15% Perli and 10% Joshua’s vineyards. Rochioli, Pommard, 115, 667 and 777. Native ferments, 20% whole cluster. Aged 11 months in seasoned oak. · Moderate garnet color in the glass. Plenty of cherry and spice on the nose. Charming strawberry and cherry flavors in a mid weight style with easy tannins. Accents of spice, mushroom and botanic notes add interest. Score: 91

2015 Drew Joshua’s Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

13.6% alc., 50 cases, $50. A new project from a 1-acre vineyard located in the “deep-end,” planted in the mid 1970s and farmed both organically and without irrigation. Clone(s) planted on own roots and unknown. Yield 1.1 tons per acre. Native ferments, 30% whole cluster, aged 11 months in Francois Frères oak barrels, 50% new. · Moderate garnet color in the glass. Aromas of cherry, wild berry, underbrush and pine are echoed in the flavors on the palate with added notes of raspberry and stem. The layered fruit has noticeable depth, the mid palate intensity is grand, the fine grain tannins are nicely proportioned, and there is a lift of acidity on the finish. A suede texture adds to the appeal. Score: 92

2015 Drew Valenti Ranch Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., 125 cases, $50. Jason leases this vineyard and has taken over the farming. Average vine age 18 years. Yield 1.6 tons per acre. Clones are Rochioli, 667 and 115. Well-drained soils with decomposed sandstone and high iron. Native ferments, 10% whole cluster, aged 11 months in French oak barrels, 20% new. · Moderate garnet color in the glass. This wine unfolds nicely over time in the glass. Perfume of dark red cherry, peppery spice, underbrush, balsam and flower. A bit tight, but offering an array of savory dark red fruits with impressive intensity in the mouth. The wine has a woodsy, mushroom tone. Nicely balanced, with agreeable tannins and an uplifting, citrus driven finish. Score: 92

2015 Drew Morning Dew Ranch Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

13.1% alc., 75 cases, $60. Average vine age 15 years. Rochioli and La Tache selections. Yields 0.5 tons per acre. Well-drained, light silty sand to silty clay based dark loam with high iron. Native ferments, 50% whole cluster, aged 11 months in Francois Frères oak barrels, 50% new. With sale of vineyard, this may be last vintage for Drew although negotiating for 2017. · This wine exudes pure class. Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Gorgeous nose with soaring aromas of Bing cherry, pomegranate and sous-bois. Velvety and lush in the mouth, with a mid weight core of delicious red fruits that are vivid and charged with goodness. The wine displays impeccable balance and a lingering finish that is memorable. Score: 96

2015 Drew Fashauer Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

13.8% alc., 50 cases, $50. This 8-acre vineyard is along the Greenwood Ridge and falls within the Mendocino Ridge appellation as well as the outer boundary of the Anderson Valley. Near Valenti Vineyard. Average vine age 16 years. Yields 2.2 tons per acre. Clones 115 and 667 planted in well-drained, sedimentary silty clay loam with high mineral content and marginal fertility. Native ferments, 25% whole cluster, aged 11 months in Sirugue oak barrels, 50% new. · Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Revealing aromas of pie cherries and spice. Noticeable concentration of sappy dark red cherry and berry fruits along with structural firmness. The fruit is embellished with notes of earth, game and minerality. A bright, cherry fruited finish completes the charm. Score: 93

2015 Drew Balo Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

13.6% alc., 50 cases, $50. Jason has worked with this vineyard since 2006. Average vine age 19 years. Yields 2.0 tons per acre. Clones are Pommard, 777 and 115. Perrygulch and Boontling loam soils. Native ferments, 40% whole cluster, aged 11 months in 2 and 3-year-old Francois Frères and Sirugue oak barrels. · Moderate garnet color in the glass. Very lovely and enticing aromas of spiced cherry and earthy flora. Noticeably juicy on the palate, featuring a mid weight array of cherry, Damsel plum, and botanic flavors. Both savory and fruity, with firm fruit tannins, and an extremely long, quenching finish. An age worthy wine that will rise above with more time in the cellar. Score: 94

2015 Drew Estate Field Selection Mendocino Ridge Pinot Noir

13.6% alc., 75 cases, $60. Third vintage. Vineyard is three miles from Pacific Ocean. Average vine age 6 years. Yields 0.3 tons per acre. Clones are 943, 115, 667, Mt. Eden, Pommard and a Swan selection. Soils are Ornbaun, Yellowhound and Zeni, well-drained, silty sand clay loam with marginal fertility. Native ferments, 40% whole cluster, aged 11 months in Francois Frères and Sirugue oak barrels, 33% new. · Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Enchanting aromas of black cherry, mushroom and forest. Savory black cherry and raspberry flavors in a mid weight plus styled wine with sinewy tannins. Complex, with nuances evolving over time in the glass, revealing a unique streak of minerality and bloodied game notes. Very good tension, with impressive power at a relatively low ABV, and a long, mineral-infused finish that is ingratiating. Score: 94

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