Sips of Recently Tasted California Wines
Foley Estates Vineyards & Winery, Los Olivos, CA
There are two series of Pinot Noir reviewed here. The Sta. Rita Hills and Star. Rita Hills Barrel Select bottling are
sourced from the Foley Estate Rancho Santa Rosa Vineyard. A south-facing hillside location that climbs from 500
to 1,000 feet above sea level, with vines planted in marine-based soils. The climate is consistently cool due to
moist ocean breezes that sweep through the property daily. The vineyard is farmed with the attention usually
associated with much smaller properties.
The Brand Series of Pinot Noir honors the relatives of vintner Bill Foley who settled the Texas Panhandle in the
1840s as ranchers, cattlemen and Texas Rangers. These wines combine noteworthy barrels from superior sites
within the Foley collection of estate vineyards and are meant to unveil a unique facet or interpretation of a
2015 Foley Rancho Santa Rosa Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., pH 3.52, TA 0.68, 2,326 cases, $40.
Harvest Brix 24.5º-27.0º. 100% de-stemmed with no crushing. 4-day cold soak in open-top fermenters, inoculated
yeast fermentation, manual punch downs, aged 18 months in French and Hungarian oak barrels, 28% new.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Inviting aromas of strawberry, cherry and baking spices. Nicely composed,
with bright flavors of spiced dark red fruits and a hint of cola and tobacco. Well-integrated tannins, with a cherry
finish that really grabs hold.
2015 Foley Barrel Select Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., pH 3.54, TA 0.65, 521 cases, $60. Rancho
Santa Rosa East Vineyard. 100% de-stemmed, 4-day cold soak in open-top fermenters, inoculated yeast
fermentation, manual punch downs, aged 18 months in French oak barrels, 100% new.
Moderate garnet color in
the glass. The nose is quite reserved, offering only demure aromas of peppery spice, blackberry, underbrush and
seasoned oak. Sleek and silky in the mouth with weighty flavors of purple and black berries accented with
peppery, walnut oak. Ripe tannins ply the background, and the wine finishes with a quenching burst of fruit. The
wine picks up interest and expression over time in the glass indicating it needs more time in the cellar for full
2015 Foley T Anchor Ranch Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., pH 3.49, TA 0.68, 691 cases, $55. Brand
Series. Rancho Santa Rosa East Vineyard. Harvest Brix 24.5º-27.0º. 100% gently de-stemmed, 4-day cold soak
in open-top fermenters, manual punch downs, free-run transferred to French oak barrels for 18 months aging,
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Attractive aromas of dark red fruit compote, brioche and dusty oak.
Sleek and polished in the mouth, with a middleweight core of blueberry and cherry fruits backed by noticeable
oak input. The lightest sap in the 2015 Brand Series lineup, with a rather delicate character. My only nit would be
that the wine falls short of impressive mid palate and finishing presence, but is otherwise delectable.
2015 Foley Bar Lazy S Ranch Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., pH
3.48, TA 0.67, 609 cases, $45. Brand Series. Rancho Santa Rosa East
Vineyard. Harvest Brix 24.5º-27.0º. 100% gently de-stemmed, 4-day cold
soak in open-top fermenters, manual punch downs, free-run wine aged in
French oak barrels for 18 months, 50% new.
Moderate garnet color in the
glass. Lovely melange of cherry, strawberry, earth and sawdust aromas. A
distinctive wine with mid weight flavors of cherry, raspberry and exotic
spices shot through with a floral, tutti-frutti note. Barrel treatment is well
coordinated, and the wine finishes long and generous.
2015 Foley JA Ranch Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., pH 3.35, TA 0.71, 685 cases, $55. Brand Series.
Rancho Santa Rosa East Vineyard. Harvest Brix 24.5º-27.0º. 100% gently de-stemmed with no crushing, 4-day
cold soak in open top fermenters, manual punch downs, free-run juice aged in French oak barrels, 30% new, for
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Aromas of raspberry, cherry and cola are echoed in the flavors in
this mouth filling wine that soars with fruit goodness and vibrancy due to high natural acidity. The oak treatment is
reigned in, the tannins are in step, and the fruity finish leaves special aromatic memories.
Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery, Healdsburg, CA
My 2016 Winery of the Year, Gary Farrell wines are stylistically unique in that they are largely natural acid-driven
wines that shun significant oak intervention and appeal to those who like freshness. This style was never more
evident than in the 2015 vintage. The 2015 Chardonnays and Pinot Noir were a bit less ripe and rich than the
2014 Chardonnays and Pinot Noir such that the wines show more racy acidity and leanness. As a result, there
are a little high-strung but should age extremely well. Theresa told me, “I think the wines can be appreciated for
many years to come. they’re definitely too young to drink now though.” I much preferred the 2014 vintage wines
but that is a personal preference. Visit www.garyfarrellwinery.com.
2015 Gary Farrell Hallberg-Dijon Clones Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., pH 3.36, TA 0.69, 818 cases, $60. Released
September 2017. Sourced from the 100-acre Hallberg Vineyard located
just west of the town of Sebastopol. Clones 777 and 667. 100% gently
de-stemmed, 4 to 7-day cold soak, 10 days post fermentation extended
maceration, inoculated for malolactic fermentation, and aged 10 months
on the primary lees in French oak barrels 40% new.
color in the glass. Heady aromas of boysenberry, earthy flora and bark.
Noteworthy attack of mid weight boysenberry and blackberry fruits
accented with baking spices and pine needle. Leaner than usual in this
vintage, with bright natural acidity, immersed tannins, and some
expansiveness on the finish.
2015 Gary Farrell Toboni Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., pH 3.39, TA 0.69, 911 cases,
$55. Released September 2017. The Toboni Oakwild Ranch Vineyard is located in the Santa Rosa Plain, just
south of the winery. Clones 115, 667 and 777. Gently 100% de-stemmed, 4 to 7-day cold soak, 7 to 10-days post
fermentation extended maceration, inoculated for malolactic fermentation and aged 10 months on the primary
lees in French oak barrels, 40% new.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. The aromas of black cherry, rose tea,
and tobacco arrive very slowly over time in the glass. Discreet concentration of black cherry and boysenberry
fruits accented with cola and piney oak. Ripe, balanced tannins are supportive, and the natural acidity adds vigor.
The wine is definitely less sappy than its 2014 counterpart that has more staying power in the mouth and finish.
2015 Gary Farrell Bien Nacido Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
12.5% alc., pH 3.35, TA 0.68, 555
cases, $70. Released September 2017. Pommard selection from the legendary Q Block, considered the most
prestigious Pinot Noir block on this famous site. 100% gently de-stemmed, 4 to 7-day cold soak, 7 to 1-day post
fermentation extended maceration, inoculated for malolactic fermentation, and aged 16 months on the primary
lees in French oak barrels, 40% new.
Light ruby red color in the glass. Lovely mix of red cranberry, red cherry,
spice and pipe smoke aromas with the slightest green note. Lighter in weight, feature delicate flavors of red fruits
backed by gossamer tannins. Flavors of tobacco and dried herbs add to the mix. The wine finishes with a
quenching Maraschino Cherry aroma.
2015 Gary Farrell Russian River Valley Selection Russian River Valley Chardonnay
13.8% alc., pH 3.24, TA
0.71, 4,368 cases, $35. Sourced from seven vineyards anchored by Westside Farms and Bacigalupi vineyards.
Harvest Bris 21º-23º. Whole cluster pressed, barrel fermented in 30 to 40% new French oak barrels for 9 months.
100% MLF. Both traditional barrels and 500-L puncheons were used.
Moderate golden yellow color in the glass.
Delicate aromas of lemon oil, white flower blossom and nutty oak. More enjoyable in the mouth, with a citrus
driven core of fruit. Crisp, clean, lean and silky, with a nut oil thread in the background.
2015 Gary Farrell Bacigalupi Vineyard Russian River Valley Chardonnay
13.5% alc., pH 3.26, TA 0.65, 334
cases, $55. Released September 2017. The original historic block of Chardonnay at Bacigalupi Vineyard is one of
the main components of the Bacigalupi Chardonnay blend. Harvest Brix 22º-23º. Whole cluster pressed,
inoculated with Montrachet yeast. Barrel aged in 40% new French and puncheons on the right amount of lees for
8 months. 100% MLF. A barrel selection.
Moderate golden yellow color in the glass. Shy aromas of lemon, lime,
green shrub, ocean breeze and slightest oak. Uplifting flavors of lemon, apple and pear in a harmoniously styled
wine with a silky mouthfeel and a quenching, lemony finish. A bit too lean and racy for my favor, but will appeal to
those who seek out acid-driven Chardonnay.
2015 Gary Farrell Rochioli Vineyard Russian River Valley Chardonnay
13.5% alc., pH 3.17, TA 0.76, 505
cases, $60. Majority of grapes from River Block clone 5, planted in 1989 with the balance from a field selection
planted in 1993 and Allen Block 1, cone 15, planted in 1995. Harvest Prix 22º-23º. Whole cluster pressed,
inoculated with Montrachet yeast, and barrel aged in 40% new French oak barrels and puncheons on the right
amount of lees for 8 months. A barrel selection.
Moderately dark golden yellow color in the glass. Aromas of
roasted oats, caramel and warm brioche lead off but the oak influence dissipates over time in the glass. A riper
fruit profile greets the palate, including flavors of lemon drop, pineapple and toasted almond. The generous and
lingering soprano finish features green apple and citrus notes. Again, this wine will appeal to acid hounds.
Roger Roessler Wines, Sonoma, CA
2016 Roger Roessler Wines Black Pine Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., pH 3.74, TA 0.563,
$30. Sourced from three vineyards with the majority coming from a western Russian River Valley site
farmed in Goldridge soils. Additional sources come from the Carneros region in the Sonoma Coast
and the western edge of the Petaluma Gap. Winemaker Drew Huffine. Native and organic French
yeast fermentation. Aged 10 months on lees in French oak barrels, 20% new.
Dark garnet color in the
glass. Aromas of turned earth, mulch and tobacco lead to a full-bodied wine featuring full-ripened
black fruits framed by firm but not astringent tannins. A thread of tobacco oak plies the background. I
wished for more finesse, nuance and acidity.
2015 Roger Roessler Wines Big Bend Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
14.1% alc., pH 3.25, TA 0.699, $30.
Sourced from three sites in the Sonoma Coast AVA. Whole cluster pressed, organic French yeast fermentation,
native malolactic fermentation, barrel fermented in tight grain French oak barrels, 30% new, for 18 months.
Moderately light golden yellow color in the glass. A richly fruited style with aromas and flavors of lemon creme,
pineapple, baked pear, butter. There is adequate natural acidity to temper the sappy fruit giving the wine a vibrant
character. Slightly creamy in texture, with a refreshingly juicy finish.
Terragena, Myers Flat (Humboldt County), CA
A small, of-the-grid winery in Humboldt County located on a ridge top between the north and south forks of the
Eel River above Humboldt Redwoods State Park. Terragena is a latin word meaning “born of the earth.” Owner
and winemaker Chris Buchanan began his winemaking career working with Derek Rohiffs of Bravium Winery. The
winery’s focus is Pinot Noir. The wines are elegant styled with lower alcohols. Visit www.terragenavineyard.com.
2014 Terragena Wiley Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
alc., pH 3.50, TA 0.69, 72 cases, $39. Released July 28, 2016. Inaugural
release from this iconic vineyard located in the deep end of the Anderson
Valley. Clones 777, 667, 115, 37, 538 and Pommard. Aged in Hungarian
and French oak barrels.
Light ruby red color in the glass. The perfume of
cherry, oak spice, forest and pipe smoke is appealing. Light in weight
with a core of red cherry and red cranberry fruit laced with a burnt
tobacco note. Exquisite balance, with a satiny mouthfeel, and a modest
finish. The fruit seems to have been harvested a little short of full
ripeness but that may be the intended style.
2014 Terragena Seppa Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.0% alc., pH 3.65, TA 0.573, 168 cases, $39.
Released April 2017. The Seppa Vineyard is a family owned and sustainable vineyard planted in 2001 and
located in the Petaluma Gap region of the Sonoma Coast. 100% 115 clones. Aged in a combination of 1/3 new,
1/3 used and 1/3 neutral French oak barrels.
Moderately light ruby red color in the glass. Shy earthbound aromas
of clay and flora with a hint of dark berries. Light to mid weight in style, offering an assortment of dark red and
purple fruits backed by complimentary oak. Forward drinking, with adequate structure for aging, and noticeable
2016 Terragena Abbassi Vineyard Carneros Chardonnay
11.8% alc., pH 3.35, TA 0.69, 71 cases, $29.
Released June 1, 2017. 40+-year-old Chardonnay vines planted on .75 acre, clone 37 on 110R rootstock planted
in a silty to sandy loam. Aged in 2/3 neutral and 1/3 new French oak barrels coopered in Hungary.
yellow color in the glass. Aromas of green apple, yeast and parchment. Austere and racy in style with flavors of
lemon-lime, greenest apple and papaya embellished with high-strung acidity and a soprano finish. This wine is
not particularly enjoyable on its own, but may be more appealing with the appropriate food to balance the bright
Two Sisters, Los Olivos, CA
The Two Sisters are named after Bill and Carol Foley’s daughters, Lindsay and Courtney. The wines come from
the best blocks of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in Lindsay’s and Courtney’s vineyards in the Sta. Rita Hills AVA.
These limited-production bottling feature heritage, heirloom and select clones chose for their compatibility with the
terroir of each vineyard block. Vinted and bottled by Two Sisters, Los Olivos, CA. Visit www.foleyfamilywines.com.
2015 Two Sisters Lindsay’s Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., pH 3.60, TA 0.68, $49.99. Clones
667 and 777. Average harvest Brix 25º. 100% de-stemmed with no crushing and cold soaked in open-top
fermenters. Manual punch downs. Aged 16 months in French oak barrels, 80% new.
Moderately light garnet color
in the glass. The nose is largely dominated by oak-related aromas. Enviable core of oak-kissed purple grape,
Hoisin sauce and black cherry flavors wrapped in modest tannins. Seductively silky in texture with noticeable
purity of fruit, Better oak integration, more fruit aromas and overall a better drinking experience when re-tasted
two days later from a previously opened and re-corked bottle.
2015 Two Sisters Lindsay’s Vineyard Reserve Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., pH 3.57, TA 0.67, 301 cases. $80. Extremely heavy
bottle. Clones 667 and 777. Average harvest Brix 25º. 100% destemmed
with no crushing and cold soaked in open-top fermenters.
Manual punch downs. 70% MLF. Aged 16 months in French oak barrels,
Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Splendid aromas of
black cherry, earth, herbs and toasty oak. Rich, full and sweet on the
palate in a full-bodied style offering a plush black cherry fruit core
accented by toast and licorice notes. The tannins are folded in and their
is enough acidity for freshness. This is clearly a serious wine with
intentions, but it will need more time in bottle to integrate more of the oak
and reach full expression. Exceptional when tasted two days later from a
previously opened and re-corked bottle.