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Soliste: Frenchy’s Passion for Pinot Noir Shines Through in the 2014 Wines

I had the opportunity to taste the 2014 Soliste Monoclone® Sonoma Coast Pinot Noirs three times, twice at home using my usual tasting regimen and once over lunch with winemaker Claude “Frenchy” Koeberle (a native of Burgundy). Claude is the only person I know who loves Pinot Noir more than me!

In 2005, Claude Koeberle and Don Plumley made their first Pinot Noir from a family vineyard that is located in a unique Sonoma Coast site that they believed would allow them to craft wines with a style that might satisfy their infatuation of the great Burgundies. In 2009, from the same site, they challenged themselves to make Pinot Noirs from a single vineyard, a single clone and using a single cooperage from France to deliver an uncompromisable focus to each wine. The impetus was a return to the roots of Burgundy and the craftsmanship of the Cistercian monks of Vougeot. The name Monoclone® was born and registered as a trademark. Using a single clone from a single vineyard and raising the wine in a single cooperage is unique among California producers of Pinot Noir. As Claude would say, “Vive la difference!”

Read the full story on Soliste, the PinotFile 2013 Winery of the Year, at

The 2014 vintage began with a moderate winter and an earlier start. A cool spring led to a good fruit set. A temperate, gentle growing season ensued so it was possible to nurture complexity and concentration along with quality in the vineyards. Although California’s persistent drought was concerning in parts of the state, the cool, coastal sites used in Soliste wines remained unaffected with some vineyards dry farmed.

The reviewed wines represent the winery’s September 2018 release. Even at four years after harvest, these are young wines and benefit from decanting if opened now. Production is very limited by choice and the wines are sold exclusively through an allocated mailing list. The single barrel releases are for loyal supporters of the winery and in some cases, are restaurant only releases. The winery also offers superb Lake County Sauvignon Blanc (St. Andelain, a tribute to Didier Dagueneau). Soliste wines are available at many restaurant partners in California, Las Vegas, Chicago, New York and Washington D.C.. Private tastings can be arranged by appointment at the Santa Rosa production facility. Visit the winery’s website at

All the following wines were meticulously crafted. Grapes were hand-harvested at midnight from September 6 to September 18. Multiple, often four, passes were done on different days to capture different levels of grape maturation. Only manual punchdowns were used.

2014 Soliste Nouveau Monde Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

12.6% alc., 97 cases, $85. Pommard Monoclone®. 33% whole cluster. Aged 18 months in Siruge French oak barrels, 0% new. · Moderately light garnet color in the glass. The evocative nose offers aromas of dark red cherry, purple berry, rose petal, tobacco and earthy flora. Soft, smooth and stylish in the mouth with noticeable delicacy and refinement. The most savory and lightest wine in the 2014 lineup, with a bit of mushroom framing the dark red and purple fruits. There is also a carbonic quality to the fruit profile. The wine finishes fragrant and reasonably long. Score: 92

2014 Soliste L’Ambroisie Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

13.6% alc., 73 cases, $100. “828” Monoclone®. 43% whole cluster. Aged 18 months in Remond French oak barrels, 33% new. · Moderate garnet color in the glass. The aromas of dark cherry, black raspberry sous bois, spice and pipe tobacco soar from the glass over time. Charming on the palate with a mid weight plus core of richly flavored dark cherry and black raspberry fruits framed with a touch of oak spice and tobacco. Enviable vibrancy, with fine tannins, a silken mouthfeel, and a very persistent finish redolent in sweet cherry fruit. This is the most boisterous wine in the 2014 lineup, yet one that dances graciously in the mouth from attack to finish. The acid and tannin are compatible backbone companions predicting age ability. Score: 96

2014 Soliste L’Espérance Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

13.8% alc., 147 cases, $85. 115 Monoclone®. 0% whole cluster. Aged 18 months in Rousseau French oak barrels, 33% new. · Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Alluring scent of pie cherry, raspberry, blueberry-pomegranate and spice. Discreetly concentrated core of black cherry and blackberry fruit flavors along with notes of tar, exotic spice and earthiness. Exquisitely balanced with a silk and satin texture, integrated mildly firm tannins and adept oak treatment. The fruit really sings on the finish. Score: 93

Single Barrel Wines (wax-sealed, heavy bottles)

2014 Soliste L’Ermite Rouge Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

13.4% alc. 27 cases, $100. Sourced from a monastic vineyard located off a winding road through redwoods. Claude calls it a “Hermitage of Peace.” 23 Monoclone®. 50% whole cluster. Aged 28 months in a used cigar shaped oak barrel from France. · Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Pleasant but shy aromas of darker stone and berry fruits, along with scents of fertile earth and mulch. A richly fruited wine in a mid weight plus style, with dark black cherry and blackberry fruit flavors framed by modestly firm tannins that carry over on the gloriously long and intensely fruity finish. The gorgeous fruit was more expressive when the wine was re-tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. This wine could use a little more time in the cellar but is hard to resist now. Score: 93

2014 Soliste Ulysses Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

“828” Monoclone® from Van Der Camp Vineyard. 0% whole cluster. Aged 28 months in one new French oak barrel. · Moderately light garnet color in the glass. A savory nose offers aromas of red cherry and dried herbs. Light to mid weight in concentration, with flavors echoing the aromas. A bit shallow on the mid palate and finish, and soft in texture due to shy acidity. No change was evident over time after decanting. Score: 89

2014 Soliste Grands Charmes Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

13.3% alc., 23 cases, 777 Monoclone®. Sonatera Vineyard. 50% whole cluster. Aged 28 months in a single new French oak barrel. · Moderate garnet color in the glass. Very lovable wine with a seductive perfume of cherry, exotic spices and burnt tobacco. Elegant and silky, with a mid weight core of expansive cherry and raspberry fruits picking up depth over time in the glass. A dollop of oak and spice add satisfaction. The tannins provide supportive structure and the bright acidity contributes verve. Nicely composed, with an enduring finish. The wine rises to another level over time. Score: 94

2014 Soliste L’Eternel Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

777 Monoclone®. 50% whole cluster. Aged 28 months in one new French oak barrel. Not reviewed.

2014 Soliste Contrebande Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

12.8% alc., 23 cases. 115 Monoclone®. 25% whole cluster. Aged 28 months in one new French oak barrel. · Gorgeous robe of moderate garnet in the glass. Enthralling perfume of black cherry and raspberry fruits accompanied by hints of spice and undergrowth. A lip-smacking wine with pristine balance, offering mid weight flavors of black cherry, purple berry, nutty oak and exotic spice. Everything you could ask for, including fine-grain tannins, exemplary acidity, and a vigorous finish that seems relentless. A killer wine with harmony that really stands out. Score: 94

2013 Soliste L’Age D’Or Russian River Valley Chardonnay

12.9% alc., $50. Aged 16 months in 600L thick stave French oak barrels. · Light golden yellow color in the glass. Delicate aromas of lemon confit, white flower blossom, pineapple, pear and spice. Palate pleasing flavors of citrus fruits with a hint of oak-driven vanilla and nuts. Slightly viscous in texture, with integrated acidity. A gracious wine of enviable restraint offered in a Chablis style. Ideal for delicately seasoned or sauced seafood. Score: 93

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