Well-Bred Pinots Tasted Recently
Anthill Farms Winery
This project is one of many that has ties with Williams Selyem. Is there any other winery in California that has spawned so many successful Pinot Noir offshoots? Three young Pinot amigos, who had
worked together as cellar hands at the distinguished winery on Westside Road launched their own
winery with three Pinot Noir releases in 2004. Anthony Filiberti grew up in Sonoma County and was
lured to wine at an early age. He learned winemaking at Bergstrom Winery in Newberg, Oregon,
Hafner Vineyards in the Alexander Valley, and Williams Selyem. David Low grew up in Kansas but got
hooked on wine while attending University of California Berkeley. A short stint as a computer programmer
was followed by a change of heart and he later worked at both Williams Selyem and
Papapietro Perry. Webster Marquez grew up on the East Coast and attended college in Virginia. Here
he began working as an assistant winemaker at Jefferson Vineyards. He then moved to Sonoma
County where he joined Williams Selyem. Currently he is the assistant winemaker at Belvedere Winery
in Healdsburg. The trio’s goal is to craft Pinot Noirs that “express the growing site and the characteristics
of the vintage, and above all else, taste good.” Their emphasis is on the vineyards and have
named their winery Anthill Farms to emphasize the many tiny individual vineyards that form “the link
between place and product.” Their grape sources are North Coast vineyards in Sonoma and Mendocino
counties. They are partners with Dona Abbey and Dan Harris in the 1.5 acre Abbey-Harris Vineyard
in the Anderson Valley planted to Pommard, 115, 667, and 828 clones. I did not taste the 2004
release from this vineyard but can report on the other two 2004 releases.
2004 Anthill Farms Peter’s Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
alc., 52 cases, $35. Randy Peters and father-in-law Tom Mukaida farm this
vineyard located just outside Sebastopol in western Sonoma County. The
vines were planted over 15 years ago on a steep, east-facing slope of
goldridge soils. Clones are Pommard and 777.
The aromatics are very
alluring featuring cherry wood and a hint of red Jolly Rancher. The black
cherry core of flavors is enhanced by a subtle kiss of mocha. Finesse is the
key word here as the wine flows smoothly over the palate and finishes
cleanly with a trace of oak and a kick of acid. Like all good Pinots, it gains in
the glass over time and is still good the next day. This one was kissed by an
2004 Anthill Farms Demuth Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.4% alc., 123 cases, $35. This venerable vineyard is now over 20 years old. At 1,400 to 1,600 feet
above the valley floor near Boonville, it is exposed to strong winds and cool nights. The clones are
Pommard and Wädenswil. Yields are ridiculously low.
The accessible nose exhibits dried cherry and
floral notes with anise playing a role with air time. The flavors are a symphony of sweet cherries and minerality.
A great acid spine portends a long life ahead.
For the 2005 vintage, Anthill Farms has recently released five Pinot Noirs: Abbey-Harris Vineyard (25
cases, $46, sold out) and Demuth Vineyard (102 cases, $38) in the Anderson Valley, Peter’s Vineyard
(134 cases, $36) and Tina Marie Vineyard (210 cases, $43) in the Sonoma Coast, and Comptche Ridge
Vineyard (75 cases, $36) in the northern Mendocino County coast.
Anthill Farms Winery is located at 4791 Dry Creek Road, #3-4, Healdsburg, CA 95448. The phone is
707-490-5191. The 2005 Pinot Noirs may be ordered now online at www.anthillfarms.com.
Owner and winegrower Margaret Wierenga followed in her father’s footsteps and
crafts small lots of Pinot Noir and Zinfandel from a makeshift and humble winery
in Sonoma County’s Dry Creek Valley. Margi is the daughter of Burt Williams, of
Williams Selyem fame. She worked there and at Hop Kiln for many years, founding
her own label when Williams Selyem was sold in 1997. The name Brogan
comes from her paternal grandmother and explains the Irish slant to the winery
theme. Production is 1,500 cases of wines sourced from notable vineyards in
Sonoma County (Summa Vineyard, Buena Terra Vineyard, Lingenfelder Vineyard, Benovia
Vineyard) and Anderson Valley (Morning Dew Ranch farmed by her father, Burt Williams).
Her Pinot Noirs are known for their age worthiness.
2004 Brogan Cellars Summa Vineyard Young Vines Sonoma Coast
14.1% alc., $60.
This is a deep dark purple Pinot Noir that draws you in with a sumptuous dark cherry and
toasty oak aromas. The lush fruit fills the mouth and the outrageous finish is brimming with
dark cherries and spice. This is a brilliantly crafted and regal wine.
Brogan Cellars is located at 3232 B Dry Creek Rd B, Healdsburg, CA 95448. The phone
is 707-473-0211. The website is www.brogancellars.com. Tasting is by appointment.
The wines are sold through a mailing list.
Elke Vineyards is owned and operated by Tom and Mary Elke. They farm the 16 acre Donnelly Creek
Vineyard located just outside of the town of Boonville where four clones of Pinot Noir are grown. The
site is ideal for Pinot Noir as its proximity to the coast creates a climate featuring
low-lying fog in the morning evolving into long, mildly cool days. They
also have an 18 acre vineyard in the Tulocay District of the Napa Valley. The
Elkes have been in the grape-growing business for over 20 years. Mary
began by farming organic apples and making her Mery Elke Apple Juice
which she still produces today. Elke Vineyards supplies grapes to many notable
producers including Radio-Coteau, Copain, Londer, Au Bon Climat, and
Breggo Cellars. Tom Farella has been the winemaker from the beginning.
Production is about 1,000 cases per year including two Pinot Noirs.
Elke Vineyards also produces a price-friendly Pinot Noir under the “mary elke”
label ($19). It is 100% Dijon 113 from the Donnelly Creek Vineyard. The wines
are sold to restaurants and directly to consumers from the website at
www.elkevineyards.com. Library wines are also offered for sale on the website.
The phone is 707-246-7045.
The Halleck Estate Vineyard is a one-acre family-owned site in the Sonoma Coast
planted in 1993 to fund the college educations of the three Halleck sons. Several
additional exceptional sites were subsequently identified and five additional wines
were added to the roster. Owner and winemaker Ross Halleck directs a very successful
marketing services agency. Bitten by the wine bug, he moved to Sonoma in
1991. Buoyed by his wife Jennifer’s experience in the wine industry, the two have
rapidly become one of Sonoma’s most high-profile producers of fine Pinot Noir.
2005 Halleck Three Sons Cuvee Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
750 cases, $38. This wine is sourced from three vineyards: The Farm, Hallberg,
and Hawk’s Roost. Clones are Dijon 115 and 777. The wine was aged in 30%
new French oak for 10 months.
The aromatics are enticing with notes of cherry
and toast and a kiss of anise. Light to medium in body, there is a well-constructed
Bing cherry core of fruit all wrapped in a satiny sheet-like texture. There are some
cola highlights also - more Pepsi than Coke. With laser-like clarity and balance,
this Pinot is flat-out terrific.
For the 2005 vintage, the other Halleck Pinot Noirs include 2005 Halleck The
Farm Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir (270 cases, $55), and the
2005 Halleck Hallberg Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir ($55). The
2004 Halleck Estate Russian River Valley Pinot Noir ($75) is still available.
Halleck Vineyard wines are sold primarily through a mailing list. Sign up at
www.halleckvineyard.com. There is limited retail distribution of some Pinot Noirs (for example,
Joseph Swan Vineyards
The history of Joseph Swan Vineyards has been told in some detail in past issues of the PinotFile.
Founder Joseph Swan’s brother-in-law, Rod Berglund, has been the long-time winemaker here. Rod
crafts consistently excellent Pinot Noirs and Zinfandels from an estate vineyard on Laguna Road, as
well as other vineyard partners in the Russian River Valley.
Joseph Swan Vineyards has a tasting room at the winery, 2916 Laguna Rd,
Forestville, CA 95436, which is open on weekends. Wine may also be ordered
on the website at www.swanwinery.com. The phone is 707-573-3747.
Kendall-Jackson Estates Vineyards
Founder Jess Jackson, a lawyer by training, made his first wine under the Kendall-
Jackson label in 1982. His Chardonnay rode the wave of popularity of Chardonnay
and the winery has been hugely successful. Kendall-Jackson now farms
12,000 acres of grapes in California. The winemaking team is headed by Randy
Villom, with Pat Pickett, who was trained at Chalone and Estancia, directing the
Pinot Noir production. The Highland Estates series focus on unique estate properties
on ridges, hillsides, and bench lands
2003 K-J Highland Estates Seco Highlands Arroyo Seco Pinot Noir
The aromatics are attractive with hi-tone cherries and spice. The flavors serenade with pleasing
cherries, berries, and Asian spice. The texture is soft and oily. Over time, the wine picks up intensity
with a more saturated cherry core, toast highlights, and more body. Very decent.
Kendall-Jackson Estates wines are in wide retail distribution. The 2005 vintage of this Pinot Noir is
available on the website at www.kj.com.
Green Truck Cellars
Green Truck Cellars is a one-man show with owner, grower, winemaker
Kent Fortner producing about 600 cases of a single Pinot Noir
each vintage. The name pays homage to Ken’s 1966 green Ford
pickup truck which he still drives around Napa and Sonoma counties
delivering wine. He produces his wine in leased cave space in the
Stag’s Leap District of the Napa Valley just east of Silverado Road. His
2005 Napa Valley Pinot Noir was sourced from three vineyards in the
southern-most reaches of the Napa Valley: Nord Vineyard, Poseidon
Vineyard, and Stanly Ranch Vineyard. In 2006, he added a fourth vineyard: Suscol Ridge Vineyard.
Most of his wine is sold through a mailing list of “truckers” who get first crack at the wine.
2004 Green Truck Cellars Napa Valley Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., $37.
This is a crisp and bright Pinot
Noir powered by lively acidity. A little coffee and toast in the nose and a little spice on the finish. A very
“juicy” wine that is looking for food. No complaints from me here.
2005 Green Truck Cellars Napa Valley Pinot Noir
13.8% alc., 600 cases, $38 (sold out on website).
Aged in 80% new French and 20% new Hungarian oak in caves for one year.
A nice cherry core with
toasty oak, spice and earthiness in both the nose and on the palate. The finish is tangy with deft oak highlights.
It is beautifully balanced.
Green Truck Cellars Pinot Noirs are sold primarily through
a mailing list a www.greentruckcellars.com. Kent also writes
a terrific Pinot blog. The phone is 707-738-2376. Tasting is
available by appointment.
Pali Wine Co
Pali Wine Co is owned by 20 passionate wine lovers. The wines are crafted in Lompoc by Brian Loring.
In 2005, there were five Pinot Noirs: 2005 Pali Wine Co Inman Olivet Grange Vineyard Russian
River Valley Pinot Noir (480 cases, $44), 2005 Pali Wine Co Cargasacchi Jalama Vineyard Santa
Barbara County Pinot Noir (299 cases, $44), 2005 Pali Wine Co Durrell Vineyard Russian River
Valley Pinot Noir (180 cases, $44), Pali Wine Co Turner Vineyard Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir (130
cases, $44) and 2005 Pali Wine Co Shea Vineyard Willamette Valley Pinot Noir ($44). Sine Qua
Non is no longer bottling a Pinot Noir from Oregon, so some of the grapes were made available to Pali.
I particularly liked the Shea bottling. Hardly a surprise as the grapes from this vineyard are very of
2005 Pali Wine Co Shea Vineyard Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., 249 cases, $44, screw
cap. I looked and looked and could not find a vintage dating on the front or back label!
The aromas of
fresh baked cherry pie wafted from the glass. There was a solid sweet red and black fruit core with judicious
use of oak. Silky in texture, the finish left a lingering impression of dark chocolate, black cherries
and lively acidity. There is a lot of charisma in this Pinot Noir.
Pali Wine Co is located at 1601 W Central Ave, F2, Lompoc, CA 93936. The phone is 805-736-7200.
The wines are available retail.
The founders of R.H. Phillips Winery, John and Lane Giguiere, launched their second wine venture,
Crew Wine Company in 2006. In 2000, they sold R.H. Phillips Winery to Vinocor (it was subsequently
acquired by Constellation as part of its purchase of Vinocor). The company is focusing on four new
brands, with a total production of about 25,000 cases. The brands include Matchbook, Sawbuck, Mossback
and Chasing Venus labels. The wines are made under the direction of Dan Cederquist, formerly
of De Loach Vineyards. In April of this year, wine industry real estate investment trust, Vintage Wine
Trust Inc. signed a $5.6 million sale-leaseback deal with the Giguieres to acquire 273.5 acres of vineyard
land and vines in the Dunnigan Hills appellation of Yolo County as well as fund construction of a
60,000-case-a-year winery where the four Crew labels will be produced. The name Mossback is an
old-fashioned term for farmer.
2005 Mossback Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
(?alc. - couldn’t find on label), $26. This wine won
a Gold Medal at the recent Sonoma Harvest event.
This is a very nice example of Russian River Valley
Pinot Noir. Sandalwood and red cherries perfume the wine leading to plenty of Bing cherry, coca-cola,
and exotic spices. Very light on its feet, this Pinot finishes smoothly and clean. The whole package is
nicely balanced. Nothing old-fashioned about this one.
Mexican immigrant Salvator Renteria picked his first grapes at Sterling Vineyards in Napa Valley in
1962. He was among the first to use innovative grape farming management techniques. In 1987, he
started his own vineyard management company, Renteria Vineyard Management. In 1993, his son
Oscar took over the leadership reigns and today is himself a master winegrower who supplies grapes
to Williams Selyem, Caymus, Robert Mondavi and Duckhorn. Rentaria now manages over 1,350 acres
of vineyards. In addition, winemaker Karen Culler crafts 2,000 cases of Renteria Cabernet Sauvignon
and Pinot Noir. A new winery and cave system is currently under construction on Mt. Veeder.
2004 Renteria Knittel Vineyard Carneros Pinot Noir
14.8% alc., 420 cases, $25.
shows very nice aromatics that include cherry and rhubarb, spice, a kiss of oak, and a hint of
alcohol. The red fruit flavors of raspberry, pomegranate, and cherry are highlighted by adroit
use of oak. The taut tannins add to a full mouth feel. Well-made and recommended.
Renteria Wines are located at 1106 Clark St, Napa CA 94559. The phone is 707-253-7686.
Wines may be ordered on line at www.renteriawines.com. There is a mailing list.
This wine is released under the Brown-Forman umbrella that includes Sonoma-
Cutrer, Fetzer, Five Rivers, and Jekel Pinot Noirs. The blend is 64%
block G and Q inter plants clone 667 and 777, 24% block N Martini clone,
with the balance from block Q clone 4 Pommard. All of the lots were
fermented by winemaker Dennis Martin in small open-top barrels (photo
right). Dennis is the director of winemaking at Fetzer Vineyards and
Sanctuary is his pet label begun in 2004. He also produces a Cabernet
Sauvignon under the Sanctuary name.
2005 Sanctuary Bien Nacido Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., 1,800 cases, $36.
I was taken by the gorgeous deep ruby color of this wine. The nose is earthy and filled with decomposing
wet leaves. The dark stone fruits create a weighty mouth feel, and earthiness, cigar box and toasty oak
add intrigue. Like the 2004 vintage of this wine, this a very distinctive Pinot which is a treat to drink.
Sanctuary wines are distributed primarily to restaurants. E-mail brand manager Tom Dempsey at
Tom_Dempsey@b-f.com to locate the wine through retail channels. An online store will be available
John Tracy of Owl Ridge Wine Services has about 34 winery clients at his facility in the old Vacu-Dry
plant on Gravenstein Highway in Sebastopol. Tracy’s own labels are Owl Ridge Wines and its companion
label, Willowbrook Cellars. The winemaker is Joe Otos. Pinot Noir grapes are sourced from
the Owl Ridge Vineyard in Forestville, the Dutton Morelli Vineyard in the Russian River Valley and the
Kastania Vineyard in Petaluma.
2004 Willowbrook Cellars Dutton Morelli Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
334 cases, $38. The Dutton Morelli Vineyard sits at 900 feet above the town of Occidental, positioned
to avoid most of the fog and yet receive the cool breezes from the Pacific Ocean. The clone is
The wine is aromatically gifted with dried cherry, cranberry and floral notes. Medium-bodied
and elegant in style, the mélange of red and black fruits are enhanced with herbal and oak flavors. A
Gold Medal winner at the 2006 Sonoma County Harvest Fair, this is a quality Pinot.
Willowbrook Cellars wines can be purchased from the website at www.willowbrookcellars.com. The
phone is 707-823-0149. Tasting by appointment.