California Pinot Noir to Swoon Over
“Describing great Pinot Noir is like explaining sex to a virgin.”
The art of describing tasting experiences with exalted domestic Pinot Noir is a real challenge. Lisa Perrotti-
Brown said, “It is incredibly difficult, arduous and time-consuming to rack up the level of experience necessary
to review and score wines with consistency.” Not only that, even well-trained wine critics are not paid much for
what they do. All that said, it is the non-monetary and inspirational benefits that are most valuable to those
fortunate enough to experience the current crop of domestic Pinot Noir wines. Besides, someone has to be an
arbitrator of taste.
Many of the California wines reviewed here are infused with a level of meaning that no other beverage can
offer and several of these Pinots stole my heart. Hopefully, readers will experience some of these wines and try
to understand and even describe how Pinot Noir creates magic in a glass.
Bohème Wines, Occidental, CA
Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir and Chardonnay crafted by proprietor and 5th generation winemaker Kurt Beitler
since 2004. Kurt leases three Pinot Noir vineyards located in the vicinity of the town of Occidental and are
among the nearest vineyards to the Pacific Ocean in all of North America. Check out
2015 Bohème English Hill Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.7% alc., 235 cases, $55. Released
November 1, 2018. Vineyard is a mosaic of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah surrounded by pasture and
rangeland overlooking Tomales and the Marin Coast Range 9.2 miles from the Pacific Ocean. 8.5 acres
planted to Pinot Noir clones 115, 667, Calera and a Vosne-Romanée selection in Goldridge sandy loam and
Steinbeck sandy loam soils. Average yield of 1.22 tons per acre. This wine is a barrel selection of four vineyard
blocks.25% whole cluster fermentation. Aged 22 months in French oak barrels, 15% new.
garnet color in the glass. I love the nose. Aromas of dark cherry, black raspberry liquor, sous-bois and a hint of
vanilla. Luscious dark red and black berry and black cherry fruits hug the palate. A husky, but facile mid weight
wine with silky tannins and a sensual texture. More cherry shows up on the finish. A bit of oak-driven char and
cola chimes in.
2015 Bohème Taylor Ridge Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.7% alc., 105 cases, $55. Released
November 1, 2018. A 4.9-acre vineyard planted in 1999, 5.3 miles from the Pacific Ocean. Swan clone.
Goldridge sandy loam soil. Yield 0.65 tons per acre. 18% whole cluster. Aged 22 months in French oak barrels,
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Aromas of blackberry reduction, baking spices, floral bouquet
and sweaty shirt combine in the glass. Dense and bold in a mid weight plus style featuring earthy black berry
and black cherry fruits. A big boy wine with firm, ruddy tannins and a big, fruit-filled and lasting finish. Much
more appealing when tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle again showing a
2015 Bohème Stuller Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., 144 cases, $55. Released November
1, 2018. A 6.0-acre vineyard planted in 1998 5.8 miles west of the Pacific Ocean. Dijon 115 and 667 clones.
Diverse clay loam soils. Yield 0.41 tons per acre. 30% whole cluster fermentation. Aged 22 months in French
oak barrels, 17% new.
Dark garnet color in the glass. Aromas of black cherry and marzipan are shy but
pleasant. Very ripe flavors of black raspberry, blackberry and cherry nougat. The succulent fruit makes an
impression on the mid palate and lip-smacking finish that features an onslaught of fruit. More enjoyable when
tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle, exhibiting a suave mouthfeel and a
very big finish.
Furthermore Wines, Sebastopol, CA
This winery began in 2006 in San Francisco’s Crushpad, shifting to an urban winery in San Francisco, and with
the purchase of Graton Ridge Cellars of Sebastopol in 2016, operations moved to that location. Production is
now 5,000 cases. I first encountered the winery’s 2008 vintage wines at Pinot Days and have followed their
success since that time. Proprietors Chad Richards and Bob Zeches employ Erica Stancliff as head
winemaker. Check out the winery at www.furthermorewines.com and www.princeofpinot.com/winery/
1018/. The following wines will be released in April 2019.
2015 Furthermore Graton Ridge Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., 106 cases, $55.
An Estate vineyard located at the winery and just outside the tasting room, sharing a fence with neighbor Paul
Hobbs. Clones are Dijon and Pommard.
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. A savory nose offers
aromas of black olive, rose petal, dusty underbrush, pipe smoke and cherry. Cherry fruit cola and savory herb
flavors combine in this middleweight offering with silky tannins and a compliment of toasty oak. This flirtatious
wine gives up more enjoyment with more time in the glass.
2015 Furthermore Nevina’s Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.1% alc., 60 cases, $60. The winery’s
Occidental estate vineyard located less than 6 miles from the Pacific Ocean at an elevation of 1,300 feet. The
vineyard was planted in 2002 with 777 clone by Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir pioneer Scott Zeller who nurtures
the vineyard. In 2012, an additional block of 667 clone was added. Yields are a painfully low 1 ton per acre.
Clones 777 and 667.
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Aromas of black cherry, violets, bramble and
woodshed. Discreetly concentrated flavors of black cherry, black raspberry and boysenberry with a compliment
of oak in the background. Silken in texture with gentle tannins and a modest finish.
2015 Furthermore Gioia Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., 106 cases, $55. This vineyard is
nestled in the redwoods in Occidental about 7 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean. Replanting took place in
1998. The steep, rocky terrain makes this vineyard a labor of love to farm. Clones are 33% 113 and 67%
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Nicely perfumed with scents of ripe cherry, strawberry and
floral goodness. Mouth filling mid weight flavors of spiced black cherry and fruit punch. Excellent harmony and
purity of fruit with a healthy tannic backbone and plenty of finishing purpose.
2015 Furthermore La Encantada Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
13.6% alc., 151 cases, $50. This
organically-farmed vineyard was planted by Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir icon Richard Sanford. Clones
115, 667, and 777.
Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Enticing aromas of dark red cherry and berry,
exotic spices, pipe smoke and toast. Impressive energy in a mid weight style offering flavors of blueberry and
black raspberry with a thread of oak. Nicely balanced and easy to approach, with a modest but satisfying finish.
Best several hours after opening. The wine’s best feature is the vivacious acidity.
2015 Furthermore Starbridge Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.1% alc., 20 cases, $75. Starbridge
Vineyard was originally part of Summa Vineyard, split off by Scott and Joan Zeller when Thomas Brown bought
and retained the name of Summa Vineyard. This 2-acre plot is located on Taylor Lane in Occidental just 5
miles from the Pacific Ocean.
Light ruby red color in the glass. The nose is not particularly flattering, offering
aromas of red cherry, cranberry, sandalwood, dried herbs and tobacco leaf. Light in weight and delicately
styled, featuring lacy red fruits and a stream of savory flavors including weedy underbrush and tobacco. A cozy
wine with gossamer tannins, but the barrel treatment supersedes the demure, even dilute fruit core. No change
when tasted the following day from a previously opened bottle. Tasted twice with consistent results.
Morgan Winery, Salinas, CA
A top-shelf winery founded by Daniel Morgan Lee in 1982 with the first Pinot Noir release in 1988. This
producer of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from the Santa Lucia Highlands has been named “Winery of the Year’
by both Wine & Spirits magazine and the San Francisco Chronicle. The wines are always dependable and
frequently outstanding. For more information, visit www.morganwinery.com and www.princeofpinot.com/
2017 Morgan Double L Vineyard Clone RC Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., pH 3.56, TA 0.66, 100
cases, $65. Cuttings smuggled from a very famous vineyard
in Burgundy were grafted to a small block at the top of the
estate Double L Vineyard. Organic grapes were 100% destemmed.
Native yeast induced whole berry fermentation in
open top tanks. Aged 11 months in French oak barrels, 45%
Light ruby red color in the glass. Bright aromas of cherry, spice
and sous-bois. Light to mid weight in concentration and elegant in style,
with flavors of red cherry, raspberry and cranberry with an accent of
spice and botanical goodness. A dreamy, feminine wine with terrific
balance and oak management that aims to please out of the chute.
Neely Wines, Portola Valley, CA
A few issues back, I portrayed Dr Kirk Neely and his Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines from the Spring Ridge
Vineyard. The two additional releases from the 2016 vintage are terrific and reviewed here. These wines and
the Chardonnays reviewed elsewhere in this issue are part of the 2019 spring release. The previously reviewed
2015 vintage wines were transitional in that the grapes left the vineyard and were crushed in San Francisco
under the direction of Shalini Sekhar, Neely Wine’s second-generation winemaker. In 2016, the grapes never
left the vineyard until delivered to a warehouse in bottle. The 2016 vintage is a homecoming and the beginning
of a revised finesse and understanding. The Pinot Noirs, in particular, are a step up. The wines will be released
March 25, 2019.
Visit www.neelywine.com or www.princeofpinot.com/article/2156/.
2016 Neely Picnic Block Spring Ridge Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
13.6% alc., 98 cases,
Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Lovely aromas of cherry, strawberry and sous-bois. A complex
wine with earth, botanical, animale and black cherry and ripe strawberry fruit flavors. This wine has inviting
energy and juiciness, integrated sweet tannins, a soothing texture and a succulent cherry-driven finish of
2016 Neely Hidden Block Spring Ridge Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., 98 cases, $48.
Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Demure, but very
pleasant aromas of cherry and fertile earth. A complete wine
featuring mid weight flavors of dark cherry and dark berry
blessed with an underlying earthy tone. Gracious tannins
and ingratiating acidity make for an uplifting drinking
experience. The fruit in this beautifully composed wine has an
uncommon brightness and charm. Every Pinot connoisseur will love the
ROAR Wines, San Francisco, CA
ROAR Wines is owned by Gary and Rosella Franscioni, who also own the nearby Garys’ Vineyard, Soberanes
Vineyard in partnership with the Pisoni family, and are the sole owners of Rosella’s Vineyard and Sierra Mar
Vineyard. Pictured below are the two famous Garys, Gary Pisoni (left) and Gary Franscioni.
Winemakers Gary Franscioni and his son Adam are now crafting wines from the Santa Lucia Highlands that
are among the elite of this appellation. I missed the 2016 vintage wines, but these 2017 vintage releases are
full of personality. The grapes for the Pinot Noir wines are picked on the ripe side resulting in higher ABVs and
aged in significant new oak, but the resulting flamboyantly-fruited wines are beautifully balanced and although
young, are easily approachable now.
Visit www.roarwines.com or www.princeofpinot.com/article/1921/.
2017 ROAR Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.8% alc., pH 3.79, TA 0.58, 1,670 cases, $45. Clones 23,
667, 777, 943, Calera, Pisoni, Pommard and Swan. Aged in French oak barrels, 41% new.
color in the glass. Soaring aromas of black cherry, red currant and fertile earth. Light to mid weight in style,
offering a satisfying spiced cherry core. Forward drinking, with exquisite balance and a modest finish. This
wine says, “smell me, swirl me, drink me!”
2017 ROAR Rosella’s Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.8% alc., pH 3.74, TA 0.59, 710
cases, $62. Clones 23, 113, 667, 777, Pisoni and Pommard. Aged in French oak barrels, 65% new.
dark garnet color in the glass. Enticing aromas of dark red cherry, baking spices and toasty oak. The nucleus of
black raspberry and blackberry fruits really impresses in the mouth. Good harmony, with gracious tannins,
integrated alcohol, and some finishing purpose.
2017 ROAR Garys’ Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.9% alc., pH 3.77, TA 0.58, 756 cases, $62.
Calera and Pisoni clones. Aged in French oak barrels, 68%
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Aromas of
dirty cherry and complimentary toasty oak. The dark cherry
fruit literally explodes on entry in the mouth, holding an
expansive court through the mid palate and finishing long
and gratifying. Impeccably crafted, with relaxed tannins, deft oak
integration and a seamless demeanor. This is a very sensual wine from
a special vineyard that delivers uncommon virility with charm. You will
want some of this.
2017 ROAR Soberanes Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.8% alc., pH 3.79, TA 0.58, 297
cases, $58. Clones 667 and Pisoni. Aged in French oak barrels, 67% new.
Moderate garnet color in the glass.
Lovely aromas of black cherry, purple berry, and chocolate nougat. Very bright in the mouth, with uplifting
flavors of dark cherry and boysenberry. Seamless in composure, with easygoing tannins, leaving behind a
dreamy boysenberry memory.
2017 ROAR Sierra Mar Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.8% alc., pH 3.78, TA 0.59, 686
cases, $58. Clones 943, Calera, Swan and Pisoni. Aged in French oak barrels, 71% new.
color in the glass. Pleasing aromas of blackberry, cassis, underbrush and a hint of toasty oak. The tasty mid
weight core of black cherry and blackberry fruits entices. There is a note of dark chocolate. The silken tannins
are handsome, toasty oak plies the background with finesse, and the wine finishes with good intensity. Very
solid, if not superb.
2017 ROAR Pisoni Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.7% alc., pH 3.69, TA 0.58,
365 cases, $75. Pisoni clone. Aged in French oak barrels, 60% new.
Moderately dark garnet color
in the glass. The nose reluctantly opens slowly over time to reveal deep aromas of dark fruits and
sous bois. Exceptionally pure and intense black cherry fruit with appealing spice, iron and animale
undertones. A harmonious edition, with suave tannins, ideal oak integration, and a finish filled with
joyous appeal. A consummate connoisseur’s wine that will gain traction with more time in the
Roger Roessler Wines, Sonoma, CA
In 2015, Roger Roessler Wines celebrated fifteen years of winemaking. This winery is a partnership between
brothers Roger and Richard Roessler. Phil Staehle, owner of Enkidu Winery, has been producing Roger
Roessler wines for the past few years, but the winemaker since 2016 has been Drew Huffine. The winery’s
focus is on Pinot Noir from Sonoma Coast vineyards.
The Roger Roessler Wine Company brands include Black Pine, Roessler Cellars, R2 Wine Company and
Roger Roessler Wines. For more information, visit www.rogerroesslerwines.com.
2017 Roger Roessler Wines Black Pine Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., pH 3.74, TA 0.56, $30.
Sourced from three vineyards in the western Russian River Valley, Carneros and the Petaluma Gap. Native
and organic french yeast driven fermentation. Aged 10 months in French oak barrels, 20% new.
color in the glass. Aromas of boysenberry, blackberry, wine cave and fertile earth with a hint of volatile acidity.
Full-bodied in style with a full monty of purple and blackberry fruits backed by well structured tannins. Lower in
acidic verve with a well-managed compliment of oak and a generous fruit-filled finish. What this wine lacks in
nuance and finesse, it makes up for it in decadent fruit.
2016 Roger Roessler Wines Bogey Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., pH 3.68, TA 0.59, 158
cases, $50. 100% de-stemmed, organic French yeast, aged 11 months on the lees in French oak barrels, 25%
Moderate garnet color in the glass. The aromas are primarily oak-driven, with black cherry in the
background. Fresh and juicy, with good vim and vigor, in a mid weight gracious and calming style. That said,
the uplifting nature is tempered by intrusive oak.
2016 Roger Roessler Wines Lennox Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., $60. Sourced
from a 2-acre vineyard located in Sebastopol on the western reaches of the Russian River Valley. Clones 667,
777 and 115 fermented separately.Organic yeasts. Aged 18 months in French oak barrels, 25% new.
Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Aromas of Bing cherry and sweet pipe smoke lead to a mid weight
styled wine with flavors of well oaked black cherry and cola. Juicy, with an appealing soft texture, but hard to
get by the oak.
2016 Roger Roessler Wines Hein Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
13.8% alc., pH 3.95, TA 0.53, 121
cases, $54. Vineyard located in the deep northwestern end of the Anderson Valley. Native yeast fermentation.
Aged 11 months in French oak barrels, 25% new.
Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Aromas of very
ripe, dark fruit and espresso lead off. The core of black cherry and blackberry fruits pushes the ripeness
envelope. The tannins are well corralled and the slightly tart cherry finish is quenching. When tasted the
following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle, the nose was heavily imbued with nutty oak and
the palate experience was unchanged.
2016 Roessler Wine Cellars 3bbl Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.4% alc., $N/A. 3 barrels in part from
Sangiacomo Roberts Road Vineyard.
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. The nose features very ripe,
stewed dark fruit and marzipan aromas. Full-bodied, the a core of roasted dark cherry, berry, plum and raisin
flavors. The slightest alcoholic heat shows up on the finish.
Schermeister Winery, Glen Ellen, CA
Proprietor and winemaker Robert Schermeister developed his skills as an assistant to noted winemakers Mark
Aubert and Jayson Pahlmeyer. He crafts limited production wines from Napa Valley and Sonoma County.
A tasting room is located in Jack London Village in Glen Ellen. Visit www.schermeister.com or
2016 Schermeister Wohler Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 125 cases, $57. Release
May 2019. Vineyard is located within sight of the Russian River and the historic Wohler Bridge. Native
fermentation. Aged 18 months in French oak barrels, 40% new. Bottled unfined and unfiltered.
Light ruby red
color in the glass. Delicate aromas of cherry, strawberry and sandalwood. Light to mid weight in style, offering
an array of red fruit flavors including cherry and rhubarb with noticeable oak in the background. There is an
inviting dried herb savory thread as well. Very elegant tannins and a finish featuring citrus-tinged red fruits. The
wine was more enjoyable when tasted the following day after opening.
2015 Schermeister Spring Hill Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 100 cases, $57. Released September 2018. This vineyard
is located in the far western part of the new Petaluma Gap AVA. Yields
were a concentrated 0.8 tons per acre. Native yeast fermentation. Aged
18 months in French oak barrels, 50% new. Bottled unfined and
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Aromas of very
ripe fruit including dark red and black berry with hints of balsam and
vanilla. Plush on the palate in a sappy, saturated mid weight plus style,
featuring flavors of blackberry, black raspberry, black tea and a
compliment of oak vanillin. Nicely balanced, with some generosity on
the intensely fruity finish. Considerably more giving and composed
when tasted the following day from a previously opened bottle.
Sinor-Lavallee, Arroyo Grande, CA
Winemaker Mike Sinor worked for six small wineries in the 1990s to help pay for his schooling at Cal Poly SLO.
While working for Robert Mondavi at Byron Winery in 1996, Mike and Cheri LaVallee Sinor got married in
Burgundy, France. Soon after, they started Sinor-LaVallee. Mike subsequently helped launch Ancient Peaks
Winery and remains on the team as Director of Winemaking.
Mike and Cheri purchased the Bassi Vineyard in 2013. That same year, Mike decided to turn the Sinor-
LaVallee brand into an all estate program. The vineyard, originally planted in 2001, is located alongside
Highway 101 just 1.2 miles inland from Shell Beach. Half of the 30 acres are planted to 8 clones of Pinot Noir,
and the remainder is split among Syrah, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Albarino. The vineyard is farmed
organically with biodynamic input. Beginning in 2015, all grapes from Bassi Vineyard go into the 2,000 case
production of Sinor-LaVallee.
Mike was San Luis Obispo County’s Winemaker of the Year in 2012.
A tasting room opened in early 2015 in Avila Beach (open Friday-Sunday afternoons).
I first met Mike when he was the winemaker for Domaine Alfred (now Chamisal). The photo reflects our more
youthful days. I followed Sinor-Lavallee beginning with the 2004 vintage and continuing until the 2014 vintage.
With these wines reviewed here, I became re-connected with Mike’s production.
2015 Sinor-Lavalle Anniversary Cuvée San Luis Obispo County Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 50 cases, $50.
100% Bassi vineyard fruit. Harvest Brix about 25º. All native primary and malolactic fermentation. 100% stem
inclusion. Aged about 17 months in French oak barrels, no new barrel. Bottled unfined and unfiltered.
Moderately light garnet color in the glass. This wine needs time to unwind and yield its charms. Aromas of fresh
black cherry and dark red berry with a touch of oak-driven vanilla, toast and marzipan. Smooth and sleek on
the palate in a mid weight style, exhibiting expansive purple and blackberry fruits. The wine is giving now, with
gentle tannins sound acidity.
2016 Sinor-Lavallee Estate San Luis Obispo County Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 519 cases, $30.
Yield 3.74 tons per acre from Bassi Vineyard. Native and Assmanhausen yeast fermentation.
Aged 11 months in mostly French oak barrels. Bottled with minimal filtration.
color in the glass. Aromas of cherry, strawberry and tobacco leaf. Mid weight flavors of black
cherry and purple berry with oak in the background. Easy to drink, with mild tannins, a velvety
mouthfeel and some noticeable finishing length. Much better integration of oak when tasted the
following day from a previously opened bottle.
2016 Sinor-Lavallee White Label Bassi Vineyard San Luis Obispo County Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., 74 cases, $46. Ultra limited production
wine that reflect a leaner expression of Bassi Vineyard. Clones, blocks,
yeasts and barrels are selected to yield a wine with lower alcohol and
higher acidity. Harvest Brix 21.0º. Clones 113, 114 and 115. 100% destemmed.
Native and Assmanhausen yeast fermentation. Aged 18
months in French oak barrels, no new barrels. Bottled without fining or
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Pleasant, slowly
emerging aromas of black fruits. A flood of black and purple berry
flavors meet the mid palate and carry over through an intense finish.
The satiny texture is welcoming and is the wine’s best feature. Nicely
integrated tannins and a deft touch of oak. More open and delightful
when tasted the following day from a previously opened bottle.
2016 Sinor Lavallee Black Label Bassi Vineyard San Luis Obispo County Pinot Noir
16.7% alc., 96
cases, $46. An ultra limited production wine that offers a fuller expression of Bassi Vineyard. Clones, blocks,
yeasts and barrels are chosen to yield a wine with higher alcohol and lower acidity. This wine is a powerful and
rich expression of Bassi Vineyard. Yields 1.65 tons per acre. Last pick of Pinot Noir in this vintage. A blend of
clone 667 and 777 with one barrel of 115. All lots inoculated with Assmanhausen yeast. Aged about 20 months
in French oak barrels, 50% new. Bottled unfined and unfiltered.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Reserved
aromas of black raspberry and boysenberry with a bit of vanilla. Mid weight plus in concentration, featuring a
plush mouthfeel, a full monty of blackberry fruit and firm, but engaging tannins. This wine reminds me of
Meiomi Pinot Noir. When tasted the following day from a previously opened bottle, the seductive texture
endured, but there was plenty of oak vanillin overlay. Remarkably, this wine seemed to be in balance from an
2018 Sinor-Lavalle Ancestrale San Luis Obispo County Sparkling Pinot Noir
263 cases, $26. The front label shows an original oil painting done by Teddi Fuller of a bison skull
that Mike’s late father shot and hangs at the winery. Fourth vintage for this “Pet Nat” sparkling
wine created by “Methode Ancestrale.” Harvest Brix 17.8º. !00% clone 2A. Whole cluster pressed
day of harvest. No SO2 or commercial yeast added. Pied de Cuve technique used to start
fermentation. Tank fermented at about 55º F. Bottled 26 days after harvest. No SO2 or sugar
added at bottling. Not disgorged.
Wine is under high pressure and bottle cap must be removed
slowly as abundant bubbles emerge. White gold color in the glass. Very fragrant with aromas of apricot,
nectarine, apple and botanical notes. Bubbles dissipate quickly. Quite enjoyable on the palate, with flavors of
pineapple, lemon and white peach. A bone dry wine that has a little Muscat, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir Blanc
character. Not scored as I have never had a comparable wine, but I recommended it.
Tessier Winery, Healdsburg, CA
Owner and winemaker Kristie Tacey specializes in Pinot Noir from the Santa Cruz Mountains, Russian River
Valley and Anderson Valley. She launched Tessier Winery in 2009 and I have reviewed her excellent wines
since that time. Visit www.tessierwinery.com or www.princeofpinot.com/winery/1538/.
2016 Tessier Saveria Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
13.2% alc., 150 cases, $50. 20% whole
cluster. Native primary and secondary fermentations. Aged in French oak barrels, 50% one-year-old.
Moderately light garnet color in the glass. The nose offers aromas of red berry, sandalwood and whole cluster
driven burnt tobacco. Plenty of stuffing to satisfy in a mid weight style offering flavors of black cherry and black
raspberry with welcome spice and a hint of oak in the background. The tannins are well integrated, the texture
is silky, and the finish satisfies with a spiced cherry gift.
2017 Tessier Saveria Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
12.9% alc., 174 cases, $52. Clone 667, 777
and 115. Organically farmed vineyard. 28% whole
cluster. Aged in French oak barrels, 28% new.
Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Shy, but
pleasing aromas of pine, burnt tobacco, cardamon and
cherry. Delicious core of bright dark cherry and raspberry
fruit flavors infused with exotic spices, and graced with floral goodness
and a hint of tobacco and earth. Seamless, with gracious tannins and
generous finishing length. Impressive in every way.
2017 Tessier Filigreen Farm Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
13.2% alc., pH 3.61, 73 cases, $60.
Release mid-March 2019. The vineyard source is certified organic and biodynamically farmed. 72-year-old
vines, Pommard clone. Harvest Brix 23.5º. 50% whole cluster. Aged in French oak barrels, 25% new. The wine
is certified vegan.
Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Grounded aromas of fertile soil and mushroom.
Sleek and refined in the mouth, with mid weight plus extraction of black cherry and blackberry fruits. Admirable
harmony and fruit purity, with only a dusting of walnut-infused barrel magic and a dark fruited ending.
Wayfarer Vineyard, Santa Rosa, CA
Wayfarer Vineyard is located in the Fort Ross-Seaview AVA. The vineyard is divided in twenty blocks and
planted to multiple clones of Pinot Noir including 115, 667, 777, Pommard 4, Pommard 5, Swan, Mt Eden and
Hirsch. I have been out to the vineyard with the winemaker Bibiana Gonzalez Rave who is also the winemaker
for Cattleya and Pahlmeyer. It is an arduous but beautiful drive that takes about an hour from Sebastopol.
Recently, just for fun, I joined a winemaker in tasting. 8 California Pinot Noirs from the 2016 and 2017 vintages
that I had rated 94 or better. The wines were Brooks Note Weir Vineyard, Loring Rosella’s Vineyard, En Garde
Pleasant Hill Vineyard, Benovia Tilton Hill Vineyard, Foursight Charles Vineyard Paraboll, Fulcrum Gap’s
Crown Vineyard and ROAR Garys’ Vineyard.The 2016 Wayfarer Vineyard Pinot Noir was the favorite among all
of these wines for both myself and the winemaker. This wine is a blend of grapes from the entire vineyard.
Visit www.wayfarervineyard.com or www.princeofpinot.com/winery/2394/. The outstanding Wayfarer
Chardonnay is reviewed later in this issue.
2016 Wayfarer Wayfarer Vineyard Fort Ross-Seaview Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., pH 3.55, 1,500
cases, $90. Grapes are picked and delivered to the winery
before sunrise, then hand-sorted and de-stemmed before
transferring to tank. 5 to 7-day cold soak followed by more
than two weeks of native fermentation. Free-run juice was
aged in French oak barrels, 44% for 15 months.
garnet color in the glass. Everything you can ask for in a
Pinot Noir, with lovely aromas of cherry, raspberry, dark rose petal and
sous-bois. A cornucopia of up-front pleasure in a mid weight style,
featuring earth-kissed flavors of black cherry and black raspberry and a
hint of racy spice, framed by comforting tannins. Velvety in the mouth
with an appealing cut of acidity on the extremely long, peacock tail
finish. A celestial wine with the balance to achieve immortality.
2016 Carmel Road Monterey Pinot Noir
13.8% alc., $25, screw cap. Sourced from SIP Certified vineyards
and produced at a winery in the Arroyo Seco AVA. Aged 9 months in French oak barrels, 13% new.
light garnet color in the glass. The nose leads with aromas of forest, cherry and strawberry. Heavily infused
with oak in a mid weight style, featuring a nucleus of cherry fruit encased in gentle tannins and finishing with a
red cherry flourish and a trail of toasty, vanillin oak.
2016 Ellen Redding Stubbs Vineyard Marin County Pinot Noir
13.8% alc., 80 cases, $42. This wine is an
ode to Patrick McNeil’s grandparents and the years leading up to their wedding at St. Mary’s Church in Nicasio,
California. Each new vintage and colorful envelop reflecting letters sent by Joseph Dennis McNeil to Ellen
Josephine Redding by U.S. mail from 1925 to 1928. Stubbs Vineyard is located 13 miles from Tomales Bay
and is farmed organically and sustainably. Clone 115, yield 2 tons/acre. 7-day cold soak, native primary and
secondary fermentations, aged in 2 neutral and 1 once-used French oak barrels.
Moderately light garnet color
in the glass. Aromas of black cherry, underbrush and spice rise from the glass. The mid weight nucleus of black
cherry fruit is expansive from entry through the succulent finish. The mouthfeel is cohesive, the tannins are
suave, and the overall impression is one of harmony.
2016 Kukeri Lakeville Vineyard Petaluma Gap Pinot Noir
14.4% alc., pH 3.56, TA 0.62, 175 cases, $48.
Double Gold from the 2019 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. 100% Martini clone. 100% destemmed,
3-day cold soak, fermented with ‘prise de mousse’ yeast, and aged 17 months in French oak barrels,
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Aromas of well-ripened fruit including boysenberry and raisin,
with added aromas of spice, fertile earth and subtle oak. Creamy in the mouth, with a mid weight core of very
ripe purple and black fruits, even roasted in character. There is the typical dark chocolate notes of the Martini
clone. Oak contributes some marzipan and spice notes most evident on the robust finish.
2016 MacRostie Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 3,184 cases, $34, screw cap. Vineyarddesignate
caliber lots are included in this wine. There is a focus on Thale’s Estate, Wildcat
Mountain, Champlin Creek and Sangiacomo vineyards. 20% whole cluster. Two-week fermentation
followed by aging in French oak barrels, 22% new, for 10 months.
Light ruby red color in the glass.
Aromas of cherry, baking spice and toasty oak are most appealing when the cork is first pulled. A
gentle, lighter-styled wine with flavors of red cherry and strawberry and no apparent oak on the
palate. Sleek and elegant, with gossamer tannins and a little finish. An easy-to-cozy-up-to back
2015 Nelson Hill Deep End Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., $48. Barbara and Greg Hill
farm their estate Deep end Vineyard planted to 114, 115, 777 and Pommard clones.
Moderate garnet color in
the glass. Aromatic nose offering scents of black cherry, strawberry, spice and earth. Even more appealing on
the palate, offering a complex of flavors including dark cherry, raspberry, dried herbs, tobacco and spice. More
desirable when tasted the next day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle, showing persistent aromatic
joy and a deep cherry flavor.
2017 Taft Street Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., 990 cases, $28. Sourced from Skikos
Vineyard (clone 667) and Winkler Vineyard (clone 23),
both in the Russian River Valley. A 5-day cold soak was
followed by inoculation with proprietary yeast and then
open-top tank fermented at cool temperatures. The wine
was aged in French oak barrels, 30% new, for 10 months.
Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Enticing aromas of Bing
cherry, dark raspberry, baking spice, cola and graham. A quintessential
Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, featuring flavors of dark red and black
cherry, cola, spice, dark cocoa and a hint of toasty oak. Nicely
composed and welcoming, with some finishing generosity. A fantastic
value. Tasted twice with the same results.