Tasting of Morning Dew Ranch Pinot Noirs
“Atypical for Burt’s Pinot Noir, yet the powerfully-built
2009 Morning Dew Ranch Pinot Noir
is one of his greatest wines.”
A November 2019 tasting of nearly all of the Pinot Noirs from Morning Dew Ranch, 2004-2016, was
organized by me and held at Benovia Winery in Santa Rosa. In attendance besides myself were
Benovia winemaker Michael Sullivan, Brogan Cellars owner and winemaker Margie Williams-
Wierenga, Woodenhead Cellars owner and winemaker Nikolai Stez, and Benovia assistant
Winemaker Adolfo Hernandez. The wines were provided by Margi, Nikolai, Jason Drew of Drew
Family Cellars and myself.
The wines were tasted in flights according to producer so the different styles of winemaking were
evident. Nearly all the wines were truly enjoyable, but the 2008 vintage wines suffered from smoke
taint and their enjoyment was dependent on the taster’s tolerance for this flaw (or terroir expression if
you prefer since the vintage was marked by fires in Mendocino County prior to harvest). The
Woodenhead wines were the closest stylistically to Burt’s Williams Selyem Pinot Noirs.
2004 Woodenhead Morning Dew Ranch Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc.. Unfined and
unfiltered. 21.4% clone 777, 64.2% Rochioli selection (22% added as whole cluster) and 14.2% clone
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Aromas of forest floor and bruised cherry lead to a mid
weight plus styled wine offering blackberry and cassis flavors with a hint of oak in the background.
Still very much alive, with a juicy finish.
2005 Woodenhead Morning Dew Ranch Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
13.9% alc.. Unfined and
unfiltered. 66.6% Rochioli selection and 33.3% clone “828.’
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass.
Enticing aromas of spice, dried leaves and floral bouquet. A full-bodied wine, with a gorgeous core of
Bing cherry fruit, gracious tannins, a trace of oak and a long finish with a good cut of acidity.
2007 Woodenhead Morning Dew Ranch Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.2% alc.. Unfined and
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Terrific aromatic purity with scents of black cherry, white
pepper, tobacco and seasoned oak. Beautifully balanced in a mid weight style featuring a charge of
fresh, darker red fruits infused with joyous acidity. A 12-year-old wine that is still remarkably fresh.
No 2008 Woodenhead Morning Dew Ranch Pinot Noir was produced due to the vintage smoke taint.
2006 Brogan Cellars Morning Dew Ranch Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.4% alc., $90
(magnum). Aged 11 month in 50% new French oak barrels.
Moderate garnet color in the glass.
Slightly oxidized, offering aromas of cherry and herbs. Middleweight in style and sleek in texture, with
appealing flavors of dark red berry and cherry and pennyroyal. Good supportive acidity.
2009 Brogan Cellars My Father’s Vineyard Shula’s Pond Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
$70. “828” block.
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Nicely perfumed with black cherry, black
raspberry and spice. A comforting wine with fine balance in a mid weight style offering flavors of
purple and black fruits and cola framed by modest residual tannins and finishing with purpose. Very
2013 Brogan Cellars My Father’s Vineyard Margi’s Block
13.6% alc.. 100% Rochioli selection.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. A clean, fresh array of dark red berry fruit aromas lead to a lively
mid weight style offering a core of fresh Bing cherry and cola fruit with a hint of anise. Nicely
composed, with a persistent finish. Excellent.
2010 Drew Morning Dew Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., 165 cases, $47. The
second release from this vineyard. Rochioli selection and clone “828.” The Rochioli block is planted in
lighter soils providing finesse and charm while the “828” block is planted in darker, more clay-imbued
soils giving more power and richness. 50% whole cluster. 50% native fermentation. Aged 11 months in 30% new French oak barrels. Bottled unfined and unfiltered.
Moderately light garnet color in the glass.
Appealing aromas of cherry, spice and leaf. A cherry-driven wine in a mid weight style with a
compliment of spice. Well-balanced with gossamer tannins and some finishing drive. I liked this wine
a lot and was impressed by how well it aged.
2011 Drew Morning Dew Ranch Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
12.6% alc.. Rochioli
selection and clone “828.”
Light garnet color in the glass. Pleasing aromas of red cherry, earthy flora,
cinnamon and pennyroyal. Light in weight, with muted red fruit flavors backed by good acidity. A little
Brettanomyces in this bottle.
2012 Drew Morning Dew Ranch Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
13.0% alc., $55. Rochioli selection
and clone “828.” Hºarvest Brix 22.5º-23.5º. 30% whole cluster. Native fermentation. Aged 11 months in
33% French oak barrels.
Light garnet color in the glass. Fresh aromas of cherry soar from the glass.
An elegant wine with a sleek texture, featuring red fruits framed by gentle tannins. Nicely composed
2013 Drew Morning Dew Ranch Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
13.3% alc., pH 3.61, TA 0.64, 198
cases, $55. Rochioli selection and clone “828.” Harvest Brix 23.0º-23.5º. Yield 1.5 tons per acre. 50%
whole cluster. Native primary and malolactic fermentation. Aged 11 months in 25% new French oak
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Terrific, heady nose displaying hi-tone aromas of cherry
and exotic spice. A mid weight plus cherry bomb in a mid weight plus style maintaining balance with
ripe tannins and complimentary acidity. Extraordinary.
2014 Drew Morning Dew Ranch Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
13.2% alc., 166 cases, $60. 66%
Rochioli selection and 34% clone “828.” Yield 1.7 tons per acre. Native fermentation. Aged 11 months
in 30% new French oak barrels.
Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Lovely scent of cherries,
spice and rose petal. Elegantly styled with a mid weight core of dark cherry fruit. A little herb and
tobacco flavor chimes in. Rather straightforward, but pleasurable.
2015 Drew Morning Dew Ranch Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
13.1% alc., 75 cases, $60. Yields
down more than 50% in this vintage to 0.50 tons per acre. Rochioli selection and clone “828.” 50%
whole cluster. Native yeast fermentation. Aged 11 months in 33% new Francois Frères French oak
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Deep aromas of cherry and exotic spices. Really
good bones in this refined, mid weight plus, young wine still showing some tannin and oak overlying
the delicious dark red fruits. Needs time.
2009 Whitcraft Morning Dew Ranch Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
13.5% alc.. Chris Whitcraft first
produced a Pinot Noir from Burt’s vineyard in 2004. Unfined and unfiltered.
Moderately light garnet
color in the glass. The nose is very funky replete with hospital bandage aroma. Very ripe fruited, even
compotey in a full-bodied style featuring blackberry fruit flavor. Off bottle.
2016 Williams Selyem Burt Williams’ Morning Dew Ranch Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
alc., $85. Aged 16 months in 57% new and 43% 1-year-old French oak barrels.
Moderate garnet color
in the glass. The nose is a bit muted with faint aromas of black cherry and cola. More charming on the
palate but does not offer the fruit intensity of the 2014 vintage tasted prior. Rather generic and may be
not be an exemplary bottle.
2008 Morning Dew Ranch Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
13.8% alc., 197 cases, $60. A selection of
three blocks, each a different clone. 25% whole cluster. Fermentation in open-top, stainless steel
tanks for 12 days. Gravity racked and pressed to 100% new Francois Frères oak barrels. Aged 15
months on the gross lees before being racked to a tank for bottling. The wine was never pumped,
fined or filtered. Burt’s notes: “The vintage and terroir are both present in this wine as they have been
in all my wines. There is initially a smoky aroma that combines a dark berry fruit component with hints
of roasted nuts and earth, medium-rich palate, ripe tannins and berries on the finish. My suggestion is to decant the wine to allow the smoky components to recede a bit and allow the fruit to come forward
showing berry and pie cherry complexities.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Aromas of sweet pipe
smoke, barbecue and black cherries. Clearly smoke tainted in a mid weight plus style featuring dark
cherry and berry fruits, finishing with mild astringency.
2009 Morning Dew Ranch Jan’s Cuvée Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
13.6% alc., 228 cases, $75.
Burt used grapes that were left over after others had picked and includes Rochioli selection and DRC
selection. The winemaking regimen was the same as for the 2008 vintage. Burt is a modest soul, but
calls this “A wine apart.” I have tasted this wine now four times including this November tasting.
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Alluring aromas of pie cherries, spice, and white pepper.
Tantalizing flavors of brandied black cherries, black raspberries, anise and spice in a mid weight plus
style. Lovely, with impeccable balance and an incredibly long finish. A majestic wine and one of Burt’s
The following wine was not included in the November tasting but was tasted by me at home. I have
included it so that every winery that sourced Morning Dew Ranch grapes is part of this tasting report.
Miura Vineyards, located in Santa Rosa, is owned by Emmanuel Kemjii and the wine is crafted by
Byron Kosuge. This winery produced a Morning Dew Ranch Pinot Noir in 2011 (2 cases), 2012 (184
cases), 2013 (133 cases), 2014 (147 cases) and 2015 (38 cases).
2015 Miura Morning Dew Ranch Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
13.0% alc., 38 cases, $75. Yields
reduced by 65%.
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Pleasing aromas of dark berries, rose
petal and sweet oak. Sleek and polished in the mouth, with vibrant flavors of black cherry, blackberry and dark chocolate with a compliment of oak in the background. Plenty of fruit substance, but not
overblown, with gentle fine-grain tannins, and a demonstrative, juicy finish. Excellent.