Recently Reviewed Wines
Although I have discontinued the regular reviewing of wines, latest releases from Big Basin Vineyards, Bravium
and Phelps Creek Vineyard arrived with the senders unaware of my “retirement.” Here are the reviews for
Big Basin Vineyards, Boulder Creek, CA
2018 Big Basin Vineyards Dune & Mountain Monterey County Pinot Noir
13.3% alc., 270
cases, $39. Sourced from two vineyards: Olson Vineyard located on ancient sandy dunes near
Monterey Bay at 180 feet elevation and Coastview Vineyard planted in decomposed granite on a
mountain top at 2200 feet elevation. Vine age 19 years. Clones 114, 115, 667 and 777. 100%
whole cluster, native fermentation, aged 11 months in French oak barrels. Bottled unfined and
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Welcoming nose replete with whole cluster
notes of pine sap and burnt tobacco complimenting aromas of black cherry and nutty oak. Earthkissed
black cherry fruit infuses the mid weight core that is graced by exotic spices. The tannins are modest
leaving the wine quite agreeable. The finish is somewhat abbreviated but juicy. Still fine when tasted the
following day from previously opened and re-corked bottle.
2017 Big Basin Vineyards Old Corral Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
13.2% alc., 140 cases,
$65. Vine age 11-12 years. Clone 37 (Mt Eden) and a Swan selection. 100% whole cluster, native fermentation.
Aged 17 months in French oak barrels. Bottled unfined and unfiltered.
Moderately light garnet color in the
glass. The nose is complex and sexy, offering aromas of cherry, red rose petal, cardamom spice and Juicy
Fruit. Deep cherry flavor in a mid weight style with an earthy underpinning. Suave in the mouth with very finegrain
tannins and an excellent acid underbelly. When sampled the following day, the wine exhibited a stemmyvegetal
component but in an intriguing way.
2017 Big Basin Vineyards Coastview Vineyard Monterey County Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., 290 cases, $55.
Vine age 19 years. Clones 113, 114, 115, 667, 777, and Swan and “Pisoni” selections. 75% whole cluster,
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Leading off are aromas of candied cherry, vanilla and
earthy flora. Charming and mouth filling on the palate featuring earth-kissed dark red fruits framed by plush,
suede tannins and finishing with both power and length. When sampled the following day, the aromas of cherry
and earthy flora had come to the forefront, and the mouthfeel had become rounder and more plush.
2017 Big Basin Vineyards Lester Family Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
13.3% alc., 355
cases, $55. Vines planted in sandy clay loam and 19 years of age. Clones are 37 and 667 with a Swan
selection. 100% whole cluster, native fermentation. Aged 17 months in French oak barrels. Bottled unfined and
unfiltered. Moderate garnet color in the glass. Generous aromas of cherry, flora and burnt tobacco. A robust
offering in a mid weight plus style, featuring an array of red and purple fruit flavors complimented by hints of
tobacco and earth. Sleek in the mouth with refined tannins. A wine with power in a velvet fist. The finish is clean
but not overly lengthy. When tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle, the
intoxicating cherry aromas soared and the finish had taken on more length.
Phelps Creek Vineyards, Hood River, OR
2017 Phelps Creek Vineyards “Calamity" Columbia Gorge Pinot Noir
13.4% alc., 1281 cases, $65. In
September of 2017, a firecracker spark on the Eagle Creek trail located some 30 miles west of the Phelps
Creek Estate soon brought calamity to the winery door. The howling winds of the Columbia Gorge caused
flames to race 13 miles within the first 48 hours. Nothing stood between Phelps Creek Vineyards and the fire,
but tinder dry forest and hundreds of valiant firefighters. As the frontline of the fire approached a mile from the
estate, the first raindrops in months began to fall and the Estate was spared. However, throughout the blaze,
the estate wines were immersed in tick smoke causing an irreversible effect on the ripe fruit. Only the best
blocks were picked and the most intriguing barrels bottled. The resultant wine is intensely smoky. A normal
vintage yields 3,000 cases of Pinot Noir from the Estate Vineyard, but only 181 cases of the 2017 vintage were
bottled due to the effect of the smoke. $3 of every bottle will be donated to the National Forest Foundation to
rebuild the hiking trails lost in the fire. Pommard clone. Harvest Brix 23.4º.
Light ruby red color in the glass. Red
cherry and berry fruit aromas overlain with guaiacol (smoke). Light in wet and rather gossamer, featuring a core
of red fruits with noticeable smoky undertones. Forward drinking and juicy with minimal tannins. Best with BBQ.
The smoke taint may or may not be averse to the drinker depending on their sensitivity to it. In any case, the
wine should be drunk now (the smoke taint may become more evident as the fruit fades over time). Drinking
the wine is not harmful
2016 Phelps Creek Vineyards Columbia Gorge Pinot Noir
13.6% alc., 1,344 cases, $34. One of the
warmest vintages on record. Earliest harvest in the winery’s 24 years of wine growing. Pommard and Dijon 115
and 777. Barrel aged in French oak barrels, 15% new, for 15 months.
Moderately light garnet color. A mixture
of blackberry and earthy flora aromas lead to a mid weight styled wine offering black cherry and raspberry
flavors. Smooth and suave in the mouth with an easygoing manner, finishing with surprising length on the
2016 Phelps Creek Vineyards “Les Stagiaires” Columbia Gorge Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., 73 cases, $N/A.
Interns Eddie Valadao, a Fresno State winemaking student and Nicole Henderson a Food Science Program
student at UC Davis combined their talents to assemble a 3-barrel blend of estate Pinot Noir from 25 barrels
available in the cellar. The goal was to produced a wine with balance. 66% Pommard, 33% Dijon 115. Harvest
Brix 23.6º. Aged in one 1-year and 2 2-year French oak barrels.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Lovely
perfume of black raspberry, blackberry and spice arriving over time with swirling. Appealing array of purple and
black fruits framed by immersed tannins. Very charming, with a silky texture, excellent balance and a lipsmacking
2015 Phelps Creek Vineyards Columbia Gorge Pinot Noir
13.8% alc., 1,208 cases, $36. 100% estate
grown and aged in French oak barrels.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Very reserved nose even over time
with swirling, only giving forth herb garden aromas. Somewhat drab, with a moderate concentration of black
cherry and blueberry fruit flavors backed by muscular tannins. Finishes short and astringent.
2015 Phelps Creek Vineyards “Beehive” Columbia Gorge Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., 99 cases, $52. In the mid
1990s, Dijon 777 clone was planted in a corner of the estate vineyard that had held some abandoned
beekeeper boxes when the land was purchased. As the vines matured, the extraordinary character of the 777
clone in cooler years became evident. Winery owner Robert Morus has an affinity for 777 since he commands
regular 777 airline flights internationally. Harvest Brix 23.8º. Aged 18 months in French oak barrels, 1 new, 2 1-
year and 1 2-year.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Chic aromas of cherry, spice, rose petal and burnt
tobacco. Mouth filling goodness in a mid weight plus style showing great breeding. A substantial but not
imposing tannic backbone insures longevity. Finishes noticeable long and powerful.
2015 Phelps Creek Vineyards “Lynette” Columbia Gorge Chardonnay
13.9% alc., TA 0.64,
239 cases, $38. Named after winery owner Robert Morus’ spouse. Dijon 75 and 76 and Wente
clones. Whole cluster pressed, bartonage as required. Aged in French oak barrels, 20% new
Light golden yellow color in the glass. The aromas of lemon peel, pear and wax draw you in
to the glass. Slightly creamy in the mouth, with showy flavors of pear, white peach and honey. The
spirited acidity compliments the fruit load and the wine finishes in a seductively suave fashion.
Impressive freshness for a 4+ year-old wine.
Bravium, St. Helena, CA
2017 Bravium Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., pH 3.42, TA 0.59, 2,980 cases, $33.99.
Released March 1, 2019. Fruit from Valley Foothills Vineyard and Wiley Vineyard. Aged 10 months
in French and Hungarian oak barrels (30% new).
Moderately light garnet color in the glass.
Reasonably nice cherry and red raspberry aromas. Mid weight in style with the flavor of cherry
leather roll-ups, spice, and a hint of oak in the background. Nicely balanced, with good freshness
and juiciness. A good value.
2018 Bravium Signal Ridge Vineyard Mendocino Ridge Pinot Noir
13.4% alc., pH 3.85, TA 0.55, 242
cases, $44.99. Released January 1, 2020Vineyard planted in 1999 atop Cold Spring Mountain at 2,642 feet
elevation. Aged 10 months in French and Hungarian oak barrels, 30% new.
Moderate garnet color in the glass.
Alluring aromas of purple plum and grape, spice and burnt tobacco. Hearty on the palate with engaging flavors
of blackberry, black cherry and Hoison sauce, finishing joyously long and dry. Typical spice that I find from
Hungarian barrels. Still commendable when tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked
2018 Bravium Wiley Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
13.1% alc., $44.99. Vineyard is 9 miles from the
Pacific Ocean overlooking the Anderson Valley. A treasured, older, true cool climate site.
Light garnet color in
the glass. The wine leads with scents of cherry, pine sap and toasty oak. Light in weight with a core of dark red
cherry fruit flavor, underlain with notes of spice and earthiness. Easy to cozy up to with very fine grain tannins
and cool-climate freshness. Finishes long with lip-smacking vibrancy.