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Father John Wines: French-Inspired Pinot Noir & Chardonnay

Sonoma County native Nicholas Maloney launched Father John Wines in 2010 during his stay in France with a Pinot Noir from Oehlman Vineyard on Vine Hill Road in Sebastopol. The name, Father John, is a dedication to the late Reverend, John Weaver, a renowned Episcopal priest and Nicholas’ grandfather.

Nicholas has an impressive winemaking resume, having graduated from the world-renown Lycée Viticole in Burgundy and worked in Haute Svoie, Margaux, Maison Ilan in Nuits-Saint-Georges and Domaine Rollin in Pernand-Verglesses. Nicholas’ wines are one of the few American Pinot Noirs to be found on restaurant lists in Burgundy and his wines are especially popular with the Swiss, Belgians, Danish and English. European exports make up a significant amount of total sales.

Nicholas has planted a vineyard on his family’s apple ranch located just outside the city limits of Sebastopol. The first estate-grown Pinot Noir from this site has been bottled and will be a cult wine demanding $395 a bottle.

Nicholas has been particularly attracted to the potential of Northern Mendocino County, specifically the town of Comptche. He truly believes Comptche to be one of California’s next top Pinot Noir regions. Located north of the Anderson Valley, Comptche is the only California appellation that is planted solely to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay (only 1.5 acres of Chardonnay) and there are several vineyards in this region. Nicholas believes his Comptche wines rival or surpass Chambertin wines.

Nicholas’ Pinot Noir wines are all 100% whole-cluster fermented with Indigenous yeasts but he typically inoculates for malolactic fermentation. A small amount of new French oak is used for aging (the Old Vines bottling reviewed below saw no new oak). The wines are never filtered. There are also a few techniques instrumental to the house style that no other producer in the world utilizes but Nicholas prefers to keep those techniques private.

The limited production wines are sold through a mailing list at There is currently a waitlist for the Chablis (3 years) and the Vine Hill Road Pinot Noir (1 year). The Vielles Vignes (Old Vine) Pinot Noir will be available for purchase on the website soon.

2018 Father John Vau de Vey 1er Cru Chablis

12.5% alc., $85. · Light golden yellow color in the glass. Complex nose presenting with aromas of yellow apple, petrichor, kelp, and straw. Bright and clean on the palate and slightly viscous in texture, with the flavors of pear and salty apple along with a stony grip. Some length on the finish and thoroughly enjoyable. Representative of the Chablis genre from well-known producers in the $100+ price range. Score: 94

2015 Father John Vielles Vignes Mendocino County Pinot Noir

12.5% alc., $68. Sourced from a vineyard located in the Redwood Valley bench planted in the 1960s to Martini clone. Nicholas notes, “The British, including Jancis Robinson, absolutely love this wine,” and it is sold out. 100% whole cluster fermented, aged in neutral French oak barrels. · Light garnet color in the glass. The nose is whole-cluster-inspired with aromas of pie cherry, sap, burnt tobacco and sous-bois. Lighter in weight but fully satisfying with flavors of cherry, red berry and sarsaparilla framed by very fine-grain tannins and crisp acidity. An intriguing connoisseur’s wine that is beginning to take on some aged (tertiary) character. Score: 93

2017 Father John Vine Hill Road Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

12.5% alc., $75. Primarily Pommard clone planted in Goldridge sandy loam soil. 100% whole cluster fermented. Representative of the Chablis genre from well-known producers in the $100+ price range. · Very light ruby red color in the glass. Aromas of cherry, cranberry, burnt tobacco and sap. Mid-weight in style with a toothsome core of Bing cherry, dried herbs and a hint of stone fruits. Although on the delicate side, the wine delivers more flavor intensity than the very light color would predict. Soothing in texture with bright acidity and gossamer tannins but slightly shallow at the finish. More Russian River Valley fruit exuberance than the older Mendocino County bottling. Score: 92

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