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Elite California Pinot Noir Vineyards Part I: North Coast - Anderson Valley



“While California is unlikely to ever formally recognize these rock star vineyards, that doesn’t mean we can’t.”
Kathleen Wilcox



Anderson Valley



Ferrington Vineyard

Owners: Schoeneman family
Acres: 74 (45 acres of Pinot Noir, 16 acres of Chardonnay, 12 acres of Gewürztraminer and an acre of the original Sauvignon Blanc.
Years planted: The vineyard was first planted in 1969 by Balvern Vineyards, then sold to Dr. Richard Ferrington in the 1980s, and subsequently acquired by Santa Rosa dermatologist Dr Kurt Schoeneman in 1996 who upgraded the vineyard with the assistance of noted viticulturist Norman Kobler. The modern plantings of Pinot Noir date to 1997.
Location: Just outside the town of Boonville in the southeastern part of the Anderson Valley.
Aspect: A complex array of steep slopes and facings at 300 to 500 feet elevation.
Pinot Noir scions: Dijon 113, 114, 115, 667, 777, and 943. Pommard, Wädenswil 2A, DRC suitcase selection and faux 828.
Soils: Decomposed sandstone, clay and rocks.
Vines: Bilateral cordon trellis, rootstocks 101-14 and SO4.
Farming: Managed by Kurt Schoeneman and Paul Ardzooni. The vines are irrigated.
Winery clients past or present: Arista Winery, Baxter Vinery, Borne, Breggo Cellars, Daniel, Davies, FEL Wines, Flowers, Harmonique, Hess Collection, La Rochelle Winery, Londer Vineyards, MacPhail, Philo Ridge Vineyards, Saxon Brown, Schramsberg, Texture and Twomey and Williams Selyem (the original buyers).
Comments: The owners of Ferrington Vineyard launched their own label, Fathers & Daughters, with their release of a 2012 Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from the vineyard. John Ferrington died tragically in 2001.



2017 Texture Ferrington Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

13.9% alc., 451 cases, $75. Pommard (primarily), faux 828 and 777 clones, 100% de-stemmed. Aged 10 months in 50% new French oak barrels. · Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Very enjoyable nose with primarily savory aromas of earth, underbrush and allspice. Fresh and vivid fruit flavors including cherry, strawberry and blueberry with wellmatched modest tannins. The wine is not all about fruit with an appealing earthiness. Gracious in texture with long, assertive finish. An excellent depiction of this vineyard's terroir. Score: 93

2013 Williams Selyem Ferrington Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., $85. · Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Considerable floral perfume is accented with aromas of Bing cherry, raspberry, earthy flora and rocky soil. Delicious stream of black cherry, boysenberry, iron, truffle and spice flavors that are backed by modest tannins. The balance is impeccable and the finish is crazy long. When I tasted the wine the following day from a previously opened bottle, I exclaimed, WOW! The best Ferrington Vineyard Pinot Noir I have ever experienced. Score: 97

More reviews: www.princeofpinot.com/vineyard/69/.



Maggy Hawk Vineyard

Owner: Jackson Family Wines
Acres: 58
Year planted: 2000
Location: The “deep end” of the Anderson Valley amongst towering coastal redwoods. One of the closest vineyards to the Pacific Ocean in the Anderson Valley (16 miles).
Aspect: A complex array of steep slopes and facings at 300 to 500 feet elevation.
Pinot Noir scions: Several distinct blocks of clones including Pommard, Wädenswil 2A, and Dijon 113, 115, 667, and 777.
Soils: Well-drained, , low-nutrient, decomposed sandstone (Bearwallow and Wolfey).
Vines: Spacing 8’ x 5’ to 9’ x 5’, with 978-1102 vines per acre on VSP trellises.
Farming: The vineyard is often subjected to wind and fog, and an early threat of rain and frost. The vines struggle to ripen with yields often less than 2 tons per acre. Management lives on site.
Winery clients: None, a monopole.
Comments: Maggy Hawk is named after one of Barbara Banke’s favorite winning thoroughbred horses.The bottlings are named after thoroughbred horses including Jolie, Afleet, Unforgettable, Hawkster, Graceful Lady, and Stormin’. For many years, the bottlings were often primarily single clone Pinot Noir but this has been modified more recently. The Jolie bottling of clone 115 has always been my favorite. A second label, WindRacer Pinot Noir, is also produced and sourced from Maggy Hawk Vineyard. A Pinot Noir Blanc was offered from Edmeades Vineyard under the Maggy Hawk label in 2018. Grapes have been sourced since the 2017 vintage for a Dundee Hills Pinot Noir under the Maggy Hawk label.



2011 Maggy Hawk Jolie Maggy Hawk Estate Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

14.0% alc., 242 cases. Primarily clone 115. · Moderate garnet color in the glass. The nose reminds of an excursion into the forest with aromas of wild berries, earthy flora and damp bark. Still offering a good amount of lip-smacking dark fruit sap. The tannins and oak have dwindled and the fruit is somewhat faded but this is a highly enjoyable old wine experience with the aged patina that pinotphiles enjoy. Score: 92

2018 Maggy Hawk Jolie Maggy Hawk Estate Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

13.5% alc.,484 cases, $65. · Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Seductive aromas of Bing cherry, raspberry, sap and spice. Delicious, mouth filling flavors of black cherry and raspberry saturate the palate with goodness. Very polished in the mouth, with buried tannins and a vibrant acid backbone. Everything works in harmony so that the wine can be thoroughly enjoyed now. Fabulous when tasted the following day from a previously opened bottle. Score: 97

More reviews: www.princeofpinot.com/vineyard/978/.



Morning Dew Ranch

Owner: Founder Burt Williams of Williams Selyem fame sold the ranch to Napa Valley’s Castello di Amorosa in 2016 (asking price was $1,920,000).
Acres: 13
Years planted: 1999-2001
Location: “Deep end” of the Anderson Valley reached by an old logging road off Highway 128 near Philo.
Aspect: 20% sloping, south-facing hillside at 660-850 feet elevation.
Pinot Noir scions: Pommard, Mariafeld (32), Dijon 115, 777 and faux 828, a DRC-La Tache selection and a Rochioli selection thought to be Pommard 5.
Soils: Silty Franciscan clay underlain with sandstone.
Vines: 8’ x 4’ spacing, VSP trellising, spur pruned.
Farming: Very limited irrigation after the vines were established.
Winery clients: Drew Family Cellars is the only winery client currently. Previous clients included Brogan Cellars, Williams Selyem (last vintage 2016), Whitcraft Winery and Woodenhead.
Comments: When Burt Williams retired from Williams Selyem in 2007, he began to look for property for a vineyard. He noted, “I couldn’t afford a property in the Russian River Valley because we (Williams Selyem) made it too popular (laugh).” Burt produced a Morning Dew Ranch Pinot Noir in 2008 and 2009, with the 2009 vintage becoming the last wine he ever crafted. Castello di Amorosa is currently offering a 2018 Morning Dew Ranch Pinot Noir ($75) but I have not sampled the wine.



2009 Morning Dew Ranch Jan's Cuvée Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

13,6% alc. · Aromas of blackest cherry and toasty oak. Richly appointed flavors of darkest cherry and strawberry and purple berry. Still fresh and giving, with a harmonious mouthfeel, and a clean and ephemeral finish. I have had multiple bottles of this wine and there is some bottle variation. If you have any of this last wine Burt Williams made, I would drink up with a toast to Burt. Score: 93

2016 Drew Morning Dew Ranch Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

13.1% alc., 75 cases, $60. Rochioli and La Tache suitcase selections. 50% whole cluster, native fermentations. Aged 11 months in Francois Frères oak barrels, 50% new. · Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Gorgeous nose with soaring aromas of bing cherry, pomegranate and sous-bois. Velvety and lush in the mouth, with a mid-weight core of delicious red fruits that are vivid and charged with goodness. This wine is very classy, displaying impeccable balance and a memorably long finish. Reviewed July 2017. Score: 96

2016 Williams Selyem Burt Williams Morning Dew Ranch Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

13.6% alc., $85. Aged 16 months in 57% new French oak barrels. · Moderately light garnet color in the glass. This is an extremely easy-drinking wine showing exceptional harmony. The aromas of cherry and cardamom lead to a light to-mid-weight styled wine that is cherry-driven with added flavors of tobacco and licorice. The gossamer tannins make for a gracious mouthfeel and the finish is long and highly gratifying. Reviewed May 25, 2020. Score: 94

2019 Drew Morning Dew Ranch Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

13.4% alc., $70. Rochioli and faux 828 (La TËche) selections. Native yeast, 25% whole cluster fermentation. Aged in 20% new and 80% seasoned French oak barrels. · Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Dreamy aromas of red cherry and strawberry with a touch of barrel spice and sandalwood. Light to mid-weight in style and elegant in character, with red and blue fruits underlain with perky acidity. The wine finishes better than it enters, ending with length and good cut. Some might find the fruit a bit shallow but I like the gentle nature of the wine. Score: 92

More reviews: www.princeofpinot.com/vineyard/340/.



One Acre Vineyard

Owner: Littorai ( purchased in 2016 from the original owner, Rich Savoy, who called it Deer Meadows).
Acres: Deer Meadows Vineyard was 8.5 acres out of which Littorai purchased one acre of fruit and produced the One Acre bottling initially.
Years planted: Originally planted in 1986 and replanted in 2005 due to phylloxera infestation, with additional plantings through the years.
Location: Northeast of Booneville
Aspect: Hilltop at 1,600 feet elevation. Gently rolling, peaceful setting.
Pinot Noir scions: Wädenswil 2A, Dijon 114, 115, 667, 777, faux 828 and Swan (One Acre). Dijon 667, 777 and Swan (The Return).
Soils: Bearwallow loam over marine origin sandstone.
Vines: 8’ x 4’ spacing, VSP trellis.
Farming: Organic and biodynamic methods, not certified.
Winery clients: None, a monopole.
Comments: In 1993, One Acre was the first vineyard-designated Pinot Noir produced by Littorai. Before acquiring the vineyard in 2016, Littorai purchased fruit by a by-the-acre contract, the first of its kind in California. The complete history of the vineyard is complicated as told to me by Ted Lemon. The actual rows from which the One Acre Pinot Noir was produced migrated over the years so that different bits and pieces were used because Rich Savoy wanted Ted Lemon to try another clone or other reasons. The “pool” for One Acre was always the same 3 acres with a continuous exposure and always produced from one acre of vines. The actual mileage is now 3 acres. It became evident with the first vintage after purchase (2017) of the 3 acres, that the 2 acres located at the highest elevation of the property that had a different soil type and a very different aspect, slope and exposure had a personality of its own. The wine produced from these 2 acres is therefore bottled as The Return, in testimony to the fact that the purchase of the property was really a chance to return to it with a fresh set of eyes. The Return was replanted at the same time as the rest of the property (2005). The remaining 3.5 acres of the original Deer Meadows property goes into the Littorai Les Larmes Anderson Valley Pinot Noir. This acreage is continuously evaluated for quality and potential replanting. So, one can refer to One Acre and The Return as specific blocks within Dear Meadows Vineyard or as separate vineyards. In American winespeak these are blocks, but Ted prefers the word vineyard because of their individuality and the reverence that they hold for him. Both One Acre and The Return labeled vineyard-designated Pinot Noirs have been offered by Littorai from this vineyard.



2017 Littorai One Acre Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

12.8% alc., $90. · Moderately light garnet color in the glass. This wine was not appealing upon opening with the fruit seemingly underripe but really blossomed the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. Delightful aromas of cherry, strawberry, spice and tilled earth. Mid-weight flavors of red cherry, strawberry, a dark red grape, showing a good attack and a satisfying finish. Very elegant in style with fruit flavors perched just under the peak of ripeness. This wine is a perfect example of the challenges judging a Pinot Noir just after the cork is pulled. This wine underwent a dramatic transition over night. Score: 94

More reviews: www.princeofpinot.com/vineyard/209/.



Savoy Vineyard

Owner: Cliff Lede since 2011. The vineyard was originally established by Rich Savoy.
Acres: 44 with 34 sub-blocks.
Years planted: 1991 5 acres of Pinot Noir and 5 acres of Chardonnay 1992: additional 10 acres of Pinot Noir and 15 acres of Chardonnay 1994 5 acres of Pinot Noir. Some Chardonnay acreage has been grafted over to Pinot Noir so the vineyard is now split between 29 acres of Pinot Noir and 15 acres of Chardonnay.
Location: Northwest of the town of Philo in the cooler end of the Anderson Valley above the Navarro River, just across the old-growth stand of redwoods known as Hendy Woods State Park.
Aspect: Gently sloping southwest-facing terrain at 200-320 feet elevation. Protected on two sides so the vineyard is warmer than most of its neighbors.
Pinot Noir scions: Dijon 113, 114, 115, 667, 777, Wädenswil 2A, Pommard, Calera, Martini 13 and 15.
Soils: Sandy loam and clay loam.
Vines: 7’ x 5’ spacing with a VSP trellis system.
Farming: Littorai’s Ted Lemon has overseen a transition to organic and biodynamic management.
Winery clients: Littorai, Radio-Coteau, Auteur, Peay, Failla, and several others in the past. The owner bottles Pinot Noir and Chardonnay under the FEL label.



2015 Littorai Savoy Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

13.7% alc., $75. · Moderately light garnet color in the glass. The aromatic goodness explodes over time in the glass, offering hi-tone black cherry and spice cabinet aromas. Intense and sappy, with flavors of black cherry, blueberry, pomegranate, raspberry and spice along with a earthy nuance. A sophisticated wine that satisfies from attack to finish and offering impeccable balance. This wine has that ephemeral Pinot Noir quality that is the Holy Grail of vintners. Reviewed January 2018. Score: 97

2018 FEL Savoy Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

13.8% alc., $70. · Moderate garnet color in the glass. A party of dark red berry fruits fill the aroma profile. Better on the palate, with a charge of dark red cherry and raspberry fruits exhibiting a good attack, mid-palate grandeur and some finishing generosity. Excellent uplifting acidity and minor tannins. This wine wants to be your friend! Even more enjoyable when tasted the following day from a previously opened bottle. Score: 93

More reviews: www.princeofpinot.com/vineyard/70/.



Weir Vineyard

Owners: Bill and Susan Weir
Acres: 7 acres of Pinot Noir
Years planted: 1992 (East Vineyard) and 2000 (West Vineyard)
Location: 7 miles south of Boonville just outside the Anderson Valley AVA and in the Yorkville Highlands AVA.
Aspect: 850 to 1,000 feet elevation, surrounded by heavily wooded forest.
Pinot Noir scions: DRC suitcase selection from Mt. Eden, Wädenswil 2A, Pommard 4 from Rochioli Riverblock.
Soils: A melange of soils that fall into the Yorkville series. Deep, well-drained, schist, brittle sandstone and other sedimentary and metamorphic rocks including quartz. Some percentage of loamy clay keeps the soils united.
Vines: 8’ x 5’ spacing, VSP trellis
Farming: Minimal irrigation
Winery clients: Williams Selyem has been a long-standing client. Others have included Baxter Winery, Bink Wines, Bluxome Street Winery, Brooks Note, Drew Family Cellars, Furthermore, Gabrielli, Roadhouse Winery, SPELL Wines, Talisman and Toulouse.
Comment: A tiny block of Nebbiolo is planted as well.



2009 SPELL Weir Vineyard Yorkville Highlands Pinot Noir

14.3% alc., $39. · Dark garnet color in the glass. Aromas of black cherry, BBQ rub, and Prada leather coat. Richly appointed with layers of black cherry, purple and black berry and brown sugar flavors framed by energetic tannins. This wine has yet shed its tannins and probably never will leading to more imbalance in this wine as the fruit fades in the future. Score: 89

2014 SPELL Weir Vineyard Yorkville Highlands Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., 125 cases, $48. Rochioli selection, Pommard, Wädenswil 2A and a DRC selection. Aged in 33% new, 33% once-used, and 33% older French oak barrels. · Moderate garnet color in the glass. Highly aromatic, with scents of cherry, exotic spices and potpourri. Plenty of flavor packed into a mid-weight style. A captivating wine that features black cherry and black raspberry fruits embellished with a deft touch of oak and a bit of umami. The structured tannins are slightly astringent. The finish is one to celebrate, with an extraordinary black cherry aromatic persistence. This special wine is a cause for celebration. Reviewed June, 2016. Score: 94

2016 Brooks Note Weir Vineyard Yorkville Highlands Pinot Noir

13.8% alc., 250 cases, $44. A Rochioli selection and Wädenswil 2A clone from the eastern block and a DRC selection from the western block. 10% whole cluster. Aged 16 months in 33% new French oak barrels. · Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Terrific perfume of black cherry and baking spice aromas that leap from the glass. Light to mid-weight, gloriously fresh flavors of strawberry, cherry, spice and tobacco framed by toned tannins. Lovely balance and a very long, quenching finish. Still pumping out a deep well of fruit pleasure when tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. The vintner really hit the mark in this vintage. Reviewed January 2018. Score: 95

2019 SPELL Weir Vineyard Yorkville Highlands Pinot Noir

14.5% alc. · Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Aromas of black cherry, black raspberry and earthy flora lead to a mid-weight plus styled wine featuring plenty of tasteful black cherry, boysenberry and Dr. Pepper flavors. Some young tannins prowl the background but are not intrusive. Overall, quite enjoyable. Score: 93

More reviews: www.princeofpinot.com/vineyard/101/.



Wendling Vineyard

Owner: Paul Ardzooni (Ardzooni Family Wines)
Acres: 20 acres of Pinot Noir
Year planted: 2010
Location: Near the hamlet of Navarro across the road from Kiser Vineyard.
Aspect: A steep, rocky, southwest-facing slope at 335-500 feet elevation, nine miles from the Pacific Ocean. The most northwesterly vineyard in the Anderson Valley AVA.
Pinot Noir scions: Pommard, Dijon 115, faux 828, 943, and 667, and a massale selection from other famous vineyards including an alleged La Táche selection.
Soils: Well-drained, shallow, sandy loam, sandstone, and shale (Ornbaun, Wolfey, and Bearwallow complexes).
Vines: Littorai E Block is spaced 7’ x 3.3’, VSP trellis, 1103P, 420 and 3309 rootstocks.
Farming: The vineyard was planted and is farmed with the utmost precision and care by Paul Ardzooni. Organic and biodynamic farming methods are employed, not certified. The steep terrain obviates the use of machinery for most farming tasks. There are fewer growing degree days here than nearly anywhere on the West Coast resulting in low yields. The elevation allows safety from crippling frost below.
Winery clients: COBB Wines, Copain, Drew Family Cellars, FEL Wines, Littorai, Reeve, Texture Wines, and Westwood Estate. Some production is bottled under the Ardzooni Family Wines label. Littorai’s E Block was chosen by Ted Lemon after the owner acknowledged his role in the original development of the property by giving him a choice of all the blocks in the vineyard. Lemon’s Block E is one with the lowest vigor and stresses easily with water deficits.
Comments: The vineyard is named for the Wendling family who was one of the founding wine families of the Anderson Valley.



2016 Littorai Wendling Vineyard E Block Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

13.4% alc., $80. · Moderate garnet color in the glass. Aromas of purple and black berry, earthy flora and spice cake arrive over time in the glass, showing more appeal the following day from a previously opened bottle. Very savory and earth-toned with fruit flavors of plum and spiced blackberries. A moderately firm tannic backbone supports the discreet fruit load. The most striking feature of this wine is the very long and glorious finish. Considerably more charming when tasted from a previously opened bottle the following day. Score: 93

2016 Texture Wendling Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 349 cases, $85. Clones faux 828, 943 and a DRC selection. Native fermentation, aged 10 months in 30% new French oak barrels. · Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Reserved aromas of macerated black fruits, prune and oak. A big, full-bodied wine, with ultra ripe flavors of boysenberry, blackberry, black currant and raisin. Silky on the palate with a flood of fruit on the finish. A bold, ripe and fruit-driven style. Score: 90

2019 Drew Wendling Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

13.0% alc., $70. Alleged DRC and LaTache selections. Yield 2 tons per acre. Native yeast, 45% whole cluster fermentation. Aged in 25% new French oak barrels. · Moderate garnet color in the glass. The nose is quite nuanced, with aromas of herb-dusted cherry and raspberry, a grass and floral note, and sweet, burnt tobacco. This is an exceptional wine that offers mid-weight flavors of raspberries and olalliberries with a hint of green tobacco. Very polished in the mouth with integrated tannins and juicy acidity. When tasted the following day from a previously opened bottle, the wine was extraordinary, offering aromas of dark red cherry and cranberry, earthy flora and pipe smoke. Silken and elegant on the palate with a spectrum of red fruits and a very lengthy finish. My notes say, "fantastic." Score: 96

More reviews: www.princeofpinot.com/vineyard/1393/.


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