Elite California Pinot Noir Vineyards Part I: North Coast - Petaluma Gap
“I think most people underestimate just how true the ‘wine is made in the
vineyard’ statement really is. I think most folks think that a winemaker
can can take fruit and make it into whatever they want. But the best
wines in the world require the least amount of actual winemaking.”
Noah Rowles, winegrower
Gap’s Crown Vineyard
Owner: Originally owned by Premier Pacific, but sold to Bill Price (Price Family Vineyards) in 2013. The
vineyard is an Estate property of Three Sticks Wines, also owned by Bill Price. A section of about 37
acres is leased long-term to Kosta Browne, a winery owned by Duckhorn Wine Co.
Acres: 106 acres of Pinot Noir and 32 acres of Chardonnay (approximately).
Years planted: Four planting phases from 1999 to 2005.
Location: On the western hillside of Sonoma Mountain in the town of Penngrove, east of Rohnert Park. The
vineyard is the northeast corner of the Petaluma Gap AVA.
Aspect: A southwest-facing slope at 320-820 feet elevation exposing it to maritime elements. Most of the vines
lie above the fog line.
Pinot Noir scions: Dijon 114, 115, 667, 777, and faux 828, and a Rochioli selection and Swan selection.
Soils: Predominantly well-draining, low-vigor, iron-rich, brown clay loam with significant volcanic rock.
Vines: Two-thirds are planted at a density of 2,264 vines per acre and a third are planted at a density of
1,361 vines per acre. VSP trellising. Rootstocks are 110R, 101-14, 3309, 1616, RG and 420A.
Farming: Managed by Atlas Vineyard Management.
Winery clients: Through the years there have been numerous client wineries with most grapes going into
vineyard-designated bottlings. Wineries that have sourced Pinot Noir include Black Kite, Bruliam,
Chateau St. Jean, Fulcrum, Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery, Kosta-Browne, Marine Layer, Patz & Hall,
Ram’s Gate, Sojourn Cellars, Three Sticks Wines and Typicité. Bottlings after the 2016 vintage may
show either “Petaluma Gap” or "Sonoma Coast” AVA on the labels.
2013 Bruliam Gap’s Crown Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
Moderate garnet color in the glass. A
noticeable aged but delightful wine offering aromas of black cherry and worn leather, and flavors of dark cherry,
pomegranate, brewed black tea, and truffle. Suave in the mouth, with some fading of fruit, but still pushing out
enough fruit for a satisfying finish.
2016 Fulcrum Gap’s Crown Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., $68.
Moderately dark garnet
color in the glass. Enviable aromatic goodness with scents of black cherry, straw bale, cardamon spice,
underbrush and garlic powder. Sensational in every way with a mid-weight charge of delicious black cherry,
dark raspberry, pomegranate and spice flavors backed by gentle, supportive tannins. Impeccable balance with
a memorable, succulent black cherry finish. Still exceptional when tasted the following day from a previously
opened bottle. I have had this wine on several occasions and each time it was stellar.
2016 Trombetta Gap’s Crown Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., $65. Clones 777, faux 828,
and 115. Harvest Brix 25.0º. Native yeast fermentation, extended cold soak and maceration, native malolactic
fermentation in barrels, aged 9 months in 35% new French oak barrels. Bottled unfined and unfiltered.
garnet color in the glass. Aromas of tilled soil, blackberry, blueberry, and smoky oak. Very richly fruited and lush
on the palate with a viscous mouthfeel. Dark fruits are featured with matched tannins and uplifting acidity.
2017 Furthermore Gap’s Crown Vineyard Petaluma Gap Pinot Noir
14.7% alc., 240 cases.
dark garnet color in the glass. Gloriously aromatic, with scents of black stone fruits, dark berries, rose petal and
warm brioche. A deluge of black cherry and black raspberry fruits greet the palate but there is enough
supportive acidity (even a citric note) to lift the fruit to brightness. Of special note is the highly persistent, fruitfilled
2017 Gary Farrell Gap’s Crown Vineyard Petaluma Gap Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., $80
garnet color in the glass. Fresh aromas of an array of dark red and purple berries. Impressive attack of
boysenberry fruit with good mid-palate length and finish. Gentle richness, with merged tannins and assertive
2018 Bruliam Gap’s Crown Vineyard Petaluma Gap Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., $65. Harvest Brix 23.8º. Grapes
were 100% de-stemmed.5-day cold soak, inoculated with proprietary yeast for primary fermentation. Aged 10
months in 30% new French oak barrels and another 18 months in bottle prior to February 2021 release.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Ooh la la aromas of dark red cherry, raspberry and spice. Mid-weight
flavors replicate the aromas in a beautifully composed wine with perfect balance between fruit, tannin and
acidity. The impeccable balance predicts age ability.
2018 Fulcrum Gap’s Crown Vineyard Petaluma Gap Pinot Noir
14.3$ alc., 214 cases, $70. Clones 667 and
faux 828. Aged 11 months in 40% new French oak bottles. Bottled unfined and unfiltered.
garnet color in the glass. A relatively ripe, boisterous, full-bodied wine that makes a big impression. The
aromas and flavors of dark berry fruits are quite luscious but the sappy fruit is not summatré. The rich fruit
cloaks the supportive tannins so the mouthfeel is sleek and velvety. A typical Gap’s Crown Vineyard Pinot Noir.
Reviewed May, 2020.
2018 Sojourn Gap’s Crown Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.6% alc., $60. Clones 115, 667 and faux
828. Native yeast fermentation. Aged in 50% new French oak barrels. Bottled unfined and unfiltered.
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. I liked this aromatic nose offering scents of black cherry, blackberry,
allspice, bay leaf and a touch of oak. Juicy, with uplifting, acid-driven freshness in a mid-weight style with
flavors of purple and black berries. A shadow of oak adds to the pleasure, the felty tannins make for easy
drinking, and the spirited finish has good length.
2019 Sojourn Gap’s Crown Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.6% alc., 850 cases, $69. Clones 115,
667 and faux 828. 10% whole cluster (portion of 667). Native yeast fermentation. Aged in 50% new French oak
barrels. Bottled unfined and unfiltered.
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Easygoing aromas of
blueberry-pomegranate, potpourri and mulch. A big boy, full-bodied wine with richly flavored blue and black
fruits. Sleek in the mouth with modest, balancing tannins. The finish is modest in length but pleasing. Admirable
balance at this high ABV.
More reviews: www.princeofpinot.com/vineyard/468/.
Terra De Promissio Vineyard
Owners: Charles and Diana Karren
Acres: 50, all Pinot Noir
Years planted: 2002: 32 acres of Dijon 115 and 777. 2012: 18 acres of Dijon 943, 97 (Swan), and a Calera
Location: A short distance east of Highway 116 in the Petaluma Gap AVA.
Aspect: Southwest exposure, 25%-40% slope, 188 feet elevation. The vineyard is always under the fog, not
above it like with the vineyards on the West Sonoma Coast.
Pinot Noir scions: Dijon 115, 777, 943, and Swan and Calera clones.
Soils: Sandy loam and adobe clay.
Vines: 8’ x 4’ spacing, cane pruned VSP trellising.
Farming: Sustainably farmed by the Karrens (Donna makes most of the farming decisions). Each row and
block is custom-farmed to the winemaker’s instructions.
Winery clients: Partner wineries include Castello Di Amorosa, Domaine Della, Dutcher Crossing, Gary Farrell
Winery & Vineyards, Lynmar, MacRostie, Metzker Family Estates, Senses, Siduri, SPELL, The Calling,
and Williams Selyem. Most clients vineyard-designate their Pinot Noir. The Karren’s own label is Land
of Promise. The Land of Promise includes four different Terra de Promissio Pinot Noirs. The Karrens
taste and approve all the wines made by client wineries before the wines can be labeled with the Terra
de Promissio Vineyard designation, a total of 14 wines annually.
Comments: The vineyard name, “Terra de Promissio,” translates to “Land of Promise”, a name trademarked in
2007. The combination of soil, southwest sun exposure, elevation, and vine density, combined with the f
fog and wind from the Petaluma Gap, allow the grapes to mature slowly, yielding extended hang time,
and optimum ripeness. These ideal conditions result in intense flavors, ample tannin structure, and
nearly perfect natural acidity. Swan clone 97 was submitted to the FPS by Dehlinger Vineyard in the
Russian River Valley for certification and was registered in 2001. Typically, clone 97 produces bright
and rich Pinot Noir, lighter in color than many other clones, with intense aromatics and an elegant,
earthy character. Bottlings from this vineyard may have “Petaluma Gap” or “Sonoma Coast” AVA
designation on the label beginning with the 2016 vintage but the Karrens prefer “Sonoma Coast” for
consistency reasons. The Karrens do not require winery clients to use the name Terra de Promissio and
over the years some have used other names yet contained 100% Terra de Promissio fruit.
2016 Land of Promise Terra de Promissio Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., $75
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Intoxicating aromas of spiced black cherry, ripe strawberry,
cardamom spice and toasty oak. Plenty of nuance on the palate with mid-weight plus flavors of black cherry,
dark raspberry, blackberry, spice, and truffle. The rich fruit sap that saturates the mid-palate and elevates the
finish in length, veers to the very ripe side. There is noticeable barrel infusion which may appeal depending on
2017 Gary Farrell Terra de Promissio Vineyard Swan Clone 97 Petaluma Gap Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., 49
cases, $75. 65% of grapes de-stemmed (35% whole cluster). 4 to 7 day cold soak, 7 to 10 day extended
maceration, and aged on the lees for 15 months in 50% new French oak barrels.
Moderately dark garnet color
in the glass. Nothing but good things to say about this gorgeous wine. A nose you could drink features aromas
of bourbon-infused cherry, ripe strawberry and blackberry. Delectable flavors of darkest cherry, black raspberry
and blackberry with a shadow of oak spice. Well-matched fine-grain tannins and bright acidity (pH 3.43, TA 7.1
gm/L) that brightens the drinking experience and propels the very long, lip-smacking finish. Superb harmony.
Flat-out great and like the energizer bunny, kept going and going and going in the glass when tasted the
following day from a previously opened bottle.
2018 Montagne Russe Terra de Promissio Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.7% alc., 95 cases, $65.
Calera clone. Aged on the lees for 10 months in 40% new French oak barrels.
Pleasant aromas of black cherry,
pomegranate, cassis and oak-driven spice and caramel. Full-bodied in style, with an array of rich, well-ripened
darker berry fruits. A big boy Pinot Noir, yet enough acidity to retain some brightness and not tiring to drink. The
mouthfeel is luscious and the tannins are well integrated. There is the slightest bit of alcoholic heat on the
2018 Senses Terra de Promissio Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., $56 The winemaker is Thomas
Dark garnet color in the glass. Enticing aromas of boysenberry, blackberry, spice and purple
flower. A bit husky and rugged in a mid-weight plus style, with flavors of boysenberry, blackberry and raisin with
hints of smoke and spice. There is some astringency on the somewhat long finish. A big gulp of very ripe fruit
with a creamy mouthfeel, lacking some nuance.
2019 SPELL Terra de Promissio Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.4% alc., $60
Moderately dark garnet color in
the glass. Boysenberry aroma is framed by smoky oak. Mid-weight plus in style, with smoke-infused fruit
flavors of purple berry and black cherry. The tannins are modestly proportioned and the finish long and fruity.
When tasted the following day from a previously opened bottle, the smoky ash note persisted but the fruit core
was exuberant and the wine was livelier.
2019 Williams Selyem Terra de Promissio Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., $65.
garnet color in the glass. Nuanced nose exhibiting aromas of dark strawberry, dark red cherry, cardamom spice
and a hint of smoke. A noticeable oak overlay conceals the core of black cherry and candy apple flavors
initially. When tasted the following day from a previously opened bottle, the wine was much more appealing,
with delicious flavors of darker cherry, spice and hazelnut with welcome length on the finish. The oak imprint
had largely disappeared. Like many 2019s tasted for this report, the wines are very young and often show the
barrel treatment when initially opened.
More reviews: www.princeofpinot.com/vineyard/219/.