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Three Sticks Wines: The Pinnacle of California Pinot Noir

“Billy Three Sticks” was a teenage nickname given to Bill Price by his surfing buddies who teased him about his formal name, William S. Price III. They are not teasing him now, as he is the head of a vineyard and winery empire that in addition to Three Sticks Wines includes Durell Vineyard, Gap’s Crown Vineyard, Walala Vineyard, One Sky Vineyard, LUTUM, Head High Winery, and Kistler Vineyards, all under the umbrella of Price Family Vineyards & Estates. Price is currently chairman of Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery and was chairman of Kosta Browne from 2009 through 2015. He only works with distinguished winemakers and the Three Sticks wines are from exceptional estate vineyards.

Three Sticks Wines was founded by Price in 2002 with a focus on wines from the renowned 200-acre Durell Vineyard. Price bought Durell Vineyard in 1997 and now owns 130 acres of the Carneros, Sonoma Valley and Sonoma Coast portions (the vineyard has vines in three appellations) of the vineyard as a result of a divorce.

Bob Cabral joined Three Sticks Wines in 2014 as Director of Winemaking after leaving Williams Selyem. He is ably assisted by winemakers Ryan Prichard and Carl Formaker.

The four Pinot Noir wines reviewed here are part of the fall 2021 release that also includes two Chardonnays. Three Sticks Wines are available through a mailing list allocation with the wines reviewed here sold on the winery’s website at Large formats (1.5L-9L) are available. Tasting is available at the winery’s historic Vallejo-Castenada Adobe originally built in 1842 by Salvador Vallejo and now restored. A variety of curated experiences are available by reservation.

2019 Three Sticks William James Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.0% alc., pH 3.48, TA 0.69, 481 cases, $75. Released August 2021. The vineyard is located west of Sebastopol surrounded by apple orchards. The Goldridge fine, sandy loam soil, known as “moondust,” is ideal for Pinot Noir. Clones are Swan, Calera and 943, an unusual combination. 25% whole cluster. Aged 16 months in French oak barrels, 52% new. · Moderate garnet color in the glass. Highly appealing aromas of dark cherry, cranberry, earthy flora and a hint of oak. Velvety on the palate in a middleweight style, offering giving flavors of black cherry, cola and tobacco oak. Impeccably balanced with graceful tannins and a noticeably long finish. Quintessential Russian River Valley black cherry goodness. Score: 93

2019 Three Sticks Gap’s Crown Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., pH 3.46, TA 0.66, 770 cases, $75. Released August 2021. Clones are Swan, 115, faux 828, 667, 777 and a Rochioli selection. 25% whole cluster. Aged 16 months in French oak barrels, 56% new. · Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Enticing aromas of black cherry, cardamom spice and sprightly herbs. Long and succulent on the palate, with an array of black cherry and berry fruit flavors. The sap grabs the palate and won’t let go. Silky and suave, with very modest tannins and an amazingly long finish. Even better when tasted the following day from a previously opened bottle. Score: 94

2019 Three Sticks Walala Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., pH 3.50, TA 0.66, 440 cases, $75. Released August 2021. Redwood forested location high on a hill above the town of Annapolis on the extreme West Sonoma Coast. I consider it one of my “elite” California Pinot Noir vineyards. Clones 115, 113 and faux 828. 25% whole cluster. Aged 16 months in French oak barrels, 52% new. · Moderate garnet color in the glass. Reserved initially, but picking up interest over time in the glass, offering aromas of blue and purple berry and tilled earth. The boldest wine among the four tasted here but not imposing. Mid-weight plus in style with yummy flavors of black cherry, black raspberry, boysenberry and spice with an earthy undertone. Juicy and seamless with fine-grain tannins and a generous finish. “Great” when tasted the following day from a previously opened bottle. Score: 95

2019 Three Sticks Durell Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.0% alc., pH 3.49, TA 0.67, 580 cases, $75. Released August 2021. Diverse soils including cobble clay loam, volcanic and rocky loam. Known for Chardonnay, this vineyard has quickly gained recognition for exceptional Pinot Noir as well. Clones 115, 667, 943, Swan and Calera. 20% whole cluster. Aged 16 months in French oak barrels, 50% new. · Moderate garnet color in the glass. Intoxicating aromas of black cherry, baking spices and cola. Easy to find superlatives for this wine that instantly enchants. Mid-weight in concentration, offering a juicy core of cherry, raspberry and strawberry fruit flavors backed by a complimentary riff of oak. Elegantly composed, with a refreshing acid spine, and a finish alive with hi-tone, spice cherry goodness. The best Pinot Noir I have ever had from this vineyard. Score: 96

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