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Cobb Wines: A Revelation

The Cobb Wines website says that they “produce exceptional and classic Pinot Noir wines reflecting the climate and soils of our coastal Sonoma County vineyards in North California.” I could not have said it better! I met David Cobb and his winemaker son Ross at the International Pinot Noir Celebration in 2008 and their wines that were poured then impressed me. Somehow I never got around to revisiting them and after recently tasting through several 2006 and 2007 Cobb Pinot Noirs, I realized I had been missing out on remarkably good Sonoma Coast wines brilliantly crafted in a graceful style. These wines are very close in style and character to the Williams Selyem Pinot Noirs of the early 1990s and deserve a place in every Pinot lover’s cellar.

Cobb Wines is a Pinot Noir specialist focusing on single-vineyard wines that was established in 2001 by Stephen and Ross Cobb and their parents David and Diane Cobb. David Cobb owns and farms the 15-acre Coastlands Vineyard and oversees all the vineyards from which the winery sources grapes. David began growing Pinot Noir at the sustainably farmed Coastlands Vineyard back in 1989 at a time when the only vineyard neighbor in the extreme westerly location four miles from the Pacific Ocean was Summa Vineyard. He was a marine ecologist by trade, but studied soils and climatology for years before finding a suitable site on the ridge tops of the Sonoma Coast. The fruit from Coastlands Vineyard was sold to Williams Selyem until 2001. Ross Cobb, who studied soil science and sustainable agriculture in college, spent time at Ferraro- Carano Vineyards and Winery and Bonny Doon before he was hired by Burt Williams at Williams Selyem. He took a serious liking to Pinot Noir and eventually became the winemaker at Flowers from 2004 to 2008. Today, he is the accomplished winemaker for Cobb Wines. Ross and his father started out make a little wine of non commercial Pinot Noir from Coastlands Vineyard. The first vintage of commercial Coastlands Vineyard Pinot Noir in 2001 yielded 130 cases.

Besides Coastlands Vineyard and the special block within known as Coastlands Vineyard Diane Cobb, the Cobbs source grapes from four other independently owned vineyards located in the western Sonoma Coast appellation and primarily in the Freestone-Occidental region that has become an epicenter for exceptional Pinot Noir. Each of the vineyards offers distinct soil types, different microclimates, and a diverse combination of clones and rootstocks resulting in unique expressions of Sonoma Coast terroirs. These vineyards include Rice-Spivak Vineyard, Joy Road Vineyard, Jack Hill Vineyard, and Emmaline Vineyard.

This was the first winery in California I have ever reviewed in which each wine in the tasting lineup deserved my highest accolades. Extraordinary consistency to say the least! Every wine had the whole package: charming aromatics, seamless and smooth textures, moderate alcohols, alluring elegance, and impeccable balance. I can’t emphasize the stunning aromatics enough. It is evident David and his son, Ross, are tuned into Pinot Noir. They nurture Pinot Noir properly in the vineyards, and pick the grapes when they are just nudging ripeness. The moderate alcohols and flavors reflect this approach. The wines are not inexpensive, but completely justified in my mind as they are in the very top echelon of premium California Pinot Noir.

2007 COBB Coastlands Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

13.9% alc., 240 cases, $68. This 14.5- acre vineyard is owned and farmed by the Cobb family and contains some of the oldest Pinot Noir vines on the Sonoma Coast. A very cool site near Occidental, this is one of the last vineyards to ripen on the Sonoma Coast each season. Several clones including Pommard, Martini, Wädenswil and Mt. Eden planted on various rootstocks. Yorkville and Kneeland loamy soils. · More intense color than other wines in this lineup. Aromas of plum sauce, soy, poki, dank cellar and sandalwood. Dancing mix of purple fruits, earth and oak flavors carry through to a remarkably persistent finish. Intensely fruity and seemingly a little closed at this time. Keep this one in the cellar a few years.

2007 COBB Joy Road Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

13.8% alc., 240 cases, $68. A 2.5-acre vineyard owned by winemaker Terry Adams located a short distance from Coastlands Vineyard on a 1,300-foot ridge top near Occidental. Planted in sandy loam to four different varieties of Pinot Noir. · The nose is both savory and floral along with earthy cherry and berry fruits that are quite vivid. Delicious redder-toned fruits with supportive oak pulled into line with fine acidity. A middle weight wine that is soft and sensual in the mouth departing with a taunting, teasing and lingering aroma of fresh cherries.

2007 COBB Rice-Spivak Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

13.3% alc., 360 cases, $68. · Like the 2006 version of this wine, this is a remarkable drink. Very expressive fruity nose emphasizing berry tart, the slightest oak and a hint of spice. Flavors of redder-toned berry fruits fan out softly on the palate, saturating every corner of the mouth and fading lithely in a lingering finish with a pleasing grip of acidity. Seamless in every way, urging you to reach for another sip. A little richer tasting than the 2006 vintage even at a lower alcohol. This vineyard is one fine piece of dirt.

2006 COBB Coastlands Vineyard Diane Cobb Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

13.9% alc., 145 cases, $72. A 1.5-acre block in the Coastlands Vineyard planted to a single Pinot Noir variety chosen by Diane Cobb through her work with a nursery block at Coastlands that contained over 20 relatively unknown Pinot Noir varieties. This wine commemorates Diane’s life at Coastlands from its founding in 1989 until her death in 2006. · Subdued aromas upon opening, but becomes quite expressive over time in the glass. Pleasing perfume of fresh berry jam, Morrocan spices and a little barnyard. Intense black cherry and strawberry flavors like bombs bursting in the mouth. Earth and hard red candy accents add interest. Juicy and charming with a finish that would make Hollywood proud.

2006 COBB Emmaline Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

12.8% alc., 166 cases, $72. This 3-acre vineyard is at the western margin of Sebastopol near Occidental and receives more shade and fog than the other Cobb vineyards. The Goldridge sandy loam soils are planted to Dijon 115 and 777. · Pleasing scent of dark stone fruits nicely spiced. An array of brambly fruits show up in the mouth including ripe strawberries, blackberries and plums. Smooth and silky with bright acidity and fine, ripe tannins create no rough edges. Truly unique from the other Cobb bottlings.

2006 COBB Rice-Spivak Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

13.8% alc., 495 cases, $72. 6-acre vineyardowned by Russell Rice and his wife, Dr. Helen Spivak. Goldridge sandy loam with ash. Dijon and Swan clone. · Stunning aromas of bright and pure cherries and berries with a hint of forest floor. Only Pinot Noir can offer a nose like this. Luscious attack of red and black cherries and berries on the mid-palate with an appealing accent of earthy loam and smoke lifted with balancing acidity (dare I say minerality), and caressed by fine-grain tannins. Elegant and refined all the way through to the vibrant and pleasing finish. This is a great wine that really shows off the frilly, sexy side of Pinot Noir.

Cobb Wines are allocated through a mailing list and are available online at The wines reviewed above are still available. Production in 2007 was just under 1,400 cases of Pinot Noir.

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