PinotFile: 11.16 January 6, 2018
- A Bounty of Ravishing California Pinot Noir Greets the New Year
- Virtuous Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
- Chardonnay: No Wonder that it is the Most Popular White Varietal
- Pinot Briefs
- Wine Books for the New Year
A Bounty of Ravishing California Pinot Noir Greets the New Year
Time to stock up your wine cellar with some of these new releases and Live Mas! The quality of California Pinot
Noir has reached such unprecedented high levels in recent vintages that my job may soon become
superfluous. I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to review the marvelous results here of so many talented
Aether Wine Company, Orcutt
Proprietor and winemaker Jeff Fink, formerly the winemaker at Tantara and Pence Ranch, launched this new
project with the 2013 vintage. The name, Aether, is derived from the Greeks who saw the aether as the link
between the early realm and the heavens, the so-called fifth element.
The wines reviewed here are from the 2014 vintage. Jeff told me they were in primarily neutral oak for almost
two years as they took time to come around. Some whole cluster inclusion was used. The wines all showed
much better when re-tasted the next day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle reflecting the reductive
style of winemaking.
The wines are offered through a mailing list and on the website at www.aetherwines.com.
2014 Aether Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., pH 3.54, $36. A blend from Pence
Ranch, Dierberg, Drum Canyon, Hilliard Bruce, and Sanford & Benedict vineyards. Harvest Brix
22.8º-24.4º. 80% indigenous and 20% RC-212 fermentation.
Moderately light garnet color in the
glass. Aromas arrive slowly in the glass, offering notes of cherry, spice and burnt tobacco. Elegant
and cashmere in the mouth in a light to mid weight style, featuring enticing flavors of dark red
fruits, spice and toast and a subtle earthbound thread. Nicely balanced, with buried tannins and a
modest but pleasing finish. Much more enjoyable when tasted the following day from a previously
opened and re-corked bottle. A solid everyday drinker.
2014 Aether Sanford & Benedict Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
14.4% alc., pH 3.45, $50. Vineyard
first planted in 1971 by Richard Sanford and Michael Benedict.Clone 115. Harvest Brix 24.0º. 100% indigenous
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Black cherry fruit and seasoned oak interplay on the nose. A
charge of dark red and black fruits seduce with juicy intent, backed by a firm tannic structure. Smooth in the
mouth, with impressive length on the finish that has good cut. Much better when tasted the day after from a
previously opened and re-corked bottle. Immense charm.
2014 Aether Drum Canyon Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
14.4% alc., pH 3.41, $50. Vineyard
established in 2003 by the Dierberg family. 56-acres planted almost entirely to Pinot Noir. Calera clone. Harvest
Brix 23.7º. 100% indigenous fermentation. Aged 27 months in neutral French oak barrels.
color in the glass. An earthbound nose with added aromas of dark red and black fruits. Rather monolithic upon
opening, showing more nuance and interest when tasted the following day from a previously opened and recorked
bottle. Mid weight flavors of well-ripened black fruits, spice and tobacco and welcome intensity on the
2014 Aether Quinta Del Mar Vineyard San Luis Obispo County Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., pH 3.45, $50. A
uniquely situated 20-acre Pinot Noir vineyard on the western flank of the Nipomo foothills near the town of
Nipomo. Clones 115 and 777 planted in 2006. Harvest Brix 23.8º. 50% whole cluster and 100% indigenous
Dark garnet color in the glass. Aromas of black cherry, spice, vanilla and earthy flora are inviting.
Mid weight flavors of blackberry, black raspberry and cassis with initially noticeable oak-driven flavors of cola,
vanilla and toast. Considerably more enjoyable when tasted the following day from a previously opened and recorked
bottle, with better oak integration and soaring flavors of black cherry, black raspberry and spice.
2014 Aether Matrix Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., $65. Harvest Brix 24.1º. Calera and 115
clones. 25% whole cluster, indigenous yeast, aged 27
months in neutral French oak barrels.The name implies a
mosaic of flavors and aromas ever changing and moving
through time. In the case of this wine, Matrix is a fusion of
the energy and flavors of two vineyards with divergent yet
simpatico character - Quinta del Mar and Drum Canyon.
garnet color in the glass. Shy, but very pleasant aromas of black cherry
and black raspberry fruits. Vivid array of dark red to purple orchard and
berry fruits presented in a seductive, mid weight style with valued
length. Seamless with a polished texture and ethereal refinement.
Notable but not intrusive oak in the background. Finishes bright and
quenching with a burst of cherry goodness. The most transcendent of the 2014 Aether Pinots.
Brooks Note Winery, Novato
In 2004, Garret (Garry) Brooks left the world of technology in the San Francisco Bay area to pursue
winemaking. After graduating from University of California at Davis, he made his first Pinot Noir at Acacia in
2007 and later moved on to Kosta Browne, working alongside Michael Browne and Shane Finley for two years.
He then joined Dutton-Goldfield as an assistant winemaker working under Dan Goldfield. Dan introduced Garry
to the unique geography, microclimates and vineyards of Marin County.
Gary and his spouse Joanne (her maiden name was Note) launched their commercial label in 2011, using fruit
from Marin County and Weir Vineyard in the Yorkville Highlands.
Brooks Note shares a tasting room with Trek Winery in Novato. Check the website for hours and directions:
www.brooks-note-winery.myshopify.com. Wine prices are reasonable.
2015 Brooks Note Marin County Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., pH 3.66, TA 0.68, 175 cases, $36. A blend of grapes
from Kendric, Grossi Ranch and Chilean Valley vineyards. All three vineyards are on the Marin side of the
Petaluma Gap, although Grossi is just outside the southern border of the new AVA. Cold wind and fog lead to
thick-skinned grapes resulting in more structure and color in the wines. Cold nights and warm days provide
good acidity. A cold snap on Easter weekend caused frost damage throughout North Coast wine country and
decreased yields markedly. 10% whole cluster, open-top fermentation, 3-day cold soak, native yeast, aged 16
months in French oak barrels, 27% new, 27% once-filled and 46% neutral.
Moderate garnet color in the glass.
Nicely perfumed with aromas of blueberry, boysenberry, floral bouquet and feminine scent. Mid weight flavors
of purple and blackberries smoothly integrated with gentle tannins. Deft oak input, with bright acidity and an
uplifting finish. More sappy and heady when tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked
2015 Brooks Note Weir Vineyard Yorkville Highlands Pinot Noir
13.8% all., pH 3.60, TA 0.72, 230 cases, $44.
Rochioli and Wädenswil 2A clones from the lower, eastern
blocks, and Romanée-Conti clone from the western blocks.
10% whole cluster, open-top fermentation, 3-day cold soak,
native yeast, aged 16 months in French oak barrels, 33%
Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Terrific
aromas of black cherry and baking spices leap from the glass. Just
what you desire from Pinot. 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!
Castalia Wines, Geyserville
Terry Bering has been the cellar master at J. Rochioli Vineyards since 1990. He launched his own label in 1992
with the production of a single Pinot Noir based on Rochioli Vineyard grapes. The name, Castalia, refers to
Apollo’s favorite spring on Mount Parnassus in ancient Greece that bestowed drinkers of the spring gifts of
poetry and inspiration.
I have been a fan of Castalia Pinot Noir for many years and have reviewed every vintage since 2000. If you are
not on the Rochioli mailing list, this is one wine from Rochioli Vineyard that you can buy. It is also the only
bottling other than one from Gary Farrell that is permitted to put Rochioli Vineyard on the front label. The wine
is sold in 6 and 12 bottle lots only. Visit www.castaliawines.com.
2015 Castalia Rochioli Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 323 cases, $60. Sourced from
Rochioli ranch vineyards. Clones originated from the West
Block along with Dijon 777, 115 and 667. Aged 15 months in
French oak barrels, 25% new.
Moderate garnet color in the
glass. Highly aromatic, offering soaring scents of Bing
cherry compote, allspice and nut meg with a compliment of
oak. Loved the nose. Intense attack of oak-kissed Bing cherry fruit in a
mid weight style. A seductively creamy texture holds court in the mouth,
the tannins are in sync, and the finish is generous with cherry
goodness. The wine was considerably more appealing when tasted
later in the day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle with
much better oak integration. A year or two of cellar time is advisable. A
Rochioli vineyard wine that you can actually buy!
Cellars 33, San Francisco
An urban winery in San Francisco founded by Baltimore transplants, John and Katie Fones, in 2010. John
developed his winemaking skills working at Freeman Winery. Visit www.cellars33.com.
2015 Cellars 33 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., pH 3.56, TA 0.635, RX 0 g/L, 175 cases, $30. A blend
from two diverse vineyard sites including one in the hills west of Westside Road and Hummingbird Hill Vineyard
located in the Petaluma Gap. Harvest Brix 23.5º. Aged 10 months in neutral French oak barrels. Bottled
Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Aromas of blueberry, briar, rye crisp and nutty oak lead to
a light to mid weight styled wine featuring flavors of blueberry and purple grape with subtle oak in the
background and a citric thread also plying the background. Soft tannins and a plush mouth feel offered promise
but the wine finished with a sweet and sour tone.
2015 Cellars 33 Hummingbird Hill Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., pH 3.60, TA 0.604, RS
0 g/L, 150 cases, $48. Pommard and Rochioli clones. Harvest Brix 23.9º. 100% de-stemmed, 50% native and
50% inoculated primary fermentation with native malolactic fermentation. Aged 10 months in French oak
barrels, 33% new. Bottled unfiltered.
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. The nose is primary upon
opening but pleasant, offering aromas of black cherry and rye toast. Discreetly dense and sappy, featuring
luscious black cherry and black raspberry fruit flavors in tune with oak support. Nicely balanced, with admirable
2015 Cellars 33 Katie’s Cuvée Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
13.8% alc., pH 3.65, TA 0.487, RS 0 g/L,
72 cases, $48.This wine focuses more on grace than power. Harvest Brix 23.4º. Aged 10 months in once used
French oak barrels. Bottled unfiltered.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Nicely perfumed with savory, floral
and oak notes complimenting the crushed black cherry fruit theme. Mid weight flavors of black cherry, black
currant and toasty oak are well in tune with the tannic backbone. The velvety mouthfeel attracts pleasure.
Donelan Family Wines, Santa Rosa
This family owned and operated winery was founded in 2009 by Joe Donelan along with his sons Tripp and
Cushing. He has used his long-term relationships with small growers to access unique parcels of vineyards in
Sonoma’s Knights Valley, Green Valley and Russian River Valley. Joe says, “It is like real estate: if you have a
great location, then you should be in good shape. I believe that the best wines are not made, they are
discovered. Site really trumps all variables.” The winery’s focus is Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Rhone varietals.
The wines are named after his loved ones including his mother, wife, children and grandchildren. 80% of
production is sold to mailing list customers. Tripp Donelan oversees winery sales and Cushing Donelan
manages marketing and hospitality.
The tasting room offers guests the opportunity to interact with a family member or winemaker Joe Nielsen. The
“Donelan Portfolio Tour & Tasting” ($35) lasts 60 minutes and includes a private tour of the production facility, a
flight of four current releases of cool climate and Rhone varietal wines. The “Road Less Traveled Tour &
Tasting” ($60) lasts 75 minutes and includes a comprehensive tasting of five of Donelan’s highly-allocated
Rhone wines. Tasting experiences are offered daily by appointment only. Visit the website at
www.donelanwines.com for further details.
2013 Donelan Two Brothers Sonoma County Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., 1,630 cases, $55. Heavy wax capsule.
Sourced from multiple sites in Sonoma County. Whole cluster inclusion (% not specified).
Light ruby red color in
the glass. Whole cluster driven nose with aromas of cherry, savory herbs, and burnt tobacco. Mid weight
flavors of cherry, red berry and warm brown spices with a hint of tobacco and woody intent. Silky in the mouth,
with suede tannins and a moderately intense finish. The wine shows the slightest amount of oxidation.
2014 Donelan Tripp’s Block Perl Vineyard Mendocino Ridge Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., 290 cases, $78.
Heavy wax capsule. Vineyard is located at 2,000 feet elevation above the fog line.
Moderately light garnet color
in the glass. Enticing aromas of boysenberry, blackberry jam and fertile earth. Exhilarating attack of black
cherry and strawberry fruit flavors with a hint of spice and caramel. Impeccable balance, with gentle tannins
and a silky texture. A very engaging and accommodating wine finishing with uncommon length.
2015 Donelan Cushing’s Block Barbed Oak Vineyard Bennett Valley Pinot Noir
14.4% alc., 222 cases, $78.
Heritage clones. Vineyard is exposed to prolonged foggy
mornings that temper and extend the growing season.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Aromas of black cherry,
sweet pipe smoke, clove, burnt tobacco and cardamom
spice. The luscious black cherry and black raspberry fruits
make an immediate impression upon entry. The wine really brings the
senses to alert. Ideal balance, buried tannins, the slightest oak input,
and a very long, fruited finish make for a very special wine that an be
thoroughly enjoyed now. I liked this a lot!
Ellen Redding, Wines That Deliver, Napa
I was browsing the Pinot Noir aisle recently at Hi-Time Wine Cellars in Costa Mesa, California, when the Ellen
Redding label caught my eye. Apparently winemaker Patrick McNeil works with small, family owned vineyards
in Marin County and Napa Valley to make wines that are described as “fruit-forward, site-specific, and off the
beaten path. His tagline is “Wines that Deliver.”
In the early 1970s, Patrick’s father moved the family to an old ghost winery in the Napa Valley and set out to
revive this historic winery estate and unknowingly participate in the renaissance of the Napa Valley wine
industry as we know it today.
It turned out that I bought a bottle of the 2015 Ellen Redding Marin County Pinot Noir and found it to be
mesmerizing. The wine is a loving ode to Patrick’s grandparents. Joseph Dennis McNeil courted Ellen
Josephine Redding via the U.S. Postal Service from 1925 to 1928 and more than 50 different envelopes exist.
Each new vintage and colorful envelope tells their story. The envelope depicted on the label of this bottling
celebrates the summer months, 90 years ago in 1927, when several letters found their way to Patrick’s
vacationing grandmother in Santa Cruz, California.
For more information, visit www.winesthatdeliver.com. Inquire to purchase at email@example.com.
2015 Ellen Redding Marin County Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., 120 cases, $36. Sourced from Chileno
Valley Vineyard, located in the Petaluma Gap AVA. Dijon clones 667, 777 and 115. 33% whole
cluster, 7-day cold soak, native primary and secondary ferments, aged in two once-used and three
neutral French oak barrels.
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Very expressive aromas of
blackberry, black raspberry, warm spice, vanilla and brioche. Delicious mid weight plus for of sweet
black fruits rounded out with tastes of spice, cola, dark chocolate, black tea and toast. Velvety in the
mouth with a hedonistic slant but enough tannins and oak to corral the rich fruit core. This wine
grew in appeal when tasted later in the day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle and I could not stop
drinking it. My notes say, “great.” You won’t find a better California Pinot Noir in the marketplace at this price.
Karah Estate Vineyards & Winery, Cotati
This estate is located on 144 acres above Highway 101. Founded by Mohamed “Michael” Sarah, a native of
Libya, in 1995, the site was originally named Windy Hill Estate Vineyards. In 2008, the name was changed to
Karah Estate Vineyards along with a renewed commitment to producing the highest quality, affordable Pinot
The Karah Estate Vineyard is planted on steep hillsides in the new Petaluma Gap AVA, The site is exposed to
moist marine air and winds and the resulting effect is low yields and a long growing season.Six separate
vineyards were planted to Pinot Noir between 1995 and 2002.
Wines are fermented in small, open-top fermenters using a combination of native and proprietary yeasts.
The winery’s tasting room, located in the production barn, is open Friday-Sunday. The wines are relatively
inexpensive considering the quality. Visit www.karahestatevineyard.com.
2015 Karah Estate Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., pH 3.50, TA 0.61, RS 1.2 g/L, $30. Aged in French
oak barrels, 35% new.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Very charming aromas of dark cherry, blackberry,
black tea and nutty oak. Nicely composed, with vivid flavors of cherry pie and baking spices with a layer of oak.
Impressive vibrancy and brightness in a nimble, mid weight style that can be enjoyed now for its silkiness and
welcoming demeanor. My only nit would be that oak currently plays too big a role.
2015 Karah Estate Reserve Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
pH 3.52, TA 0.57, RS 1.1 g/L, $N/A. Aged in French oak barrels, 30%
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Ripe fruit aromas of cassis,
blackberry jam and black grape juice. The dark fruit definitely veers to
the ripe side but is seductively rich, and the integrated alcohol lends a
satiny mouthfeel to the experience. A hedonistic mid weight plus
offering with much better oak integration than the regular Estate
bottling. The wine is still a bit reserved and will find its full footing with
more time in bottle. This ripe-fruited, sappy wine is well-crafted in this
style and will find appeal.
This winery needs no introduction with nearly fifty features or mentions in the PinotFile over the years. I have
reviewed multiple wines going back to the 1990s. Many wines have made my annual All-Americans list.
Proprietor Ted Lemon is one of the most respected winemakers in California and his wines are consistently
lauded by the Pinot Noir cognoscenti.
All vineyard sources are farmed sustainably by organic and in several cases biodynamic methods but not
Littorai wines are sold through an allocated mailing list with limited fine restaurant distribution. Tasting is
available at the Littorai estate by appointment. Visit www.littorai.com.
2015 Littorai Wendling Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
13.1% alc., $75. A newer source
for Littorai. 23 acres located in Philo, in the deep end of the Anderson Valley, planted by Paul
Ardzrooni (Ardzrooni Family Wines) and two winemaking colleagues in 2009 (I believe Ted Lemon is
a partner). The vineyard is planted entirely to multiple clones of Pinot Noir and is organically farmed.
The site is the most northwestern vineyard in the Anderson Valley AVA giving it close proximity to the
Moderately light garnet color in the glass. The nose offers intriguing whole cluster
nuances of exotic spices, pipe bowl, rose petal and earthy flora. Impressive attack of black cherry,
plum and spice flavors with a savory undertone. Expansive in the mouth, with a very long, succulent and juicy
finish. Beautifully composed with a firm structure taming the fruit.
Wendling Vineyard, Anderson Valley
2015 Littorai Savoy Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
13.7% alc., $75. This wine is from an iconic California
vineyard planted in the early 1990s just north of the town of
Philo. This is the only valley floor vineyard that Littorai works
with anywhere. Located at the cooler end of the Anderson
Valley, but protected on two sides so the site is warmer than
one might expect. Several blocks that Littorai sources from
are dry farmed. Littorai is the largest purchaser of Savoy Vineyard
grapes since 1995. The vineyard is farmed organically.
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 mid weight flavors of black cherry, blueberry,
pomegranate, raspberry and spice, with a nuanced earthy
underpinning. A sophisticated wine that satisfies from attack to finish, offering impeccable balance. This wine
has that ephemeral Pinot quality that is the Holy Grail of vintners.
2015 Littorai The Pivot Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.4% alc., $85. This is the Littorai Estate
Vineyard located at the winery site. 3 acres located on a ridge top between Sebastopol and Freestone, just
seven miles from the coast. Five different clones of Pinot Noir are planted (not specifically disclosed).
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. The nose only reluctantly offers black cherry,
pomegranate, spice and underbrush aromas even two days later. Much more embracing on the palate, with
mid weight flavors of purple grape, boysenberry, warm spices and a touch of oak. Rich entry, rich middle and
rich finish. Seems a bit grouchy at this stage but hints at better days ahead.
2015 Littorai The Haven Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.6% alc., $90. Another estate
site lying northwest of the town of Occidental on a 1,200 foot ridge. Approximately 40 different
rootstock and clonal combinations planted in 2001 within a 4-acre vineyard. Biodynamically farmed.
Dark garnet color in the glass. Upon opening, the nose is primarily barrel driven. When tasted the
following day, the nose was exotically spiced, with plenty of blackest cherry fruit aroma and a hint of
tobacco. A mid weight plus treasure with unctuous black raspberry and blackberry fruit, warm
spices, and earthy, savory character. Flat out delicious with enviable harmony and an
extraordinarily intense and persistent finish.
Mignanelli Winery, Sonoma
Winemaker Byron Mignanelli founded this winery in 2011, focusing on coastal Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
Some grape sources include old vine, original plantings in California and Oregon. Typically, the wines undergo
40% or more whole cluster and native fermentation, and are aged on the lees with racking only just before
The wines are relatively inexpensive considering the high quality and are sold on the website at
2015 Mignanelli Central Coast Pinot Noir
13.4% alc., $30. Dijon, Pommard and Martini clones planted in
1980, 1999 and 2004. Native fermentation, aged in French oak barrels, 20% new. Bottled unfined and
Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Leading off are aromas of red cherry, cranberry, raspberry,
rose petal and a hint of oak. Lighter in weight with a core of black cherry fruit picking up some intensity over
time in the glass, but leaning a bit on oak. The juicy finish takes on some tannic muscle.
2015 Mignanelli Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
13.4% alc., $36. Clones 115, “828,” Mt Eden
and Martini planted in 1980 and 1999. Native fermentation, aged in French oak barrels, 20% new.
Bottled unfixed and unfiltered.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. The nose opens slowly in the
glass to reveal aromas of dark red cherry, spice, violets, herbs and warm brioche. Mid weight
flavors of cherry and raspberry are framed by prominent tannins that stick out on the finish, yet the
tannins are in tune with generous fruit persistence.
Sojourn Cellars, Sonoma
The 2018 Spring Release wines were sampled with winemaker Erich Bradley and again in my
usual fashion at home. The 2016 wines were bottled in August and are scheduled for a January
release (Gap’s Crown Chardonnay is a fall release). The Chardonnays are reviewed elsewhere in
Erich told me that the 2016 vintage was close to a “dream” vintage. Yields were very decent and
slightly higher than in 2015 as the vines were more in balance. Moderate temperatures during the
summer allowed for proper flavor development and harvest allowed for leisurely picks. The result
was wines with concentrated flavors and freshness derived from good acidities.
The wines are sold through a mailing list at www.sojourncellars.com. Personal and intimate tasting is available
by appointment at the Sojourn Tasting Salon in downtown Sonoma. Winemaker Erich Bradley is assisted by
associate winemaker Randy Bennett and proprietor Craig Haserot. The location of the winery’s vineyard
sources are seen on this map:
2016 Sojourn Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.4% alc., pH 3.70, TA 0.60, 2,900 cases, $39. A
blend of eight vineyards in the Sonoma Coast ranging from Occidental to the Petaluma Gap.
Clones 115, “828,” 667, Pommard and Wädenswil 2A. 100% de-stemmed, open-top fermentation,
native yeast, aged in French oak barrels, 50% new. Bottled unfined and unfiltered.
dark garnet color in the glass. Very giving aromas of Bing cherry, blueberry, spice and cigar box.
Good weight and juiciness in a forward style featuring a luscious for of black cherry and spice
flavors. Nicely composed with integrated moderately toasty oak and a solid finish. A deft AVA
2016 Sojourn Rodgers Creek Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., pH 3.70, TA 0.59, 800 cases,
$48. This vineyard is located high on a ridge in the heart of the Petaluma Gap. The foundation of this wine is
two blocks of Pommard clone with clone 777 adding a layer of bright fruit. 15% whole cluster. Open-top
fermentation, native yeast, aged in French oak barrels, 50% new. Bottled unfined and unfiltered.
light garnet color in the glass. Aromas of black cherry, blueberry, spice, underbrush and subtle smoke draw the
drinker in. Light to mid weight flavors of oak-kissed black cherry and black raspberry are expansive in the
mouth. Slightest feral and gamy character. Creamy and suave in the mouth with an extended finish. Even better
mouth. Slightest feral and gamy character. Creamy and suave in the mouth with an extended finish. Even
better when tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle.
2016 Sojourn Sangiacomo Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., pH 3.67, TA 0.61, 1,250 cases,
$59. Sourced from a vineyard on Roberts Road located at the western base of Sonoma Mountain. Clones 115,
777 and Swan. 100% de-stemmed, open-top fermentation, native yeast, aged in French oak barrels, 50% new.
Bottled unfined and unfiltered.
Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Bright aromas of cherry, raspberry,
woodland spice and sawdust. Bombastic cherry and raspberry flavors with polished tannins and supportive
oak. Commendable harmony with a memorable dark red raspberry fueled finish.
2016 Sojourn Walala Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.6% alc., pH 3.69, TA 0.57, 475
cases, $69. This vineyard sits at 1,200 feet above sea level, just inland from the Pacific Ocean
near the coastal town of Annapolis. Clones 113, 115 and “828.” 5% whole cluster. Open-top
fermentation, native yeast, aged in French oak barrels, 50% new. Bottled unfined and unfiltered.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. A nose of complexity, showing aromas of black cherry, wild
dark berry, spice, undergrowth, floral bouquet and a hint of sweet oak. A wine of great fortitude the
palate, with waves of boysenberry, blackberry and pomegranate fruits that hang on through an
extended luscious finish. The satiny texture is quite appealing as is the wine’s seamless composure. This
vineyard really impresses when the vintage allows.
2016 Sojourn Gap’s Crown Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.6% alc., pH 3.60, TA 0.61, 1,350 cases, $69. This vineyard is
located on Roberts Road just above the Sangiacomo Vineyard. Clones
“828,” 115 and 667. 10% whole cluster. Open-top fermentation, native
yeast, aged in French oak barrels, 50% new. Bottled unfixed and
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Aromas of black
cherry, blackberry jam, briar and woodland spice. The biggest, baddest
wine in the lineup, with a sappy core of well-ripened purple and black
fruits that saturate the palate with goodness. Slightly fatiguing to drink,
but a hedonist’s delight with well-matched tannins, integrated acidity,
complimentary oak tones of toast and vanilla, and a long, meaty finish.
Three Sticks Wines, Sonoma
Noted former Williams Selyem winemaker Bob Cabral released his first Estate Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays
from Three Sticks with the 2015 vintage. The 2015 vintage was extremely small yet quality was extraordinary
and Bob really nailed it with this vintage.
2015 was the fourth drought year in a row. Untimely winds and cold during spring bloom reduced flowering and
resultant yields by 25%. Harvest was earlier than ever, with grapes brought in by August.
I thought the entire lineup were among the top wines I had tasted in 2017 but the tasting was too late to include
them in my 2017 All-Americans. The wines were released to mailing list customers August 15, 2017. You
should make it your New Year’s resolution to snag some of these wines for your cellar. Chardonnay reviews
are in this issue also.
Visit www.threestickswines.com. Tasting is available by appointment in the historic Adobe in downtown
2015 Three Sticks Durell Estate Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.4% alc., pH 3.49, TA 0.60, 178
cases, $70. Clones 667, 115 and 777. 25% whole cluster, open-top fermentation, aged 15 months in French
oak barrels, 60% new.
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Aromas of brioche bramble and nutty oak lead
to a mid weight styled wine with tantalizing black cherry, black raspberry, pomegranate and warm spice flavors
that satisfy. Velvety and seductive in the mouth, with streamlined tannins and a virile finish of good length. The
barrel management is spot on. The nose was much more expressive when the wine was sampled later in the
day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle.
2015 Three Sticks Gap’s Crown Estate Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.4% alc., pH
3.48, TA 0.60, 220 cases, $70. Vineyard is located on the western slope of Sonoma Mountain in
the recently approved Petaluma Gap AVA. The area enjoys the cooling effects of both wind and fog
plus a sweeping western exposure. Swan, “828,”, 115 and Rochioli selection of Pommard. 20%
whole cluster. Open-top fermentation, aged 15 months in French oak barrels, 55% new.
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Lovely mix of aromas including boysenberry jam,
underbrush, tobacco and biscuit. Delicious mix of purple and black fruits in a middleweight style
that offers exquisite balance. The sexy, satiny texture makes the eyes light up as does the extremely long finish
that never seems to quit. An extraordinary wine.
2015 Three Sticks Walala Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.4% alc., pH 3.52, TA 0.59, 218 cases, $70.
Inaugural release. This 17-acre vineyard is perched on a
ridge at 1,200 feet elevation just a few miles from the
Pacific Ocean near the town of Gualala and in the middle
of 19,000 acres of pristine forestland. This heavily
maritime-influenced vineyard is on the extreme edge of
Pinot Noir viticulture. Soil is Goldridge sandy loam along with gravelly
Hugo loam. 25% whole cluster, open-top fermentation, aged 15 months
in French oak barrels, 55% new.
Moderately dark garnet color in the
glass. Sensational aromas of blackberry, cassis and warm Holiday
spices that are deep and persistent. Mid weight plus flavors of slightly
sweet purple and black berries are bold and generous accented with
the right amount of spice. Bombastically flavored with majestic fruit, yet elegantly composed with impressive
balance and a silky mouth feel. This on-the-edge vineyard continues to astonish with its fruit concentration.
2015 Three Sticks Cuvée Eva Marie Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., pH 3.45, TA 0.62,
112 cases, $90. Inaugural release. One Sky Vineyard is located high atop Sonoma Mountain and
is a new jewel in the crown for Three Sticks. At 1,400 feet elevation, growing grapes here can be a
challenge. A mix of heritage and Dijon clones planted strategically in Goulding cobble clay loam
that provides excellent drainage. 25% whole cluster, open-top fermentation, aged 15 months in
French oak barrels, 57% new.
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Captivating aromas of
blackberry, sage, earth and mulch. The wine captures the heart with a dreamy texture that is pure
silk. Vibrant flavors of purple and black fruits with the right touch of spice and oak compliment. The wine wows
the senses with appeal, finishing long and charitable. My notes say, “Wow!”
2014 Anaba Westlands Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.0% alc., pH 3.59, TA 0.56, 264 cases, $54. The name
of this wine is a nod to the West Sonoma Coast. O’Connor, Barlow Lane Private and Mariani vineyards.
Pommard, Swan and 115 clones. Harvest Brix 23.5º. 100% de-stemmed. 5-day cold soak, gentle pump overs
and punch downs. Aged 18 months in French oak barrels, 30% new. Winemakers Ross Cobb and Katy Wilson.
Light ruby red color in the glass. Welcoming aromas of red cherry and berry, burnt tobacco and fertile earth.
Light to mid weight and bright and juicy in style, with a core of fresh cherry and raspberry fruit weathered to a
bit of tobacco flavor. Very delicate with dapper tannins and an uplifting finish.
2015 La Crema Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., pH 3.62, TA 0.57, 30,086 cases, $30. Sourced from
eight vineyards including the estate Gran Moraine Vineyard and Estate Zena Crown Vineyard. 100% destemmed,
3-day cold soak, open-top fermentation, free-run juice sent to French oak barrels, 24% new, where
the wine was aged 9 months.
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Quite woody on the nose with aromas
of vanilla, toast and oak spice dominating the boysenberry fruit. Mid weight plus in heft, with ripe fruit flavors of
black cherry, boysenberry and blackberry overlain with considerable oak input (black tea, coffee).
2015 RAEN Royal St Robert Cuvée Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.0% alc., 800 cases, $60. Vinified by Carlo
and Dante Mondavi of Society of Research in Agriculture & Enology Naturally.
Moderate garnet color in the
glass. The nose hints at whole cluster with aromas of mulch, spice and rose augmenting the fruit aromas of red
berries. Quite tasteful in a mid weight style, with flavors of blackest cherry, black raspberry, boysenberry, spice
and earthiness. Well-integrated tannins and acidity make for current drinking. The wine’s intense and very long
finish is most impressive.
2016 Trader Joe’s Grand Reserve Lot 23 Carneros Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., $12.99.
Moderately light garnet
color in the glass. Aromas of coddled black cherry, spice, cola and fertile earth with oak showing up in the glass
over time. Silky in the mouth, with mid weight flavors of black cherry, raspberry, purple plum, mushroom and
earth. Elegantly composed, with gossamer tannins, finishing with welcome cherry succulence and a bit of
tobacco oak. A very good value.
2016 Trader Joe’s Grand Reserve Lot 80 Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., $12.99.
Moderately light garnet color in the glass. The nose opens slowly to reveal aromas of purple and black berries,
marzipan, wood spice and dark chocolate. Sleek and easy to drink, with a mid weight core of dark berry fruits
backed by toasty oak. Rather elegant, with soft tannins, building in intensity over time in the glass.
Virtuous Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
The North and South Willamette Valley continue to lead in tons of Pinot Noir crushed in 2016 with the North
Willamette Valley demanding the highest average price for ton of Pinot Noir grapes.
Guillén Family Wines, Dayton
Guillén Family Wines is a remarkable success story for a Mexican family that immigrated to Oregon. Jesús
Guillén, Sr., arrived in Oregon in 2000 from Chihuahua, Mexico, encouraged by another Mexican immigrant
working as a winegrower. He became the vineyard manager at White Rose Estate in the Dundee Hills. His son,
also named Jesús, graduated from the University of Chihuahua in 2001 with a degree in computer systems
engineering. A year later, he traveled to Oregon to visit his father, fell in love with the Willamette Valley, and
stayed to learn English at a local community college. His mother, brother and sister also immigrated to Oregon.
Jesús, Jr., soon acclimated to the Oregon lifestyle and became intrigued by Oregon Pinot Noir. He read
extensively about viticulture and winemaking, as he developed a keen palate for the local wines. He became a
vineyard worker for Patricia Green Winery in 2002 and worked alongside his father at Laurel Ridge Winery
where Jesús, Sr., was helping Greg Sanders, the new proprietor and winemaker at White Rose Estate, make
his wines. Upon completion of the winery at White Rose Estate, Jesús, Jr., began working in the White Rose
cellar and learned many winemaking skills from Mark Vlossak of St. Innocent Winery, who was the consulting
winemaker. He also received some mentoring from Gary Andrew. Because Jesús, Jr., showed such talent, he
was promoted to winemaker at White Rose Estate in 2008, working closely with Greg Sanders.
Jesús, Jr., launched his own small label, Guillén Family Wines, in 2009 with the 2007 vintage, sourcing fruit
from Vista Hills Vineyard (near White Rose Estate in the Dundee Hills). The Guillén Pinot Noir wines are vinified
in a similar fashion to those of White Rose Estate, using 100% whole cluster (since 2010), native yeast
fermentations, and aging sur lie in either neutral (Damian bottling) or 100% new (Adrian bottling) French oak
barrels. The Guillén Family Pinot Noir wines tend to be more extracted than the White Rose Estate Pinot Noir
wines so they have their own character.
Over time, Jesús, Jr., has expanded his vineyard sources and total production to include both cuvées named
after his sons (Esteban, Damien and Adrian) and vineyard-designates. One of the newer fruit sources is the
Domingo Vineyard, named after his grandfather that Jesus, Sr., planted at the foot of the Dundee Hills.
The Damian bottling is based on harmony and complexity. The Adrián is designed more for the long term, and
even though it has a high level of harmony when bottled, it requires some time to show its full potential.
Guillén Family Wines are poured for tasting at Vintner’s Cellar PDX in Portland on weekends. The wines are
sold primarily through a mailing list, wine club and fine wine retailers in the Portland, Oregon area. Futures
pricing is available. Visit www.guillenfamily.com. Future plans call for the winery to move into its own production
facility with a place for regular tasting.
The 2014 wines reviewed here were previously reviewed with Jesús in December 2015. There is low inventory
of the 2014 Adrián and Damian, all others sold out. The 2015 vintage wines were bottled with Diam corks and
will begin release this month.
2014 Guillén Esteban Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.5% alc.,154 cases, $25. 56% Domingo,
42% Vista Hills and 2% Meredith Mitchell vineyards. A selection of the most approachable barrels
in the cellar. 100% whole cluster, native fermentation. Basket pressed and aged on the lees for 11
months in 100% neutral French oak barrels.
Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Really nice
perfume of cherry, rose petal, and sweet pipe smoke. Light to mid weight flavors of black cherry,
raspberry, tobacco and rose water, Noticeable but complimentary whole cluster input. Easy to like,
with polished, fine-grain tannins and a bright finish.
2014 Guillén Damian Winemaker’s Cuvée Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., 140 cases, $40. A meticulous
selection of the best barrels in the cellar that offer harmony,
complexity and mouth feel. 40% Vista Hills (667), 20%
Meredith Mitchell (Pommard) and 40% Saikkonen
(Pommard) vineyards. No cold soak. 100% whole cluster,
native yeast fermentation. Basket pressed, aged on the lees
11 months in French oak barrels, 20% new. Filtered at
Moderate garnet color in the glass. enticing aromas of black
cherry, pine sap and spice lead to a middleweight, cherry-driven wine
that is succulent yet refined. Elegantly composed, with filigree tannins,
an adroit finish and impressive harmony. The winemaker went for
harmony rather than boldness and it shows.
2014 Guillén Adrián Reserve Cuvée Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.6% alc., 125 cases, $60. 100%
Pommard clone from Vista Hills (40%), Saikkonen (20%) and Meredith Mitchell (40%) vineyards. 100% whole
cluster, native fermentation. Basket pressed and aged on the lees for 11 months in 100% light toast new
French oak barrels. Filtered at bottling. Jesús’s attempt to mimic DRC.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. The
nose is replete with dark red cherry and berry aromas. Highly structured in a mid weight plus style with a strong
physique. Gutsy flavors of dark red and black berries, black tea, tobacco and spice. Aggressive on the attack,
finishing with a lengthy sweet cherry kiss.
2014 Guillén Meredith Mitchell Single Vineyard McMinnville Pinot Noir
13.2% alc., $45. Self-rooted
Pommard clone planted in 1996. 100% whole cluster, native fermentation, Aged 11 months on the lees in
neutral French oak barrels.
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. The aromas arrive grudgingly over time
in the glass showing a mix of earthy and dark fruit tones. Mid weight plus in style, with concentrated flavors of
blueberry, pomegranate and black raspberry framed by rather brutish tannins. Fruit-driven, with an intensely
2014 Guillén Vista Hills Single Vineyard Dundee Hills Pinot Noir
13.2% alc., $45. Pommard clone planted
in 2006. 100% whole cluster, native fermentation. Aged on the lees for 11 months in neutral French oak barrels.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Whole cluster infused nose offering scents of dried rose petal, pipe smoke,
burnt tobacco and cherry. Silky in the mouth with good energy in a mid weight styled wine offering a tobaccolaced
cherry core, balanced tannins and some finishing depth.
2014 Guillén Saikkonen Single Vineyard Ribbon Ridge Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., $45. Pommard clone planted
in 2003. 100% whole cluster, native fermentation. Aged on the lees for 11 months in neutral French oak barrels.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Shy but pleasant aromas of wet woodland, fertile earth, mulch and dark
cherry. Light to mid weight essence of ripe, dark red fruits that enter with more power than they exit. Muscular
tannins dominate making for a dry finish. Not enough joy for my taste.
2015 Guillén Esteban Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., 495 cases, $25. A four
vineyard blend (Vista Hills, Meredith Mitchell, La Dolce Vita and Domingo) 52% Pommard, 18%
667 and 30% 115. 100% whole cluster, native fermentation. Aged 11 months on lees in French
oak barrels, 5% new. A selection of the most approachable barrels in the cellar.
Light garnet color
in the glass. Aromas of cherry, burnt tobacco, rose petal and grains arrive immediately upon
opening. Like able, with a straightforward core of light to mid weight cherry fruit accented with
subtle spice and cola notes. Lacy tannins and welcome acidity with a modest finish. Instantly
2015 Guillén Damian Winemaker’s Cuvée Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.8% alc., 73 cases, $40.
A meticulous selection of the best barrels in the cellar based on harmony, complexity and mouth
feel. A three vineyard blend (33% Vista Hills, 33% FlËnerie, and 33% Meredith Mitchell). 66.6%
Pommard, 33.3% Dijon 667. 100% whole cluster, native fermentation. Aged on the lees for 12
months in French oak barrels, 20% new.
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Really nice
perfume of wild boysenberry, wilted rose, exotic spice and tobacco. Very streamlined in style with
impressive balance and elegance. Vivid mid weight flavors of purple and black berries with a
healthy tannic backbone that is supportive and not intrusive. The wine finishes with a gentle grip of acidity and
2015 Guillén Adrián Reserve Cuvée Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.8% alc., 72 cases, $60. A three
vineyard blend (33% Vista Hills, 33% FlËnerie, and 33% Meredith Mitchell). Pommard clone. 100% whole
cluster, native fermentation. Aged 12 months on the lees in 100% new French oak barrels. Filtered at bottling.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Nice perfume of boysenberry, wood spice, and wassail spice. A little less
extraction than the 2014 version, but just as satisfying, with a tasty core of spiced black cherry fruit. Sleek in the
mouth, with congenial tannins that elevate the fruit. The wine ends on a high note with fresh dark cherry good
will. Needs more cellar time for full expression.
Tyee Wine Cellars, Corvallis
This winery and vineyard is located on the Buchanan Family Century Farm founded over 120 years ago in the
southern Willamette Valley. Five family generations have grown crops here in a sustainable manner. The oldest
vines date to 1974, with subsequent plantings throughout the 1980s. The old, self-rooted vines make up more
than half of the estate vineyard. In 2000, Dijon clones 115 and 777 and Pommard were planted on phylloxera-resistant
The current winemaker and general manager is Merrilee Buchanan Benson who grew up at thee Wine Cellars
and has worked intimately with her family in the winery and vineyard her entire life. She took over as winemaker
with the 2006 vintage, coinciding with tree’s production of Estate wines made from grapes grown exclusively in
the family’s Estate Vineyard adjacent the winery.
Tyee is an early Northwest word meaning “chief” or “best” and symbolizes the winery’s commitment to
producing excellent estate wines to compliment the local cuisine.
The wines are of exceptional quality and offered at extremely reasonable prices. To purchase, visit
2015 Tyee Estate Williamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., 600 cases, $28. Released
November 2017. A blend of all grapes grown in the Estate Vineyard with vines from 15 to 41 years
Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Highly nuanced nose, featuring aromas of cherry,
strawberry, rose petal, dried herbs and sandalwood. Lighter weighted but quite flavorful, with tastes
of cherry, red berry, spice and cola. Refined and sleek, with fine-grained tannins, deft oak input and
a juicy finish.
2014 Tyee Estate Barrel Select Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., 200 cases, $35. Released May 2017. A
winemaker’s barrel selection.
Moderate garnet color in the
glass. More brooding, with slowly emerging aromas of
darker red cherries and berries, earthy flora and rose petal.
More sap, more tannic backbone, more finish and more
age worthy than the regular Estate bottling. Black cherry
fruit driven with compliments of spice, savory herbs and seasoned.
Needs more time to reach full potential.
Winter’s Hill Estate, Dayton
Winter’s Hill sits in the Golden Reach of the Dundee Hills, bordered to the East by Domaine Serene, to the
south by Stoller Vineyards and to the North by Vista Hill Vineyards. South-facing, at an elevation of 525-730
feet, the site has Jory soils. The original plantings of own-rooted Pinot Noir date to 1990. Newer plantings of
Pinot Noir in 1997 have brought the total to 21 acres. Clones are Pommard, Wädenswil, and Dijon 114 and
115. All Pinot Noir wines are sourced from the Estate Vineyard that is LIVE Certified Sustainable and
SalmonSafe since 1999.
Delphine Gladhart joined the Gladhart family winery in 2004 and has been the winemaker ever since. I have
been privileged to taste the winery’s Pinot Noir wines dating back to 2004. The labels have been updated for
the 2015 vintage reviewed below. Visit www.wintershillwine.com to check for visiting room hours and tasting
2015 Winter’s Hill Dundee Hills Pinot Noir
13.75% alc., 485 cases, $39. The winery’s flagship
Moderately light ruby red color in the glass. The nose expands over time in the glass to
reveal hi-tone aromas of cherry, red berry and fertile earth. Light to mid weight in style, featuring
red cherry and berry flavors woven through with a savory thread. Fresh and expressive, and
forward drinking with a gentle but adequate tannic backbone. A reliable daily drinker.
Since 2006, the winery has selected two individual barrels from different blocks and bottled them separately to
show the differences among the distinct blocks in the vineyard. For the 2015 vintage, four barrels from four
separate blocks were produced.
2015 Winter’s Hill Block 8 Single Block Series Dundee Hills Pinot Noir
13.6% alc., 98 cases, $49. Block 8
is a warm and steep block planted to Wädenswil clone. Only second time winery has bottled 100% Wädenswil
Moderately light garnet color in the glass. The nose starts out quite savory with aromas of bramble and
dried herbs, transforming over time in the glass to a predominance of black cherry, wild strawberry, spice and
cola aromas. Light to mid weight flavors of spiced red cherry and strawberry with an earthy thread and the right
touch of oak. Nice harmony, with a deep cherry finish. This wine grows on you over time.
2015 Winter’s Hill Block 9 Pommard Single Block Series Dundee Hills Pinot Noir
13.8% all, 98 cases,
$49. From a warm, southwestern-facing block.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Charming atoms of Bing
cherry, warm spices and herbal oak. Engaging attack of deep cherry flavor accented with a hint of savory
herbs and floral goodness. Silky in the mouth, with plenty of sap to satisfy, backed by polished tannins. The
finish is grand.
2015 Winter’s Hill Block 10 Single Block Series Dundee Hills Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., 98 cases,
$49. Block 10 is the highest elevation block planted to Pinot Noir and receives the most direct
sunlight. 100% de-stemmed.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Heady aromas of marionberry,
purple grape and baking spices. Aims to please in the mouth, with an attack of vivid black cherry
and spice flavors that demands attention. Remarkable intensity, yet cohesive tannins and acidity
make for seamless drinking. The wine’s remarkable ending offers uncommon vibrancy.
2015 Winter’s Hill Block 10 Single Block Series Whole Cluster Dundee Hills Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., 98 cases,
$49. 100% whole cluster fermented.
Moderate garnet color
in the glass. Dramatic aromatics that excite including
scents of black cherry, black raspberry, rose petal and
exotic spices. My notes say, “Oh-man!” Equally seductive
on the palate, with mid weight unctuous flavors of black
cherry and black raspberry immersed in exotic spices.
Noticeably different texturally from the 100% de-stemmed version of
this wine with meaty, fine-grain tannins that seem to caress and elevate
the fruit. A very long, flavorful and juicy finish completes the picture. A
2015 Winter’s Hill Reserve Dundee Hills Pinot Noir
13.8% alc., 250 cases, $65. A selection of the finest
blocks in the Estate Vineyard. After 12 months of aging, 12 barrels were chose that best represented the 2015
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Deep aromas of dark red cherry and berry with a bit of savory
herbs. An elegant, mid weighted style, offering the essence of well-ripened cherries and berries. Nicely
composed, with gentle tannins and a finish that impresses with its length. Both weight and weightlessness in
this wine that is still somewhat reserved and not as expressive as it probably will be.
2015 Nicolas-Jay Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.0% alc., pH 3.63, TA 0.56, 2,400 cases, $65. Released
April 2017. Fruit sourced from almost every AVA in the Willamette Valley. All vineyards are biodynamic, organic
and LIVE certified. Winemakers are Jean-Nicolas Méo and Tracy Kendall. Harvest Brix 22.6º.
color in the glass. A wine of both fruit and savory character offering aromas and flavors of black cherry, dark
red berry, spice and savory herbs. An easy going, mid weight style, that is somewhat expansive in the mouth,
finishing modestly. The tannins are relegated to the background making for a gentle mouth feel.
Chardonnay: No Wonder that it is the Most Popular White Varietal
Californians owe their Chardonnay to Ernest Wente, who took cuttings from the University of Montpellier
viticultural nursery in the south of France over 100 years ago and planted them at Wente Vineyards in
Livermore. Today, over 80 percent of Chardonnay produced in California comes from some version of the
UC Davis FPS clone 4 is referred to as “Wente” or “heat treated Wente. Non-certified budwood is referred to as
There are few plantings of Wente clone in the Northern Willamette Valley as they were displaced with the
introduction of the Dijon clones of Chardonnay, mainly 96 and 95, both traced to Meursault, France, and 76,
traced to the Stone et loire region of France. Oregonians prefer Dijon clones of Chardonnay because they give
better yields there than the Wente clone, and they ripen earlier. There remains Oregon winemakers such as
Jay Christopher and Josh Bergstrom who profess a love for Wente selections.
2014 Aether Sierra Madre Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay
13.2% alc., pH 3.26, $36.
Clone 17 from Robert Young Vineyard in Alexander Valley. Often called the Robert Young clone but
is a selection of budwood brought from the Wente Vineyard in Livermore in the 1960s. It first
appeared on the FPS registered list in 1987 after heat treatment.. Harvest Brix 21.8º. An heirloom
vineyard in the Santa Maria Valley first established in 1971. A very cool and windy site due to
proximity to ocean. Barrel fermented, 100% malolactic fermentation, aged 27 months in French oak
barrels, 25% new.
Moderately light golden yellow color in the glass. Aromas of lemon, pineapple,
yellow cake and brioche hold court over time in the glass. Energetic and crisp in the mouth, with great purity of
flavor and restrained richness. Flavors of lemon, pineapple, Golden Delicious apple and tropical notes combine
in harmony, finishing with lemony goodness. The wine shows very little barrel imposition and the slightest
tannins enrich the body.
2015 Aubert Sugar Shack Napa Chardonnay
15.0% alc., $140 (secondary market). Mark
Aubert’s only vineyard in Napa. Barrel fermented and aged in 100% new French oak barrels.
Moderate golden yellow color with the slightest haze in the glass. A bold, ripe fruited wine with a
gorgeous blend of lemon, pineapple citrus and tropical fruit flavors, yet there is the proper amount
of acid-driven vibrancy to hold the power in check. There is no hint of alcohol, and just the slightest
hint of caramelized oak. The resultant harmony and slight viscous mouth feel allows the wine to go
down so easily that one is prone to consume too much. If you aren’t lucky enough to be on the
mailing list, splurge on a bottle in the secondary market to see why so many wine critics are “ga-ga” over
2016 Davis Family Vineyards Russian River Valley Chardonnay
13.9% alc., $38. Best
White Wine Sweepstakes Award at the 2017
Sonoma County Harvest Fair. Sourced from the
Estate Soul Patch Vineyard. Farming is organic
and biodynamic. Whole cluster pressed. 70% of
grapes go to French oak barrels to undergo full
malolactic fermentation. 30% is placed into
stainless steel barrels. Aged one year and just before bottling the oak
and stainless steel barrels are blended.
Moderately light golden yellow
color in the glass. Lovely aromas of fresh-cut apple, lemon and
pineapple. Sleek, crisp and satisfying, with flavors of lemon, pineapple,
yellow apple and nutty oak that wow. Bright, clean acidity keeps the fruit
in balance. The wine walks the line between fruit exuberance and vibrancy and can easily steal your heart.
2014 Donelan Nancie Sonoma County Chardonnay
14.0% alc., 1,947 cases, $48. A blend of four vineyards
located in Sonoma Mountain, Russian River Valley and Green Valley. Fermented and aged 10 months in
FRench oak barrels , 20% new..
Moderate golden yellow color in the glass. A rich, ripe offering featuring
aromas of stony lemon, white orchard fruits and honeyed oak. Well-endowed with citrus and kiwi fruit flavors
along with notes of caramel, toast, and baking spice. Slightly viscous in texture, with a richly-appointed, highly
fruited and slightly oak-infused finish.
2015 Smith-Madrone Napa Valley Chardonnay
14.4% alc., pH 3.29, TA 0.803, 512 cases, $34.
Vineyard founded in 1971 at the top of Spring
Mountain at 1,800 feet elevation. Winery is run
by Charles, Sam and Stuart Smith. Steep, dry
farmed vineyard with red and rocky volcanic soil.
Estate grown and bottled. For 47 years, Smith-
Madrone wines have been sourced from the
same vineyards, pruned, cultivated and harvested in the same manner.
100% barrel fermented, aged 10 months in French oak barrels, 80%
Moderate golden yellow color in the glass. Aromas of lemon oil,
slate, toast, stony earth and matchstick. Intense citrus core with a bright
and crisp demeanor. Flavors of lemon, pineapple, caramel and a hint of
graphite. A refreshing drink with an amazing finish spearheaded by
highly aromatic citrus that seems to build in intensity over time at the end. I rarely encounter a finish of this
grandeur in Chardonnay.
2016 Sojourn Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
14.1% alc., pH 3.48, TA 0.62, 800 cases, $38. Old Went clone
from Sangiacomo Vella and Green Acres ranches, clone 95 from Sangiacomo Roberts Road Vineyard, Old
Wente clone from Durell Vineyard, and clone 95 from Gap’s Crown Vineyard. Whole cluster pressed, barrel
fermented, native yeast, 100% malolactic fermentation, aged 10 months on lees with regular stirring during the
first three months of fermentation and aging in French oak barrels, 30% new. Bottled unfined.
yellow color in the glass. Heady aromas of fresh-cut apple, pear, nectarine and citrus blossom. Offers both
richness and eloquence, featuring flavors of lemon, pineapple, honey and crème brûlée. Slightly creamy, with
integrated acidity and some finishing length.
2016 Sojourn Sangiacomo Vineyard Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
14.1% alc., pH 3.44, TA 0.69, 400 cases,
$45. Clone 95 from Sangiacomo Roberts Road Vineyard, planted in 1998, and Old Wente clone from
Sangiacomo Vella Ranch and Green Acres. Whole cluster pressed, barrel fermented, native yeast, 100%
malolactic fermentation, aged in French oak barrels, 30% new. Bottled unfined.
Moderate golden yellow color
in the glass. Eye-opening aromas of apple, lemon, sea shell and cold steel. Discrete richness with a gracious
attitude, featuring fresh apple and citrus flavors lifted by spirited acidity and complimented by a deft touch of
oak. This sleek wine has a delightful spring in its step.
2016 Sojourn Reuling Vineyard Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
14.2% alc., pH 3.48, TA 0.56, 150 cases,
$69. Vineyard planted in 2000 under direction of Mark
Aubert and Peter Michael Winery. 12.2 acres of Pinot Noir
and 2.2 acres of Chardonnay. The Chardonnay originated
from the famed Montrachet Vineyard in Burgundy. Sandy
Goldridge soils. Whole cluster pressed, native yeast, barrel
fermented, 100% malolactic fermentation, aged in French oak barrels,
50% new. Bottled unfined.
Moderate golden yellow color in the glass.
Rather austere nose initially, opening in the glass over time to offer
aromas of lemon rind, fresh peach and. Rich and creamy on the palate
with delicious flavors of golden apple, lemon, pear, honey and nut oil.
This wine is eager to send a message of pleasure and easily seduces
the senses. Dreamy balance makes for effortless drinking. The
quenching finish is lively and spirited. Even better when tasted the following day from a previously opened and
re-corked bottle with more nuances emerging.
2015 Three Sticks Durell Vineyard Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
14.5% alc., pH 3.40, TA 0.63,
398 cases, $55. Released August 15, 2017. Old Wente and 76 clones. The Old Wente grapes
come from one of the oldest, coldest and windiest sections of Durell Vineyard. Clone 76 comes
from the rocky flatland on the northeastern side of the vineyard. 100% malolactic conversion.
Barrel fermented and aged 15 months in French oak barrels, 33% new.
Moderately light golden
yellow color in the glass. Breezy aromas of nut oil, lemon, grapefruit, pineapple and apple. Ripe
flavors of pineapple and tropical fruits with a touch of caramel and pistachio. A hedonistic style, yet
possessing lifted acidity that leads to a bright, spicy conclusion.
2015 Three Sticks Gap’s Crown Vineyard Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
14.4% alc., pH 3.38, TA 0.61, 145
cases, $55. Released August 17, 2017. Dijon clones 76
and 124. Barrel fermented, 100% malolactic fermentation,
aged 15 months in French oak barrels, 40% new.
Moderately light golden yellow color in the glass. Terrific
perfume of lemon peel, cut green apple, ocean air, flint and
the slightest barrel note. A spirited wine with serious extract of lemon,
pineapple and green apple in step with bracing acidity resulting in
welcome congeniality. The vivid fruit flavors are accented with subtle
tastes of caramel and vanilla creme. This wine offers both redeeming
features of great Chardonnay: a mineral-inflected, acid-driven character
and a deep well of fruit.
2015 Tyee Wine Cellars Estate Willamette Valley Chardonnay
13.5% alc., 300 cases, $20.
Released June 2017.
Light golden yellow color in the glass. Aromas of white peach, pear, lemon
curd, fresh straw and a faint hint of band-aid. Full richness in the mouth with flavors of lemon,
pear, pineapple and nut oil. Nicely integrated acidity with a bright stream of citrus on the finish.
Pigs & Pinot Charlie Palmer’s 13th annual Pigs & Pinot Weekend will be Friday, March 16, and Saturday,
March 17, 2018. Held at the Hotel Healdsburg, over 60 wineries and 20 chefs will showcase their talents.
Chefs include Trevor Bird (FAble Kitchen), Susan Feninger (Border Grill, Blue Window), Rick Moonen (RM
Seafood, Rx Boiler Room), and Bryan Voltaggio (VOLT, Lunchbox, Family Meal, RANGE and AGGIO). All net
proceeds benefit Share Our Strength, as well as a specific focus on North Bay and wine country fire relief
funds. Alaska Airlines VISA Signature cardholder pre-sale will be Wednesday, January 10, 2018, at 10:00 AM
PST. General Sale will be Thursday, January 11, 2018, at 11:00 AM PST. Weekend hotel packages and
individual event tickets sell out almost immediately every year. Visit www.pigsandpinot.com for further
Jason Kesner Takes Over Winemaking at Kistler Vineyards Steve Kistler and Managing
Partner, Bill Price, of Kistler Vineyards jointly announced that Steve is stepping down as CEO and Director of
Winemaking in December 2017, after 39 years of managing the iconic winery he founded in 1978. Steve will
focus on winemaking at his family’s Occidental brand, crafting Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir with his daughters,
Catherine and Elizabeth. Jason Kesner has been an apprentice to Steve Kistler over the past nine years.
Kistler produces single vineyard Chardonnay and Pinot Noir that are available exclusively to mailing list
members, with a small amount sold to high quality restaurants and retail stores in select markets throughout
the country. To learn more, visit www.kistlervineyards.com. Mark Bixler, the co-founder of Kistler Vineyards,
died in 2017.
UC Davis Creates Wine Price Database A new crowdsourcing database of historic wine prices is
now available from UC Davis. The central focus of the database are more than 200 digitized catalogs of famed
New York-based distributor Sherry-Lehmann, the most comprehensive online database of its kind. Price the
Vintage is the second phase of another wine-related, digital crowdsourcing project led by the Library. Label
This catalogue thousands of wine labels from the collection of the late Maynard Amerine, a world-renowned
viticulture and enology professor at UC Davis. The UC Davis library holds over 30,000 wine books and special
collections of rare manuscripts, maps and imprints on wine dating back as far as 1450. Visit www.ucdavis.edu.
Wine & Health News in 2017
*A study published in the journal Nature found in mice that the byproduct of alcohol metabolism, acetaldehyde,
can break and damage DNA within blood stem cells, permanently altering the DNA sequences within these
cells. When healthy stem cells develop faulty DNA, it is know that they can give rise to cancerous cells. It is
believed that some cancers develop due to DNA damage in stem cells. The body normally counteracts the
effect of acetaldehyde by enzymatic breakdown with aldehyde dehydrogenases. The body’s defense also
includes DNA repair systems and can fix and reverse different types of DNA damage.
*In November, 2017, the Cancer Prevention Committee of the American Society of Clinical Oncology
recommended minimizing drinking alcohol, claiming it is a “modifiable risk factor for cancer.” This report was
then sensationalized by the press, with the Wall Street Journal claiming in a headline, “Just One Drink Can
Harm. The international Scientific Forum on Alcohol Research responded, “An individual will need to weigh the
modest risks of light to moderate alcohol use on breast cancer development against the beneficial effects on
cardiovascular disease to make the best personal choice regarding alcohol consumption. The smart choice for
women may be to have a glass of wine with dinner and not stress over it. The American Cancer Society
recommends limiting alcohol consumption to one drink per day for women or two drinks per day for men.
*Research published in the American Journal of Epidemiology in 2017 looked at alcohol consumption and
breast cancer risk by family history of breast cancer and folate intake in younger women. The results indicated
that for women with a first-degree relative with breast cancer, the data indicated that if they maintain a high
level of folate intake, it may attenuate an increase in risk of breast cancer associated with alcohol intake.
*Alcohol may be associated with skin cancer although studies to date have had varying results. One metaanalysis
found the risk of basal cell carcinoma increased by 7% and squamous cell carcinoma increased by
11% for every increase in intake of a standard beer or small glass of wine. Another study found a 20% increase
in melanoma in drinkers compared to abstainers with increased risk in heavy drinkers. Although it is known that
acetaldehyde can cause DNA damage in skin cells, is not clear whether alcohol is the cause of skin cancer or a
bystander (with ultraviolet light the primary cause). Red wine may actually protect against skin cancer because
the consumption of foods and wine rich in polyphenol antioxidants may confer protection against ultraviolet
damage to the skin. One German study looked at the topical application of red wine and found minimal benefit
(you have to drink it).
*An important study published in the Journal of American College of Cardiology found that compared with
lifetime abstainers, those who were light or moderate alcohol consumers were at a reduced risk of all-cause
and cardiovascular-specific mortality in U.S. adults. The authors of the study showed a clear J-shaped curve
for the relationship of alcohol to mortality, with lower total, cardiovascular, and even cancer mortality rates for
light and moderate drinkers who do not binge drink. Another study published in Health Affairs, found that
moderate drinking (14 drinks a week for men and fewer than seven drinks per week for women) in combination
with a healthy weight and avoidance of smoking cigarettes may add as much as seven years to one’s life.
*Research in 2017 indicated that people who drink wine in moderation lower their risk of developing dementia
but it is unknown why this is true. It is speculated that resveratrol provides neuro-protective qualities in
individuals at risk for dementia. One study found that compared with non-drinkers, people with early stages of
mental decline due to age who consumed 1.5 glass of wine a day showed more activity in the regions of the
brain that control memory.
*A study published in the European Journal of Epidemiology confirmed the recommendation of abstinence
during pregnancy as the safest option. However, an occasional drink or very light alcohol during pregnancy,
especially after the first trimester, should not be over-dramatized and one needs just common sense. A
Chinese meta-analysis on the current research on the aging brain and alcohol found that wine had a protective
effect against dementia when consumed in moderation while beer drinkers were found to have an increased
risk over non-drinkers.
The words of Curtis Ellison, M.D., Professor of Medicine & Public Health at the Boston University School of
Medicine continue to ring true: “For middle-aged and older people essentially all well-done studies continue to
support beneficial health effects of wine when consumed in a sensible fashion: small amounts consumed every
support beneficial health effects of wine when consumed in a sensible fashion: small amounts consumed every
day, especially with meals.
Santa Cruz Mountains Debuts Wine Trail Signage Those of you who have traveled the
winding, highly forested roads in the Santa Cruz Mountains where GPS is of little assistance, will be happy to
hear this news. The Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrowers Association (SCMWA) and the City of Saratoga
announced the installation of new wine trail signage in and around the City of Saratoga. These signs are the
first phase of a planned Santa Cruz Mountains Regional Wine Trail network to help visitors more easily locate
wineries throughout the Santa Cruz Mountains American Viticulture Area. Future phases of the Santa Cruz
Mountains Regional Wine Trail network are planned for the Summit Road area, Sea to Summit wineries,
Pacific Coastal, Surf city and Corralitos Wine Trails. The wine trail signage will be integrated into future mobile
tools at www.SCMWA.com. There are currently more than 70 member wineries in the SCMWA.
Santa Cruz Mountains AVA Winter/Spring Events 2018 On Saturday, January 20, the Santa
Cruz Mountains January Passport Celebration Day will be held. Participating wineries will welcome passport
aficionados into more then 50 tasting rooms, each offering a unique Passport Celebration Day winery
experience. The Passport Celebration Days (held four times a year) are a unique opportunity to taste wines at
wineries that are usually not open to the public. Passports are valid for 1 year, all year round during winery
hours of operations, and can be purchased for $65 each at www.scmwa.com/event/january-2018-passport/. A
second Passport Celebration Day returns on Saturday, April 21, 2018. The Silicon Valley Wine Auction and
Taste of the Mountains Grand Tasting will be held Sunday, May 20, 2018. Visit
www.siliconvalleywineauction.org for details.
Wine Books for the New Year
The Booklovers’ Guide to Wine: An Introduction to the History, Mysteries & Literary Pleasures of Drinking Wine
This basic introduction to wine was inspired by a 6-week course given by the author at Books & Books, a noted
bookstore in Coral Gables, Florida. I emphasize the word “Basic,” since this book is essentially an introduction
to wine. Topics include tasting wine, making wine, history of wine, description of varietals with literary pairings,
and food pairing are covered succinctly. There are better books available on all these topics, but this guide
offers accurate, brief synopses.
The book is replete with quotes and facts, accompanied by a few tables. Many common wine terms are
defined. Some statistics are outdated as is common with books: the number of Oregon wineries is stated as
544 and there are now over 700 wineries in Oregon.
Published in 2017, cloth bound, 377 pages, $19.95. Score: 87
Around the World in Eighty Wines: Exploring Wine One Country
at a Time
Accomplished wine writer, Mike Veseth, uses Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days as his inspiration for
this historical travelogue. Veseth is an authority on global wine markets and publishes The Wine Economist, a
highly-rated wine blog at www.WineEconomist.com.
The book is written in an academic style in the context of the history of many major wine regions of the world.
Both major wine countries like France, Italy, Spain and North America are on the itinerary as well as countries
less well known for wine such as Lebanon, Thailand, India and China.
The featured wines are chosen to be representative of each country with additional suggestions offered in the
last chapter that asses the journey, “Victory or Defeat?”
Veseth is an extremely good writer with a wealth of wine knowledge. Still, this book is in introduction to the
world’s wine regions and readers will need to look elsewhere for in-depth coverage. That said, even the most
accomplished connoisseur will enjoy the trip.
Published in 2017, cloth bound, 193 pages, $24.95. Score: 90
Adventures with Old Vines: A Beginner’s Guide to Being a
Richard Chilton, Jr., is a vineyard owner in the Napa Valley and a partner in Hourglass Wine Co.. This book
represents a compilation of the wine experience he has accumulated over the past forty years.
There are introductory chapters on buying wine, storing and collecting wine, tasting wine, wine fraud,
deciphering a wine list and how wine is made, but his book is primarily a reference book with the body devoted
to “Benchmark Wines.” Many classic wines include a detailed three-to-four page description of the producer
and the producer’s key wines and best vintages. The emphasis is on Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, and
Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. This part of the book would prove to be a valuable reference for those wanting to
purchase older wines from some of the world’s most notable producers.
Published in 2017, cloth bound, 269 pages, $24.95. Score: 91
A few more books: The New Wine Rules: A Genuinely Helpful Guide to Everything You Need to Know, by
Jon Bonné. 9000 Years of Wine: A World History, by Rod Phillips. The Wine Lover’s Daughter: A Memoir,
by Anne Fadiman. Wine Revolution: The World’s Best Organic, Biodynamic and Natural Wines, by Jane
Anson. The Dirty Guide to Wine: Following Flavor from Ground to Glass, by Alice Feiring.
The best book I read this year: In Vino Duplicitas: The Rise and Fall of a Wine Forger Extraordinaire, by
Peter Hellman. Score: 99