PinotFile: 11.48 July 17, 2019
- Recently Tasted California Wines
- Heart & Hands Finger Lakes Pinot Noir
- Cristom Vineyards: One of America’s Greatest Wineries Delivers (Again)
- The Last Word on the History of Winery Mailing Lists
- Pinot Briefs
Recently Tasted California Wines
According to the California Wine Institute, California wine shipments in the U.S. reached an estimated retail
value of $40.2 billion in 2018, up 3% from 2017. California shipped 248 million 9-liter cases to the U.S. in 2018,
up 3%, and representing a 61% share of the total U.S. wine market. The estimated retail value of California
wine shipped to the U.S. was $40.2 billion. California wine sales to all markets, including shipments to the U.S.
and export markets, totaled 285 million cases in 2018. 2018 California wine stats:
According to Nielsen-measured U.S. off-premise sales, the top-selling wine varietals by volume share are:
Chardonnay, 18.3%; Cabernet Sauvignon, 15.5%; Red Blends, 13.5%, Pinot Grigio/Gris, 10.2%; Merlot, 6.5%;
Moscato/Muscat, 5.7%, Pinot Noir, 5.4%, Sauvignon Blanc, 5.3%, Rosé 4.9%, and White Zinfandel, 3.4%.
2016 Anaba Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
13.7% alc., pH 3.38, TA 0.70, 933 cases, $36. Sourced
from Denmark, J McK Estate, and Dutton Ranch (Mill Station and Shop Block) vineyards. Barrel
fermented, 50% MLF, aged 17 months sur lie in French oak barrels, 25% new.
golden yellow color in the glass. Bright aromas of lemon, yellow apple, brioche, yellow flower
blossom and lychee. Slightly oily in mouthfeel, with flavors of lemon, pineapple, yellow apple and
cinnamon spice. Nicely composed with some finishing length. A bit quirky because of the cinnamon
spice flavor, but otherwise highly enjoyable.
Au Bon Climat, Santa Maria
After 18 years of publishing the PinotFile, these are the first Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir wines sent to me for
review. Not surprisingly, I was very impressed by the entire lineup.
The wines are produced by Jim Clendenen, “the mind behind.” Jim is a California original whose long hair,
cooking skills, bigger-than-life personality and wines are legendary. As a pre-law student at UC Santa Barbara,
Jim developed an interest in wine after trips abroad to visit Bordeaux and Burgundy. He learned winemaking
under Ken Brown, another California legend, and later partnered with Adam Tolmach and Bob Lindquist at
Qupé Vineyards. He was also influenced by experiences in Burgundy in 1981 at Domaine des Comte Lafon
and Maison Nicolas Potel. Jim founded Au Bon Climat in 1982 and quickly put the Santa Barbara region on the
Pinot Noir map.
Jim has always touted restraint and balance over extraction and power and his lower-alcohol, higher-acidity
wines were often criticized early in his career and not scored highly. His style is now more in vogue. The wines
have always shown age ability at least in part to the use of whole clusters during fermentation. Au Bon Climat
has made Pinot Noir in Santa Barbara County for over 30 years and the winemaking philosophy and
winemaking practices have changed little during that time. Newer technologies have improved the wines and
allowed for gentler processing. Better grapes have contributed as well. Au Bon Climat is basically the same
since 1982, only better!
The Au Bon Climat winery is located at Bien Nacido Vineyard but is not open to the public. The winery’s tasting
room is located at 813 Anacapa Street in Santa Barbara and is open daily (no appointment required). Visit
2015 Au Bon Climat La Bauge-Au-dessus Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., $35.
The name of this wine translates to “wild party up stairs.” Grapes are sourced from Bien Nacido
and Le Bon Climat vineyards. Aged 24 months in Francois Frères French oak barrels, 50% new.
Lightly fined with egg whites and bottled unfiltered.
Light ruby red color in the glass. Aromas of
red cherry, burnt tobacco, sandalwood and ash. Relatively light in weight but flavorful, with a core
of red cherry fruit embraced by oak. Elegantly styled, with gossamer tannins and some finishing
generosity. Fine, but leans a little bit too much on oak.
2016 Au Bon Climat Runway Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., 250 cases, $40. A 16-
acre vineyard planted in 2008, located next door to Bien Nacido Vineyards. Aged in Francois Frères French
oak barrels for almost 24 months, 30% new.
Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Nicely perfumed with
aromas of cherry, raspberry, pine sap, floral spirit and toasty oak. The mid weight flavors of black cherry and
spice are nicely backed by tender oak. Beautifully balanced, with silky tannins and some finishing length.
2016 Au Bon Climat Bien Nacido Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., $40. This
bottling is part of the winery’s Santa Barbara Historic Vineyards Collection. Much of the fruit that Au
Bon Climat sources is fruit that has been planted “exclusively” for the winery. 50% Block 2 and 50%
Block 11. Main clones are 667 and 115. 50% whole clusters. Aged 18 months in Francois Frères
French oak barrels, 80% new.
Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Shy, but pleasing aromas
of black cherry and tender oak. A very giving wine on the palate, with a gorgeous core of black
cherry fruit in a mid weight style. Silky, with polished tannins, a slight savory, dried leaf character,
and a seductive grip of cherry on the finish. An impeccably balanced wine that is drinking perfectly now.
2016 Au Bon Climat Sanford & Benedict Vineyard Santa Ynez Valley Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., $50. This bottling is
part of the winery’s Santa Barbara Historic Vineyards
Collection. Extended cold soak, aged 20 months in Francois
Frères French oak barrels.
Light garnet color in the glass.
Reserved, but pleasant aromas of oak-kissed red cherry
and berry. Admirable in every way, with impressive harmony
and class. Red fruits enhanced with baking spices are featured in this
middleweight styled wine that offers great elegance, hidden tannins,
and a persistent finish. This is the best example from this vineyard that I
have tasted in recent memory.
2015 Au Bon Climat Knox Alexander Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., 800 cases, $50.
Estate bottled. Very heavy bottle, long cork. Sourced from the finest lots at Bien Nacido and Au Bon
Climat vineyards. Block 2 from Le Bon Climat Vineyard was planted in 1994 with a wide mix of
clones including 103, 113, 114, 115, 2A, Mt. Eden and some Pinot Meunier. Block 11 at Bien Nacido
Vineyard is planted with clones 667, 777, 115, 2A, Swan and Jackson in 1997. 50% Dijon and 50%
traditional California selections. Jim’s son Knox arrived in 1998 and this is a distinct bottling to honor
him. Aged 22 months in French oak barrels. Fined with egg whites.
Moderately light garnet color in
the glass. The nose offers primarily non-fruit aromas of fertile earth, burnt tobacco and toast. Much more
enticing on the palate, with mid weight flavors of Bing cherry and noticeable toasty oak. There is a healthy, but
not intrusive backbone of tannins. Considerably more appealing when tasted the following day from a
previously opened and re-corked bottle when the oak had become more subservient to the fruit. Decant if you
plan to drink now, but further cellaring is a better option.
2015 Au Bon Climat Isabelle California Pinot Noir
alc., 750 cases, $50. Very heavy bottle, long cork. This
bottling was inaugurated in 1994 to honor Jim Clendenen’s
daughter Isabelle. This unique wine is a blend of barrels
from the best vineyards not only from the Santa Maria
Valley, but the Russian River Valley and even Monterey
County in some years. The selection is done by Jim in the
Au Bon Climat winery cellar and each year the blend for Isabelle is
different. Isabelle is the richest Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir with loads of
intensity and power, yet it remains balanced and food friendly.
Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Aromas of cherry, sous-bois,
ash and gentle oak come to the fore over time in the glass. The wellspiced
red cherry fruit enters with a purpose, saturates the mid palate
and exits with a ridiculously long finish. Nicely balanced and very approachable now, with bold but friendly
tannins and energizing natural acidity. This beauty bowls you over.You will want to drink this one all by yourself.
Etude Wines, Napa
2016 Etude Deer Camp Vineyard Grace Benoist Ranch Carneros Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., pH 3.60, TA 0.56,
479 cases, $85. Estate grown. The site is planted primarily to a Martini selection of Pinot Noir. It is a California
Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance vineyard. This wine contains Martini selection along with Dijon 113 and
114.This small vineyard at Grace Benoist Ranch was named after an old deer camp structure that stands at the
base of the site. 3 to 5-day cold soak, small % whole cluster, extended maceration. Aged 14 months in French
oak barrels, 25% new.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Beautifully perfumed with aromas of red cherry,
baking spice and sandalwood. Light to mid weight in style, and red cherry-driven There is a little purple berry
and dark chocolate tastes as well. Rather elegantly composed and nicely balanced, with a modest finish.
2016 Etude Heirloom Grace Benoist Ranch Carneros Pinot Noir
14.4% alc., pH 3.45, TA 0.55, 597 cases,
$95. Estate grown. This wine is produced from nine shy-bearing, heirloom selections of Pinot Noir that produce
small bunches and even smaller berries. 3 to 5-day cold soak. 20% whole cluster. Extended maceration. Aged
13 months in French oak barrels, 25% new.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Gleeful aromas of dark cherry,
blueberry, fertile earth and dark rose petal. A wine of class and character, with a discrete concentration of dark
red and black cherry flavors framed by an ample tannic backbone. Clearly tastes different and more mysterious
than many domestic Pinot Noirs. My only nit is a slight bit of alcoholic warmth on the finish.
2016 Etude Fiddlestix Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., $50. Clones 667, 777, 113, 115,
Pommard 4 and 5. Aged 12 months in French oak barrels, 25% new.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. A
toned and trim wine with enticing aromas of dark berries, exotic spices and rose petal. There is a discrete well
of black cherry and blackberry fruit accented with spice and underlain with a vital arrow of acidity. No tannins to
speak of make this wine easy drinking.
2016 Etude North Canyon Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., pH 3.63, TA 0.56, $55. The vineyard
sits along the Santa Maria river bench in a secluded canyon
that protects it against the renowned maritime influences. A
variety of rootstocks and clones are planted in calcareous
clay sandstone which differs from the valley’s defining
marine mixture of ancient sea bed, clay loam and sand.
Sustainability in Practice (SIP) certified. Aged 10 months in French oak
barrels, 25% new.
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. There is
both weight and weightlessness in this magnificently balanced wine.
Aromas of boysenberry, spice and mushroom draw you into the glass.
A delicious array of purple and black berry fruits are accented by a hint
of oak and an appealing earthiness. The righteous, melt-in-your-mouth
texture is seductive. A wine of immense charm that finishes on point.
2016 Etude Grace Benoist Ranch Carneros Chardonnay
13.6% alc., $32 . Estate grown. A
variety of clones and selections. Gently whole-cluster pressed then fermented in neutral French
oak barrels. Aged 11 months with weekly stirring of the lees for the initial two months of aging.
light golden yellow color in the glass. Engaging aromas of lemon curd, pineapple, pear, butter and
pastry creme. A well-fruited style, featuring flavors of pineapple, lemon, kiwi and vanilla. Polished in
the mouth, with decent acidity and a pleasing, but unassuming finish.
Fallon Place Wines, San Francisco
2017 Fallon Place Estines Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
13.4% alc., 175 cases, $42. Released
May 2019. Sourced from a 4-acre vineyard off Olivet Road in the Laguna Ridge area of the Russian River
Valley. Organic grapes. Clones 667 and 777. Aged 11 months in French oak barrels.
Moderately light garnet
color in the glass. Nicely perfumed with scents of grilling spice, red cherry, red raspberry and friendly oak.
Gentle in the mouth in a light to mid weight style offering flavors of red cherry and berry, blueberry and spice.
The silky mouthfeel satisfies as does the extended, raspberry-infused finish. The wine holds interest over time
in the glass and was still fine when tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle.
2017 Fallon Place Black Family Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.2% alc., 100 cases, $46. Release October 2019.Sourced from a 30-
acre vineyard. Clone 777 from two blocks. 100% de-stemmed, aged 11
months in French oak barrels.
Moderately light garnet color in the glass.
Invigorating aromas of dark red berry, spice and underbrush. More
concentration and fruit presence than the Estines Vineyard bottling,
offering flavors of dark red and purple berries underlain with a hint of
earthiness. The texture is dreamy and the wine is impeccably balanced.
Equally redeeming when sampled the following day from a previously
opened and re-corked bottle.
2017 Fallon Place La Cruz Vineyard Petaluma Gap Chardonnay
13.4% alc., 100 cases, $38.
Released May 2019. Aged 11 months in neutral French oak barrels.
Moderately light golden yellow
color in the glass with a slight haze (unfiltered). Exalted aromas of lemon curd, pineapple, honey,
Golden Delicious apple and green undergrowth. Slightly creamy in the mouth, with flavors of lemon
pastry and cut apple. Not particularly acid-driven, but has sufficient vitality. The lemon-infused finish
is very satisfying.
Frank Family Vineyards, Calistoga
2017 Frank Family Vineyards Carneros Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., pH 3.68, TA 0.59, 5,000 cases, $38. The
foundation for this wine is the Sangiacomo Vineyard and Beckstoffer Vineyard located in the heart of Carneros.
Aged 10 months in French oak barrels, 33% new, 67% once and twice-filled.
Moderately light garnet color in
the glass. The nose leads with aromas of red cherry gumdrop, fertile soil and sandalwood. The mid weight
essence of red cherry fruit is embellished with lavish oak. Silky in the mouth, with trim tannins and a modest
finish. One thinks oak when drinking this wine.
2017 Frank Family Vineyards Lewis Vineyard Reserve Napa Valley Carneros Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., $70.
Lewis Vineyard is 78 acres (68 acres of Chardonnay and 10 acres of Pinot Noir) located in the heart of Napa-
Carneros near the shores of San Pablo Bay. Restricting soils of dense clay loam. Predominant maritime
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Lovely perfume of black cherry, cardamom spice and pipe
smoke. Sleek and easily approachable in a mid weight style offering flavors of black cherry and boysenberry
with mild toasty oak in the background. A commendable offering with nothing to criticize except that a slight
sense of alcoholic warmth lingers at the end.
2017 Frank Family Vineyards Carneros Chardonnay
14.4% alc., pH 3.44, TA 0.61, 25,000
cases, $38. Barrel fermented in 34% new, 33% once and 33% twice-filled French oak barrels for 9
months. Aged on the lees with hand stirring regularly.
Very light golden yellow color in the glass.
Exuberant aromas of pineapple, lemon drop, mango, butter creme and vanilla. A friendly wine that
grows on you over time, offering flavors of lemon, pineapple and vanilla creme. The comforting
texture is slightly oily and the acidity is well woven into the fabric of the wine.
2017 Frank Family Vineyards Lewis Vineyard Napa Valley Carneros Chardonnay
14.5% alc., $70.
Moderate golden yellow color in the glass. Lively aromas of lemon curd, pineapple, Golden Delicious apple,
and white flower blossom. Bright and vibrant in character with obvious class, offering flavors of lemon-lime,
pear and green apple. A bit reserved in fruit intensity, yet offering upbeat vitality, and finishing with a pleasing
cut of acidity on the finish.
Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery, Healdsburg
2016 Gary Farrell Bacigalupi Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., pH 3.45, TA 0.67, 513 cases,
$65. Released May 2019.Sourced from the Frost Ranch.
Wente selection. 15% added whole clusters. 6-day cold
soak, 10-15 days post fermentation extended maceration.
Aged on the primary lees for 15 months in French oak
barrels, 40% new.
Moderately light garnet color in the glass.
The aromas of purple grape, boysenberry, cardamom spice and burnt
tobacco are intoxicating. The discretely concentrated flavors of black
cherry and boysenberry are accompanied by the slightest herbaceous
note and citric energy. A spirited wine with impressive juiciness,
admirable balance and an acid-driven, uplifting finish. A delightful wine
with beautifully-ripened fruit and easy accessibility.
2016 Gary Farrell McDonald Mountain Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
13.2% alc., pH 3.40, TA
0.73, 718 cases, $70. Released May 2019.Vineyard is located in the cool Sebastopol Hills where the fog first
arrives from the Pacific Ocean in the morning, and burns off last in the afternoon. Vineyard was planted in 2008
in Goldridge sandy loam to clones 115, 667, 777, Pommard, “828,” and Elite (a suitcase selection). 40% whole
clusters added. 5-day cold soak and a 10 to 15 day post fermentation extended maceration. Aged on the
primary lees 15 months in 40% new French oak barrels.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Deep aromas of
blackest cherry, spice, and burnt tobacco. The mid weight flavors of black cherry and pomegranate are
ingratiating as is the grip of natural acidity. There is a slight vegetal note. This wine is promising, but does not
have the flavor intensity of the Bacigalupi bottling and displays a mild bit of gruff tannins on the lengthy finish.
2016 Gary Farrell Westside Farms Russian River Valley Chardonnay
13.9% alc., pH 3.25, TA 0.69, 674
cases, $55. Released May 2019. Vines planted in 1989 to clone 4. Harvest Brix 22.5º. Aged 9 months in 35%
new French oak barrels and 65% one to three-year-old neutral French oak barrels and one 500-liter French
Moderate golden yellow color in the glass. One bottle: Noticeable matchstick (reduction) along
with aromas of lemon. Very reductive on the palate, with a flinty overtone to the lemon, butter cake and yellow
apple fruit flavors. Rather austere, with a silky texture and a quenching, lemony finish. Second bottle: Aromas
of lemon oil, pineapple honey and croutons. Somewhat rich, with ripe fruit flavors of pineapple, yellow apple,
honey on a biscuit and caramel. Slightly creamy in texture, with a bit of tannin showing up on the dry finish.
2016 Gary Farrell Rochioli-Allen Vineyards Russian River Valley Chardonnay
13.9% alc., pH 3.24, TA
0.64, 363 cases, $65. Released May 2019. Clones 76 and 15 from two blocks of the Allen Vineyard. Harvest
Brix 22.5º. Fermented and aged on the primary lees 9 months in 35% new French oak barrels and 65% one to
three-year-old neutral French oak barrels and one 500-liter French oak puncheon.
Moderately light golden
yellow color in the glass. Shy, but pleasant aromas of Meyer lemon and cut yellow apple. Discretely rich in
flavor offering joyous flavors of citrus and honey and a subtle salinity. Slightly viscous in texture, with a long,
citrus-driven finish that is quenching and urges another sip.
Jigar Wines, Healdsburg
2015 Jigar Peters Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., 98 cases, $47. 100% Pommard.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Awkward aromas of earthy flora, bourbon, blackberry and raisin. Velvety in
the mouth in a mid weight plus, fruit-driven style offering flavors of black fruits including prune. Lacking in vigor
due to demure acidity and displaying more toasty oak than I prefer. This is a chunky, overly-ripe-fruited wine
that lacks energy.
2016 Jigar Graham Family Vineyard Green Valley of Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., 319
cases, $55. Multiple clones including 23 and 777.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Appealing aromas of
fresh Bing cherry and ripe strawberry. Dark red fruits are featured in this mid weight styled wine that shows
good oak restraint and dog’s paw tannins. The finish is shallow but offers a bright cut of acidity that is the most
appealing feature of the wine.
La Crema, Santa Rosa
2016 La Crema Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., pH 3.55, TA 0.61, $40. Sourced from 9 grower
and estate vineyards across the Russian River Valley, Chalk Hill and Green Valley AVAs. Estate vineyards
include Barbieri, Bellflower, Bones Road, Olivet, Piner and Ross Road. Clones 777, 115, 667, Pommard, “828,”
114, 23 and 2A. 100% de-stemmed, 70% whole berries in tank. 3 to 5-day cold soak, fermented in open-top
tanks, no racking until blending prior to bottling. Aged 10 months in French oak barrels, 35% new.
garnet color in the glass. Aromas of blackberry, cassis, and oak-driven spice and toast lead to a full-bodied
experience sporting waves of oak-kissed, almost syrupy, black cherry and blackberry fruit flavors. Very ripe
fruited with toasty oak suppressing the Russian River Valley footprint.
2017 La Crema Russian River Valley Chardonnay
14.5% alc., pH 3.37, TA 0.58, $30. Gently
whole-cluster pressed, barrel fermented in 33% new French oak barrels with occasional lees
stirring, and aged 10 months.
Moderately light golden yellow color in the glass. A flamboyant wine
with aromas of pineapple, yellow apple and buttery croissant. On the palate there is a rich display
of well-ripened citrus and honey flavors with a delicate backing of toasty oak. Soothing in texture
with integrated alcohol.
LaRue Wines, Sonoma
2016 LaRue Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., $60. A blend of Rice-Spivak and Thorn Ridge vineyards.
Dijon clones and Swan selection (Rice-Spivak) and 20-year-old Pommard and 115 clones (Thorn Ridge).
Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Fruit aromas of cherry and red berry along with the herbal character
of whole cluster. Dark red and black cherry fruit flavors along with spice and savory herbs are featured in this
mid weight styled wine. The wine is shot through with acidity creating plenty of energy.
2016 LaRue Rice-Spivak Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.4% alc., 150 cases, $70. Sourced from a
6-acre vineyard south of the town of Sebastopol. Goldridge sand loam and volcanic ash soils. Dijon clones and
Swan selection. Aged 20 months in French oak barrels, 33% new.
Moderate garnet color in the glass.
Seductive aroma of fresh cherry and baking spices. Delicious flavors of cherry and raspberry with an appealing
accent of spice. Silky tannins, with concealed oak and an extremely long finish that seems to last a minute.
2016 LaRue Thorn Ridge Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.2% alc., $ Allocated. Vineyard is planted
west of the town of Sebastopol and 60is farmed by Ted Klopp and his daughter Lauren. Sourced from two
blocks planted in Goldridge sandy loam soils to Pommard and 115 clones.
Moderately light garnet color in the
glass. Forward aromas of dark cherry and gentle oak are enticing. A mid weight plus styled wine with features
of black cherry and blueberry and a complimentary, subtle earthy tone. A little more ripeness and concentration
than the Rice-Spivak bottling but equally enamoring. Commendable balance with a satiny mouthfeel. Even
better when tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle.
2017 LaRue Charles Heintz Vineyard Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
12.5% alc., 50 cases, $ Allocated. Clone 4
planted in 1982. Aged for 17 months in French oak barrels.
Light golden yellow color in the glass. Aromas of yellow
citrus and peach draw you into the glass. A wine of
sophistication and breeding that pleases on entry, in the
middle and on the finish. There is plenty of lemon and yellow
apple flavor but the wine does not veer to tropical California ripeness. A
spear of acidity adds vitality, the bashful oak adds nuance and the
uplifting, lip-smacking finish is memorable. A perfect marriage of
pristine and invigorating natural acidity.
Lula Cellars, Santa Rosa
Matt Parish, a veteran of two decades of winemaking experience, assumed the winemaking role with the 2017
harvest. The winery focuses on Pinot Noir.
2017 Lula Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., pH 3.50, TA 0.60, 540 cases, $45. A majority of the fruit
was sourced from the 15-acre Lula Vineyard planted in 2013 and located in the “deep end” of the Anderson
Valley. Pommard and Dijon clones. 100% de-stemmed, 2-day cold soak, 10 to 15 day post fermentation
extended maceration, basket pressed, and aged 10 months in new and used French oak barrels. Lightly fined
and filtered before bottling.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Aromas of cherry, clay and redwood lead to a
more appealing palate of mid weight dark red cherry and berry fruits with a touch of spice. The oak is well
integrated, and the tannins are fine-grain and easygoing. There is a sense of a much higher alcohol than the
stated ABV of 14.0%.
2017 Lula Peterson Vineyard Mendocino Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., pH 3.40, TA 0.60, 520 cases, $45. This
vineyard, planted in 1999, is located in the mountain town of Comptche. Pommard and Dijon clones 667, 777
and 115. 100% de-stemmed, 2-day cold soak, inoculated yeast, 10 to 15 day extended maceration post
fermentation, and aged 10 months in new and used French oak barrels. Lightly fined and filtered before
Moderate garnet color in the glass. The nose marries aromas of dark cherry with espresso. Soft in the
mouth in a middleweight style, featuring oak-kissed dark cherry fruit flavor. Very approachable, with integrated
tannins but only a modest finish. The sumptuous oak dominates the wine.
2017 Lula Costa Vineyard Mendocino Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., pH 3.40, TA 0.59, 480 cases, $45. Sourced
from a 5-acre vineyard planted in 1998 in the mountain town of Comptche (8 miles southeast of the village of
Mendocino). 100% de-stemmed, 2-day cold soak, inoculated yeast, 10 to 15 day post fermentation extended
maceration. Basket pressed and aged 10 months in new and used French oak barrels. Lightly fined and filtered
Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Some pleasing aromas of red cherry are subdued by
oak-driven aromas of toast and almond. Light to mid weight in extraction, offering flavors of red cherry and
berry framed by suede tannins. The slightly astringent and tart finish has modest length.
2017 Lula Rescue Block Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., pH 3.40, TA 0.64, 90 cases, $60. Label
has a picture of “Honey,” a rescue winery dog and tasting room greeter. This bottling honors the 1,000 vines
that were revived on the Lula property when purchased as well as the rescued winery dog. 100% de-stemmed,
2-day cold soak, inoculated yeast, 10 to 15 day post fermentation extended maceration, and aged 10 months
in new and used French oak barrels. Lightly fined and filtered before bottling.
Moderate garnet color in the
glass. Aromas of plum, blackberry, dried herbs and clay come to the fore. Succulent and sweet in a mid weight
style with a core of blackberry fruit backed by well-matched tannins and complimentary oak. Suave in texture
with a flourish of fruit on the finish.
2017 Lula Founder’s Cuvée Mendocino Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., pH 3.40, TA 0.63, 100 cases, $50. 50%
clone 777 and Pommard from Lula Vineyard and 50% Peterson and Costa vineyards located in Comptche.
100% de-stemmed, 2-day cold soak, inoculated yeast, 10 to 15 day post fermentation extended maceration,
and aged 10 months in new and used French oak barrels. Lightly fined and filtered before bottling.
dark garnet color in the glass. Well-ripened fruit aromas of blackberry, black currant and raisin lead to a mid
weight styled wine that is richly endowed with an array of well-spiced and somewhat earthy dark fruits. A firm
tannic backbone supports the hefty fruit load and there is enough acidity for adequate vitality. An intensely fruity
finish leaves an impression.
Merry Edwards, Sebastopol
Merry Edwards Pinot Noir wines are highly acclaimed and often seen on restaurant wine lists. I found the 2017
wines reviewed here to be lacking in aromatic interest, very ripe fruit driven, lacking in finishing length, and a
few wines were noticeably tannic. Winemaking details are not forthcoming.
2017 Merry Edwards Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 5,100 cases, $51. A blend of grapes from
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Aromas of blackberry syrup, cassis, spice and earthy
flora. The mid weight plus array of sweet purple and black berry fruits is framed by modest tannins and friendly
oak. The most easygoing wine in the 2017 Pinot Noir lineup.
2017 Merry Edwards Olivet Lane Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 730 cases, $68.
Dark garnet color in the glass. Aromas of dark berry jam, wine cave, old book and vanilla. Mid weight plus
flavors of blackberry, cassis and pomegranate with a touch of iron. A big, bold, ripely-fruited wine with
supportive tannins. The deep wall of fruit has charm, the wine stays in balance, but the wine enters a little
stronger than it finishes.
2017 Merry Edwards Coopersmith Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 730 cases, $66.
Estate grown. Vineyard is located northwest of Sebastopol in the Laguna Ridge. UCD 37 clone (Mt Eden).
garnet color in the glass. The aromatic profile is dominated by oak. A plethora of well-ripened boysenberry and
dusty blackberry fruits have a noticeable overlay of vanilla and toast. Silky in the mouth, with cohesive tannins
and acidity, and a lengthy finish.
2017 Merry Edwards Bucher Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 580 cases, $63.
Pommard and Mt Eden clones.
Dark garnet color in the glass. Aromas of the blackest cherry, earthy flora and
smoke. A wine of imposing ruggedness and drying tannins, with a full-bodied charge of blackberry and prune
flavors along with an underlying note of guaiacol (typical of this vineyard). The copious, very ripe fruit coats the
palate, but the harsh tannins make for fatiguing drinking. This wine drinks like a young Cabernet Sauvignon.
2017 Merry Edwards Georgeanne Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 540 cases, $63.
Estate grown. An estate vineyard located on Westside Road near the northern border of the AVA planted to Mt
Dark garnet color in the glass. Very shy aromas of blackberry jam. Hard to coax much out of the
nose. Monster fruit and hard tannins greet the palate. Flavors of blackest cherry and black raspberry are
backed by trim oak. The wine combines some fruit intensity and length with tannic muscle on the finish.
2017 Merry Edwards Warren’s Hill Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 240 cases, $63.
This wine is ‘A Legend Reborn.’ This is the first vintage of a wine that traces its lineage to Windsor Gardens
Vineyard that was farmed by Lee Martinelli Jr. Lee thought that Martini clone was planted in this unirrigated
vineyard. Merry Edwards named the property Windsor Gardens upon its first bottling as a Merry Edwards
vineyard designate. The wine quickly developed a cult following. The developer who owned the property
removed the old vines after the 2003 harvest to make way for new tract homes. Warren’s Hill was planted on a
hilltop in the Green Valley of Russian River Valley in 2012 using budwood Lee Martinelli had preserved from
Windsor Gardens. The name of the vineyard is a tribute to Merry’s son Warren who passed away in 2006.
garnet color in the glass. Pleasant aromas of blackberry reduction sauce, loganberry, spice and vanilla cone. A
full charge of purple and blackberry fruits greets the palate with intention. A bit of oak-driven vanilla and toast is
in the mix. The tannins are quite modest and there is some finishing grace and length.
2016 Merry Edwards Olivet Lane Vineyard Russian River Valley Chardonnay
14.3% alc., $66.
golden yellow color in the glass. Aromatically pleasing, with scents of pineapple, yellow peach, grilled lemon
and clarified butter. Sleek in the mouth with a rich entry and mid palate load of citrus, ripe peach and vanilla
flavors. Very agreeable, in a nicely balanced style.
Morgan Winery, Salinas
2017 Morgan Twelve Clones Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., pH 3.44, TA 0.63, $35. Sourced
from Double L, Rosella’s, Boekenoogen, KW and Tondre vineyards. 100% de-stemmed, native and cultured
yeast fermentation in small, open-top tanks. Aged 10 months in French oak barrels, 40% new.
color in the glass. The nose offers primarily oak-driven aromas of toast, nuts and smoke, and more delicate
secondary aromas of cherry. Light in weight, with oak-embellished flavors of cherry and raspberry. Fresh and
juicy, with easygoing tannins and a short finish.
2017 Morgan Rosella’s Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., pH 3.47, TA 0.62, 94
cases, $65. “Pisoni clone.” 100% de-stemmed, fermented in open-top tanks. Aged 10 months in French oak
barrels, 40% new.
Light ruby red color in the glass. Dark red cherry and raspberry aromas and flavors fuel this
lighter weighted wine that is rather demure. The fruit just doesn’t pop and the wine is a bit shallow on the follow
through and finish.
2017 Morgan Double L Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., pH 3.43, TA 0.69, 991
cases, $65. Vineyard certified organic in 2002, but has been conscientiously farmed in this method since the
original plantings in 1997. Clones 114, 115, 667, 777, Pommard and Swan.100% de-stemmed, whole berry
fermentation with native and cultured yeasts. Aged 10 months in French oak barrels, 40% new.
light garnet color in the glass. Lovely aromas of black cherry, blueberry and spice cabinet. The wine gains
intensity over time in the glass, displaying highly flavorful boysenberry and black raspberry fruits. Seamless in
texture with deft oak management and integrated tannins, finishing with open arms. I liked this wine more when
sampled from a bottle that had been opened for several hours.
2017 Morgan Garys’ Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
13.3% alc., pH 3.43, TA 0.69, 80 cases, $65.
“Pisoni clone” planted in 1997. 100% de-stemmed,
fermented in open-top tanks, and aged 10 months in French
oak barrels, 57% new.
Moderately light garnet color in the
glass. Hold on to your hats when you pop the cork on this
one! Engaging aromas of dark red berry and cherry and
spice. The dark red and purple berry fruits really grab your attention on
entry, showing the extra class that is typical of this vineyard. Very
seductive, with a silken mouthfeel, masterful oak management, and
plenty of juicy vitality. The ridiculously long finish stands out among the
2017 Morgan Pinot Noirs sampled on this day. A joyous wine to drink
the following day as well from a previously opened bottle. It is wines like
this that made me fall in love with Pinot Noir in the first place.
2017 Morgan Highland Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay
14.1% alc., pH 3.13, TA 0.74, $28.
Double L (50%), Tondre, Leavens, McIntyre, and Quail vineyards. Dijon 95, 96, 76, 4, 15, 17 and
ely light golden yellow color in the glass. A complex nose offers aromas of yellow
apple, lemon creme, grapefruit, straw and wildflower honey. A reserved style with excellent acidic
drive offering citrus fruit flavors with a tropical fruit component. An extraordinary value.
2017 Morgan Double L Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay
14.1% alc., pH 3.15, TA
0.79, 1,489 cases, $44. Clones 4, 15, 17, 76 and 95. Fermented and aged 10 months in French
oak barrels, 24% new and a combination of once and twice-used barrels. 70% MLF and lees
Moderately light golden yellow color in the glass. This wine has more of the steely
minerality that many Chardonnay aficionados relish. Aromas of petrichor, cold steel, lemon curd
and brioche. Very classy in the mouth, with lemon-driven flavor and a hint of honey and blonde
caramel. Soft and soothing in texture, with exceptional acidic drive, culminating in a quenching,
lemony finish. This is a California Chardonnay that will please many white Burgundy geeks.
Heart & Hands Finger Lakes Pinot Noir
Heart & Hands is owned and operated by husband and wife team Tom and Susan Higgins. The winery and
estate vineyard are located on the east side of Cayuga Lake, directly on the Onondaga limestone escarpment.
The proximity to the lake and the gently sloping site offer the vineyard protection from harsh winter weather, the
biggest threat to winegrowing in this northerly region.
This boutique winery produces around 2,000 cases per year, which allows an intense focus on quality. When
tasting the Pinot Noirs from Heart & Hands, you must have different expectations than you would experience
tasting California Pinot Noirs. The wines must be taken in the context of their growing region. The wines are
more austere and less richly flavored, higher in acidity and lower in alcohol. Because of significant whole
cluster inclusion, the Pinot Noirs benefit from decanting.
Riesling is the prized varietal in the Finger Lakes of New York, but a small group of vintners, including Tom,
have made significant strides with Pinot Noir. Visit the Heart & Hands Wine Company website at
www.heartandhandswine.com. All the Heart & Hands Pinot Noirs are bottled under the Vino-Lok glass
I have been to the Finger Lakes and would highly recommend a visit for wine enthusiasts. This beautiful region
offers many wineries to visit set in an unhurried and sparsely populated area that becomes bucolic in the spring
and summer. The region can easily be accessed from either New York City or Buffalo, New York.
2015 Heart & Hands Mo Chuisle Estate Reserve Finger Lakes Pinot Noir
12.8% alc., pH 3.61, TA 0.67, 126 cases. This wine is named after
the Gaelic phrase that translates as “My Pulse,” “My Heartbeat,” or
more colloquially as “My Darling.” Third release from the sustainably
farmed estate vineyard. Clones 4, 90, 777, 97, 115, 667 and “828.”
100% whole cluster. Aged 19 months in Francois Fréres French oak
barrels, 18% new.
Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Brooding
aromas of cherry and earthy flora. Inviting on the palate, with mid
weight flavors of dark cherry and berry and a subtle savory thread.
Nicely balanced, with reserved tannins and a juicy finish with some
2016 Heart & Hands Finger Lakes Pinot Noir
13.4% alc., pH 3.52, TA 0.68, 478 cases. 55% Elaine’s
Vineyard Seneca Lake, 28% Patrician Verona Vineyard Cayuga Lake and 17% Nutt Road Vineyard Seneca
Lake. 50% whole cluster co-fermented with de-stemmed grapes in one-ton bins. Basket pressed, aged 12
months in Francois Fréres French oak barrels, 11% new.
Light ruby red color in the glass. Nicely perfumed with
aromas of cherry, spice and friendly oak. A charming wine with appealing elegance and a soothing texture,
featuring mid weight flavors of red cherry and strawberry backed by a bit of toasty oak. The finish is shallow
and somewhat astringent.
2016 Heart & Hands Elaine’s Vineyard Clone 115 Reserve Finger Lakes Pinot Noir
13.3% alc., pH 3.65,
TA 0.63, 48 cases. This vineyard overlooks the eastern shores of Seneca Lake and is located in an area known
as the “Banana Belt” in the Finger Lakes AVA. 100% clone 115, 3.6 tons per acre. 50% whole cluster. Aged 12
months in Francois Fréres French oak barrels. Unfiltered.
Light garnet color in the glass. Aromas of red cherry,
underbrush and wood. Firm tannins envelope the mid weight core of dark red cherry fruit and lead to some
astringency on the finish. The best feature of this wine is the juicy acidity, but the tannins are too imposing at
2016 Heart & Hands Elaine’s Vineyard Clone 667 Reserve Finger Lakes Pinot Noir
13.1% alc., pH 3.61,
TA 0.63, 48 cases. 100% clone 667, 3.6 tons per acre. Aged 12 months in Francois Fréres French oak barrels.
Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Very appealing aromas of black cherry and spicy oak. A
middleweight styled wine with a core of fresh, dark red cherry fruit enlivened by a good grip of acidity. The
tannins are more reserved in this wine and oak is kept in the background.
2016 Heart & Hands Nutt Road Vineyard Finger Lakes Pinot Noir
12.9% alc., pH 3.63, TA 0.58, 49 cases.
Clones 115, 667 and 777, yield 2.6 tons per acre. Each clone vinified separately. 50% whole cluster cofermented
with 50% de-stemmed grapes. Aged 12 months in Francois Fréres French oak barrels.
red color in the glass. The nose is oak inspired with aromas of dark roast, toast and chocolate with cherry in
the background. Light to mid weight in style, featuring flavors of cherry, strawberry and baking spices framed by
firm, but not imposing tannins. The finish is modest and there is a little too much oak at play for my taste.
2017 Heart & Hands Finger Lakes Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., pH 3.55, TA 0.67, 466 cases, $25.99. Sourced
from Heart & Hands Estate Vineyard, Elaine’s Vineyard, Nutt Road Vineyard and Patrician Verona Vineyard.
Clones 4, 90, 97, 115, 667, 777 and “828”, yield 1.9 tons per acre. 40% whole cluster. Aged 12 months in
Francois Fréres French oak barrels, 11% new.
Light ruby red color in the glass. Aromas of rhubarb with a little
volatile acidity. Light in weight, with flavors of red cherry, raspberry and strawberry. Elegant in style, with a hint
of blood orange and nutty oak. The gruff tannins emerge on the short finish.
2017 Heart & Hands Polarity Finger Lakes Pinot Noir Blanc
12.9% alc., pH 3.54, TA 0.57, 104
cases, $29.99. Whole cluster basket pressed immediately following the hand sorting to minimize
skin contact, creating a pale-colored juice. The juice was barrel fermented and underwent a
secondary malolactic fermentation. The wine was aged on the lees for 10 months in Francois
Fréres French oak barrels with stirring about every 3 days to enhance the mouthfeel and add
Moderately light apricot color in the glass. Aromas of macerated peach, apricot, wheat
grain and a medicinal note. Mid weight flavors of yellow peach, butter cake, apricot, melon and
honey. Soft and slightly creamy in texture, with modest tannins and some finish. A curious wine that
doesn’t fit a slot.
Cristom Vineyards: One of America’s Greatest Wineries Delivers (Again)
Cristom was founded by Paul Gerrie, a petroleum engineer and researcher that had a passion for wine. On his
many travels to France, he found the traditional growing practices of Burgundy to be appealing and realized
that soil and site, the mainstays of terroir, were key in producing complex Pinot Noir. After attending the 1991
International Pinot Noir Celebration in McMinnville, Oregon, he was inspired enough the following year to leave
the East Coast with his family in tow to pursue his love of Pinot Noir in Oregon’s burgeoning wine country. He
bought a small winery and vineyard in the Eola-Amity Hills, and named his new winery Cristom, after his two
children, Chris and Tom.
Gerrie’s dream could not be complete without a winemaker. Enter Steve Doerner, a biochemist by training
whose passion for Pinot Noir was inspired by working at Calera Vineyards with owner Josh Jensen and
studying under Jacques Seysses of Domaine Dujac in Burgundy. Doerner considers Jacques as his most
The engineer and the biochemist worked together to develop their vision in 1992 and have since established
Cristom Vineyards as an iconic Oregon winery producing outstanding Pinot Noirs with a Burgundian sensitivity.
Paul Gerrie has now retired, but his son, Tom, carries on as the current proprietor and manager.
Today, Cristom Vineyards consists of nine distinct vineyards on 65 acres in the Eola-Amity Hills of Oregon’s
Willamette Valley. All but Marjorie Vineyard are planted to high density (about 2300 vines per acre) and yields are
The Pinot Noir vineyards (named after Paul Gerrie’s family members) include Marjorie Vineyard (the only one
of the currently existing vineyards retained when the property was purchased in 1992 and the only one kept on
its own roots with the original spacing of 605 vines per acre), Louise (9.31 acres and the first vineyard Cristom
began planting in 1993; Dijon clones 113, 114, 115, 77 and Pommard planted in diverse soils), Jessie (11.53
acres established in 1994 and one of the steepest planted in the Willamette Valley; Pommard and Dijon clones
115, 114, 667 and 777), and Eileen (16.61 acres planted in 1997 and 2006, and the largest and highest
elevation planting of Pinot Noir on the estate; Dijon clones 114, 115, 777, Pommard 4 and Wädenswil 1A).
Another Pinot Noir vineyard, the Paul Gerrie Vineyard, was in its third leaf in 2017. Pinot Gris, Viognier,
Chardonnay and Syrah are also planted as separate vineyards. All vineyards are biodynamically farmed and
certified sustainable. Viticulturist Mark Feltz has bee at Cristom Vineyards since its beginning in 1992.
Cristom Vineyards is a rarity among Oregon wine producers in that every varietal produced offers uncommon
excellence and consistency year in and year out. But it is the Pinot Noirs that have caught my fancy for many
years because of their whole cluster inclusion in the ferment and the resulting age ability. Doerner only works
with native yeasts, without a cold soak, employs minimal fining and racking and no filtration. His are not fairy
Many domestic wineries claim to produce “Burgundian” Pinot Noir, but Cristom is one of the very few that can
truly make that claim. Line up some great red Burgundies and 2017 Cristom vineyard-designates and taste
them together blind. Convinced? The balance of these wines leads to improvement in the cellar and the scores
will be even higher when these wines are tasted again in 5 to 7 years.
Taste the wines of Cristom Vineyards yourself. The winery is open to the public seven days a week from
11am-5pm. Walk-in tasting options are only $15 per flight and waived with a 2-bottle purchase. Private tasting
options are offered by reservation. Visit www.cristomvineyards.com. Some of the wines are released in half-bottles
allowing for earlier consumption. There are also magnums available. Availability is good, with the wines
sold on the website and distributed widely to restaurants and retailers.
2017 Cristom Mt. Jefferson Cuvée Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., 10,000 cases, $35.
The embodiment of the Cristom style combining whole cluster inclusion and native fermentation
with a focus on special vineyard sites. A blend of grapes from each of the estate vineyards (60%)
and fruit sourced from neighboring vineyards in the Willamette Valley (40%). Stylistically the most
approachable Pinot Noir in its youth. Clones 113, 114, 115, 667, 777, “828,” Pommard and
Wädenswil. 47% whole clusters, native yeast fermentation, aged 11 months in French oak barrels,
20% new. Fined with egg whites and unfiltered.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. The nose is
more savory than fruity, featuring aromas of burnt tobacco, exotic spices and turned earth. Mid weight flavors of
purple and black berry fruits are laden with earthiness. Silken in texture, with modest tannins showing up on
the finish. Unchanged when tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle.
2017 Cristom Jessie Vineyard Eola-Amity Hills Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., pH
3.71, TA 0.54, 917 cases, $65. this vineyard is one of the steepest vineyard sites in the Willamette
Valley. 51% whole clusters, native yeast fermentation, aged 18 months in French oak barrels, 53%
new. Fined with egg whites and unfiltered.
Moderately light garnet color in the glass. A beguiling
nose of black cherry, black raspberry and baking spice aromas. The core of gently oak-embossed
darker berry and stone fruits attracts notice on entry and finish. Trim and toned, with reserved
tannins and a spectacular finish that lingers. I was still taken by this wine when tasted the following
day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle.
2017 Cristom Louise Vineyard Eola-Amity Hills Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., 725
cases, $65. Unfiltered.
Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Enthralling aromas of muddled
cherry and sous bois. Very juicy, with vivid flavors of purple and black fruits and spice. Impeccable
balance, with an energetic and extremely long finish. Choose any superlative you want. I fell hard for
this one that was still enchanting when tasted the following day from a previously opened and recorked
2017 Cristom Eileen Vineyard Eola-Amity Hills Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., pH
3.63, TA 0.56, 876 cases, $65. Clones 114, 115, 777, Pommard and Wädenswil. 48% whole
clusters, native yeast fermentation, aged 18 months in French oak barrels, 67% new. Fined with egg
whites and unfiltered.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. This wine has more tannic “guts,” but also
the most concentrated fruit. Lovely aromas of dark red cherry, spice, brioche and rose petal. Mid
weight plus in style, featuring waves of dark red and purple fruits that saturate the palate. Bold, yet
charming, with enough juicy acidity to balance the tannic backbone. I was more enamored with the
wine when tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. Merci!
2017 Cristom Marjorie Vineyard Eola-Amity Hills Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., pH
3.60, TA 0.55, 384, cases, $65. Clones are Pommard, Wädenswil and Dijon 115 and 777. 51% whole
clusters, native yeast fermentation, aged 18 months in French oak barrels, 75% new. Fined with egg
whites and unfiltered.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Brooding aromas of black cherry, rose and
leaf. The fruit trends more to the dark red spectrum in this middleweight wine. The ripe tannins are in
gorgeous balance, and the lasting finish soars with exceptional cherry goodness. More expressive
and more seductive when tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle.
2017 Cristom Eola-Amity Hills Willamette Valley Estate Syrah
13.5% alc., pH 3.51, TA 0.63, $50. Produced
from only 1.24 acres in extremely limited quantities. This wine has a cult following. 31% whole clusters, native
yeast fermentation, full malolactic fermentation in barrel, aged 19 months in French oak barrels, 36% new.
Fined with egg whites and unfiltered.
Dark garnet color in the glass. Aromas of black cherry, sassafras, spice,
fertile earth and botanical elements. Mid weight plus in concentration, offering an array of purple and black
berry fruit flavors with a bit of tobacco oak chiming in. The suede tannins make for easy approachability and
there is noticeable density and length on the boysenberry-led finish.
The Last Word on the History of Winery Mailing Lists
In the May 1, 2019 issue of the PinotFile, I presented historical research that indicated that Stony Hill Vineyard
was the first California winery to offer a mailing list to its consumer base, dating to the early 1950s.
Shortly after publishing this article, I received an email from a reader, Chuck Hayward, who pointed out that
Mayacamas Vineyards may have had an active mailing list and sent out newsletters dating back to the 1940s.
So I engaged the Library Research Services at the UC Davis Wine Library (Lee Riggs, Julianne Ballou) and the St. Helena Public Library that houses the Napa Valley Wine Library Association Collection (Lynn Albrecht) to help me discover when
Mayacamas began mailing newsletters to their customer base. My thanks go out to these library staff members for their prompt and dedicated assistance.
In 1941, Jack and Mary Taylor bought the J.H. Fischer Winery (built in 1885) and the surrounding 260 acres
located on Mount Veeder in the Mayacamas Mountains. They bonded the winery in 1947, renamed the winery,
Mayacamas Vineyards, and initially planted mainly Chardonnay with smaller amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon.
The first release was in 1953 and consisted of 94 bottles of a 1951 Chardonnay. They also produced wine
under the Lokoya label from purchased grapes.
In 1968, the Taylors sold the winery to Robert and Elinor Travers who produced Cabernet Sauvignon,
Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and a small amount of Pinot Noir. Charles and Ali Banks in partnership with
retail entrepreneur Jay Schottenstein and his son, Joey, purchased Mayacamas Vineyards in 2013. By 2017,
the Schottenstein family acquired 100% ownership.’
According to Charles L. Sullivan, writing in A Companion to California Wine (1998), the Taylors began
publishing a newsletter in 1949 that included family recipes, vintage reports and happenings at the winery. The
UC Davis Wine Library does not have copies of the Mayacamas Vineyards newsletter, but a reference to the
newsletter was found in an interview with Jack Taylor, titled History of Napa Valley - Interview and
Reminiscences of Long-Time Residents. In the interview, Jack was asked how they sold the wine and he said
that they had a mailing list.
Some of the winery bulletins sent to shareholders (they incorporated in 1958) were located. The earliest one in
the library is Bulletin #48, “Eleventh Anniversary Issue,” dated October-November, 1960. This would suggest
that the Taylors started the bulletins in 1949.
Further digging by Lynn Albrecht’s son, Braiden Albrecht, the current winemaker at Mayacamas, unveiled the
first Mayacamas Bulletin, dated November 1949 (a scanned copy is below). I have also included for interest
Bulletin #2, 1950, that shows pricing and an order form.
The Library Research Services also uncovered issues of Charles Krug Winery’s newsletter, Bottles & Bins,
from 1949 to 1979, including the first newsletter. Apparently, there were at least two Napa wineries that began
contacting their mailing list customers with a newsletter in 1949.
What about Oregon? The modern era of wine in Oregon did not begin until 1961 at HillCrest (or Hillcrest)
Vineyard in the Umpqua Valley when Richard Sommer planted the first Vitis vinifera vines in Oregon since the
end of Prohibition. The current owner of HillCrest Vineyard, Dyson DeMara, told me that he was unaware of
any bulletins or newsletters sent by Sommer to a mailing list.
The earliest mailings in Oregon were probably by the Letts at The Eyrie Vineyards. According to Diana Lett
(personal communication), Diana and David put out their first mailing in 1972. She said, “We put together a
handsome brochure/announcement of our first Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley. It was professionally
designed, printed on heavy paper and sent to about 400 people that included friends, family but primarily to a
list of customers from Burt Harris, the proprietor of the Harris Wine Shop on NW 23rd St. in Portland where
Burt taught classes and held tastings. I think the first Pinot Noir was offered at $2.50 a bottle. We expected to
sell out immediately upon release of our inaugural wine. We received exactly one response from the Harris
customer list but our friends and family did come through! We realized very graphically then that maybe this
adventure was going to be even harder than we thought.”
Jason Lett sent me a 1976 direct sales mailing from the Eyrie Vineyards. I believe the reader with an interest in
wine history will find this extremely informative. The text is impressively heavy on information and light on
pushy sales tactics. A price list for 1976 is also reproduced here. I asked Jason whether allocations of The
Eyrie Vineyard wines became a part of winery sales, and he said, “Yes allocations were and are still a thing but
we try not to be snobby about it!”
California AVA For Sale Cole Ranch AVA consists of 150 acres in Mendocino County with 55 acres
initially planted to Pinot Noir and Riesling. Esterlina Winery, the original owners, made many fine wines from
this AVA, America’s smallest appellation, a decade ago. The asking price by the Sterling family (formerly of
Esterlina Winery and Everett Ridge Winery) is $3.3 million. Currently only about 20 percent of the vineyard is
Pinot Noir and Riesling with the rest Cabernet Sauvignon.
Five Year Trend of Average Retail Bottle Price by Region:
Older Moderate Alcohol Drinkers Live Longer Results from the 9 Waves of the Health and
Retirement Study that included 16 years of follow-up on cohorts with the baseline mean age of 61 years found
a consistent association between moderate and occasional drinking and lower mortality, though residual
confounding remains a threat to the validity of this study.
Professionals Follow-up Study Research published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology April 29,
2019, found a slightly lower risk of lethal prostate cancer among cancer-free men who consumed alcohol
versus abstainers. Researchers also observed a lower risk of progression to lethal disease in relation to red
wine consumption among men with prostate cancer. According to findings, moderate alcohol consumption is
safe for patients with prostate cancer.
Histamine in Wine I have written about histamine in wine including many of the misconceptions in the
past. Huon Hooke wrote an excellent article that was published June 6, 2019 at www.therealreview.com/
2019/06/06/histamine-and-wine/. Double-blind, placebo-controlled studies have shown no correlation
between histamine in wine and adverse food reactions. However, the presence of histamine in wine may lead
to an adverse reaction when the wine is consumed together with other histamine-containing foods such as
tomato, spinach and cheeses.
Résonance Opens Tasting RoomThe famed French producer, Louis Jadot, acquired the
Résonance Vineyard in 2013 and the Découverte Vineyard in the Dundee Hills. Résonance Vineyard is a 20-
acre, dry-farmed estate that was first planted in 1981. The winery also sources grapes from Hyland Vineyard.
In late May 2019, the Resonance winery and tasting room were opened just outside of Carlton at the
Résonance Vineyard property. The new winery and tasting room has three buildings inspired by the barns of
Oregon, featuring earthy wood and stone materials, large windows overlooking the vineyard, and a sprawling,
west-facing terrace for guests to enjoy the stunning views of the estate and the coastal range. The exterior
lumber of the tasting room is 100% reclaimed wood from dilapidated covered bridges and barns in the Pacific
Northwest. The tasting room will be open daily. Visit www.resonancewines.com.
Oregon’s First White Pinot Noir An article published online at www.oregonlive.com by Michael
Alberty details the author’s search for the first white Pinot Noir produced in Oregon. He found a bottle of 1971
vintage Humbug Winery White Pinot Noir in the Douglas County Museum of Natural and Cultural History in
Roseburg (Umpqua Valley). The Pinot Noir vines were cultivated from cuttings given to him by Richard
Sommer who founded HillCrest Vineyard. The exact year the Pinot Noir cuttings were planted is not known for
sure, with Scott Henry, III of Henry Estate Winery claiming 1965 or 1966 and Andrea Mafit, the daughter of Dr.
T.R. “Ted” Mafit. who founded Humbug Winery, thinking it was 1967 or 1968. Alberty relays an important
historical story that has been absent from all Oregon wine history books and writings.
00 Wines Focuses on Oregon Chardonnay and a Project in France All three 00 2017
Chardonnays submitted for review to James Suckling received 97 point scores: the 2017 00 VGW, EGW and
Seven Springs Vineyard Chardonnays. Among the 451 wines tasted, no other Oregon winery received 97
points for a 2017 Chardonnay and it is likely no Oregon winery has ever received three 97 point ratings for
Chardonnay in a single vintage. The three 00 Pinot Noirs were also scored highly: 2016 00 Shea Vineyard 96,
2017 00 Shea 95, and 2017 VGR 00 VGR 95. I have not reviewed these wines personally. A 2017 00 Corton
Charlemagne and a 00 Blanc de Blanc Champagne will be coming to the U.S. this fall. Visit
Anne Moller-Racke Leaves Donum Estate for Blue Farm Wines After 18 years, Anne
Moller-Racke has stepped away from the Donum Estate, as President and Winegrower, to devote her time into
building Blue Farm Wines. In 1999, Anne purchased a farmhouse property in southwest Sonoma that included
a historical Victorian house, now her home, and a 10-acre parcel of which seven acres were planted to Pinot
Noir beginning in 2001 (Anna Katherina Vineyard). Blue Farm Wines was launched in 2013 with the addition of
a like-minded partner and his 1861 Pinot Noir vineyard. The Moller-Racke family purchased Buena Vista,
California’s first winery in 1979. Anne Moller-Racke followed in 1981 from Germany, developing 1,000 estate
acres and leading the viticulture efforts for Buena Vista Carneros Winery. Donum Estate was founded in 2001
and Anne developed that winery’s 170 acres of estate vineyards, establishing 40 world-renowned art
instillations and finishing a new state-of-the-art winery and hospitality center. Blue Farm Wines produces Pinot
Noir and Chardonnay from five vineyards and five AVAs within Sonoma County including Carneros, Fort Ross-
Seaview, Sonoma Valley, Russian River Valley and the Sonoma Coast. The common thread is rigorous farming
and caregiving to the growing of the grapes while keeping winemaking traditional. To learn more about Blue
Farm wines, visit www.bluefarmwines.com.
Sophie James Vineyards: A Social Media Darling This winery brand was largely built by its
popular Instagram account. Sophie and James Gray acquired a 5-acre Pinot Noir vineyard property in 2010
that included 130 acres (@sophiejameswine) located at 2,300 feet elevation on top of Sonoma Mountain.
Popularity has taken off largely by word of mouth and social media and the small production of wine is all sold
direct to consumers. Wine club members are labeled members of the Sophie James’ “Tribe” and are invited to
exclusive events such as high-end chef dinners on the mountaintop (something Scribe Winery in Sonoma
Valley pioneered a number of years ago). The lifestyle winery has an ever-expanding wait list. For the full story
behind Sohiie James’ Exclusive Wine Brand and Club visit www.sonomamag.com/the-story-behind-sophiejames-
Winery Opts For Reusable Wine Bottles Coopers Hall Winery in Portland, Oregon, was the first
keg-only winery in Oregon and is now the first winery in the country to bottle its wine in reusable bottles. the
brown-colored bottles used are actually beer bottles that have been used for Oregon’s refillable beer bottle
program that started in 2018. Each bottle can be washed and reused at least 25 times, reducing CO2
emissions significantly (typically wine bottles are crushed and recycled which takes a large amount of energy).
Coopers Hall Winery is selling refillable bottles of Pinot Noir wine priced at #12 a piece (each bottle has three
servings instead of the five servings in the traditional 750 ml wine bottle). Visit www.coopershall.com.
West of West Wine Festival West Sonoma Coast Vintners presents the 2019 West of West Wine
Festival in Occidental, CA, on Saturday, August 17. A VIP Library Tasting ($125) and a Consumer Tasting
($100) of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah will be offered. Your favorites West Sonoma Coast wineries will be
pouring including Alma Fria, Balletto, Banshee, Ceritas, DuMol, Ernest, Failla, Flowers, Freeman, Gros Ventre,
Hirsch, Joseph Phelps, Littorai, Occidental, Paul Hobbs, Peay Vineyards, RAEN, Whistler, Red Car, Senses,
Small Vines and Wayfarer. For more information and tickets, visit www.westsonomacoast.com.
Santa Cruz Mountains AVA Fall EventsThe Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrowers Association
(SCMWA) announces seven upcoming Fall events. Saturday, August 24, 2019: Taste of the Mountains offers
wines from 16 winemakers in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Sunday, September 1, 2019: Barrels of Corralitos
offers wines from six Santa Cruz Mountains wineries. Sunday, September 8, 2019: Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot
Noir and Chardonnay will flow under the stars at Deer Park Ranch along with a farm-to-table dinner. Saturday,
October 12, 2019: Four wineries from Montebello Road in Cupertino will offer a day of wine tasting, food and
entertainment. Saturday, November 2, 2019: Premier Cruz, A Mountain Cabernet Experience Harvest Dinner at
House Family Vineyards. Saturday, November 16, 2019: Santa Cruz Mountains November Passport Day
welcomes attendees to over 50 wineries throughout the Santa Cruz Mountains. Saturday, December 7, 2019:
Taste of the Mountains Wine Walk in downtown Menlo Park. Tickets for all events can be purchased at
www.scmwa.com. For more information, email email@example.com.
Four Year Trend of Tasting Fees: