PinotFile: 12.19 June 13, 2021
- Winemaker Bill Brosseau Works Magic at Testarossa Winery
- Sojourn Cellars: Consistency is a Defining Feature
- Wine Briefs
Winemaker Bill Brosseau Works Magic at Testarossa Winery
Veteran winemaker Bill Brosseau must have secretly discovered an ancient tome on wine alchemy because he
is able to work magic with a geographically diverse range of California vineyards. Two wines stood out for me:
the 2019 Sierra Mar Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir and the 2019 La Rinconada Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir.
Over the years, I have tasted many Pinot Noir wines from these two disparate, established vineyards that were crafted by
multiple producers, but Bill’s 2019 versions are the best that I have ever experienced from these two sources. There
are several other 2019 Testarossa Pinot Noirs to highly recommend as well.
I am not alone in praising Testarossa wines and the winery has consistently received accolades from the
nation’s most well-known wine critics. The lineup of 2019 vintage Pinot Noir wines included in this issue was
the first that I have had the opportunity to review.
Bill is not some johnny-come-lately to winemaking, particularly at Testarossa. He is a second-generation
Monterey County winegrower who grew up farming grapes and received his technical training at UC Davis. Bill
was recruited by a former mentor, Ed Kurtzman, and joined Testarossa Winery as an enologist in 2000, quickly
rose to assistant winemaker and by February 2003 had become Director of Winemaking, a position he
continues to hold to this day.
Bill also has his own business, Brosseau Wines, since 2019, sourcing fruit from his family’s estate in the
Gabilan Mountain Range located in Monterey County’s Chalone AVA. He is much in demand as a viticultural
and winemaking consultant and oversees vineyard farming at both Eden Estate Wines in Saratoga and Black
Ridge Vineyards in Los Gatos.
Testarossa Winery was started by proprietors Rob and Diana Jensen in 1993. It was a true Silicon Valley startup
that began in the Jensen’s Silicon Valley garage. The winery name, Testarossa, is derived from the Italian
word meaning “red-head, a nickname Rob had while a university student in Italy. The turning point in the
winery’s history came in 1997 when Rob got a call from Gary Pisoni offering him some Pinot Noir grapes. The
rest is history, so to speak.
The winery is located at the historic Novitiate Winery in downtown Los Gatos, functioning as both a working
winery and a dramatic setting for visitors. Each year, the Testarossa Winery invests in repairing and improving
the old facility.
The focus is on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from vineyards extending throughout California from the Russian
River Valley AVA in the North Coast to the Sta. Rita Hills in the Central Coast. Production is about 30,000 cases
annually. Vineyard-designated Pinot Noir wines not reviewed here include Brosseau Vineyard, Doctor’s
Vineyard, Dos Rubios Vineyard, Fogstone Vineyard, Graham Family Vineyard, Guidotti Vineyard, La
Encantada Vineyard, Pisoni Vineyard, Rincon Vineyard, Soberanes Vineyard, and Tondré Grapefield.
The most noteworthy finding on style is that all the Pinot Noir wines have excellent acidity infusing the wines
with juiciness and brightness as well as quenching finishes.
Read more about Testarossa Winery and tasting options at www.testarossa.com.
2019 Testarossa Cuvée Los Gatos Monterey Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., pH 3.45, TA 0.64, 2, 285 cases, $31,
screw cap. Released May 2021. Cellared and bottled by Testarossa Winery, Los Gatos, CA.
garnet color in the glass. Reserved aromas of cherry and oak spice. A straightforward easy drinking Pinot Noir
very adaptable to food in a mid-weight style offering flavors of cherry and strawberry. Silky in texture, with
minimal tannins and a modest finish.
2019 Testarossa Santa Rita Hills Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., pH 3.31, TA 0.66, 552 cases, $54.
Released April 2021. Aged 14 months in French oak barrels, 43% new.
Moderate garnet color in the glass.
Very alluring nose featuring scents of black cherry, black raspberry, baking spices and wine cave. Fresh and
juicy with an arrow of acidity complimenting the mid-weight core of cherry, raspberry and exotic spice flavors.
Easygoing tannins and quite lengthy on the finish. An impressive expression of the Sta. Rita Hills AVA .
2019 Testarossa Sanford & Benedict Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., pH 3.25, TA 0.68, 576 cases, $74.
Released April 2021. Aged 15 months in French oak barrels,
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Aromas of
dark cherry and baking spice pick up intensity over time in the
glass. A very comforting, velvety mouthfeel creates a favorable
initial impression. Mid-weight flavors of cherry and raspberry are
accompanied by a thread of citrus in the background. Aciddriven
freshness and vibrancy add to the appeal. The finish is
persistent and quenching.
2019 Testarossa La Rinconada Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., pH 3.21, TA 0.71, 575
cases, $74. Released May 2021. Aged 17 months in French oak barrels, 57% new.
Moderate garnet color in
the glass. Soaring aromas of blackberry fruit, dark rose petal and wine cave. An exceptional wine with midweight
flavors of black cherry and blueberry-pomegranate accented with welcome spice. Quite forward and
giving with impressive purity of Pinot extract and gracious balance. There is a hint of earthiness that I find
common in Pinot Noir from this vineyard. Even better when tasted several hours later and the following day
from a previously opened bottle. The best La Rinconada Pinot Noir I have ever tasted.
2019 Testarossa Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., pH 3.43, TA 0.65, 2,544 cases, $53.
Released May 2021. Aged 11 months in French oak barrels, 46% new.
Moderate garnet color in the glass.
Nicely perfumed with scents of black cherry, vanilla cola and musk. Middleweight in concentration, with flavors
of dark cherry, ripe strawberry and raspberry backed by gentle tannins. Easygoing with a modest but satisfying
2019 Testarossa Rosella’s Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., pH 3.32, TA 0.70, 474
cases, $74. Aged 14 months in French oak barrels, 57% new.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Reserved
aroma of dusty cherry leads to a middleweight styled wine with dark cherry and boysenberry fruit flavors that
stick to the palate. Elegant in manner with good harmony and noticeable persistence on the pleasing spiceendowed
2019 Testarossa Garys’ Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., pH 3.19, TA 0.75, 600
cases, $76. Release June 2021. Aged 16 months in French oak barrels, 57% new.
Moderate garnet color in the
glass. Nicely composed perfume with scents of cherry, red grape, red rose petal and peppery herbs. Light to
mid-weight in style with a glorious charge of vivid, spicy black cherry fruit. Amazingly long in the mouth and on
the generous finish. Very polished with enviable harmony. At this stage, the palate far exceeds the nose in
2019 Testarossa Sierra Mar Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., pH 3.42, TA 0.74, 192
cases, $74. Release June 2021. Aged 18 months in French oak barrels, 65% new.
Moderate garnet color in the
glass. an immensely satisfying wine with aromas of cherry, rose petal, spice and clover. A delicious cherry core
attacks and soaks the mid palate and lingers what seems like an eternity on the finish. The deep Bing cherry
goodness is accented with flavors of strawberry, red raspberry and cardamom spice. Seamless in texture with
impeccable harmony. Even more striking when tasted the following day from a previously opened bottle. The
best Sierra Mar Pinot Noir among many that I have tasted through the years. Flat out great.
2019 Testarossa Cortada Alta Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., pH 3.72, TA 0.57,
175 cases, $74. Released February 2021. Aged 14 months in French oak barrels, 73% new.
color in the glass. Aromas of dark cherry, tilled earth and roseate. Mid-weight plus in style, offering earth-kissed
flavors of cherry and berry framed by some unresolved tannin. There is a slight guaiacol (smoke) undertone.
2019 Testarossa Rosemary’s Vineyard, Arroyo Grande Valley Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., pH 3.40. TA 0.66,
400cases, $74. Released May 2021. Aged 17 months in French oak barrels, 63% new.
Dark garnet color in the
glass. Shy but pleasing aromas of black cherry, terra-cotta, underbrush and slight toasty oak. Extremely
engaging on the palate with a flourish of sappy dark cherry, black raspberry and blackberry fruit flavors. Clearly
a special wine that is appealingly rich yet welcoming with complimentary tannins and a very long finish. This
wine hits all the bass notes typical of the Wädenswil 2A clone.
2019 Testrossa Niclaire California Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., pH 3.36, TA .67, 619 cases, $100. Released May
2021. Aged 16 months in French oak barrels, 62% new. This wine is named after Testarossa founders Rob and
Diana’s children Nick and Claire. The beautiful appointed bottle represents the finest barrels in the cellar.
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Enticing aromas of dusty rose, Bing cherry, black raspberry coulis,
vanilla and toasty oak. Long on the palate and finish, offering middleweight flavors of blueberry and blackberry.
Very polished with modest tannins and a compliment of oak. This wine taps into all the pleasure centers now
but is still somewhat gruff and closed. Better when sampled the following day from a previously opened and recorked
bottle showing more sweet Pinot fruit and an explosive, very long finish. This wine reminded me of the
2019 Rosemary’s Vineyard bottling.
Besides his winemaking endeavors, Bill Brosseau has his own company, Brosseau Wine Design. He is a
liquid architect that can install a vineyard as part of a custom wine project. His twenty years of expertise as
both a viticulturist and winemaker along with his knowledge of organic winegrowing methods and his track
record of crafting award-winning wines guarantees a client’s new home vineyard and eventual vintages will be
truly exceptional. Bill’s services cover the Bay Area and Central Coast. For more information and testimonials,
contact Bill at email@example.com, or phone 800-537-9317.
Sojourn Cellars: Consistency is a Defining Feature
Sojourn Cellars, based in Sonoma, is a model of consistency for many years. The winery specializes in Pinot
Noir, Chardonnay, and Cabernet Sauvignon from Sonoma and Napa counties. Although the winery owns no
vineyards, the winemaking staff helps direct all farming operations in at least sixteen vineyard sources.
The winemaking staff consists of Direct of Winemaking Erich Bradley, who has been at the winery since the
beginning, Associate Winemaker Randy Bennett, who also has been part of the winery for years, and Assistant
Winemaker Rob Sanford. Erich (left) and Randy (right) are in the photo below.
Pinot Noir winemaking consists of 100% de-stemming, whole berry native fermentations in small open-top
fermenters, hand punch-downs, gentle basket pressing, and avoidance of pumps. The wines are bottled
unfined and unfiltered. Most Pinot Noir wines are Dijon clone-driven. Both the 2018 and 2019 vintages had
relatively mild seasons allowing for long and slow grape maturation. Yields were slightly lower in 2019 resulting
in more concentration in the wines.
Check the website at www.sojourncellars.com for current tasting availability at the tasting salon in the town of
Sonoma. The majority of Sojourn Cellars wines are sold through a mailing list with some availability at the
winery’s website store.
In January 2020, the winery was sold to winemaker Angela Mondavi who is a member of the iconic Napa
Valley family and Sonoma Best Hospitality Group. The brand remains intact with co-founders Craig Haserot
and Erich Brandley still involved. Winemaking has moved to the former Ravenswood Winery facility) (now
owned by Angela) at 18701 Gehricke Road in Sonoma. The 2018 and 2019 vintage wines reviewed here were
produced and bottled in Santa Rosa.
2018 Sojourn Gap’s Crown Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.6% alc., pH 3.67, TA 0.59, 1,025 cases,
$69. Released spring 2020. Vineyard has extremely rocky and divigorating soil. Clones 115, faux 828 and 667
fermented separately and then blended. 10% whole cluster ferment. Aged in 50% new French oak barrels.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Reserved aromas of blue and black berries, grass and old wood. Midweight
in style and creamy in texture, with an array of ripe dark fruits underlain with a smoky note.
Disappointing for Gap’s Crown Vineyard bottling as a bit shallow on the mid palate and a very modest finish
that displays some alcoholic warmth.
2019 Sojourn Gap’s Crown Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.6% alc., pH 3.59, TA 0;.57, 850 cases,
$69. Released spring 2021. Vineyard is situated at 800 feet elevation with volcanic soils. Winds from the
Petaluma Gap are frequent as are foggy nights. Clones 115 (planted in 2005 and the foundation of the wine),
faux 828 (planted in 2002) and 667 (planted in 2004).10% whole cluster ferment. Aged in 40% new French oak
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Pleasant aromas of blueberry-pomegranate, potpourri and
mulch. Full-bodied with a bold charge of blue and black fruits. Sleek, with modest tannins and a decent finish. A
big boy wine that shows balance at a high ABV.
2018 Sojourn Sangiacomo Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
alc., pH 3.80, TA 0.59, 800 cases, $59. Released January 2020.
Vineyard is located on Roberts Road at the base of Sonoma
Mountain. Cool ocean breezes and Petaluma Gap fog allow for
long hang time. Clones 115 (planted in 1998), 777 (planted in
1999), Swan and Mt. Eden. 100%-de-stemmed, aged in 50%
new French oak barrels.
Moderately dark garnet color in the
glass. Really nice scent of purple grape and berry that is like
the smell of opening a jar of Knott’s Berry Farm boysenberry
jam. Mid-weight plus in style, with an array ofd purple berry
fruits and added spice. Very fresh with minimal tannins and
great harmony. The wine snakes across the palate with ease.
The alcohol ids submerged but don’t drink at more than 70
2019 Sojourn Sangiacomo Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., pH 3.62, TA 0.56, 700 cases, $59.
Released spring 2021. Clones 115, Swan and Mt. Eden. Aged in 50% new French oak barrels.
garnet color in the glass. Aromas of black cherry, purple grape, underbrush and oak spice.The succulent deep
cherry core satisfies as does the soft mouthfeel. The cherry-themed finish has some length but there is a slight
bit of alcoholic hotness that detracts.
2018 Sojourn Ridgetop Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.4% alc., pH 3.70, TA 0.56, 400 cases, $59.
Release fall 2020. Vineyard is owned and managed by Thomas Rivers Brown and Fred Schrader. A remote
location near Annapolis at 1,000 feet elevation. Goldridge soils with a collection of sandstone and remnants of
an ancient seabed. Clones 115, 667 and 777 fermented separately and then blended. 100% de-stemmed,
aged in 50% new French oak barrels.
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. The nose offers pleasing
aromas of dark berries, cassis and tilled earth. The essence of purple and black berry fruits is vivid and framed
by cardamom spice. Silky in texture with gracious tannins and impressive generosity on the finish.
2019 Sojourn Ridgetop Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.4% alc., pH 3.56, TA 0.56, 400 cases, $69.
Tiny clusters and small berry sizes in this vintage led to greater concentration in the finished wine. Aged in 50%
new French oak barrels.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. The nose opens over time in the glass to reveal
aromas of black cherry and baking spices. Somewhat reserved but still engaging in a mid-weight style with
flavors of purple and black berry complimented with toasty oak. Nicely composed with felty tannins and a
satisfying purple-fruited finish.
2018 Sojourn Riddle Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.4% alc., pH 3.60, TA 0.60, 400 cases, $59.
Released fall 2020. Vines planted at high density in Goldridge soil. Clones 115, faux 828, Pommard and Mt.
Eden clones. 100% de-stemmed, aged in 50% new French oak barrels.
Dark garnet color in the glass. Very
shy aromas of earthy dark fruits and toasty oak. Full-bodied, fruit-driven style featuring flavors of black
raspberry, blueberry and pomegranate nicely spiced. Velvety in texture and some length on the mid-palate and
finish. Ripe, teeth-staining fruit is not usually my cup of tea but this wine does satisfy in its own sturdy way.
There is a hint of alcoholic warmth on the finish.
2019 Sojourn Riddle Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.4% alc., pH 3.63, TA 0.55, 400 cases, $59.
Release in August 2021. Pommard and Mt. Eden clones form the base of this wine. Aged in 50% new French
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. A little coaxing is necessary to release the aromas of
cherry, blueberry and clay. A middleweight core of dark cherry and strawberry fruit flavors make an impression.
There is a bit of savory spice and earthiness as well. Nicely balanced with a good beam of acidity, a long finish
and only a hint of oak.
2018 Sojourn Reuling Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.4% alc., pH 3.65, TA 0.59, 425 cases, $69.
Released fall 2020. Vineyard is perched on a small hillside at an elevation of 250 feet just off Highway 116
between Graton and Forestville. Goldridge soils. Clones are Calera and two suitcase selections from Vosne-
Romanée. 100% de-stemmed. Three clones fermented separately and then blended prior to bottling. Aged in
50% new French oak barrels.
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Inviting aromas of blackest cherry,
brioche, baking spice and oak stave. An array of dark red fruit flavors are gathered in a mid-weight plus style
showing good energy and gentle tannins. The wine enters with intent but loses focus on exit.
2019 Sojourn Reuling Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.4% alc., pH 3.66, TA 0.58, 400 cases, $69.
Release in August 2021. Aged in 50% new French oak barrels.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Nicely
perfumed with the scent of dark cherry and white pepper. A mid-weight wine offering vivid flavors of black
cherry and black raspberry with a gentle compliment of oak spice. Somewhat reserved with felty tannins and a
persistent finish. When tasted the following day from a previously opened bottle, the wine was still giving up its
charms grudgingly but was pleasant. This wine needs more time in the cellar.
2018 Sojourn Wohler Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., pH 3.70, TS 0.61, 650 cases,
$54. Release fall 2020. The vineyard, located in Forestville, was replanted in 2006. Goldridge soil. Clones 667,
faux 828, 115 and 2A were vinified separately. 100% de-stemmed, aged in 50% new French oak barrels.
Corked - boo-hoo.
2019 Sojourn Wohler Vineyard Sonoma Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., pH 3.63, TA 0.55, 650
cases, $54. Release in August 2021. Aged in 50% new French oak barrels.
Moderate garnet color in the glass.
Aromas of dusty Bing cherry and baking spice. Black cherry cola flavor is the base for this energetic wine that
aims to please. Very modest tannins and some finishing length. Like a white tee shirt, this wine is similarly
adaptable to most situations.
Jim Clendenen Dead at Age 68 Jim, fondly known as “The Mind Behind,” was the founder and
winemaker for Au Bon Climat, a Santa Barbara County winery that grew to an annual 50,000 case production
from its humble beginnings in 1982. His winery, located on the Bien Nacido property, was best known for Pinot
Noir and Chardonnay but Jim toyed with many other varietals. He was famous for the elaborate lunches and
dinners that he cooked for visitors, generously offering many Au Bon Climat library wines to accompany the
meals. Through the years, he hosted many dinner events for attendees of the World of Pinot Noir Despite the
accolades for Jim’s wines, he never jacked up prices to reflect notoriety. He could be outspoken about
California wines, particularly sturdy, higher alcohol ones, preferring instead to craft his wines with reasonable
restraint in a classical style. One of my readers spent a week with Jim as an auction prize and has written in
detail about his experience. Offering considerable insight into Jim’s day-to-day life, this article will appear in a
future issue of the PinotFile.
Another reader and friend, Blake Brown, passed on some thoughts to me about his relationship with Jim. “I first
met Jim in the early 1980s and a few years later connected at a wine tasting. It was like two long-lost brothers
who had just reunited. Yes, wine was the common denominator but it was also about rock and roll, college
hoops and all things sports, travel and eventually food., Being a vegetarian, my food knowledge and choices
were limited but Jim was a budding gourmet cook and I ate everything he made (in smaller portions). Jim
dubbed me a “situational vegetarian.” Both of us had played a significant amount of golf and like everything he
did, Jim engaged the sport with full-on passion and conviction. Over a round of golf during a 15 year or so
timespan, we shared our lives, the good and the not-so-good, and eventually, our golf game was also about
figuring out things in our lives in order to get them right. We shared amazing times together on special
occasions, celebrations and events, but it was the kindred brotherly support that meant the most to me. For
about 30 years, we shared a table(s) at the Central Coast Wine Classic and Jim was always the most active
and gracious bidder. He was not only into supporting charities, he was into supporting people and often bought
auction lots just for that reason. He also created and contributed one-of-a-kind events that always went for top
dollar at auction and rewarded the purchasers beyond their expectations. The guy had a heart of gold. Jim was
the worldwide ambassador for Santa Barbara County wines. There were incredible pioneers before him and
some great vintners during his tenure, but no one brought more attention and awareness to the area. Another
amazing attribute was his wit. He was smart as a whip, and when he combined his intellect with his sense of
humor, he became a lovable stand-up comedian. Wherever he went, he was in command of the audience and
the ambience was filled with joy and laughter. Jim was very supportive of his children as well as other
winemakers. Finally, his choice of dress was unique in that a considerable amount of his wardrobe was one-of-a-
kind Hawaiian shirts.”
Latest News from AIM (Alcohol in Moderation) A study in China, the US, and the UK found
that alcohol consumption is associated with lower disease activity and less incapacity in rheumatoid arthritis
patients. A paper published in the Journal of Affective Disorders concludes that low-to-moderate alcohol
consumption is significantly associated with a lower risk of depressive symptoms on a long-term basis
compared to never drinking. Another paper found a significant decrease in the risk of cataract surgery for low- to-
moderate drinkers, versus non-drinkers. A Danish physician, Erik Skovenborg, has a special interest in the
health benefits of moderate alcohol consumption, For many years, he has lectured extensively on alcohol and
health. In reviewing alcohol consumption and breast cancer risk, he concludes, “A strategy for future risk
communication about alcohol and breast cancer might underline the low risk of light drinking - especially light
drinking with a meal - like a glass of wine or beer sipped slowly during the meal as opposed to drinking alcoholic
beverages on an empty stomach. Despite a dose-dependent association between alcohol and breast cancer
risk, there is some uncertainty on the point of a possible threshold of alcohol consumption above which the
increased risk of breast cancer becomes clinically significant.”
Third Edition of The Science of Wine Jamie Goode has published the third edition of The
Science of Wine, an excellent treatise on the basics of viticulture and wine production. I had read the first two
editions (the first came out in 2005) and was eager to learn from the newest edition. Some older material was
discarded to make room for new material. There are all-new photographs and new chapters on climate, vine
immunity, phenolics, extraction and maceration, wine faults, the evolution of elévage, flotation and stabulation,
the science of sweet wine, and the future. College-educated readers will find the text easily understandable as
Jamie is very good at detailed explanations in relatively plain talk. This is not a boring textbook and I can
recommend it to those hoping to broaden their wine science knowledge. One bit of information that I found valuable: "Some terroirs don't seem to do so well with whole cluster. The whole cluster character rapidly becomes dominant and can appear 'gimmicky'. It doesn't mesh well with the wine, and can give the illusion of complexity but it feels superficial. I have experienced this on a number of occasions.
Wine and Fire Celebrates 20 Years of the Sta. Rita Hills The Sta. Rita Hills Wine Alliance is
marking the 20th anniversary of the Sta. Rita Hills receiving AVA status with its annual Wine and Fire event.
The four days of festivities are August 12-15, 2021. All events will be smaller, outdoor gatherings. Tasting
rooms, hotels, and restaurants are open. The event lineup: Sanford & Benedict Vineyard Tasting August 12, The
History of Sparkling Wines in the Sta. Rita Hills August 13, Dinner Honoring the Pioneers of the Sta. Rita Hills
La Paulee August 13 evening, Time in a Bottle (Tasting older vintages) August 14. The Anniversary Passport
will run from August 12 through 15 with 2 for 1 tasting benefits at participating tasting rooms. For more
information and to purchase tickets when available, visit ww.stritahills.com.
Remember the Good Old Days It seems only yesterday when we could visit a winery and taste wine
for free or for a nominal $10-$15. The average price for a standard tasting fee is now $58 in Napa County and
$30 in Sonoma County. The price for reserve tasting is much higher (averaging $90 in Napa County and $50 in
Sonoma County. Many wineries have abandoned the walk-in tasting experience and gone to appointment only.
Of course in my line of work, I don’t pay any tasting fees at all and that is one of the perks about critiquing wine for free.
Margi Williams Wierenga Dies Margi, the daughter of Burt and Jan Williams, and the owner and winemaker at Brogan Cellars, passed away on June 17. She is survived by a younger sister, Katie, and two sons, Bobby and James. Margi was a teenager in the late 1970s when her father, of Williams Selyem fame, began to make his first wines in a bathtub in a basement below the family's garage. As she grew older, Margi developed her own winemaking skills, becoming a full-fledged part of the winemaking team when the Williams Selyem Winery was relocated to the Allen Vineyard property in Healdsburg. When Williams Selyem was sold in 1997, she started her own label, Brogan Cellars, named after her paternal grandmother. It was a bootstrap business run on a lean $75,000 startup budget. Burt was prohibited from advising her under the non-compete clause included in the sale of Williams Selyem, so she made her stamp alone on Brogan Cellar wines. She initially crafted her first Pinot Noirs in a cramped converted garage and used much of the same rudimentary winemaking equipment that Burt used out of necessity. In 2006, winemaking was moved to a property the Wierengas owned in Hopland and the leased garage in Dry Creek Valley was used as a storage facility, office and intimate tasting room. Margi's distinctive tagline was, "Good, Better, Brogan." During her years at Williams Selyem, she developed valued contacts with premium winegrowers and produced many superb vineyard-designated Pinot Noirs from the Russian River Valley, Sonoma Coast and Anderson Valley. Many of Margi's Pinot Noirs are reviewed in the PinotFile. She retired in 2018 and released her last wines from the 2016 and 2017 vintages. Margi was beloved by many in the wine business including me. Her distinctive laugh will always ring in my conscience.