PinotFile: 7.16 April 18, 2009
- Pinot Noir From the Front Lines
- The 9th Annual World of Pinot Noir
- Pinot Paradise
- 2009 Pinot Noir Summit
- Aromatic & Flavor Elements of Pinot Noir
- New Stars Along the Pinot Trail
- Dancing With the Stars of Pinot in Oregon
- Pinot Briefs
- More Pinot Events
- Petaluma Gap Update
Pinot Noir From the Front Lines
Each year the Pinot Noir festival season on the Pacific Coast kicks off in early March with the World of Pinot
Noir in Shell Beach, California and ends in November with the ¡Salud! Oregon Wine Auction in the Willamette
Valley. Pinot geeks can revel in thirteen major celebrations in succession including Pinot Paradise in the Santa
Cruz Mountains, Pigs and Pinot in Healdsburg, Pinot Summit in Northern California, Petaluma Spring Pinot
Noir Spectacular, Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival, Carneros Heritage Fest, Pinot & Paella in Paso Robles,
Marin County Pinot Noir Festival, Pinot Days in San Francisco and Chicago, International Pinot Noir
Celebration in McMinnville, Oregon, and Pinot on the River in the Russian River Valley. There are numerous
other smaller-scaled events in California and Oregon as well. No other wine variety has more than one big
event in its honor and varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Riesling and Sauvignon
Blanc have none.
To really feel the pulse of Pinot Noir and become indoctrinated into the Pinot Noir fraternity, you must
participate in the joy and conviviality of at least one of these annual Pinot Noir festivals. These events are a
unique opportunity to rub shoulders with the passionate men and women who daily toil to produce the world’s
most sensual wine. The harsh reality is that growing and crafting Pinot Noir is expensive and profits are small.
The majority of producers are not in it for the money. As Oregon winemaker Rob Stuart has said, “Pinot Noir is
all about a passion and a lifestyle. It’s not about money.” At one Pinot Noir festival I saw a tee shirt with the
inscription across the front, “It’s all about the money.” The word money had been crossed out and the word
I attend nearly all the major celebrations annually and recently returned from three such events: World of Pinot
Noir, Pinot Paradise and Pinot Summit. In the following pages I report my impressions and discoveries. These
events are generally raucous affairs and enthusiastic throngs prevent any serious geeky Pinot Noir tasting.
However, general impressions are obtained, new ideas and trends are identified, old friendships are renewed
and new friendships blossom from the spirit of camaraderie. At the end of the day, staring at your purple- stained
fingers, you can feel perfectly content, grinning as you savor the dreamy wines from the recesses of
your day’s memory.
The 9th Annual World of Pinot Noir
A dedicated herd of Pinot Geeks made the pilgrimage to the 9th Annual World of Pinot Noir at The Cliffs Resort
in Shell Beach (Central Coast), California. Mike Sinor, owner and winemaker at Sinor-LaVallee, was the man
directing the show and his charge, including Event Coordinator Felicia Montemayor, put on a memorable event.
This celebration is under publicized, but it is the equivalent of Woodstock for pinotphiles.
The event kicked off on Friday morning with John Haeger’s “Pinot Noir Primer.” John is one of the most
knowledgeable sources of information on North American Pinot Noir and he always delivers this insightful talk
with aplomb. Several facts were of interest. The first Pinot Noir vine dates to the period between the 3rd and
5th centuries AD from a single mother vine in Burgundy or close to Burgundy. The Cote d’Or plantings came
later. No wine grape disease or pestilence appeared until the 19th century.
United States vineyard acreage grew from 301,000 acres to 399,000 acres
between 1990 and 2005, an increase of +33%. During this time span,
vineyard acreage increased +283% in Australia, +400% in New Zealand and
+59% in Chile. Vineyard acreage worldwide increased about +5% over this
fifteen year period. Pinot Noir makes up 2% of the worldwide vineyard
acreage and 1.1% of worldwide wine production. In 2006, there were
176,000 acres of Pinot Noir worldwide divided among the following countries:
France - 70,148 acres, USA - 34,285 acres, Germany - 29,163 acres, New
Zealand - 10,969 acres, Australia - 10,948 acres, Switzerland - 10,003 acres,
followed by Argentina, Chile and Italy. The plantings of Pinot Noir have
tripled since 1958. The largest plantings of Pinot Noir in France are in
Champagne followed in order by Burgundy, Loire, Alsace and Languedoc.
Since Burgundian negotiants are clamoring for more sources of Pinot Noir,
there are large amounts of vineyards being planted to Pinot Noir in the
Languedoc region of France. Very geeky information and highly interesting.
Three regional seminars followed featuring California’s Santa Cruz Mountains, New Zealand and Austria. I
attended the Santa Cruz Mountains Seminar which was repeated in part at Pinot Paradise in April (refer to
coverage of Pinot Paradise later is this issue).
The highlight of the World of Pinot Noir is always the Featured Burgundian Seminar conducted by noted
Burgundy authority, Allen Meadows. This year the seminar featured the wines of Domaine Henri Gouges
which is located in Nuits-St-Georges. Several points were emphasized during this tasting:
Henri Gouges is an important figure in the history of Burgundy. Along with Marquis D’Angerville, he
waged war against fraud in Burgundy in the 1920s and in the 1930s he helped delineate the crus in
Burgundy for the Institut National d’Appellation d’Origine and challenged the negotiants by bottling his
wine at the Domaine and selling it directly to the public. The first bottles were sold in 1933.
The Domaine’s 35-acre vineyard holdings are entirely within the commune of Nuits-St-Georges and
include both Village appellation land and six Premier Crus. The average age of the vines is 35 years.
One Premier Cru, the 2.5 acre Les Saint-Georges, is considered by many to be the equivalent of a
Grand Cru. Several Nuits-St-Georges area producers have petitioned the French appellations institute
(INAO) to reconsider upgrading the 19-acre Les Saint-Georges vineyard to Grand Cru status. Stymied
by local politics, the process could take years.
The Domaine dates to 1919 and the third generation is now in control, specifically Henri Gouges’ two
grandsons, Pierre and Christian. It was Pierre who attended the World of Pinot Noir along with his
sister, Francoise, who sells barrels for Tonnelerie Sirugue here in California.
The Domaine makes a tiny amount of white Nuits-St-Georges from a white mutant of Pinot Noir termed
“Pinot Gouges” (La Perrière Blanc).
The winemaking employs some stems, traditional vinification in lined cement vats and maturation 18 to
months in 15% to 20% new French oak barrels. The wines are fined with egg whites and lightly filtered
The red wines have considerable natural structure or muscle and the tannins are formidable in the more
recent vintages. With the appropriate hearty foods, however, the wines are magical.
My tasting notes on the wines that were very generously provided by Pierre Gouges (pictured below on the
right with Allen Meadows) follow below. Listen to the seminar: “Allen Meadows WOPN 09 Part 1” “Allen Meadows WOPN 09 Part 2”
2003 Domaine Henri Gouges La Perrière Blanc
<2,500 bottles, $89.
A delightful wine fragrant with
butter, toast, and lime exhibiting flavors of honey, butter and white stone fruits with attractive minerality
and a refreshing acid lift on the clean finish.
2006 Domaine Henri Gouges Les Saint Georges
The four vintages tasted from this vineyard all had
significant tannins and were hard to cozy up to without food. Bright blackberry fruit aromas with a plush
fruit core accented with tar, earth and coffee and an endless finish. Currently the tannins overwhelm the
1993 Domaine Henri Gouges Les Saint Georges
Similar to the 2001 vintage but a little more mellow
and refined at this stage. Still explicitly tannic but the beautiful dark fruit core has started to come to the
2002 Domaine Henri Gouges Les Vaucrains
A “linebacker” of a wine that is typically austere in its
youth. A rustic wine with full and flashy aromas, including some forest floor and savage, sporting
plentiful tannins and a citrus kick on the lively finish.
1970 Domaine Henri Gouges Les Pruliers
A less-heralded vintage but a delightful wine.
Orange-brown in color, lightly fruited with secondary notes of old book, leather, cigar box, toast and
brioche with no noticeable tannins and lively acidity on the finish.
There are two Featured Tastings held in the WOPN event tents on the bluffs, each accompanied by a silent
auction of magnums, light hors d’oeuvres and a magnificent selection of cheeses from The Cheese Shop in
I counted approximately 239 wineries pouring at the two walk-around tastings. With so many wineries and
wines, it is impossible to sample them all. The Kosta Browne stampede is always amazing. The top photo on
the left below shows Dan Kosta and Michael Browne setting up their pouring station which included all of their
2006 single vineyard Pinot Noirs. This photo was shot at 1:50 PM, 10 minutes before the tent opened to the
attendees. The bottom two photos show the throngs of people five deep at the Kosta Browne booth at 2:10
PM. There is no other winery at the event that generates this kind of buzz and following. Michael and Dan are
generous supporters of the Pinot community and they deserve all the accolades and attention that follows them
around the wine circuit.
Here are a few wines I sampled that stood out for me and are worthy of your attention. The 2007 vintage in
California is highly touted and for good reason. Buy everything you can afford from this vintage. The 2007
vintage in Oregon has been degraded by some wine critics but I find many of the wines from accomplished
producers to be superb. The wines that have full tasting notes were sampled quietly in the press room where I could more fully evaluate the wines.
2007 Asuncion Ridge Vineyards Barrel Select Paso Robles Pinot Noir
unreleased. Philip Krumal crafts small amounts of Pinot Noir from his isolated estate
vineyard located at 2,000 feet above sea level in the Atascadero hills.
aromas complimented by red fruits and a hint of oak. Middle-weighted red Pinot fruits
nicely spiced and oaked. Everything works in harmony for pure pleasure.
2007 Benovia Winery Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir $45. Winemaker Mike Sullivan is right on his game and I
have yet to taste a better Sonoma Coast appellation wine from this vintage. Required drinking for pinotphiles.
2007 Black Ridge Vineyards Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir $37. A new face on the block in the
mountains spearheaded by accomplished winemaker Bill Brosseau. The inaugural 2006 vintage was fine but
this is a step up in gratification.
2007 Drew Monument Tree Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Jason Drew
crafts exquisite Pinot Noirs from his small winery in the town of Elk in the hills above
Anderson Valley. I have touted the wines recently and Drew has received
considerable additional accolades in the wine press. See full report on this wine
later in an upcoming issue of the PinotFile.
2007 Failla Vivian Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., unreleased. Founded in 1998, Failla is
the project of winemaker Ehren Jordan and his wife Anne-Marie Failla. Jordan has a distinguished history of
winemaking at Neyers Vineyards and Turley Wine Cellars. His Pinot Noirs, which are sourced from prime
California coastal vineyards, have been superb of late.
The nose is light, airy and slightly grassy. Tasty and
intense boysenberry core with lively acidity on a lingering finish.
2006 Fess Parker Winery & Vineyard Ashley’s Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir $48. Blair Fox leads a
winemaking team that is producing world class Pinot Noir from superb vineyard sources in Santa Barbara
County. Three generations of the Parker family are dedicated to uncompromising quality.
2006 Hahn Estates SLH Estate Pinot Noir Winemaker Paul Clifton looks like my
30 year-old son (Paul is 40) but don’t let that fool you. Hahn owns all of their own
vineyards (650 acres) and thus is able to produce outstanding Pinot Noirs at
exceptionally reasonable prices. The value-priced Hahn Monterey Pinot Noir
(retails for $23 but often found for less than $20)) is the best California Pinot Noir in
its price class year in and year out. The 2006 vintage was selected Best Pinot Noir
and Best of Class at Jerry Mead’s New World International Wine Competition. The
SLH Estate is a step-up in quality and price and very good. The SLH wines are
produced completely in the Santa Lucia Highlands, from the ground to the barrel to
the bottle at Hahn Winery. The Lucienne high-end premium Pinot Noirs ($35 to $45)
are really classy and one of my favs at this year’s Pinot Summit. Great juice here.
2006 Lucienne Doctor’s Vineyard Santa Luicia Highlands Pinot Noir Refer to the write up on Lucienne
wines later in this issue.
2006 Lynmar Quail Hill Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
alc., 1,419 cases, $60. It’s not but this Pinot Noir from Lynmar’s 47-acre Quail
Hill Vineyard crafted by Hugh Chapelle is quintessential Russian River Valley
Pinot Noir. Aged 16 months in 45% new French Oak. Dr. Dirt (Greg Adams) is
the consulting viticulturist. Everything is first class here.
Classic Russian River
nose of red cherries and raspberries, baking spice and cola. The flavors echo
the aromas with a deft touch of oak. The tannins are fine grained and the lively
acidity creates a refreshing and memorable finish. Good to go for another 4 to 5
2006 Kawarau Reserve Central Otago Pinot Noir 13.5% alc., $26.10. Winemaker Dean Shaw is an
unmistakable character with a droll sense of humor. He is a partner in the Central Otago Wine Co., which
provides contract winemaking for several local producers. Harvested from old vines, 25% whole bunch
pressed, wild yeast fermentation, aged 10 months in 25% new French oak, minimal fining and filtration. This
wine left a very favorable impression on me. I will review this Pinot Noir and a number of others from the
Central Otago Wine Co. in subsequent issue of the PinotFile.
2006 Mount Eden Vineyards Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir $48. It is good to see Jeffrey Patterson
leave his viticultural perch at Mount Eden and pour his superb wines. Patterson has been crafting the wines
here since 1981. Mount Eden is the longest estate producer of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in the country. Low
yields, dry farming, natural fermentations, no filtering or fining. A California classic.
2007 Papapietro Perry Winery Clone 777 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
Unreleased. An interesting blend of Dijon clone 777 grapes from several
vineyards showing great nuance and complexity. This winery is at the top of its
game. Look for a report on the entire lineup of 2007 wines from Papapietro
Perry in the next issue of the PinotFile.
2006 Pillow Rd. Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., $47. Two vineyard plots located in
Sebastopol on the southern edge of the Russian River Valley farmed by the Stotesbery family. 20 acres of
Pinot Noir planted to multiple clones including Pommard 4, Dijon 115 and 777, and Swan and Calera
Attractive aromas of cherries, spice and cola. Middle-weighted cherry flavors with a deft touch of
oak which lingers on the finish. Admirable t n’ a. Not exceptional but solid.
2007 Roessler Cellars Sanford & Benedict Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir $48. One of many
outstanding vineyard-designate Pinot Noirs sourced from multiple appellations in California. Roessler Cellars
now releases 13 different Pinot Noirs. Roessler is a producer you can bank on.
2005 Silver Wines Julia’s Vineyard Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., $45.
Founded in 2000 the producer only bottles single vineyard Pinot Noirs from northern Santa
Complex and intriguing nose of black cherries, sage, oak toast and a hint
of smoke. Rich and plush flavors of black cherries, blackberries and blueberries augmented
with prominent oak. All silk and satin in the mouth with bright acidity on the back end. The
wine picks up interest in the glass, becoming better and better with airtime. Very
2007 Sojourn Cellars Demuth Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir A Fall release.
Craig and Erich Bradley have taken Sojourn to the next level with the release of their
2007 lineup of Pinot Noirs. They have expanded their vineyard-designate offerings
with this vintage and this bottling represents the best of an outstanding lineup of Pinot
Noirs. The Demuth Vineyard has quietly become one of California’s Grand Cru level
Pinot Noir vineyards. The 2007 Sojourn Cellars Gap’s Crown Vineyard Sonoma
Coast Pinot Noir was also quite good.
2007 Thomas Fogarty Winery & Vineyards Rapley Trail Block M Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
alc., $75. This winery pioneered cool climate grape growing in the Skyline sub-region of the Santa Cruz
Mountains when, in 1978, Dr. Thomas Fogarty was the first to plant on Skyline Ridge, some 2,000 feet above
This is a superb wine in every way. I have now tasted it multiple times and have found it
consistently great. The nose pulls you in with scents of ripe berry fruits, baking spice and roses. A juicy and
delicious berry core saturates the palate and leaves a lasting impression. The tannins are fine-grained and the
acidity spot on. Great bones here.
2007 Twomey Cellars Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., $50,
unreleased. This Westside Road winery was founded in 1999 by the Duncan Family,
founders of Silver Oak. This Pinot Noir comes from the winery’s West Pin Vineyard
planted to a mix of Dijon, Pommard and Martini clones and a vineyard in Forestville
planted to Dijon 115 and 777, Pommard, Swan, Calera, Mt. Eden and 420A clones.
Flamboyant and precocious for a 2007 vintage wine. Intense boysenberry and black
cherry fruit with almost chewy density that persists on the finish like the memory of a
luscious kiss. Plentiful grip and tannins to offset the fruit.
World of Pinot Noir: check it out at www.wopn.com.
“This grape among all grapes wants to become wine”
Jeffrey Patterson, Mount Eden Vineyards
Of all the Pinot Noir growing appellations of California, the Santa Cruz Mountains receives the least respect
and notoriety despite its heritage as the birthplace of Pinot Noir in North America. The reality is that this region
is undergoing a remarkable renaissance and the small amount of Pinot Noir originating from this appellation is
much better than you might realize. In cooperation with Appellation America, the Santa Cruz Mountains has
made a major marketing push to bring awareness to the region’s superb wines. Production is still small (there
are only about 800 acres of Pinot Noir planted in the Santa Cruz Mountains) and the wines are often snapped
up by locals. As a result, the distant populace in the United States has not discovered these Pinot Noir gems.
To complicate matters, some notable producers in the Santa Cruz Mountains also source grapes from outside
the appellation and feature wines from other more notable California appellations. Recent extensive tastings of
Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noirs have led to the identification of six subregions which seem to have
distinctive aromatic and flavor profiles. A seminar on these evolving subregions was held at the World of Pinot
Noir and at this year’s Pinot Paradise. To listen to this year’s Pinot Paradise Technical Seminar (which
includes introductory remarks on the Santa Cruz Mountains by Jim Schultze of Windy Oaks Vineyards &
Winery, a talk on contrasts between Burgundy and the Santa Cruz Mountains by Joe Miller, PhD, University of
California Santa Cruz, and a discussion of the newly identified subregions of the Santa Cruz Mountains by
Clark Smith, Director of Appellation Tastings at Appellation America): “Pinot Paradise 3-27-09”
The Google map on the following page shows the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA, its sub-regions (in yellow print)
and major Pinot Noir vineyards. This map was developed by Mary Lindsay, President of the Viticulture
Association of the Santa Cruz Mountains and Prudy Foxx, a well-known viticulturist in the Santa Cruz
Mountains who manages over 600 hundred acres of vineyards. The vineyards in the Santa Cruz Mountains
are small and isolated creating a formula for uniqueness in the wines.
35 wineries that produce Pinot Noir participated in this year’s Fifth Annual Pinot Paradise sponsored by the
Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrowers Association. Clos de Tech, David Bruce Winery, Mountain Winery, Rhys
Vineyards, Salamandre, Testarossa and Varner Wines are also in the Santa Cruz Mountains appellation but did
not take part. A list of the wineries at Pinot Paradise and the Pinot Noirs they produce from the six sub-regions:
Kings Mountain Winery (Estate)
Thomas Fogarty Winery (Estate)
Woodside Vineyards (Estate)
Byington Winery (Estate)
Burrell School (Estate)
Loma Prieta (Estate)
Muccigrosso Vineyards (Estate)
Silver Mountain (Muns Vineyard, Miller Hill Vineyard)
Sonnet Wine Cellars (Muns Vineyard)
Trout Gulch Vineyards (Amaya Ridge Vineyard)
Beauregard Vineyards (Trout Gulch Vineyard)
Big Basin Vineyards (Branciforte Ridge)
Clos Tita (Estate)
Hallcrest Vineyards (Vista Del Mare Vineyard)
Heart O’ The Mountain (Estate)
Hunter Hill Vineyards & Winery (Estate)
Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard (Branciforte Creek Vineyard, Branciforte Ridge Vineyard)
Wines of Vine Hill (Estate, Raffaelli Vineyard)
Ben Lomond Mountain
Beauregard Vineyards (Bald Mountain Vineyard)
McHenry Vineyards (Estate)
Black Ridge Vineyards (Estate)
Mount Eden Vineyards (Estate)
Ahlgren Vineyard (Veranda Vineyard)
Alfaro Family Vineyards (Estate)
Bargetto Winery (Regan Vineyard)
Big Basin Vineyards (Alfaro Family Lindsay Paige Vineyard)
Cinnabar Winery (Lester Family Vineyards)
Clos La Chance (Biagini Vineyard)
Domenico Wines (Deverey Vineyard)
Hallcrest Vineyards (Terra Serena Vineyard)
Loma Prieta Winery (Saveria Vineyard)
Nicholson Vineyards (Estate)
Pelican Ranch Winery (Veranda Vineyard, Remde Vineyard, Deer Park/Lester Family Vineyard)
Pleasant Family Vineyards (Estate, Lester Family Vineyard)
Roudon-Smith Winery (Meadow Ridge Vineyard)
Sarah’s Vineyard (Veranda Vineyard)
Soquel Vineyards (Saveria Vineyard, Lester Family Vineyard)
Storrs Winery & Vineyards (Wildcat Ridge Vineyard)
Trout Gulch Vineyards (Regan Vineyard)
Wines of Vine Hill (Hicks Family Vineyard)
Windy Oaks Estate Vineyards & Winery (Estate)
The highlight of Pinot Paradise is the Grand Cruz Tasting held at the Villa Regusa in Campbell California.
Nearly all the producers of Pinot Noir in the Santa Cruz Mountains are present proudly pouring their latest
releases accompanied by gourmet artisan foods and an auction of 3.0 liter bottlings from each of the
participants. In addition, a single Jeroboam containing wine from all the participating wineries is auctioned
(photos below). Pinot Paradise is a more intimate event than many, allowing for quality time with the
winemakers and winegrowers in attendance.
The Santa Cruz Mountains is home to over 70 wineries, with over 40 producing Pinot Noir. I sampled a number
of the 70 Pinot Noirs poured at this event and I have listed below my favorites below. To locate the wines,
consult the winery’s websites or the Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrower’s Association website at
www.scmwa.com. There is also a Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Only Wine Club worth investigating
(www.santacruzwineclub.com). Vinocruz is a wine retail store in downtown Santa Cruz which stocks many of
the small production Pinot Noirs produced in the Santa Cruz Mountains (www.vinocruz.com).
As you can see from this list, almost half of the outstanding wines came from the Corralitos/Pleasant Valley
subregion. This area is at the southernmost end of the appellation just north of Watsonville. The vineyards are
at lower elevations (typically 400 to 800 feet above sea level) and are close to the Pacific Ocean. Early
morning fog is common in the summers followed by warm afternoons and evenings and cool night times. The
resulting large daily temperature variation during the growing season leads to slow ripening and an extended
growing season with vineyards in this sub-region usually the last in the appellation to be harvested. Soils here
are well-drained sedimentary type (sandy, clay, silt and loam). Most of the vineyards are relatively young and
planted to Dijon clones. The Pinot Noirs from this sub-region tend to feature dark red fruits with added notes of
root beer, blueberry and spice on the palate. Like Pinot Noirs from the Santa Cruz Mountains generally, the
wines have impressive minerality and inviting acidity.
2006 Alfaro Family Vineyards Lindsay Paige Vineyard Corralitos/Pleasant Valley Pinot Noir
2006 and 2007 Black Ridge Vineyards Saratoga/Los Gatos Pinot Noirs
2006 Burrell School Vineyards & Winery Estate Summit Road Pinot Noir
2007 Clos LaChance Wines Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
2005 Clos Tita Santa Cruz Mountains Cuvée Costal Foothills Pinot Noir
***2005 Hallcrest Vineyards Terra Serena Vineyard Corralitos/Pleasant Valley Pinot Noir
2005 Hallcrest Vineyards Vista Del Mare Vineyard Coastal Foothills Pinot Noir
2006 Heart O’ The Mountain Coastal Foothills Pinot Noir
***2006 and 2007 Loma Prieta Winery Saveria Vineyard Corralitos/Pleasant Valley Pinot Noirs
2006 McHenry Vineyard Swan Clone Ben Lomond Mountain Pinot Noir
***2006 Mount Eden Vineyards Estate Saratoga/Los Gatos Pinot Noir
2006 Pleasant Valley Vineyards Dylan David Estate Reserve Corralitos/Pleasant Valley Pinot Noir
***2007 Pleasant Valley Vineyards Dylan David Lester Family Vineyards Corralitos/Pleasant Valley Pinot
2005 Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard “Bailey’s” Coastal Foothills Pinot Noir
2006 Silver Mountain Muns Vineyard Summit Road Pinot Noir
2007 Sonnet Wine Cellars Muns Vineyard Summit Road Pinot Noir
***2007 Thomas Fogarty Estate Rapley Trail Vineyard Block M Skyline Pinot Noir
***2007 Trout Gulch Vineyards Amaya Ridge and Regan Vineyards Summit Road and Corralitos Pinot
2006 Windy Oaks Estate Vineyards & Winery Wild Yeast Corralitos/Pleasant Valley Pinot Noir
***2006 Windy Oaks Estate Vineyards & Winery Diane’s Block Corralitos/Pleasant Valley Pinot Noir
2009 Pinot Noir Summit
The Seventh Annual Pinot Noir Shootout is a series of focused tastings by a diverse panel of experts and
included 270 Pinot Noirs from around the globe including Canada, Chile, France, Italy, Australia and New
Zealand. Stateside, California dominated the wine submissions, but some examples came from Oregon, New
York, Michigan and even Idaho. The Pinot Noir Summit is the final showdown, the culmination of the Pinot Noir
Shootout. During the series of Shootout tastings, only 32 wines are tasted by the judging panel daily (four
flights of eight wines each), allowing the judges to be completely immersed, focused and fair to the submitted
wines and eliminating palate fatigue as a factor. The wines are tasted blind without reference to origin,
appellation, vintage or price. At the Pinot Noir Summit, the judging panel’s top 44 wines are paraded blind for
the consumer and press attendees allowing them to compare their findings with the expert panel. The Pinot
Summit is the only wine competition in which judges’ conclusions are put to the test by an unbiased group of
wine lovers. In addition, the preferences of male and female judges and attendees are tabulated separately for
comparison. The two genders (not surprisingly) rarely agree on the best wines. The full results of this year’s
Pinot Noir Summit, held on Sunday, April 5 in San Rafael, California, are posted online at
I blind tasted all 44 Pinot Noir finalists, powering through them in about two and a half hours. Because of the
time limitation, my tasting notes are succinct and my recommended wines are based on a brief glimpse of each
wine. I have put the wines in four groups according to my personal taste preferences: Excellent (would buy),
Good (might buy), Decent (would drink if someone else buys) and The Rest. Remember that these wines are
all finalists and represent technically sound wines that at least some members of the judging panel
2007 Artesa Winery Limited Release Carneros Pinot Noir
889 cases, $50. Winemaker
Dave Dobson crafted this wine but he has recently departed and has been replaced by Mark
Beringer, formerly of Duckhorn. This wine is composed of the most outstanding barrels in the
cellar and generally needs time to shed its tannins.
Deep dark reddish-purple color.
Appealing aromas of plums, currents and spice. Plush core of earth-kissed dark fruits and
sassafras with exotic spices. Less tannic than the 2006 version of this wine with a little more
2006 Claiborne & Churchill Twin Creeks Edna Valley Pinot Noir
172 cases, $40, sold out. A family owned
winery founded in 1983 by Claiborne (Clay) Thompson and Fredericka Churchill Thompson and located in the
Edna Valley of California. This producer has gained renown for its Alsatian wine varieties including Riesling,
Gewürztraminer and Pinot Gris but Pinot Noir has also become a signature wine. Look for the 2007 edition of
this wine which is sold through the Wine Club, Tasting Room and by phone order (805-544-4066). I also
sampled the 2007 Edna Valley Pinot Noir ($26) and it is a killer as well. The winemaker is Coby Parker-Garcia.
Lighter in color and body, this elegant wine has appealing aromas and flavors of red cherries, vanilla and spice.
Nothing out of place and no rough edges. Pinotypical.
2007 Cuvaison Estate Carneros Pinot Noir
5,557 cases, $30. Cuvaison
produces Pinot Noirs exclusively from its 400-acre vineyard in Carneros. The
winery has been owned by the Schmidheiny family of Switzerland since 1979. A
new winery devoted to Pinot Noir was built in Carneros and completed for the
2004 vintage. A tasting room on site is open by appointment. Steven Rogstad has
been the winemaker since 2001 and he has consistently produced masterful Pinot
Noirs. He also crafts the Cuvaison Block F5 Pinot Noir, a more intense expression
of the winery’s Carneros fruit. The wines are available on the website and widely
Appealing mix of loamy and spiced cherry and berry aromas with
impeccable balance. The tannins are silky, the richness is evident but understated,
and the whole package drinks smoothly.
2006 David Bruce Winery Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
10,854 cases, $42.
This historic winery now turns out 60,000 cases of wine a year but still manages to
produce consistently fine Pinot Noir sourced from multiple appellations throughout
California. Bonded in 1964, the winery uses a unique collaborative approach to
winemaking involving David Bruce, a team of winemakers headed by Mitri
Faravashi, vineyard manager Greg Stokes and the sales and marketing director.
The wines are widely distributed.
A very tasty wine that is black cherry-driven with
nicely appointed new oak spice running through. The tannins are fine-grained, the
mouth feel is satiny and the lengthy finish is embellished with lively acidity.
David Bruce is a California Pinot Noir icon. Unlike many physicians who enter wine at or near
retirement, Bruce jumped in when he graduated from Stanford Medical School. It was a
bottle of Richebourg from France that inspired him to buy 40 acres of land near Los Gatos,
California in 1961. He cleared the land by hand, built a small winery and planted 25 acres of
vineyards. He did double duty for 25 years, working in his dermatology practice in Santa
Clara and spending his free time making wine. He was influenced by Martin Ray, who was a
legend in the Santa Cruz Mountains winemaking community.
Bruce instituted many technological advances in California winemaking many of which were
learned from his trips to Burgundy. These included small barrel fermentation, whole berry
fermentation for red wines, use of French oak barrels, foot punch downs, extended
maceration and use of rotary presses. He was one of the first California winemakers to
produce a Blanc de Noir, a white Zinfandel and late harvest wines. He became well known
for his Petite Sirah.
Bruce's early work with Pinot Noir was fraught with difficulties (he called Pinot Noir the Dune
of winemaking referring to the science fiction novel) but he persisted and his Pinot Noirs
eventually earned him an international reputation. He was one of twelve California wineries
that participated in the 1976 Judgment of Paris.
For more historical information on David Bruce, consult The David Bruce Winery:
Experimentation, Dedication and Success (2002 interview), Regional Oral History Office, The
Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley at www.archive.org/details/davidbrucewinery00brucrich.
2006 Heart O’ The Mountain Estate Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
alc., 500 cases, $48. This newer winery was extensively reviewed in the
PinotFile (Volume 7, Issue 14). I have tasted this wine blind twice and on two
other occasions with consistent findings. Available only at the winery through a
Dark stone fruits and strawberries are featured highlighted with
cinnamon spice and oak with a suave texture and nicely balanced t n’ a.
2007 Jargon California Pinot Noir
30,000 cases, $10, screw cap. The price is not
a misprint. This was a surprising find at the Pinot Noir Summit. The representatives
who were pouring the wine were not well informed and the website doesn’t reveal
much information, but then, that is the whole idea behind this Pinot Noir. Just drink
it, don’t dissect it! The wine is one of 25 labels of Trinchero Wine Estates,
apparently from estate vineyards in Monterey and “the Delta.” This is an “anti-snob”
wine and the website, wwwjargonwines.com, encourages the use of plastic cups.
The name “Jargon” is a stab at the prevalence of pretentious wine-speak, a
condition the producers term “jargonitis.” The 2006 vintage is widely accessible in
retail stores and the 2007 vintage will be more available soon.
This is about as easy
going a Pinot Noir as you will ever find. Bright red fruits, juicy and delicious, with a soft and smooth mouth feel
and no tannins in sight. Not a nuanced wine and lacks complex aromas and flavors and a lengthy finish but it
is a lovable wine that is well-crafted. In simple jargon: a good drink.
2006 Laetitia Vineyard & Winery Reserve Arroyo Grande Valley Pinot Noir
cases, $40. This is reliable Central Coast producer of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and
sparkling wine who has fared well in past Pinot Summit events. Available now from
the winery’s website.
Restrained but pleasant dark berry and cherry pie aromas with
a healthy core of well-spiced black cherry and blackberry fruit that fans out nicely on
the palate and finishes with persistence. Very user-friendly.
2006 Lucienne Lone Oak Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
217 cases, $45. This is the high-end label from Hahn Estates in the Santa
Lucia Highlands (see feature later in this issue). This wine represents a special
selection from small blocks of Lone Oak Vineyard crafted by winemaker Paul
Clifton. Aged in 50% new French oak.
This beauty has a vibrant black cherry
fruitiness with interesting notes of coffee and leather. Very plush and velvety in
the mouth with a fresh, lively and lengthy finish. Evocative and very satisfying.
2005 Mayro-Murdick Estate Carneros Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., 662 cases, $36. This
wine is crafted by Michael Cox who is also the winemaker at Schug Winery in
Carneros. A blend of 80% Iund Vineyard (30 year-old vines) and 20% Sangiacomo
Tailgrass Vineyard (15 year-old vines). Aged 15 months in 34% in new French oak.
Strawberry red in color. Pleasing aromas of black cherries, berries and grass. Demure
flavors of cherries, cranberries and a touch of toasty oak all in harmony with admirable
grip on the vibrant finish.
2006 Nth Degree Arroyo Seco Pinot Noir
500 cases, $36.95. The Nth Degree wines are
limited production handcrafted wines from Wente Vineyards. Fifth generation winemaker,
Karl D. Wente, creates these wines to reflect the terroir of Wente family’s Estate Vineyards.
The wines are allocated and sold primarily to wine club members with very limited restaurant
and retail availability. The Nth Degree Pinot Noir is 95% Pinot Noir (Arroyo Seco, Monterey)
and 5% Barbera (Livermore Valley). The Pinot Noir was aged 16 months in a combination of
French, Eastern European and neutral oak. The Barbera was aged in stainless steel tank
(50%) and American oak (50%) for 3 months. Very cool looking package.
I love this wine
for its pinotypicity. Delicate dusty red fruits on the nose with a juicy cherry mouth filling
attack. Flavors of clove and cola add interest. The tannins are supple and the aromatic
finish is endless. I can’t say enough good things about this wine.
2007 Phillips Hill Winery Corby Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
$40. Proprietor and winemaker Toby Hill is making his mark in the Anderson Valley
with beautifully crafted and limited production vineyard-designated Pinot Noirs from
Mendocino County. Hill is an artist as well and his labels are very eye-catching. The
wines are sold through a mailing list wine club and the Phillips Hill tasting room in
Philo on Highway 128.
A thoroughly satisfying cherry-driven Pinot that is well-spiced,
lightly weighted, with perfect integration of tannins and acid. This wine really shows
off the bright and juicy Anderson Valley fruit that pinotphiles love to come home to.
2007 RN Estate Fiddlestix Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
14.4% alc., 120 cases, $55. French immigrant Roger left a distinguished
career in the restaurant industry to start RN Estate in 2005 in
Paso Robles. He crafts a number of varieties including Pinot
Noir from Fiddlestix Vineyard in the Santa Rita Hills and Maridel
Vineyard in Avila Valley. This wine is composed of Dijon clones
113, 115 and 667. It is aged 12 months in French oak. Nicolas
has a gifted touch with Pinot Noir and I have been an admirer
since the first release. The wines may be ordered online and are
distributed to fine wine shops and restaurants in California.
and confected dark red fruit aromas. Tasty sweet red plum and
black cherry flavors matched to toasty oak. Beautifully composed with healthy tannins and admirable restraint.
Drinkable now but will benefit from a year in the bottle.
2007 Seawind Sleepy Hollow Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
alc., 75 cases, $44. Owner and winemaker Ken Dunkley produces artisan Pinot Noirs
from bought fruit at CrushPad in San Francisco. Ken began making wine in 1976
while a student at University California Davis and has had a career in fermented foods
and drinks. He started his commercial wine venture in 2006 and has already won
awards in major wine competitions. Unfortunately he will not have access to this fruit
in future vintages. 100% de-stemmed, 25% whole berries, 4-day cold soak, aged in
25% Francois Freres oak barrels for 9 months. Unfined and unfiltered. Sold on the
Moderately deep garnet color with a very slight cloudiness. Very sensual
aromatics featuring darker fruits and Asian spices. Lushly fruited, mouth filling plum
2007 Sebastiani Vineyards & Winery Sonoma County Pinot Noir
$18. A Sonoma County Selection. Wide retail distribution.
Slightly cloudy. Lovely nose
of bright cherries and berries, sandalwood and stylish spice. Clean and balanced with
great purity of fruit, suavely textured, a deft touch of oak, finishing with commendable
grip. Amazing quality considering the sizable production level.
2005 Stag Hollow Winery & Vineyard Reserve Yamhill-Carlton District Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
170 cases, $39.95. A blend of 8 Pinot Noir clones. This small, family
winery was started in 1994 by Mark Huff and Jill Zarnowitz in Yamhill, Oregon. The 34-
acre estate is slowly being planted to vines on steep south-facing slopes of Willakenzie
soils at very high density, exceeding 3,000 vines per acre. There are nine clones of Pinot
Noir, including 5 Dijon clones. 10 acres of the estate have been designated as a wildlife
preserve. The Pinot Noirs have been quite distinctive and praiseworthy. This wine won a
Double Gold Medal at the Wine Press Northwest Judging in 2008. The wines are sold on
the website and through retail channels.
Dark ruby color. Enticing aromatic profile of
black cherries, plum, stems and cedar with a delicious and generous infusion of dark
fruited reduction sauce matched to tasty oak. Substantial chewy tannins portend a long life
2006 Bargetto Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
$25. One of the oldest wineries in the Santa Cruz
Mountains, established in 1933. This wine is available on the website.
Light garnet in color. Attractive aromas
of cherries and baking spice echoed in the flavors with a touch of savory herbs. The spectacular nose trumps
2006 Per Bacco Cellars Arroyo Grande Valley Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., $28. Sourced from Laetitia Vineyard.
Aged 12 months in 50% new French oak. Available on the website.
The nose draws you in with scents of bright
black cherries and brioche. A mid-weight wine with cherry cola flavors and a deft touch of toasty oak. The dry
tannins are caressing and the acidity is in step with the fruit.
2005 David Bruce Winery Reserve Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
$42. A very popular wine with both the
judging panel and attendees of the Pinot Summit. Winery (call) and retail availability.
Enticing aromas of dark
stone fruits nicely accented by spice and cola. Saucy red fruits saturate the mid-palate and dry tannins provide
a good backbone. The fruity finish teases but ends a bit short.
2005 Fort Ross Vineyard Estate Reserve Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., 513 cases, $49. Aged 11
months in 40% new French oak. Unfined and unfiltered. Website availability.
Very dark reddish-purple in color.
A big wine that attacks the senses with an onslaught of black cherry, baked plum, spice box and peppermint
aromas and prodigious dark fruits, clove and tar flavors. Still young and brooding. A little heat peaks out on the
2007 Left Edge Winery Bodega Ridge Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
Unlabeled, unreleased. Crafted
by winemaker Anthony Austin who makes wine for a number of wineries including Sonoma Coast Vineyards
and Churchill Cellars. A favorite of attendees at the Pinot Summit.
Deep, dark reddish-violet color. A big
Caliesque wine with vigorous flavor and character featuring a dark fruit profile and notable oak throughout.
2005 Lions Pride El Molino High School Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
120 cases, $35. Crafted by Bob
Cabral from a small high school vineyard. A collaboration between the Russian River Valley Winegrowers
Foundation and El Molino High School. Available at www.rrvwfoundation.org.
An elegant and well-composed
wine of great charm. Complex aromatic profile featuring violets, roses and herbs with flavors of Bing cherries
and spice. No rough edges.
2006 Londer Vineyards Paraboll Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
524 cases, 14.9% alc., $54. A reserve blend
intended for the cellar. Aged 9 months in French oak. Winemaker is Rick Davis (Calstar). Available on the
The nose is rather reserved with faint black fruit jam and herbal notes. Very tasty black cherry and
blackberry fruit with hints of cola and brown spice. Viscous and very smoothly textured.
2005 Orentano Estate Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
430 cases, $40. Winemaker is Jay Buoncristiani.
Check Buoncristiani Wine for availability.
Aromas of berry and cherry compote laced with vanilla and cream.
Plush and fruit-driven flavors with a soft pillowy texture and a short finish.
2007 Schug Winery Carneros Pinot Noir
7,387 cases, $28. This wine is sold on the website.
scents of Bing cherries, strawberries, and cedary oak. Decent core of red fruits kissed by savory herbs. Plush
in the mouth and velvety in texture.
2007 Spy Valley Marlborough New Zealand Pinot Noir
10,000 cases, $29.99. Imported to the U.S. by
Broadbent Selections, Inc., San Francisco.
The dark side of Pinot Noir. Intense aromas of crushed plums and
grapes. Plenty of sweet purple fruit and well-managed dry tannins.
2006 TR Elliott Three Plumes Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.4% alc., 315 cases, $38. Sourced from
Hallberg Vineyard and O’Connell Vineyard. Clones 115 (80%), 777 (10%), Elite (5%) and Pommard (5%).
Unfined and unfiltered. Another bottling, Queste, is sourced entirely from Hallberg Vineyard, contains
significantly more Pommard and is quite good as well. The wines are available on the website.
aromatics typical of Russian River Valley Pinot Noir featuring Queen Anne cherries, strawberries, baking spices
and a touch of oak. Red fruits are flanked by earth, mocha and tobacco notes with well balanced tannins and
acidity. Quite enjoyable.
2006 Adobe Road Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 1,350 cases, $39.
2006 Fess Parker Bien Nacido Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir 1,950 cases, $55.
2006 Olson Ogden Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 283 cases, $42.
2006 Paritua Central Otago Pinot Noir 600 cases, $35.
2006 Sand Hill Durell Vineyard Sonoma Valley Pinot Noir 216 cases, $55.
2006 Stephen’s Encell Vineyard San Luis Obispo County Pinot Noir 350 cases, $30.
2006 Willowbrook Cellars DuNah Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 190 cases, $44.
Aromatic & Flavor Elements of Pinot Noir
Barbara Drady of Affairs of the Vine has compiled a comprehensive list of the aromatic elements of Pinot Noir.
I published this list last year with some modification and revision. Because this reference list can be very
helpful in improving your tasting acumen, I am repeating the list of aromatic and flavor elements in this issue.
Aromatic & Flavor Elements of Pinot Noir Grapes
Cherry, Black Cherry, Wild Cherry, Dried Cherry, Raspberry, Raspberry Jam
Strawberry, Wild Strawberry, Strawberry Jam
Blackberry, Blackberry Jam
Red and Black Current, Raisin
Tangerine, Grapefruit, Orange Peel
Rose Petals, Violets
Roasted Tomato, Ripe Tomato, Green Tomato. Beet, Black Olive
Earth, Wet Leaves, Forest Floor, Barnyard, Mushroom, Truffle
Raw or Grilled Meat, Game, Animale, Sauvage, Leather
Mint, Spearmint, Peppermint
Herbs, Herbs de Provence, Lavender, Rosemary
Cinnamon, Oregano, Cardamon, Black or White Pepper
Cola, Cherry Cola, Sassfras
Oak-Derived Aromas & Flavors
Earthy: Ash, Mushroom, Shoe Box, Wet Cardboard, Musty, Leather
Herbaceous: Weedy, Dill, Mown Hay, Menthol, Grass, Tobacco
Woody: Oak, Seasoned Oak, Cedar, Sandalwood, Sawdust, Pencil Shavings, Green, Pine, Tar, Sap, Resin
Astringent: Harshness, Chewiness, Bitterness, Angular, Tannic, Drying
Spice: Clove, Cinnamon, Vanilla, Coconut
Toast-Derived Aromas & Flavors
Sweet: Brown Sugar, Bourbon, Cotton Candy, Chocolate, Maple Syrup, Butterscotch, Hot Fudge, Caramel,
Molasses, Honey, Toffee, Soy
Creamy: Vanilla, Cream Soda, Marshmallow, Lactic, Butter
Yeasty: Popcorn, Baked Bread, Bread Stick, Brioche, Cookie Dough
Nutty: Hazelnut, Walnut, Almond, Peanut Butter, Coconut
Smoky: Barbecue, Grilled Meats, Bacon, Sweet Smoke, Burnt Sugar
Roasted: Graham Cracker, Toasted Bread, Coffee, Mocha, Cereal
Spicy: Nutmeg, Cinnamon, Clove, Licorice, Anise
Hydrogen Sulfide (rotten egg)
Mercaptan (sulfur-containing compounds - onion or garlic)
Brettanomyces (horsey, stables, sweaty saddle)
Wet Newspaper, Wet Cardboard (corky)
TCA (wet cardboard, moldy)
Diacetyl (a ketone - buttery or cheesy)
Acetaldehyde (oxidized smell - sherry)
Ethyl Acetate (acetic acid + ethanol - fruity
Acetic Acid (Vinegar)
New Stars Along the Pinot Trail
Wine enthusiasts are often searching for the next great star producer of Pinot Noir. This is not surprising for it
is our nature to seek out the latest news, the hottest fad. What do the first three letters in “news” spell? Who is
going to be the next Sea Smoke or Kosta Browne?
Finding and identifying new Pinot Noir producers is a challenge because most of them are very small, boutique
operations with little or no marketing budget. Winemakers are often shy and unassuming and promotion is not
their long suit. Their total production is often less than 1,000 cases and samples may not be sent to major wine
publications for review. The practice of submitting samples is a two-edged sword. A good score can boost a
new producer’s visibility instantly, but a poor score can seriously damage a start up producer’s reputation.
How do I discover potential new stars? Sometimes the new producer contacts me, sends me samples and
invites me to visit and taste. I rarely taste without meeting the principals face to face for this gives valuable
information about the commitment, background and goals of the producer. In other cases, I meet the producer
at a Pinot Noir Festival. Fine wine retailers, the wine press, wine blogs and wine websites can also be valuable
sources of information.
What do I look for in a new winery to recommend? There are many factors to consider but most importantly I
look at the vineyard sources and vineyard management, the winemaker’s background and experience, the
owner’s (if he or she is not the winemaker) commitment, and the approachability and availability of the winery
principals to the consumer. Most of all, though, what differentiates a potential new star is the quality of the
Pinot Noir in the bottle.
Here are some sources of information on potential new stars along the Pinot trail (other than the PinotFile).
Part of the fun of discovering a new wine is the search.
The Pinot Report, www.pinotreport.com
Wine Press Northwest, www.winepress.com
Oregon Wine Press, www.oregonwinepress.com
Wine Advocate, www.erobertparker.com
International Wine Cellar (Steve Tanzer), www.wineaccess.com
Wine Enthusiast, www.we.com
Wine Spectator, www.ws.com
Wine & Spirits, www.wineandspiritsmagazine.com
Quarterly Review of Wines, www.qrw.com
(Informative newsletters or websites)
K&L Wines (California), www.klwines.com
Wine Exchange (California), www.winex.com
Hi-Time Wine Cellars (California), www.hitime.com
Avalon Wine (Oregon), www.northwestwine.com
Storyteller Wines (Oregon), www.storyteller.com
Wine Search Engines
Wine Searcher, www.wine-searcher.com
Wine Access, www.wineaccess.com
Wine Zap, www.winezap.com
On The Web
Grape Radio, www.graperadio.com
Vinography: A Wine Blog, www.vinography.com
There are at least 600 wine blogs on the internet - search at www.alawine.com
I first met Shane Finley while he was working as an assistant winemaker at Kosta Browne Winery in
Sebastopol, California. He struck me as a bright, dedicated and passionate vintner. Shane grew up in
Minnesota and after college found himself working in an insurance company cubicle in New York. During the
process of entertaining clients at mealtimes, he was able to order good wines and became fascinated about
wine. Shane soon left the insurance industry behind and ventured to California where a friend hooked him up
with a job as a cellar rat at Copain Wine Cellars in Santa Rosa. Shane laughs about his first day on the job.
Wells Guthrie said, “This is an ozone machine, this is how you do punch downs,” and left him alone. The first
three months on the job he did nothing but cleaning. Later he would travel down under and work at Torbreck in
Australia and intern in France at G. Villard. He then found a home at Kosta Browne working under the tutelage
of winemaker Michael Browne. Michael has great admiration for Shane’s work ethic and winemaking skills and
has encouraged him to strike out on his own. For now, Shane feels comfortable remaining at Kosta Browne
and slowly developing a following for SPELL Winery.
Shane’s first two releases are from the 2007 vintage and were released in February, 2009. Total production is
170 cases. I tasted the two 2007 SPELL Pinot Noirs on three separate occasions and can recommended them
2007 Spell Barton Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
45 cases, $47. The Barton Vineyard is located just outside the Green Valley
sub-appellation of the Russian River Valley on Vine Hill Road. Clones 115 and
Pommard. 25% whole cluster fermentation, aged 20 months in 50% new
French oak, unfined and unfiltered.
Enticing and penetrating aromas of
strawberries, raspberries, cola, baking spices and sandalwood. Very
“Russian Riveresque” and I loved it. Red fruit driven flavors which are leaner
than the Weir bottling but enough richness to satisfy. Very smoothly textured and
nicely balanced. Will get even better in another one to two years.
2007 Spell Weir Vineyard Yorkville Highlands Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., 120 cases,
$47. The Weir vineyard is owned and farmed by Bill and Suki Weir and is located at
elevations of 850 to 1000 feet on south and southwest facing gentle slopes. Clones
2A, Rochioli and DRC suitcase. 20% whole cluster fermentation, aged 10 months in
40% new French oak, unfined and unfiltered.
Dark reddish-violet color. Needs time to
open. Brooding dark cherry and berry fruit aromas and flavors with a touch of citric
peel on the back end. Flamboyant tannins coat the mouth and need time to be shed.
The succulent fruit became more accessible in the opened bottle as I sampled it later
in the day. If you open it now, drink it with a big ribeye steak.
The SPELL Pinot Noirs are sold through a mailing list and directly from the website at www.spellwinery.com.
Contact Shane at 612-767-1109. Try to meet Shane on one of your Sonoma wine trips as he is a very gracious
and engaging personality.
Waxwing Wine Cellars
Scott Sisemore is the only stay-at-home dad and winemaker that I know of. Scott has an impressive
winemaking background that followed his graduation from Oregon State University with a BS degree in
microbiology. From 1993 to 2000, he worked at a custom crush facility in Mendocino County and was involved
with the Mark West label. He spent time making wine abroad in both India and Chile. After stints at Rosenblum
and Ravenswood learning red wine making techniques, he returned to school obtaining an MS degree from
University California Davis. He then became the assistant winemaker at Pelligrini Family Vineyards where I
met up with him originally. Scott left Pellegrini in 2006 to stay at home with his newborn son. His wife had a
well-paying job for a biotech company with good benefits so it made more sense for Scott to take over the daily
household duties. To keep his professional drive alive, he founded a small winery, Waxwing Wine Cellars, to
enable him to create ultra-small lot, handcrafted, cool climate Pinot Noir and Syrah. I visited recently with Scott
at his leased space at Domenico Wines in San Carlos, California. We talked a little Pinot but mainly about his
hobby ultimate Frisbee and the origin of the name Waxwing. The waxwing is a migratory bird named for beads
of shiny red material (“sealing wax”) on the tips of the secondary wing feathers, the function of which is open to
much speculation. The bird has a propensity for over eating (they have been known to be so gluttonous as to
be unable to fly) and constant chatter.
The inaugural Waxwing wine, the 2007 Toboni Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, was released early
this year. Scott met Joe Toboni while working at Pellegrini. During 2005 and 2006 Scott was involved with the
custom crushing of Pinot Noir for Merry Edwards, Ted Elliott, Kevin Hamel as well as the Pellegrini Olivet Lane
Pinot Noir. Joe brought fruit to the Pellegrini facility to produce his own Oakwild Ranch label. Scott was
impressed by his Pinot Noirs and he enjoyed working with Joe. After leaving Pellegrini, Bob Pellegrini was
shedding grape sources to concentrate more on his own fruit so Scott approached Joe to buy fruit and they
decided to work on a handshake agreement. The Toboni family has been rooted in the San Francisco Bay
area for several generations. Joe is a builder and his wife works in real estate. Joe and Mary Toboni bought
their 25-acre property in the 1990s as a family (they have five children) getaway and planted 16 acres to Pinot
Noir in 2000 and 3 additional acres in 2004. The Toboni Vineyard is located about a quarter of a mile west of
the intersection of River Road and Olivet Lane.
Scott’s Toboni vineyard block was planted in 2004 and is clone Pommard 5 grafted onto 101-14 rootstock. The
yield in 2007 was 1 ton for the entire 3-acre block.
2007 Waxwing Wine Cellars Toboni Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., 55 cases, $30. Aged in 1 year-old French oak barrels.
of Bing cherries, baking spice and sandalwood. Soft in the mouth with appealing
elegant cherry pie flavors kissed gently by oak displaying a refreshing tang on the
finish. A lighter-bodied wine that is almost ethereal and very easy to drink. The
admirable acidity makes this wine a good food companion.
2005 Arista Toboni Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., $50. For comparison purposes I
sampled this wine at the same time to compare with the Waxwing.
Oak char dominates the nose and the
delicate red fruits. A silky wine that drifts over the palate with fruit that is clearly stellar, but the oak is
overwhelming. I prefer the Waxwing for its prettier fruit expression.
I sampled the 2008 Toboni Vineyard Pinot Noir out of barrel (75 cases) and although it is darker and richer with
more tannin and alcohol, it also has lively acidity and is equally fine. Scott’s stated goal is to create wines with
good acidity and sensible alcohol that are elegant in style. Scott will be hosting a Waxwing Wine Cellars launch
party on Sunday, April 19, 2009, from 1:00 to 4:00 PM at Domenico Wines, 1697 Industrial Road, San Carlos,
CA 94070. The 2007 Pinot Noir and barrel samples of the 2008 Pinot Noir and 2008 Syrah will be available for
tasting along with gourmet tidbits (Scott is a good cook as well). The 2007 Waxwing Wine Cellars Toboni
Vineyard Pinot Noir is available through a mailing list and can be ordered directly online (10% off orders of 6
bottles or more and free shipping to the San Francisco mid-peninsula area).
Tre Viti Wines
Don and Charlene Stolo bought 53 acres at the mouth of the Santa Rosa Valley about one and one half miles
inland from the town of Cambria in the Central Coast of California in 2002. The known history of the Stolo
Family property dates back to the late 1800s, when, according to local historian, Dawn Dunlap, the Phillips
Family were the owners. They established a profitable dairy and planted 30 acres of oat hay in the field
adjacent Santa Rosa Creek, a year-round stream spawning Steelhead Trout and a habitat for deer, bobcats,
coyotes, wild boars, mountain lions and skunks. Phillips sold the property in the early 1900s to Italian-Swiss
immigrant Salvatore (Sam) Berri and his wife, Katherine. The Berris enlarged the dairy operation, sold dairy
products to nearby Harmony and built the barn seen on the property today. Sam Berri began buying grapes
from York and Pesenti Family Wineries in Templeton to make his own wine and pressed the leftover skins to
make a fiery grappa. For over 30 years, Sam had a prosperous grappa business in Cambria. One of his
customers was saloon owner Rosa Camozzi and Camozzi’s bar still exists in downtown Cambria. Sam and
Katherine died in the early 1960s and their children sold the property to John and Peggy Prian who restored
the historic Phillips/Berri house on the property. They planted a 9-acre vineyard to Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah and sold the grapes to local winemakers.
In 2002, the property was acquired by the Stolos who decided to begin producing their own wine. As Italian-
Americans, Don and Charlene grew up with wine as part of their family's meals and celebrations. Their
grandparents on the East Coast bought grapes from California to make wine. In 2004, with the help of their
three children and neighbors, Don and Charlene harvested their first vintage from Stolo Family Vineyard. They
bottled 176 cases under the Tre Viti Wines label. Tre Viti is Italian for “three vines.” The theme of three was a
natural considering the Stolos have three children and three varieties are planted in the Stolo Family Vineyard.
Each new vintage is dedicated to Don and Charlene’s grandchildren whose name is displayed on the label.
The Tre Viti winemaker is Stephen Dooley. Dooley is a University California Davis graduate with over twenty
years of experience as a winemaker at Louis Martini Winery, Edna Valley Vineyard and Stephen Ross. The
Stolo Family Vineyard is managed by Bill Kesselring who has been consulting on vineyards for a decade in
Napa Valley, Sonoma County and the Central Coast including wineries such as Turley, Talley and Justin.
The proximity of the Stolo Family Vineyard to the Pacific Ocean which lies less than three miles away, makes
the vineyard site unique. The location is quite cool and protected from heat spikes creating growing conditions
that lead to a long hang time and small berries with concentrated flavors.
Future plans include construction of a winery and wine tasting facility on the property with projected completion
in 2009 and the planting of additional vines on the land adjacent Santa Rosa Creek.
2006 Tre Viti Wines Stolo Family Vineyard Anna di Isabella Central Coast Pinot Noir
14.9% alc., 72 , $32. Yields 1.24 tons per acre, harvested at 27.4 Brix. Aged in
33% new French oak. Unfined and unfiltered.
Dark fruit aromas with whiffs of oak spice.
A mid-weighted wine with ripe dark raspberry, edible flower and oak flavors. The tannins
are nicely corralled and there is a refreshing citrus note to the finish which lingers with a
riff of herbaceous oak.
Tre Viti Wines are sold on the winery’s website at www.treviti.com. 866-212-7168. The
winery also produces a Pinot Noir from Bien Nacido Vineyard (Santa Maria Valley).
Winemaker Paul Clifton came to wine from a firefighting career. He grew up in the Monterey Bay area and
always felt the lure of the outdoors and agriculture. After college he considered a white collar job in the
financial world but felt he was more suited to fight fires. After working as a firefighter for a few years, he
decided to change careers and in 1996 began his pursuit of becoming a professional winemaker. He started at
Bernardus Winery in Carmel Valley, where he was mentored by Don Blackburn, a well-known Pinot Noir vintner
who now crafts wine at Emeritus in the Russian River Valley. Paul worked his way up from cellar rat to cellar
master at Bernardus and in 1999 moved on to Byington Winery in the Santa Cruz Mountains as assistant
winemaker. He developed a passion for cool climate viticulture and Pinot Noir in particular. To further his
knowledge, he attended Lincoln University on the South Island of New Zealand and received a postgraduate
degree in viticulture. Upon returning to the United States in 2003, he began working at Hahn Estates in the
Santa Lucia Highlands with winemakers Adam Lazarre and Barry Gnekow. With time, Paul became the head
winemaker at Hahn Estates and has brought the winery’s Pinot Noir program to prominence. Like many
winemakers, Paul is rather shy and unassuming and underplays his considerable accomplishments.
Lucienne Vineyards is an estate winery within the Hahn Estates umbrella of wines launched with the 2005
vintage. Owned by Nicholas Lucien Hahn, the winery is a separate facility - a winery within a winery. The goal
at Lucienne is to produce premium Pinot Noir in small lots from two exceptional estate vineyards: Lone Oak
Vineyard and Doctor’s Vineyard. The winery takes its name from Nicky Hahn’s middle name Lucien, but in the
feminine form to honor the namesake of the Santa Lucia Mountain range where the vineyards are located.
The two vineyards are located on southeast facing slopes above the fog line creating a long daily exposure to
the sun combined with cooling winds from Monterey Bay creating a long growing season (refer to map below).
2006 Lucienne Vineyards Doctor’s Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 347 cases, $35. Vineyard planted in 2002. 100% de-stemmed, cold soak
for 3 days, inoculated with BGY yeast, fermented in 3-ton open top fermenters,
punched down three times a day, pressed with a basket press. Aged 12 months in
47% new and 53% neutral French oak barrels.
Deep rich nose of fresh plum tart with
near port aromas. Brambly, earthy and rich dark stone fruit flavors with a riff of raisin
and oak, framed by soft tannins and good acidity. The fruit approaches but does not
cross over into over ripeness.
2006 Lucienne Vineyards Lone Oak Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 217
cases, $45. Vineyard planted in 2001. 100% de-stemmed, lightly crushed, 3 day cold soak, fermented
in 3-ton open top fermenters, inoculated with EC1118 yeast, punched down three times a day. Free
run put to barrel, wine was pressed using a basket press, aged 12 months in 50% new and 50%
neutral French oak barrels.
A thoroughly enjoyable wine with attractive spiced black cherries on the
nose, dark cherries and raspberries on the palate framed by notes of coffee, leather and brown spice,
augmented by supple tannins and ending with a lasting and silky finish.
Lucienne Pinot Noirs are sold through the website at www.luciennevineyards.com. 831-678-2132. 37700
Foothill Road, PO Drawer C, Soledad, CA 93960. The Hahn Estates tasting room in Soledad is open daily.
Loos Family Winery
The Loos Family hails from Iowa where sweet dandelion and rhubarb wines were on the family table. In the
1960s, the family relocated to San Diego and then Greenbrae, California, where family trips to nearby Napa
Valley and Sonoma ignited a passion for fine wine.
Loos Family crafts very small amounts of handcrafted wine vinified in single barrels yielding no more than 300
bottles of wine per barrel. Grapes are sourced from sustainable vineyards with an emphasis on crop thinning
to produce even ripening and intensification of flavors. Winemaking employs small open top fermenters, cold
soaks, native and cultured yeasts, manual punch downs, gentle bladder pressing, MLF in barrel, and minimal
The Loos Family Logo is an artistic conglomeration of various symbols. The upper half consists of a cross with
three points with each point representing an immediate family member and the overall cross shape reminds the
Loos’ of faith. The lower half takes the shape of a folded heart. This represents love of family, winemaking and
The first release from Loos Family is the 2007 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir from Bohemian Vineyard, a 7-
acre parcel in Freestone that was planted from 1998 to 2000. Pinot Noir is the winery’s flagship wine. Since
the Loos Family are proponents of terroir, all the wines are vineyard designates yet curiously the front labels do
not display the vineyard name. In 2008, there will be a Pinot Noirs again from Bohemian Vineyard and a
second release from Annahala Vineyard in the Anderson Valley. The winemaker is Chris Nelson.
2007 Loos Family Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., 300 btls,
$40 (sold out). Dijon clones 115, 667 and 777 in equal amounts. Yields 2.5
tons per acre. Extended 9-day cold soak, gentle hand punch downs three
times a day, 10 day fermentation with wild and proprietary yeast, aged 9+
months in 50% new and 50% neutral Francois Freres French oak with
medium toast plus. Unfined and unfiltered.
Light garnet color. Complex
aromatics showing black cherry, cinnamon apple, cola and a hint of oak.
Lovely cherry fruit on an elegant platform with fine-grain tannins and a tangy finish
displaying orange peel and a delicate floral bent that is very appealing. Very impressive effort for first time out.
Loos Family wines are sold through a mailing list and on the website at www.loosfamilywinery.com.
408-799-5938 (San Jose).
Richard Berridge, a landscape architect by trade, was one of the original founders of Duckhorn Wine in 1978
and has been involved in the wine industry ever since. In 2000, Berridge started his own Pinot Noir label out of
Central Otago, New Zealand, called Drystone. Serendipity brought him together with winemakers Ginny
Lambrix and Greg La Follette and several memorable barrels of 2007 California Pinot Noir. The two 2007 Pinot
Noirs are from the Manchester Ridge Vineyard in Mendocino County and Van Der Kamp Vineyard on Sonoma
Mountain. These first releases were debuted at the 2009 World of Pinot Noir at Shell Beach, California which
is where I sampled the wines. The wines had created some buzz at the World of Pinot Noir and I stopped by
the booth to meet Richard and Ginny. I do not have detailed tasting notes but I can confirm that the wines were
very well crafted, drinking quite harmoniously despite 15% alcohols (Ginny confided they were 15% but label
reads 14.5%). It is ironic that I was circulating among the crowd with videographer Mark Ryan for Grape Radio
as we asked a number of winemakers short questions including, “Can a PInot Noir be in balance with 15%
alcohol?” These wines were proof of the possibility. We also asked winemakers to finish the statement, “Pinot
Noir is like sex because.......” You will have to watch and listen to Grape Radio (www.graperadio.com) to hear
the many clever and hilarious answers.
The Pinot Noirs are hand crafted using small 4-ton, open top former milk tanks with hand punch downs. Aging
was carried out in 50% new barriques from Francois Freres, 3 year air dried, high toast and 50% once used
Ramon barriques, medium toast long.
2007 Berridge Wines Manchester Ridge Mendocino County Pinot Noir 14.6% alc., 46 cases, $100, unreleased. I
have had a number of fine Pinot Noirs from this vineyard which is planted along the first ridge from the Pacific
Coast, a mere three miles from the Pacific Ocean. The site’s cool, maritime climate slows growth and ripening
and this vineyard is consistently one of the last to be harvested. Clones 114, 115 and 777 compose this blend.
2007 Berridge Wines Van Der Kamp Vineyard Sonoma Mountain Pinot Noir 14.7% alc., 44 cases, $100,
unreleased. This vineyard is along the north facing slope of Sonoma Mountain planted in volcanic soils. 50%
of the blend is old vine heritage selection planted 35 years ago, 25% Swan selection and 25% Pinot Meunier.
The two Pinot Noirs are scheduled for a fall 2009 release. Join the mailing list at www.berridgewines.com to
receive an offering of the wines. 707-963-9701.
Dancing With the Stars of Pinot in Oregon
International Pinot Noir Celebration
The 23rd annual International Pinot Noir Celebration (IPNC), billed as “Planet Earth’s Premier Pinot Noir
Event,” is scheduled for July 24-26, 2009. This is the grandaddy and the most heralded of all Pinot Noir
festivals. Over 60 carefully selected premier Pinot Noir producers from Oregon, California, Burgundy, New
Zealand, Austria, Champagne and Alsace will gather with 700 Pinot geeks to spend three days tasting
exceptional wines, savoring unforgettable meals, and learning and celebrating with luminaries of the food and
wine world. Jancis Robinson, a world-renowned wine educator and wine writer will be the 2009 Master of
Two seminars on soil and geology are featured which are certain to make every Pinot geek’s heart beat faster.
The morning seminar, “Down to Earth: Digging Deeper into Oregon’s Soils,” will have Jancis Robinson leading
guests in a comparative blind tasting and discussion of ten Oregon Pinot Noirs made from two specially
selected vineyards in the Willamette Valley. The Oregon winemaker panel composed of Terry Casteel (Bethel
Heights Vineyard), Steve Doerner (Cristom Vineyards), Laurent Montalieu (Soléna Cellars), Lynn Penner-Ash
(Penner-Ash Wine Cellars) and Ken Wright (Ken Wright Cellars) will explore the question of how soil, geology
and the winemaker’s approach affect the expression of Pinot Noir. The afternoon seminar will be led by
esteemed journalist David Schildknecht and eminent winemaker Francois Millet of Domaine Comte Georges
de Vogüé who will take attendees on a virtual tour of the village of Chambolle-Musigny, discussing the soils,
geology and terroir of some of the world’s most famous vineyards. A tasting of the lineup of 2006 Comte de
Vogüé wines will include the gamed Grand Crus Bonnes Mares and Musigny Vielles Vignes.
Pinot Noir is the most food-friendly wine on the planet and the 50 distinguished northwest guest chefs who
attend the IPNC highlighting the wines with memorable meals. For Friday’s Grand Dinner, chefs Vitaly Paley of
Paley’s Place, Stephanie Pearl Kimmel and Rocky Maselli of Marché, Adam Stevenson of Earth and Ocean
and John Sundstrom of Lark will team up with a local farmer to create inspired courses alongside a collection
of wines, both new and aged, poured by guest sommeliers who return year after year to make the whole
experience delightful. Saturday night’s Northwest Salmon Bake features chefs Benjamin Dyer, Jason Owens
and David Kreifels of Simpatica, mark Hosack of Gracie’s and Jason Stoller Smith of The Dundee Bistro.
Other activities include a pairing of New Zealand wines with world-class cheeses, a sensory presentation of
soils and local farm produce and an intimate vineyard tour and winery lunch at one of the nearby Willamette
Valley winery destinations. Two outdoor walk-around tastings will feature the 2006 and 2007 vintages of Pinot
Noir. Last year there were at least 16 Domaines from Burgundy pouring their wines at the walk-arounds,
unmatched by any other American Pinot Noir event.
Tickets for the full event are $975 all inclusive. Reserve a dorm room on the campus of Linfield College (there
are no exams), immerse yourself in Pinot Noir and enjoy a weekend that you will treasure forever. Join the
Prince and dance with the Pinot stars of the world. For details, visit www.ipnc.org or call 800-775-IPNC.
¡Salud! The Oregon Pinot Noir Auction
In November, 2008, I attended the ¡Salud! Oregon Pinot Noir Auction for the first time and I enjoyed myself so
much I have vowed to attend yearly. The dates are Friday and Saturday, November 13 & 14, 2009. On Friday
there is a Big Board Auction of cases of 2008 ¡Salud! Cuvées from Oregon’s top Pinot Noir producers held at
Domaine Drouhin Oregon in the Dundee Hills. Attendees can stroll through the three level winery, sampling
2008 Pinot Noirs from over 40 wineries and bid on these special lots which are only available through this
auction. This is the first extensive public showing and offering of Oregon’s 2008 vintage of Pinot Noirs. The
vintage has been justifiably highly touted (“the best in Oregon’s history” some claim. Don’t laugh this not
shallow hype). My suggestion is to form a consortium, bid on a special case of Pinot Noir and party on.
Saturday is the festive auction and dinner gala at Portland’s historic Governor Hotel. This is a more intimate
affair, attended by all of Oregon’s winemaking luminaries who are pouring their wines and celebrating in a
Paulée type atmosphere. The evening features formal attire but casual ambiance in the Oregon manner.
Participating wineries included among many, Adelsheim Vineyard, Antica Terra, Argyle, Beaux Freres, Cristom
Vineyards, Domaine Drohin Oregon, Elk Cove Vineyards, Hamacher Wines, Ken Wright Cellars, Ponzi
Vineyards, Raptor Ridge Winery, Scott Paul Wines, Soter Vineyards, St. Innocent Winery, Stoller, Westrey
Wine Company and Willakenzie Estate.
The mission of ¡Salud! is to address the hurdles faced by seasonal vineyard works in Oregon who cannot meet
their basic health needs with often only a few months of income to stretch over a full year. ¡Salud! provides
access to health care for Oregon’s these under-served seasonal vineyard workers and their families. ¡Salud!’s
Clinical Services Manager, Leda Garside RN, was recently honored with the Outstanding Service Award at the
Oregon Wine Symposium.
Tickets which include both ¡Salud! events are $395 and are available online through www.saludauction.org or
by calling 503-681-1850. I will be dancing with some Pinot at this year’s event and I hope you can join in on
PS: Andrea Johnson, one of the talented photographers whose remarkable images are in a new book on Pinot
Noir, Passion for Pinot, took the picture of my wife Patti and I at last year’s ¡Salud! Every pinotphile must have
this book in their library. Check the book out (www.pinotbook.com).
Sideways Still Creating a Stir Rex Pickett has now taken his Pinot
loyalty to Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Pickett headed to Oregon’s
Willamette Valley to golf, but as reported in the March/April 2009 issue of
Travel and Leisure Gold, he managed to make the rounds of several top
Oregon Pinot Noir producers. When interviewed by Katherine Cole for
The Oregonian (February 25, 2009), Pickett said, “I think the Willamette
Valley is way beyond Santa Ynez. I frankly think those wines (from Santa
Ynez) are overpriced. They’ll kill me for saying this, but that movie gave
them a real boon and I’m not sure they really deserved it. They don’t
make bad wines, but I was really stuck by the people up in Oregon who are
not in it for the money but for the craft of winemaking.” Apparently Pickett has written a sequel to Sideways
called “The Road Back,” which features Miles as a successful writer and Jack on the skids after a divorce The
two of them head to Oregon to the IPNC.
J Vineyards & Winery Launches New Labels The yellow “J” logo has been an icon for more than 20
years representing both varietal and sparkling bottlings from J Vineyards & Winery. Beginning with the 2007
vintage lineup of six Pinot Noirs (and 2008 Pinot Gris and Vin Gris and 2007 Chardonnay) J’s varietal wine
releases will have a new “J Vineyards” brand name with a more traditional wine bottle label that is sleek and
modern sans the “J.” The introduction of “J Vineyards” as the brand name signifies owner Judy Jordan’s
commitment to estate grown wines with a special emphasis on Pinot Noir. J’s estate acreage includes more
than 20 different soil types, multiple rootstocks and 15 clones of Pinot Noir.
WineRelease.com This site is an excellent information source of winery’s and winery releases. Created by
Neil Monnens, it now includes release schedules for 1,319 wineries. The monthly newsletter is free at
www.winerelease.com. A recent subscriber survey composed of 500 subscribers to the site’s newsletter were
reported. There were a number of very interesting findings. Not surprisingly, 68% of responders said their
monthly wine budget was decreasing. 77% admit to wine critic scores influencing their wine buying. Of the
many wine review sources, the highest confidence was with The Wine Advocate (Robert Parker), followed by
Wine Spectator, the International Wine Cellar (Steve Tanzer) and Burghound (Allen Meadows). The remainder
of wine review sources such as Wine Enthusiast and Wine & Spirits had low confidence levels. Wine Spectator
has the highest subscriber rate at 84% followed by The Wine Advocate at 54%.
Red Wine Increases Female Libido A study from Santa Maria Nuova Hospital in Florence found that
drinking one to two glasses of red wine a day increased female sex drive and women who drank one to two
glasses of wine a day were found to be more sexually active than those who abstain. Unfortunately, alcohol
may increase the desire but decrease the ability to have orgasms in both men and women. The “brewer’s
droop” is a common term referring to the impotence that may follow drinking alcohol in males. Woman may
find sexual desires heightened through removal of inhibitions but too much wine or alcohol makes it less like
that she will have an orgasm as well.
AlaWine.com This is a very interesting website that comes out of Sonoma County. The “Super-Award-
Winning” wines (Best of Show, Sweepstakes Winners, Best of Class, Best of Varietal, Double Gold Medal) from
regional, national and international wine competitions are posted. In wine competitions, these “Super Award”
winners are the wines that you should pay the most attention to. Judging at major wine competitions is
notoriously fraught with inconsistencies and errors but at the “Super Award” level the awards represent a
consensus of the judging panels and thus have significant validity. The site’s host, “KenW,” also reviews a
number of the “Super Award” wines. The site contains a ranking of wine blogs and a search engine for 600
wine blogs. Visit www.alawine.com.
Vintronix Tasting Device Oregon Wine Press ran a hilarious spoof titled “Taste with Confidence” in their
April issue (www.oregonwinepress.com) to commemorate Aprils Fool’s Day. The purported Vintronix hand-held
device is inserted in a glass of wine and gives an instant numerical wine score based on the 100-point system.
The device is reportedly a godsend for those who feel they lack expertise in judging wine. “Many times I have
enjoyed a nice glass of wine only to later find that it had scored poorly. This can be embarrassing.” Testing
with the Vintronix found that Oregon Pinot Noir was superior to Burgundy PInot Noir. An advanced tester (the
“Vin-Magician”) is being developed that will allow winemakers to find out scores directly from barrel!
More Pinot Events
The 5th Annual Pinot Days at Fort Mason, San Francisco will feature 200 acclaimed Pinot Noir producers
pouring their 2007 vintage wines at the Grand Festival on Sunday, June 28th, with many other preceding
events geared for pinotphiles. On Wednesday, June 24, the Newcomers in Pinot tasting will feature 16 new
hounds to the Pinot race. I will be moderating this tasting seminar. The Producer Spotlight Tasting in the
evening on June 24 will be an intimate affair with accomplished winemaker Ed Kurtzman (Freeman, August
West). Ed is one of the most approachable winemakers I know and this is a rare opportunity to spend an
evening with Ed and his superb wines. Thursday, June 25, features the Winemakers Table Hop Dinner at Pres
A Vi Restaurant. On Friday, June 26, join 80 people as they taste Pinot Noir along Westside Road in the
Russian River Valley, culminating in a concert and barbecue at C. Donatiello Winery. The bus tour will include
special tastings at Arista, John Tyler, Gary Farrell and Thomas George Estates. On Saturday, June 27, there
will be a series of four 2-hour seminars: Celebrated Vineyards: Hirsch, Keefer Ranch, Pisoni and Clos Pepe,
Pinot’s 2007 Vintage: Gems from the Southern AVAs (16 winemakers from Santa Maria Valley, Santa Rita Hills,
Santa Lucia Highlands, and Santa Barbara County), Pinot’s 2007 Vintage: Gems from the Northern AVAs (16
winemakers from Russian River Valley, Carneros, Anderson Valley, Santa Cruz Mountains and the Sonoma
Coast), and The Legends of California Pinot Noir (Richard Sanford of Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards), Merry
Edwards (Merry Edwards Wines), Jean Arnold and Bob Sessions (Hanzell) and Jeffrey Patterson (Mount
Eden). Join the Prince as I moderate all of these tastings. There is also a series of retail store tastings in the
San Francisco Bay area leading up to Pinot Days. For all the details and to obtain tickets, visit
www.pinotdays.com. The event’s tag line says it all: “Serious wines, serious fun.”
Four days of San Luis Obispo wine and food. On Thursday, April 30, the Barrels in the Plaza event is held in
downtown San Luis Obispo’s Mission Plaza. On Friday, May 1, there are Winemaker Dinners throughout south
San Luis Obispo County hosted by wineries including Baileyana, Claiborne & Churchill, Domaine Alfred, Edna
Valley Vineyard, Laetitia Winery, Ortman Family Vineyards & Salisbury Vineyards, Per Bacco Cellars and
Tolosa Winery. Saturday and Sunday, May 2 and 3, participating wineries will have special open houses and
events. Roll Out the Barrels is sponsored by the San Luis Obispo Vintners Association (SLO Vintners). Visit
www.slowwine.com for details, to view a video on the event, and buy tickets.
Another regional event of great interest is a winemaker dinner by Mike Sinor (formerly Domaine Alfred, now
Sinor-LaVallee and Ancient Peaks) at Et Voilà restaurant in San Luis Obispo on Friday, April 24, 2009. For
reservations call the restaurant at 805-544-3663. Mike is pictured below talking PInot.
Taste the Place showcases a select gathering of estate wineries of the Yamhill-Carlton District AVA of Oregon’s
Willamette Valley on Saturday, April 25 from 11:00 to 4:00 at Anne Amie Vineyards, 6580 N.E. Mineral Springs
Road in Carlton. $10 admission includes tasting and appetizers. Participating Yamhill Valley restaurants
include Cuvée, Joel Palmer House, La Rambla and Nick’s Italian Cafe. Participating wineries include Anne
Amie, ADEA, Atticus, Barbara Thomas, Belle Pente, Carlton Hill, Carlton Cellars, Elk Cove, Ken Wright,
Kramer, Lemelson, Monk’s Gate, Panther Creek, Raptor Ridge, Resonance, Roots, Shea, Sineann, Soléna,
Soter, Stag Hollow, Twelve and Willakenzie Estate. For details visit www.yamhillcarltondistrict.com or phone
503864-2991. This event is part of the Willamette Valley Wineries Association’s 150 Days of Wine in the
Willamette Valley, a series of wine events and activities taking place between Valentine’s Day and Labor Day
290. For more information on these events, visit www.willamettewines.com/oregon150/index.shtm/.
The Dundee Hills Winegrowers Association presents the 4th Annual Dundee Hills Passport Tour on Saturday
and Sunday, April 18 and 19. Interesting seminars are scheduled such as “All You Want to Know, But Were
Afraid to Ask Regarding Vineyards and Grape Growing,” “Benefits of Sustainable Agriculture,” “Starting Your
Own Winery - Dream or Delusion,” and “How Mother Nature Dictates Vintages and How We Deal With It.”
Over 30 wineries are participating, many of which I have featured in the PinotFile including Argyle Winery,
Daedalus Cellars, Dobbes Family Estate Winery, Domaine Drouhin Oregon, The Eyrie Vineyards, The Four
Graces, Lange Estate Winery, Maresh Red Hills Vineyard, Stoller Vineyards, and Winderlea Vineyard &
Winery. For information and to download your passport visit www.dundeehills.org.
Petaluma Gap Update
Jason Jenkins, the owner of Vine and Barrel Wine Shop in downtown Petaluma, is hosting another major Pinot
Noir tasting featuring the wines from the Petaluma Gap region of the Sonoma Coast on Saturday April 18, from
3:00 to 5:00 PM. The lineup of participating wineries includes Sonoma Harvest Fair winners James Family and
Calstar Cellars, Chronicle Gold Medal Winner Bohemian Vineyard, as well as Hart’s Desire, Clary Ranch,
Kastania, Ridgeway, Balletto, Boheme, Windy Hill and more. Jason will be roasting a 100 pound pig and local
cheese makers will be offering samples. Adobe Road Winery’s Jeff Buckler will have his Le Mans racing
Porsche for viewing and a special guest will provide live music. See why all the buzz about Petaluma Gap
Pinot Noirs. Tickets are $30 per person. Call 707-765-1112 for tickets. This will sell out!
The first Petaluma Gap Vineyard Tour will be held on Sunday, April 18. This is an informal gathering of
Petaluma Gap enthusiasts hosted by some of the local vineyards and wineries. This is not necessarily a wine
tasting event, but rather an opportunity to meet growers, walk the vineyards and learn about the Gap’s
wineries. The host properties at this first Tour include Ridgeway Vineyards, Clary Ranch Vineyards and Azari
Winery. There are plans to continue these tours on a biweekly basis throughout the spring and early summer
months. RSVP to email@example.com or call the Petaluma Gap Winegrowers Alliance President,
Teela Ridgeway at 707-778-0447.
There are two Petaluma Gap videos on You Tube at
and www.youtube.com/watch?v=zndczE3e55E . The question of whether the Petaluma Gap should have
its own appellation designation is discussed.
The Petaluma Gap Winegrowers Alliance has a new revamped and informative website at
www.petalumagap.com. Member vintners include Adobe Road Winery, Armagh Vineyard, Azari Winery, Clary
Ranch Wines, Cline Cellars, Crushpad, Field Vineyards & Winery, Hummingbird Hill Vineyards, Kastania
Vineyards, Keller Estate, Morris Ranch, Pfendler Vineyards, Ridgeway Family Vineyards and Sonoma Valley
Portworks. There are over 3,000 acres of vineyards in the Petaluma Gap ranging in size from a backyard plot
to hundreds of acres. The main varietals are Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah. Many growers sell grapes to
noted wineries such as Auteur, Belle-Glos, Bouchaine, Chasseur, DuMol, Dutton-Goldfield, Flowers, Harrington
Wine, Kosta Browne, Kutch, Landmark, L’Angevin, Lynmar, McPhail, Patz & Hall, Roessler, Siduri, Sojourn,
Tandem and Zepaltas.