PinotFile: 7.21 July 9, 2009
- 2007 Vintage: You’re The One That I Want
- Praiseworthy 2007 Pinots from J Vineyards
- Lane Tanner’s Enticing Pinots
- Eric Kent Wine Cellars: Wine as Art in Santa Rosa
- Landmark Vineyards
- Foursight Wines Part of the New Breed in Anderson Valley
- Red Car Wine Company: Grab The Red Car to the Sonoma Coast
- De La Montanya: So Many Choices
- Rivers-Marie: Show Stopper Pinot Noir
- Pali Wine Co. Spans the Entire Northwest Pinot Trail
- More Sips of 2007 California Pinot Noir
- Sips of 2006 California Pinot Noirs
- Garys’ Vineyard 2004 Horizontal Tasting
- Pinot Briefs
- Rosés of Pinot Noir Enliven Summer
2007 Vintage: You’re The One That I Want
“The crop size was down, but we harvested beautiful, beautiful fruit this year (2007).
If someone’s not making great wine from this vintage, they are in the wrong business”
Winegrower Steve Dutton
2007 was one of those exceptional vintages when the wines were stellar all over California. There were
challenges for sure, as rainfall was decreased early in the season in many areas, the resulting clusters and
grapes were small leading to limited yields, and rain did intervene briefly at harvest in some areas. What was
special about this vintage was that even ripening was the rule and phenolic ripeness was achieved at
reasonable alcohol levels.
Vintage charts abound among the wine press. In a cursory look at the web, I found several examples that rate
each vintage using a 100-point scale. The different vintage charts show some variance in vintage scores but
some years dating back to 1990 in California consistently stand out (all scoring 90 or above): 2007, 2005, 2003,
2002, 2001, 1999, 1997, 1995, 1994, 1991, 1992 and 1990. Wine Spectator provides the only vintage charts
which break down the vintage according to specific regions in California producing Pinot Noir (Anderson Valley,
Sonoma, Monterey, Carneros, and Santa Barbara are highlighted). Internet subscription is required to access
the Wine Spectator charts.
Was 2007 the vintage of the decade? A look back at the vintage charts for the
preceding seven vintages of the decade would not support such a claim because
the 2001 and 2002 vintages received higher scores (Wine Spectator has yet to
release its 2007 vintage score). That said, Pinot Noir viticulture and winemaking
has progressed dramatically over the past 5 to 6 years, creating, if not better
wines, a larger number of great wines compared to 2001 and 2002. For example,
some outstanding producers featured in this issue such as Rivers-Marie (2002),
De la Montanya (2003), Eric Kent Cellars (2003), Cima Collina (2004), Pali Wine
Company (2005), and Foursight (2007) were not even producing Pinot Noir as
recently as 2001. J Winery & Vineyards, whose Pinot Noirs are strikingly good in
the 2007 vintage, made a serious commitment to Pinot Noir beginning with the
2006 vintage. Several wine regions such as Carneros and Santa Cruz Mountains
have made remarkable strides over the last six vintages. I believe it is safe to say
that no other vintage in this decade surpasses 2007 for breadth of quality Pinot
Noir throughout California.
There are many California Pinot Noirs to recommend from the 2007 vintage and several of them are reviewed
in the pages to follow. My cellar is crammed with California Pinot Noir from 2007 and I plan to buy considerably
more. To hell with the recession! The 2007 vintage was more challenging in Oregon than in California, yet many
adroit winemakers made excellent wines. The 2007 Oregon Pinot Noirs will be reviewed in the next issue.
A final note about the word vintage. According to History of Wine Words, “Although a wine’s vintage is the year
in which it was grown, and although the English word age is right there inside the word vintage, the etymology
of vintage actually has nothing to do with the year of the wine or its age.” Vintage literally means “harvesting of
Praiseworthy 2007 Pinots from J Vineyards
The 2007 vintage marks a significant change for J Vineyards & Winery, whose widely recognizable yellow “J”
logo has distinguished both J varietal and sparkling wines for over twenty years. With the 2007 vintage, J
Vineyards & Winery is launching a new look to the winery’s Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines with the introduction of a new "J Vineyards" brand and new labeling.
The new “J Vineyards” brand and packaging
(above) reflects the Russian River Valley which is the primary source of grapes for the winery’s Pinot Noirs
and Chardonnay. The background terroir pattern on the simple and sleek labels is infused into the paper,
reflecting striations in water, stone and vines, which are the important components of winemaking.
The new labels represent a new commitment to ultra-premium Pinot Noir and
Chardonnay under the direction of veteran winemaker, George Bursick, who joined J
Vineyards in May, 2006 after a distinguished 22-year career at Ferrari-Carano Winery.
Although the 2006 vintage wines were the first fully executed vintage under Bursick’s
direction, in 2007 he was able to more fully institute his innovative winemaking
techniques which will continue to evolve and be refined over several vintages.
Fortunately, J has the financial resources and the drive to give Bursick the freedom to
acquire the latest winemaking equipment necessary to fine-tune and advance the
varietal wine program.
George Bursick is driven to create Pinot Noir with elegance and balance through
detailed and gentle winemaking practices. Most importantly, he is committed to
create wine with supple mouth feel and most of his winemaking techniques, which are
often risky, are directed at achieving that end. His winemaking regimen, which is not defined by a recipe and is
constantly evolving through experimentation, includes the following: (1) Removal of seeds to reduce immature
tannins. Adequate tannin is obtainable from the skins which can be left in the fermenter longer as the skin
tannins are less aggressive. Seeds are removed by the de-stemmer, the vibrating table, and special Italian-made
tanks which allow easy disposal of seeds which sink to the bottom. In 2007, 40% of the seeds were
removed, in 2008 65%-70%, and in 2009 90% of the seeds will be removed; (2) Long fermentations in open top
fermenters are employed resulting in softer extraction. Up to 10 days cold soak followed by 3 to 4 week
fermentation and up to 10 days of maceration after dryness before pressing; (3) Use of indigenous yeasts and
inoculation with yeast strains from the University of Dijon that date back to the 1930s; (4) Minimal new oak aging. Bursick
dislikes new oak for Pinot Noir, preferring an “oak slap” for Chardonnay. In 2008 and 2009, he is aging the
Pinot Noir primarily in second-year French oak barrels previously used for Chardonnay; (5) Slight fining is done
if needed and gentle filtering is made necessary by the high risk winemaking in which minimal sulfur is used.
Judy Jordan founded J in 1986 as a small méthode champenoise sparkling wine project at her father Tom
Jordan’s winery in Alexander Valley. In a short time, J set the standard for sparkling wine in California. After
moving to the old Piper-Sonoma facility in 1996 and remodeling it in 1999, the winery launched an enhanced
Visitor Center experience for consumers which remains the industry standard. Today, J produces a Vintage
Brut and a Late-Disgorged Vintage Brut, a Non-Vintage Brut Rosé, and a Non-Vintage J Cuvée 20 Brut. The
iconic yellow “J” will continue to identify J sparkling wines. Volume will decrease as the winery’s emphasis
shifts to varietal still wines, but the sparkling wine program will maintain and even exceed its present level of virtuosity.
J Vineyards & Winery now farms ten estate vineyards totaling just over 274 planted acres in the Russian River
Valley. There are 35 sub-blocks, nine rootstocks, 15 clones of Pinot Noir and 3 clones of Chardonnay. Under
the direction of noted viticulturist John Erbe, the emphasis is on site-specific wines of great character and
sense of place. J also buys fruit from a few prestigious vineyards. A map of the vineyards is on page 4.
In late June, I sat down with Bursick and tasted through the 2007 lineup of J Vineyards Pinot Noirs. The wines
are scheduled for a mid-to-late August to September 1 release. When asked about the timing of the release,
Bursick replied, “Release is dictated by the aromas. Texture is always present. The wines will be tight initially
due to reductive winemaking.” The wines were all decanted before my tasting but I definitely noticed some
modicum of restraint initially in the wines with aromas and flavors blossoming after an hour or so in the glass
as we tasted through the wines. The Russian River Valley appellation bottling is the best choice to drink now.
The other Pinot Noirs are approachable but will benefit from decanting or another six months in the bottle.
These are all marvelous Pinot Noirs sporting elegance, smooth textures and impeccable balance. They ooze
“pinosity.” Bursick is definitely on to something and as he becomes more familiar with the idiosyncrasies of
each vineyard and is able to fully institute his winemaking program, J Vineyards will surely be a reference
standard not only for California sparkling wine, but also Russian River Pinot Noir.
2007 J Vineyards Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., 14,500 cases, $35. A blend of 15
different vineyards from estate vineyards as well as selected growers in the Russian River Valley
appellation. Includes a variety of clones, mostly Dijon, as well as Rochioli and 2A. Aged 15 months
in 30% new French oak. Blended just before bottling.
This wine is the most expressive aromatically
in the lineup. Very fragrant aromas of Bing cherries with an underpinning of baking spices. Cherry driven
flavors with subtle hints of brown spice, herbs and oak. Smoothly textured, vibrant and clean
with impressive harmony. Very drinkable now. Quintessential Russian River Valley Pinot Noir.
2007 J Vineyards Nicole’s Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
alc., 1,300 cases, $65. The fruit for this wine was harvested from J’s
crown jewel hillside 42-acre vineyard planted to Pinot Noir and Pinot
Meunier overlooking the Russian River Valley. The soil is Arbuckle
series and uplifted river material. Clones include 2A, Dijon 113, 115.
Aged in 40% new French oak.
Richly scented with black cherries and
ripe berries. The rich and mouth filling melange of berry fruit is
supported by a tannic edge that suggests age ability. The finish goes on and
on. My notes say, wow! Enough said.
2007 J Vineyards Robert Thomas Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., 400 cases, $65.
Winemakers talk about vineyards as if they have personalities and Bursick refers to Robert Thomas Vineyard
as “feisty.” This 50-acre vineyard is located in a cool westerly location on Westside Road along the Russian
River and is one of the last to ripen. Some parts of the vineyard never do ripen fully and are used in sparkling
wine. Leaves are stripped from both sides of the vines to attempt to achieve phenolic maturity (Bursick jokes,
“Kids, don’t try this at home!”). Soils are Zamora silty clay loam, dense with gravel. The clones are 114, 777,
828, Pommard, Rochioli and Swan. Aged in 40% new French oak.
Brooding and shy aromas of berry
preserves, loam and mint. This wine has the most prodigious fruit and structure in the lineup, yet is not jammy.
The dark red fruits are highlighted by notes of cola, tea and dark mocha. Like all the 2007 J Pinot Noirs, the
texture is as satiny as a baby’s bottom. Needs time and hardy food. Very good.
2007 J Vineyards Barrel 16 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.4% alc., 300 cases, $70. This wine
is composed of the 16 best barrels in the cellar sourced from J’s estate vineyards. Aged in 30% new
Moderately deep reddish-purple color. Shy but appealing scents of deep, dark fruit, herb
garden and brioche. Luscious black cherry and black raspberry flavors are discreetly concentrated
and have a remarkable persistence on the pleasing finish which displays an added echo of dark
chocolate, savory herbs and toast. The tannins are very supple, and the mouthfeel is rich, sumptuous
and velvety. About as perfect as it gets. Ridiculous now but will only get better with cellaring.
2007 J Vineyards Nonny’s Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.4% alc., 350 cases, $70. Sourced
from a 70-acre vineyard adjacent River Road planted in 2000 and newly replanted in 2006 and 2007 to Dijon
clones 115, 667, 777, 828 and Calera selection. The soil in this vineyard is Arbuckle Series, a reddish loam
with gravel striations. Aged in 30% new French oak.
Forest floor and truffle aromas are front and center with
dark fruits finding intensity with time in the glass. Earth-dusted ripe strawberry, black cherry and roasted plum
flavors are lush and satisfying. The wine is caressing in the mouth with tannin so fine as to be imperceptible,
and ends in a long and powerfully aromatic finish. The soil speaks loudly in this beguiling wine.
2007 J Vineyards Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., 350 cases, $70. Sourced from the southern
reaches of the Sonoma Coast appellation. Aged in 30% new French oak.
An earthy wine which sports
powerfully scented and flavored dark fruits that are feral and exotic in type. A hint of mint adds interest on the
nose. Very smoothly textured with fine-grain tannins and the slightest hint of oak on the finish. A bright future
awaits this lovely wine.
I visit many wineries in my travels along the Pinot trail, but J‘s modern Visitor Center is one of the classiest I
have ever met with. The Visitor Center provides several tasting experiences for visitors. When J launched its
Visitor Center in 1999, it was the first to blend wine tastings with seasonal food pairings. The Signature Bar is
open for tasting daily, except major holidays, 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM ($10). The J Bubble Room experience ($55
per person) offers sit-down service of library vintages and small production wines with a tasting menu. When
weather allows, a tasting menu is also offered on the outdoor J Terrace ($35). The J Essence Tasting ($200
per person) includes transportation to one of J’s estate vineyards, a private vineyard tour, and an intimate
seven course wine and food pairing luncheon in the Bubble Room. Reservations are required for all but tasting
at the Signature Bar. Tours of J are offered daily at 11:00 AM and 2:30 PM by appointment. J Vineyards &
Winery is located at 11447 Old Redwood Highway in Healdsburg. The phone is 888-JWINE-CO and the
website is www.jwine.com.
Lane Tanner’s Enticing Pinots
Lane Tanner, the Pinot Czarina, is a California treasure who has not received the notoriety that she deserves.
She was one of the first female California winemakers to make a credible Pinot Noir in California (1984) and
has demonstrated a remarkable resiliency and consistency over the past 25 years. There is nary
a mention of her in books on Central Coast Pinot Noir (Santa Barbara County Wineries, California’s Central
Coast, The Ultimate Winery Guide). She works out of a small space at Central Coast Wine Services in Santa
Maria Valley which is not on anyone’s Pinot Noir winery travel itinerary. She doesn’t own any vineyards and
her “tasting room” is a closet-size space in the voluminous building at Central Coast Wine Services housing
many other wineries. Fortunately, author Judy Reynolds, in her book, Once Upon a Vine: The Secret Stories of
California’s Artisan Wineries, writes about Lane (who she affectionately calls “Bette Midler in a bottle).
Reynolds says, “What do you get when you blend a wry sense of humor with pixy good looks and a yen for
chemistry.... In the madcap life script that Fate wrote for Lane Tanner, you get a winemaking woman who
started her own brand in the earliest days of Santa Barbara Pinot Noir..... and lots of laughs.”
Lane is a delightful woman whose charm is reflected in her enticing Pinot Noirs. After graduating from college
with a degree in chemistry, she found herself working on the bottling line at Konocti Winery in Lake County,
California. Konocti’s winemaker, Bill Peese, found out she had a degree in chemistry and moved her into the
winery lab. The first day in the lab, she was introduced as the new enologist to the winery’s consultant, Andre
Tchelistcheff. The only problem was that Lane had no clue what an enologist was. Andre kept telling the
winemaker, “Have Lane test this, have Lane test that.” Fortunately, Andre was charmed by her spunk and her
future career was born. Her encounter with Tschelistcheff has led to her adopting her current moniker, “Pinot
Czarina.” Tschelistcheff’s sister was a Czarina but is now deceased, so Lane decided to carry on the name.
Lane moved to an enologist position at Firestone Winery in Santa Barbara County in 1981 and then started her
eponymous label, Lane Tanner Winery, in 1984. Victor Geraci, writing in Salud! The Rise of Santa Barbara’s
Wine Industry, noted, “Lane Tanner proved that a woman could also achieve status as an independent
winemaker.” Lane’s first Pinot Noir was released under the Hitching Post label in 1984 made from grapes from
Sierra Madre Vineyard and Santa Maria Hills Vineyard. This was the house wine for the Hitching Post
restaurant in Buellton made famous in the movie ‘Sideways.’ Her first wine under the Lane Tanner label was
the 1989 vintage when she released a Pinot Noir from both Sierra Madre Vineyard and Sanford and Benedict
Vineyard. She points out that these vineyards are now 100% replanted so are not the same as when she
sourced them. Lane was one of the first winemakers to acquire a contract for Pinot Noir grapes from the famed
Bien Nacido Vineyard, a contract that continues to the present day. Currently, she is married to Australian
winemaker, Ariki (Riki) Smith (Labyrinth Wines) who handles the heavy chores in Lane’s current winemaking
Because of her extensive experience with California Central Coast Pinot Noir, I asked her what she thought
was the biggest change in California Pinot Noir in the last 25 years. Lane said the single most important
change in the life of Pinot Noir winemakers was leaf pulling. “Before we started leaf pulling, Pinot Noir grapes
seldom got riper than 23º brix before the crop would be lost to mold. Even at 22º brix, mold was present. The
color was always light with an almost watery look. Leaf pulling allowed us as much hang time as we wanted
and the color difference in the finished wines was astounding!”
Lane producers about 1,500 cases of Pinot Noir from purchased Santa Barbara County grapes. In 2007,
production was down and she made only two wines. As she says, “The crop was way small!” Yields were only
one ton or less per acre resulting in wines that are “unusually thick and bolder, even with my finessful (her
term) touch.” Lane is known for elegance and sensible alcohol levels. She often picks her grapes before other
winemakers. That said, her Pinot Noirs are not “sissy” wines but rather Pinot Noirs of flavor, nuance and
Her winemaking regimen includes de-stemming into 4’ by 4’ by 4’ open-top fermenters. Fermentation goes on
with Aussmanhausen yeast over two weeks. The wine is aged 11 months in 46% new French oak barrels with
the remainder being one-year-old barrels. The wine is unfined and gently filtered (“rock and frog filtering”) for
visual clarity. All wines are very low in sulfites because Lane is allergic to sulfites. Because of the small
clusters and berries in 2007, the wines are concentrated and more on the dark side than is usual for Lane. The
alcohols are a touch lower.
2007 Lane Tanner Bien Nacido Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
alc., 295 cases, $33. From N Block (Martini clone on its own rootstock planted in
1973). Back label says, “Laugh More-Flirt Often.”
Appealing intense aromas of
blackberries, raspberries, plums, raisins and herbs. Tasty earth-dusted berry flavors
with pepper in the background. There is a slight roasted quality to the fruit. Alluring
richness, smoothly textured, with a tenacious persistence on the finish. Lane Tanner
Pinot amped up a notch. Not as expressive as it will be but great cheekbones now.
2007 Lane Tanner Julia’s Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
13.8% alc., 447 cases, $36.
Sourced from block B4 (Martin Ray selection) of Julia’s Vineyard which is located about 3 miles east of
Bien Nacido Vineyard. The crop was low so it ripened earlier and harvest occurred about a month
earlier than in 2006. Lane was the first to pick at this vineyard. Aged 11 months in 33% new French
oak and 44% one-year-old barrels. The wine was not finned and was gently filtrated.
Watch out for
this spiced-up mother as it will seduce you. On the extroverted nose there are lovely scents of
framboises des boise and cassis liquors which draw you into the glass. The lush berry fruit is rich and
opulent with well-integrated tannins and a whisper of oak. Balance is spot on. The mouth feel is satiny and the
long, powerful finish is seductively perfumed. This is a wine with considerable cleavage that is hard to say no
Lane Tanner Wines are available on the website at www.lanetanner.com. There are small amounts of the 2006
Santa Barbara County and Julia’s Vineyard Pinot Noirs still available as well as a limited number of library
wines. Prices for the 2007 vintage are the same as for the 2006 vintage. Its a no-brainer: great Pinot at a
sensible price made by a pioneering and highly respected California winemaker. The Bien Nacido bottling is
the least expensive Pinot Noir from this vineyard on the market today (due to a contract that dates back to
1993). Free shipping on orders of 8-12 bottles. Phone Lane for questions or flirting: 805-929-1826.
Eric Kent Wine Cellars: Wine as Art in Santa Rosa
Like Superman’s Clark Kent, there is in reality no Eric Kent. Eric is owner Kent Humphrey’s middle name and
Kent is his first name. Being on the humble side, Kent just could not bear to be blatantly eponymous. He also
could not imagine people in a trendy restaurant asking the sommelier for a bottle of “Humphrey” Pinot Noir.
So, he inverted his first and middle names and his “nom de vin” was born.
Kent grew up in California around a family table that enjoyed wine. His college path, however, was not directed
toward wine, but rather the doctorate program at University of California Berkeley in French. He soon opted
out of academia and pursued a job in advertising. He started his own agency and his company grew rapidly
but his youthful idealism was drained and he says, “The work nearly sucked the joy out of life.” During the ten
years he worked in advertising, he sampled, savored, collected and delighted in wine. When he finally broke
from the advertising world, his friends and family encouraged him to seek a career in wine.
He considered attending University California Davis for winemaking training, but realized that many of the
wines he most admired were made by people who had no formal training in wine. So he sought out hands-on
experience. A few years later, he was offered some classy fruit from top notch vineyards and Eric Kent Wine
Cellars was born. He produced 375 cases in the inaugural 2003 vintage and has since grown to 1,900 cases
annually. Given his run-in with big business, he plans to stay small and lean with growth stopping at 4,000
cases. The plan for that buildup is sensibly paced and he is content to take whatever time is necessary to do it
well. His wines have created a sensation from the beginning and the demand may accelerate his projected
rate of growth.
Eric Kent Wine Cellars is a family affair with his wife, Colleen, an accomplished artist, working with Kent in
making blending decisions and he helping her choose the individual art works that grace the bottles of Eric
Kent wines. Kent’s sister, Renee (pictured below with Kent), is the Director of Wholesale and Distribution.
Over half of the wine is sold directly to E/K Direct Club members who receive significant discounts. Kent
specializes in coastal Pinot Noir, and cool-climate Chardonnay and Syrah.
The works of art featured on the front labels are quite striking. The artwork is from deserving, but yet
undiscovered talent. Each artist brings a unique vision that compliments the spirit behind the wines. The labels
add another dimension to wine by creating a built-in discussion with every cork pulled. With each vintage, a
portion of the wine sales is donated to help support the work of struggling artists.
Kent’s winemaking regimen is traditional. He employs a 4 to 8 day cold soak. Stem inclusion is variable and
will depend on the appearance and taste of the stems. Native fermentation is employed for the Chardonnays,
the Pinot Noirs are frequently inoculated. Aging is carried out in 45% to 55% new French oak barrels.
I tasted the three 2007 Eric Kent Pinot Noirs with Kent recently. They are all quite different wines true to their
disparate origins, and each offers excellent drinking. The 2007 Stiling Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
will be released in the fall. The 2007 Small Town Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir is unfortunately sold out, but the
Windsor Oaks Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir is still available.
2007 Eric Kent Wine Cellars Stiling Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.7% alc., 307 cases, fall. Pronounced “Styling,” this vineyard was planted initially in
1989 with Swan clone and then inter-planted with Dijon 115 clone. This wine is almost
entirely Swan clone. 30% whole cluster. Aged in 55% new French oak barrels. Label
art is by John Yoyogi Fortes.
The nose is quite charming and accessible featuring
black cherries, raspberries and red plums. Caressing in the mouth with soft tannins
and defining acidity, the flavors of dried cherries and baking spice stand out. This
vintage offers more elegance and restraint than the 2006 version and is a sleek and
seductive wine that is quite stylish.
2007 Eric Kent Wine Cellars Windsor Oaks Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.9% alc., 352 cases, $39 (Club Pre Release $30.25). Second vintage from a 220-acre
Russian River Valley vineyard located east of Highway 101. Planted to 18 varietals, Kent
sources four Pinot Noir clones (about 25% of each) including Dijon 114, 115, 667 and 777.
An early ripening site that allows for 17% whole cluster inclusion. Aged in 50% new
French oak barrels. Label art is by Evan B. Harris.
Ripe, but not overripe, aromas of dark
fruits, roses and brown spices. The flavors echo the aromas with an added hint of savory
herbs, sassafras and raisins. A pleasing fruit-forward wine with fine-grain tannins and a
refreshing finish. Approachable now and showing more pizzazz than the 2006 vintage.
2007 Eric Kent Wine Cellars Freestone Pinot Noir
14.8% alc., 148 cases,
$48 (Club Pre Release $39), sold out. The label says, “Freestone,” marking the
western Russian River location of the two vineyards that provided the grapes.
After the label was printed, Kent found out “Freestone” is trademarked and had
to change the name to “Small Town” which is the name of the wine on the
website. This cool area is most akin to the true Sonoma Coast, with harvest
coming three to five weeks later than Kent’s other fruit sources and arriving in
the winery at a lower brix with more natural acidity. Clones are Dijon 115, 777 with 7%
Swan clone from Stiling Vineyard. Aged in 45% new French oak barrels. Label artist is
Meghan Adler. Unfiltered.
This is a spectacular Pinot Noir that is packed with nuanced
and layered aromas and flavors. Berry compote, black cherry cobbler, anise, herbs,
forest floor all show up in a smoothly textured, beautifully balanced, full-bodied and
opulent package that has a very powerful charisma. Understandably sold out.
Eric Kent Wine Cellars offers wines for sale on the website at www.erickentwines.com. Sign up for the E/K
Direct Club to receive significant discounts on purchases. Wines are offered in the spring and fall with the
option of designing your club shipments any way you like, up to six bottles of each wine. Like the Freestone
bottling above, the wines are frequently sold out through pre release to E/K Direct Club members. There are
small quantities of Eric Kent wines available through retail channels and at fine restaurants (see website for
locations). The phone is 707-527-9700. Details of the artists whose work appears on Eric Kent labels is offered
on the website by Colleen Teitgen (Humphrey), the Curator for Eric Kent Wine Cellars. You must visit the
website which is one of the most navigable and comprehensive that I have ever seen for a winery.
“I will never put my name on a product that does not have in it the best that is in me.”
Landmark is not on the beaten path of the Pinot trail since it is located in Kenwood in the Sonoma Valley, and it
is better known for its superb Chardonnays (Overlook, Damaris Reserve, and Lorenzo) which rival the best in
California. Nevertheless, pinotphiles know that Landmark is a top choice for consistently excellent Pinot Noir
as well. I have sampled many vintages of Landmark Pinot Noir but had never visited the winery to meet the
owners and winemakers. While visiting Sonoma before the recent Pinot Days event, proprietor Mary Colhoun
proudly welcomed me to Landmark’s beautiful landscaped visitor center and winery. I was able to sample both
the current 2007 Landmark Pinot Noirs in release and 2008 wines in barrel.
Mary, and spouse Michael, follow a long family tradition of farming and agriculture. Michael’s great-great-great
grandfather was John Deere, inventor of the first steel plow and the founder of one of the world’s largest farm
equipment manufacturing companies. Michael’s mother, Damaris Deere Wiman Ethridge, along with other
partners founded Landmark in 1974 in Windsor, California. The partners subsequently sold the Windsor
property and Damaris moved the winery to a scenic site at the foot of Sugarloaf Mountain in the Sonoma Valley
in 1979. Damaris, who was John Deere’s great-great granddaughter, convinced her son, Michael Deere
Colhoun and his wife Mary, to move from the East coast in 1992 to take over the day-to-day operations of the
winery. With no experience in the wine business, (Michael was a commercial real estate executive who grew
up on a dairy farm), the Colhouns have done a remarkable job in bringing Landmark Vineyards into the upper
echelon of California wineries.
The thrust of Landmark from the beginning was Chardonnay, which now makes up two-thirds of the winery’s
30,000 annual case production. Landmark obtains Chardonnay grapes from about 28 different vineyards
primarily located in Sonoma County with small lots coming from Monterey and Santa Barbara counties. Many
of these vineyards have been under contract for years. The Pinot Noir grapes come primarily from the Sonoma
Coast (Kanzler, Keller Estate, Flocchini, Gap’s Crown and Armagh). A vineyard-designate Pinot Noir is
sourced from the noted Solomon Hills Vineyard in Santa Maria Valley.
The current winemaker, Eric Stern, has been with Landmark for twenty years. Stimulated to pursue a career in
wine after working as a wine shop manager, sommelier and salesperson for an importer and wholesale
distributor of wine, he obtained a degree in enology from California State University Fresno. Stern apprenticed
at Acacia and Carmenet wineries and joined Landmark as an Assistant Winemaker in 1989. In 1993, he was
promoted to Winemaker and worked with consulting winemaker Helen Turley. The wines have been superb
ever since. Greg Stach (pictured below next to the vintage John Deere tractor that stands at the entrance to
Landmark), also has an enology degree from California State University Fresno, and is currently the assistant
2007 Landmark Grand Detour Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
2,500 cases, $40. Grand Detour is named for the location of John Deere’s
black smith shop in Illinois. This wine is a blend of five Sonoma Coast
vineyards. Aged in 33% new oak barrels for 10 months.
Dark ruby in color.
The nose is scented with black cherries and black raspberries with a hint of
dark caramel. Richly flavored, but discreetly concentrated darker fruit
flavors with an underpinning of attractive earthiness. Seamless with gentle
tannins and a fine nerve of acidity. Like many of the 2007 vintage Pinot
Noirs from California, this wine will benefit from more time in the bottle.
2007 Landmark Solomon Hills Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
120 cases, $55. This barrel select blend consists of 67% Pommard clone and
33% Dijon 777 clone. A small percentage of whole cluster fruit was used.
Aged in new and one-year-old French oak for 16 months (6 months longer than
other Landmark reserve-styled Pinot Noirs).
Appealing nose of changing
themes including dark red cherries and berries, spices including cardamon,
and floral scents. Richly layered with spiced dark stone fruits exhibiting a
lovely Pinot sweetness and a slight smoky edge. Sturdy on the palate with a
soft and satiny texture and healthy tannins that need time to resolve.
Satisfying now, but will improve with another 6 to 12 months in bottle.
2007 Landmark Kanzler Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.9% alc., 500 cases, $65. Kanzler Vineyard is situated just
west of the town of Sebastopol on a 16-acre site. The clonal mix for
this wine is 54% 115, 44% 667, 3% Pommard. Each block was
harvested separately and fermented individually. Only the best
barrels of free-run juice were chosen for this blend.
Similar to the Grand Detour in style and flavor but with the fruit intensity ramped up
significantly. Complex aromatic profile of black cherries and blackberries,
black grapes, pepper and oak. A plush and creamy palate of dark fruits, dark
chocolate and slight toasty oak char all wrapped in a complimentary robe of
moderately firm tannins. A tenacious wine that grabs hold and persists
through a long and chewy finish. If you are feeling hedonistic now, decant and serve with hardy foods.
Landmark Vineyards wines are available through fine wine retail stores, at the winery’s tasting room and on the
website at www.landmarkwine.com. The comfortable tasting room is housed with the winery at 101 Adobe
Canyon Road at Highway 12 in Kenwood and is open daily from 10:00 AM to 4:30 PM. Wonderful picnic
grounds are combined with views of the Sonoma Mountains, beautifully landscaped grounds for relaxing, and a
bocce court for fun. A cottage on the property is available for overnight rental. The phone is 707-833-0053.
Foursight Wines Part of the New Breed in Anderson Valley
In the past few years there has been a noticeable influx of young winemaking talent in California’s Anderson
Valley where the new breed is quickly bringing the sedate and sleepy valley to the forefront of California Pinot
Noir. Ted Lemon of Littorai first set the bar high in Anderson Valley beginning in the mid-1990s when he began
to institute viticultural practices there that would lead to a quantum leap in quality of Anderson Valley Pinot Noir.
More recently, a new young cadre of well-trained and passionate winemakers are crafting magnificent wines,
taking advantage of the many superbly located and managed Anderson Valley vineyards. Forget boontling,
twitter and texting are this vanguard’s new language. I can’t help but get excited about the Pinot Noirs I have
sampled over the last year from such young hounds as Jason Drew, the owner and winemaker at Drew on
Mendocino Ridge, Phil Baxter, the winemaker at Baxter on Mendocino Ridge and Jim Ball Vineyards in the
Anderson Valley, Jon Grant, the owner and winemaker of Couloir Wines and assistant winemaker at Turley
Vineyards, Ginny Lambrix, the winemaker at Richard Berridge Wines, Kristen Barnhisel, the assistant
winemaker at Handley Cellars, Bryan Harrington, the proprietor and winemaker at Harrington Wines, Brad
Holstein, the winemaker at Husch Vineyards, Anthony Filiberti, Webster Marquez and David Low, owners and
winemakers at Anthill Farms, Douglas Ian-Stewart, owner and winemaker at Breggo Cellars, Wells Guthrie,
owner and winemaker at Copain Wines, David Rossi of Fulcrum Wines, Christine Griffith, winemaker at Lazy
Creek Vineyards, and the subject of this feature article, Joseph Webb, winemaker at Foursight Wines.
Foursight Wines is a family owned boutique producer in the Anderson Valley launched in 2007 by longtime
winegrowers Bill and Nancy Charles and daughter Kristy Charles and her spouse, Joseph Webb (they just
married and are honeymooning in New Zealand as I write this). The Charles clan arrived in Anderson Valley in
1943 to join the regional lumber boom. In 1950, they bought land just east of Highway 128 in Boonville, built a
sawmill, and started Charles Lumber Company. In 2001, Bill and Nancy planted the Charles Vineyard
consisting of 15 acres of Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. The grapes were initially sold to Navarro
Vineyards, Handley Cellars, Papapietro Perry and Schramsberg. After college, Kristy Charles moved back to
the Anderson Valley with her then fiancee, Joseph Webb. Both of them were wine enthusiasts and Joseph had
received a degree in wine business at Sonoma State University. He apprenticed in winemaking at Sebastiani,
Landmark Vineyards and Joseph Swan Vineyards. Kristy is the Executive Director of the Anderson Valley
Winegrowers Association. Kristy (left) and Joseph Webb at the Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival below.
A tasting room and winery was recently completed and the grand opening was held at this year’s Anderson
Valley Pinot Noir Festival weekend. The structure was designed and built by Bill Charles from lumber grown,
harvested and milled on the Charles family ranch.
For the 2007 vintage, Foursight Wines has released three Pinot Noirs: “Zero New Oak” Charles Vineyard (all
second-year and older barrels used in production), “Clone 05” Charles Vineyard (Pommard 5), and “All-In”
Charles Vineyard (all-in is a poker term to describe the inclusion of all the Pinot Noir clones grown in the estate
Charles Vineyard). These are all remarkable wines that will be sure to receive considerable chatter on the
internet and in major wine publications. The formula for great artisan Pinot Noir is in place: warm people,
stellar estate vineyard fruit, and a bright, talented young winemaker.
2007 Charles Vineyard All-In Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
407 cases, $46. Wild yeast fermentation, unfined and unfiltered.
Includes all the clones in the estate Charles Vineyard: Dijon 114, 115,
777 and Pommard 5. 20% whole cluster. Aged in 20% new, 31% twoyear-
old and 44% neutral French oak barrels.
Massively perfumed with
exotic dark berries, dark mocha and spice. Discreetly concentrated and
tasty dark fruit with hints of sassafras and oak. The berry fragrances and
a citrus lift haunt the lengthy finish. A racy wine that is quite enjoyable now for its
silky texture and impeccable balance. This one is kissed by an angel.
2007 Foursight Charles Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., $46. 100% de-stemmed and
fermented with wild yeast. Aged in 33% new French oak barrels.
A redder profile starring plentiful strawberry
aromas with wisps of oak, violets and lavender. Very tasty dark red fruits with some underlying earthiness and
forest floor. A solid wine with a fine texture and well-integrated tannins.
2007 Foursight Charles Vineyard Clone 05 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
alc., 97 cases, $49. Select barrels of Pommard 5, one of 4 clones in the estate
Charles Vineyard. 20% whole cluster. Wild yeast fermentations. Aged in 50% new
French oak. Unfined and unfiltered.
Very sexy nose initially featuring deep berry,
especially raspberry, fruit, dark chocolate and cardamon spice. A substantial wine
with the most intensity and tannin in the lineup. The hedonistic core of berry and
plum fruit shows a touch of grilled meat and oak smoke. Still brooding and lacking
the nuances that it will develop over time, but this is a well-crafted Man’s wine.
Foursight also offers a “Zero New Oak” Charles Vineyard Pinot Noir ($38), an estate Sauvignon Blanc ($20),
and a Late-Harvest Sauvignon Blanc ($30). The Foursight Tasting Room is open at 14475 Highway 128, just
south of Boonville, from 10:00 AM to 4:30 PM, Friday-Monday. The wines are also sold on the website at
www.foursightwines.com. Wine Club members receive significant discounts. Join the mailing list for first crack
at these limited production wines. 707-895-2889.
Red Car Wine Company: Grab The Red Car to the Sonoma Coast
Red Car harkens back to memories of the now defunct Los Angeles Red Car Trolley Line. Two Los Angelinos,
Mark Estrin and Carrol Kemp released their first wine in 2000. The distinctive Red Car labels and the
continuing novella on the Amour Fou bottlings which told of a tragic love affair taking place in 1940s Los
Angeles, caught the public’s eye, and wine critics were fond of the wines from the beginning. Unfortunately,
Mark Estrin passed away in May, 2005. Carroll Kemp has carried the flag since and has pushed the label to
greater heights of notoriety.
The partners were not “terroir-istes” at the beginning, believing in making the best wines they could from more
than one vineyard source. Their initial 2000 vintage was sourced entirely from Central Coast fruit. In 2004, Red
Car Wine Company raised enough capital to buy 120 acres along the Sonoma Coast close to neighbors
Marcassin, Hirsch and Blue Slide Ridge vineyards. Over the past five years, preparation and planting of the
Red Car Vineyard has progressed and the vineyard will soon bear both Pinot Noir and Syrah for the first time.
The partner’s early experience with making Pinot Noir led them to prefer vineyard sites located on the cool
climatic edge and focus on vineyard-designate wines. By 2006, Carroll had a definite palate preference for
Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir and by 2008, all of the fruit in Red Car wines will be from Sonoma County. Carroll is
so committed to the true Sonoma Coast that he is moving the Red Car winery from its current Central Coast
Wine Services location in Santa Maria to Graton in Sonoma County which is close to the Red Car Vineyard.
Paul Sequeira, a Sonoma County native, joined Red Car in 2009 as Director of Sales and Viticulture, and will
be intimately involved in all facets of the winery. Photo below shows Carroll (left) and Paul at this year’s World
of Pinot Noir.
The Red Car style has evolved to date. The initial vintage of Pinot Noir in 2002 was made like their Syrah and
was quite popular with Parker who prefers bigger, fruitier Pinot Noirs. The focus now is just the reverse with
the Syrahs being made more like Pinot Noirs and the Pinot Noirs taking on less extraction and emphasizing
tension. The goal now is to fuse the contrasting forces of tension in wine encompassing alcohol, acid, tannin
and fruit so they coexist in harmony. As Carroll notes, “Wines devoid of tension lack a center - that point at
which contrasting elements meet. This is often perceived as a lack of complexity. Though many elements may
be present, their sum tastes “flat,” like a painting without a focal point.......A wine without tension is neither
interesting nor balanced, which may indeed by true of life itself.” Red Car is committed to quality and is shifting
over to all 4-year air-dried French oak in their barrel program. The wines are neither fined nor filtered.
On my way to the 2009 World of Pinot Noir, I stopped at Central Coast Wine Services to taste the 2007 Red
Car Pinot Noirs and the 2008 Pinot Noir components from barrel with Carroll and Paul. I also tasted the 2007
Heaven and Earth and 2007 Aphorist several weeks later at home. The wines are still concentrated by Pinot
Noir standards, but they are now more interesting, more focused, less extracted and better balanced compared
to previous vintages. The 2007 Pinot Noirs were picked at an average 24º brix, the 2008 grapes even lower at
23.5º to 23.8º brix. There is no watering back of alcohol levels. Since I tasted in March, 2009, the Red Car
Aphorist and Heaven and Earth Pinot Noirs have receiving very high scores from the wine press and have
been lauded in multiple publications. As good as the 2007 wines are, the 2008 vintage wines may be even
better, in part due to increasing familiarity with the vineyard sources and ongoing changes in the winemaking
2007 Red Car Trolley Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 733 cases, $45. Sourced from three Sonoma
Coast vineyards: Zio Tony (60%), La Boheme (25%) in Occidental and Bartolomei (15%) in Forestville. Aged in
57% new French oak barrels.
A darkly fruited wine with aromas of black grapes and berries with a touch of
smoke, and deep flavors of black raspberries with an underpinning of oak. Silky mouth feel, complimentary lift
of acidity, and a pleasing finish.
2007 Red Car Heaven & Earth La Boheme Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 350 cases,
$54. Second single vineyard designated Pinot Noir and first from the La Boheme Vineyard which lies just
outside Occidental. It is a Red Car monopole that is farmed with Ulises Valdez. The Calera clone dominates
Weighty scents of blackberries, plums, anise, barnyard and a whiff of alcohol. Slightly confected
black raspberry fruit flavor with a wisp of earth, black tea and oak. Luxurious and comforting in the mouth,
wrapping the tongue in fruit, and ending in a bright and lingering finish that leaves a touch of heat in its wake.
A bear of a wine that is a hedonist’s delight.
2007 Red Car Heaven & Earth La Boheme Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 350 cases,
$54. Second single vineyard designated Pinot Noir and first from the La Boheme Vineyard which lies just
outside Occidental. It is a Red Car monopole that is farmed with Ulises Valdez. The Calera clone dominates
Weighty scents of blackberries, plums, anise, barnyard and a whiff of alcohol. Slightly confected
black raspberry fruit flavor with a wisp of earth, black tea and oak. Luxurious and comforting in the mouth,
wrapping the tongue in fruit, and ending in a bright and lingering finish that leaves a touch of heat in its wake.
A bear of a wine that is a hedonist’s delight.
2008 Red Car Bartolomei Vineyard Blocks 1 & 2 Pinot Noir (barrel sample). Clones are 113 and Jackson
16. Very tasty red and black berries and plum with a cola accent. Smoothly textured with a solid acid spine.
2008 Red Car Bartolomei Vineyard Blocks 2 & 3 Pinot Noir (barrel sample). Clones are 777 and Jackson
16. Darkly fruited with more roundness and softness than blocks 1 & 2. Very smooth, aromatic with a
refreshing finish. Love this.
2008 Red Car La Boheme Vineyard Calera Clone Pinot Noir (no stems, barrel sample). Aromas of fresh
plums, dark chocolate, smoke and a hint of leaves. Bright and fresh dark stone fruits in the mouth.
2008 Red Car La Boheme Vineyard Calera Clone Pinot Noir (20% stems, barrel sample). Slightly darker in
color. More purity of fruit in the nose and in the mouth with more spice. Rounder with slightly more tannin and
a longer finish. Definitely prefer this over the stem-free sample. Very educational comparison.
Platt Vineyard is a new source of Pinot Noir for Red Car and no Red Car wine has been released from this
vineyard. The vineyard consists of 20 acres that will be sourced by Red Car, Scherrer and Littorai. All the
planted Chardonnay goes to Ramey. A very cold site between Freestone and Bodega, west of the new Kistler
vineyards at the extreme climatic edge of viticulture. Unfortunately, the owner who farmed this vineyard, Lew
Platt, passed away before any wine was released from this vineyard.
2008 Red Car Platt Vineyard Calera Clone (no stems, barrel sample). 13.48% alc.. Really attractive flavors
of juicy dark Pinot fruits with an appealing earthiness, restrained tannins and a very silky texture.
2008 Red Car Platt Vineyard 828 Clone (30% new oak, barrel sample). 14.03% alc.. Somewhat awkward
now. Very fruity - “grapey.” Minimal tannins. Difficult to evaluate presently.
Campbell Ranch Vineyard is located in Annapolis on the true Sonoma Coast. Kemp showed me the results of
an experiment with 2008 fruit from this vineyard. The grapes were fermented together using free run juice,
then the wine was put into two different barrel regimens: 3-year air-dried French oak and 4-year air-dried
French oak (100% new). The wine raised in 3-year air-dried barrels had more char in the aromas and flavors.
The wine raised in 4-year air-dried French oak had some char but the dark fruit showed through much better
with a sweeter mid-palate. Carroll finds that the smoke and char influences from the 4-year air-dried barrels
tend to evolve to an attractive spice quality over time. The findings have led Carroll to shift the barrel aging
program to 4-year air-dried barrels.
The point to be gleamed from tasting the 2008 barrel samples is that winemakers like Kemp are continually
trying to perfect their craft and improve their wines. The ongoing experimentation in wineries is necessary to
refine the style of Pinot Noir that embodies the winemaker’s goals. In this regard, Kemp has acknowledged the
continuing evolution of the Red Car style and the resulting wines have improved through trial and error with
each succeeding vintage.
To get on the Red Car, join the mailing list at www.redcarwine.com. The wines are highly allocated. Box Car
Pinot Noir ($28), Rosé, Syrah and Roussanne complete the portfolio. 213-229-2800.
De La Montanya: So Many Choices
Dennis De La Montanya founded his namesake winery in 2003 and currently farms over 200 acres of vineyards in
Sonoma and Lake County. The stylish barn-inspired tasting room and winery is located three miles from the
town of Healdsburg, just off Westside Road on Foreman Lane (halfway between Armida and Twomey). The
2007 vintage is the fourth I have tasted from De La Montanya and I often taste each vintage from barrel, shortly
after bottling and several months after release. De La Montanya oversees the winemaking team of Tami
Collins (sister of Dennis’s spouse, Tina) and consultant Michael Loykasek. For a small winery (production is
4,500 cases annually), De La Montanya produces an astonishing number of different white and red wines (at
least 30) under the De La Montanya Estate, Felta Creek and Flying Rooster Red labels from the tried-and-true
(Chardonnay, Fume Blanc, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon) to the unusual (Pinot
Meunier,Tempranillo). There are wines at every price point. Adding spice to the lineup is a series of “Pin Up”
wines featuring attractive women in pin up poses on the front label that are sold at the winery. Special charity
bottlings are offered in conjunction with rock legends Journey and Eddie Money.
The Pinot Noirs are sourced primarily from three vineyards: Flying Rooster Ranch in the Petaluma area of the
Sonoma Coast, Tina’s Vineyard in the Russian River Valley and Christine’s Vineyard in the Sonoma Coast. An
ultra-premium Pinot Noir, Chanconne, is bottled under the De La Cain label and is a collaboration between De
La Montanya and noted Aussie winemaker Daryl Groom. The Pinot Noirs have been consistent winners in the
San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition and the Sonoma Harvest Fair Wine Competition. At the 2009 Pig
and Pinot event in Healdsburg, the 2006 De La Montanya Reserve Pinot Noir was the Pinot Cup Runner Up in
a blind tasting of 50 acclaimed Pinot Noirs.
Just before Pinot Days I stopped in at De La Montanya to taste the 2007 lineup of Pinot Noirs. The style is
understated and elegant with increasing fruit intensity as one progresses from Tina’s Vineyard to the Reserve
and Chanconne. De La Montanya describes 2007 as a challenging year but the wines are very impressive.
2007 Felta Creek Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., 150 cases, $24. Sourced from Flying
Rooster Ranch and Marg’s Vineyard.
A lightly weighted wine that is true to the varietal with dark red
fruits supported by a sidecar of oak and good acidity. The silky texture makes for easy drinking.
Excellent value in a Pinot Noir for the everyday man. Gold Medal at the 2009 San Francisco
Chronicle Wine Competition in its class.
2007 De La Montanya Tina’s Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.4% alc., $40. Pommard clone.
Very fragrant nose of Bing cherries and baking spices. Generous sweet Pinot flavors on the mid-palate focused
on cherries. Very harmonious with svelte tannins and a good grip of acidity. Always the most finesse in the
lineup, this is a wine of slender grace.
2007 De La Montanya Reserve Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., 50 cases, $50. This
wine received 3 more months of barrel age. Composed primarily of fruit from Tina’s Vineyard with some
Ridgeway Vineyard added in. Only two barrels, 100% new French oak.
Masses of perfumed fruit on
the nose with a sappy aromatic core that is plush but retains a pleasing elegance. Supple tannins, deft
touch of oak and lively acidity. The berry fruit fragrance returns to haunt the memorable finish.
2007 De La Cain Chanconne Sonoma County Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., 75 cases,
$50. Chanconne means slow dance in French. Sourced from 3 vineyards.
super ripe fruit including roasted plum and black raspberries, with hints of maple syrup
and cigar box. Explosion of intense, ripe dark fruit attacks the mid-palate with
undertones of black tea and sassafras. Smoothly textured with modest tannins and
admirable balance. A big-boned wine for hedonists that veers to the super ripe side.
2007 Flying Rooster Red Sonoma Coast
14.2% alc., $22. A blend of Pinot Noir (75%) and
Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petite Verdot.
Rich and plush with hardy fruit, a nice kiss of
oak and some persistence on the finish. Not for Pinot Noir purists, but a great inexpensive summer
Dennis loves to taste me on some of his other varietal wines. The 2007 De La Montanya ‘1776’ Dry Creek
Valley Zinfandel is the most popular wine in his lineup. With 17.76% alcohol and 1% residual sugar, it offers a
huge jammy drinking experience with well-spiced fruit dosed with pepper. I much preferred the 2007 De La
Montanya Reserve Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel ($45) with 16.5% alcohol and 0.5% residual sugar that is
better balanced, more modest in intensity and offering classic Zinfandel black grape flavors with a touch of
I recently tasted two older vintages of De La Montanya Pinot Noir from Tina’s Vineyard. The wines are holding
2004 De La Montanya Tina’s Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
alc.. 75% Pommard, 25% Dijon clones. Aged 11 months in French oak barrels.
Moderately light garnet color. Alluring aromas of cherries, baking spice and oak.
Sweet-fruited palate of strawberries, cherries and pomegranate with bright acidity. A
touch richer than the 2005 vintage with more fruit and less spice. A nice package
with admirable finesse.
2005 De La Montanya Tina’s Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
Shy perfume of red cherries and Provencal herbs. Nicely composed
flavors of tart cherries, strawberries, baking spice, cookie dough and herbs. The
tannins are very supple and the finish has a good lift of acidity. A demure wine with
considerable charm that is aging gracefully.
The De La Montanya tasting room is open Friday-Sunday 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM and other days by
appointment. The wines are sold through the tasting room, on the website, and through the winery’s wine
clubs which offer significant discounts. The winery is a soothing place to hang out with a bocce ball court and
picnic area shaded by mature apple trees. An adjacent lodging known as the “Little Yellow Cottage,” has all the
comforts of home and overlooks the Felta Creek Vineyard on the property. It is only a 10 minute drive to
Healdsburg and bicycling distance to many Westside Road wineries. Check the website at www.dlmwine.com
to order wines and to check availability of the cottage. The De La Montanya crew below.
Rivers-Marie: Show Stopper Pinot Noir
Today was remarkable and one that I will remember a long time. I was writing this issue of the PinotFile in the
morning and took a break to taste Pinot Noir. The lineup included the 2007 Rivers-Marie Pinot Noirs from the
Sonoma Coast. As I began to taste, I realized I was experiencing some very special wines. I sat quietly for
many minutes, stunned by the wines in front of me, desperately thinking about who I could share these wines
with. I called in my son, Dane, who is off to the Russian River Valley soon to work as a harvest intern and had
him taste the wines. His palate is inexperienced and more beer oriented but the wines evoked a big smile from
him. I called Jay Selman, a drinking buddy from Grape Radio, and he dropped everything he was doing and
came to the house. Shortly thereafter my wife came home and we all sat around the kitchen table tasting
these unbelievable Pinot Noirs. Jay is a hard guy to impress but he was mesmerized, draining all five glasses I
had poured for him to taste. My wife loves wine but never makes too many comments. This day she raved
about the wines. We passed most of the afternoon, sipping Rivers-Marie Pinots, and talking about everything
from politics to barbecue. It was one of those magical days where wine was the focus that brought good
friends and family together to celebrate their good fortune. To Thomas Brown, winemaker for Rivers-Marie, we
will be forever grateful.
Thomas Rivers Brown and his wife Genevieve Marie Walsh have quietly developed one of California’s most
cherished Pinot Noir labels. When Brown arrived in California in 1996 from college, he wanted to get into the
wine business, but had no leads or connections. He began knocking on doors and was finally hired by Aaron
Jordan at Turley. This was to become a fortuitous hire when in 1999 Jordan introduced Brown to Scott and
Joan Zeller, the owners of the 6-acre Summa Vineyard that is located in the Occidental region of the true
Sonoma Coast. Early on (2002 was the first Rivers-Marie Pinot Noir release), the Summa Vineyard was the
only source of Pinot Noir for Brown, but eventually led to other grape acquisitions in the area.
Today, Rivers-Marie produces very small lots of Pinot Noir from three vineyard sources in the true Sonoma
Coast, specifically the Occidental-Freestone area. Besides Summa Vineyard, grapes are sourced from the
Occidental Ridge Vineyard owned by Richard and Darla Radcliffe which debuted in 2005, and the Willow Creek
Vineyard owned by Raleigh and Patricia Wilson-Juckett, which debuted in 2006. Total production for Rivers-
Marie in 2007 was 650 cases and in 2008 1,200 cases. It is no wonder that here are 4,000 people on the
waiting list hopelessly biding their time for a spot on the mailing list. Managing allocations is more difficult for
Brown than crafting the wines!
The Rivers-Marie 2007 Pinot Noirs were previously reviewed in July 2008 when they were quite young just
before bottling (see wine reviews under Rivers-Marie).
2007 Rivers-Marie Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., 225 cases,
$25. Sourced from clone 667 from Occidental Ridge, the youngest
block of Summa Vineyard and three barrels of Willow Creek Vineyard
that didn’t make the vineyard cut. Aged in 25% new French oak.
pretty aromas of red and black cherries, wildflowers and cardamon
spice. Tasty potpourri of layered fruits including black cherries, black
raspberries, plums and pomegranate with hints of oak and earth. A lift of acidity
on the moderately persistent finish makes for easy drinkability. A good wine in its
own right that would compete with many wines priced significantly higher, but
outclassed by the other wines in the Rivers-Marie lineup. Drinkable now.
2007 Rivers-Marie Willow Creek Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.8% alc., 84 cases, $40. From a 2-
acre vineyard planted to Dijon clone 777. Aged in 33% new French oak.
Deep reddish-purple color. Very
attractive scents of black fruits, sandalwood and spices. A juicy Pinot Noir with vivid, fresh black cherry,
cranberry and raspberry fruits. Rich but not cloying with a smooth texture, a good acid spine and soft tannins.
Still seems a bit withdrawn and will benefit from decanting if drunk now.
2007 Rivers-Marie Occidental Ridge Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.4% alc., 180 cases, $45. Clones 115 and 777. Aged in 40%
new French oak.
Complex aromatic profile of dark stone fruits, crushed
berries, sage, green garden and smoke. Rich and perfectly ripe black
raspberry fruit with an underpinning of earth, oak and orange peel.
Thick and robust, yet perfectly balanced with complimentary tannins and
acidity. The aromatic and fruity finish is haunting. A thoroughbred that challenges
the Summa Old Vines for superiority.
2007 Rivers-Marie Summa Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.2% alc., 120 cases, $45. Aged in 60% new French oak.
A wowzer nose featuring flamboyant
aromas of cherries and berries enhanced with subtle smoky oak. Beautiful core of cherry and berry
fruits with hints of pine tar, earth and cola. Packed with flavor yet nimble and harmonious. Smooth in
texture with a hint of citric peel on the pleasing finish. Accessible now but will reward patience. A
sixty-minute wine: rock ‘em, roll ‘em, all night long.
2007 Rivers-Marie Summa Old Vines Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
alc., 100 cases, $60. Aged in 100% new French oak.
The nose is similar
to the regular Summa bottling but with a magical and penetrating Asian
spice scent that smells like the most erotic pheromone in the world.
Unbelievably delicious sappy cherry and berry fruit with wisps of sassafras,
cola, and exotic spices. The velvety texture is enough to bring you to your
knees. An incredible wine that defies adequate description. Suffice it to
say that this is a winegasm - one of those Pinot Noirs with such a powerful
charisma, that it drives men to do practically anything to get another bottle.
Rivers-Marie has not achieved the cult status accorded to California labels like Littorai, Marcassin, Kistler,
Kosta Browne and Sea Smoke, but no one in California is making more striking, more perfectly balanced and
age worthy Pinot Noirs than Rivers-Marie. Unfortunately, because of the tiny production, few get the
opportunity to taste the Rivers-Marie Pinot Noirs. A shame really, for they represent the incredible potential that
California, and in particular, the Sonoma Coast, has for Pinot Noir. Trade in your BMW, cancel your season
subscription to the symphony, cancel your wife’s Nordstrom credit card, give up your country club membership
and buy some Rivers-Marie Pinot Noir. The prices on the secondary market are steep (try www.snooth.com for
sources), but you will never regret the investment.
Rivers-Marie Pinot Noirs are sold through an allocated mailing list with a large list of wine lovers eager to join
the mailing list. Your best bet is to search the secondary market. Because of the artisan nature of the winery,
production will never be large enough to satisfy the eager audience. 707-225-7122. The website is
Pali Wine Co. Spans the Entire Northwest Pinot Trail
A group of twenty-one wine aficionados and coworkers who live in the Pacific Palisades suburb of Los Angeles
(hence the name “Pali”) founded Pali Wine Company in 2005 in Lompoc, California. The inspiration for the
winery came primarily from Brian Loring at Loring Wine Company but also from people like Andrew Vingiello
(A.P. Vin), Peter Cargasacchi (Cargasacchi), Ed Kurtzman (August West, Roar, Freeman, Sandler), Michael
Browne (Kosta Browne) and Adam Lee (Siduri). This winery has been an ambitious effort, now sourcing Pinot
Noir from sites extending from the Santa Rita Hills in the south of California to vineyards in the Willamette
Valley of Oregon. Ten different vineyard-designate Pinot Noirs and three appellation blend Pinot Noirs are
produced in a new state of the art winery in Lompoc that was completed in time for the 2007 vintage. This
winery is the first building constructed in Lompoc to be built specifically as a winery. Total production in 2007
was 3,000 cases including a Chardonnay from Shea Vineyard in Oregon, a Rosé from California and Oregon
Pinot Noir and California Grenache and a Boer Family Vineyard Chalone Grenache.
The initial vintages including 2007 were crafted by Brian Loring, who vinifies his own Pinot Noirs under the
Loring Wine Company label in the same winemaking facility. The current winemaker is Kenneth Juhasz who
joined Pali Wine Co. in 2008 and brings extensive Pinot Noir experience from places as diverse as New
Zealand, the Willamette Valley of Oregon, Carneros in the Napa Valley and Sonoma’s Russian River Valley.
When asked about his personal style, Juhasz says, “Something I love about great wines, and that I look for in
all wines is that masculine/feminine balance. Creating wines with finesse, acid, prefume and elegance, yet
balanced with that masculine structure is something I find myself doing intuitively in everything that I make.”
The assistant winemaker who oversees all aspects of winemaking at the winery’s Lompoc production facility is
Aaron Walker. Pali sends consultants to check on the scattered vineyards throughout California and Oregon to
work with the growers in monitoring the grapes.
In 2007, Pali introduced a “Cuvée Program” that includes three appellation blends: “Huntington” from Santa
Barbara County, “Bluffs” from the Russian River Valley and “Alphabets” from the Willamette Valley. These
wines are built using components of each vineyard source and offer the consumer a value-priced pleasing
Pinot Noir that reflects the character of the appellation. The vineyard-designate Pinot Noirs represent a
selection of the most superior barrels. All wines except the Sunset Rosé are bottled with screw caps.
I recently tasted through many of the 2007 Pali Wine Co. wines. I was impressed most by the Russian River
Valley wines in which the fruit seemed to jump out. The smooth and lush textures of all the wines was
impressive and the moderate alcohols laudable. All wines exhibited moderately deep garnet color. The wines
are bottled under screw cap which is a sensible trend that is slowing making inroads in California and Oregon. I did not taste the Huntington (sold out) and Alphabets blends, also priced at $19.
2007 Pali Wine Co. Bluffs Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
13.8% alc., 500 cases, $19, released Nov.,
2008. Aged for 10 months in 50% new French oak.
Restrained aromatic melange of cherries and berries with
an oak overlay. Lighter weighted wine featuring flavors of black cherries, cola, spice and oak, with mild dry
tannins and a healthy acid spine. A Wednesday night Pinot.
2007 Pali Wine Co. Boer Family Vineyard Chalone Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., 220 cases, $50, released
November 2008. This 4.5-acre vineyard is farmed by Carrie and Richard Boer. Richard is the current vineyard
manager at Chalone. The Boer Family Vineyard was originally named the A-Frame Vineyard and was owned
by Phil Woodward, one of the original founders of Chalone Vineyard, and was planted to Cabernet Sauvignon.
The vineyard was grafted over to Pinot Noir in 2006 using bud wood from favored blocks at Chalone Vineyard.
The clones are 114, 115, 667 and Pommard 4. All of the Pinot Noir fruit from this vineyard is consigned to Pali
Complex aromatic profile of dark cherries, herbs, char and forest floor. The red and black fruit is
super ripe showing flavors of raisins, brown spice and root beer, but stopping short of a port, stewed taste.
Flamboyant tannins should resolve with more time in the bottle, but this will always be a ripely flavored wine.
2007 Pali Wine Co. Cargasacchi Jalama Vineyard Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., 100
cases, $50, released November 2008. From a 16-acre vineyard planted in 1999 to clone 115 and farmed by
owner Peter Cargasacchi.
Nuanced nose sporting scents of berry compote, oak spice, roasted nuts, vitamins
and a hint of alcohol. Concentrated dark berry flavors with an underbelly of forest floor, minerals, oak, pepper
and citrus. Smooth and silky with a good cut of acid on the finish. Quite tasty.
2007 Pali Wine Co. Durrell Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.6% alc., 240 cases, $50, released
November 2008. The vineyard was first planted in 1979 by Ed Durell and his vineyard manager Steve Hill. It is
located in the southwestern foothills of Sonoma Valley. Today, the vineyard is owned by Bill and Ellie Price, but
still managed by Steve Hill and his son Ned. Today the vineyard comprises 180 acres planted primarily to
Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Clones are 115, 667 and Pommard 5.
Scents of darker fruits with notes of oak
char and cigar. Lush, chewy and potent fresh plum and blackberry fruit is front and center with an undertow of
oak. The supple texture is appealing but this wine lacks nuance at present.
2007 Pali Wine Co. Fiddlestix Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 110 cases, $50, released November 2008. Clones 667 and
Alive with scents of mushu plum sauce, blueberries, cherries
and olives. Multi faceted fruits have a rich, glass-filling presence. A hint of
coffee and pepper adds interest. As is typical for this vineyard, plenty of
tannin is noted, but the tannin is refined and velvety creating a sensual
mouthfeel. The wine was even better the next day when re-tasted from a
previously open and re-corked bottle. This Pinot is a real turn-on and one to spend
the night with.
2007 Pali Wine Co. Inman Olivet Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
13.6% alc., 212 cases, $50, released spring 2009. Formerly the Olivet Grange
Vineyard, this 7.2-acre vineyard was planted in 2000 and is farmed organically by
owner Kathleen Inman. The clones are 114, 115, 667 and 777.
Bright aromas of
black cherries, strawberries, cola and oak. Tasty and tangy black cherry fruit jumps
out flanked by flavors of pomegranates, cherry cola, savory herbs, and oak char.
The flamboyant tannins will integrate with more time in the bottle. A charming wine
that holds your interest.
2007 Pali Wine Co. Keefer Ranch Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., 289 cases, $50,
released spring 2009. Clones 777 and Pommard 4. Aged 10 months in 50% new French oak.
The nose starts
out earthy and oaky but evolves nicely in the glass revealing hi-tone Bing cherry and raspberry fruit with an oak
underpinning. Crisp flavors of dark red cherries and berries with an earthy bent. Smoothly textured and
finishing with tangy acidity and bright fruit. The pedigree of the vineyard shows through.
2007 Pali Wine Co. Momtazi Vineyard Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.2% alc., 180 cases, $50, released
November 2008. A biodynamically-farmed 220-acre vineyard located in the McMinnville sub-AVA of the
Willamette Valley. Owned and farmed by Moe and Flora Momtazi. Clones are 113, 114, 115.
This wine has
deep color but is lightly flavored. The nose offers aromas of black cherries, strawberries, briar and oak. The
sweet dark fruit flavors are juicy and earthy but a bit dilute. An elegant style with supple tannins and a smooth
2007 Pali Wine Co. Turner Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
14.4% alc., 120 cases, $50, released spring
2009. Turner Vineyard is located between Melville and Babcock vineyards just east of Clos Pepe Vineyard.
The vineyard is owned by Dennis Turner and was planted by and is farmed by Ryan Carr. There are 15 acres
of Pinot Noir with some Syrah and Pinot Gris. Clones are 114, 667 and 777.
Restrained and brooding earthkissed
black berry fruits with an underpinning of beef jerky and citrus. This is the Big Boy in the lineup, with an
intense fruit core that saturates the palate. Despite its heft, the texture is satiny and the prodigious fruit is
brought into focus by balancing t n’ a. Closed and unrewarding now, but with the structure and tannic edge to
suggest age ability.
2007 Pali Wine Co. Thorn Ridge Ranch Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., 180 cases, $60, released November 2008. This
27-acre vineyard is farmed by Ted and Kathy Klopp and is located in the
hills southwest of Sebastopol. The Goldridge soil has greater clay
content than is typical leading to better water retention and allowing
minimal or no irrigation of parts of the vineyard. The vineyard clones are
115, 667, 777, Pommard and Swan.
This wine contains clones 115 and
777. Terrific nose displaying bright aromas of dark cherries and berries, cola and
a hint of summer herbs. Tasty mouthful of dark cherries, black raspberries,
sassafras, and a hint of earthiness, oak and white pepper. Supple in the mouth
with cleansing acidity on the persistent finish and impeccable balance. A
gregarious Pinot that really delivers the goods.
Pali Wine Company wines are sold primarily through a mailing list at www.paliwineco.com. A tasting room at
1036 W. Aviation Drive in Lompoc is open Thursday-Saturday from 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM and other days by
appointment. 805-736-7200. The excellent rosé is reviewed later in this issue.
More Sips of 2007 California Pinot Noir
Ken Dunkley, the owner and winemaker at Seawind Wines, began making wine in 1976 as a University
California Davis student studying food microbiology. Fermentation became Dunkley’s passion and has been
his personal and professional interest for 30 years. He started Seawind Wines in 2006 to craft premium,
single-vineyard Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. He sources fruit from vineyards in cool coastal valleys and makes
his wines as Crushpad in San Francisco in collaboration with recognized winemakers. His wines are available
online at www.seawindwines.com.
2007 Seawind Sleepy Hollow Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., 75 cases, $44.
Sourced from older vines, Martini clone. 100% de-stemmed. Fermented in small open-top fermenters with
natural and inoculated yeast. Aged 10 months in 33% new French oak.
Dark ruby color. Aromas of black
cherries and toasted brioche. Rich and full palate of berries and plums with an earthy undertone. Fruit-driven
and linear with supple tannins and a clean finish.
2007 Seawind Split Rock Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., $44.
Dark ruby color. Primarily dark fruits are featured, in particular black raspberries.
The bright fruit is complimented by notes of cardamon spice, oak, smoke and
citrus. The tannins are corralled, the texture is quite silky and the lively acidity
makes for a refreshing drink.
Black Ridge Vineyards is a boutique 1,200 case winery in the Santa Cruz Mountains just outside of Los Gatos,
California specializing in Pinot Noir, Viognier and a Bordeaux-style blend. All wines are 100% estate grown
from the 22 acres of vines and range from 50 case to 500 case production volumes. Winemaker Bill
Brousseau crafts the wines at Testarossa Vineyards in Los Gatos.
2007 Black Ridge Vineyards Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
alc., 198 cases, $39.
Very complex aromas of black cherries, kid glove, pine
forest, green garden, grassland and oak char. Delicious and crunchy dark
berry fruit set off by bright acidity. Deeply flavored but not weighty, with deft
use of oak, and a finish that goes on and on. A Pinot lover’s cup of tea.
Cima Collina is a small producer of hand-crafted, small lot wines sourcing grapes from the winery’s estate
vineyard at Hilltop Ranch in Carmel Valley and family owned vineyards in Monterey County. Founded in 2004,
the talented winemaker since the winery’s founding has been Annette Hoff who writes the award-winning Cima
Collina Blog at www.cimacollina.com. The Tondre Grapefield Pinot Noir is my favorite Cima Collina wine and a
star from the Santa Lucia Highlands.
2007 Cima Collina Tondre Grapefield Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
13.1% alc., 216 cases, $48, released May 2009. Clones are a blend of onethird
each Pommard, Dijon 115 and 667. Fermented in small, open-top bins
that were punched down two to three times daily. Pressed off into oak
barrels of which 40% were new and aged 11 months before bottling.
dark reddish-purple color. The nose is penetrating and intoxicating. Haunting
scents of ripe black raspberries and blackberries, exotic woods and musk.
Luscious dark fruits are plush and deeply flavored with a floral undertone that I find
very appealing. Harmonious in every way with bright acidity, ripe, soft tannins and
a vibrant and refreshing finish. A memorable wine that gets its hooks into you and won’t let go.
Halleck Vineyard is a family affair, founded by Ross and Jennifer Halleck. The Hallecks planted their family
estate one-acre vineyard in 1993 with the intention of setting aside profits from this vineyard for their three
sons’ college educations. The Hallecks also source Pinot Noir from well-farmed vineyards in the western
Russian River Valley. They produce three vineyard-designate Pinot Noirs and a Pinot Noir blend from the three
vineyards called Three Sons Cuvee. Rick Davis (Londer, Calstar) is the winemaker. Production is 1,500 cases
per year sold primarily through a mailing list at www.halleckvineyard.com.
2007 Halleck Vineyard The Farm Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.6% alc., $55. 100% destemmed,
5-day cold soak, whole berry fermentation in 5-ton fermentation tanks for 12 days, aged 9 months in
30% new French oak. Clone 777.
Interesting aromas of dark red fruits, rose bush, prickly pear, oak char and a
little funk. A dark fruit-driven wine with sides of herbs and oak. There is bright acidity on the finish which falls
off rapidly. This wine just doesn’t do much for me and I get the impression that it has not completely come
together inviting a revisit in 6 months.
2007 Halleck Vineyard Hallberg Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.9% alc., $55. 100% de-stemmed. 5-day cold soak, whole berry fermentation in
5-ton fermentation tanks. Aged 10 months in 30% new French oak. Clones 115
Moderately light garnet color. Perfume of dark red cherries and plums
accented with Provencal herbs and oak vanillin with a whiff of alcohol. Discreetly
concentrated and tasty dark red Pinot fruits with accents of cola and brown spice.
Velvety in the mouth with a fruity and pleasing finish.
Coho is a partnership between Brooks Painter and Gary Lipp who together have almost fifty years experience
working for California wineries. The logo embodies the Coho salmon which reflects the owner’s commitment to
sustaining our habitats and species that share it. Founded in 2002, the 2006 and 2007 vintages were the first
that I had sampled and I found the Pinot Noirs very likable and sensible priced. The website is
2007 Coho Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., 357 cases, $33.
Confected red fruits and smoke on the nose. Moderately rich core of Bing cherries
with a hint of candied sweet character. Leaf and oak flavors add complexity.
Admirable elegance, smoothly textured and perfect balance with some persistence
on the finish.
DuMOL was launched in 1996 by partners Michael Verlander and Kerry Murphy. The wines have been
consistently stellar and include Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Syrah and Viognier. The partners believe in blending
and do not produce a vineyard-designate Pinot Noir. Most of the Pinot Noir grapes are sourced from the Green
Valley appellation where DuMOL has a vineyard. Contracts are long-term and grapes are paid for by the acre,
insuring that yields can be restricted. The winemaker and viticulturist since 2000 is the talented Andy Smith.
The owners have kept to a low profile, preferring not to participate in Pinot Noir events and shunning publicity.
A new winery was completed in 2008 in Windsor. Most of the wine is sold through a mailing list at
2007 DuMOL Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., $65.
muted aromas of cherries, grapes and a hint of smoke. Luscious cherry berry
compote displaying an appealing crispness and a flourish of baking
spices and cola in the background. Discreetly rich with a smooth texture and
a dry finish. An immensely satisfying wine that is tre Russian River.
Expression Wine produces multiple Pinot Noirs from different latitudes representing different “expressions” of
Noir. The winegrowing regions represented include Santa Rita Hills, Sonoma Coast, Anderson Valley and
Eola-Amity Hills. The goal of winemaker Richard Sowalsky is to showcase the vineyards and the terroir of
each region. Sowalsky is a University California Davis graduate with experience at Handley Cellars, Havens
Wine Cellars, Robert Mondavi Winery and Big Horn Cellars. The wines are crafted at the Silverado Trail Wine
Studio and are sold primarily through a mailing list at www.expressionwine.com.
2007 Expression 39 Anahala Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., $48.
This is a delightful Pinot Noir. Scents of well-spiced cherries
and berries are echoed in the fruit flavors which are delicately kissed by oak.
The fruit is full of vim and vigor and well-framed by substantial ripe tannins.
Still young and somewhat undeveloped, this beauty will benefit from another
6 to 12 months in the cellar.
Balletto Vineyards consists of 280 acres of vineyard land planted in western Sebastopol owned by John
Balletto. 60 acres are planted to multiple clones of Pinot Noir. The inaugural vintage was 2001 and the
winemaker is Dan Cederquist. Balletto and shares a tasting room on Occidental Road with Dutton-Goldfield.
2007 Balletto Winery Block Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
alc., 300 cases, $22. Sourced from the best grapes surrounding the
Very appealing aromas of black cherries and black raspberries riff
with spice and lavender. A solid wine with respectable black cherry fruit
intensity, remarkable for its smooth texture and impressive for its very
clean finish. An incredible value.
Merryvale Vineyards, a family owned Napa Valley winery known for its Chardonnays, Merlots, Cabernet
Sauvignons and Profile Red Wine, is quietly making some superb Pinot Noirs in recent vintages. The
winemakers are Sean Foster and Graham Wehmeier. Merryvale owns the Stanly Estate Vineyard in Carneros
planted to Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah. The Merryvale lineup of wines is available online at
www.merryvale.com. The winery’s tasting room is housed in a historic building that was the first winery built in
Napa Valley after Repeal.
2007 Merryvale Carneros Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., $35.
The nose is a chameleon,
offering scents that vary from cherries to raspberry tart, from herb garden to sweet
oak. Perfectly fine cherry flavors with a sidecar of oak toast and baking spices and
a baked cookie note. Beautifully balanced and refreshing to drink. Not a
blockbuster, but I could be perfectly happy with this wine any night with dinner.
2007 Merryvale Stanly Ranch Estate Carneros Pinot Noir
$45. Sourced from favorite blocks of the sustainably-farmed estate
vineyard on the historic Stanly Ranch.
Fresh and vibrant aromas of
summer cherries and berries with complimentary oak spice. Mediumweighted
flavors of earth and mineral-dusted black cherries with an echo
of oak char in the background. Very smoothly textured with dry, ripe
tannins. This wine speaks of the soil and is the best wine I have had from
this vineyard in recent memory.
De Loach Vineyards is dedicated to Pinot Noir and uniquely uses French open-top wood fermenters for all the
winery’s OFS, Vineyard-Designate and Russian River Valley Pinot Noirs. The winemakers arew Brian Mahoney and Julia Vasquez. De Loach dates to 1973 when Cecil De Loach, a firefighter from San Francisco first planted grapes in
the Russian River Valley and acquired numerous old-vine Zinfandel vineyards. In 2003, De Loach Vineyards
was sold to the Boisset Family from Burgundy, France. The Boisset family replanted the De Loach vineyards
after the 2004 vintage and biodynamic farming was instituted. The website is www.deloachvineyards.com.
2007 DeLoach Vineyards Green Valley of Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., pH 3.61, 991 cases, $45.
A blend of several vineyards and clones. Grapes are de-stemmed and undergo native fermentation in open top
vats with hand punch downs. Aged 9 months in 25% new French and Hungarian oak
Aromas of dark cherries, herbs, oak and mushrooms. Juicy core of black
cherries and cola with an underpinning of oak and a petrol note. Soft tannins with bright citric acidity on the
2007 DeLoach Vineyards Masut Vineyard Redwood Valley Pinot Noir
alc., 1,000 cases, $45. Clones 113 and 115 were planted in 1996 according to
biodynamic principles and these vines are tended by pioneers of biodynamic
farming, Jacob Fetzer and his family.
Well oaked dark fruits on the nose.
Powerfully flavored earth-kissed dark raspberry fruit augmented by plum reduction
sauce, spice and a hint of grapefruit peel on the dry and slightly hot finish.
2007 DeLoach Vineyards Maboroshi Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
15.0% alc., pH 3.53, 435 cases, $45. The vineyard name means
“whimsical dream” in Japanese. Farmed by the Kisaichi family and located
southwest of Sebastopol. Soils are Goldridge loam. Aged 12 months in 33% new French oak.
Intense aromas of black cherries, raspberries,
herbal oak and cardamon spice. Beautifully composed and gentle in the
mouth with tasty red raspberries and currants, a compelling earthiness,
and a tasty riff of oak. Harmonious with impressive glass-filling presence.
Sips of 2006 California Pinot Noirs
Don’t forget the 2006 vintage California Pinot Noir, many of which are still readily available in the marketplace.
2006 Athair Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.7% alc., 650 cases, $36. Athair means “father” in Irish Gaelic.
Winemaker Jim McMahon crafts this wine dedicated to the fathers in his life. Sourced from three vineyards. 3-day cold soak, 8-day
fermentation, aged in 25% new French oak barrels for 9 months, held in bottle for an additional 5 months before release.
Captivating aromas of cherries,
sassafras, sandalwood, sage and oak. Ripe cherry and raspberry core with underlying hints of herbs
and forest floor. The mouth-coating ripe tannins need some time to resolve. A very flavorful wine that is
immensely satisfying. Decant now if you pop the cork and match with short ribs.
2006 Benziger Signaterra Bella Luna Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., $40.
Fairly garnet color. A light and elegantly styled Pinot Noir that
has some charming ripe cherry and berry fruit aromas and flavors with underlying
dark caramel notes from oak and a juicy grip of citric peel on the bright finish.
Harmonious with ripe, dry tannins and alluring finesse.
2006 Coho Stanly Ranch Los Carneros Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., 483 cases, $30.
Vivid black cherry aromas with faint smoke in the background. Slightly confected
cherry and cranberry flavors with a little oak on the edge. A very smooth texture,
gossamer tannins and bright acidity on the finish make for easy drinking.
Dierberg farms two cool climate estate vineyards: the 160-acre Dierberg Estate Vineyard just outside the town
of Santa Maria with about two-thirds of the vineyard planted to Pinot Noir and the newer 70-acre Drum Canyon
Vineyard in the Santa Rita Hills planted to Pinot Noir. Jim and Mary Dierberg also own the 230-acre Star Lane
Ranch, a warmer vineyard site planted to warm-climate varieties in a valley not far from Santa Barbara. A new
winery has been carved into the sandstone of a 1,500-foot-high ridge above Star Lane Vineyard. Nick de Luca
is the winemaker for both Star Lane and Dierberg Vineyards. His background includes winemaking tours at
Williams Selyem, Fisher, and Byington. Rodolfo Bravo is the vineyard manager for the vineyards. The Dierberg
Estate Vineyard is planted in soil with a higher loam content tending to produce Pinot Noirs that are more
savory in flavor and powerful in structure. The clones consist of multiple Burgundian clones and unusual
California selections. Winemaking for the 2006 Dierberg Pinot Noir featured severe hand sorting, some stem
inclusion, natural yeast fermentations, aging in 75% new French oak for 17 months, light fining with egg whites
and bottling without filtration.
2006 Dierberg Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
$42. The Dierberg Vineyard is located 14 miles from the Pacific coast at
the southern end of the Santa Maria Valley. Dierberg is a family
owned winery founded in 2001 producing hand-crafted wines from estate
vineyards in the Santa Maria Valley and Santa Rita Hills. Vineyard yields
were down 35% in this vintage.
A stunning nose composed of aromas of
perfectly ripe cherries and berries with subtle hints of baking spice and smoke-infused
oak. A really impressive mouth full of delicious dark sappy fruit underlain
with smoky oak, earthiness and citrus. Seamless with perfect integration of
alcohol and harmonious t n’ a portending a long future. The wine is more
elegantly styled than usual from this vineyard. The best I have ever tasted from
this producer and a memorable wine.
2006 Halleck Vineyard Hallberg Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.9% alc., 295 cases, $55.From a vineyard located in Sebastopol that was
formerly an apple orchard.
Lovely perfume of slightly confected black cherries, oak
toast, and mocha java. Soft in the mouth with generous berry and cherry fruit.
Fruit-driven flavors are primary with some earthiness in background. Plenty of
acidity adds a lively tone.
2006 La Crema 9 Barrels Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 225
cases, $90. The most exceptional nine barrels in the cellar. Clones are 115, 667,
777, 23 and Pommard. All free-run juice and aged for 9 months in 45% new
French oak. The Nine Barrel blend is layered and then racked to one-year-old
French oak barrels for an additional 5 months of aging.
Deep ruby color. Ever
changing aromas of Bing cherries, cherry cola, Asian spice, and oak vanillin. Rich
dark blackberry fruit that is intense but not jammy. Oak plays a light supporting
role. Plenty of lively acid and ripe tannins to balance the prodigious fruit.
Beautifully crafted with perfect harmony. A very good wine but doesn’t yet quite
deliver the emotion one expects from such an expensive wine. Cellar for at least
a year or two.
2006 Olson Ogden Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.4% alc., 283 cases, $42.
Sourced from two vineyards. Clones are 23 and Martini. Aged 16 months in 55%
new French oak.
The nose stars Bing cherries with side notes of Provencal herbs,
sage and oak. Crunchy dark cherries, and ripe strawberries with an underpinning
of forest floor, savory herbs and a citrus note on the brisk finish. The dry tannins
are well corralled. The mid-palate fruit attack lacks some fullness, but this is a very
2006 Sierra Madre Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
14.9% alc., 1,772
cases, $40. Winery owners Doug and Jan Circle source grapes for their wines from
their own Sierra Madre Vineyard. The vineyard, which was planted in 1971, was
purchased from Michael Mondavi in 2003. The winemaker is Steve Rasmussen.
Clones were vinified separately. Aged in 35% new French oak barrels.
reddish-violet color. The plentiful oak overwhelms the ripe cherry fruit on the nose.
Prodigious fruit with touches of cola, herbs and oak. Soft and smooth with a mouth
filling presence and admirable acidity. The oak takes over in the glass over time.
A man’s Pinot Noir that will appeal especially to oak lovers.
Garys’ Vineyard 2004 Horizontal Tasting
On March 15, 2009, the Ides of March, I was invited to a horizontal tasting of 2004 Pinot Noirs from Garys’
Vineyard located in the Santa Lucia Highlands. The wines were bought soon after release and well-cellared.
There were sixteen wines, one from every producer that year except Truckee River Winery.
Garys’ Vineyard is owned by partners Gary Pisoni and Gary Franscioni (that is why the vineyard is called
Garys’ and not Gary’s), and was planted in 1997 to Pisoni clone Pinot Noir and Syrah. The vineyard totals 50
acres and is located 7-8 miles north of the Pisoni Vineyard in a slightly cooler area. (see
www.garysvineyard.com for a map of the vineyards of the Santa Lucia Highlands). Spacing is 6x8 and 5x8 on
VSP Bilateral trellising with 1089 and 908 vines per acre. The soil is Arroyo Seco sandy loam. The climate is
marine with strong coastal winds blowing off Monterey Bay in the afternoon. Average summertime high
temperatures are in the mid 70s. There are currently 19 wineries sourcing fruit from Garys’ Vineyard.
Many of the wines featured aromas of black cherries, baking spices and sandalwood. The tannins were soft in
all the wines. Alcohols were quite high with eleven of the wines at 14.8% or higher and the alcohol was evident
in many of the wines. The biggest fault was a perceived lack of acidity causing the wines to age quickly. If you
have any 2004 Pinot Noirs from Garys’ Vineyard, drink up now. With a couple of exceptions, the wines did not
appreciably benefit from five years of aging.
2004 La Rochelle Garys‘ Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
alc.. Winemakers Tom Stutz and Claude Bobba.
Slightly hazy with a hint of
orange coloring on the rim. Rather flat nose with some faint fruit, oak and spice.
Tasty black cherry core elegantly presented with a satiny texture and good
2004 Roar Garys’ Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
Attractive aromas of rich, ripe black cherries, root beer and sandalwood. Rich
black cherry fruit core with notable oak. Still retaining some tannin. Some ash
shows up on the finish which leaves a little heat in its wake.
2004 Siduri Garys’ Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
Deep garnet color. Rich and
ripe scents of black cherries and raspberries. A hedonistic style that retains plenty of sweet fruit richness and
has shed all of its tannins. Stacked and packed with fruit with admirable balance for such a big-boned wine.
Gary Farrell’s New Label Iconic Russian River Valley winemaker, Gary Farrell, left his namesake winery a
few years back to return to his roots with a small boutique winery specializing in small lots of Pinot Noir. The
name of the new label is Alysian Wines. Details are few on the website, but the first wines are scheduled to be
released soon. Join the mailing list at www.alysianwines.com or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Petaluma Gap Winegrowers Alliance Founded in 2005, PGWA is composed of over 50 winegrowers and
vintners who are located in or source fruit from the Petaluma area. The Alliance recently launched a new web
site at www.petalumagap.com. In addition, the Alliance has been hosting a series of weekend informal
vineyard and winery tours at sites not usually open to the public. Teela Ridgeway, the President of PGWA, has
been largely responsible for the drive to educate consumers about the unique sites and styles of wine
produced in the Petaluma area.
Beverage Information Group Harris Poll® The results of a large online survey of United States adults in
April, 2009 indicates that 3 in 10 Americans drink alcohol weekly. 25% of adults in the United States never
drink alcohol. Men are more likely to drink alcohol once a week than women (40% versus 19%). One-third of
Echo Boomers (aged 18-32) say they drink once a week compared to 26% of Gen Xers (those aged 33-44).
One half of women drink domestic wine (56%) compared to 43% of men who tend to be big beer drinkers.
According to Wine Spectator (May 18, 2009), the Global Drinks Market reports that worldwide per-capita wine
consumption fell for the third consecutive year in 2008 and current world per-capita consumption is at its lowest
level in at least four decades. Much of this trend is due to decreased wine consumption in countries such as
France and Italy, particularly among younger drinkers. China may be the country to show the largest growth in
wine consumption in the future.
Latest Recommendations on Wine Drinking and Health Arthur Klatsky, M.D., renowned researcher
into the health benefits of alcohol and wine and a senior consultant in cardiology at Kaiser Permanente Medical
Center in Oakland, California, spoke with Wine Spectator in a roundtable for the May 21, 2009 issue. He said,
“It is certainly appropriate to advise people at a relatively high risk of heart attack - which is most middle-aged
to older people - that light to moderate amounts of alcohol should be part of their healthy lifestyle, unless they
have some special risk.”
Chamisal Label Returns Domaine Alfred was acquired by Crimson Wine Group and has changed the
name of the winery to its original name, Chamisal Vineyards. The 80-acre vineyard was largely replanted in
the 1990s to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The current winemaker, Fintan du Fresne, continues in charge.
2009 Oregon Wine Awards Pinot Noir Double Gold award winners: $20.01-$35 - 2006 Brooks “Janus”
WV, 2007 Christopher Bridge Satori Springs WV, 06 Seven of Hearts DH, 2006 Stoller JV Estate DH; Over
$35.01 - 07 Reustle-Prayer Rock Reserve UV, 06 Stoller SV Estate DH, 06 Willamette Valley Vineyards
Signature Cuvee WV, 06 Winderlea Inaugural Reserve DH.
Mountain Winery Summer Concerts The Mountain Winery amphitheater venue in Saratoga, California
announces 55 concerts from July 3 to October 6, 2009. Food is available along with the Mountain Winery
Estate wines that include the 2006 Chardonnay and Pinot Noir crafted by Mount Eden winemaker Jeffrey
Patterson. Entertainers featured include Indigo Girls, Boz Scaggs, Foreigner, Sheryl Crow, James Taylor, Etta
James and Tony Bennett. Tickets at www.mountainwinery.com.
World of Pinot Noir Announces Ambitious 2010 Program
2010 marks the Tenth
Anniversary of the World of Pinot Noir and a special program of events has been announced.
Seminars include: A tasting of vintage old world Burgundies led by Master Sommelier Fred
Dame, a 10-year retrospective of Williams-Selyem library wines led by Executive Winemaker
Bob Cabral, and a vertical examination of the famed Pisoni Vineyard. Two Gala Receptions
and Dinners will be presented by noted chefs Roy Yamaguchi (Roys of Hawaii) and Budi
Kazali (Ballard Inn). Tickets go on sale October 1, 2009. View the schedule of 2009 events at
. See PinotFile
coverage of past World of Pinot Noir events (2008 - Volume 6,
Issue 56; 2009 - Volume 7, Issue 16).
Rosés of Pinot Noir Enliven Summer
Nothing better on a warm summer day than a glass of chilled rosé. As versatile as Pinot Noir is with food,
rosés are more complimentary to the outdoor fare of summer. With Pinot Noir rosé, you get the best of both
worlds, especially when the wine is vinified dry. Many wineries produce rosé, but often it is a thin saiginée
which is quickly vinified as an afterthought. The following rosés are serious wines made with considerable care
2008 Pali Wine Co. Sunset Rosé
13.5% alc., 250 cases, $15. 90%
California, 10% Oregon. A blend of 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Grenache.
pink coral color. Attractive aromas of strawberries, orange peel and savory
herbs. Crisp and clean flavors of strawberries, blood oranges and summer
melons. A subtle note of oak adds interest. Soft in the mouth with a generous
lift of acidity on the bright finish. Marvelous.
2008 B Vineyards & Habitat Rosé of Pinot Noir Russian River Valley
13.5% alc., 124 cases, $19. Sourced from estate-grown organic clone 777
grapes. Whole cluster press, cold fermentation. Also crafted by winemaker
Similar nose as the Lynmar but more restrained with an
undertone of summer herbs. White peach, orange and strawberry flavors with
a hint of tutti-fruity and spice. The mouth feel is unusually rich for a rosé, with a
velvety texture and refreshing acidity on the finish. A French-styled, serious
wine with plenty of intensity to satisfy.
2008 Lynmar Estate Russian River Valley Rosé of Pinot Noir
$20. Sourced from estate and selected contract vineyards. Fruit specifically
choosen for this wine was de-stemmed, cold soaked for 2-3 hours before
undergoing a gentle membrane press followed by fermentation in stainless
steel tanks. This wine was supplemented by the saiginée method in which
lots of Pinot Noir and Syrah were bled from tank after de-stemming with some
color and no tannins. The wine was aged in neutral French oak barrels and
stainless tanks. Vinified by winemaker Hugh Chapelle.
salmon hue. Aromas of white peaches and oranges. The flavors are fresh
and vivid, even flirty, echoing the aromas and finishing with some persistence.
Among the top rosés every year in California.
2008 Antica Terra Rosé Willamette Valley
14.2% alc., 88 cases, $35. 66%
Pommard, 33% Dijon 115. 33% whole cluster. Full natural MLF with 6 months
aging in 3rd-fill French oak barrels. Unfined and unfiltered.
reddish-orange color. Lovely aromas of fresh strawberries, blood oranges and
a touch of white peach and herbs. A substantial rosé that is mouth filling on
the attack strutting flavors of fresh berries, orange peel and savory herbs with
some persistence on the bright finish. This is a stunning wine that even a
Pinot Noir purist like myself would be proud to take to any classy restaurant.
This wine should put to rest any stigma that has been attached to rosé.