PinotFile: 9.24 May 5, 2013
- Cork Dork
- Etude: Inspired Wines of the Carneros
- the Gardener: Got Organic Grapes?
- Bravium: Relish the Acidity
- Rivers-Marie: 2010 & 2011 Reflect the Challenges of Farming on the Edge
- Dunstan Wines from Durell Vineyard
- Foursight Wines: Family Excels with Pinot
- COBB Wines: No Wine Before Its Time
- Sips of Pinot: Wines Tasted Recently
- Rosé and Chardonnay: Recently Sampled Wines
- Pinot Briefs
“In the entire world, only a few sounds bring joy to all but the most jaded.
One is the purring of a kitten. Another is the thwack of a well-pitched baseball hitting a perfectly swung bat.
And a third is the pop of a cork being pulled from a bottle of wine.”
George Taber, To Cork Or Not To Cork
The Urban Slang Dictionary defines cork dork as a person who talks about wine too seriously. I suggest a
second meaning: a person who collects and treasures old corks.
I am an incurable collector so it is no surprise that I have amassed all the corks from the wines I have opened
over the last forty years. Many people have a few corks rolling around in a kitchen drawer, but I take cork
collecting more seriously. The corks have accumulated in trash bags in the attic because I could never figure
out what to do with them. I know there are many clever craft projects that can be done with wine corks,
including wreaths, bulletin boards, trivets, reindeer ornaments, garlands, key chains, place settings, cork mats
and even a wall of corks. I heard of one cork aficionado who made a barge of 160,000 wine corks and sailed it
along the Douro River in Portugal. None of these projects appealed to me, so the collection has taken on a
I recently had to clear out the attic to install new heaters, so I spent some time sifting through the corks. This
turned out to be a very memorable, nostalgic undertaking. I found corks that brought back vivid memories such
as the 1992 magnum of Williams Selyem Rochioli Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir I opened on my
50th birthday and the 1943 DRC La Tâche (my birth year) that I drank on my 60th birthday. Corks seem
ageless and do not deteriorate over time.
Natural corks are often branded with intricate designs and usually stamped with the producer’s name. Phone
number, email address and vintage are less common
Most corks do not have the date on them, but those that do can revive long lost experiences. I discovered, for
example, Pinot Noir corks from 1990 El Molino, 1989 Etude, 1990 Sanford, 1991 Mount Eden Vineyards, 1985
Calera (the first case of Pinot Noir I ever bought), 1994 Au Bon Climat, 1992 Domaine Drouhin Oregon and
1993 Beaux Freres among others. Among dated corks, Kistler Vineyards was a favorite (22 cases of corks,
mostly Chardonnay, 1988-2005).
Many non-dated, very old corks were found from iconic producers such as Joseph Swan Vineyards, Robert
Stemmler, Stony Hill, Hanzell, Saintsbury, Ponzi, Schug Cellars, Williams Selyem, Gary Farrell and David
Bruce. I found that I drank my fair share of Rochioli & J. Rochioli (10 cases of corks), Gary Farrell (18 cases of
corks) and Williams Selyem (32 cases of corks) Pinot Noir.
I had corks from Domain Drouhin Oregon from 1988 through 2010 (22 vintages), and 12 cases of Chalone
Vineyard Pinot Noir corks from 1974 through 1994 (I was a Chalone shareholder).
There were 26 cases of Champagne, Champagne magnum and assorted large format corks, almost all
undated, but there was a dated 1961 Krug, 1976 Champagne Deutz, and 1979 Perrier-Jouët cork.
Burgundy corks are particularly appealing as they are more wordy, beautifully designed, and often with the
words, “Mise Au Domaine” on the cork.
The first reference to cork dates to 3000 B.C. in China, where cork was used as part of fishing equipment.
According to George Taber in To Cork or Not to Cork (2007), “No one knows exactly when the first person put
the first cork in a wine container.” The Greeks in the 5th century used corks occasionally to close wine jugs
and the Romans also used cork as a stopper, by itself and coated with pitch, but corks were not the closure of
choice in ancient days. According to Taber, corks have been found in Roman shipwrecks dating from the fifth
century B.C. to the fourth century A.D.. Professor Vernon Singleton of UC Davis believes the Romans were
the first to use cork to protect wine from air.
It was not until the 17th century, when glass bottles were first made with more uniform openings, that cork
became the standard closure for wine bottles. The use of cork to stopper glass containers started first in
England and spread to Continental Europe.
A common misconception is that cork was first adapted as a stopper in 1670 by the French Benedictine monk
Dom Perignon for the sparkling wine of his Hautvilliers’ monastery. The truth is that the English had been
bottling sparkling wine with cork in London before Dom Perignon’s supposed discovery.
Once cork was in regular use, a good way to remove the cork was needed. According to Taber, the first English
patent for a corkscrew was given to Samuel Henshall, a member of the clergy, on August 24, 1795. This
produced the marriage of bottle, cork and corkscrew, and for the first time, a reliable way to age wine.
Paul White, writing for the Slow Food Movement, summarized the value of wine corks. “For more than two
centuries, winemaking, wine maturation and wine styles have been closely allied to the mechanical and
chemical properties of cork. Indeed, without cork, humanity would never have defined the concept of terroir.”
I also have an interesting collection of capsules. Like I said, I an inveterate collector. I haven’t figured out what
to do with them either.
Etude: Inspired Wines of the Carneros
Etude is a pioneering winery in the Napa Carneros region started by noted winemaker Tony Soter in 1980. The
initial release was a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, but Soter quickly moved into Carneros Pinot Noir (first
release was in 1982), Napa Valley Pinot Blanc, Napa Valley Merlot, Carneros Pinot Gris, Vin Gris of Pinot Noir,
and a Brut Rosé sparkling wine.
The winery was initially an underfunded proprietary side project that Soter indulged in while he worked his day
job as a consulting winemaker to several of Napa’s most high profile wineries including Araujo Estate, Dalle
Valle, Niebaum-Coppola, Shafer, Spottswood and Viader. Soter owned no vineyards, but developed contracts
with growers that allowed him to farm his blocks to his own strict specifications. He was one of the first
consultants in the Napa Valley to buy grapes by the acre in contrast to the common practice of the time of
buying grapes by the ton.
It was an encounter in Soter’s cellar with Madame Lalou Bize-Leroy in 1980 that led Soter to name his new
wine company Etude. Lalou was assessing Tony’s first Pinot Noir, and her comments implied that Tony needed
to improve his winemaking approach. Etude was an appropriate name since it is derived from the French
word, étude, meaning “study, and in music to a composition designed to improve the technique of the player.”
Soter would say in 2004 (Wine & Spirits), “Pinot Noir is the best and most transparent wine vehicle with which
to ‘study’ the craft and this has been a life long and humbling pursuit....I like to say I was in pursuit of the
wisdom of ancestors I never had.”
Soter’s wines quickly attracted considerable attention from the wine press and Pinot Noir aficionados. He was
fanatical about quality and typically he sold off anonymously more than 20% of the wine he produced in bulk.
By 1999, Soter was able to end his consulting career to concentrate full time on Etude and develop estate
vineyards. He eventually returned to his roots (he is a Portland native) to establish a second Pinot Noir project
in the Willamette Valley of Oregon.
Etude was sold to Fosters Wine Estates in 2001, and the corporation provided the capital to build a new winery,
refurbish vineyards, and expand production. Soter made his last wines at Etude in 2002, and moved to Oregon
permanently to devote himself to Soter vineyards in the Yamhill-Carlton District at Mineral Springs Ranch. He
still consults at Etude, assisting Jon Priest who joined Etude as winemaker in 2005.
Until 2004, Etude Pinot Noir was sourced from selected Carneros sites and drew its character from clay-heavy
soils that created high extract and a firm tannic structure. The wines since then have been produced
exclusively from Etude’s Estate Vineyard located in the northwestern corner of the Carneros appellation in the
Sonoma Carneros region. Although most of the soils in Carneros are clay-based, the Etude Estate Vineyard is
planted in rocky, volcanic soils that are extremely well-drained. Above ground, the extreme western location
close to the Pacific Ocean leaves the vines exposed to the cool and windy weather that Carneros is known for.
The vineyard is planted to twenty Pinot Noir clones.
One of Soter’s pet projects was the resurrection of “heirloom clones” of Pinot Noir. The heirloom clones are
rare suitcase Pinot Noir clones planted in small vineyard test blocks. He compiled a library of rare vine
material from growers’ vineyards and experimental plots. Because many of these selections did not produce
consistently large crops and the bunches were small and irregularly shaped, they were not considered
economically viable and often ignored by growers.
The first vintage of Etude Heirloom Pinot Noir was 1995, consisting of 95 cases, and was the first unfiltered
wine produced at Etude. The wine in the early years was a blend from several vineyard sources, varied each
year, and was aged in about 60% new French oak. The best barrels were chosen and held for aging of up to
Heirloom Pinot Noir was initially a case of marketing trumping reality because the wines were not always
composed of “heirloom clones.” Despite this, the wines were of superior quality, offering an unusual
expression of Pinot Noir unlike any other Pinot Noir made in California at the time.
In 2005, Etude dedicated a 7-acre block of the Estate Vineyard to ten different selections of heirloom Pinot Noir
to serve as a library as well as a source for Heirloom Pinot Noir, insuring that all the fruit was estate in origin.
I have tasted a number of partial verticals of Etude Carneros Pinot Noir and Etude Heirloom Pinot Noir. In
2005, I tasted Etude Carneros Pinot Noir from 1992 to 2003 (Volume 5, Issue 10). In 2009 (Volume 7, Issue
12), I tasted the 2003 to 2006 vintages of Etude Carneros Pinot Noir. In this issue I re-tasted some older
vintages and brought the vertical up to the current 2010 release. Also in 2009 (Volume 7, Issue 12), I reviewed
nine vintages of Etude Heirloom Pinot Noir (1996-2005 absent 1999) as well as recent vintages of the limited
release Etude Deer Camp and Etude Temblor Pinot Noirs. In this issue, I have revisited several vintages of the
Etude Heirloom Pinot Noir. Vertical tastings are valuable for they allow the taster to examine a winery’s large
body of work and with this experience comes a true appreciation of the talent and devotion winemakers offer to
the wine enthusiast despite vintage variations.
The Etude Heirloom Pinot Noir is darkly colored, concentrated and powerful, with a modestly muscular tannic
structure, and features dark fruits with an earthy, savory tone. The wine is definitely not a mainstream Pinot
Noir. The wine’s best drinking window is five to eight years. The Etude Carneros Pinot Noir is a consistent
performer that ages well. Earthy, with firm but balanced tannins, this wine is like a jacket you always reach for:
comfortable, nicely fitted and you feel good in it. Although ready to go upon release, the Etude Carneros Pinot
Noir will hold for at least ten years in exceptional vintages. Etude Pinot Noirs are benchmarks for the Carneros
The Etude Carneros Pinot Noir is sold on the website and is in widespread retail distribution (often discounted).
The Etude Heirloom Pinot Noir is a limited release sold through a mailing list and at the winery. Special single
vineyard Pinot Noirs are offered as well. The tasting room at 1250 Cuttings Wharf Road in Carneros, just off
Highway 121, is open daily from 10:00 to 4:30 with premium and reserve tasting and wine and food pairing (by
reservation) offered Friday through Sunday. Visit the website at www.etudewines.com.
2002 Etude Carneros Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., magnum.
Medium reddish-purple color without bricking in the
glass. Initial aromas of earth, leather, black tea and cigar box give way over time to more black plum fruit.
Very soft and smooth on the palate with restrained tannins and a delicious array of dark red and black fruits
accented with notes of tea leaves, spice and oak. Juicy and satisfying with plenty of fruit holding court on the
finish. Very good. Drink up.
2003 Etude Carneros Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., 8,200 cases, magnum, $40 (750 ml).
color in the glass. Aromas of blackberry jam, oak cask, clay and cigar box. A charming wine with fresh fruit
expression including flavors of dark red and black berries and black cherries with a hint of dark caramel. Very
soft and silky on the palate. Not quite the intensity of the 2002 vintage, but still sumptuous. Very good. Drink
2004 Etude Carneros Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., 8,000 cases, $42.
dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Aged bouquet of black fruits, cigar, dried
rose petal, and a Prada leather coat. Fresh flavors of blackberries, black
raspberries with an earthy, grilled beef undertone. Some savory spice shows up
as well. Modest in richness, but highly flavorful with balanced tannins and a
pleasing finish. Has aged beautifully. Very good. Drink up.
2006 Etude Carneros Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., $42.
Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Very appealing
nose offering an array of dark red and black stone fruits, spice and rose petal. Mid weight flavors of black
cherries and cassis with a riff of beefy mushrooms. Balanced firm, dry tannins with a very dry, flavorful finish.
Very good. Drink up.
2008 Etude Carneros Pinot Noir
14.6% alc., $42.
Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. Shy aromas
of black cherries that take on intensity over time in the glass. More body and fruit presence in this vintage with
a plush core of dark red and black fruits wrapped in tarry, vanilla-laced oak. Finishes with a touch of heat.
Decent. Drink up or hold.
2009 Etude Carneros Pinot Noir
14.4% alc., $42.
Moderately light reddish-purple
color in the glass. Shy aromas of cherries and dried herbs including
sage. A little rustic, but with an appealing attack of black cherry and blackberry
fruits, holding on with impressive persistence on the spicy, beefy, black cherry
driven finish. Noticeably seamless. Very good. Drink up or hold.
2010 Etude Carneros Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., $42.
Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Very
muted nose despite intensive swirling in the glass. The black cherry core is lighter in this vintage but flavorful
and this wine has a more noticeable cut of citrusy acid on the finish. Nicely spiced with subtle oak notes in the
background and a fresh cherry ending. At this stage, the flavors trump the nose, and I would hold off another
six months. Good. Hold.
2000 Etude Heirloom Carneros Pinot Noir
14.9% alc., 500 cases, $70.
Moderately light reddish-purple
color with slight edge bricking in the glass. Aromas of cigar box and soy sauce. Middleweight flavors of dark
berries, currant, and plum with an earthy undertone. Definitely showing its age, but still offers some enjoyable
fruit and respectable length on the finish. Good. Drink up.
2001 Etude Heirloom Carneros Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 850 cases, $70.
Medium reddish-purple color in the
glass. Aromas of black cherries, raspberries and flower garden. Soft on entry and exit with a very rich and
tasty core of black cherry, black raspberry and black plum fruits accented with notes of savory herbs and grilled
mushrooms. Still sporting a firm tannic backbone, finishing with impressive length. Very good. Peaked, drink
2002 Etude Heirloom Carneros Pinot Noir
14.6% alc., 750 cases, $70.
Moderately dark reddish-purple
color in the glass. The nose is rich with very ripe stone fruit and dark berry aromas with a slight medicinal note.
Discreetly concentrated black plum flavor with a hint of savory herbs and Asian 5-spice. Finishes with drying
tannins. Good. Drink up.
2004 Etude Heirloom Carneros Pinot Noir
14.6% alc., 1,000 cases, $70.
Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Very expressive nose offering
bright aromas of black cherries, sandalwood and spice. Delicious array of dark
fruits, veering to the ripe side, with hints of sassafras, smoke and tea. Very silky
on the palate with supple tannins and some finishing persistence. Clearly the
best of the five Heirloom wines tasted today showing good power but great
balance. Very good (+). Drink up or hold.
2005 Etude Heirloom Carneros Pinot Noir
14.6% alc., 1,091 cases, $90.
Medium reddish-purple color in
the glass. Complex array of aromas including plum sauce, damp forest floor, herbs, mushrooms, spice and
rose petals. Juicy and very tasty with middleweight flavors of black stone fruits and grilled mushrooms. Still
sporting muscular tannins. Very good. Drink up or hold.
the Gardener: Got Organic Grapes?
The husband and wife winemaking team of Chris Condos and Suzanne Hagins produces a line of red and
white varietals from organic grapes exclusively at their Horse & Plow winery in Santa Rosa. The 2011 releases
under Suzanne’s label, “the Gardener,” really caught my attention.
There are many outstanding wineries with husband and wife winemaking teams so it would appear to be a
formula for success despite the adage that spouses should not work together. Examples are WesMar Winery
(Denise Selyem and Kirk Hubbard ), Teutonic Wine Co. (Barnaby and Olga Tuttle), Castoro Cellars (Niels and
Bimmer Udsen), Ampelos Cellars (Peter and Rebecca Work), and Marcassin (Helen Turley and John
Suzanne developed an interest in wine while working in fine restaurants in Charleston, South Carolina. She
worked her first harvest in Pommard at Comte Armand and moved to California in 2000 to pursue a career in
winemaking. After working at De Loach, David Bruce and Goldeneye wineries, she started a small Pinot Noir
brand, Lutea. Seven years later, she launched the Gardener label with Horse & Plow.
I first met Suzanne several years ago when she was making superb wines for B Vineyards & Habitat in
Sebastopol, and I enjoyed several of her Pinot Noirs under the Lutea label over the years as well.
Chris Condos attended University of California at Davis before beginning his career at Pine Ridge Winery. He
launched Vinum Cellars in Oakville in 1997, and has been the consulting winemaker for Kathryn Kennedy since
1998. Together with Suzanne, Horse and Plow was launched in 2008.
The special Pinot Noir reviewed here is sourced from a 1-acre block of the Scintilla Vineyard in Sonoma
Carneros that Suzanne has worked with since 2005. The vineyard is farmed by Robert Sinskey Vineyards, a
leader in organic and biodynamic viticulture.
The wines are produced with native yeasts and malolactic fermentations, extended lees contact, exceptional
cooperage and minimal handling. Deft winemaking and a gentle hand are evident in these superb wines.
Chris and Suzanne feel that in addition to the environmental benefits of organic farming, the resulting wines
show more varietal character and sense of place, and I agree.
Current production for Horse & Plow Winery is 2500 cases annually. The labels are custom designed by family
members, Florance Condos and Alan Crockett. Tours and tasting is by appointment at the winery in Santa
Rosa. The wines are available through the website store at www.horseandplow.com. The website is one of
the best designed and tasteful wine websites I have ever visited.
2011 the Gardener Carneros Pinot Noir
13.7% alc., pH
3.52, TA 0.62, 200 cases, $35. Scintilla Vineyard, clone 667.
Vineyard Certified Organic by CCOF. Harvested at 23.5 Brix.
20% whole cluster. Aged 10 months in 25% new French oak
barrels. Unfined and unfiltered.
Moderately light reddish-purple
color in the glass. The aromas jump out of the glass
with remarkable clarity, displaying notes of fresh black cherries
and spice. Delicious core of perfectly ripened and well-spiced cherries and plums.
The wine is impeccably balanced with supple tannins, and features a remarkably long,
cherry driven finish. My notes are filled with superlatives. This wine is like the
girl you could never have but always wanted.
2011 the Gardener Don Miguel Vineyard Russian River Valley Chardonnay
13.5% alc., pH
3.40,TA 0.64, 200 cases, $30. Made from organic grapes grown in Goldridge soil. See clone.
Vineyard is Certified Organic by CCOF and farmed by Marimar Torres. Harvested at 22.0 Brix. 50%
MLF. Aged 9 months sur-lee in 30% new French oak barrels.
Pale straw color and clear in the glass. Lovely aromas of lemon, pear, banana and almond. A transparent wine, unencumbered by oak,
offering flavors of citrus and pear with a hint of roasted nuts in the background. Bright and very
agreeable, light on its feet, with a lively acid backbone, and a tight, lemony finish. Very good.
Bravium: Relish the Acidity
Bravium, Latin for “reward, price or gift,” is a winery featuring traditional, minimalistic winemaking by proprietor
Derek Rohlffs. Rohilffs is a graduate of University of California at Santa Barbara in Environmental Studies and
completed his winemaking course work at University of California at Davis. He has made wine since 2000 and
traveled to the wine regions of France, Italy and Australia to hone his craft. Derek told me he has been
inspired by the work of Kevin Harvey and Jeff Brinkman at Rhys Vineyards and Jeff has been a significant
influence on his winemaking.
Bravium features vineyard-designated and appellation-designated Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The winery is
located on Treasure Island in the middle of San Francisco Bay. Vineyard sources include Signal Ridge
Vineyard in the Mendocino Ridge AVA, the Beau Terroir Vineyard in Napa Carneros and other vineyards in
Production is small (96 to 448 cases per wine) and the wines are sold direct to mailing list members and
through select retail outlets with some restaurant placements.
A portion of the profits from the sale of Bravium wines supports Sip & Give, Bravium’s charitable giving
campaign. Sip & Give features a roster of worthy charities that are funded by the public’s votes (visit the
webiste at www.bravium.com for more details). Simply put, Derek makes wine, you drink the wine, and
together, you both sip and give. Derek is also a Member of the Cherokee Nation and Bravium is a registered
Tasting is available at Treasure Island Wines, 995 9th Street, Treasure Island. Open Saturdays and Sundays
from 1:00 to 5:00.
This was the first time I came across Bravium Pinot Noir and I was very impressed by the consistently high
quality of each Pinot Noir bottling. The wines show deft integration of oak, judicious use of whole cluster
fermentation, pleasant aromatics, flavor without weight, and bright acidity for refreshing drinking. Derek
definitely has something going here and I would recommend the Pinot Noirs without reservations.
2011 Bravium Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.4% alc., pH 3.51, TA 0.60, 96 cases, $34. From the
Volamus Vineyard, located in the Petaluma Gap, and planted in 1999. Dense plantings of 115, 667
and Pommard. 100% de-stemmed, native fermentation, aged in 25% new 4-year air-dried Francois
Frères oak barrels. Unfined and unfiltered.
Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass.
Great nose with explosive aromas of black cherries, redwood and spice, holding up nicely over time
in the glass. Very soft in the mouth and highly flavorful with a core of black cherry and black
raspberry fruits, accented with notes of dark chocolate and spice, finishing with a refreshing edge of
citrus-driven acidity. Ready to go now. Very good.
2011 Bravium Volamus Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., pH 3.45, TA 0.61, 96 cases, $34. 4,500 vines on 3.5
acres. Clones 115, 667 and Pommard farmed sustainably. Hand
pressed, 25% whole cluster, racked once after MLF, aged in 50%
new 4-year air-dried Francois Frères oak barrels. Unfined and
Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. A more
serious, complex wine that will benefit from more time in the bottle.
The aromas open slowly in the glass to reveal hi-tone notes of dark berries,
spice, forest floor and a hint of vanilla. Dark berries are the featured fruit with
undertones of dark chocolate, clove and allspice, all wrapped in dry, chalky
tannins, finishing with razor sharp acidity. A little more body, nuance and class than the Sonoma Coast
bottling. Very good (+).
2011 Bravium Signal Ridge Vineyard Mendocino Ridge Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., pH 3.47,
TA 0.61, 288 cases, $34. The vineyard is on a steep mountainside three ridges in from the
Pacific Ocean at 2,642 feet elevation. Relatively shallow and rocky soils. Wide variety of
clones and selections including Pommard and Swan. Yields 0.65 tons per acre. 16% whole
cluster, 7-day cold soak. Native fermentation in one-ton fermenters. Aged 11 months in 33%
new 4-year air-dried Francois Frères oak barrels. Unfined and unfiltered.
reddish-purple color in the glass. Aromas of cherries, deep red rose petals and pine needle.
Tasty with good intensity, featuring flavors of black cherries black raspberries and pomegranates with a hint of
tea. Impeccable balance with mild tannins and juicy acidity, finishing with impressive intensity. Blossomed
beautifully the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle, displaying a dreamy, velvety mouth
feel and seductive flavors.
2011 Bravium Signal Ridge Vineyard Sundance Block Mendocino Ridge Pinot Noir
14.4% alc., pH 3.52,
TA 0.60, 96 cases, $39. Yields 0.65 tons per acre. 100% de-stemmed, 7-day cold soak, native fermentation,
aged in neutral French oak barrels. Unfined and unfiltered.
Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass.
Nicely perfumed with aromas of dark red cherries and berries, fruit bin and mushrooms. A little riper and more
savory with flavors of black cherries, plum, spice and mushrooms. The tannins are soft and supple and the
finish is juicy and appealing. Very good.
2011 Bravium Signal Ridge Vineyard Jackpot Block Mendocino Ridge Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., pH 3.49,
TA 0.60, 72 cases, $39. Yields 0.65 tons per acre. 20% whole cluster, native fermentation, aged in 33% new
4-year air-dried Francois Frères oak barrels. 25% whole cluster, 7-day cold soak, native fermentation, aged in
66% new Francois Frères oak barrels. Unfined and unfiltered.
Moderately light reddish-purple color in the
glass. Aromas of cherries, cassis, spice and oak. Redder fruits are featured on a mid weight frame. Light and
juicy with supple tannins and a good finishing grip of acidity. Pleasant and easy to drink, but lacks a mid palate
and finishing punch of fruit. Good (+).
2011 Bravium Signal Ridge Vineyard Dragonfly Block Mendocino Ridge Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., pH 3.39, TA 0.634, 72 cases, $39. Yields
0.65 tons per acre. 25% whole cluster, 7-day cold soak, native
fermentation, aged in 66% new 4-year air-dried Francois Frères oak
barrels. Unfined and unfiltered.
Incredible nose that keeps pumping
out aromas of fresh dark berries over time in the glass. Delicious core
of black cherry and dark berry fruits, exotically spiced with a hint of
toasty oak in the background. A seamless wine with powdery tannins and a
finishing lift of decadent fruit that returns in waves for several encores. An
exceptionally dreamy wine.
2012 Bravium North Coast Rosé Wine
12.3% alc., pH 3.27, TA 0.697, 84 cases, $19, screwcap. 98% Pinot
Noir (Signal Ridge Vineyard) and 2% Chardonnay. Aged in both stainless tanks and neutral oak. Unfined.
Moderately light red color in the glass. Aromas of strawberry, cranberry, cherry, blood orange and floral tones.
Soft and perfumey on the palate, with flavors of strawberries, cherries, and red hard candy. Very fruity in style
with a subtle sweet character. Decent.
2010 Bravium Thomson Vineyard Napa Carneros Chardonnay
14.3% alc. pH 3.51, TA 0.6, 288 cases,
$24. Clones 17, 76, 96 and 97. Aged in a combination of oak barrels and tanks. Partial MLF. Unfined.
light yellow color and clear in the glass. Aromas of lemon, nuts, honeysuckle and seasoned oak. Light, soft and
delicately flavored, with notes of pear, hazelnut and caramel. A well-crafted, but very understated style that just
didn’t grab my attention. Decent.
Rivers-Marie: 2010 & 2011 Reflect the Challenges of Farming on the Edge
Readers know that I have been a fan of the Pinot Noir wines from Thomas Brown and his Rivers-Marie label. I
have enthusiastically reviewed practically every release through 2009. I haven’t spoken with Thomas about the
2010 and 2011 wines, but I have to believe that he was frustrated by the formidable growing seasons of 2010
and 2011 on the true Sonoma Coast where his vineyard sources are located. In spite of that, he managed to
craft some exceptional wines, particularly in 2010, when vineyard sources managed to avoid the heat spikes of
that vintage experienced in more inland winegrowing regions. The 2010 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir (600 cases)
and 2010 B. Thieriot Vineyard Sonoma Coast Chardonnay (180 cases) were not reviewed.
The 2011 vintage was the tenth for Rivers-Marie. As indicated by the lower finished alcohol percentages in
2011, the growing season was very cool, fruit was hung longer than normal, grapes were picked at a lower
average Brix than either 2009 or 2010 and ripeness was an issue. Brown did say in his newsletter, “The
vintage (2011) produced the most delicate set of wines in our short history.” Summa Vineyard did not perform
up to its customary high standards and an old vines bottling was not offered in 2011. Production was down
about 500 cases in 2011 compared to 2010. The Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir(450 cases) and B. Thieriot
Vineyard Sonoma Coast Chardonnay (185 cases) were not reviewed.
Brighter days are ahead, for Brown touts the 2012 vintage in his last newsletter. Two new vineyards came on
board including Ulises Valdez’s Manzanita Vineyard and Kanzler Vineyard. In 2012, Rivers-Marie surpassed
2,000 cases of Pinot Noir for the first time in its history. This will allow some new customers to be added from
the waiting list for the first time in three years. Visit the website at www.riversmarie.com.
2010 Rivers-Marie Occidental Ridge Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., 185 cases, $45.
Aged in 60% new French oak barrels.
Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Ying (savory) and
yang (fruit) nose offering scents of dark stone fruits, cinnamon spice, forest floor, pine, mushroom and oak.
Plush, full and creamy on the palate featuring flavors of dark red berries and plums, finishing soft and intense
with a good cut of acidity. The ripest and most concentrated wine in the 2010 lineup, but not weighty. One of
the biggest Rivers-Marie wines ever and a magnet for fruit lovers. Very good.
2010 Rivers-Marie Silver Eagle Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.2% alc.,169 cases, $45. Aged in
40% new French oak barrels. Farmed by Ulises Valdez. Clone VR and 828.
Moderately dark reddish-purple
color and hazy in the glass. Very brooding, with shy aromas of blackberry jam, black currant, and oak cask.
Mid weight core of tasty black fruits backed by complimentary oak. The wine displays a soft, polished texture,
balanced tannins, and a welcome cut of acidity on the finish. Very good.
2010 Rivers-Marie Gioia Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
alc., 120 cases, $50. Aged in 80% new French oak barrels. Gioia is a
2-acre vineyard just west of Occidental on Joy Road, about a mile from
Summa Vineyard as the crow flies. A mix of 115 and Pommard clones.
Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. The most aromatic wine in
the lineup, filling the glass with a perfume of fresh black cherries,
raspberries, clove and other spices, and sandalwood. Discretely
concentrated dark raspberry and cherry fruit flavors with a hint of brown spice
and dark chocolate. The mid palate fruit is very exotic and striking in its
vividness, persisting with uncommon clarity in a very juicy, splashy finish.
Seamless, with modest tannins, and easy to dance with now.
2010 Rivers-Marie Summa Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.8% alc., 200 cases, $50. 10% whole
cluster. Aged in 50% new French oak barrels.
Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Very unusual array
of aromas and hard to pin down with proper descriptors. I get some aromas of cherries, orange pekoe tea,
spice and vanilla wafer. Middleweight flavors of cherries, raspberries and blueberries with the slightest oak in
the background. A well-mannered, but not exciting wine, with balanced tannins and crisp acidity. Good.
2010 Rivers-Marie Summa Vineyard Old Vines Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.0% alc., 137 cases, $75.
Aged in 80% new French oak barrels.
Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Aromas of black
cherries, orange peel, exotic spices and espresso-laced oak. Sumptuous, long and full on the palate featuring
flavors of ripe cherries, citrus flavored cranberries, and spice. Picks up interest and intensity over time in the
glass. This wine offers obvious sophistication in a gentle, more demure style in this vintage. Very good.
2011 Rivers-Marie Occidental Ridge Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
12.8% alc., 160 cases, $45. One
of the lightest wines in 2011. Aged in 33% new French oak barrels.
Moderately light reddish-purple color in the
glass. Shy and not particularly appealing with aromas of red and blue berries, apple and green beans. The
red fruit flavors trump the nose but the wine is still rather shallow from entry through the finish, and noticeably
less concentrated and ripe than the 2010 vintage. There is an appealing finesse and elegance on display, but
the crisp acidity overwhelms the meager fruit. Slightly better the next day from a previously opened and recorked
2011 Rivers-Marie Silver Eagle Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
alc., 225 cases, $50. The vineyard’s location in the northeastern part of
Occidental allowed it to achieve full maturity before the rains and it shows in this
wine. Aged in 40% new French oak barrels.
Medium reddish-purple color in the
glass. Nicely perfumed with bright aromas of dark raspberry jam, pine and
spice. Soft in the mouth with mid weight flavors of black raspberries, black
plums and mocha. The most concentrated wine in the 2011 lineup, with
tenacious fruit that seeks out every corner of the mouth, finishing with
impressive persistence. Even better later in the day from a previously opened
and re-corked bottle. Very good.
2011 Rivers-Marie Gioia Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.0% alc., 143 cases, $50. Clone 113 and
Pommard. Located in proximity to Summa Vineyard. Aged in 50% new French oak barrels.
reddish-purple color in the glass. Aromas of black cherries, raspberries, forest floor, moss and graham. Very
tasty with a vibrant core of cherry and red berry fruit accented by notes of sassafras and Asian 5-spice.
Presents a charming elegance with supple tannins and a refreshing finish. Not as big and boisterous as the
2010 vintage, but the similarities between the two vintages are evident, and the wine is quite charming in its
own right. Very good. Looking forward to trying the 2012 vintage from this vineyard.
2011 Rivers-Marie Summa Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
12.8% alc., 204 cases, $50. A combination
of all blocks at Summa Vineyard. Aged in 75% new French oak barrels.
Light reddish-purple color in the glass.
Red fruited on the nose and palate showing its usual spice and orange peel highlights, but offering an
uncharacteristic and curious savory and smoky note. Very good acidity and brisk on the palate and finish. A
skeleton of its usual self. About the same the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle.
Good at best.
Dunstan Wines from Durell Vineyard
The history of the Durell Vineyard dates to 1977 when Ed Durell acquired a former cattle ranch in the foothills
due west of the town of Sonoma which stretches over three overlapping appellations: Sonoma Coast, Sonoma
Valley and a small corner of Carneros. Durell hired a family friend, vineyard manager Steve Hill, to plant and
tend the grapes, and he began selling to Sonoma County wineries in 1982.
Bill and Ellie Phipps Price bought the Durell Vineyard from Ed Durell in 1997. Upon their amicable divorce, the
vineyard was split, with Ellie retaining 60 acres of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in the Carneros portion of the
vineyard and Bill owning 111 acres of primarily Chardonnay and Pinot Noir primarily in the Sonoma Valley and
Sonoma Coast portions of the vineyard.
Ellie initially produced Durell Vineyard Pinot Noir and Chardonnay under the Sand Hill at Durell Vineyard label.
With the 2008 vintage, the label was replaced with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from the 8.5-acre Ranch House
Block of the vineyard under the Dunstan label. The Ranch House Block had been replanted in 2005 with 3.5
acres of Wente clone Chardonnay and 5 acres of Dijon clones 115, 667 and 828 and Calera and Swan
selections of Pinot Noir. With the 2010 vintage reviewed here, all clones of Pinot Noir were included.
The Dunstan name and its horseshoe logo were inspired by the blacksmith who produced an old and very
large horseshoe found when the Durell Vineyard was initially planted and considered an omen of good luck.
The initial winemaker for Sand Hill wines was Don van Staaveren. In 2011, Kenneth Juhasz (Auteur, Donum
Estate) took over and made the wine reviewed below, assisted by associate winemaker Dan Fishman.
The vineyard is open by appointment for tours and tasting (707-933-3839). The Dunstan wines are allocated
through a mailing list and sold through the Dunstan website online store at www.dunstanwines.com. There is
some restaurant and wine shop placement in CA, NY, NJ, TX, FL and CO.
2010 Dunstan Durell Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
pH 3.50, TA 0.80, 291 cases, $50. A blend of all five clones in the
Ranch House Block. Aged 14 months in French oak barrels. Unfined
Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass.
Pleasingly aromatic with scents of dark berries, toasty oak and
mushrooms on the grill. Impressive mid palate attack of dark red and
black berry fruit with a hint of brandy-soaked cherries. A little earthiness
adds to the appeal. With a satisfying fullness on the palate, full ripeness, and a
long finish, this wine aims to please. On top of that, it has a uniqueness that
sets it apart.
Foursight Wines: Family Excels with Pinot
Foursight Wines is a family owned boutique producer of estate-grown Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and
Semillon in the Anderson Valley launched in 2006 by longtime winegrowers Bill and Nancy Charles and
daughter Kristy Charles and her winemaker spouse, Joseph Webb. The Charles clan arrived in the 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 the 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 from
Charles Vineyard were initially sold to Navarro Vineyards, Handley Cellars, Papapietro Perry and
After college, Kristy moved back to the Anderson Valley with Joseph who became the winemaker for Foursight
Wines. Joseph has a degree in wine business from Sonoma State University and apprenticed in winemaking
at Sebastiani, Landmark Vineyards and Joseph Swan Vineyards. Kristy has been active in the Anderson
Valley Winegrowers Association and the Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival.
The winery’s tasting room, which opened on Highway 128 near Boonville, was designed and built by Bill
Charles from lumber grown, harvested and milled on the Charles family ranch. The tasting room is open
Thursday through Sunday from 10:00 to 4:30 except for June 20-24 and January 1-24. Private tasting
appointments with winemaker Joseph Webb can be arranged in the Foursight cellar (Thursday through
Monday: contact Kristy Charles at 707-895-2889).
The Pinot Noirs have been consistently impressive and 2010 is no exception. They are sold through a Wine
Club and the winery’s website online store at www.foursightwines.com.
2010 Foursight Wines “Zero New Oak” Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
alc., pH 3.57, TA 0.62, 168 cases, $38. Released May 2013. Aged in 2-year-old
and older barrels so the emphasis is on the Pinot Noir fruit. Sourced from
Charles Vineyard. Clones 777, 115, 114 and Pommard 05. Fermented with
30% whole clusters, 100% wild yeast, and wild MLF cultures. Punchdowns are
done by hand, the wines are pressed in a traditional, wooden basket press, and
aged in French oak barrels until bottling with no racking.
color in the glass. No new oak, but still has a subtle oak note in the aromas and
flavors. The nose offers scents of dark berries and grape jelly. Plenty of black
grape, black cherry and raspberry flavor with a striking persistence on the huge,
very long finish. Balanced and silky on the palate, this is a satisfying wine. Very good.
2010 Foursight Wines Charles Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., pH 3.59, TA 0.62, 170
cases, $46. Released May 2013. Crafted from all four clones grown in the estate vineyard: 777, 114, 115 and
Pommard 05. 30% whole clusters, native yeast fermentation and native MLF. Aged in 40% new French oak
Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Aromas of cherries, forest floor and the slightest
oak. Lighter than the 2009 version of this wine and very similar in flavor but with a redder fruit profile. Red
cherries are most evident with a bright backbone of citrusy acidity and a juicy finish. Very approachable and
easy to drink. Maybe comfortable is the best word. A righteous food wine. Very good.
2010 Foursight Wines Charles Vineyard “Clone 05” Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., pH 3.71, TA
0.58, 125 cases, $49. Released May 2013. Produced every year since 2007. 30% whole cluster, fermented
with wild yeast and wild MLF. Aged in 50% new French oak barrels. Unfined and unfiltered.
Light garnet color
in the glass. The wine is quite light in weight, with aromas and flavors of red cherries and raspberries. Oak
plays a significant role with aromas of oak spice and espresso. Very elegant with gossamer tannins and bright
acidity. More intensely flavorful than one would expect from the light color. Good.
Artisan Winery Weekend, June 29 & 30, 2013. Visit Foursight and other family owned wineries along Highway
128 with open houses, food, special releases and one time only deals. Foursight is teaming up with Aquarelle
Restaurant for a series of “Wine Bar Nights” at the Foursight tasting room. Small bites paired with Foursight
wines. Fridays, May 31, July 19 and August 2.
COBB Wines: No Wine Before Its Time
Many wineries are now offering the 2010 and even 2011 vintages, but Ross Cobb believes in patience.
Despite the demand for Cobb wines from mailing list members and restaurants, Ross chose to age each of the
following 2009 vintage Pinot Noirs for 20 months in barrel and an additional two years in bottle. The wines are
just now being released to restaurants. Ross says,”Aging our Pinot Noirs for a total of almost four years is
extremely expensive, but because we make our wines in very small amounts, we are able to do it. Being
patient gives our wines time to fully integrate. We know that when a restaurant receives our wines, they may
pour them right away, which is why we want them to be showing their absolute best.”
Ross crafts elegant, lower alcohol Pinot Noirs from far Sonoma Coast vineyards. The grapes are typically
picked at lower Brix, native yeasts are used for fermentation, some whole cluster is incorporated, the wines are
aged with a modest amount of new French oak and released unfiltered. The wines are known to be aromatic.
Ross notes, “I aspire to make wines where you will want to smell your empty glass for a half hour after you’re
I reviewed some of these wines a while back, so it was interesting to see how they show now. When I opened
the four wines and poured them into glasses, the room was filled with sweet Pinot perfume. The wines were
juicy, with good acidity, balanced tannins, showed very little or no oak imprint, and were impeccably balanced.
They are ready to enjoy now, but will age beautifully due to the balance.
Cobb wines are sold primarily through a mailing list with limited restaurant placement. Annual production is
about 1000 cases of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Visit www.cobbwines.com.
2009 COBB Coastlands Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.0% alc., 295 cases, $70 ($150 magnum).
This 15-acre vineyard was planted in 1989 by Ross’s father, David, and his mother, Diane, and is one of the
oldest vineyards on the extreme Sonoma Coast. Elevation ranges from 900 to 1,200 feet and sits on a ridge
overlooking the Pacific Ocean four miles to the West. Periods of spring rain or heavy fog can lead to very low
yields, and in some years is virtually nonexistent. Yield in 2009 was less than 1 ton per acre. Aged 20 months
in 35% new French oak barrels.
Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Highly aromatic, offering scents of
dark red cherries and berries, bark, root beer and clove. Tasty core of dark red cherries with subtle accents of
animale, tobacco and tar. Modest in weight with firm, dry tannins, and finishing with good power and a lively cut of
acidity. Showing much better than previously reviewed six months ago. Very good.
2009 COBB Rice-Spivak Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.0% alc., pH 3.29, 295 cases, $70 ($150
magnum). About six miles inland from the Pacific Ocean near Sebastopol, this vineyard is planted to Dijon
clones and Swan selection in Goldridge sandy loam soils with volcanic ash. 25% whole cluster. Aged 20
months in 35% new French oak barrels.
Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Lovely perfume
evolves over time in the glass, revealing aromas of darker cherries and berries, forest floor, praline and subtle
oak. Intensely fruity carrying royally through the mid palate and finish, showing the most body of the wines
tasted here. Attractive finesse, with mild tannins, and a lively citrus-infused ending. Very good (+).
2009 COBB Jack Hill Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
alc., 140 cases, $70 ($150 magnum). A 2-acre vineyard situated on a
steep slope overlooking the Freestone Valley near Occidental. Dijon
115, 667 and 828 planted in Goldridge soils. Aged 20 months in 35%
new French oak barrels.
Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass.
Darker red and black cherry and berry aromas are featured with hints of
forest floor, spice, cigar box, and oak vanillin. Delicious mid weight
flavors of cherries, plums and elderberries with an outrageously long and
satisfying finish. Beautifully balanced tannins and acidity. Will make any dinner
2009 COBB Emmaline Ann Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.0% alc., 260 cases, $70 ($150 magnum). A 3-acre hillside vineyard
near Occidental. Two Dijon clones planted in Goldridge sandy loam
soil. Exposed to the most shade and fog of any of the vineyards Ross
works with. Aged 20 months in 30% new French oak barrels.
Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Hi-tone aromas of
dark red cherries and berries permeate the air. Ambrosial flavors of dark
red cherries, pomegranates, and spice. The most polished wine in the lineup
with a silky smooth mouth feel. Finishes with a bold kiss of cherries and juicy
acidity. One of the best one night stands you’ll ever have.
Sips of Pinot: Wines Tasted Recently
Rosé and Chardonnay: Recently Sampled Wines
2012 is shaping up as a great vintage for Pinot Noir. There is a surplus of fruit for winemakers to play with, so
expect to see many fine rosés in the marketplace.
2012 Bruliam Sonoma County Rosé of Pinot Noir
$20. A saignée of Pinot Noir after 24 hours of skin contact. Fruit is
from the Russian River Valley (estate Torrey Hill Vineyard) and
Sonoma Coast (Gap’s Crown Vineyard). Fermented and aged in
stainless steel kegs after inoculation. No MLF. LIghtly fined for
Light pink-coral color and clear in the glass. Fresh aromas of
strawberries, watermelon, cherry glaze and dried herbs. The flavors
echo the nose with some welcome spice. A subtle riff of dried herbs adds an
appealing savory accent. The wine is dry and refreshing and not in the tutti fruity
genre of rosés. I would drink it with sushi. Very good.
2012 Left Coast Cellars Willamette Valley Rosé of Pinot Noir
13.0% alc., 275 cases, $18,
screwcap. Dijon 777 and 667. A saignée of 100% Pinot Noir. 50% aged in neutral French for 5
months and 50% aged in stainless steel for 5 months.
Moderate deep pink hue in the glass. This a
more substantial rosé with more color, body and fruit concentration seen in most rosés. I like it for
its juicy strawberry, cherry and watermelon aromas and flavors. Pair this with pork tenderloin or
Honey Baked Ham. Very good.
2012 Soliste Soleil Rouge Sonoma Coast Rosé de Pinot Noir
13.1% alc., 327 cases, $22.
Moderately light pink
coral color in the glass. Aromas of dried cherries, alpine strawberries, melon, and herbs. Fresh
flavors of strawberry, pink grapefruit, and orange zest, finishing with a note of tart grapefruit peel.
Dry, and easy to like, with a freshness that is the calling card for rosé. Very good.
2012 Waxwing Spring Hill Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir Rosé
12.9% alc., 26 cases, $23. Released
April 20, 2013. From a cool and windy vineyard situated in the center of the Petaluma Gap. Grapes picked a
week earlier that for regular Pinot Noir. A dedicated rosé, not a saignée meant to concentrate a Pinot Noir
wine. Clone 777. The fruit was stomped in the bins to release a touch of color into the juice and whole cluster
pressed an hour later. The juice was racked after 24 hours and fermented in stainless steel. Aged 5 months in
Pale pink color in the glass. Delicate aromas of red strawberries, cranberries and honeydew.
Light, dry and refreshing, with elegant flavors of red berries and cherries, finishing with bright acidity. Good.
There is plenty of buzz in the wine press about a shift in the public’s preference for non-oaked Chardonnay.
Don’t count me in that group, for I prefer barrel fermented California Chardonnay and here are a few excellent
reasons why. Also check out the Gardener Don Miguel Vineyard Russian River Valley Chardonnay reviewed
earlier in this issue.
2011 Paul Hobbs Russian River Valley Chardonnay
Light golden straw color in the glass.
Aromas of lemon curd, honey, buttered popcorn and oak. Layers of flavors including lemon, white peach,
poached apple, spice and caramel with a dry, lemony finish. Oak is used to an advantage. Very Russian River
Valley in character. Not for mineral-driven Chardonnay aficionados, but rather fruit and oak forward
Chardonnay lovers. I can appreciate the appeal of this style which is very popular. Very good.
2010 Patz & Hall Hyde Vineyard Carneros Napa Valley Chardonnay
14.2% alc., 1,364 case, $58. Released October 2012.
Fifteenth vintage from this vineyard first planted in 1981. This
vineyard shines in both hot and cool years. Hyde-Wente selection
planted exclusively for Patz & Hall on the best soils at Hyde Vineyard.
Very well-drained sandy, clay loam which typically produces low vigor
and low yields. Whole cluster pressed, indigenous yeast
fermentations, aged sur lie with weekly stirring, 100% MLF in barrel, aged in
52% new Burgundian French oak barrels. Unfiltered.
Light golden straw color
and clear in the glass. Perfumey with attractive aromas of lemongrass, honey,
pear and fresh air after a rain. Very classy, and of striking quality, with flavors of lemons, apples and oak-driven
caramel and honey. Seamless, bone dry and done right. This is a wine that drinks so softly, you want to take
another sip right away. Sublime seduction and one of California’s greatest Chardonnays.
2011 WALT La Brisa Sonoma County Chardonnay
14.4% alc., $35. Walt Wines is owned by vintners
Kathryn Walt Hall and Craig Hill who partnered with artisan vintner Roger Roessler. A blend of
Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast vineyards (Dutton Ranch and Sangiacomo Vineyard). Old
Moderate golden straw color and clear in the glass. Aromas of lemon meringue,
honey, poached pear, stewed apples and fresh cut grass. A solid wine with appealing flavors of
vanilla pudding with pineapple, baked pear, nori and a hint of oak. A bright cut of acidity brings the
wine to life and leads to a refreshing finish. Good.
2011 WALT Dutton Ranch Russian River Valley Chardonnay
1,009 cases, $60. Dutton Ranch and Sangiacomo Vineyard. Old Wente clone.
Native yeast fermentation, unfined and unfiltered.
Light golden straw color and
clear in the glass. Shy, but inviting aromas of Asian pear, lemon drop, brewed
lemon tea and a hint of juicy fruit. A statuesque wine that has a charming
restraint but offers a very pleasurable array of flavors including lemon, pear, and
green apple. No imposing oak to spoil the experience. This is a wine that
unfolds slowly, showing a different nuance a little at a time. Very good.
There is a mini-surge of curious interest in Pinot Noir Blanc. Every Pinot Noir event I have attended this year
has had a tasting of this new wine fad and I see there is another one at the upcoming Anderson Valley Pinot
Noir Festival Technical Session. One of the best and reasonably priced examples is this offering from Left
Coast Cellars. I first tasted it at World of Pinot Noir and was so captivated, I bought a few bottles for my own
2012 Left Coast Cellars White Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., 200 cases, $20, screwcap. Made from freerun
juice of Pommard and Wädenswil Pinot Noir grapes. Aged 5 months in stainless steel.
multitude of aromas and flavors including pear, tropical fruits, and white peach. Brisk, juicy, fruity and
refreshing. Delightful slightly chilled as an aperitif. Very good.
World of Pinot Noir Burgundy Presentation Don Kinnan’s slide presentation from “Terroir: The
Soul of the Côte d’Or” held on Saturday, March 2, 2013, is now available for viewing on the World of Pinot Noir
website at www.wopn.com. The audio recording of Kinnan’s seminar is also available on both the World of
Pinot Noir website and Grape Radio at www.graperadio.com. World of Pinot Noir email subscribers receive a
10% discount on the French Wine Society’s new Bourgogne Master Level Program.
16th Annual Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival Technical Conference The schedule
of the full day Technical program on May 17n has been announced. Visit www.avwines.com for information on
the entire event which will be held May 17-19, 2013. Greg Walter of Pinot Report will discuss the current state
of Pinot Noir; Glenn McGourty, a viticulture and plant science advisor will give a report on the state of viticulture
in Mendocino County and agricultural water use in Anderson Valley; a comparative tasting of Pinot Noir Blanc
from New Zealand, Oregon and Anderson Valley will be offered; I will present a talk on Pinot Noir Suitcase
Clone “828”; Mel Knox, broker for Tonnellerie Francois Frères and Tonnellerie Taransaud, will speak on barrel
selection for Pinot Noir; a Riedel glass comparative tasting panel will follow; and a focus tasting panel with
Brad Wiley will present wines of Wiley Vineyards. The Technical conference will include a lunch in the
Fairground’s Redwood Grove including buffalo burgers and a selection of local wines.
2013 Carlton Crush Festival Registration is now open for the Carlton Crush competitions at the 2013
Carlton Crush Harvest Festival. The event will be held on September 14, 2013, to celebrate the unique culture
of Carlton and Yamhill County. Live music and entertainment, food and wine, an Artist’s market, and helicopter
rides. Registration forms for the Grape Stomp, Barrel Rolling Race and Wine Thief Relay are available on the
event’s website at www.CarltonCrush.com.
9th Annual Marin Wine Celebration An opportunity to taste newly released Marin-grown wines
including some library selections, poured by vintners and growers at the historic Escalle Winery in Larkspur.
These small lot wines are truly hand made and reflect the unique bounty of Marin County agriculture.
Participating wineries include Bailiwick Wines, Burning Bench Cellars, Couloir Wines, DeLoach Vineyards,
Dept C Wines, Dutton-Goldfield Winery, Easkoot Cellars, Kendric Vineyards, McEvoy Ranch, Pacheco Ranch
Winery, Pey-Marin Vineyards, Point Reyes Vineyards, Sean Thackrey, Skywalker, and West Wind Wines.
Saturday, May 11, 2013, from 3:00 to 7:00. Cost is $55. Visit www.malt.org.
Proposed Sta. Rita Hills AVA Expansion A petition to extend the eastern boundaries of the Sta.
Rita Hills AVA has recently been submitted to the TTB by Patrick Shabram. The Sta. Rita Hills AVA lies within
the larger Santa Ynez Valley AVA, an east-west transverse valley with a continuum of climatic and geological
features influenced by its opening to the Pacific Ocean. It spans over 31,000 acres at the far western end of
the Santa Ynez Valley and has one of the longest growing seasons and coolest climates among winegrowing
regions of California. The current and original AVA boundaries were carefully determined in 2001 by the
original petitioners based on patterns of daily oceanic fog and temperature data. The eastern boundary to the
AVA is a north-south range of hills that alters the sea fog pattern and brings an increase in daily temperatures
moving east from this boundary. In the opinion of the original petitioners and the Sta. Rita Hills Winegrowers
Alliance (SRHWA), it is imperative that the cool climate environment for winegrowing is maintained. A study of
the data in the petition submitted by Mr. Shabram will be reviewed by the SRHWA board, but at this time the
SRHWA stands by the integrity of the original and current boundaries. Visit www.staritahills.com.
Sta. Rita Hills Wineries on the Road SRHWA members will be sharing their new vintages at three
locations throughout California: April 29 at The Wine House in Los Angeles, May 13 at The Firehouse Fort
Mason Center, and May 14 at Stark’s Steak House in Santa Rosa. The evening tastings are open to the
public. Participating wineries include Cargasacchi, Cold Heaven, Clos Pepe, D’Alfonso Curran, Dragonette,
Fiddlehead Cellars, Flying Goat Cellars, Hilliard Bruce, Huber, Kessler-Haak, Lindley, Liquid Farm, Longoria,
Pali Wine Company, Rozak, Siduri, The Hitching Post, Transcendence, and Zotovich Cellars. Visit
2013 Pigs & Pinot Recap On March 22-23, Chef Charlie Palmer’s Eight Annual Pigs & Pinot Weekend
was held at Hotel Healdsburg and Dry Creek Kitchen. Honored guest chefs were Jose Garces, Dean Fearing,
Elizabeth Falkner, and Craig Stoll and top Pinot Noir winemakers lent their talents to raise funds for Share Our
Strength and local Sonoma County charities and organizations. The Pinot Cup Winner was the 2010 Roth
Estate Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir and the runner up was the 2011 Te Kairanga John Martin Reserve
Martinborough New Zealand Pinot Noir. The Sommelier Smackdown Winner was the 2011 Lucia Soberanes
Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir and the runner up was the 2010 Bergström Homage Willamette
Valley Pinot Noir. The Gala Dinner at Dry Creek Kitchen featured a signature creation from Palmer and the
visiting master chefs, paired with Pinot Noirs from De Loach Vineyard, Domaine A.F. Gros, Kosta Browne,
Martinelli Winery and Sea Smoke. Hotel Healdsburg’s sister property h2 Hotel offered a Swine and Wine
dinner the same night featuring some of the Bay Area’s most innovative chefs and the Pinot Noirs of Cobb
Wines and VML Winery. Join the mailing list to try to get a coveted ticket to next year’s Pigs & Pinot event:
Prodigal Ceases Production Steve and Mary Russell have announced that after wrestling with a
tough decision for the last two years, they decided to produce no more wine. They will be concentrating
instead on their Quinta Santa Rosa Vineyard and their bucket list. Their excellent wines are on sale at half
price at the tasting room in shared space with Standing Sun Wines, 92 Second St., Unit D, Buellton, CA.
Pinot Leaf Curl and Pinot Leaf Roll Take Their Toll Pinot leaf curl has been seen more often
in Sonoma County’s Pinot Noir vineyards during the cool vintages of 2010 and 2011. Researchers have
theorized that it is due to a nitrogen disorder that leads vines to produce the toxic compound putrescine and
seems to be related to vineyard location and low spring temperatures. Another condition, leaf roll, is due to a
virus. Sadly, it has taken its toil on the Old Vineyard at Hirsch Vineyards in Cazadero, on the far reaches of the
Sonoma Coast. 2011 was the last year for most of the Old Vineyard as yields had declined significantly.
Pinot Noir from the Rocky Mountains? A worldwide analysis of climate change and its affect on
winegrowing appeared recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study suggested
that wine production will shift to new regions as climate change makes some of the existing winegrowing
regions unfavorable. Nine major wine producing areas were studied including California. An area that may
prove suitable for winegrowing in the future is in the Rocky Mountains near the Canadian-United States border.
the analysis predicted that many California vineyards will become unproductive. North Coast grape farmers
remain optimistic about finding ways to produce premium crops if temperatures rise as the study predicts
(Press Democrat, April 11, 2013). “The work of grapevine researchers and the adaptability of farmers as well as
the region’s proximity to the Pacific Ocean will help prevent the demise of Wine Country.”
Fingertip Alcohol Scanner As reported in The Drinks Business (April 9, 2013), the AlcoSense
TruTouch 2500 was launched at the Commercial Vehicle show in Birmingham, England. The new technology
can determine a person’s level of intoxication in seconds with just a touch of a finger and is 96% accurate. The
scanner uses a near-infrared light to measure blood alcohol content in the skin through contact with an optical
pad. The system can also be used to determine the identity of the user. The TruTouch is not yet certified in the
UK. Visit www.AlcoDigital.co.uk.
2012 Record Wine Sales in United States According to The Financial ( www.finchannel.com,
April 8, 2013), wines sales in the U.S. from all U.S. states and foreign countries increased 2% from the
previous year to a new record of 360.1 million 9-liter cases with an estimated retail value of $34.6 billion.
California wine accounted for 58% of the sales. California wine shipments to all markets in the U.S. and
abroad reached 250.2 million cases. It is predicted that wine consumption in the U.S. will continue to increase
over the next decade. Chardonnay is still the most popular varietal (21% share of volume), followed by
Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinot Gris in that order.
Direct-to-Consumer Wine Shipments The 2013 Wines & Vines and Ship Compliant Direct
Shipping Report found that the value of direct-to-consumer shipments from American wineries increased to
$1.46 billion in 2012, and was greater than the total value of U.S. wine exports. The 10% increase in sales of
direct-shipped wines continues the sales channel’s history of outpacing the growth of overall wine sales in the
U.S.. More than 2.17 million 9-liter cases of wine were shipped direct to American consumers in 2012, a 7.7%
increase over the year before. The 2013 Direct Shipping report is available free for downloading by visiting
Non-Sulfured Wines May Become Available According to The Drinks Business (April 16, 2013),
a company in Italy, Integrapes, is testing an antioxidant and antibacterial preservative derived from grape pips
that it believes is as effective as sulfur. In addition, the wine is said to retain more of wine’s natural aromas,
particularly the delicate floral aromas that sulfur can obscure. The compound is derived from the polyphenols
found in grape seeds and the resulting solution is then added to the must and wine at various stages of the
winemaking process. Essentially, one liter of the preservative is added to every 20 hectoliters of wine at the
end of alcoholic and then malolactic fermentation and then before bottling. The resulting wine supposedly has
the potential to age, unlike non-sulfured “natural” wines (the company producing the preservative has followed
wines for seven years). The product has been endorsed by Italy’s leading wine writer, Luca Maroni, who is
collaborating in the testing.
Why Indicate pH & TA in PinotFile Wine Reviews? You won’t see these figures in reviews
from any other wine publication, but I believe this is just as relevant as the alcohol percentage or barrel aging
regimen. It gives the consumer some valuable additional information that can be used as an adjunct to making
choices about which wines to drink. Thanks to Dan Goldfield’s Dutton Goldfield Newsletter and Gary Farrell in
his Alysian Wines Newsletter for the following explanations. Acidity is a measure of the breakdown of products
of water in solution. In other words, a small amount of water is broken down to H+ (hydrogen without its
electron, which is negatively charged, hence the positive charge here) and OH- (the oxygen keeps the extra
electron, thus the negative charge). H+ is the active agent of acidity so the higher the H+ concentration, the
more acidic the solution. pH is a measure of the strength of acidity. Since pH is the negative log of the H+
concentration, the lower the pH, the more acidic the solution. Pure water has a pH of 7. Blood is 7.2 and
bleach is 9. On the other end, coffee is about 5, lime juice is 2 and stomach acid is between 1 and 2. Wine
tends to fall between 3 and 4, but from pH 3 to pH 4 there is a tenfold reduction in H+ so this variation is
pH is a critical measurement during winemaking and ideally should be below 3.60 for sulfur dioxide to be
effective during the winemaking process. Lower pH juice ferments cleaner and produces more favorable flavor.
A higher pH will increase the chance of Brettanomyces and the growth of spoilage organisms. The average red
wine in California with a finished pH of 3.6 requires 50% more free sulfur than a finished red wine at pH 3.4 to
offer equal protection. Lower pH is associated with an intensified red wine color, lower pH wines tend to age
more slowly, and the brightness and tart balance of a wine comes from its acidity. Acidity also affects the way a
wine shows oak aging. Higher acid wine tends to show wood more slowly and changes the choices a
winemaker might make in that regard. Low acid (high pH) wines can be flat and lack freshness. Wines with
generous acidity are more likely to be crisp, vibrant and refreshing.
The other common way of expressing acidity is the titratable acidity or TA. This test measures the total of all
acids present. The perception of acidity in a wine is related to the TA and not pH. TA produces the acid
sensation in the mouth and is most critical for mouth feel. pH and TA values do not run parallel, and a wine can
have a high pH and a low TA or vice versa. However, wines with higher total acidity generally exhibit lower pH
values. Higher TA tends to make the astringency of a wine more apparent, as does higher alcohol. The
balance of TA with alcohol, which is perceived as sweet, is very important to the flavor profile of a wine.
Pinots in the Marketplace How much highly desirable California Pinot Noir is bought to sell rather
than bought to drink? Every day, I receive offers from resellers to buy Pinot Noir on the secondary market,
often with a significant markup over the original release retail price. There is a remarkable amount of Pinot
Noir for sell produced by prominent, highly regarded wineries, and I wonder how much of this wine is being
drunk? I see more resell offers for Williams Selyem Pinot Noir than any other California Pinot Noir producer,
but Kosta Browne, J. Rochioli, Rivers-Marie, Rhys and Marcassin are frequently resold as well. Much of this
resell activity stems from the fact that all these producers highly allocate their wines to mailing lists that are full,
so their is a segment of wine enthusiasts for whom their only access to these wines is to buy them on the
secondary market. The result is that some buyers on the mailing lists buy to sell, and many on the outside buy
at a premium to drink.
U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services Most Recent Data (2008) Oregon is #15
among U.S. states in per capita consumption at 4.3 gallons, California is #9 at 4.9 gallons, and District of
Colombia is #1 at 8.8 gallons. Apparently our politicians love wine.
Second Annual Passport to Pinot Russian River Valley Winegrowers (RRVW) has announced its Second Annual Passport to Pinot Barrel Tasting Weekend on June 8-9, 2013, from 11:00 to 4:00. More than 30 wineries will share exclusive offerings with ticket holders including barrel tastings, futures purchases, library tastings, food pairings, artist demonstrations and entertainment. Tickets are $65 for the weekend that includes both days. A limited number of Sunday only and Designated Driver tickets are available. For information and to purchase tickets, visit www.rrvw.org or call 877-650-3717. The documentary, "From Obscurity to Excellence: The Story of Grapes & Wine in the Russian River Valley" will be shown on June 7 at the Vintner's Inn in Santa Rosa following a wine reception. See a preview of the film at www.russian-river-valley.com. Tickets may be purchased online at www.rrvw.org/passport-to-pinot.
Memorial Weekend in Oregon Wine Country The traditional Memorial Weekend in the Wine Country will be held in the Willamette Valley May 25-27, 2013. Many Oregon wineries that are not open to the public will be hosting open houses this weekend. Hosted by the Willamette Valley Winegrowers Association, a guide is available at www.willamettewines.com or use the Mobile Wine Tour app that is compatible with all smart phones at www.WillametteWineMap.com.