PinotFile: 9.32 October 26, 2013
- Sta. Rita Hills 2013 Wine and Fire
- Siduri Wines Shine in 2012
- Sips of Recently Tasted California Wines
- Sips of Recently Tasted Oregon Wines
- Recently Tasted Chilean Pinot Noir
- Pinot Briefs
Sta. Rita Hills 2013 Wine and Fire
I attended the Fourth Annual 2013 Wine and Fire event in the Sta. Rita Hills sponsored by the Sta. Rita Hills
Winegrowers Alliance (SRHWA). The SRHWA was organized in 1997 to unify wineries and growers in the
Western Santa Ynez Valley and develop an American Viticultural Area. Spearheaded by Richard Sanford,
Bryan Babcock, Rick Longoria, Wes Hagen, and other local wine personalities, the Alliance gathered the
information necessary to submit an AVA petition in late 1997. The AVA designation was granted in 2001, and
today, the Alliance includes 48 vineyard and winery members including wineries that source grapes from the
Sta. Rita Hills AVA and local industry related businesses.
The Sta. Rita Hills AVA is a western subdivision of the much larger Santa Ynez Valley AVA and occupies 30,720
acres. Originally named the Santa Rita Hills, local vintners were prevented from using that name by Vina
Santa Rita, a 123-year-old winery in Santaigo, Chile, and the name Sta. Rita Hills was adopted in 2005. Sta.
Rita Hills is pronounced the same as Santa Rita Hills.
The Sta. Rita Hills AVA is one of the few wine regions along the California Coast where the mountains run east-west
instead of north-south. Due to tectonic plate movements, mountains originally rose out of the ocean in a
north-south orientation along the California Coast. Over a time span of twelve million years, mountains in the
Sta. Rita Hills region broke from the plate and turned clockwise, creating the most clearly delineated transverse
range from Alaska to Chile on the Pacific Coast. The result is a maritime alley that allows cooling Pacific Ocean
winds to flow inland. When it is hot in Santa Ynez which is ten miles to the East, it is ten degrees cooler in the
western Sta. Rita Hills. Fog hovers over the vines until mid morning, daily ocean breezes cool the vines, and
the temperature barely rises above 75 degrees in the western reaches of the AVA.
There are two soils types in the Sta. Rita Hills. The soils along Santa Rosa Road are diatomaceous (soft,
siliceous sedimentary rock), clay and shale, while the soils along Highway 246 are sand with deposits of
diatomaceous earth. In both corridors, the maritime influence combined with the calcareous soils make this
AVA ideal suited for growing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The growing season is among the longest in
California (March through October).
The region has a long history of winegrowing. In 1787, the Mission grape was planted by Franciscans as they
established La Purisma Conceptción at the western edge of the AVA. Vestiges of Mission grape plantings can
be seen at Gypsy Canyon where gnarled vines that are well over 100 years old remain productive. The first
modern vineyard in the Sta. Rita Hills, Sanford & Benedict, was planted in 1974. By 1997 there were 14
vineyards totaling just over 500 acres, but the current total is more than 55 vineyards totaling about 2,800
The vineyards, primarily planted to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay with smaller amounts of eighteen other wine
grape varieties, are scattered about two east-west oriented valleys limited by Santa Rosa Hills on the South
and the Purisima Hills on the North and centered along Santa Rosa Road (Santa Rosa Corridor) and Highway
246 (Santa Rita Hwy 246 corridor). Refer to the map of the Sta. Rita Hills AVA below for the location of
The Wine and Fire event featured a Friday night Barn Party at Sanford & Benedict Vineyard, the site of the first
vineyard and winery in the Sta. Rita Hills. Saturday’s events began with a morning seminar at Hilliard Bruce
Vineyard and Estate with lunch catered by The Hitching Post II. The Grand Tasting Saturday evening was held
on the grounds of the historic La Purisima Mission, just outside of Lompoc featuring 25 SRHWA members
pouring current releases of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and other Sta. Rita Hills wines. The entire weekend also
offered winery open houses, focused tastings and winery events.
I plan to concentrate this report on the Saturday morning “Treasures of the Sta. Rita Hills” seminar hosted by
Josh Raynolds of Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar. Thirteen Sta. Rita Hills producers presented a
virtual tour of thirteen vineyards of the Sta. Rita Hills. The seminar was divided into a Chardonnay panel and a
Pinot Noir (Clone 115) panel, and each discussion was split into vineyards of the Santa Rosa Corridor and
those of the Santa Rita Hwy 246 corridor.
Sta. Rita Hills Chardonnay Vineyards
(Pass the Acid Test)
Sta. Rita Hills has almost become synonymous with Pinot Noir, but the region is equally suitable for
Chardonnay. Jay MacInerney wrote in the Wall Street Journal (“Radical Chardonnays: Santa Barbara
winemakers are taking Cali chards in crisp new directions,” May 22-23, 2010) “The hottest area for
Chardonnay, the Santa Rita Hills, is an appellation that came into existence only in 2001. Actually it’s not so
much hot as it is cool, which gives these Chardonnays a crispness that’s missing from so many California
Chards. The first time I tasted a Chardonnay from the Santa Rita Hills, I was baffled. On the one hand, it was
very ripe and fleshy, and on the other, it had a bracing acid-slap that I associated with cool climate whites and
even a mineral note, which you seldom find in New World wines. It was a little like meeting Jessica Simpson,
only to have her start speaking perfect French in Carla Bruni’s voice.”
The acid-driven Chardonnays from the Sta. Rita Hills are more steely, mineral-infused, crisper and brighter
than many California Chardonnays. They are more akin to French white burgundies, but with riper and richer
fruit and more alcohol. The high acidity keeps the typically elevated alcohols in balance and the balance
makes these good food wines.
Acidity was a major topic of discussion at the seminar. Malolactic fermentation, a secondary fermentation in
which harsher malic acid is converted to softer lactic acid, is the major contributor to the creamy mouthfeel
many consumers prefer in Chardonnay. If a Chardonnay is not put through complete malolactic fermentation,
the residual malic acid sticks out, leaving the wine with an angular malic bite, but preserving more fruit
character, offering less secondary buttery characters, and more age ability. Malolactic fermentation is
performed by Lactobacillus bacteria. If a Chardonnay is not put through full malolactic fermentation either by
inoculation or natural means, one of two procedures must be done to insure that the wine does not undergo
malolactic fermentation and/or other spoilage in the bottle: adding the preservative dimethyldicarbonate
(Velcorin) or sterile filtration.
How do you tell if a Chardonnay has undergone no malolactic fermentation, partial malolactic fermentation or
100% malolactic fermentation? The best clue is the word “unfiltered” on the label, which indicates the wine has
probably undergone full malolactic fermentation.
The plantings of Chardonnay in the Sta. Rita Hills include both heritage (Hyde, Wente, Mount Eden) and Dijon
(75, 76) clones. Most of the plantings are less than fifteen years old, while the oldest Chardonnay vines at
Sanford & Benedict Vineyard and Sweeney Canyon Vineyard go back over thirty years.
Chardonnay: Santa Rosa Corridor
Sweeney Canyon Vineyard Represented by Steve Clifton of Brewer-Clifton Winery: 2010 Brewer-Clifton
Sweeney Canyon Sta. Rita Hills Chardonnay, 15.2% alc., $40.
The Marks family still own and farm this 18.5-acre Chardonnay and Pinot Noir vineyard that was first planted in
1980. Three generations of the Marks family have worked Sweeney Canyon Vineyard. The property is located
along the Santa Ynez River channel to the west of Mount Carmel Vineyard and immediately to the east of
Cargasacchi Vineyard. The original Chardonnay plantings are own-rooted Wente clone and the vines are dry
farmed. Wines from this vineyard tend to be rich and complex and age extremely well. Golden yellow color
and clear in the glass. Aromas of lemon, lime, white stone fruits, spice and roasted nuts. Rich, concentrated
flavors of grilled yellow peach, lemon and burnt caramel with a viscous texture and excellent background
acidity. This wine is true to the Brewer-Clifton house style of 100% malolactic fermented, oak aged
Note: Sweeney Canyon Vineyard also produces Chardonnay (both barrel fermented and unoaked bottlings)
and Pinot Noir under its own label, vinified by Kristi Marks.
Rita’s Crown Vineyard Represented by Ken Brown of Ken Brown Wines: 2011 Ken Brown Rita’s Crown
Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Chardonnay, 14.3% alc., pH 3.37, TA 0.64, 67 cases, $42.
Rita’s Crown Vineyard was planted in 2007 and is one of the newest vineyards in the Sta. Rita Hills AVA. The
property is located at an elevation of 600 to 950 feet on a dramatic southwest facing slope at the “crown” of the
Santa Rita Hills. Sitting above Sea Smoke, La Rinconada, Sanford & Benedict and Fiddlestix, it is one of the
highest planted vineyards in the AVA, and the elevation makes this site particularly vulnerable to coastal fog
and cool marine winds from the nearby Pacific Ocean. The soils are sandy loam with ancient seashell
deposits, contributing to the hallmark minerality in the wines. The block used for this Chardonnay is planted to
Dijon clone 76 on 101-14 rootstock. The wine was 100% barrel fermented with 70% malolactic fermentation,
aged 11 months sur lie in 17% new French oak barrels. This wine is the inaugural bottling from this vineyard.
Ken Brown is one of Santa Barbara County’s most veteran winemakers, with a history dating back to 1977.
Light golden yellow color and clear in the glass. Nicely perfumed with aromas of lemon tart, white peach,
almond skins, and sea brine. Delicious and creamy on the palate, with flavors of lemon curd, peach cobbler,
tropical fruits and complimentary oak highlights. An outstanding, very classy and well-crafted wine that is
quintessential Sta. Rita Hills Chardonnay.
Note: Ken almost offers a superb Chardonnay from the Nielson Vineyard, planted in 1964 by pioneer Uriel
Nielson, making it Santa Barbara County’s oldest vineyard. This property has been replanted using cuttings
from the original vines which included the Wente clone. Only 138 cases produced in 2011.
Rancho El Jabali Vineyard Represented by Richard Sanford of Alma Rosa Winery: 2011 Alma Rosa El
Jabali Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Chardonnay, 14.74% alc., pH 3.36, TA 0.62, 190 cases, $28.
Rancho El Jabali (Ranch of the Wild Boar) is owned by the Sanford family and is located in the southeastern
corner of the original 1839 Mexican Land Grant known as Rancho Santa Rosa. The site has been the
Sanford’s home since 1982. The 7-acre vineyard was planted in 1983 to 3.5 acres of Pinot Noir (Mount Eden
clone) and 3.5 acres of Chardonnay (Wente clone). The well-drained gravelly clay loam soils are primarily
Pleistocene river terrace marine deposits. Medium golden yellow color and clear in the glass. Aromas of
lemongrass, ripe apple and oak vanillin lead to pleasing flavors of an array of citrus fruits blessed with
supportive oak notes. Clean, pure and slightly creamy, the wine is driven by well-integrated lively acidity. A
beautiful reflection of Sta. Rita Hills terroir at a very reasonable price.
Chardonnay: Santa Rita Hwy 246 Corridor
Hilliard Bruce Vineyard Represented by Christine Bruce of Hilliard Bruce: 2010 Hilliard Bruce Estate Sta.
Rita Hills Chardonnay, $45.
Hilliard Bruce is a spectacular property consisting of a 21-acre vineyard planted to 15.7 acres of Pinot Noir
(Calera, Pommard, 115, 667, 777) and 5.3 acres of Chardonnay (Dijon clones 76 and 96). The SIP Certified
Sustainable planting density is 6’ x 3’ with 2420 vines per acre. All irrigation water is pretreated to reduce
alkaline biocarbonates, heavy metals and excess nutrients. The water status of the vines is monitored with
Fruition Sciences sensors installed inside the trunks of several vines which, along with the weather station
located in the vineyard, are connected to the internet. Compost is made on site by static aeration in a compost
building designed by O2 Compost and the University of Washington.
You would hard pressed to find another vineyard in the world that is so impeccably farmed with perfectly trellised
vines and precise watering mechanisms as the Hilliard Bruce Vineyard. The owners, John Hilliard and Christine
Bruce are former artists (in visual art and music, respectively) and master gardeners and the property shows it.
The 101-acre ranch was purchased in 2002. Christine, a successful Arabian horse breeder, and John, who had
just undergone a second kidney transplant, had been looking to relocate their farm from their native Texas to
California. Christine needed a place she could raise her horses, and John, a wine lover, was determined to
pursue his dream of cultivating a vineyard.
The vineyard was planted under the guidance of Tom Prentice. The vines are surrounded by 80 acres of native
oaks, rambling botanical gardens featuring exotic palm and date trees, espaliered apple trees, and beds upon
beds of vegetables, tubers, lettuces and herbs. Over 500 varieties of roses are found throughout the ranch. Two
full-time landscape workers and two full-time vineyard workers insure the property is meticulously maintained.
John and Christine have learned winemaking through courses at the University of California Davis Extension
Program and the Allan Hancock Viticulture and Enology Program, and have had two consulting winemakers,
Peter Work and Paul Lato.
By harvest 2014, all Hilliard Bruce wines will be produced in a new LEED-certified winery on site. An
underground cellar will be humidity controlled, the barrel room will have temperature-controlled sections, and the
contemporary structure will featuring 120-foot-wide by 2.5-story-tall glass windows creating a soft glow on the
hillside at night. The completed winery will feature a demonstration kitchen and dining room and a tasting area.
Tours and tastings are currently available by appointment only and are often guided by John and Christine. To set up a visit, call 305-979-2601 or consult www.hilliardbruce.com for
The single estate Chardonnay is kept on its lees for 16 months in 30% new French oak barrels before being
racked into a tank for cold stabilization before bottling. Moderately light golden yellow color and clear in the
glass. This wine offers a compatible marriage of lemon, peach, baked pear, spice and oak aromas and flavors.
There is an appealing acid-driven crispness and salinity as well. Very high quality stuff.
Rancho Santa Rosa Vineyard Represented by Leslie Mead Renaud, winemaker for Foley Winery: 2011
Foley T Anchor Ranch Rancho Santa Rosa Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Chardonnay, 14.7% alc., pH 3.19, TA
0.75, 390 cases, $45.
Rancho Santa Rosa is an historic property that formerly was a thoroughbred horse ranch. Bill Foley
established 230 acres of vineyards on the 460-acre property which is subdivided into 59 micro blocks that are
farmed, harvested and vinified separately. Pinot Noir was established on the south facing, highest reaches of
the ranch with elevations to 1000 feet, while Chardonnay (clones 76, 96, and Wente) was planted on the rolling
hills surrounding the winery. 8 acres of Syrah are planted on the western corridor. 2002 marked the inaugural
release from this vineyard. This particular Chardonnay is from a noteworthy site within the Rancho Santa Rosa
Vineyard. It was aged 18 months in 40% new French oak barrels. Moderately light yellow color and clear in the
glass. The nose is flush with aromas of lemon peel, spice and a hint of toasty oak. On the palate, the wine is
crisp and juicy with satisfying flavors of lemon and white peach with beautifully integrated oak highlights. The
underlying cut of acidity leads to a steely, refreshing, and palate cleansing finish. Outstanding.
3-D Vineyard Represented by Antonio Moretti of Moretti Wines: 2011 Moretti 3-D Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills
3-D Vineyard is owned by Tom and Jan Davidson and farmed by Brewer-Clifton. Situated between Lafond and
Ampelos vineyards, this 10-acre vineyard is planted to equal amounts of Wente 4, Hyde, Mount Eden, Sea
Smoke Wente and Dijon 76 clones of Chardonnay. Moretti Wines owners Antonio and Jeni Moretti have over
35 years of wine business experience between them. Steve Clifton is the winemaker. This wine underwent
30% malolactic fermentation with no new oak elevage. Moderate golden yellow color and clear in the glass.
Ripe fruit nose featuring aromas of tropical fruits, grilled lemons and butter. Rich, fat and fruity with some
tannic astringency, a bite of acidity and a little heat on the finish.
Note: Brewer-Clifton also produces a 3-D Vineyard Chardonnay.
Other Sta. Rita Hills Chardonnay producers I can recommend: Sea Smoke, Clos Pepe, Melville, Longoria and
Seagrape Wine Company.
Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir Vineyards - Clone 115
(Call Me Dependable)
Pinot Noir Clone 115 Santa Rosa Corridor
All wines were 2012 barrel samples (a poor choice in my opinion as the wines were very young and
challenging to evaluate). Each wine was 100% clone 115 and 100% de-stemmed except the Siduri which was
15% whole cluster. 2012 was a high quality, more forward vintage.
Dijon Pinot Noir clones have been planted widely for over thirty years in California and Oregon with clone 115
being the most extensively planted Dijon clone. 115 produces small, tight clusters like little hand grenades,
regular yields, strong purple color, high anthocyanin, high pH, notable tannins, and a varietally consistent
aromatic profile of black cherries, leather and roses, and compelling flavors of cherries, blueberries,
boysenberries and anise. Clone 115 is one of the few (777 the other) Dijon clones that makes an excellent and
complete wine on its own and is valued for its balance, aromatic profile and its ability to be a consistent
producer in various locations. Reportedly, wines made in France at the Lycée Viticole from clone 115 have
placed at or near the top of their evaluations until clone 943 came along.
Cargassachi Vineyard Represented by Brandon Sparks-Gillis of Dragonette Cellars: 2012 Dragonette
Cellars Cargassachi Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir.
Cargassachi Vineyard is located off Sweeney Road at the far western edge of the Sta. Rita Hills AVA. The 12
acres are planted to clone 115 on two different rootstocks: 3309C and 420A. Soil type is Botella Series, a
combination of clay and loam with a fairly high calcareous content which drains well and helps to moderate
yields. Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. The nose is savory with notes of dark red berries and briar.
Middleweight flavors of blueberries and black raspberries with a savory herb underpinning. Still tight, but the
underlying acidity and pleasing finesse are quite evident.
Rancho La Viña Vineyard Represented by Kris Curran of D’Alfonso Curran: 2012 D’Alfonso Curran
Rancho La Viña Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir.
Rancho La Viña is a family owned and operated ranch that is a 2,800-acre remnant of the Santa Rosa Land
Grant purchased in the 1860s. The owners also grow walnuts and tomatoes on the property. The vineyard is
at the far western edge of the Sta. Rita Hills AVA. 17.2 acres were planted in 2005 on a gently sloped mesa
that is several hundred feet above the valley floor. The site is fully exposed to the cool winds coming off the
Pacific Ocean making it one of the coldest Pinot Noir plantings in California. The windy location along with low
fertility soils result in deep, dark and intense flavors. Clones are 115, 667, 777 and 2A grafted on 101-14 and
110R rootstocks. Vine spacing is 7’ x 4’ for a planting density of 1,556 vines per acre. The first year of
production was 2007. This wine was aged in neutral barrels and underwent partial malolactic fermentation.
Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Enticing aromas of boysenberries and spice which are duplicated on
the palate. Fruit forward and soft in the mouth with a wow finish. Outstanding potential. Everyone’s favorite at
Rancho La Rinconada Vineyard Represented by Steve Fennell of Sanford Winery: 2012 Sanford La
Rincanada Vineyard St. Rita Hills Pinot Noir.
Sanford Winery’s 438-acre ranch has 146 acres under vine, primarily Pinot Noir (60 acres) and Chardonnay
(70 acres). The La Rincondada Vineyard sits on a well-drained, west facing hillside with 9%-15% slopes. The
soil type is Santa Lucia shaley clay loam. Heavy Pacific fog regularly pools in this valley vineyard. A tasting
room on the property offers 360-degree views of the vineyard. Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass.
Hard to evaluate this wine because it was recently sulfured and sulfur permeated the nose and palate.
Rio Vista Vineyard Represented by Norm Yost of Flying Goat Cellars: 2012 Flying Goat Cellars Rio Vista
Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir.
Rio Vista Vineyard is the eastern most vineyard planted entirely within the Sta. Rita Hills AVA. Because of its
location, it is also the warmest site. The property was planted and is meticulously farmed by John Belfry of
Buona Terra Farming. There are three different vineyards making up Rio Vista. Rio Vista Vineyards North and
South (located east of Santa Rosa Road) were planted in 2000 and the third vineyard (located west of Santa
Rosa Road) was planted in 2006. The dominant soil series is limestone, sedimentary with a marine layer of
sandy loam. Flying Goat sources clones 2A, 115, 667 and 777 and produces three clonal-designate wines
including clone 2A, clone 667 and a Dijon clone blend. Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass.
Aroma of slightly confected cherries with lighter weight flavors of red cherries, red berries and spice. Bright
and vivid, finishing with burst of Maraschino cherry goodness.
Santa Rita Hwy 246 Corridor
Represented by Kimberly Smith of La Montagne: 2012 La Montagne Kessler-Haak
Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir.
Kessler-Haak Vineyard is located in the northwestern section of the Sta. Rita Hills AVA and is one of the colder
microclimates in the region with frost being a frequent visitor in the spring and occasionally in the fall before
harvest. The vineyard was planted in 2005 to seven Pinot Noir clones on three rootstocks amongst 27 acres of
the vineyard’s rolling hillsides. A 2.5-acre east facing hillside was planted to three clones of Chardonnay.
Yields are very low, averaging 1.2 to 1.5 tons per acre for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. La Montagne (“The
Mountain”) produces very limited production wines under the direction of winemaker Kimberly Smith who was
mentored by Clos Pepe’s Wes Hagen. Her first vintage was 2010. Moderately light reddish-purple color in the
glass. Very young and primary but showing a peek of greatness with aromas and flavors of fresh, vivid red
fruits wrapped in supportive grainy tannins.
Clos Pepe Vineyard Represented by Adam Lee of Siduri Wines: 2012 Siduri Clos Pepe Vineyard Sta. Rita
Hills Pinot Noir.
Clos Pepe Vineyards dates to 1994 when Steve and Catherine Pepe bought a 40-acre horse ranch in the
center of the current Sta. Rita Hills AVA. Guided by noted vineyard consultant, Jeff Newton of Coastal Vineyard
Care, the first half of the vineyard was planted in 1996. Wes Hagen took over full winemaking and managerial
duties in 1998, and designed and planted the last 14 acres. The site is blessed with wind, fog, low
temperatures and sea bed soils that intensely limit vigor. Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass.
Shy aromas of berries and plum with rich flavors of well-ripened blueberries. The purity of the fruit shines
through and a little earthiness adds interest. Exceptional, even extraordinary potential here.
Sebastiano Vineyard Represented by Bill Wathen of Foxen: 2012 Foxen Sebastiano Vineyard Sta. Rita
Hills Pinot Noir.
Sebastiano Vineyard lies at the eastern edge of the Sta. Rita Hills AVA and is not wholly
contained within the AVA. It is composed of 41 blocks and nine Pinot Noir clones totaling 91 acres within the
Sta. Rita Hills AVA. The 60 acres outside the AVA border are planted to Syrah, Grenache, Chardonnay and
other wine grape varieties. Established in 2008, Sebastiano Vineyard is managed by Coastal Vineyard Care.
Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Hard to evaluate this wine due to an overlay of sulfur on the nose
and palate. The core features red fruits with a zippy, acid-driven finish.
The Sta. Rita Hills Winegrowers’ Alliance includes the following member wineries. Tasting rooms are located at
some of the wineries, in the town of Lompoc and the “Lompoc Wine Ghetto,” and in Buellton, Solvang, Santa
Ynez and Los Olivos. Visit the SRHWA website at www.staritahills.com for specific tasting room locations and
Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards
Carr Vineyards & Winery
Clos Pepe Vineyards and Estate Wines
Cold Heaven Cellars
Crawford Family Wines
Dierberg Star Lane
Flying Goat Cellars
Foley Estates Vineyard and Winery
Foxen (Santa Maria Valley)
Gypsy Canyon Vineyards & Winery
Hartley-Ostini Hitching Post Wines
Hilliard Bruce Vineyards
Ken Brown Wines
Kessler-Haak Vineyard and Wines
Lafond Winery and Vineyards
La Montagne Wines
Loring Wine Company
Pali Wine Company
Sanford Winery & Vineyards
Seagrape Wine Company
Sea Smoke Cellars
Siduri Wines (Russian River Valley)
Other wineries producing wine from Sta. Rita Hills vineyards that are worth consideration include Ampelos
Cellars, Arcadian, Babcock Winery, Bonaccorsi, Domaine de la Côte, Inception, Lutum, Melville Vineyards &
Winery, Paul Lato, Rusack Vineyards, Samsara, Sandhi Wines, Tensley, and Westerly Wines.
Siduri Wines Shine in 2012
Winemaker Adam Lee of Siduri Wines told me, “2012 is a winemaker’s dream and a wine writer’s nightmare
because nothing exceptional happened.” It has been jokingly called the “Goldilocks Vintage,” because it was
not too hot and not too cold. The growing season was moderately warm without excessive heat spikes. The
result is dreary wine writing but really good wines.
In 2012, bud break, flowering, set and harvest were generally on time. Yields were remarkably large,
especially in the Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast, and only slightly larger than normal in the Santa
Lucia Highlands and Sta. Rita Hills. Yields in Oregon were below normal, but the quality of the fruit was
The result was that Adam did quite a bit of bleed off (saignée) particularly in Sonoma County, varying anywhere
from 10% to 25% depending on the lot. Generally acids were in line and Adam felt comfortable doing a slightly
higher percentage of whole cluster on the ferments. He did inoculate more than usual, mainly late in the
season as he was running out of room. A number of 2012 wines were ready to go and bottled in August but
some have been kept back until January for bottling. The wines are gluten free and vegan friendly. All wines
are bottled under screw cap closure.
Overall the 2012 Siduri Pinot Noirs show more flesh than in 2011 and are quite inviting at this young age. Still,
the vineyard-designated wines will benefit from another 6 to 12 months in bottle. Some of the vineyard-designated
wines are stunning in 2012. The new labels for the 2012 vintage are very classy.
2012 Siduri Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., 1,034 cases, $22.
Moderately light reddish-purple color
in the glass. The nose is appealing and picks up interest over time in the glass offering aromas of candied
cherries, rose petals and pie spice. An Oregon-styled wine with mid weight flavors of tart cherries and
cranberries, mild tannins, and a tight, hi-pitched finish.
2012 Siduri Shaw Mountain Vineyard Pinot Noir
14.35% alc., pH 3.55, TA 0.62, 75 cases, $39. Vineyard
owned by Ralph and Marlene Shaw and managed by Bob Grimes. The vineyard has been inconsistent over
the past dozen years, but was stellar in 2012. Aged in 66% new French oak barrels. Unfined and unfiltered.
Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Interesting aromas of dark berries and plums with hints of
pine forest, wood box, and tea leaf. Discreetly concentrated and flavorful exhibiting an array of fruits including
ripe strawberry, black raspberry and pomegranate. The oak is supportive but not intrusive, the tannins are
modest and the finish has a burst of palate cleansing acidity. I like this wine for its acid-driven vigor.
2012 Siduri Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., 3,575 cases, $32.
color in the glass. This wine is Russian River Valley Pinot Noir personified with plenty of
appealing Bing cherry, rose petal, tea and dark chocolate aromas on the nose, and a judicious core
of Bing cherry, spice and cola flavors on the palate. The tannic backbone is supple, oak is nicely
integrated, and there is enough uplifting acidity to bring the fruit to life.
2012 Siduri Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 3,019
Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. The
nose is flush with black cherry, black raspberry, anise and spice
perfume. Dark fruits including blackberry and plum fill the mouth with
flavor that persists on the finish. The wine has the typical structural
muscle shown by wines from this region. A solid, fruit-driven offering
that aims to please.
2012 Siduri Bucher Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
13.69% alc., pH 3.73, TA 0.60, 100 cases,
$44. Inaugural release from this vineyard located on Westside Road. Owned by John and Diane Bucher, the
Bucher Vineyard is on a hillside with various aspects. Grapes were harvested at moderate levels of sugar over
a two week window. The lots were fermented separately. Half of the wine came from the newest section of the
vineyard (“Forklift” Block) which produced the wine with the greatest concentration and interest. Unfined and
Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Intense aromas of black cherries, grilled peach
and toasty oak. Succulent and sappy on the palate with plenty of black cherry goodness, carrying a tarry,
earthy, even barnyard undertone that Burgundy lovers may relish. Easy to drink, with finishing intensity.
2012 Siduri Keefer Ranch Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.59% alc., pH 3.53, TA 0.63, 517
cases, $52. From six separate sections of the vineyard. Each section was treated differently, using
whole clusters on some but not on others, adding yeast to the must on some, but not on others, etc.
The ultimate blend includes five out of the six sections. Clones are Pommard, 2A, 777, 115 and 114.
Unfined and unfiltered.
Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. Lovely aromas of fresh cherry pie
glaze, baking spices and sandalwood. The delicious and seductive core of juicy iced cherry and red
berry flavors is wrapped in gossamer tannins. Beautifully composed and harmonious with a refreshing
finish of cherry goodness. Keefer Ranch terroir really shows through in this wine.
2012 Siduri Pratt Vineyard-Sexton Road Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.66% alc., pH 3.60, TA 0.63,
282 cases, $48. 25% whole cluster in the Pommard section of the vineyard. Other clones include 777
and 23. Unfined and unfiltered.
Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. This is the kind of Pinot
perfume that drives pinotphiles crazy. Uplifting aromas of cherry latté, spiced Halloween punch, and
black raspberry preserves lead to a delicious core of sappy black raspberry, black plum and spice
flavors. Mouth coating from entry to finish with complimentary oak highlights. A pleasure nest.
2012 Siduri Sierra Mar Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
15.27% alc., pH 3.66, TA 0.65, 444
cases, $52. Each section picked at ideal ripeness with harvest spread over a month’s time. Each clone (943,
23, 777 and Pommard) was fermented individually, with winemaking treatment varying depending on the fruit
condition. A bit more whole cluster than in previous years. Unfined and unfiltered.
Moderately dark reddishpurple
color in the glass. Nicely perfumed with aromas of Bing cherries, red rose petals and potpourri. Mouth
watering flavors of peak-ripened fruits including black cherry, black raspberry and strawberry. Very smooth and
seductive on the palate with welcoming concentration, finishing with a pleasing burst of robust fruit flavor. The
wine picks up interest and intensity over time in the glass and the balance is spot on, portending a long life
2012 Siduri Pisoni Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.9% alc., pH 3.53, TA 0.68, 423 cases, $55. First single-vineyard Pinot
Noir release from the 2012 vintage. Sourced from three sections of the
vineyard which were fermented separately. Some whole cluster in two
of the three sections. The final blend included 37% of the barrels, a
strict selection not driven by profit but by quality. Unfined and unfiltered.
Dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Intoxicating aromas of dark red
and black cherry berry mix with a hint of oak vanillin. Delicious, intense flavors
of dark berries and black plums, nicely spiced with a lush, long finish. The
darkest fruited, most tannic, and most powerful wine in the 2012 Siduri lineup.
When this wine enters your mouth, the experience is scintillating. If this wine doesn’t make the hairs stand up
on the back of your neck, you must be undead. A distinctive wine that is tré Pisoni.
2012 Siduri Cargassachi Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
alc., pH 3.53, TA 0.68, 211 cases, $52. 100% clone 115. Vineyard
picked in two sections giving a mix of flavor profiles. Unfined and
Dark reddish-purple color in the glass. The nose is quite
typical of this vineyard with aromas of black berry and stone fruits, black
currant, mesquite, iron and earth. Plush, soft, rich and inviting on the
palate, this wine offers a mouthful of earth-kissed purple and black fruits
perfectly matched to ripe tannins. The intense, grandiose, and aromatic finish is
full of juicy fruit pleasure. Wines from this vineyard can be somewhat animale in
character and brooding, but this wine sparkles with freshness and vibrancy as
well as offering inviting finesse with power. The best Cargassachi Vineyard Pinot Noir I have ever tasted.
Scary to think this will get better with more time in bottle.
Sips of Recently Tasted California Wines
The wines from Bailiwick in 2011 are all well-crafted, but overall lack the extraction, intensity and excitement of
the previous vintage. I believe they will pick up more weight and interest with another year or two in bottle.
Winemaker Paul Vais told me they have been able to significantly lower their prices in this vintage due to an
increase in production efficiencies. Visit www.bailiwickwines.com.
2011 Bailiwick Borderline Marin County Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., pH 3.71, TA 0.64, 225 cases, $28. Sourced
from Kendric and Chileno Valley vineyards which lie along the southern edge of the Petaluma Gap. Clones
777 and 667. 100% de-stemmed, post-fermentation maceration for several weeks, aged 8 months in 36% new
French oak barrels.
Moderately light reddish color in the glass. Aromas of oak-dusted cherries and black tea
flow from the glass and hold up over time. Upfront, crisp and pleasant with flavors of cherry, red licorice and
2011 Bailiwick Foray Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.4% alc., pH 3.65, TA 0.63, 75 cases, $28. Sourced
from Roma’s Vineyard, located at 1800 feet elevation east of the town of Boonville. Pommard clone, yields 2
tons per acre. 100% de-stemmed, inoculated yeast fermentation, two week post-fermentation maceration,
aged 16 months in 33% new French oak barrels.
Moderately light reddish color in the glass. Very reserved on
the nose offering demure aromas of cherry and strawberry. Rather primary and nondescript initially with
delicate flavors of red cherries and berries. Tasted the next day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle,
the wine offered more fruit flavor with pleasing hints of sandalwood and gingerbread, but the wine remained
lean and somewhat dilute. Hopefully, the wine will put on weight with more time in bottle.
2011 Bailiwick Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.6% alc., 700 cases, pH 3.68, TA 0.58, $28. Sourced
from four highly regarded vineyards (RLR, Moore Ranch, Dutton-Lorenzo, and Hurst). Clones 113,
114, 115, 667, 777 and Pommard. 100% de-stemmed, several week post-fermentation maceration,
aged 17 months in 37% new French oak barrels.
Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass.
Aromas of fresh Bing cherries, baking spices and sandalwood spring from the glass. Delicious mid
weight black cherry core that is thoroughly satisfying. Impressive structure and power for this vintage,
yet displaying welcoming finesse. The finish is noticeably powerful and lingering.
2011 Bailiwick Londer Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., pH 3.78, TA 0.57, 200 cases, $38.
Clones 115 and 777 from this vineyard located 3.5 miles northwest of Philo. 33% whole cluster. Post-fermentation
maceration for several weeks and aging for 17 months in 37% new French oak barrels.
Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Shy, but pleasant aromas of black cherry and dried rose
petals with a whiff of oak and clay. Middleweight flavors of juicy cherries and raspberries caressed by mildly
chiseled tannins, finishing with some aromatic persistence. A solid, well-composed wine that currently doesn’t
emote, but should improve with more time in the cellar.
2011 Bailiwick Silver Pines Vineyard Sonoma Mountain Pinot Noir
13.7% alc., pH 3.72, TA 0.64, 125
cases, $38. This vineyard is situated at 900 feet elevation overlooking nearby Bennett Valley on the
northwestern flank of Sonoma Mountain. Planted in 2000 by owners Norm and Carole Silverman. The
vineyard benefits from the maritime influence of the Petaluma Gap. 100% de-stemmed, macerated on the
skins for several weeks post fermentation, and aged 17 months in 40% new French oak barrels.
light reddish-purple hue in the glass. Reserved nose offering scents of red berries, dried rose petals and oak
spice. Light weighted, even lean, and elegant, with flavors of spiced red cherries and berries backed by juicy
acidity, finishing with a tangy citrus-imbued cherry note. A little more expressive the following day when tasted
from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. Could pick up intensity over time in bottle.
2011 Bailiwick Michaud Vineyard Chalone Monterey County Pinot Noir
13.7% alc., pH 3.66, TA 0.65, 100 cases, $38. Sourced from a unique vineyard
located at 1600 feet elevation at the front door of the Pinnacles National
Monument. This vineyard is one of the only places where decomposed granite
and limestone are present at the surface. Noted winemaker and vineyardist
Michael Michaud tends the vineyard. Clones 115, 667, 777 and Swan. 100%
de-stemmed, macerated on the skins for several weeks post-fermentation, and
aged 17 months in 45% new French oak barrels.
Moderately light reddishpurple
color in the glass. Haunting aromas of dark cherries and clove spice.
Tasty core of well-spiced strawberry and cherry fruits. Light in weight but
flavorful, with a modestly firm tannic backbone and a pleasing finish.
2011 Banshee Marine Layer Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.7% alc., 100
cases, $45. A blend from four sources. Aged 15 months in 20% new French
Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. This is a perfect
example of the challenge of reviewing Pinot Noir. After opening, the wine was
good but not great, but when tasted the following day from a previously opened
and re-corked bottle, the wine had become considerably more expressive and
nuanced. The bright fruit aromas of Bing cherry, blueberry and spicy red
raspberry combined with a hint of red rose petals is very enticing. Modest in
concentration but big on flavor, the wine shows off a juicy core of dark red
cherries and berries caressed by soft tannins. The underlying acidity brings
vibrancy to the palate and finish. A refined wine with style and grace.
2012 Belle Glos Clark & Telephone Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
14.6% alc., $44. Own-rooted Martini
clone planted in 1972. Aged 9 months in 60% new French oak barrels.
Dark, deep violet color in the glass.
This wine is oak vanillin-infused through and through. Moderately rich and plush flavors of candied plum,
blackberry, black raspberry, exotic chocolate and spice are framed by good acidity and caressing, velvety
tannins. Seductively soft and smooth on the palate, the wine finishes with a persistent wealth of fruit and a
touch of heat.
2011 Cambria Estate Winery Bench Break Vineyard Estate Grown and Bottled Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., pH 3.54, TA
0.60, 703 cases, $34. Sourced from four blocks that represent a
structured fruit expression in contrast to the feminine qualities of the
Julia’s Pinot Noir. Clones 667, 2A, 4, 23 and 115. Aged 10 months in
50% new French oak barrels.
Moderately dark reddish-purple robe in
the glass. Aromas of oak-kissed black cherry, spice, new leather, anise, sweet
smoke and ash. The full-bodied core of black cherry and blackberry fruit makes
a statement on the mid palate and hangs on through a generous, long finish.
The tannins are fine-grain and reserved and the mouth feel is quite smooth. The
dark fruit is impressive, but is currently saddled with too much oak. The wine showed better the following day
from a previously opened and re-tasted bottle. I would give this wine another year to allow the oak to better
2011 Cambria Estate Winery Bench Break Vineyard Estate Grown and Bottled Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay
14.5% alc., pH 3.57, TA 0.65, 648 cases, $32. The Bench Break Chardonnay
vines were planted in 1971 and a solo bottling first appeared in 1999. Clone is old vine clone 4.
Aged 12 months sur lies with twice weekly stirring in 100% new French oak barrels.
yellow color and clear in the glass. The nose is appealing with scents of apple, citrus, straw bale,
hazelnuts and brown butter. Slightly creamy on the palate with crisp, moderately rich flavors of
lemon tart, green apple, lime zest, spice and vanilla.
2011 Castalia Rochioli Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., pH 3.55, 300 cases, $55. I have been a long time fan of the
Castalia Pinot Noirs produced from Rochioli Vineyard fruit by
winemaker Terry Bering, the cellarmaster at Rochioli. This wine is 50%
Rochioli River Block fruit and 50% from a 20-year-old block of Rochioli
West Block selection planted in another vineyard on Westside and
Rochioli Estate wine. Aged 15 months in 20% new French oak barrels.
Terry told me his wines need time to evolve and I found this to be the case. I
first tasted the wine last February and thought it was very good but not
extraordinary then. My recent tasting found the wine had blossomed into
something very special and it is certain to be one of my 2013 All-Americans.
Medium reddish-purple color in
the glass. Alluring aromas of Bing cherries, strawberries, spice and musk which literally jump out of the glass
over time. The flavor of cherry syrup caresses the palate with complimentary notes of spice and vanilla. The
classy, lush fruit is perfectly buffered by ripe tannins and brought to life by bright acidity. The lengthy finish is
simply gorgeous. Quintessential Russian River Valley richness, yet sleek, balanced and refined.
The four 2011 Davis Family Vineyards Pinot Noirs were released at the beginning of October (including the
Russian River Valley bottling which is not reviewed here). The wines took Gold Medals at the prestigious 2013
Sonoma County Harvest Wine Competition. After a 5-7 day cold soak, gentle punch downs were done over a
3-4 week fermentation in small, temperature controlled, open-top fermenters. All wines were fermented with
native yeast and spent 14 months in tight grain selections of French oak of which 30% were new, 30% were 1-
year-old and 30% were 2-year old. Most of the wine has been allocated to wine club members (who receive
discounts and free shipping on the first six bottles), but you may still snag a bottle or two by contacting Annie
Rambo at the winery (707-569-0171) or visiting www.daviswines.com.
2011 Davis Family Vineyards Horseshoe Bend Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., $50.
This vineyard is situated on a ridge top at the crown of the sub region of the Russian River Valley known as
Occcidental Ridge on the extreme western edge of the appellation. Elevation of the vineyard is about 1,200
feet, keeping it above the fog line on most days. This location enjoys much lower overall temperatures due to
the coastal influence, yet has full sun exposure throughout the day. The result is small, concentrated clusters
and dark rich color in every vintage.
Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. Very fragrant and intoxicating
upon opening with aromas of black cherries, spice, red licorice and oak. Deeply flavored black cherry core with
accents of toasted oak, clove and cardamom spice and an earthy undertone. The chiseled tannins provide
structural balance, the acidity is well integrated, and the juicy finish has notable intensity and persistence.
2011 Davis Family Vineyards Starr Ridge Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., $50. This
20-year-old vineyard sits on the eastern edge of the Middle Reach sub region of the Russian River Valley.
Soils are ancient Franciscan series, heavier decomposed volcanic rock and clays rich in iron. The site benefits
from a combination of its warmer Middle Reach location and cooler east facing exposure.
reddish-purple color in the glass. Complex array of aromas including cherry, red berry, shoe leather and oak
spice. Delicious essence of black cherry fruit in a modestly concentrated yet flavorful wine embellished with a
welcome oak accent. Very smooth on the palate with supple tannins and a finish that goes on and on. I find I
am consistently attracted to wines made from this vineyard.
2011 Davis Family Vineyards Soul Patch Estate Grown Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., $50. A barrel selection from the
Estate Vineyard. A combination of Pommard, 777, 667 and 115 planted
in 1996. Farming has always been organic. The vineyard is in the sub
region of the Russian River Valley known as Laguna Ridge featuring
Goldridge series soils containing a high amount of volcanic ash.
Moderately dark reddish-purple hue in the glass. Initially this wine is
quite reserved and takes some coaxing in the glass to bring it into the open.
Enticing aromas of Bing cherry, red berry, fruit cake, spice and sandalwood.
Bold and intense with a meaty core of black cherry, black raspberry and
blueberry fruits backed by complimentary oak. The luscious fruit is pulled into line with fine tannins and acidity.
The finish deserves special mention as it is extraordinarily long and intense. The wine was much better the
following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. In fact, it was so tasty you could nibble at it.
Decant if you must drink now, but the wine will benefit from a few years in the cellar. It’s wines like this that
make Pinot my paramour.
2010 Dierberg Estate Grown Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., pH 3.52, $44. Dierberg Vineyard is
planted with 11 different Pinot Noir clones. Brix at harvest was 25º. Aged in 33% new French oak barrels for
18 months and bottled unfined and unfiltered.
Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Aromas and
flavors of black cherry, black raspberry, black currant, spice, tea leaf and oak-driven accents of tobacco, toast
and herbs. The tannins are well managed, the mouth feel is smooth and comforting, and the finish is clean and
uplifting. A slight green pepper background note was evident in this wine.
2011 Dierberg Estate Grown Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay
13.5% alc. pH
3.15, $32. The Dierberg Vineyard is situated on a sandy loam mesa above the
South Bank of the Santa Maria River in the near-extreme Western part of the
Santa Maria Valley AVA. This cool site combined with the sandy, marine-based
soils, creates Chardonnay with high acidity. Brix at harvest was 24.5º. No skin
contact. Primary fermentation was carried out in 400 liter barrels of which 25%
were new. Less than 10% of the wine went through malolactic fermentation.
The wine was age 10 months, racked from its lees, blended, lightly fined,
unfiltered and bottled after harvest.
Light golden yellow color and clear in the
glass. The nose is appealing with scents of apple, lemon, brown butter, nuts
and straw bale. Smooth on the palate with very agreeable crisp flavors of lemon tart, green apple, and lime
zest. There is a definite oak imprint which adds to the complexity.
2011 Domaine De La Côte Estate Bloom’s Field Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
12.5% alc., 360 cases, $55. The vineyard is 7.5 acres planted to three
California heritage selections of Pinot Noir (Mount Eden, Swan and Calera).
The name comes from the planting date of the vineyard which was Bloom’s Day
(6/16/07). The clay topsoil is rich in iron and well-drained. The Pacific Ocean is
8 miles to the West so it is a cold microclimate. Typically, the clusters are very
small with high levels of acidity. 90% whole cluster. Unfined and unfiltered.
Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. This wine has the exotic
perfume that can only come from whole cluster with waves of dark red and black
berries, imported spices, and a floral whiff complimented by sweet oak. A
delicious wine that makes you sit up and take notice of the plethora of plum, blueberry, black raspberry and
pomegranate fruit supported by broad-shouldered tannins and bright acidity. Amazing sense of concentration
despite the low alcohol level. The exhilarating finish seems to linger for half a minute. Even more enjoyable
the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle.
2011 Dunstan Durell Vineyard Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
13.3% alc., pH
3.50, TA 0.80, 318 cases, $45. Sourced from the Durell Vineyard 8.5-acre Ranch
House Block planted in 2005 with 3.5-acres of old Wente selection with the
balance to 5 different clones of Pinot Noir. 50% whole cluster and 50% destemmed
old Wente Chardonnay aged 14 months in French oak barrels.
Malolactic fermentation was inhibited at the end of primary fermentation.
Medium golden yellow color and clear in the glass. Very lovely nose offering
effusive aromas of lemon, brioche, vanilla and spice. Beautifully composed and
balanced with appealing flavors of lemon, baked apple, banana and oak spice
offering good richness of flavor. The overall impression is one of freshness and
crispness with a finish that is outright lip-smacking.
2010 Jeff Gordon Cellars Leo Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., pH 3.60, TA 0.62, 124 cases, $56. Jeff
and Ingrid Gordon dedicate this wine to their son Leo Benjamin, born in August of 2010. Jeff is a four-time
NASCAR Cup Series Champion and long time wine enthusiast. Sourced from Cummings Vineyard just west of
Santa Rosa and Archer Vineyard just west of Windsor. Aged 9 months in 30% new and 70% 2- and 3-year-old
French oak barrels. Unfined and unfiltered.
Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. The inviting
aromatics feature aromas of blueberry, red plum, ripe strawberry, pine sap, spice and oak vanillin. Quite
flavorful and easy to drink with a middleweight core of strawberry, cherry and blueberry fruits backed by juicy
acidity and buffered by fine-grain tannins.
2010 Highflyer Wines Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay
14.7% alc., 550 cases, $28. Sourced from lowyielding
vines at Sierra Madre Vineyard located near the western edge of the Santa Maria Valley appellation.
Winemaker and “pilot” is Craig Becker. Previously reviewed in April 2012 (that bottle showed better).
Moderate golden yellow color and clear in the glass. Aromas of lemon tart, buttered popcorn, lychee and
haystack lead to flavors of lemon curd, banana, lychee, nuts and creamy pastry. Easy to drink with a slightly
creamy texture and a refreshing cut of lemony acidity on the finish.
2012 Santa Arcangeli Family Wines Split Rail Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains Rosé of Pinot Noir
alc., pH 3.61, 50 cases, $25. A combination of David Bruce selection and UCD 32 (a traditional sparkling wine
clone) from a vineyard in the southern part of the Santa Cruz Mountains known as Corralitos. Grapes were
specifically selected for this wine (not a saignée), 100% de-stemmed, pressed off the skins after 24 hours.
Fermented in neutral Ermitage oak barrels with indigenous and inoculated yeasts. Aged 7 months on the lees
with monthly battonage. Racked once, cold stabilized and filtered for clarity at bottling.
pinkish-red color and clear in the glass. The nose offers the fresh scent of strawberry, rose petal, bark and
nutty oak. The flavors of strawberry, cherry, red currant and oak spice are satisfying and persist on the dry
finish which has a bite of acidity and a hint of heat.
2012 Sante Arcangeli Family Reserve Split Rail Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
14.1% alc.,pH 3.65, 75 cases, $40. David Bruce
selection, UCD 23 (Roederer) clone and Pommard. Harvested at 23.5º Brix.
20% whole cluster. Fermented, cellared and bottled separately from other lots.
20% whole cluster. Aged on the lees 10 months in 60% new French oak barrels.
Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Inviting array of
aromas including cherry, cranberry, potpourri, oak spice and cinnamon. A
gentle, ethereal styled wine with enough cherry, sassafras and spice to satisfy.
There is significant palate presence of oak but it is hard to complain about this
polished, well-perfumed offering.
2012 Shoofly Yarra Valley Victoria Australia Pinot Noir
pH 3.60, TA 0.59, $14 (retail but available for as little as $9.99), screw
cap. Imported by Old Bridge Cellars, Napa, CA. This winery was
founded in 2003 and is led by noted Australian winemaker Ben Riggs.
50% whole cluster. Aged 11 months in second-use oak barrels.
Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Nicely perfumed initially
with black cherries, dark raspberries and spice. Over time, the dark fruit
recedes and oak comes to the forefront. The moderately intense flavors echo
the aromas with modest smoky, tobacco oak highlights, and the appealing
concentration is backed by crisp acidity. Very easy to drink, literally slipping off
the back of the palate. A ridiculous value.
2011 Stomping Girl Hyde Vineyard Carneros Chardonnay
alc., pH 3.50, TA 0.60, 150cases, $40. First established in 1981, Hyde
Vineyard is widely acclaimed. It is planted on gently rolling hills and
cooled by wind and fog from nearby San Pablo Bay. The soils is well-drained
ancient creek beds of clay loam and rocks. Clones are Wente
Hyde Field selection and Robert Young hand harvested at 22.2º Brix
just before the October rains. Whole cluster pressed, barrel fermented
sur lie with regular stirring, 100% MLF, aged 11 months in 15% new
French oak barrels and bottled unfined and unfiltered.
Mild yellow blonde color
in the glass. The aromas of nectarine, lemon, Fuji apple and hazelnuts draw
you into the glass. A very polished and sophisticated wine offering refined flavors of lemon, pineapple, green
apple, and brine with a pleasing kiss of lemon on the finish. The wine’s underlying bright acidity supplies plenty
of vibrancy. This wine has a Burgundian soul and reminds me of a William Fevre Les Clos Chablis Grand Cru
that I recently drank.
2011 Varner Spring Ridge Vineyard Three Blocks Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
14.6% alc., $40.
Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. There is
some herbal and tobacco laced oak at play in this wine which features aromas of
black cherry, spice, forest floor and smoke with mid weight flavors of black
cherry, black raspberry, black currant, pepper and spice. A harmonious wine
with modest tannins and energetic acidity, finishing with a welcome burst of
aromatic cherry goodness. Even better later in the day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle.
2011 WALT Blue Jay Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
15.2% alc., 1,875 cases, $40. Sourced from Hein, Savoy,
Anderson Creek and other vineyards. Native yeast fermentation, unfined and unfiltered.
color in the glass. Lavishly perfumed with aromas of black raspberry jam, pepper, spice and oak with a
very slight funky barnyard note. On the palate the wine is juicy and forward with flavors of dark red and black
raspberries, black cherries, baking spices and seasoned oak. A discreetly concentrated offering with some
2011 WALT La Brisa Sonoma County Pinot Noir
14.8% alc., 1,051 cases, $40. La Brisa is Spanish for “The
Breeze.” Sourced from multiple vineyards throughout the Russian River Valley including Widdoes, Martinelli,
Gregori, and the Gap’s Crown in the Sonoma Coast. Native yeast fermentation, unfined and unfiltered.
Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Delicate aromas and flavors of Bing cherry, red berries and
oak. Relatively light in weight but charming with soft tannins and some finishing length. A solid if not inspiring
wine that displays plenty of oak imprint.
Sips of Recently Tasted Oregon Wines
Big Table Farm was a featured winery at the 2013 International Pinot Noir Celebration. The name of the
winery is apropos since Brian and Claire continue to raise animals on their farm including calves and steers,
pigs, laying hens, and horses, as well as set a big table for guests who visit. Big Table Farm is now leasing all
12 acres of the Wirtz Vineyard. 2012 will be the last vintage for Resonance Vineyard as that vineyard was
purchased by Maison Louis Jadot who plan to use all the fruit for their own production. Kevin and Carla
Chambers, who owned and farmed Resonance Vineyard, have acquired another property and are in the
planning stages of planting a vineyard, so Big Table Farm should be able to work with them again in the future.
Plans for a winery on the farm are complete. All vineyards in 2011 were picked at the very end of October and
the sounds of trick or treaters filled the air as grapes were being sorted and processed. The wines are quite
young and Brian recommends decanting if you open them now. I found that all the Pinot Noirs were at least as
good or better two days after opening. All wines are unfined and unfiltered. A big plus with these wines is that
because the alcohol percentages are low, you can easily enjoy a couple glasses without getting sideways.
Each label is a work of art by Claire. Visit www.bigtablefarm for more information or sign up for the mailing list.
2011 Big Table Farm Wirtz Vineyard Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
12.6% alc., 119 cases, $45. This vineyard is old by Oregon standards
as it was planted in the early 1970s. Brian likes to say he was still
wearing diapers when the vines went into the ground in this vineyard.
Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. This wine reminds of cherry
pie baking day at cooking school. Deliciously flavored with ripe cherries
and baking spices with a hint of sandalwood and wintergreen. Crisp and
juicy with a long, spirited finish. Hard to put your finger on the reasons for it, but
this wine grabs your interest and holds on. An old vine treasure.
2011 Big Table Farm Sunnyside Vineyard Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
12.5% alc., 143 cases, $45.
Inaugural vintage from this vineyard.
Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Demure aromas and
flavors featuring raspberry, dark cherry, white pepper, iron and a hint of smoky oak. Soft and dry in the mouth
with a tangy cherry finish featuring zippy acidity. A wine with compelling modesty.
2011 Big Table Farm Cattrall Brothers Vineyard Eola-Amity Hills Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
143 cases, $45. The highest elevation and coolest vineyard of the four wines in the 2011 Big Table Farm Pinot
Noir portfolio. Fermented with native yeasts and whole cluster.
Moderately light reddish color in the glass.
Shy, but pleasant aromas of cherries, red rose petals and oak plank. Elegant and delicate, with flavors of red
cherries and berries, a hint of oak and herbs, and an acid-driven, refreshing finish. A bit dilute on the mid
palate and finish, but overall a satisfying expression of the cool vintage.
2011 Big Table Farm Resonance Vineyard Yamhill-Carlton Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
alc., 287 cases, $48. This vineyard is the warmest site in the Big Table Farm lineup. Typically this
wine needs a few years to mature and this is evident in this vintage as well despite spending a year in
barrel and a year in bottle.
Moderately deep reddish-purple color in the glass. A well-mannered wine
with aromas of dark cherry, marionberry and spice that fill the glass. While the core of black cherry fruit
is delicious now, the wine is relatively primary at this stage. Still, it is obviously a classy and
sophisticated offering. The tannins are firm but balanced and the finish is juicy and well-endowed with
grandiose fruit flavor. Hold for 2-3 years or decant if you must drink now.
2011 Big Table Farm Brooks Estate Vineyard Eola-Amity Hills Willamette Valley Riesling
11.4% alc., 91 cases, $28. Barrel fermented to dryness with
native yeasts and complete malolactic fermentation.
Moderate golden yellow
color and slight haze (unfiltered) in the glass. Lovely aromas of lemon zest, wet
stone, buttered brioche and paraffin. Very flavorful with pleasing notes of lemon
and grapefruit with a touch of spice and a subtle petrol note. Slightly creamy in
the mouth with a firm grip of lemony acidity on the bright finish. I don’t drink
much Riesling, but I know a great one when I taste it.
2011 Big Table Farm Wirtz Vineyard Willamette Valley Pinot Gris
13.8% alc., 115 cases, $32. An “orange
wine” fermented on the skins briefly and then finished in barrel to dryness with complete malolactic
fermentation, bottled without fining or filtration.
Medium red-orange color and clear in the glass. An unusual
wine which is a challenge to describe. Aromas of peach skin, jasmine and eucalyptus. Soft and smooth on the
palate with flavors of dried cherry, yellow peach and baking spice. Similar to Pinot Noir Blanc in its flavor
profile. Mild dry tannins and hi-tone acidity, with a trace of heat on the finish. A conundrum.
2009 Panther Creek Cellars Shea Vineyard Yamhill-Carlton Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., 925 cases, $45. Current release. Willakenzie
soils over fractured sandstone. Clones 114, 667, 777, Pommard and
Wädenswil. Aged 16 months in 30% new and 70% neutral French oak barrels.
Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. Aromas of black cherry, briar, cigar
box and hickory are inviting. A generous wine with flavors of black cherry and
black raspberry that fan out nicely on the palate, complimented by oak flavors
that fold in nicely. The fruit is plush yet vibrant with an obvious esteemed
pedigree. The wine aims to please with a generous burst of fruit on the finish.
White Rose Estate Winery and Vineyard is producing some of the most interesting Pinot Noirs in Oregon.
The wines are “neo-classical” as it states on the label, in that they are produced in the time-honored tradition of
many great Burgundy wines using a significant amount of whole cluster that adds more secondary character to
the wines and provides a fuller structure for a clear expression of flavor. Winemaker/owner Greg Sanders and
winemaker Jesus Guillen or both self-taught, but they have a clear style in mind which has been fully
implemented since the 2008 vintage. A number of tasters have likened the wines to those of Domaine Dujac,
and I can’t argue with that. Some of the White Rose wines have been an epiphany for me. The White Rose
Vineyard is 12 acres located in the southern part of the Dundee Hills at an elevation of 700 to 800 feet. The
vines are self-rooted Pommard clone planted from 1978 to 1981 and Dijon 115 clone planted in 2001. The soil
type is volcanic Jory series. In the 2011 vintage, all the wines reviewed below were fermented with whole
cluster ranging from 75% to 100%. Total skin contact ranged from 22 to 26 days. All wines were basket
pressed in a traditional wooden ratchet press and racked once after completion of malolactic fermentation.
New oak ranged from 8% to 25%. All the wines display the enchanting whole cluster perfume, complex flavors,
and a bold, yet silky smooth, tannin structure. Visit www.whiteroseestate.com.
2011 White Rose Estate Willamette Valley Oregon Pinot Noir
13.0% alc., pH 3.66, 583 cases, $40. A blend
of 4 vineyards (White Rose Estate 32%, Vista Hills 32%, Marsh 24% and Luciole 12%) in three different
Willamette Valley sub-appellations, both old and young vines, sedimentary and volcanic soils. Clones are
Pommard and Dijon 777, 115, 114 and 667. 80% whole cluster on average. Aged 11 months in 10% new
French oak barrels.
Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Pleasing aromas of cherry pie and
exotic whole cluster spice. Elegant, yet flavorful, featuring cherry fruit, whole cluster spice and a tangy, citrusdriven
brisk finish. The dry tannins are slightly foreboding, and the wine lacks finishing length, but it remains
quite inviting and I would be happy to drink this every day. An excellent introduction to the White Rose Estate
2011 White Rose Estate Durant Vineyard Dundee Hills Oregon Pinot Noir
13.0% alc., 167 cases, $60.
Vineyard was planted in 1994 to Dijon clone 114 in Jory soil. Harvested November 2, 2011. 90% whole
cluster, aged 16 months in 14% new French oak barrels.
Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass.
Reserved aromas of dark red cherries and berries, wooded forest and spice. This wine has the most
concentration and the darkest fruit of the 2011 wines tasted. The whole cluster influence is subtle and alluring.
The dry tannins are evident, but are pure silk in texture producing a very round and smooth palate. A generous,
long finish completes the picture.
2011 White Rose Estate Guillen Vineyard Dundee Hills Oregon Pinot Noir
13.0% alc., 265 cases, $60. Vineyard planted in 2001 to Dijon clone 115 in Jory
soil. Harvested November 6, 2011. 95% whole cluster. 6-day pre-fermentation
maceration. Total skin contact 25 days. Aged 16 months in 18% new French
Moderately light ruby color in the glass. This wine shows the most
whole cluster influence of any of the 2011 Pinot Noirs tasted on the nose and
palate. The perfume is haunting with uplifting aromas of fresh cherry pie glaze,
rose petals, leaf and exotic spices. Elegantly composed with a gentle core of
cherry and cranberry fruits, a hint of oak, and plenty of whole cluster spice and
forest floor. Broad-shouldered, dry tannins add structure and the juicy acidity
lifts the tangy, cherry-themed finish. If you like whole cluster fermented Pinot Noir, you will flip over this wine.
2011 White Rose Estate Anderson Family Vineyard Dundee Hills Oregon Pinot Noir
13.0% alc., 141
cases, $80. Self-rooted Dijon clone 115 planted in 1991 in Jory soil. Harvested October 28, 2011. Fermented
100% whole cluster. 3 days pre-fermentation maceration, total skin contact 23 days. Aged 16 months in 8%
new French oak barrels.
Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. The nose opens slowly to reveal
brilliant aromas of black cherry, whole cluster spice, rose petal and wine cave. Clean and pure on the palate
with generous flavors of earthy cherry and strawberry with complimentary whole cluster spice. This wine has
the most bold and muscular tannins of the 2011 wines tasted. Flavor intensity picks up over time in the glass
which is always a good sign of longevity.
2011 White Rose Estate Winemaker’s Cuveé
13.0% alc., 99 cases,
$85. Sourced from White Rose Vineyard and Luciole Vineyard.
Pommard, 115 and 777 clones in Jory soil. Harvested November 4
(White Rose Vineyard) and November 1 (Luciole Vineyard). Fermented
75% whole cluster on average. 8 day pre-fermentation maceration,
total skin contact 23.5 days. Aged 16 months in 25% new French oak
Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. The nose
draws you into the glass with aromas of dark cherries, dried rose petal, exotic
spice and a hint of smoke. Delicious from the get-go with a rush of spiced
cherry and strawberry fruits on entry, penetrating every nook and cranny in the
mouth, and finishing with uncommon grace and generosity. The spice is particularly evident on the finish.
Despite the flavor onslaught, this wine remains elegant and refined. The healthy tannic structure predicts a
long life ahead. A very special wine.
Recently Tasted Chilean Pinot Noir
Chile is well known for its inexpensive red wine imports to the United States including blended reds and single
varietal wines of Carmenère, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Chardonnay.
Less well known is the small cadre of Pinot Noir producers located in the Bio Bio, Casablanca, Calchagua,
Leyda and San Antonio Valleys focusing on small production, quality-driven Pinot Noir. Chile followed the
historical progression of California in that early plantings of Pinot Noir were located in the wrong places such as
the Casablanca Valley floor which is quite warm. Vintners eventually discovered the best cool climate sites
near the Pacific Ocean, similar to California’s Sonoma Coast.
A number of producers have recruited consulting winemakers from the United States and France. Some well-known
Chilean Pinot Noir producers include Cono Sur, Kingston Family Vineyards, Matetic Vineyards,
Veramonte and Veranda Winery.
Chilean wine regions are organized by valleys as shown in the map below.
Damon Levy of Vine Connections, a leading importer of Argentine and Chilean wine, recently sent me four
Chilean wines that are part of the new breed of cool-climate Pinot Noir from true coastal vineyards in Chile. I
found two of the wines very enjoyable. All the wines showed a significant oak imprint which may or may not be
to your taste. The wines are reasonably priced. Visit www.vineconnections.com for more information and
availability. The map below shows the location in Chile of the wines reviewed.
2010 Viña Aquitania Sol de Sol Traiguén (Malleco Valley) Chile Pinot Noir
12.5% alc. 300 cases, $35.
Vineyard planted by Felipe de Solminihac, the first person to plant a vineyard in Malleco Valley. He began with
Chardonnay in 1991 and added Pinot Noir 17 years ago. The winery’s Chardonnay is widely considered the
best produced in South America. Average age of Pinot Noir vines is 8 years. Aged 12 months in some new
French oak barrels.
Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Shy nose showing rustic aromas of tobaccolaced
oak and black cherries with slight reduction. The wine was decanted, but the nose still never came
around. Mid weight flavors of black cherry and smoky oak with a hint of citrus-driven acidity on the dry,
somewhat lengthy finish.
2010 Clos Des Fous Latuffa Traiguén (Malleco Valley) Chile Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., 250 cases (100 cases imported), $36. Malleco
Valley is cold and rainy, reminiscent of the climate in the Willamette
Valley. The soil is volcanic. Sourced from a vineyard which was an
old experimental vineyard planted by the government and neglected
until the Clos des Fous team started managing it. The Clos des Fous
team is Pedro Parra (a world renowned soil scientist), Francois Massoc (a
winemaker trained in Burgundy), Paco Leyton (vineyard manager), and Albert
Cussen (their mentor and backer).
Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the
glass. Nicely appointed nose with aromas of black cherry, black raspberry,
smoky oaky, and baking spices including clove. The discreetly concentrated flavors of darker stone fruits and
berries are intriguing. Hints of chocolate and spice add interest. Plenty of oak character is featured, but the
wine has good Pinotosity and admirable delicacy.
2011 Amayna Leyda San Antonio Valley Estate Bottled Chile Pinot Noir
500 cases, $35. Vinified by the Garces-Silva family whose
vineyards are just 6 miles from the Pacific Ocean. Vineyards were
planted in 1999 and 2000. The Garces-Silva family pioneered
boutique estate wines from Leyda. Leyda Valley is slightly warmer
than the coastal areas of Casablanca, but still possesses a cold
climate compared to the central valley zones of Chile. The name, Amayna,
loosely translates to the calm on the water or the calm before a storm and the
Garces-Silva family used this name because the vineyard reminded them of that
sensation and its proximity to the ocean. Aged in some new oak for 12 months.
Moderately dark reddish-purple hue in the glass. Inviting array of black fruit aromas on the nose with hints of
oak-driven coffee and roasted nuts. Very Caliesque in character with rich, sappy flavors of black raspberry,
purple plum and dark chocolate with a modest oak overlay. Very plush, lush and velvety on the palate with
strong finishing intensity. The wine is said to have a saline quality due to its proximity to the ocean, but I was
hard pressed to discover this because of the prodigious fruit. A bit decadent for my taste, but everyone needs a
little debauchery once in a while.
2012 Boya Leyda San Antonio Valley Chile Pinot Noir
13.0% alc., 1,500 cases, $22, screw cap. Also
produced by the Garces-Silva family but from sections of the vineyard that are harvested earlier. Average age
of vines is 4 years. Aged 6 months in third use French oak barrels.
Medium reddish-purple color in the glass.
Unpleasant aromas of stem, grass, and green pepper. On the palate, delicate red cherry and berry flavors are
featured underlain with a significant green herb and green bell pepper riff. Juicy, with nice balance and finesse,
but the unripe, vegetal flavors spoil the experience.
Wine vs. Beer Web journalist Alex Hillsberg sent me an interesting article containing relatively unknown
facts of interest to wine and beer enthusiasts: www.financesonline.com/beer-vs-wine/. Did you know that the
world’s second best selling wine brand in 2012 was China’s Great Wall, the third most popular wine sold in the
U.S. by the glass is Pinot Noir, and that the Czech Republic drinks the most beer in the world (the U.S. is #15
among worldwide countries)?
Glowing Reports on California’s 2013 Vintage Monterey County’s Arroyo Seco AVA has
wrapped up an ideal harvest that will go down as one of the region’s best. The growing season was dry and
mild which limited shatter and yields and provided even ripening. Cool weather in July and August led to extra
hang time and good acidity. There were no heat spikes during the growing season. It was a sleepless harvest
in the Russian River Valley as growers picked earlier than last year. The harvest was very rapid and
compressed with good tonnages that were held in checked by thinning. Cooler temperatures in August slowed
the pace of grape ripening, allowing more time for fruit to mature on the vines. September rains were
challenging, but overall grape quality, particularly for Pinot Noir and Zinfandel was outstanding.
Lane Tanner has New Wine Label Noted veteran Central Coast Pinot Noir vintner, Lane Tanner,
has a new wine label - Lumen - and a new partner - Will Henry. The inaugural wine is a Grenache crafted in
her inimitable Pinot Noir style. Visit www.lumenwines.com.
Sensorist Debuts New Instrument/Gadget for Wine Enthusiasts The system consists
of a gateway that is connected to your home network and from there to the internet, a wireless sensor and a
wine bottle probe. The probe is equipped with a cork so it can be inserted into a wine bottle filled with water
and placed where you store your wine. The probe will record the bottle temperature and humidity, enabling
one to see differences when the surrounding environment changes. The system is totally wireless and long
range so that you can monitor your wine if your are not at home or close to your wine both on the Sensorist
website and via an iPhone App. Sensorist monitors daily temperature variations, the humidity of the
environment you wine is stored in and alerts you if the cooling system is not operating at the desired
temperature. The system supports more than 200 sensors which you can buy anytime. A package for wine
enthusiasts consists of a gateway, 2 sensors and a wine bottle probe sells for around $180. Learn more by
Triple Creek Ranch Vintner Events Triple Creek Ranch in Darby, Montana, is a recipient of Travel-
Leisure magazine World’s Best Award and 2012 World’s Best Service Award. Five 4-day Vintner Events are
planned at Triple Creek Ranch for 2014 each featuring a different vintner: Merry Edwards, Ehren Jordan and
Anne-Marie Failla, Cyril and Blakesley Chappellet, Howard Mozeico and Jessica Mozeico-Blair of Et Fille, and
Lynn and Ron Penner-Ash. For information, visit www.triplecreekranch.com.
Marlborough Pinot Noir Rising Read the article by Curtis Marsh who joined a group of Marlborough
winegrowers and international wine writers for a trekking adventure with a 4WD coined “The Marlborough Pinot
Noir Safari,” The escapade took the group into the hills of the Awatere and Southern Valleys and through the
back country routes of Awatere, Brancott, Omaka and Waihopai valleys where they discovered the special sites
that are putting Marlborough Pinot Noir on the map. Visit www.thewanderingpalate.com/new-world-pinot-noir/
Scratch & Sniff Wine Guide Master Sommelier Richard Betts has written a humorous book that
removes wine pretentiousness and substitutes easily understood text, simple language and many explanatory
illustrations. There are sixteen scent stickers in the book that allow the reader to interact and smell different
elements in wine. A fold out aroma wheel breaks down wines by grape, region and style. An introductory but
comprehensive book primarily intended for novices although it can appeal to wine enthusiasts at all levels of
Recent Pinot Noir Tasting Revealed Preference for Less The St. Helena Star and Napa
Valley Vintners Tasting Panel reviewed 21 Napa Valley Pinot Noirs from the 2009 to 2012 vintages. As
reported in The Drinks Business at www.thedrinksbusiness.com, panelists wanted less extraction, alcohol and
oak flavors in Pinot Noir although Napa Valley producers seem to favor deeply colored, extracted and welloaked
styles. Three producers who make the preferred “less is more” style were Ceja, Sinskey and Saintsbury,
all located in the Carneros region where most of Napa Valley’s 3,000 acres of Pinot Noir are planted. Read the
entire article at www.thedrinksbusiness.com/2013/10/napas-less-is-more-pinot-noirs/.
Breathometer added to Smartphone-Based Breath Analyzer Offerings Originally
featured on the TV show Shark Tank, the Breathometer has now been put into production. Like competitors
Floome and Alcohoot, it plugs into a smartphone’s audio jack and connects to an App that can read blood
alcohol concentration when one breathes into the key-sized reader. The Breathometer is $50 (money well
spent) and is currently available for pre-order. It works with iOS devices that run iOS 7 and Android devices
running version 2.3 and above. Visit www.breathometer.com.
Short Film on Winemaker Matt Dees of Jonata A movie has been recently produced on Matt
Dees commenting about what it is to be a winemaker in California and his love affair with wine grapes. The
movie goes live on Monday, October 28, at www.cdsavoia.com/#/artists/matt-dees.
French Government Proposes Further Restrictions on Wine The latest online Wine
Spectator post (October 22), discusses a bill that the French Senate is considering that would increase the sin
taxes on wine and require wine labels to carry the statement, “Alcohol is dangerous to your health.” It is
already forbidden in France for journalists to praise a wine too much and the new bill would have extended that
restriction to Facebook or Twitter (this part of the bill was later removed). The bill is being supported by the
National Association for the Prevention of Alcoholism and Addiction and opposed by French vignerons.
2013 Sonoma County Harvest Fair Wine Awards
- Pinot Noir Retail Price up to $24.99 (20 entries): Best of Class - 2012 Shiloh Road Sonoma County $17.95;
Double Gold - 2012 Sebastiani Sonoma Coast $19.00; Gold - 2012 Folie a Deux Sonoma County $20.00,
2009 Karah Estate Vineyard Sonoma Coast $16.00, 2011 MacMurray Ranch Russian River Valley $24.00,
2012 Main & Geary Sonoma Coast $24.95, and 2012 Shiloh Road.
- Pinot Noir Retail Prince $25 to $39.99 (52 entries): Best of Class - 2011 Sequana Russian River Valley
$38.00; Gold - 2009 Bennett Valley Cellars Bennett Valley $38.00, 2011 Elipsis Wine Company DLM Vineyard
“Tina’s Block” $34.99, 2012 Hook & Ladder “Third Alarm” Russian River Valley Estate Reserve $35.00, 2010
Roth Estate Sonoma Coast $28.00, and 2011 Sequana.
- Pinot Noir Retail Price $40 and Over (63 entries): Best of Class - 2011 Davis Bynum Winery Jane’s Vineyard
Russian River Valley $40.00; Double Gold - 2010 B.R. Cohn Russian River Valley $40.00, 2011 Matrix
Buoncristiani Vineyard Reserve Russian River Valley $48, 2011 TR Elliott Russian River Valley $44.00; Gold -
2012 Balletto BCD Vineyard Russian River Valley Estate $42.00, 2012 Balletto Sexton Hill Vineyard Russian
River Valley $42.00, 2011 Benziger Family de Coelo Quintus Sonoma Coast $75.00, 2011 Davis Family
Vineyards Russian River Valley $45.00, 2011 Davis Family Vineyards Starr Ridge Russian River Valley $50.00,
2011 Davis Family Vineyards Soul Patch Russian River Valley $50.00, 2010 DeLoach Vineyards Green Valley
$45.00, 2010 DeLoach Vineyards Van Der Kamp Russian River Valley $48.00, 2010 En Garde Russian River
Valley Reserve $58.00, 2011 Matrix Nunes Vineyard Russian River Valley $42.00, 2011 Matrix Nunes Vineyard
Reserve $56.00, 2009 Richard Berridge Sonoma Mountain $45.00, 2010 Rodney Strong Vineyards Russian
River Valley Reserve $40.00, 2010 Thirty-Seven Sonoma Coast $40.00, 2011 Willowbrook Russian River
Valley Estate $42.00, and 2010 Woodenhead Russian River Valley $52.00.
CPR Enlivens Pinot Noir I reported in Pinot Briefs in August (www.princeofpinot.com/article/1404/)
that the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture has found that Pinot Noir wines that are microwaved and then
fermented without skin contact resulted in wines that had high levels of aromas compounds that are
responsible for cherry and chocolate aromas in wine. The process, called “controlled phenolic release,” or
CPR, uses microwaves to extract grape skins and juice, decreasing the traditional maceration process. The
longer the microwave exposure, the more depth of color and tannin level is achieved. In essence, CPR
produces a more efficient release of tannins, phenolics and anthocyanins that maceration and there may be
less chance of extracting harsh tannins. CPR also sanitizes the must, removing background yeast and
bacteria. A recent post online from the Wine Spectator (October 23, 2013), offered more details on this new
technology. Visit www.winespectator.com/webfeature/show/id/49105. As this article points out, there is still
considerable work to be done and it is not clear what the impact will be on flavor.