PinotFile: 9.6 April 18, 2012
- The Holy Trinity of Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
- Rosella's, Garys & Pisoni Comparative Tasting
- PinotFile Reader C.J. Newton “Uncorks”
- Pinot Briefs
- Latest Winegasm
The Holy Trinity of Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
The name Pisoni is synonymous with Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir and the three Santa Lucia Highlands
vineyards that the Pisoni family farms including Pisoni Vineyard, Garys’ Vineyard, and Rosella’s Vineyard (the
latter two in partnership with Gary Franscioni) have become the Holy Trinity of Pinot Noir vineyards in this
region. Like the Trinity doctrine, these three vineyards yield Pinot Noir that is often thought of as one whole,
but the vineyards are clearly distinct from one another. Think of them as the Father (Pisoni Vineyard), the Son
(Garys’ Vineyard) and the Holy Spirit (Rosella’s Vineyard). The Christian analogy may be a bit far-fetched, but
if you are a lover of Pinot Noir, you know that wines from these vineyards can be a revelation.
After years of tasting Pinot Noir from these three vineyards, I decided to try to define each vineyard’s distinct
character using representative wines from the 2009 vintage. I have acquired a good idea of the differences in
the Pinot Noirs from these three sites, but had never sampled a large number of wines side-by-side at one
sitting. I gathered winemakers Jeff Pisoni (Pisoni, Lucia) and Jeff Fink (Tantara), and some of my wine loving
friends together one day in February 2012, at the Pacific Club in Newport Beach, California, and the following
report details the group’s consensus after the tasting. Before presenting the tasting notes and the group’s
general impressions, some background is in order.
Monterey County is a very large wine region with 42,000 acres planted, only slightly less vineyard acreage than
Napa Valley’s 43,000 acres. 75% of Monterey County grapes are sent out of the county to be incorporated into
wines from Napa and Sonoma counties that often state the wine origin as “California” on the label. This trend
is slowly changing as Monterey County gains more cachet among consumers, and leading this charge is the
Santa Lucia Highlands, an appellation within the larger Monterey County appellation, where more grower-producers
have emerged. The Santa Lucia Highlands takes its name from the Santa Lucia Mountains which
stretch more than 100 miles from Monterey south to San Luis Obispo.
Pinot Noir thrives in the northern parts of Monterey County including the Carmel Valley, Chalone, Arroyo Seco
and Santa Lucia Highlands appellations. The plum of Monterey County is the Santa Lucia Highlands, which
sits directly west of the low-lying vegetable growing plains of the Salinas Valley. The maritime climate resulting
from the nearby Monterey Bay is well suited for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, which together represent 78% of
the Santa Lucia Highlands appellation’s approximate 6,100 acres of plantings. Pinot Noir accounts for about
47 percent of vineyard acreage (2,800 acres) in the Santa Lucia Highlands. Pinot Noir from the Santa Lucia
Highlands is both appellation and vineyard designated.
Winegrower Gary Pisoni is the ambassador for the Santa Lucia Highlands and for good reason. Not only is he
a colorful character, his Pisoni Vineyard was the first to bring notoriety to the region. He comes from a
generation of farmers who tended row crops in the Salinas Valley long before he was born. Gary enjoyed
drinking and collecting French wines, especially those from Bordeaux, during his college days at San Jose
State. When he graduated, he was eager to find a way into the wine business. When he told his father, Eddie
Pisoni, he wanted to plant grapevines on the family cattle ranch in the Santa Lucia Highlands, he was met with
several objections, not the least of which was the cost. Gary countered to his father, “Have you ever been to a
$250 lettuce tasting?” Gary’s father relented and a legendary vineyard was born in 1982.
Gary planted his vines in virgin decomposed granite, gravelly loam soil at 1,300 feet above the Salinas Valley
at the southern end of the Santa Lucia Highlands appellation. The ranch land had been acquired by Eddie and
his spouse Jane in 1979, a 280-acre plot in a region the Spaniards called Eternidad Pariso. The region is very
dry (12 to 18 inches of rainfall per year), and it was a challenge to find water. Gary had to dig five wells before
discovering a water source in 1991. The previous ten years, he had trucked in water from the valley floor for
irrigation. The original 5 acres of vines have been rumored to be Samsonite cuttings from a famous domaine in
Vosne-Romanee (? La Tache), and are now called the Pisoni clone or selection. Dijon clones 828, 777 and
115 were added to Pisoni Vineyard over time.
In the mid 1990s, Gary teamed with boyhood friend, Gary Franscioni, a lifelong resident of Gonzales in the
Salinas Valley who has been farming crops in the region since graduating from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. The
pair were born but five weeks apart and shared toy tractors as toddlers. Together, they planted and now farm
Garys’ Vineyard, Rosella’s Vineyard, and the newest vineyard, Soberanes, which was established in 2006 and
is adjacent Garys’ Vineyard. Gary Franscioni also has a new Santa Lucia Highlands vineyard that was planted
in 2007-2008, Sierra Mar, one of the highest altitude vineyards in the Santa Lucia Highlands. Gary Franscioni
also has his own wine label, Roar, in partnership with winemaker Ed Kurtzman.
Gary Pisoni’s son, Mark, who has a B.S. degree in Agricultural Economics from University of Calfornia at Davis
and a Master’s Degree in Farm Business Management from Cornell University, now directs the farming of
Pisoni Vineyard as well as the Pisoni vegetable growing operation which dates to 1946. Mark presides over
the same 15-person crew that has hand-tended the vines at Pisoni Vineyard for over ten years. He also manages Garys’ and Soberanes vineyards in conjunction with Gary Franscioni. All three vineyards that Mark
farms are SIP (Sustainability in Practice) certified by the Central Coast Vineyard Team.
A second son, Jeff, is a graduate of California State University Fresno in enology, and took over the winemaker
duties for the Pisoni family labels, Pisoni and Lucia, in 2002. Jeff and Mark created the Pisoni label, releasing
the first estate Pinot Noir in 1998. The second label, Lucia, debuted in 2000. The photo below shows the
Pisoni clan taken for their 2012 calender.
The success of the Santa Lucia Highlands winegrowing region is a result of three weather related factors that
lead to proper ripening of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Nearly every day in the summer, fog from the Monterey
Bay rolls in and blankets the entire Salinas Valley and Santa Lucia Highlands. The fog stays until late morning
and returns late in the day. Monterey Bay acts like a large funnel for the prevailing winds off the Pacific Ocean
and by mid afternoon there are strong winds rushing down the Salinas Valley, cooling the vines. The winds not
only cool, they dry the clusters and help to reduce disease pressure. Bright, mild sunshine appears in the late
morning and because the entire appellation faces towards the East, the vineyards are bathed in this gentle
sun. Hot afternoon sun is largely avoided due to the protection afforded by the Santa Lucia Mountain range
which blocks the setting sun. This geography in combination with the fog and cooling winds means that
temperatures rarely exceed 90ºF. Daily afternoon temperatures are lower on the northern end of the
appellation, and slightly warmer on the southern end. Diurnal swings in temperature are more extreme for
vineyards at higher elevations.
The two photos below are views of the Santa Lucia Highlands. The upper photo shows a dense blanket of fog
in the evening. The lower photo was taken at noon and shows how the fog has receded.
The vineyards in the Santa Lucia Highlands are planted on the southeastern slopes of the highlands
overlooking the Salinas Valley. The vineyards are highly visible as one drives along Highway 101 south of
Salinas. A vineyard map of the appellation follows the vineyard profiles.
Initial planting date: 1996; planted over 7 years (1996-2003).
Soil: Deep Arroyo Seco sandy loam.
Varieties: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Syrah.
Pinot Noir clones: 667, 777, Pisoni, Pommard, 828. VSP Unilateral trellising.
Chardonnay clones: 76, 95, 96.
Spacing 5’ x 8’.
Owners: Gary and Rosella Franscioni who live at the vineyard with sons Adam and Nick, Gary Pisoni, August
Wineries sourcing fruit: A.P. Vin, August West, Kosta Browne, Loring Wine Co., Miner, Morgan, Pelerin, Roar,
Siduri, Testarossa, Vision Cellars.
Initial planting date: 1997.
Soil: Arroyo Seco sandy loam with sub surface rock in certain sections. Rocky soils contribute more acidity
which dictates picking beyond 24º Brix.
Varieties: Pinot Noir, Syrah. North-south configuration.
Pinot Noir clones: Pisoni, Swan. VSP Bilateral trellising.
Spacing 5’ x 8’, 6’ x 8’.
Owners: Gary Pisoni, Gary Franscioni.
Wineries sourcing fruit: A.P. Vin, Capiaux, Kosta Browne, Lucia, Loring Wine Co., Miner, Morgan, Miura,
Roar, Siduri, Surh Luchtel, Tantara, Truckee River, Vision Cellars.
Initial planting date: 1982.
Acres: 45, 11 individual blocks curve to the contours of the mountain.
Elevation: 1,300’. Much higher than a majority of vineyards in the AVA; more protected from fog and winds.
Occasionally above the fog line entirely. A wilderness area teaming with mountain lions, coyotes, wild
pigs, rabbits, gophers, rattlesnakes and birds.
Soil: Decomposed granite, gravelly loam. Very lean soil and vines struggle to reach full canopy size.
Varieties: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Syrah.
Pinot Noir clones, Pisoni, 828, 777, 115; VSP Unilateral trellising.
Spacing: 6’ x 10’, 5’ x 8’, 4’ x 6’.
Owners: Pisoni family.
Wineries sourcing fruit: Arcadian, Bernardus, Capiaux, Kosta Browne, Miura, Patz & Hall, Paul Lato, Peter
Michael, Roar, Siduri, Tantara, Testarossa.
A vineyard map of the Santa Lucia Highlands is below. To view a larger image of this map, visit
www.santaluciahighlands.com and go to the Trade & Press section. Zoom to actual size for best visibility.
Pisoni Vineyard is on the far left (south), with Garys’ Vineyard and Rosella’s Vineyard in the more northerly part
of the highlands at less elevation.
Rosella's, Garys & Pisoni Comparative Tasting
Wineries which source fruit from these vineyards specify individual farming preferences and the timing of
picking, so each winery’s fruit from the same vineyard is not identical. In addition, age of vines, clonal mix,
soils and microclimate will vary. Throw in the wide range of winemaking practices, and there is a range of
character and styles shown by the Pinot Noirs produced from any one of these vineyards. That said, our group
found a clear difference in the wines from each vineyard in 2009 regardless of the producer, and valuable
generalities can be made. I believe that the reader will gain enough knowledge to understand differences in
bottles of Pinot Noir from each of these three Santa Lucia Highlands vineyards and thereby make appropriate
buying decisions. The emphasis in this tasting was not on judging the wines as to comparative preferences
and quality, but on finding differences in wine characteristics such as color, fruit type, aromas and flavors (other
than oak), acidity, tannins, and finish. In other words, discovering terroir-based features.
The wines were all tasted single blind except a couple of wines I tasted at home after the event and these
tasting notes are so designated. All wines were properly stored after winery or retail purchase and tasted in
appropriate Burgundy stemware over the course of a few hours in the late morning, initially without, and later
with, appropriate food. All wines were opened and poured about an hour before the tasting to permit the wines
adequate exposure to air.
As a side note, it was impressive, but not unexpected, that both Jeffs were able identify their own Pinot Noirs at
the conclusion of the blind tasting.
2009 ROAR Rosella’s Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir Moderately light in color. Demure red
fruits and dried herbs on the nose. Lighter weight red and blue fruits on the palate with mild, fine tannins, good
acidity, and a touch of heat on the finish.
2009 Miner Family Winery Rosella’s Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir Lightest and reddest
color in the lineup. Aromas of slightly confected cherries and oak spice. Delicate in weight, with discrete
flavors of red cherries and berries, and oak-driven herbs and spice including cinnamon. Soft tannins, bright
2009 August West Rosella’s Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
Moderately light reddish-purple color. Shy aromas of purple fruits with a touch
of oak and cut flowers. Medium weight flavors of dark red and purple fruits
offering an appealing lusciousness on the palate augmented by soft, fine-grain
tannins and good acidity.
2009 A.P. Vin Rosella’s Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
Moderately light in color. More savory and woodsy on the nose with bright red
cherry and red berry fruit aromas. The most extracted wine with substantial
plush red fruits wrapped in soft tannins and accented by oak spice.
2009 Loring Wine Co. Rosella’s Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir Darkest color in the lineup.
Very ripe fruited, almost pruney on the nose. Dark, ripe stone fruits with a healthy tannic backbone. Difficult to
discover terroir-based features in this wine.
2009 Kosta Browne Rosella’s Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
Slightly confected dark red cherries and berries with a floral note. Moderately
rich with layers of red fruits, picking up interest and intensity over time in the
glass, offering a lengthy finish highlighted by oak spice.
2009 ROAR Garys’ Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir Moderate
reddish-purple color. Aromatic with scents of fresh cherries and dried herbs.
Middleweight flavors of juicy black cherries with a hint of savory herbs.
Delicious and beautifully balanced with supple tannins and good acidity.
2009 Tantara Garys’ Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir Moderate
reddish-purple color. Aromas of black cherries, dried rose petals and crusty
brioche. Delicious black raspberry and black cherry core wrapped in silky
tannins, and displaying bright acidity on the long finish. Also exceptional.
2009 Testarossa Garys’ Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
Moderate reddish-purple color. Very fragrant with aromas of dark red cherries
and currants. Well-endowed with the essence of black cherries and good
integration of oak. Nicely crafted, with mild tannins and lively acidity on the
2009 Lucia Garys’ Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir Darkest in
color of the lineup. Layers of darker red and purple fruits on the nose with a
subtle note of oak. Delicious, slightly sweet, with a healthy tannic backbone.
More extraction and structure than the other wines in the lineup, but not in a
negative way. Exceptional.
2009 Capiaux Garys’ Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir Moderate reddish-purple color. The nose
offers black fruits with prominent oak and coffee notes. Luscious black plum core with balanced tannins, a
velvety texture and long fruit-driven finish.
2009 Morgan Garys’ Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir Medium reddish-purple color. Riper, deep
red fruit profile with a savory herbal underpinning on the nose and palate. Pushes the ripeness envelope.
Moderate tannins and soft in the mouth.
2009 Miner Garys’ Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir Light reddish-purple
color in the glass. Aromas of strawberries, herb garden, sandalwood and
baking spice. A lighter-styled wine with a core of red cherries and strawberries,
accompanied by hints of red licorice and herbs. Very supple tannins, with
appealing finesse and charm. Exceptional, and very distinct in style from other
more fruit-driven wines in this flight. (Tasted separately)
2009 Kosta Browne Garys’ Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir Medium reddish-purple color in the
glass. The nose and palate is flush with very ripe plum and blackberry fruit. Moderately full-bodied with ripe,
firm tannins and impressive length on the fruit-driven finish. The soft texture is appealing. Picks up interest
over time in the glass. (Tasted separately)
2009 Peter Michael Le Moulin Rouge Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
Dark reddish-purple color. Huge nose with penetrating aromas of black berries
with a hint of vanilla. Lip-smacking core of slightly sweet black and purple fruits.
Almost syrupy with velvety tannins and impressive persistence on the finish
which reveals a bit of heat. Very hedonistic and hard to ignore. The most
approachable Pisoni Vineyard Pinot Noir in the lineup. Exceptional.
2009 Tantara Pisoni Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir Deep, dark reddish-purple color.
Brooding initially, opening up nicely over time in the glass. Copious aromas of dark red and black stone fruits
with a hint of green herbs. Relatively closed on the palate, but offering a glimpse of dense, perfectly ripe fruit
wrapped in soft tannins and augmented by oak.
2009 Siduri Pisoni Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir Dark reddish-purple color. The fruit takes a
back seat to oak at this stage. Still earthy, raw and rugged, but showing enough gorgeous black fruit and lively
acidity to indicate huge upside potential. Needs a few years in bottle to shed its tannins.
2009 Capiaux Pisoni Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir Deep, dark reddish-purple color. The
nose is marked by strong reduction which never fully resolves during the tasting. Rugged and tannic with shy
black fruit at this stage. Challenging to evaluate.
2009 Paul Lato “Lancelot” Pisoni Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot
Noir Moderately dark reddish-purple color. Very appealing aromas of black
raspberry jam and Hoison sauce. Delicious core of well-ripened black fruits with
nicely proportioned tannins and enough acidity to bring the fruit to life.
Unbelievably long finish. Exceptional.
2009 Pisoni Pisoni Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir Very dark
reddish-purple color in the glass. The nose is wild and savory, with hi-tone dark
red and black cherries and berries with notes of dried herbs and mushrooms.
The massive fruit core is buried in tannins and oak at this stage. The fruit
becomes more expressive very slowly over time in the glass. The wine is much
more accommodating with food.
Terroir-Based Features of the Three Vineyards
Color: lighter, more red tones.
Structure: lighter weight, more elegant, more feminine.
Texture: silky to velvety.
Tannins: mild to moderate.
Aromas: fruit, dried herbs, flowers, spice.
Flavors: redder fruits of relatively mild intensity, herbs, spice.
Comment: The wines showed more inconsistency and as a whole, were slightly less appealing and interesting than
the wines from the other two vineyards. There were no exceptional Rosella's Vineyard wines in this vintage among the
Color: medium reddish-purple; intermediate between Rosella’s and Garys’ vineyards.
Structure: middleweight to full-bodied.
Texture: juicy, silky.
Acidity: plenty of acidity but doesn’t stand out.
Tannins: moderate but refined.
Aromas: dark red to black fruits, more fruity than floral, most expressive aromatics.
Flavors: dark red to black fruits, moderately intense and layered, complex.
Comment: The Garys‘ Vineyard wines were more interesting, and practically every wine, regardless of
producer, was of high quality (consistency). The wines exhibit vibrancy and energy attributable to
acidity. The challenge at this vineyard is that as sugars climb, acidity stalls, but this can usually be dealt
with and probably is a “good thing.”
Color: deeper, darker reddish-purple to almost black.
Structure: dense, thick, big, rugged.
Texture: dense, grainy.
Tannins: most tannin.
Aromas: slowest to evolve aromatically; black stone fruits and berries, brambly.
Flavors: dark red and black fruit and plenty of it but not jammy; earthy, savory.
Comment: The Pisoni site is distinct from the two other vineyards which are at a lower elevation and relatively
close to each other. The Pisoni Vineyard is more gravelly, with less wind exposure and therefore
warmer. Tannin levels were very high in 2009. The taster must work harder to appreciate the wines.
The wines are not especially expressive early and should be given time to age. Highly enjoyable with
foods that mute the tannins (ie cheese or protein like steak).
PinotFile Reader C.J. Newton “Uncorks”
C.J. Newton recently sent me a song written about Pinot Noir and I have included both the poem and the story
behind it in the writer’s own words.
C.J. Newton is a writer living in Petaluma, California, who loves Pinot Noir and speaking French. Author of the
novel Costa Azul, he contributed “Serendipity and the Writer” to The Writer magazine and won a prize in the
Shasta Poetry Festival of 2003. His other novels include Horse of the Emerald Isle, retelling the King of Arthur
legend from the viewpoint of an Irish horse.
A childhood visit to Montreal set in motion his study of French starting in the seventh grade. Moving to San
Francisco by age 21, he began his discovery of wine tasting. Travel to Paris acquainted C.J. with Muscadet,
Côtes de Rhone, and Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Residence in New Orleans completed his personal French
tricolor of France-Quebec-Louisiana which gives the Gallic inspiration to his musical and literary compositions.
In 2007, after Hurricane Katrina, C.J. went to New Orleans as a voluntourist. His first assignment was to
march in a French Quarter neighborhood parade on Bastille Day with a blue balloon. Prowling the Quarter, he
was inspired to write a screenplay called Batting Second, about “New Orleans, Baseball, Love and Ghosts.”
Frequent crossing Toulouse Street, he gave the main character, a left-handed screwball pitcher, the name
Screw Loose Toulouse.
Screw Loose finds help turning around his team, the Orleans Blue Sox, by listening to a baseball playermanager
ghost from the 1930s. On his visits back in time, he falls in love with a woman from the past named
Elizabeth Delacroix, a love that can never be. But they enjoy a romantic date and hear a song in a cabaret
sung by a chanteuse in French and English: “Pinot Noir.”
C.J. actually wrote that song as a contribution to the Pinot Noir Festival of 2008 hosted by retailer Vine and
Barrel in Petaluma. “It came to me in French first,” he says, “And then I translated back into English.” He
laughs, “Since I’m a screenwriter, I can write one of my own songs into the script. Why not?”
New Orleans continues to inspire him. In 2011, a stay on Orleans Street produced the song “Bonsoir Mon
Rêve. Bonsoir Ma Merveille.” In 2010, C.J. ran with the “NOLA Bulls (www.nolabulls.com), which is an annual
recreation of the Pamplona event. The organizer can’t use real bulls, so they use the next best thing: roller
derby girls wearing horned helmets, armed with plastic bats. Sporting red beret, sash, white shirt and pants,
C.J. made it a few blocks but was cut down before Canal Street, bored by a roller girl named Boom.
In Petaluma his favorite places to enjoy wine are the Vine and Barrel and La Dolce Vita Wine Lounge. He likes
the rustic country French atmosphere of the Vine and Barrel, and the glamorous romantic lighting in La Dolca
He concludes, “Baseball and wine are similar, they exude lore. You remember the place and time you try an
appellation the first time, like a ballplayer’s first at bat. Wine connects you with history, including your own life
story.” To view free links to all of C.J.’s works, visit www.BattingSecond.Wordpress.com.
When you read the song, imagine someone in a cabaret, accompanied by an accordion, singing it in a style
like Maurice Chevalier. The song is included in a screenplay registered with the Writer’s Guild in Los Angeles
called, “Batting Second, A Story of Baseball, New Orleans, Love & Ghosts, Featuring Screw Loose Toulouse.”
Winemaker Theresa Heredia Joins Gary Farrell Winery Theresa Heredia, the long time
winemaker at Freestone Vineyards, brought considerable critical acclaim to Freestone Vineyards Pinot Noirs
and Chardonnays. She made the first vintage of Freestone wines in 2002 when Freestone Vineyards was still
an experimental project at Joseph Phelps and later moved to the Sonoma Coast to open the new Freestone
Vineyards winery in 2007. Theresa has experience in Burgundy where she worked at Domaine de Montille and
trained with renowned winemaker Craig Williams at Joseph Phelps Vineyards in the Napa Valley after starting
her career as an enologist for Saintsbury. Theresa replaces Susan Reed as winemaker for Gary Farrell Winery
which was founded by Gary Farrell in 1982. Today, Gary Farrell Winery is owned by The Vincraft Group, a fine
wine investment company run by wine industry veterans Pete Scott, Walt Klenz and Bill Price. I was very
impressed by the wines Theresa crafted at Freestone Vineyards and I anticipate her success will continue.
Additional information on the winery is available at www.garyfarrellwinery.com.
Monterey Wine Festival Celebrates 36 Years Now in its 36th year, the Monterey Wine Festival
has new additions to its program. Held at the Custom House Plaza in Monterey, CA., the festival kicks off on
Friday, June 8, 2012, with a tasting of wines, spirits and beers along with seafood from the Central Bering Sea
Fisherman’s Association, arrays of cheeses, and charcuterie. On Saturday, June 9, 2012, the celebration
continues with The Bartenders Fedora Professional Cocktail Competition Throw Down and more wineries will
be pouring along with artisan foods and live music. The finale is a Chowdah Throw Down known as The West
Coast Chowder Competition, now in its third year. Chefs from Seattle, San Francisco, Portland and other
known chowder destinations will compete against Monterey’s local titans of chowder. Wines that pair with
chowders will be offered. Pinot Noir winery participants include Alexander Valley Vineyards, Calcareous, Clos
La Chance, Irony, Lockwood Vineyard, Michaud Vineyard, Opolo Vineyards, and Summerland Winery. For
more information and tickets, visit www.montereywine.com. Check out Facebook pages: Monterey Wine
Festival Company and West Coast Chowder Competition.
Twomey Cellars Release Day Party The annual event will be held Saturday, April 28, 2012, at both
Healdsburg and Calistoga facilities. The 2010 Russian River Valley, Sonoma Coast, and Anderson Valley Pinot
Noirs and 2011 Sauvignon Blanc will be released. The wines will be matched to wood fired oven pizza by the
winery’s in house chefs. Cost is $25. The 2009 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir was named “Runner Up” out
of 60 Pinot Noirs entered in the recent Pigs & Pinot Pinot Cup blind tasting competition held in Healdsburg.
Contact www.twomeycellars.com for tickets.
Arista Winery Buys Famed Martinelli Road Vineyard The McWilliams family has announced
that Arista Winery has acquired the historic 74-acre Martinelli Road Vineyard near Forestville in the Russian
River Valley. The acquisition adds to the winery’s existing 36-acre Westside Road Estate. The Martinelli Road
Vineyard is planted to 5 acres of 130-year-old Zinfandel vines, 10 acres of 30+-year-old Chardonnay vines, and
3 acres of 20+-year-old Pinot Noir vines. The site lies in the Green Valley of Russian River Valley. Ulises
Valdez oversees the day-to-day vineyard operations. Arista will begin producing estate-designated Zinfandel,
Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from the Martinelli Road Vineyard beginning with the 2012 harvest. Visit the
website at www.aristawinery.com for pictures and more information.
Scott Paul Releases 2010 Audrey Pinot Noir Much of this iconic wine was sold as futures, but
the winery still has about 60 cases available for purchase now. A Release Party will be held in Scott Paul’s
Tasting Room in Carlton on Saturday, April 21, 2012. Audrey is the winery’s selection of the best-of-the-best
each year, the favorite seven barrels of the vintage. Audrey is named after and inspired by the timeless icon of
natural beauty, elegance, and grace - the late Ms. Hepburn. This is consistently one of Oregon’s most sought after
and highest scoring wines every year since its debut. The 2010 Audrey is entirely from old vine vineyards
in the Dundee Hills: 6 barrels from Maresh Vineyard and 1 barrel from Nysa Vineyard. The wine was
fermented in a custom-made Taransaud French Oak open top tank, and no yeasts or other additions were
made. The wine was aged in French oak for 11 months (two new oak barrels) and bottled unfined and
unfiltered at 13.1% alcohol on September 7, 2011. Price is $69 (5% discount for 6). Scott Paul is the only
winery in the states also offering a full line of imported red and white Burgundies for sale. To purchase, visit
Talbott Vineyards Wins Charlie Palmer’s Pigs & Pinot Ultimate Pinot Smackdown
16 of the world’s best Pinot Noirs were entered into this smackdown held March 24, 2012, at Charlie Palmer’s
Seventh Annual Pigs & Pinot Celebration. The 2012 Smackdown was hosted by master sommeliers Keith
Goldston, Fred Dame, Drew Hendricks and William Sherer, with each selecting four of their favorite Pinot Noirs
from around the globe for the competition. The 2009 Talbott Cuvée RFT Diamond T Vineyard Pinot Noir was
entered by Fred Dame, and survived four rounds of head-to-head, audience-judged tastings, beating out the
other 15 entrants. The wine was crafted by winemaker Dan Karlsen, a Pinot Noir and Chardonnay specialist
with over 30 years of winemaking experience. Like all the Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays in the Talbott portfolio
(Talbott, Logan and Kali Hart labels), the Talbott Cuvée RFT Pinot Noir was made exclusively from Talbott’s
estate grapes. Talbott Vineyards was established in 1982, when founder Robb Talbott planted the Diamond T
Vineyard in Monterey. The Talbott Vineyards estate program also includes the framed Sleepy Hollow Vineyard
in the Santa Lucia Highlands. For more information, visit www.talbottvineyards.com.
Anderson Valley Winegrowers Host 15th Annual Pinot Noir Festival Tickets are now
on sale for the Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival to be held May 18-20, 2012. Friday’s day-long Technical
Conference is aimed at members of the trade and avid Pinot Noir consumers. The Conference will include a
Boonville versus “Deep-End” Pinot Noir tasting moderated by Rajat Parr of the Michael Mina Group, a Cerise
Vineyard focus tasting, and more. The Technical Conference will be followed by an outdoor barbecue at
Husch Vineyards accompanied by plenty of Pinot Noir. The Grand Tasting at Goldeneye Winery in Philo on
Saturday will highlight 40 producers pouring Anderson Valley Pinot Noir. Pinot Noirs will be paired with classic
Mexican dishes like fig mole chicken and a group of local women will be making fresh salsas and tortillas
during the event. There will also be live music and a silent auction to benefit the Anderson Valley Health
Center and Hendy Woods State Park. The list of participating wineries is impressive including a number of my
favorites such as Balo Vineyards, Baxter Winery, Black Kite Cellars, Champ de Reves, Claudia Springs,
Copain Wines, Couloir Wines, Drew Family Wines, Elke Vineyards, Esterlina Vineyards, Foursight Wines,
Fulcrum Wines, Goldeneye Winery, Greenwood Ridge Vineyards, Handley Cellars, Harmonique Wines, Husch
Vineyards, Littorai, Londer Vineyards, MacPhail Family Wines, Maggy Hawk Vineyard, Navarro Vineyards, and
Twomey Cellars. On Saturday evening, local wineries will host four winemaker dinners in Anderson Valley and
on the Mendocino Coast. The weekend will conclude on Sunday with open houses at Anderson Valley
wineries, many of which are not open to the public. For additional information and tickets, visit
www.avwines.com. This event sells out every year: you have been warned not to procrastinate!
Storyteller Wine Company Michael Alberty is the owner of this small wine retailer in Portland,
Oregon. What sets this store apart is the small production wines that Michael carefully and personally selects.
He sends out an online newsletter that relates a colorful story about the wines offered and is a compelling read
for wine enthusiasts. Be careful, however, as Michael is a convincing wine pimp with a way with words, and
after reading the newsletter, you are at risk of developing a strong urge to purchase the featured wine(s) by the
case. If you happen to live in Portland, regular wine tastings are also offered with wines from all over the world
as well as Oregon. One thing is for certain: Michael only recommends wines that he himself would be happy to
drink. Sign up for the newsletter at www.storytellerwine.com.
Wine & Spirits 23rd Annual Restaurant Poll The list of restaurant’s top 50 wineries was
compiled by asking restaurateurs to list the ten wines that sold best during the last three months of 2011. The
top four were Cakebread Cellars, Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyards, Jordan Vineyard & Winery, and Duckhorn
Vineyards. The top Pinot Noir producer was Belle Glos which shot from #50 last year to #15 this year. Other
Pinot Noir wineries making the list were Emeritus Winery (#22), Flowers Winery (#23), Merry Edwards (#24),
Adelsheim Vineyard (#28), Au Bon Climat (#32), Patz & Hall (#41), Westrey (#48), Fess Parker (#49), and
Kistler Vineyards (#50). Top Pinot Noirs served by the glass were Hahn Monterey Pinot Noir (#3), Belle Glos
Meiomi Pinot Noir (#8), Copain Tours Ensemble Anderson Valley Pinot Noir (#9), A to Z Oregon Pinot Noir
(#12), Evening Land Vineyards Oregon Pinot Noir (#17), and Ken Wright Cellars Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
(#23). Pinot Noir remains very popular in restaurants and only Cabernet Sauvignon outsells it. The ten most
popular Pinot Noirs include Belle Glos Meiomi Sonoma Coast and Santa Maria Valley Clark & Telephone (#1),
La Crema Sonoma Coast, Emeritus Russian River Valley, Evening Land Vineyards Willamette Valley Blue
Label and Eola-Amity Hills Seven Springs Vineyard, Ponzi Vineyards Willamette Valley Tavola and Willamette
Valley, Four Graces Willamette Valley, Westrey Willamette Valley and Dundee Hills Oracle Vineyard, Domaine
Serene Evenstad Reserve and Yamhill Cuvee, Adelsheim Vineyard Willamette Valley, and Domaine Drouhin
Willamette Valley. It is interesting that of the 23 most popular restaurant Pinot Noirs, 15 came from Oregon, a
significant disproportion in light of the large disparity in number of Pinot Noir producers between Oregon and
California. To view the entire report, visit www.wineandspiritsmagazine. I believe Wine & Spirits consistently
offers very credible, coherent, well-researched and relevant wine articles that are among the best currently
offered by wine magazine publishers.
Decanter Weighs in on Pinot Noir The latest issue of Decanter is devoted largely to Pinot Noir.
Benjamin Lewin MW, the author ofIn Search of Pinot Noir, listed 12 Pinot Noirs to challenge Burgundy. The
list included Calera Jensen Vineyard, Williams Selyem Rochioli Riverblock, and Domaine Drouhin Cuvée
Laurène from the United States. Linda Murphy writes on the wonderful 2009 vintage California Pinot Noirs,
naming wines from Williams Selyem, Copain, Kutch Wines, Dutton-Goldfield, Littorai, La Crema, La Follette,
Sebastiani, Kenwood Vineyards, Cuvaison, Saintsbury, Frank Family Vineyards, DeLoach, Mount Eden
Vineyards, Morgan Vineyards, Sequana, Calera, Alta Maria Vineyards, Brewer-Clifton, and Melville Vineyards.
No surprises there. The issue includes a very good profile of Domaine Dujac. Visit www.decanter.com.
The Finest Wines of Burgundy This new book by Bill Nanson is published by the acclaimed
quarterly magazine The World of Fine Wine. Nanson is a highly respected independent commentator on
Burgundy who publishes the Burgundy-Report online (www.burgundy-report.com). The book profiles 90 of the
most notable Cote d’Or producers and their wines, including relatively unknown producers as well as
established stars. To order, visit www.ucpress.edu or www.amazon.com.
Pinot Noir Glasses Evaluated The latest issue of The World of Fine Wine features an article titled,
“Pinot Noir Glasses A Rounder Whole.” Andrew Jefford reports on a tasting of five different wines using 16
different stems designed for Pinot Noir. Each of the three tasters had individual preferences with Andreas
Larsson preferring the Riedel Pinot Noir/Nebbiolo glass, Stephen Reinhardt the Zalto Denk’Art Mundgeblasen
Burgunder glass, and Andrew Jefford the Riedel Vinum Pinot Noir and Zalto glasses. Jefford commented, “In
sum, the best glasses favored appreciation rather than analysis. Our panel, too, felt that among the two top
Riedel glasses, the Vinum Pinot Noir was better suited to the classicism of Burgundy, while the Riedel Pinot
Noir/Nebbiolo glass was a better glass for varietal Pinot Noir in general.” The thinner glass stems had more
aesthetic appeal, but the thicker glass stems are more durable. Visit www.finewinemag.com.
Pinot Leaf Curl A curling of Pinot Noir leaves known as Pinot Leaf Curl (PLC) often appears after a cool
spell and has been observed with increasing frequency among Pinot Noir vineyards in Sonoma County. The
affected leaves may die and fall off or persist curled under, and death of a shoot may ensue. Botryitis may be
associated, but is not the cause and fungicides have no treatment value.Wines & Vines (April 2012) reports
that researchers are attempting to analyze this curious sickness. The disease has been found in every Pinot
Noir growing region in California and is more common during cool springs. A panel at Sonoma County Grape
Day on February 16, 2012, said that research is aimed at measuring levels of nitrogen compounds in Pinot
Noir vineyards, concerned that putrescine, a toxic compound produced during nitrogen metabolism in the vine,
may be elevated in affected vines. Visit www.winesandvines.com.
Memorial Day Wine Tasting in Willamette Valley Home to more than 190 wineries and tasting
rooms and surrounded by beautiful vistas and views of the Cascade Mountains, the Willamette Valley is a pinot
geeks' Disneyland. Many small, family owned wineries are only open to the public on Memorial Day and
Thanksgiving weekends making these weekends very popular. The 22nd Memorial Weekend in the Wine
Country will be held May 26-28, 2012. For a touring map and guide and a list of activities at each winery, email
the Willamette Valley Wineries Association at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Santa Lucia Highlands Gala VI The winegrowers of the Santa Lucia Highlands are sponsoring a
tasting a Mer Soleil Winery, 1290 River Road, Salinas, on Saturday, May 19, from 1:00 to 4:00 PM. The setting
will be the Barrel Cellar at Mer Soleil, a dramatic venue not normally open to the public. Food, music and a
unique silent auction with many rare, large format bottles will also be offered. The pouring roster of thirty
wineries include Santa Lucia Highlands releases of August West, Belle Glos, Bernardus, Boekenoogen, Hahn,
J. Lohr, Kori, La Rochelle, Lucienne, Mansfield-Dunne, Manzoni, McIntyre, Mer Soleil, Mooney, Morgan, Novy,
Paraiso, Pelerin, Pessagno, Pisoni, Poppy, Puma Road, Roar, Sequana, Siduri, Talbott, Testarossa, Tondre,
Tudor and Wrath. This is the only Santa Lucia Highlands public event of the year. For information and tickets,
Littorai Debuts New Website To be honest, for many years Littorai’s website lacked information and
interest and did not do justice to the superb Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays of Ted Lemon. Littorai has now
launched a completely new website at www.littorai.com. Current mailing list members can order wines directly
on the website which includes vineyard maps, winemaking philosophy, farm and environmental stewardship
information and more. As part of this year’s West of West Wine Festival in Occidental, CA, on August 3-5,
2012, Littorai will again host a wine dinner paired with Littorai wines on Friday, August 3 at the Littorai Estate
property in Sebastopol. The comments I received about last year’s Littorai wine dinner were overwhelmingly
positive, with Ted pulling out a number of aged wines from his library as the evening evolved. To buy tickets or
learn more, visit www.westsonomacoast.com.
ROCO Winery Opens Cellar Beginning April 5, 2012, ROCO Winery welcomes visitors to the cellar to
taste and purchase wines direct, 11:00 to 5:00, Thursday through Saturday. Additional days will be added as
the weather warms during the summer in the Willamette Valley. ROCO Winery, Ponzi Vineyards and Argyle
Winery are hosting the 1st Annual Oregon Cult Pinot Noir Wine Cruise, a 10-night Mediterranean cruise June
25 to July 5, 2012. The cruise will be personally escorted by Dick and Nancy Ponzi and Rollin and Corby
Soles. The Oceania cruise line has been voted “Best in the World” by Travel + Leisure magazine. For pricing
and availability, visit www.foodandwinetrails.com. Other wine related cruises are also listed on this site.
New Zealand Red Wine of the Year Curtis Marsh, writing in The Wandering Palate
(www.thewanderingpalate.com) is an authority on New Zealand wine. He grew up in New Zealand and is
currently a sommelier and wine importer and merchant in Australia. The three regionally defined single
vineyard Pinot Noirs of Mount Edward in Central Otago, produced by winemaker Duncan Forsyth, were
pronounced “New Zealand Red Wine of the Year” in 2011 by Marsh. The Pinot Noirs included vineyard
designates from Morrison Vineyard (Lowburn), Muirkirk Vineyard (Bannockburn) and Stevens Vineyard
(Gibbston). Mount Edward was established in 1997 in the Gibbston Valley by a partnership that included Alan
Brady, the founding father of Central Otago, John Buchanan, an Otago native, and Forsyth. Mount Edward
Pinot Noirs are available at a number of restaurants in the United States including The French Laundry in
Napa, Gary Danko in San Francisco, Aureole in Las Vegas, Boulevard in San Francisco, and The Martini
House in St. Helena. The wines are distributed in California and New York by Tasman Wine Selections, San
Timber-To-Vineyard Conversion Appears Will Be Approved California State officials are
close to officially approving the large timber-to-vineyard projects in coastal northwest Sonoma County by
Artesa Vineyards and CalPERS. According to the Press Democrat (April 6, 2012), several environmental
groups plan to challenge the proposal in court.
Scientist Discuss Terroir in Oregon Geologist Scott Burns will present "The Mystery of Terroir in Oregon: The Relationship of Geology, Soil and Climate to Wine" on Tuesday, May 1, at 7:30 PM in T.J. Day Hall at Linfield College in McMinnville, Oregon. Burns is a professor of geology at Portland State University whose research has included terroir, that is the relationship of climate, geology, soils and wine grapes. He is lecturing across the country this year after being named the 2012 Jahns Distinguished Lecturer by the Association of Environmental and Engineering Geologist (AEG) and the Geological Society of America (GSA). Burns will discuss the terroir of the Willamette Valley whose soils come from the Columbia River Basalts, which originated in Oregon, and the marine sedimentary rocks found in the foothills of the Coast Range. For more information, call (503) 883-2409.
When to Drink That Pinot Noir? I often get asked, “When is the right time to drink a Pinot Noir?”
You cannot drink the wine right after it is bottled because of “bottle shock.” If you order the wine from a winery
and it is shipped to you, you cannot drink it for at least 6 to 8 weeks because of “shipping shock.” After you buy
the wine, you may not be able to drink it because of “sticker shock.” You need to have a special celebration to
drink such an expensive wine. When a special occasion does arise, you may not be able to drink it because it
is in a “dumb phase.” When you finally find a time worthy to drink the wine, it may have already peaked, and
is now on the downslope or in the “senility phase.” Best advice? Cellar the wine properly for 2-3 years after
buying it, and keep your fingers crossed.
In the Chehalem Mountains sits a small Pinot Noir estate, Privé Vineyard, very French in name and character,
but owned by Americans Mark and Tina Hammond. Straddled behind an entrance gate marked by the sign,
“Rue de Privé,” are two well-groomed one-acre Pinot Noir vineyards visible on the northern and southern side
of a home, flanked by a tiny winery, a sport court, a boules (pétanque) court, and lavish plantings of lavender.
Privé Vineyard is essentially a private winery for those lucky enough to be members of the allocation list. Mark
is the vineyard steward and Tina is the winemaker, and together they have been producing one of Oregon’s few
cult Pinot Noirs since 2001. Mark scoffs at the suggestion that he may have to get a real job if a bad vintage
severely hampers their income, but muses that he would probably seek employment pumping gas since he
loves outdoor jobs. Tina is a self-taught winemaker with a knack for Pinot Noir.
The original Müller-Thurgau vines on the property date to 1980 and are planted in Jory soil. The vines were
grafted over to Pinot Noir by the Hammonds in 1995 using Pommard cuttings taken from Patricia Green at
Autumn Wind Vineyard. Precision organic viticulture is the rule. Three wines are produced exclusively from
estate fruit: le nord, from the upper, northern one acre; le sud, from the lower, southern one acre; a reserve,
Joie de Vivre (joy of life) crafted in half-barrel quantities and offered in etched bottles.
Beginning in 2010, the Hammonds decided to pull back the vigor of the vines which had been yielding about
1.5 to 2 tons per acre. This resulted in more forward fruit in the wines in 2010 and 2011. Also in 2010, they
rolled the dice and delayed harvest until October 27, despite the rains. Tina said, “We would rather miss the
vintage than bring in green fruit and try to correct it in the winery.” The result is a magnificent wine.
2010 Privé Vineyard le sud Chehalem Mountains AVA Oregon Pinot Noir
13.2% alc., $65. 100%
Pommard, 100% de-stemmed, whole berry fermented in 100% new French oak barrels.
featuring scents of ripe black cherries, black raspberries, black plums, and dark rose petals. Retains aromatic
intensity over time in the glass and I am wondering if it is possible to capture this aroma in a perfume. Very
polished with moderately rich and glorious black cherry, black raspberry, cassis, and cola flavors with perfect
integration of oak, complimentary acidity and soft, ripe tannins. The fruit hangs on like a 3 hour movie you
don’t want to end. Very plush for a 2010 Oregon Pinot Noir. Still great the following day from a previously
opened and re-corked bottle. A sensual pleasure that will persuade you to make Pommard your paramour.
Look for more reviews of Privé Vineyard Pinot Noir and other great Oregon 2009 and 2010 Pinot Noirs in the
next issue of the PinotFile.