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From Windy Oaks Estate: New Pinot Noir Offerings Merit Special Praise

2019 Windy Oaks Estate Escolle Vineyard Clone 943 Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir

13.4% alc., 50 cases, $49. Sourced from a small block at Escolle Vineyard that is farmed especially for Windy Oaks. The vineyard is located in the cooler, northern part of the Santa Lucia Highlands, near the well-known Garys’ Vineyard. Native yeast fermentation with elevage in 50% new French oak barrels for 23 months. · Light garnet color in the glass. The nose grows on you over time with aromas of darkest cherry, pomegranate and spice with a woody undertone. Delicious flavors of black cherry and purple berry fruits along with cardamom spice, dark chocolate, and a thin cloak of oak in the background. The tannins are sparse and the finish is moderately long. I have never tasted a 943 clone Pinot Noir that was this good and it makes for a very unique tasting wine. I would prefer less oak intrusion at this stage. Score: 93. WINERY » ARTICLE »

2019 Windy Oaks Estate Mountain Block Special Release Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir

13.7% alc., 64 cases, $85. The grapes come from a 1-acre parcel planted to Windy Oaks own cleaned-up version of the special Burgundy clone, sourced from cuttings that Jim originally brought back from an historic, walled grand cru vineyard in Vosne-Romanée. Barrel fermented with native yeasts in a proprietary, custom-crafted, 600L French oak barrel using 100% de-stemmed grapes that were gently crushed. Finished with RC 212 before maturing without racking for 26 months. · Light garnet color in the glass Very seductive perfume of rose petal, Bing cherry, cola, iron filings, and a hint of oak. The deep flavor of cherry creates the sensation of bombs bursting in the mouth. There is an appealing underlying roseate quality, a hint of milk chocolate and a compliment of oak.. A very distinctive and seamless wine with modest tannins and a spirited finish of good generosity. Score: 95. WINERY » ARTICLE »

2018 Windy Oaks Estate Barrel Fermented Special Release Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir

13.7% alc., 64 cases, $85. Jim’s comments: “A unique Pinot Noir that is fermented and aged in specially-designed 600L French oak barrels with no punchdowns and the use of indigenous yeast. The result is a wine of unusually rich flavors, texture and delicate complexity, including haunting aromatics and exceptional length. This may be the only version of Pinot Noir made by this method.” Aged 27 months without racking. · Light garnet color in the glass. Pleasing aromas of red and purple berry, cocoa powder and bramble. Light and ephemeral with succulent flavors of red cherry and berry and an appealing underlying earthiness. Excellent harmony, with no oak intrusion and good finishing length. Score: 93. WINERY » ARTICLE »

2018 Windy Oaks Estate Le Chaud Special Vineyard Treatment Special Release Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir

13.7% alc., 95 cases, $85. The grapes come from an exclusively-farmed vineyard parcel that sees the use of a special piece of machinery that sends a directed blast of super-heated air in rapid motion so as to not harm the vines but gets rid of pests and reduces the need for mildew and botrytis spraying. The result is an effort to be as organic and sustainable as possible and as good as the environment can be. One of the side benefits after five years of trials is the fact that the process also dramatically increases the natural phenolics in the grape skins that are important for flavor and structure of the finished wines. · Moderately light garnet color in the glass. A seductive nose leads with aromas of dark red berry, plum, spice and sous-bois. Discrete richness on the palate with flavors that echo the aromas along with a subtle savory note. Impeccable harmony with an aristocratic, silky mouthfeel, suede tannins, and a generous and juicy finish of exceptional length. Deserving of special release. Score: 94. WINERY » ARTICLE »

2018 Windy Oaks Estate Deux Grand Crus Special Release Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir

13.7%, 24 cases, $105. A co-fermentation of two grand crus clones originally from Burgundy (Chambertin and Vosne- Romanée). This special release is from mostly de-stemmed grapes using native yeast fermentation and a long, cool maceration period with gentle hand punch downs before being aged 24 months without racking in a new French oak barrel. The barrel is custom made for the winery with long air-dried, old growth, tight-grained staves, and a long, lower heat toasting process. · Very light ruby red color in the glass. Dreamy aromas of red cherry, baking spice, sandalwood, vanilla and sous-bois. Lighter weighted with gentle power, offering hi-tone fruit flavors of red cherry and raspberry. Soothing and polished, with a subtle oak flourish and a welcome touch of spice. The finish is of grand cru length. This wine has amazing flavor in contrast to its pale color and herein lies the greatness of Pinot Noir. This wine reminds me of a 1990 Domaine Romanée-Conti Romanée-Conti that I drank several years back. It was very light in color and delicately powered yet was definitely one of my most memorable drinking experiences. Clearly, this is not a wine for fruit hedonists. It remained seductive when tasted the following day from a previously opened bottle. Score: 97. WINERY » ARTICLE »

2018 Windy Oaks Estate Judy's Block Special Release Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir

13.7% alc., 24 cases, $110. Sourced from a half-acre block of Dijon 777 clone. Typically the grapes are blended into the Reserve, but in exceptional years (2009, 2017, and 2018), it is bottled on its own from a single barrel. The grapes are sorted both in the vineyard and again by hand in the cellar with extreme care so that only the very best grapes make it into this wine named after Jim’s wife. Native yeast fermentation and partial whole cluster. Aged for 24 months in French oak barrels. · Light garnet color in the glass. Intriguing nose with forward aromas of warm cherry pie, floral lift, and aged oak. Light to mid-weight in style, with dark red cherry and berry flavors that are broad and envelope the palate, expanding through a lip-smacking and notably lavish finish that lingers for an exceptionally long time. There are spice accents of cardamom and turmeric that I find particularly intriguing. Exquisitely balanced and clearly a special wine. Score: 96. WINERY » ARTICLE »

2017 Windy Oaks Estate Eleven:11 Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir

13.4% alc., 49 cases, $58. Jim’s son, Spencer, the Windy Oaks Estate assistant winemaker, makes this unique bottling crafted from Dijon clone 943 and Calera clone. Very different from the main estate offerings, this wine is named for the project’s start date. 100% whole cluster with a long, cool fermentation with foot trodding and hand punch downs before a gentle pressing to used French oak barrels where it was aged for 24 months with no racking. After the extended elevage, this Pinot Noir was treated like a Riserva giving it another full year in tank to mature, then further aging in bottle before release, much like is seen in Brunello and Rioja wines. This strategy creates a more mature, slightly oxidative quality that fans of those wines love. · Light garnet color in the glass. The aromas really jump out of the glass including red cherry, cranberry, baking spice, burnt tobacco and pine sap. Lightly extracted with flavors of red cherry and strawberry with a spicy riff. Plenty of Pinot charm in a delicate but satisfying style with gentle tannins, subtle whole cluster input and fruit flavors that build in intensity on the finish. A very distinctive wine. Score: 93. WINERY » ARTICLE »


From En Garde Winery: Consistently Excellent North Coast Pinot Noir

2019 En Garde Los Carneros Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., 98 cases, $65. Clone 115 and 777. Harvest Brix 24.0º. Aged 15 months in French oak barrels, 33% new. · Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Welcoming aromas of spiced cherry, pastry and wine cellar. Forward and easy to cozy up to in a middleweight style with discretely robust flavors of black cherry, cola and baking spices. Nicely composed with civil tannins and a finish with very good cherry-driven length. Score: 93. WINERY » ARTICLE »

2019 En Garde Pleasant Hill Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

13.4% alc., 114 cases, $65. Clone 115, 777, and Pommard. Harvest Brix 25.0º. Aged 15 months in French oak barrels, 33% new. · Moderately light garnet color in the glass. A complex nose soars with the perfume of Bing cherry juice, ripe strawberry, rose petal, musk and a hint of ginger. Plenty of black cherry, strawberry, and cola flavors embrace the palate and carry over to a lengthy and beautifully aromatic finish. Impeccably balanced in a mid-weight plus style with an admirable touch of oak compliment. Very forward but even better when tasted the following day from a previously opened bottle. Score: 94. WINERY » ARTICLE »

2019 En Garde Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., 125 cases, $65. Clone 777 and 667 Harvest Brix 24.0º. Aged 15 months in French oak barrels, 33% new. · Light garnet color in the glass. The nose is aromatically forward showing scents of cherry, strawberry and bark. Mid-weight in style, offering flavors of red fruits and spice with a hint of oak and a savory herbal undertone. Ripe and forward, with gracious tannins and a modest but satisfying finish. Score: 91. WINERY » ARTICLE »

2019 En Garde Passion De La Reine Reserve Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., 131 cases, $80. Clone 777, 115, faux 828 and Pommard. A selection of barrels. Aged 17 months in French oak barrels, 40% new. · Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Somewhat muted aromatically with demure aromas of black cherry pie, bakery, and toast. Lighter in weight than the Pleasant Hill bottling but with inviting elegance, polish, and more underlying acidity that shows up on the lip-smacking but modest finish. Still a bit tight on this occasion and I would drink the Pleasant Hill while this wine spends some time in the cellar when it should become more expressive. Score: 93. WINERY » ARTICLE »


From Wayfarer: Pinot Noir from a Picturesque Site on the True Sonoma Coast

2019 Wayfarer Wayfarer Vineyard Fort-Ross-Seaview Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., $90. Composed of 11 clones found in the vineyard. · Dark garnet color in the glass. Shy aromas of boysenberry, blackberry and tilled wet earth. Forward drinking with considerable charm, offering a mid-weight array of purple and black berry fruits that have good freshness and intensity. The balance is admirable, creating a welcoming drinking experience. Score: 93. WINERY » ARTICLE »

2019 Wayfarer Golden Mean Fort Ross-Seaview Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., $125. Pommard and Swan clones. · Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Demure aromas of blackberry, spice and toasty oak. A plethora of dark red and black fruits are framed by a compliment of oak. Shy but very suave with minimal tannins and a modest tug of acidity. The least expressive wine in the 2019 lineup initially but more inviting when tasted the following day from a previously opened bottle yet the aromas remain subdued. Cellaring or decanting is advised. Score: 93. WINERY » ARTICLE »

2019 Wayfarer Mother Rock Fort Ross-Seaview Pinot Noir

14.3% alc., $125. Clones 37 (Mt Eden) and 777 planted in the shallowest soil in the vineyard. · Dark garnet color in the glass. Alluring aromas of black cherry pie filling, cola and dark red rose petal. Seductively spicy with a roseate bent on the palate in a mid-weight style. Vibrant fruit flavors of dark cherry and boysenberry fill the mouth with goodness and are engaged with harmonious tannins and acidity. A departing black cherry high note is persistent and memorable. Truly, a reference wine for true Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir. Score: 96. WINERY » ARTICLE »

2019 Wayfarer Paige’s Ridge Fort Ross-Seaview Pinot Noir

14.6% alc., $125. Sourced from clone 667 that is planted on the steepest slope of the eastern edge of the vineyard. · Dark garnet color in the glass. Reserved but pleasant aromas of purple and black berries, matcha tea, spice and vanilla. Very polished in the mouth, with mid-weight flavors of blackberry, black cherry, anise and an underlying earthiness. Great harmony with suave fine-grain tannins and a persistent finish. The nose was much more aromatic when the wine was tasted the following day from a previously opened bottle. Score: 94. WINERY » ARTICLE »

2019 Wayfarer The Traveler Fort Ross-Seaview Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., $150. A block of suitcase clone that pays homage to the journey of the original vine cuttings from Burgundy. · Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Highly perfumed with aromas of dark Bing cherry, black raspberry, vanillin and a floral lift. The nose is flat-out glorious over time. Luscious black cherry, purple grape and purple berry fruit flavors are enhanced by a riff of spice. Easily approachable with wonderful balance and an extremely long and sleek finish. Score: 95. WINERY » ARTICLE »


From Neely Wines from Spring Ridge Vineyard

2019 neely Spring Ridge Vineyard Hidden Block Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir

12.5% alc., 254 cases, $45. · Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Aromas of cranberry, vanillin and a floral lift. Relatively light in weight and elegant, offering a core of red berry flavor. Shallow on first sip, but picks up richness and length over time in the glass. Slightly underripe fruit character with a vegetal undertone. A good cut of acidity is featured on the modest finish. Score: 89. WINERY » ARTICLE »

2019 neely Spring Ridge Vineyard Picnic Block Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir

12.2% alc., 127 cases, $50. · Light garnet color in the glass. Nicely perfumed with aromas of earth-dusted red cherry, cola, and dark chocolate. Demure intensity on the palate but still delivers satisfying red cherry and cranberry fruit flavors. Nicely balanced, with gossamer tannins and invigorating acidity. Score: 91. WINERY » ARTICLE »

2019 neely Spring Ridge Vineyard Upper Picnic Block Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir

12.7% alc., 350 cases, $50. · Light garnet color in the glass. Aromas of red cherry, strawberry and sandalwood lead off. Light to mid-weight in style and dark red fruited with no sign of under ripeness. Graceful, with silky tannins and some finishing length. Uplifting and seductive rather than hedonistic. Score: 93. WINERY » ARTICLE »


From More Pinot Noir Treasures

2021 Kutch Sans Soufre Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

12.0% alc., 100 cases, $39. Fermented 100% whole cluster with carbonic maceration and without sulfur. Jamie’s answer to Beaujolais. Aged in used French oak barrels. Bottled unfined and unfiltered. · Aromas of confected cherry and red berry along with 5-spice. Midweight plus in style, with a predominantly sweet taste of darker fruits on the palate such as blackberry and black cherry. The prominent tannins lack acidic drive to balance the wine. Score: 89. WINERY » ARTICLE »

2020 Kutch McDougall Ranch Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

13.0% alc., 275 cases, $64. Fermented 50% whole cluster with indigenous yeast. Aged in used French oak barrels. Unfined and unfiltered. · Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Aromas of black cherry, sois-bois, floral lift, and dried herbs. Discrete fullness of dark cherry and raspberry fruit flavors with a touch of exotic spice, adroitly framed by submerged tannins and quenching acidity. A green tobacco tone was evident initially but resolved when the wine was revisited the following day at which time the overall experience had noticeably improved. Score: 93. WINERY » ARTICLE »

2019 Ellen Redding Marin County Pinot Noir

13.9% alc., 125 cases, $42. Sourced from two sites: Azaya Vineyard in Hicks Valley and the Chileno Valley Vineyard. Azaya Vineyard was planted to clones 667, 777, faux 828, and 115 by the duo Mark Pasternak (Devil’s Gulch Ranch) and Dan Goldfield (Dutton-Goldfield Winery). Chileno Valley Vineyard is a windswept site only 6 miles from the Pacific Ocean and also farmed by Mark Pasternak. 7-day cold soak, 1/3 whole cluster, native primary and secondary fermentations. Aged in neutral and once-used French oak barrels. Moderate garnet color in the glass. Giving aromas of cherry, boysenberry and toasty oak. A well-spiced core of cherry fruit is accompanied by tastes of cola and tobacco. Nice fruit sap but surprisingly more oak overlay considering the use of neutral and once-used barrels unless the whole cluster is responsible. · Score: 92. WINERY » ARTICLE »

2019 Wines That Deliver Bon Voyage Marin County Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., 75 cases, $42. Sourced from organically farmed Stubbs Vineyard. 7-day cold soak, 1/3 whole cluster native primary and secondary fermentations. Aged in neutral and once-used French oak barrels. · Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Nicely perfumed with aromas of dark cherry, ripe strawberry and earthiness. Light to mid-weight in style and cherry-driven in character with good harmony. Muted tannins with a trace of oak in the background and a pleasant finish that is moderately long. Not the richness of the Ellen Redding but plenty of charm. Score: 91. WINERY » ARTICLE »

2019 Three Furies Wines The Angry One Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., $55 (sold as a three pack). · Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Reticent but pleasant aromas of dark cherry, rose petal, and worn leather. An initial hint of volatile acidity quickly dissipates. Very accommodating on the palate with a range of vivid flavors including black cherry, blackberry, spice and cola. The wine sports a silky texture, polished tannins and an inkling of oak. The finish lingers with bold, aromatic goodness. Terrific when tasted the following day from a previously opened bottle. Score: 94. WINERY » ARTICLE »

2019 Castalia Rochioli Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 14.5

14.5% alc., 200 cases, $60. Aged 15 months in French oak barrels, 25% new. · Moderate garnet color in the glass. A pleasantly aromatic nose exhibits scents of Bing cherry, cola and baking spice. Soft on the palate in a mid-weight plus style with an expressive black cherry cola core. Refined and bright, with silky tannins. This wine is more openly friendly and charming compared to the 2018 vintage. Score: 94. WINERY » ARTICLE »

2018 Castalia Rochioli Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 250 cases, $60. · Moderate garnet color in the glass. Reserved aromas of cherry cola and toast. A mouth-filling core of black cherry fruit satisfies on entry and persists through the generously aromatic finish. There is a subtle underlying jacket of oak that dissipates when the wine was retasted from an open bottle the following day. I believe decanting is of value. Score: 92. WINERY » ARTICLE »

2016 Cardwell Hill Cellars Old Vines Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.8% alc., pH 3.50, 261 cases, $40. Fourth vintage of Old Vines Pinot Noir. A barrel selection of the best barrels of 100% Wädenswil clone planted in 1983. Harvest Brix 23.5º-24.0º. 100% de-stemmed fruit.Aged 30 months in French oak barrels, 25% new. · Light garnet color in the glass. Very pleasing aromas of blueberry, forest grove and Wassail spices. Deep flavors of brambly black raspberry, blueberry, and blackberry, with a hint of black tea and a gentle whiff of oak. Exquisitely balanced with integrated tannins, inviting acidity and an uplifting finish of good length. This wine really delivers a delightful drinking experience from 38-year-old vines, and is an excellent value as well. Score: 94. WINERY » ARTICLE »


Robert Parker’s 100 point wine scoring system, which became popular in 1983 and adopted by the Wine Spectator in 1988, has been a homing beacon for consumers seeking to buy good wine. Currently, a majority of United States based wine critics and magazines use the 100 point scale.

The reality is that the 100 point scale is actually a 10 point scale. MORE»
A Note About Prices

Price shown in a tasting note is either the winery-direct price or the retail price paid by the Prince.