Canihan Family Cellars

Owner(s) Bill Canihan, William Canihan Sr.
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Canihan Family Cellars

The Canihan family bought their 20-acre vineyard on the southern edge of the Sonoma Valley bordering Carneros in 1975, but planting did not start for 23 years. Bill Canahan, a second generation San Franciscan, had worked in Truckee and Tahoe City and was dismayed by the pollution that was damaging Lake Tahoe. When Bill, together with his father William Canihan, Sr., did initiate their vineyard planting, they were committed to farming sustainably and biodynamically. They were inspired by a member of the family, August Sieguist, who had sustainably farmed Pinot Noir and other cool climate varieties in his native Switzerland before immigrating to the United States in the early 1900s. The Canihans engaged viticulturlist Phil Coturri and winemaker Alexandra Romanini to assist them in producing estate Syrah, Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir from their vineyard.

The first Canihan Family Cellars release, the 2004 Estate Syrah, won Best Red in Show at the prestigious 2007 San Francisco International Wine Competition. The Canihan Family Cellars 2005 “Exuberance” Pinot Noir won Gold Medals at the 2008 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition and the 2008 West Coast Wine Competition. Quite an impressive resume for a very young winery.

The Pinot Noir portion of the estate vineyard is 3.75 acres planted to Dijon clones 115, 667 and 777. Dry farming and cane pruning result in small yields (less than 2 tons per acre). The vineyard receives the full impact of the cooling fog and maritime breezes from the nearby San Francisco Bay. The vineyard is certified organic by CCOF.

Canihan Family Cellars was one of Crushpad’s (a custom crush facility in San Francisco) first commercial customers. Winemaking is traditional with a four day cold soak, native yeast fermentation in open-top tanks, minimal handling and a single racking into Francois Freres barrels. The wines are unfined and unfiltered.

Canihan Family Cellars Pinot Noirs are available in several fine San Francisco Restaurants and Northern California retailers. The wines may be obtained directly from the winery by phoning 415-929-8190 or consulting the website. Production will always be small (less than 2,500 cases for all varieties). Tasting is available by appointment.

Reviewed Wines

2009 Canihan Exuberance Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., pH 3.63, TA 0.70, 500 cases, $50. From a dry-farmed, organic. 3.75-acre estate vineyard bordering Los Carneros, planted to Dijon clones 115, 667 and 777 in 1998. Certified organic by CCOF. Yields are less than 2 tons per acre. Aged 22 months in 100% French oak barrels. Gold Medal San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition and Pinot Noir Shootout. · Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Very spicy nose offering enticing aromas of black raspberries, strawberries, deep red rose petals and sweet pipe smoke. I can’t take my nose out of the glass. An aristocratic wine with mouthwatering flavors of dark berries, exotic spice, earthy notes of mushroom and flavor-enhancing savory herbs in the background. Soft in the mouth, with well proportioned ripe, firm tannins. Has a typical Carneros Pinot Noir personality. Reviewed June 24, 2012 ARTICLE »

2008 Canihan Exuberance Sonoma County Pinot Noir

14.3% alc., pH 3.76, TA 0.60, 180 cases, $50. A reserve from a dry-farmed, certified organic estate vineyard. Yields 1 ton per acre. Very similar to the 2009 vintage of this wine, except the fruit is riper in 2008. · Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Aromas of cherries, strawberries, violets, seasoned oak and spice. Broad in the mouth with moderately intense black cherry, blueberry, and strawberry flavors with Asian 5-spice in the background. Mild fine-grain tannins, smoothly textured, with generous length on the bombastic finish. This wine has benefited from further time in the bottle and is better than I recall in past tastings. Very good (+). Reviewed June 24, 2012 ARTICLE »

2007 Canihan Family Cellars Sonoma Valley Pinot Noir

14.0% alc., pH 3.72, 290 cases, $39. 100% Estate Grown. Yields were less than 1.5 tons per acre. 80% Dijon clones. Unfined and unfiltered. · Enticing aromas of cherries, strawberries, green tea and baking spices. Delicious essence of the same fruits settle on the middle palate accented by savory herbs, brown spice, and vanilla wafers. Discreetly rich with admirable finesse and a moderately long, teasing finish. This is a wine you keep going back to. Shows a kinship to Russian River Valley Pinot Noir. Ready to drink now but balanced to last several years. Reviewed February 15, 2010 ARTICLE »

2007 Exuberance Sonoma Valley Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., pH 3.69, 120 cases, $60. This is a reserve bottling only produced in exceptional vintages. 100% Dijon clones 115, 667 and 777. · Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Rich and deep nose of dark stone fruits and berries with hints of smoke, oak and herbs. Luscious silky purple fruit core that is toasty, herbed, and rich but not cloying. The silky smooth texture grabs your attention. Still somewhat primary and lacking nuance, this wine has the stuffing for greatness down the road. A reserve in every sense of the word. Very good. Reviewed February 15, 2010 ARTICLE »

2006 Canihan Family Cellars Alexandra’s Reserve Sonoma Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 705 cases. · With coaxing, scents of dark red stone fruits, herbs, wildflowers and sawn oak emerge. A little more restrained than the 2004 vintage, displaying dark-hued fruits that are nicely spiced and oaked. All silk and satin. A subtle green note should resolve with further time in the bottle. This one will only get better with some aging. Reviewed November 2, 2008 ARTICLE »

2005 Canihan Family Cellars Exuberance Aleandra’s Reserve Sonoma Valley Pinot Noir

13.7% alc., 200 cases, $60. Aged 12 months in 25% new Francois Freres oak barrels. · Deep reddish-purple in color. Subdued but pleasant dark jammy fruit with a touch of smoke on the nose. Muscular, dark plummy fruit with a touch of herbs and deft oak accent. The fruit is fully ripe, reminding me of eating perfectly ripe Pinot grapes in the vineyard at harvest. Smooth, clean and plush with supple tannins and admirable balance. This wine will appeal most to lovers of powerfully flavored, fruit-driven Pinots. Reviewed November 2, 2008 ARTICLE »

2004 Canihan Family Cellars Alexandra’s Reserve Sonoma Valley Pinot Noir

13.8% alc., 25 cases, $65. All estate grown, 40% 667 and 777, 20% 115. Yields less than 1.5 tons per acre. Aged 16 months in a French oak barrel. Produced at Crushpad. · Starts off strong with lovely aromas of dark stone fruits, herbs and a touch of barnyard. With time in the glass, the fruit aromas fade with more oak char and prune surfacing. The attack is rich with dark fruits, earthiness and a little oak char. Smoothly textured with admirable fullness, and a dry finish. Reviewed November 2, 2008 ARTICLE »

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