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Cobb Wines: Carrying On the Williams Selyem Style Tradition

Winemaker Ross Cobb trained under the master, Burt Williams, as well as the current talented winemaker at Williams Selyem, Bob Cabral. Cobb had a distinguished stint as winemaker at Flowers Vineyards & Winery from 2004 to 2008. As the current winemaker for Cobb Wines, he has partnered with his father, David Cobb, who along with his former spouse, Diane (who is deceased), established Cobb Wines in 2001.

Six distinct vineyard-designated Pinot Noirs are produced at Cobb Wines: Coastlands Vineyard and Coastlands Vineyard Diane Cobb, Rice-Spivak Vineyard, Joy Road Vineyard, Jack Hill Vineyard, and Emmaline Ann Vineyard, all located in the cool reaches of the Sonoma Coast. Ross notes, “The differences between the wines are all vineyard driven: all about site and farming choices. We don’t manipulate the wines in the winery to make them different. Instead, we custom prune and manage each vineyard.”

The Cobbs farm the 15-acre Coastlands Vineyard which was planted by David and Diane Cobb in 1989 and today contains some of the oldest Pinot Noir vines on the true Sonoma Coast. The vineyard is located at an elevation of 900 to 1,200 feet on a ridge overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The marine wind and fog at the site keeps yields low (well under 2 tons per acre). The 2008 Coastlands Vineyard Pinot Noir is the eighth vintage of Cobb’s flagship wine. The special Diane Cobb bottling comes exclusively from a nursery block at Coastlands that Diane Cobb planted to numerous relatively unknown Pinot Noir varieties with the goal of determining what varieties performed best at this site. The wine commemorates Diane’s life at Coastlands. It is a co-ferment of the 24 most successful selections of Pinot Noir from the Diane Cobb Block.

The 2006 and 2007 vintages of Cobb Pinot Noir were the first I really got my teeth into and I was stunned by the quality of wines. I awarded my highest accolade, the Pinot Geek, to every Cobb Pinot Noir reviewed from those two vintages. I find the wines among the closest currently being produced in California to the paradigm fostered by iconic vintner Burt Williams. Cobb wines are complex, aromatic and lower in alcohol. They are picked at lower brix, and aged with a modest amount of new French oak to preserve their terroir-driven character. The 2008 vintage lineup, reviewed below, carries on the tradition. All the wines are moderately light in color in the glass, but don’t let this lessen your anticipation for it will certainly not diminish your enjoyment. The wildfire smoke which affected the more northerly Sonoma Coast vineyards, did not encroach on Cobb’s vineyard sources. 2008 was a cool vintage which played to the style of Pinot Noir made at Cobb.

Cobb wines are sold almost exclusively through a mailing list and an online store at www.cobbwines.com. Library wines are offered as well.

2008 COBB Coastlands Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

13.6% alc., 260 cases, $68. Aged 17 months in 35% new French oak barrels. · Cherries and red plums are featured on the nose with a hint of dark chocolate. A red fruit theme is offered in a style of welcoming finesse with a pleasing citrusy acid lift bringing the cherry and raspberry flavors to life. A little grilled mushroom, smoky oak and sauvage adds to the appeal. The tannins, which are typically firm in wines from this vineyard, are well corralled, but will soften further with more time in the bottle. Very good.

2008 COBB Emmaline Ann Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

13.1% alc., 360 cases, $68. From 3-acre vineyard near Occidental planted to Dijon clones in Goldridge sandy loam. · Very enticing aromas of dusty dark red spiced Pinot fruits with faint notes of oak and cinnamon. Luscious and silky body of red plum and dark red berry fruits make an impression on the mid palate and linger with a vengeance on the generous finish. Beautifully balanced with racy acidity and supple tannins, this wine offers a little more richness than others in the lineup, but displays the finesse that Cobb wines are known for. A keeper.

2008 COBB Jack Hill Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., 240 cases, $68. From a 2-acre hillside vineyard near Occidental a few miles from Coastlands and Emmaline Ann vineyards. Dijon clones 115, 667 and 828 planted in Goldridge sandy loam. Hand-tended by the couple living on the property. Aged 17 months in 35% new French oak. · Demure aromas of cherry and berry fruits nicely spiced and accented by underbrush. Absolutely delicious melange of fresh cherries and berries with complimentary hints of spice, oak and minerality. Juicy, with impressive persistence on the finish. A lighter bodied wine with gossamer tannins that has a very appealing and seductive gentleness. An All-American.

2008 COBB Joy Road Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., 280 cases, $68. From a 2-acre vineyard near the Coastlands Vineyard. Closespaced planting of a mix of Pinot Noir clones in sandy loam soils. Aged 17 months in 35% new French oak. · A remarkably intense cherry aroma develops over time in the glass. Scents of toasted oak and candied apple contribute interest. A charmer that unfolds in stages, revealing vibrant black cherry and ripe strawberry flavors with undertones of sandalwood and vanilla. Soft and silky and seductive. Very good.

2008 COBB Rice-Spivak Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., 450 cases, $68. A 6-acre vineyard near Sebastopol planted in Goldridge sandy loam laced with volcanic ash. Dijon clones and Swan selection. Aged 17 months in 35% new French oak barrels. · Intensely aromatic showing vivid aromas of black cherries and black raspberries with hints of earth and oak. A little restrained upon opening, later revealing a core of racy dark red and black fruits with a refreshing lift of citrus peel on the finish. Showing a subtle caramel note from the oak which should integrate over time. Elegant and refined, with supple tannins. Very good.

2008 COBB Coastlands Vineyard Diane Cobb Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

13.7% alc., 160 cases, $78. · This is a very curious wine. When tasted upon opening, it had a disagreeable smoky, tarry tone to the aromas and flavors. When re-tasted 24 hours later from a previously opened and re-corked bottle, it had undergone a remarkable transformation from an ugly duckling to a monarch. My comments are from the next day. Very appealing spicy black cherry aromas. Generous cherry and plum flavors with a velvety mouth feel and a kicking acidity on the finish. A subtle undertone of smoke and tar detracts only slightly from this wine, and may represent oak intrusion which will integrate with time. Still, I couldn’t overlook the distraction. Good.

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