More Sips of Pinot
These small lot wines are the result of the farming approach of noted vineyardist Ulises Valdez and the
uncompromising winemaking of Leslie Sisneros. The Mononi and Toboni vineyard bottlings demonstrate the
power of terroir since the two sites at the intersection of Olivet Road and River Road are separated by only a
few hundred yards yet yield distinctly different wines. Beginning January 1, 2013, the new winemaker at Arista
will be Matt Courtney, who has spent the past seven years at Marcassin Winery. The change was needed to
have a winemaker who could devote their full-time energies to Arista. Leslie has her own label, Ispiri Wines.
2010 Arista Ferrington Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.4% alc., pH 3.58, TA 0.61, 216 cases, $58.
Released fall 2012. From a 25-acre vineyard just off Highway 128 in Booneville. 100% Pommard clone. Aged
in 45% new, 11% 1-year and 44% 2-3-year-old French oak barrels.
Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the
glass. The nose starts out with aromas of cherries, cherry skins, stem and smoky oak, evolving over time to
reveal aromas of cherries, parchment and dried herbs. Appealing core of black cherry fruit with an earthy,
herbal underbelly. Tastes of the soil. Lovely fruit backed by very firm tannins, finishing with a touch of citrusy
acid. Still good the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. Good.
2010 Arista Perli Vineyard Mendocino Ridge Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., pH 3.80, TA 0.60, 240 cases, $52.
Released summer 2012. The Perli Vineyard was planted in 2001 and is owned and farmed by Steve Alden.
2200 feet elevation, about 6 miles inland. Aged in 40% new, 20% 12-year and 40% 2-3-year-old French oak
Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Very shy initially, opening up beautifully over time
to reveal seductive aromas of dark berry jam, pumpkin pie spice, and raisin. Dark red fruits including
strawberries and raspberries are featured with a little blueberry and pomegranate in the mix. A hint of clove
and oak adds interest. Elegant and creamy in the mouth with good tannin integration. Very good.
2010 Arista Toboni Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., pH
3.76, TA 0.54, 250 cases, $60. Released spring 2012. 15-acre vineyard planted
to Dijon 115, 667 and 777, and Pommard 5. Mary and Joe Toboni are fourth
generation San Franciscans whose roots can be traced back to San Francisco
as early as the 1870s and to Sonoma County before the 1920s. Aged in 41%
new, 33% 1-year and 26% 2-3-year-old French oak barrels.
reddish-purple color in the glass. Aromas of very ripe Bing cherries, black
raspberries, and grilled plums. Deep black cherry and dark berry flavor with an
underpinning of toasted oak and cola. Moderately rich with well balanced
tannins and a silky mouth feel. Needs more time to shed some of the toasty oak
on the finish. More intense cherry flavor the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle.
2010 Arista Mononi Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.4% alc., pH 3.75, TA 0.53, 240 cases,
$58. Released fall 2012. A 10-year-old vineyard planted to Dijon 113 and 115. Aged in 40% new, 50% 1-year
and 10% 2-3-year-old French oak barrels.
Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. An earthy, savory wine
offering aromas of dark berry preserves, herbs and oak. Moderately rich core of blackberries, black
raspberries and black plums. Juicy, with good structural bones, and a long fruit and oak driven finish. Pushes
the ripeness envelope but never crosses over. Very good.
2010 Arista Harper’s Rest Estate Grown Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., pH 3.77, TA 0.60, 90
cases, $60. Released fall 2012. 2.1-acre vineyard planted in 2007. Clay loam soils. Pommard clone on
101-14 rootstock, 3.5’ x 7’, yields 1.25 tons per acre. Aged in 17% new, 33% 1-year and 50% 2-3-year-old
French oak barrels.
Medium reddish-purple robe in the glass. The nose starts out promising with aromas of
fresh dark cherries and raspberries but becomes somewhat dull over time with hints of briar and stem. Black
cherry and dark red berry flavors are featured with a subtle green note in the background. Moderately intense
with a creamy texture and long finish. This wine should improve over time. Good.
2010 Arista Two Birds Estate Grown Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., pH 3.72, TA 0.58, 170
cases, $68. Released fall 2012. 3.1-acre vineyard planted in 2007. Clay loam soils. Pommard clone, Swan
and Calera selections on 101-14 rootstock, 3.5’ x7’, yields 1.25 tons per acre. Aged in 37% new, 13% 1-year
and 50% 2-3-year-old French oak barrels.
Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Aroma of dark berry pie
filling. Not particularly expressive now, with modest flavors of an array of dark red and black berries. A little
earthy, a little spicy. The most tannic of all the Arista Pinot Noirs reviewed here. Slightly more definition of fruit,
more finish and more character than the other estate wine, Harper’s Rest. Needs time to soften the tannins
and come together. Good (+).
The fall offerings included a quartet of single vineyard Pinot Noirs from Ritchie, Reuling, UV and UV-SL
vineyards. Aubert produces a decadent, lush, high-alcohol, fruit-driven style of Pinot Noir. I wrote about the
winery in a previous issue (www.princeofpinot.com/article/837/). The wines are very well made for this style.
Aubert’s vineyard manager is Ulises Valdez. A tasting salon opened at 333 Silverado Trail in Calistoga in
September 2012, after extensive remodeling of the former August Briggs winery. Aubert customers are able to
visit the winery and taste both new releases and library wines by appointment. A Sonoma Coast appellation
Chardonnay was also released in 2012, the first appellation-designated Aubert offering.
2010 Aubert UV Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
15.3% alc., $80.
Medium reddish-purple color in the
glass. The nose highlights blackberry and black plum fruit with a noticeable oak contribution. Soft and smooth
with generous flavors of blackberries and black plum sauce accented with hints of oak spice and vanilla. Good
fruit-driven length on the finish that leaves a little heat in its wake. Good.
2010 Aubert UV-SL Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
15.0% alc., $80.
Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Aromas of smoky oak, tea
leaf, oil and faint black fruit jam. Oak-infused flavors of dark berries, plum and
cassis. Meaty with plenty of dry tannin, finishing juicy with good acidity. A man’s
Pinot with full-on extraction displaying more oak at presence than I prefer. Wellcrafted
in its style. Good.
Benziger Family Winery
Known for certified-sustainable, organically grown and Biodynamic® wines, Benziger Family Winery became
the first Demeter-certified Biodynamic® vineyard in Sonoma County in 2000. The 25-acre Sonoma Coast de
Coelo (day-chay-low) Estate (22 acres of vines) is a cool, windswept site, five miles from the Pacific Ocean,
which is on the edge of where Pinot Noir can be grown successfully. De Coelo is divided into two distinctive
blocks: Quintus and Terra Neuma. The vineyard team works overtime here to ensure that the vineyard
capitalizes on every ray of sun.
2010 Signaterra Bella Luna Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., pH 3.56, TA 0.62, 629
cases, $50. Released September 2012. Demeter Certified Biodynamic® vineyard. Dijon clones 115, 667 and
777. Yields 2.52 tons per acre. Native yeast fermentation and spontaneous malolactic fermentation. Aged 18
months in 35% new French oak barrels. Unfiltered.
Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. Aromas of Bing
cherries and espresso oak. Discretely concentrated core of dark cherry fruit with accents of clove, nutmeg
and cola. Admirable restraint and appealingly delicate, with a lovely fruit core, but displaying too much of an
oak topcoat at present. This wine will appeal to those who like plenty of oak with their Pinot Noir. Good.
2010 de Coelo Quintus Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.0% alc., pH
3.48, TA 0.63, 177 cases, $75. From a Freestone-Occidental very cool site that
is Demeter Certified Biodynamic®. “de Coelo” translates to “that which is of
heaven.” Clones are 667, 777 and Swan. 25% whole cluster. Fermented with
native yeast. Aged 16 months in French oak barrels. Unfiltered.
light reddish-purple color in the glass. Alluring scents of earth, dark red cherries
and berries, spice and oak. This wine tastes of the soil as well as dark cherry
and red plum flavors, complimented by oak, finishing with refreshing acidity and
a flourish of cherry. A lighter weight vintage for this wine. Better the following
day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle indicating cellaring is
advisable. Very good.
2010 de Coelo Tierra Neuma Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., pH 3.48, TA 0.63, 177 cases,
$75. Demeter Certified Biodynamic® vineyard. 25% whole clusters. Fermented with natural yeast, unfiltered.
Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Aromas of oak-infused cherries, espresso and Christmas spices.
Driven by fresh and uplifting acidity, this wine features dark red fruits that have an earthy underpinning. A little
more body, tannins and finish than Quintus, with more oak topcoat. More appealing the following day from a
previously opened and re-corked bottle. Very good.
Calera Wine Co.
The wines in this vintage have daunting tannins and I found it very difficult to get my arms around them. This is
one of the least approachable vintages for Calera in recent memory. It should take years for them to soften and
recant, and although there is enough fruit to stay the course, the wines will always be tannic. I found it
challenging to pick out vineyard terroir at this stage, only finding Reed distinctive. These are definitely not
wines for drinking tonight, even with decanting. I found them impenetrable the following day as well from
previously opened and re-corked bottles.
2009 Calera de Villiers Vineyard Mt. Harlan Pinot Noir
14.4% alc., 1,460 cases, $35. 15.6-acre vineyard,
yields 2.06 tons per acre. Made from organic grapes. Native fermentations, aged 16 months in 30% new
French oak barrels. Unfiltered.
Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Aromas of ripe plum, blackberry and
raisin with hints of damp earth and oak. Moderately rich array of very ripe purple and black fruits with a hint of
Hoison sauce and Asian spice, backed by modest tannins. The most approachable wine in the 2009 lineup.
2009 Calera Ryan Vineyard Mt. Harlan Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., 2,318 cases, $40. 13.7-acre vineyard, yields
2.33 tons per acre, aged 18 months in 30% new French oak barrels. Unfiltered.
Moderately light reddish-purple
color in the glass. Shy aromas and flavors of dark cherries and raspberries. The appealing fruit is
buried in overwhelming tannins. Good.
2009 Calera Reed Vineyard Mt. Harlan Pinot Noir
14.8% alc., 281 cases, $52. 4.4-acre vineyard, yields
1.02 tons per acre. Aged 17 months in 30% new French oak barrels. Unfiltered.
Light reddish color in the
glass. Enticing aromas of strawberries, red cherries and sandalwood. More vineyard terroir evident that the
other vineyard-designated Pinots in this vintage. Flavorful core of cherries, brown spice and a hint of vanilla
wrapped in balanced tannins. Not the fruit intensity of the other Pinots in this vintage, but the long aromatic
finish leaves an enticing trail of cherries. A feminine wine in a dominatrix way. Very good.
2009 Calera Selleck Vineyard Mt. Harlan Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., 420 cases,
$78. 4.8-acre vineyard, yields 1.21 tons per acre. Aged 17 months in 30% new
French oak barrels. Unfiltered.
Moderately light reddish-purple color in the
glass. Nicely scented with aromas of blueberries, blackberries and clay. Fat in
the mouth with generous flavors of black cherries, blueberries and
boysenberries backed by muscular, firm tannins. The wine has an extra depth
of flavor at the end just when you think it is finished. Very good.
2009 Calera Mills Vineyard Mt. Harlan Pinot Noir
14.9% alc., 1,599 cases,
$45. 16.3-acre vineyard, yields 1.55 tons per acre. Aged 18 months in 30%
new French oak barrels. Unfiltered.
Light reddish-purple color in the glass. Muted aromas of dark red cherries
and berries and oak spice. Generous fruit intensity starring black cherries, finishing with good fruit presence.
Very muscular tannins currently overwhelm the fruit. Good.
2009 Calera Jensen Vineyard Mt. Harlan Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 1,277 cases, $73. 13.5-acre vineyard,
yields 1.34 tons per acre. Aged 17 months in 30% new French oak barrels. Unfiltered.
reddish-purple hue in the glass. Restrained aromas of darker berries and subtle oak. Very pretty core of
discretely concentrated black cherry fruit buried in flamboyant tannins. A captivatingly long finish exceeds that
of any other Calera Pinot in this vintage. The future looks very bright but this wine will demand patience.
Flowers Vineyard & Winery
This winery has had a long and successful journey that began with the purchase of 321 acres in the northern
true Sonoma Coast in Cazadero in 1990 by Walt and Joan Flowers. The site was named Camp Meeting Ridge
after the Pomo Indians who camped in the area in the summer. A gravity-flow winery was added in 1997, and
an additional 327 acres, named Flowers Ranch, was added the same year. Today, neighboring vineyards
include Hirsch, Marcassin, Hellenthal, Blue Slide Ridge, Failla and Pahlmeyer. There have been a number of
talented winemakers at Flowers who have gone to distinguish themselves at other wineries. Since 2008, the
winemaker has been Darrin Low. The viticulturist, Larry Bradley, has been at Flowers since the early 1990s.
Production is about 27,000 cases a year of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, 85% of which is estate grown. In 2009,
Huneeus Vintners bought substantial interest in Flowers and Walt and Joan Flowers retired from their project.
The 2010 vintage saw the inaugural production of block-designated Pinot Noirs.
2010 Flowers Camp Meeting Ridge Estate Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., $70. Calera,
Swan, Dijon, Wädenswil and Pommard clones. Schist, shale and sandstone soils. 1200 to 1400 feet
elevation. Yields 1.89 tons per acre. 100% de-stemmed. Aged 16 months in 57% new French oak barrels.
Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Clean aromas of black cherries, black raspberries, dark
strawberries, clove spice and smoky oak. The flavors replicate the aromas in a middleweight offering that has
balanced tannins, and an appealingly soft and smooth mouth feel. Picks up interest over time in the glass.
2010 Flowers Sea Ridge Estate Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., $65. Heritage, 777, 825
and 115 clones planted in schist, shale, basalt and sandstone soil. 1400 to 1800 feet elevation. Yields 1.91
tons per acre. 5% whole cluster. Aged 16 months in 40% new French oak barrels.
Moderately light reddishpurple
color in the glass. Shy aromas of raspberries and cranberries with a hint of briar. Dark red fruits are
featured in a modest weight wine with balanced tannins, a sleek, smooth texture, and some generous fruit
length on the finish. Very nicely crafted and rather sophisticated. Very good.
2010 Camp Meeting Ridge Estate Vineyard Block 11 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., $75. 1.16-
acre block at 1400 feet elevation. Schist and shale soil. Calera selection. Yields 2.21 tons per acre. Aged 17
months in 40% new French oak barrels.
Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Muted aromas of
darker red berries. A solid offering with well-ripened dark red raspberry and cherry flavors, elevated by good
acidity and framed by ripe tannins. Nothing really stands out, but drinks nicely. Should benefit from more time
in the cellar. Good.
2010 Flowers Sea View Ridge Estate Vineyard Block 20 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., $75. 1.55-acre block at 1700 feet
elevation. Shallow volcanic clay loam over basalt, schist and shale soil.
Clone 777. Yields 2.38 tons per acre. Aged 17 months in 40% new
French oak barrels.
Moderately light reddish-purple hue in the glass.
Penetrating, enthralling aromas of perfectly ripe black cherries and
black raspberries. Luscious flavors of black cherry cola, griottes kirsch, and
dark berries, modest dry tannins, bright acidity and a velvety mouth feel. I like
this for its balance, texture and fruit persistence on the finish. A regal wine.
2010 Flowers Sea View Ridge Estate Vineyard Block 21 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., $75. 1.15-
acre block at 1400 feet elevation. Shallow clay loam over sandstone soil. Clone 777 and Swan selection.
Yields 2.15 tons per acre. Aged 17 months in 16% new French oak barrels.
Light reddish color in the glass.
Intense aromas of cherries. The lightest and most red-fruited of the Flowers Pinot Noirs in this vintage. Wellnuanced
flavors of cherry hard candy, Asian 5-spice and pine tar. Beautifully crafted with gentle tannins and
vivid underlying acidity. Has a unique chalky undertone. Very good.
A small producer of Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Syrah and Chardonnay launched in 2009. The estate
Vineyard is on Sonoma Mountain situated at 900 feet directly above Gap's Crown Vineyard in the Sonoma Coast AVA. The property sits above the fog line,
allowing additional exposure to the sun throughout the growing season. Temperature inversion results in
warmer nights and cooler days than vineyards at lower elevations. This allows fruit to ripen while lessening the
need to leave the fruit hanging for extended periods. Being above the fog line, also helps keep fungus and
mold at bay.
The winery is a partnership between Brent Bessire and Evan Pontoriero. Brent learned the wine business from
Gary Farrell and time spent at Mauritson Family Winery. Evan has had a successful career in film, but devoted
his spare time to learning about wine, eventually becoming a hobby winemaker. He developed a friendship
with Brent after the two met at a number of wine events. The first vines were planted on Sonoma Mountain in
2007 and the winery’s first wine was produced in 2009 from purchased grapes. The wines are available direct
and from fine dining establishments in California.
2010 Fogline Vineyards Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.7% alc., pH 3.35, TA 0.67, 80 cases, $42. Released
fall 2011. Sourced from the Sun Chase Vineyard on the western slope of Sonoma Mountain at 1200 to 1400
feet elevation in the Petaluma Gap. Clones 667 and 777.
Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass.
Complex nose offering many scents that come and go including black cherries, plum sauce, strawberries, pipe
smoke, dark chocolate, herbs, dusty earth and a floral note. Middleweight cherry-driven flavor with a hint of
spice, dried herbs, tobacco and even peach. Elegant, with soft tannins and respectable acidity, finishing with a
citrusy cherry flavor. An interesting chameleon of a wine, but a bit strange in its combination of aromas and
2010 Fogline Vineyards Floodgate Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., pH 3.40, TA 0.65, 135 cases, $38. Vineyard is
located in Middle Reach of Russian River Valley. Clones 115, 666, 777
Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Smooth,
spicy and sexy, with seductive aromas of dusty, dark cherries, graham
and toast. A cherry bombast that is luscious yet refined and silky with
complimentary hints of spice and cola. Nicely balanced with supple
tannins and good staying power on the finish. The pedigree of this established
vineyard shows through. A high-collared, impressive offering.
Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery
The wines in the 2009 vintage were crafted by former Gary Farrell winemaker Susan Reed. She was trained
by Gary Farrell when he was still consulting at the winery and her style reflects his. All three of these wines are
sourced from top notch vineyards.
2009 Gary Farrell Stiling Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., pH 3.42, TA 0.65, 287
cases, $50. Vineyard owners, Don (now deceased) and Barbara Stiling converted a 48-acre apple ranch to
vineyards in 1988. The site has well-drained Goldridge soils. Field selection of Swan clone.
color in the glass. Shy scent of red cherries, red berries, candy jar and herbs. Elegant array of red
fruits with a slight confected bent, finishing with lengthy flavors of cherry cola and herbs. The tannins are
restrained and a very soft mouth feel adds to the appeal. I liked it more over time in the glass. Very good.
2009 Gary Farrell Hallberg Vineyard Dijon Clones Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., pH 3.42,
TA 0.67, 307 cases, $60. Released February 1, 2012. 100-acre vineyard named for its previous owners, Don
and Marcia Hallberg. Now meticulously farmed by owner Kirk Lokka, a Sonoma-Cutrer alumnus. Dijon clones.
Moderate reddish-purple hue in the glass. Shy, but pleasant aromas of dark red and black cherries and
berries, picking up more intensity over time in the glass. Very soft and silky in the mouth, with flavors of earthkissed
dark red and purple fruits, finishing with exuberant cherries and raspberries and a good cut of acidity.
Not fully expressive now, but still leaves a nice impression. Very good.
2009 Gary Farrell Rochioli Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., pH 3.48, TA 0.61, 406 cases, $65. Released
November 1, 2011. Sourced from blocks planted in 1974, 1995 and
2000. Some of the fruit came from cuttings taken from the original
“mother” block planted in 1968. Pommard clone.
reddish-purple color in the glass. Needs some swirling in the glass to
open up. Attractive perfume of well-ripened black cherries and baking
spice. Middleweight flavors of cherry cola, spice and subtle oak caressed by
gossamer tannins, finishing with uplifting acidity. Beautifully crafted. Not very
expressive now, but one senses this could become extraordinary with several
years in the cellar. Always the best Pinot Noir in the Gary Farrell stable.
Heart & Hands Wine Company
Located on the eastern shore of Cayuga Lake, Heart & Hands produces less than 1500 cases of Pinot Noir,
Pinot Noir Blanc, Brut Rosé and Riesling. I got to know proprietor and winemaker Tom Higgins several years
ago on a trip to the Finger Lakes. He had his first serious winemaking experience at Calera Wine Company,
subsequently returning to New York to work for Thirsty Owl Wine Company and Atwater Estate Vineyards while
preparing to launch Heart & Hands. In 2008, he and his spouse, Susan, completed their winery building and
tasting room and his dreams of owning a winery came to fruition. Tom also provides winemaking and vineyard
consulting services throughout the Finger Lakes. An estate vineyard is now producing and seven clones of
Pinot Noir were harvested in 2012.
The Finger Lakes region is a challenge to viticulturists and winemakers due to the very cool climate, but Tom
has achieved remarkable success with Pinot Noir. All three vineyard-designated Pinot Noirs reviewed here are
different and worthy of a vineyard designation. Visit www.heartandhandswine.com.
I was curious about how Tom managed to pick at low Brix and yet vinify his Pinot Noirs with 100% whole
cluster. Here was his response. “Lower alcohol by volume (ABV) seems to be the norm here. I am always
confused by the relationship between Brix and ABV when I talk to colleagues at tech symposia and can only
presume it has a great deal to do with the glucose to fructose relationship. We normally pick our Pinot Noir
somewhere between 22º and 25º Brix and for us, this translates into a 12.5% to 13.2% ABV. In 2010, fruit
came in between 23.6º and 24.4º Brix. After we get above 20º, I toss out the refractometer and just go on the
taste of the fruit and the numbers on the acidity. Also, I am looking for anywhere from 1” to 2” of lignification on
the stems as a sign that the vines are beginning to pull their juices downward and set themselves up for winter.
We have always had the 100% whole cluster program in place (the Barrel Reserve is our best representation of
the blend of the single vineyards within the whole cluster framework and the “standard” Pinot Noir is typically
“Many of my colleagues here warned me of the vegetal sensations they had contended with in years past with
their Pinot Noir program, but after my stint at Calera and sampling plenty of examples of whole cluster wines
from the similar cool climate of Burgundy, I was hard headed about what I believed could be done in the Finger
Lakes. Ironically, I heard that more than 50% of the producers of Pinot Noir in the Finger Lakes in 2012 were
going to be incorporating some level of stem inclusion in their Pinot Noir programs.”
“The vegetal sensations are noticeable earlier in the fermentation process, but once things start cooking (our
fermentation temperatures are usually between 82 and 92 degrees), those flavors have a tendency to blow off.
I believe the softer oak treatment (with Francois Frères barrels) also reduces the impact and does not have the
doubling down effect of those greener type flavor compounds that I would have encountered had I gone with an
American oak program.”
“We have been working with the Cornell extension for a few yeas to better understand our stem program and
how this and clones relates to color and tannin preservation. While the 2010 version has been published, the
2012 version is still in the process of being run in their labs and is much more extensive.”
2011 Heart & Hands Brut Rosé Finger Lakes Sparkling Wine
12.5% alc., 115 cases, $25.99. Grown on shore of Seneca
Lake. Whole cluster pressed and fermented in a stainless steel
Pretty pink salmon color. Perfume of alpine strawberries
and cranberries. Red fruited with imbedded citrus and minerality
and slight alpine, herb note in the background. Slightly creamy
with a healthy bead. Very crisp and completely dry. A satisfying offering.
2011 Heart & Hands Polarity Finger Lakes Pinot Noir Blanc
12.8% alc., pH 3.41, TA 0.62, 101 cases,
$26.99, Vino-Loc closure. Whole cluster pressed Pinot Noir with limited skin contact. Barrel fermented with
gentle lees stirring. Aged 9 months in French oak.
Faint honey, apricot color in the glass. Aromas of baked
pear, grilled peach and blonde caramel. Unusual and challenging to taste with flavors of white stone fruits,
toffee, and vanilla. Relatively light on its feet with a good cut of acidity on the dry finish. Good.
2011 Heart & Hands Elaine’s Vineyard Finger Lakes Pinot Noir
13.4% alc., pH 3.86, TA 0.67, 24
cases, $30.99, Vino-Lok closure Vineyard is a tribute to Elaine Hazlitt, a pioneer in the Finger Lakes
wine industry. Located on the shores of Seneca Lake. Vineyard manager is John Santos. Yields 2.4
tons per acre. 100% whole cluster. Aged in Francois Frères French oak barrels. Unfiltered.
Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Nicely perfumed with scents of deep red berries, black
cherries and a hint of stem. Moderately light in weight but flavorful featuring dark cherries and
cranberries. Elegant with mild dry tannins and some length on the finish. Whole cluster is evident but in a
good, non-vegetal way. Very good.
2011 Heart & Hands Hobbit Hollow Vineyard Finger Lakes Pinot Noir
12.1% alc., pH 3.79, TA 0.65, 24 cases, $30.99, Vino-Lok
closure. Vineyard is located on the shores of the western side of
Skaneateles Lake. Owner is Mike Falcone and vineyard manager is
Paul Wellington. Yields 1.4 tons per acre. 100% whole cluster. Aged
in Francois Frères French oak barrels. Unfiltered.
color in the glass. An intriguing wine offering aromas of cherries, creme soda,
vanilla, and sandalwood. Light and elegant with flavors of fresh cherries, oak
vanillin, spice and bacon. Gentle, dry tannins and bright acidity make for easy
drinking. Still holding nicely two days later from a previously opened and recorked
bottle. Very good.
2011 Heart & Hands Patrician Verona Vineyard Finger Lakes Pinot Noir
12.7% alc., 24 cases,
$30.99, Vino-Lok closure. Vineyard is located on the western side of Cayuga Lake. Vineyard
manager is Cameron Hosmer. Yields 2.3 tons per acre. 100% whole cluster. Aged in Francois
Frères French oak barrels. Unfiltered.
Light garnet color in the glass. Aromas of darker cherry pie
filling, compost, and leather. Tasty array of cherry, raspberry and spice flavors on a light, elegant
base. Fresh, juicy and round with some length on the finish. A little mushroom and green garden is
noted in the background. Good
La Rochelle Winery
The vineyard sources change from year to year for this Livermore, California producer, but the wines have
been consistently excellent. Founded by Steven Kent Mirassou, who acquired the label from the family in
2005, the winery focuses on small lots of Pinot Noir sourced from multiple appellations in California and
Oregon. The winemaker, Tom Stutz, has a master’s degree in viticulture from University of California at Davis.
His Pinot Noir winemaking experience has included time at Domaine Chandon in Napa Valley, Hanzell
Vineyards in Sonoma County and Mirassou Vineyards in San Jose. Some wines are sold exclusively to
members of the winery’s Pinot Noir Program. Visit www.lrwine.com for information.
The wines are produced as follows. After de-stemming and crushing, the fruit is fermented in 1.5-ton open-top
fermenters. Primary and malolactic fermentation are induced. Aging is carried out for an extended time in
100% French oak.
2009 La Rochelle Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., 55 cases, $42. Released August 3, 2012.
100% Pommard clone grown on the Dutton’s Campbell Ranch with a small amount of Mission Ranch Swan
selection blended in. Aged 17 months in 100% second used French oak barrels.
color in the glass. Nicely perfumed with aromas of fresh picked black cherries, black raspberries, rose petals
and spice. Deep, but not overbearing flavors of Bing cherries and cola, caressed by soft tannins, infused with
vim by bright acidity, and offering a lengthy memory of cherries on the finish. Quintessential Russian River
Valley Pinot Noir and one of the better appellation wines from that region on the market. Very good (+).
2009 La Rochelle Conzelman Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.6% alc., 115 cases, $48. Released
July 14, 2012. Clones 115 and 777. Aged 28 months in 60% new, 20% second use and 20% American oak.
Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Savory nose with aromas of forest floor, stem and cherry with a
touch of chemical peeking out. Slightly confected cherry flavor with an underlying savory herb riff. Moderately
light in weight with mild sandy tannins, finishing very dry and herbal. Decent.
2009 La Rochelle Dutton Ranch Campbell Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., $48.
Released January 14, 2012. Farmed by the Dutton family, this vineyard is located near the towns of Graton
and Occidental. 100% Pommard clone. Aged 16 months in 50% new French oak barrels.
hue in the glass. Really enticing nose that picks up considerable olfactory interest over time in the
glass. Aromas of dark cherry pie glaze, dark berries and spice. Plenty to like with nicely ripened flavors of
dark red cherries and berries, nicely spiced, picking up intensity over time. A spirited wine with supple tannins,
really struting its stuff the next day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. Very good.
2009 La Rochelle Donum Estate Vineyard Carneros Pinot Noir
14.6% alc., 115 cases, $75. Released October 1, 2012. Inaugural
release from this vineyard. 100% Donum clone (a massal selection
from cuttings brought to California by Roederer). Aged 19 months in
40% new and 60% second use French oak barrels.
color in the glass. A very exotic wine exhibiting aromas of wild
berries and musk that really draws you into the glass. Delicious array of
dark red and black berries with a touch of spice and an earthiness which adds to
the appeal. Very supply fine-grain tannins, a silky texture and generous
finishing power. Significantly better the following day from a previously opened
and re-corked bottle. Like actress Keira Knightley, perfumed and sensuous.
2009 La Rochelle Tondre Grapefield Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.8% alc., 125 cases, $48. Released September 8, 2012.
Originally planted to 6 acres of Pinot Noir in 1997. Today the vineyard
contains 80 acres of Pinot Noir and 25 acres of Chardonnay, farmed by
Joe Allarid. Clones 943 and Pommard are in this bottling. Inaugural
release from this vineyard. Aged for 18 months in 20% new and 80%
second use French oak barrels.
Medium reddish-purple color in the
glass. Smells like the freshest blackberry jam you have ever experienced.
Delicious and entirely seductive, with a moderately intense core of blackberry,
cassis, Hoison sauce and vanilla flavors. Smooth and satiny, with well-balanced
tannins, well-integrated acidity in the background and the most outrageously long finish of all the wines in this
La Rochelle lineup. I have had several great wines from this vineyard and this one continues the trend.
2009 La Rochelle Sleepy Hollow Vineyard Block A Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.7% alc., 275
cases, $48. Released August 2, 2012. Martini and 113 clones. Aged 26 months in 45% new and 55% second
use French oak barrels.
Moderate reddish-purple hue in the glass. Smells like a smoke-tainted wine with
strong aromas of wood smoke and tar. Unpleasant ash, smoke and tar flavors overwhelm the middleweight
dark fruit core which is presented on a silky platform with supple tannins. Unsatisfactory, but I only had one
bottle to review and this wine was definitely not consistent with the many wines I have had from this winery.
Pisoni Vineyards & Winery
2010 Pisoni Estate Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay
14.2% alc., $65. Unfiltered.
Light straw color with
a faint haze in the glass. Lovely aromas of pear, lemon and lychee. Dry with spritely acidity, featuring flavors
of lemon, baked pear, lychee, brown butter and dark caramel. Appealing restraint. Very good.
2010 Pisoni Estate Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., 580 cases, $55.
Deep, dark purple color in the glass. Scent of dark berry
preserves with a complimentary hint of smoky oak and vanillin. Delicious
core of vibrant blackberry and black plum flavors with undertones of
smoke, tar, vanilla, and earth. Full-bodied with masculine tannins, yet
soft and quite approachable now. Offers grip, breed and length. A man’s Pinot
that never disappoints and one of California’s most cherished iconic wines year
in and year out.
Windy Oaks Estate Vineyards & Winery
These wines are from the 15-acre Schultze Family Vineyard located in Corralitos in the Santa Cruz Mountains
AVA at 900 feet above Monterey Bay. The vineyard is farmed and the wines are vinified on site by the Schultze
family. Since their beginnings in 1999, the winery has been a consistent performer with dedication to every
detail of production: 100% gravity during harvest, crush, press and bottling. About half of the fermentation bins
are done with indigenous yeast. All wines are unfiltered and unfined. The winery’s website has been updated
and is now very informative (www.windyoaksestate.com).
2009 Windy Oaks Estate Proprietor’s Reserve Schultze Family Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., $60. Signature wine primarily from the 1.5-acre Bay Block of the original 3-acre vineyard.
Unfined and unfiltered. Available only to Windy Oaks Wine Group members and at the tasting room.
Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Lovely perfume of fresh cherry pie filling, baking spices,
compost and sandalwood. Light and elegant, gentle and calming, this wine offers flavors of red cherries,
strawberries and spice balanced with ripe tannins and lively acidity. The cherry flavor holds on tight on the long
finish. A little lighter in this vintage and needs more time in the cellar for the tannins to recede. Very good.
2009 Windy Oaks Estate Limited Release Wood Tank Fermented Schultze Family Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
alc., $55. Fermented up to 8 weeks in 1-ton, open fermentation French
Medium garnet color in the glass. This wine has the type of
nose that drives pinotphiles crazy. Effusive aromas of dark red cherries
and berries, dark red rose petals and spice. Moderately rich dark red
cherry and raspberry fruits accented with caramelized oak and spice.
The tannins are a little more aggressive in this wine but they are not obtrusive
and will moderate with time. I like this charming wine for its additional
complimentary oak contributions including the exotic spice that marries with
Pinot fruit so well. Rare to find an oak tank fermented Pinot Noir in California since it is more challenging to
2009 Windy Oaks Estate Limited Release 100% Whole Cluster Schultze Family Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., $55. Available only to Windy Oaks Wine Group members and at the tasting
Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Brooding aromas of deep red cherries, dark berries, spice
and oak vanillin. Middleweight flavors of darker red stone fruits and berries with a savory undertone. Soft and
elegant with respectable length, showing firm tannins and a hint of stem. A little more open and appealing the
following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. Not as good as the bottle of this wine I reviewed
earlier in the year. Good (+).
2008 Windy Oaks Estate Special Burgundy Clone Schultze Family Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., $75. Very limited. From
a special half-acre section of the vineyard that is carefully hand-tended
exclusively by Jim Schultze. The clone is a rarely propagated French
Pinot Noir clone not available in the United States. Aged 27 months in
100% new French oak. Unfined and unfiltered.
color in the glass. A very polished and sophisticated offering that
reminds me of a Frédéric Mugnier wine from Chambolle-Musigny. Deep cherry
and spice aromas and flavors that take on an extraordinary appeal over
extended time, seemingly partnering with the glass. Comforting and silky with
soft tannins and beautifully integrated oak. Very food friendly (try roast chicken). My wife was impressed and
that is saying something. Still great the next day when we finished the bottle. Truly in a class by itself.
Wren Hop Vineyards
A small family winery run by partners James McDonough and his father, James McDonough, Sr.. The
winemaker is Russell Bevan and Chris Walden of Hambrecht Vineyard Management is the vineyard manager
and Virginia Lambrix is the viticulturist. Very appealing website and wine labels offering a first-class
impression. The 2009 vintage wines were highly rated by the Wine Advocate. I found the wines in this vintage
to be very bold expressions of Pinot Noir, rich and dense with very ripe fruit, and plenty of oak detailing. They
may not be to my preference stylistically, but it is tough to argue dogma. It’s a little like complaining of a lover
that he or she is too beautiful.
2010 Wren Hop Vineyards Stolen Crown Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.6% alc., pH 3.73, 75 cases,
$62. Clones 667, 777 and 115. Aged 14 months in 100% new French oak barrels.
Dark reddish-purple color
in the glass. Aromas of black grape juice, blackberry jam, cooked fruit and oak. Full-bodied, rich and dense
with dark berry fruit, prodigious tannins including some oak tannins, notes of oak-driven dark caramel and
anise in the background, finishing with a bit of heat. Decent.
2010 Wren Hop Vineyards Shriveled Hand Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.8% alc., pH 3.95, 50 cases, $62.
Grapes sourced from Sun Chase Vineyard in the Petaluma Gap. Clone 777. Aged 14 months in 100% new
French oak barrels.
Dark purple color in the glass. Aromas of dark mocha java with little fruit evident. Bigboned,
with generous amounts of coffee-scented, sweet black cherry fruit wrapped in firm tannins. Promising
fruit core which is buried in oak at present. Give this wine time in the cellar. Good.
2010 Wren Hop Vineyards The Fire Messenger Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.6% alc., pH 3.80, 100 cases, $62. Grapes sourced from Wren Hop and
Gap’s Crown vineyards. Swan clone. Aged 11 months in 100% new French oak
Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. Appealing scents of black
cherries, black raspberries and spice. A full mouth of luxurious black fruits with
accents of cola and dark chocolate. This wine displays much better acidity and
good integration of oak, and has a very seductive soft, velvety mouth feel. Very
good for its style.