Recent Sips of Pinot Noir
August West Consistently stellar wines from a partnership between winemaker Ed Kurtzman and
winegrowers Gary Franscioni and Howard Graham, showcasing grapes from their Santa Lucia Highlands and
Russian River Valley vineyards. 2011 saw a rainy winter followed by a cool spring and summer, with early fall
rains. Yields were lower than usual from both SLH and RRV appellations. Ed says, “Despite the difficulties of
the vintage, the wines turned out surprisingly well with focused fruit and age worthy structure.” The wines were
released in January 2012 and are available from the winery website at www.augustwestwine.com. Feel free to
call Ed directly at 415-225-2891 for questions.
2011 August West Rosella’s Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.6% alc., pH 3.59, TA 0.68, 382
cases, $45. Clones 113, 667 and Pisoni. Aged 10 months in 50% new, 44% 1-year-old and 6% 2-year-old
French oak barrels.
Moderately light reddish color in the glass. Pleasing aromas of cherry pie glaze, spice and
sandalwood. Middleweight array of dark red fruits, most prominently strawberries. The most elegant and redfruited
of the Santa Lucia Highlands’ wines with modest tannins and a strawberry-infused finish. Not a
powerhouse, buy oozes charm. Very good.
2011 August West Graham Family Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., pH 3.79, TA 0.60,
167 cases, $45. Clones 667, 777, 828 and 23. Aged 10 months in 71% new and 29% 1-year-old French oak
Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Lovely aromas of Bing cherries and smoky oak.
Mid weight flavors of cherries, raspberries and baking spices. Nicely balanced and easy to like, finishing with a
kick of fresh cherries. Very good.
2011 August West Sierra Mar Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.6% alc., pH 3.66, TA 0.63,
129 cases, $45. Swan selection and clone 23. Aged 10 months in 66% new, 17% 1-year-old and 17% 2-yearold
French oak barrels.
Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Shy aromas of black cherry, spice
and vanilla. Fairly intense and concentrated dark red berry and cherry fruit with complimentary oak in the
background on the mid palate, finishing with some oak-laced, fruit-driven power and a rush of tannins. Tasted
the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle, the aromatics still had not appeared and the
wine still displayed muscular tannins. This wine should benefit from cellaring at least a year. Good.
2011 August West Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., ph 3.62, TA 0.66, 406 cases,
$32. From Rosella’s, Sierra Mar and Soberanes vineyards. Aged 10 months in 12% new, 59% 1-
year-old and 29% 2-year-old French oak barrels.
Medium reddish-purple color in the glass.
Aromatically alive with scents of purple grapes and plums with a hint of spice and brioche. Full-bodied
flavors of plum and boysenberry with a hint of spice and smoky oak in the background. Juicy
and vibrant with firm tannins. A solid appellation wine. Good (+).
2011 August West Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., pH 3.61, TA 0.64, 215 cases, $32. Clones
667 and 777, Swan and Calera selections. Aged 11 months in 10% new, 40% 1-year-old and 29% 2-year-old
French oak barrels.
Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Aromas of cherry liquor, dark red berries, toasty oak, and tea leaf. Light, elegant and slightly savory, with flavors of cherries, cola, leaf and vanillin oak supported by mild
balanced tannins. Tasted twice. Decent.
Byron is located on the site of Uriel Nielson’s first commercial vineyard in Santa Barbara County planted in
1964. Over the years, Byron has found the best farming protocols, clones, rootstocks and trellising for the
region and is currently undergoing an extensive replanting of the estate vineyards. Byron produces
Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from estate and other notable vineyards throughout the Santa Maria Valley. Visit
2011 Byron Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., pH 3.74, TA 0.50, 15, 207 cases, $29.
100% estate-owned Nielson Vineyard fruit. This wine comes from both older Pinot Noir vines
planted on their own rootstock and new vines planted to high density spacing with the latest clones
and rootstocks. Aged 10 months in 20% new French oak barrels.
Moderately dark reddish-purple
color in the glass. Very appealing aromas of black raspberries, black plums, spice, pine and nut-scented
oak. Mid weight flavors of dark berries, cherries and plums with pleasing hints of cola,
spice and herbal oak. A little earthy tone fills the background. This wine is noticeably lighter, fresher and
crisper in this vintage. Good.
Campesino Cellars Griselda Montoya grew up in the Carneros region of Napa and spent her childhood at
Papi y Chula Vineyard which is owned and farmed by the Ceja family. Her brothers and their spouses founded
Ceja Vineyards and together with Macario Montoya, she started Campensino Cellars. Campensino translates
in English as “fieldworker.” The Campesino Cellars wines are a homage to all campesinos. “A mis carnales y
mis carnala gracias por su trabajo”: “To my brothers and sisters thank you for your work.” The Papi y Chula
Vineyard is farmed by Griselda’s brother, Armando Ceja. Located about a mile north of San Pablo Bay, this 5-
acre vineyard is exposed to cooling winds during the day and fog at night. The vineyard’s shallow clay-loam
soil produces a low vigor vine, resulting in low yields. Visit www.campesinocellars.com.
2010 Campesino Papi y Chula Vineyard Los Carneros Napa Valley Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., pH 3.68, TA
0.65, 56 cases, $38. Aged 18 months in 100% second fill French oak barrels.
Medium reddish-purple hue in
the glass. Enticing aromas of cherries, oak, hazelnut, chocolate and rose petals. Very flavorful mid weight
core of cherries, brambly raspberries and black plum with an earthy and subtle oak undertone. Easy to drink
with supple tannins, and a refreshingly crisp and teasing finish. Gets better over time in the glass and even
better the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. Very good.
Paraiso Vineyards consists of over 3,000 acres of grapes farmed by the innovative Smith family who have
perfected mechanical harvesting, mobile vineyard pressing, and advanced trellising and irrigation systems for
the region. They helped outline and establish the Santa Lucia Highlands Viticultural Area. The winemaker is
son-in-law David Fleming, making this a true family wine estate. Paraiso offers a Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot
Noir, a “West Terrace” Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir, individual clonal bottlings under the Faite label, and a
Faite top-of-the-line Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir. Visit www.paraisovineyards.com.
2009 Paraiso Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., 14,672 cases, $25, screwcap.
Double Gold Medal at San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. Third generation growing family
with first vines planted in 1973. First winery in region to receive SIP™ Certified Sustainable in
2008. A blend of six clones from estate vineyard. 70% fermented in 5-ton open top fermenters
with the balance in 10-ton tanks. Aged 11 months in French oak barrels.
Moderately light reddishpurple
color in the glass. Scent of cherries, raspberries, brown spice and maple syrup. Tasteful in
an elegant style, featuring cherry and strawberry flavors with a hint of baking spices and oak.
Juicy, with soft tannins. A satisfying drink that was even better the following day from a previously
opened and re-corked bottle. Very good, especially at this modest price.
ROAR is a partnership between Gary and Rosella
Franscioni, owners of the Garys’ (with Gary Pisoni) and Rosella’s vineyards. The name “ROAR” is
derived from the sound of the ocean winds that are characteristic in the Santa Lucia Highlands winegrowing
region. In 2007 and 2008, Gary planted Sierra Mar Vineyard, located six miles south of Garys’ Vineyard and
the Soberanes Vineyard, just south of Garys’ Vineyard which he is developing in partnership with the Pisoni
family. Roar was launched in 2001 with the goal of producing small lots of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah
from Rosella’s, Sierra Mar, Soberanes, Garys’ and Pisoni vineyards. The winemaker is Ed Kurtzman. The two
wines reviewed below are already sold out at the winery. The next release of 2011 ROAR wines will be July
2013. Join the mailing list at www.roarwines.com.
2011 ROAR Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.9% alc., pH 3.73, TA 0.54, 1,158 cases, $40. Pisoni, Swan
and Pommard clones harvested at 26.5º Brix. Aged 11 months in 46% new and 54% 1-year-old French oak
barrels. Unfined and unfiltered.
Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. Nicely perfumed with bright
aromas of dark berry jam, plum pudding and fresh brioche. Tasty essence of dark stone and berry fruits with
good concentration and a reasonably full, satiny finish. A solid, impressive appellation wine. Very good.
2011 ROAR Garys’ Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.9% alc., pH 3.62, TA 0.58, 641
cases, $52. Pisoni clone harvested at 26.8º Brix.. Aged 11 months in 77% new and 23% 1-year-old
French oak barrels. Unfined and unfiltered.
Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. Welcoming
aromas of red and black berry cobbler, black cherries and clove. Delicious core of dark red fruits with a
slight savory accent. Full-bodied with a seductively soft texture and very fine tannins. Beautiful
integration of oak. A little big and high in alcohol for me personally, but this is a great wine in its style.
Garys’ Vineyard seemed to perform beautifully in this vintage.
Sinor-LaVallee was founded by the husband and wife team of winemaker Mike Sinor and Cheri LaVallee Sinor
in Arroyo Grande in 1997. Mike started his career at Corbett Canyon Winery and then became assistant
winemaker under noted Central Coast vintner Ken Brown at Byron. He left after the 2000 harvest to become
winemaker at Domaine Alfred Winery in San Luis Obispo at the site of Chamisal Vineyard. It was here that he
met his stride and received considerable notoriety, directing vineyard operations, instituting biodynamic
farming, and crafting wines that brought the winery considerable national acclaim, particular for Pinot Noir. In
2006, Mike left Domaine Alfred (now Chamisal Vineyards) to focus on Ancient Peak Winery and the Sinor-
LaVallee label. Mike is one of the founding members of the World of Pinot Noir and has often served on the
board of that event. He crafts small lots of Pinot Noir and Syrah under the Sinor-LaVallee label from vineyards
that are within a bicycle ride from his home in Arroyo Grande. The label features Mike’s thumbprint on the left
and Cheri’s on the right with the kids’ thumbprints on the back label. Visit www.sinorlavallee.com.
2011 Sinor-LaVallee San Luis Obispo County Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 135 cases, $30. A blend of
fruit from Talley-Rincon Vineyard in Arroyo Grande and Squire Canyon Vineyard in Avila Beach.
Average yields 2.8 tons per acre. 25% whole cluster. Native and natural fermentation, pressed off
with a basket press. Aged 12 months in 50% new Francois Frères French oak barrels. Unfined
Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. The aromas have not arrived in
this wine yet, but with swirling, delicate scents of very ripe stone and berry fruit emerge with a
pleasant oak backing. The mid palate attack of strawberry, raspberry and plum fruit flavors are
moderately intense. The tannins are well managed and the wine finishes with modest but pleasing length.
2011 Sinor-LaVallee Talley-Rincon Vineyard Arroyo Grande Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 93 cases, $40.
Seventh vintage from this block. Yield 2.23 tons from one acre. 100% de-stemmed. Inoculated and native
fermentation. Aged 17 months in 50% new Francois Frères French oak barrels. Unfiltered.
reddish-purple color in the glass. Aromas of black cherries, black plum sauce, flint stone and forest floor. A
savory wine with layers of intense flavor and finishing power, featuring ripe dark red and purple fruits. Very
open and inviting with good structural bones and a bold demeanor. Very good.
2011 Sinor-LaVallee Aubaine Vineyard San Luis Obispo County Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 143
cases, $40. This 12-acre vineyard is south of Laetitia Winery on the eastern side of Highway 101.
Primarily 667 with a small amount of 777. 33% whole cluster. 50/50 inoculated and native
fermentation. Aged 17 months in 50% new Francois Frères French oak barrels. Unfiltered.
purple color in the glass. Scent of loganberry jam, raw beef, and roasted plum. Deep plum flavor with
a subtle sidecar of spice, dark chocolate and citrus. Very seductive velvety mouth feel with a robust,
long, long finish. Beautiful integration of oak. This wine can be a ball buster, but it is a chiseled
ballerina in this vintage that is oozing charm. Always a terroir-driven wine of distinction.
Waterstone Winery is a collaboration between winemaker Phillip Zorn and longtime wine executive Brent
Shortridge. The two men founded the label in 2000 in Napa Valley to produce luxury wines at affordable
prices. Zorn has winemaking experience at Sunny St. Helena, Gauer Estate, Paraiso Springs and Tria. The
portfolio includes Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc. The wines are available for
tasting at the Taste at Oxbow in downtown Napa. Visit www.waterstonewines.com.
2009 Waterstone Carneros Pinot Noir
14.4% alc., pH 3.63, TA 0.59, 1,241 cases, $22. A blend
of several clones from mature vines. 100% de-stemmed, whole berry fermented in open top
fermenters, aged 14 months in 35% new and 65% used French oak barrels. Gently fined and
filtered. Winemaker Philip Zorn.
Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Appealing
array of aromas quite accessible upon opening including dusty plum, cherry and strawberry with a
hint of rhubarb. Light and elegant in style, featuring dark red and purple fruits graced by gentle
tannins and accented with a spicy tone. An easy drinking, food-friendly wine. Good.
Zepaltas Wines is the eponymous label of Ryan Zepaltas, a young winemaker who assists at Siduri Wines
and started his own label with the 2005 vintage. He originally planned a career in skateboarding and moved to
Sebastopol to live with relatives and explore opportunities in the San Francisco Bay area. He soon made
friends with people in the wine industry including Mike Mendenhall, who was the cellar master at the time at La
Crema and he offered him a job. Ryan gradually took to winemaking and went to New Zealand to work a
harvest. Upon returning to California he found a harvest position at Siduri and has been there ever since.
Most recently he has been crafting the wines for Soliste as well. For more information and to order wines, visit
www.zepaltaswines.com. The 2011 wines will appeal to fans of lower alcohol, elegantly-styled Pinot Noir.
2011 Zepaltas Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.2% alc., pH 3.59, TA 0.60, 219 cases, $31. A blend of fruit from
four vineyards. Aged 14 months in 33% new French oak barrels.
Moderately light reddish-purple color in the
glass. Aromas of cherries, red berries, and spice with a slight pungent note. Light and delicate with soft
tannins, featuring cherry, red raspberry and strawberry flavors with a flowery note in the background. Decent.
2011 Zepaltas Nunes Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
13.8% alc., pH 3.65, TA 0.60, 48 cases,
$42. Clones 777 and 115. Aged 14 months in 40% new French oak barrels. Unfined and unfiltered.
reddish-purple color in the glass. A melange of aromas including dusty dark cherries, blueberries, rose petal,
cocoa and a hint of straw. An elegant, easy drinking wine with the tasty essence of fresh cherries with a touch
of spice and oak. Light in weight, with gossamer tannins, and a kiss of cherry on the finish. Good.
2011 Zepaltas La Cruz Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., pH 3.60, TA 0.60, 98 cases, $42.
Seventh vintage from this vineyard. 115, Pommard and 114 clones. Aged 14 months in 33% new French oak
barrels. Unfined and unfiltered.
Light reddish-purple color in the glass. The nose is expressive, offering
aromas of dark berries, plum, cooked cherries and a hint of fecundity. Light in weight with an elegant
demeanor, offering flavors of red raspberries and strawberries with a pleasing savory riff. A charming wine with
a delicate finish. Good (+).