Small Sips of Recently Tasted Pinot Noir and a Few Whites
2011 Deux Punx Elk Prairie Vineyard Humboldt County Pinot Noir
12.8% alc., $36. Harvested at 21º Brix. Native fermentation,
aged in neutral French oak barrels.
Moderate reddish-purple color in
the glass. Very aromatic with bright, clean aromas of fresh red
cherries and berries, some rose petal, and a touch of forest floor and
bark. Middleweight flavors of black cherries with an interesting, even
intriguing, undercurrent of wood plank grilled fruit and veggies.
Different, but it works. The wine has impressive length on the finish that sails
along. Very smooth in the mouth and beautifully crafted. The tree on the label is
appropriate. Still impressive the following day from a previously opened and recorked
2010 Eric Kent Stiling Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
$48. Cool label by artist Libby Black.
Moderately dark reddish-purple color in
the glass. Aromas of very ripe Bing cherries, black grapes and peat moss. Very
rich and sappy core of black cherry fruit with riffs of cola and toasted oak in the
background. Big, bold and flashy, with a fruit-driven finish that sails along. The
tannins are modest and the wine is soft in the mouth. This wine shows a Syrahlike
edge to the ripe flavors and has too big a fruit load for my taste, but it is well
crafted in its style in a vintage marked by heat spikes.
2010 Flying Goat Cellars Rancho Santa Rosa Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
14.7% alc., pH 3.65, TA
0.67, 170 cases, $48. Released April 13, 2011. A 225-acre vineyard owned by Foley Family Wines and
located on Highway 246 between Buellton and Lompoc. Clone 667.
Dark reddish-purple color in the glass.
Highly nuanced nose with aromas of ripe Bing cherry, boysenberry jam, black grape, spice and toasty oak.
Full-flavored, featuring dark stone and berry fruit, threatening, but never crossing the over ripe fence. Silky and
agile, with balanced tannins and plenty of black cherry and blackberry singing on the finish.
2009 Flying Goat Cellars Rio Vista Vineyard Dijon Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., pH 3.75, TA 0.519,
240 cases, $46. Released April 28, 2012. Clones 115, 667 and 777. Grapes were de-stemmed, inoculated
fermentation, hand punch downs, aged 18 months in 35% new French oak barrels. Light filtration followed by
additional bottle aging.
Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. The nose is closed for business
initially, slowly giving up aromas of black cherry, black raspberry and smoky oak. Extremely pleasurable on the
palate due to seamless winemaking and pleasing acid tension. Good depth and richness of dark berry and
black plum flavor with a hint of cola, finishing with a slick burst of fruit with noticeable persistence. Even better
the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle.
2010 Flying Goat Cellars Bien Nacido Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
13.7% alc., pH 3.53, TA
0.59, 148 cases, $50. Released September 29, 2012. Inaugural vintage from this vineyard. Old vines in Block
N, Martini clone.
Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. The nose is lacking in fruit, offering
aromas of spicy oak and conifer. Mid weight dark red berry fruit has an herbal undertone. Juicy and pleasant
with good balance, but not exciting. Just not enough going on in the glass to bring you back. Unchanged the
following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle.
2010 Flying Goat Cellars Sierra Madre Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Goat Bubbles Blanc de Blanc
12.8% alc., 239 cases, pH 3.02, TA
0.82, $38. Released April 28, 2012. Chardonnay clone 15. Whole
cluster pressed, cold fermentation, moved to neutral French oak barrels
remaining on lees through summer with lees stirring every two weeks
to encourage malolactic fermentation. In August, the wine was filtered
and decanted into sparkling wine bottles, a tirage of sugar and yeast
added and a crown cap applied. Secondary fermentation occurred in
bottle. After 9 months of aging, the wine was riddled and then disgorged by
hand, a small amount of dosage added, and the wine sealed with the Goat
Bubbles signature was cap.
Very cool package and label. Pale golden yellow color with a good bead in the
glass. Aromas of lemon and green apple with nutty and yeasty accents. A sublime mix of an array of flavors
including lemon, lime, pineapple, vanilla, and almond with a leesey underpinning. Entirely satisfying, with
bright, cleansing acidity directing a dry, lemony finish that urges you to take another sip. An extraordinary
California sparkling wine at a ridiculously modest price considering the quality and work that goes into
producing a wine of this pedigree.
2011 Gary Farrell Russian River Valley Selection Russian River Valley Chardonnay
14.1% alc., pH 3.31,
TA 0.70, 5,122 cases, $35. A blend from a dozen vineyards. Aged 7 months in 40% new French oak barrels.
Moderate golden yellow color and clear in the glass. Aromas of golden apple, lemon, buttered brioche and
toasty oak. A typical Gary Farrell, acid-driven Chardonnay with flavors of apple, lemon and toasted oak with
some citrus-driven length on the brisk finish.
2011 Gundlach Bundschu Estate Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
alc., pH 3.82, TA 0.58, 2,212 cases, $37. Released August 2013. Eight distinct
blocks of Pinot Noir harvested separately from the Estate Vineyard located on
the southwestern slopes of the Mayacamas Mountains, 8 miles north of San
Pablo Bay. 20% of the blend comes from over 40-year-old heritage selections
and 80% is Dijon clones 667 and 777. 100% de-stemmed, 5 to 7-day cold soak,
indigenous and RC212 yeast strains. Gentle pump overs avoiding pumping
skins and seeds, aged 10 months in 40% new French oak barrels.
reddish-purple color in the glass. Love the nose with its expressive aromas of
fresh cherries, strawberries, rose petals and leather glove. Tasty core of red
cherry and strawberry fruits with complimentary oak spice in the background. Noticeable mid palate intensity
with a rich finish. This is a streamlined wine that is silky soft in the mouth and easy to like.
2011 Irony Small Lot Reserve Monterey Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., pH 3.59, $17. From Chris and Jay
Indelicato. All wines from the producer are labeled “Small Lot Reserve.” Aged 6 months in American and
Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. The nose offers lively aromas of cherry,
strawberry and oak-driven notes of vanilla and espresso which are duplicated in the flavor profile. This wine is
relatively simple, the finish is short, and the oak plays too much of a role for my taste, but it is a solid, allpurpose
table wine at a very modest price. Widely distributed in the retail marketplace.
Note: The J. Wilkes brand was established in 2001 by Jeff Wilkes who I knew well. His wines were always
appealing to me. Since his passing, the J. Wilkes brand legacy has continued under the direction of
winemaker Vidal Perez, focusing, as Jeff did, on Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc. Vidal is a graduate
of California State University at Fresno in Viticulture and Enology and is an assistant winemaker at Central
Coast Wine Services where Jeff made his wines.
2012 J. Wilkes Santa Maria Valley Pinot Blanc
13.8% alc., 540 cases, $14.99. Stainless steel fermented.
Pale yellow-green color and clear in the glass. Opens with the aroma of freshly sliced green apple but evolves
into a grassy-themed nose similar to a Sauvignon Blanc. Delicate flavors of green apple, pear, apricot and
citrus with a slight grassy tone. Easy to drink with a slightly creamy mouthfeel. Seems more typical of a
Sauvignon Blanc than a Pinot Blanc.
2011 J. Wilkes Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay
13.8% alc., 350 cases, $19.99. Fermented and aged in
French oak barrels with partial malolactic fermentation.
Moderate golden yellow color and clear in the glass.
Aromas of lemon, paraffin, roasted nuts and oak spice. Nondescript on the palate and quite simple, with very
delicate flavors of lemon and grapefruit, picking up a little intensity over time in the glass. Smoothly textured
with a slight oak imprint.
2011 J. Wilkes Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
13.7% alc., 550 cases, $26. Fermented with native yeast and
barrel aged in French oak for 14 months.
Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. A smoky, earthy Pinot
Noir featuring medium bodied black cherry fruit and hints of anise, tar and oak. Juicy, with mild tannins and an
enjoyable finish offering good cherry fruit intensity and refreshing acidity.
2012 Joseph Jewell Russian River Valley Chardonnay
pH 3.31, TA 0.71, 626 cases, $22. Clone 4 and 5. Harvest Brix
22.9º-23.4º. Cool fermented in a stainless steel closed top tank (no
Very light yellow golden yellow color and clear in the glass. A
highly enjoyable wine offering enticing aromas of baked apple, lemon
curd and honey followed on the palate with flavors of apple,
lemongrass, honey, and a hint of banana. Admirable restraint and
balance, clean and well-defined, with a lively mouth feel, finishing on a high note
of refreshing, lemon-driven acidity.
2011 Joseph Jewell Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
13.47% alc., pH 3.50, TA 0.61,490 cases, $33.
Sourced from Hallberg, Floodgate, Appian Way and Woods Family vineyards. Clones 115, 667, 777 and
Pommard 4 and 5. Harvest Brix 23.2º-24.3º. 100% de-stemmed, fermented in stainless steel open top tanks
for 7 to 14 days, aged 10 months in 19% new French oak barrels.
Medium reddish-purple color in the glass.
A cherry-themed wine with complimentary notes of baking spices and herbal oak. Straightforward, modest in
intensity, with lively acidity and gentle tannins.
2010 Joseph Jewell Appian Way Vineyards Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
13.7% alc., pH 3.31, TA 0.70, 125 cases, $45. Clones 777, 667 and 115 in
Goldridge soil. Harvest Brix 24.4º. 100% de-stemmed. Aged 10 months in 40%
new French oak barrels.
Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass.
Fantastic aromatic presence with electric aromas of dark raspberries, Hoison
sauce and exotic spices. The rich core of delicious dark red, spicy berry fruits is
elevated by the citrus-driven acid spine. The tannins are well balanced and the
finish is generous and focused. Hard to put this one down.
2010 Joseph Jewell Floodgate Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
13.8% alc., pH 3.51, TA 0.64,150
cases, $42. Clones 777, 667 and 115. Harvest Brix 23.1º-24.8º. 100% de-stemmed.l Aged 10 months in 33%
new French oak barrels.
Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Initially shy, but pleasing aromas of dark
red cherries and berries take on more intensity over time in the glass. Mid weight flavors of Bing cherry and
dark red berries are complimented by a note of savory herbs and cola. Soft tannins, a silky mouth presence,
and respectable finishing length. A charming wine.
2010 Joseph Jewell Hallberg Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
13.2% alc., 200 cases.
rately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Deep aromas of black raspberry jam, plum, peat and oak.
The flavors duplicate the aromas with a touch of spice and cola. Nicely blended tannins with bright underlying
acidity. Seamless and gentle, with a modest tug of oak. A delicate expression of this vineyard in this vintage.
2011 Ledson Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., pH 3.85, TA 0.50, 386
cases, $60. Brix at harvest 25º. Aged 12 months in French oak barrels.
Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. This wine is a real crowd
pleaser with its bright aromas of cherries, strawberries, baking spices and
mocha. Very tasty and easy to drink with flavors that echo the nose. Velvety in
texture with supple tannins and admirable drink ability, finishing with a
memorable spicy cherry encore.
2011 Ledson Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
13.8% alc., pH 3.95, TA 0.55, 219 cases, $60. Brix at harvest
24.9º. Aged 10 months in 55% new French oak barrels.
Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Shy aromas
of Bing cherries, cranberries, strawberries and cola. Modest dark cherry flavor with an herbal thread running
through. On the delicate side for a Russian River Valley Pinot Noir. Soft in the mouth and very approachable,
but not enough fruit interest to impress.
2011 McNeil & Sons Chileno Valley Vineyard Marin County Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., about 75 cases, $60.
Clones 667, 777 and Pommard. Yields 1.25 tons per acre. Native fermentation, 50% whole cluster.
Winemaker is Jon Grant (Couloir).
Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Aromas of warm cherry
cobbler, green tea leaf, toast and subtle stem. Nicely flavored with juicy, mid weight dark cherry and raspberry
fruits with a hint of cardamom spice and oak in the background. Welcoming finesse with balanced tannins and
2010 Mouton Noir Oregogne Garage d’Or Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.4% alc., 396 cases, $44. Love the play on words and the label which reminds
of that famous domaine in Burgundy.
Medium reddish-purple color in the glass.
Nicely perfumed with aromas of red cherries, sandalwood and baking spices.
Tasty core of dark red cherry and dark strawberry fruits with an underlying streak
of tarry oak. Soft, silky, and easy to drink, with some fine-grain tannins and a
2012 Ousterhout Dellinger Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir Rosé
14.1% alc., 70 cases, $NA.
From a 1+ acre vineyard in Green Valley of the Russian River Valley.
Moderate pink-orange color and clear in
the glass. Aromas of mandarin orange, strawberry and watermelon lead to similar flavors with a hint of tuttifrutti,
baked pear, orange zest and vanillin. Nicely composed with appealing delicacy, finishing with some
intensity and uplifting acidity.
2012 Ousterhout Wood’s Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir Rosé
14.0% alc., 235 cases, $NA.
Moderate pink-orange color and clear in the glass. The aromas of raspberry and peach take on more vibrancy
over time in the glass. Similar in flavor profile to the Dellinger Vineyard bottling with delicate notes of orangeflavored
cranberry, strawberry, raspberry, orange zest and herbs. Slightly creamy with a good zip of acidity on
the finish. Needs some foreplay to bring out its best.
2011 Paul Hobbs Ulises Valdez Vineyard Russian River Valley Chardonnay
14.3% alc., $72. Harvest Brix
24.2º. Barrel fermented with indigenous yeasts, aged 15 months in 67% new French oak barrels, aged sur lies
with biweekly batonnage. Unfined and unfiltered.
Moderate golden yellow color and clear in the glass. Opens
nicely in the glass to reveal a perfume of buttery brioche, apple and lemon blossom. Well-crafted with inviting
flavors of fresh apple, pear, lemongrass and honey, with just the right handle of nutty oak. Creamy on the
palate with some finishing presence.
2011 Paul Hobbs Katherine Lindsay Estate Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., $80. Goldridge sandy clay loam. Harvest Brix 25.2º.
Indigenous fermentation in stainless steel open-top fermenters. 5% whole
cluster. Aged 15 months in 63% French oak barrels. Unfined and unfiltered.
Dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Lovely aromas of Bing cherries, dark
berries and dark chocolate. Soft and smooth as a baby’s bottom, with good
depth and richness of dark berry, cola and clove flavors, and finishing goodness.
A ripe, juicy, and generous wine with modest tannins and a good tug of oak on
2010 Rhys San Mateo County Pinot Noir
13.3% alc., $NA.
Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Very
aromatic with expressive aromas of black cherry and exotic spices with a hint of toasty oak. Tasty mid weight
flavors of black cherry and black raspberry with a savory riff of tar, stem and tobacco. Juicy, with suave
tannins, this forward drinking wine is solid but not exceptional.
2010 Rhys Home Vineyard San Mateo County Pinot Noir
12.5% alc., $79. A
field blend grown in decomposed sandstone. First vintage that includes new and
Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Reserved, but pleasing
aromas of darker red and black stone fruits and berries with hints of forest floor,
Asian 5-spice, mushroom, cut flowers and toasted oak. Soft in the mouth with
reserved tannins and a good cut of acidity. Lighter in this vintage, and
approachable now, but is a little brooding and should benefit from more time in
2010 Rhys Bearwallow Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
13.4% alc., $59.
color in the glass. Delicate aromas of cherry, spiced red plum and rose petals. Lighter in weight with redder
fruits than the 2009 vintage, but offering fresher and juicier strawberry and cherry flavors. Mild, soft tannins
and good vibrancy, this wine has more tension and appeal than the previous vintage.
2009 Rhys Bearwallow Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., $59. 6.56 acres planted to 115,
777 and Pommard clones. Walfey-Bearwallow series soils consisting of 6 to 24 inches of topsoil over deep
Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Satisfying fruity aromas including an array
of dark berries and plum with a hint of vanilla. The core of dark berries and black plum flavors are saturating
and bring the mid palate to attention. Creamy soft in the mouth with a generous fruit-driven finish. Riper fruit
than in 2010.
2011 Seven of Hearts Special Reserve Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
12.5% alc., 133 cases, $42. Clones
114, 115, 777, Pommard, Wädenswil and Mariafeld from four sub-appellations including both volcanic and
sedimentary soils. Aged in 27% new French oak barrels.
Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass.
Aromas of cherries and berries, mushrooms, exotic woods and espresso. Tasty core of red cherries,
cranberries and strawberries with engaging acidity. Light on its feet and modest in concentration, but flavorful.
Much more intensity the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle.
2011 Seven of Hearts Very Special Reserve Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
12.5% alc., 98 cases, $75. Clones 114, 777, Pommard, Wädenswil and
Mariafeld. Sourced from three sub-appellations (Armstrong, Lia’s and Luminous
Hills vineyards) including both volcanic and sedimentary soils. Aged in 23% new
French oak barrels. This wine is made only in special vintages.
garnet color in the glass. The shy nose offers delicate aromas of dark red
cherries, forest floor, musk and oak spice. A little more stuffing and structural
bones than the Special Reserve, with a bigger, more persistent finish. Overall,
more ephemeral and sexy. Can be enjoyed now, but will benefit from aging.
Better the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle.
Note: Cristom Winery was named after owner Paul Gerrie’s son Tom and daughter Christine. Tom was only 8
years old when Cristom had its first crush and he has many childhood memories of time spent in the vineyards.
His mentors have been Cristom’s Steve Doerner and Mark Feltz. Tom is the assistant winemaker at Cristom
and started his own label with the 2009 vintage. The wines feature 100% whole cluster.
2010 Thomas Gerrie Wines Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
cases, $25. Native yeast fermentation, 100% whole cluster, aged a
minimum of 17 months in French oak. Unfined and unfiltered.
Moderately light reddish color in the glass. Attractive scent of red
cherry pie glaze, baking spice, toast and sandalwood. Lighter in
weight than the 2009 version, but equally pleasurable, showing less
whole cluster influence, and brighter acidity. Flavors of crisp red
cherries and berries and spice backed by suave tannins. Delicate, even
feminine in character, but offers a tasteful, seamless drinking experience.
2009 Thomas Gerrie Wines Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
160 cases, $25. Average Brix at
harvest 23.3º. Native yeast fermentation, 100% whole cluster. Aged 18-20 months on lees in
French oak. Unfined and unfiltered.
Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. Nicely appointed
nose offering aromas of warm raspberries, blueberries, spice, oak and floral highlights. Tasty core
of dark cherry, and dark red berry fruits with a subtle savory herbal undertone. Medium bodied with
balanced tannins, taking on more interest and intensity in the glass over time. The wine possesses
good tension and finishing intensity. Should improve over time in bottle.
2011 Wind Gap Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
12.4% alc., 300+ cases, $37. From Pax Mahle Wines in
Medium garnet color in the glass. Delicate perfume of strawberry, cherry, red licorice and conifer.
Lean and angular, featuring cherry and cranberry fruit with a green thread running through, finishing with a very
tart, cherry skin finish. The fruit doesn’t seem ripe and the biting acidity is out of balance.
2012 Winter’s Hill Vineyard Dundee Hills Pinot Blanc
13.0% alc., 205 cases, $17. Processed in
stainless steel without barrel aging or malolactic fermentation to highlight its fruit character. The wine
was fermented three weeks until dry.
Light golden straw color and clear in the glass. An enjoyable
example of this underrated varietal offering refreshing aromas of golden apple, pear, lemon and
coconut and tasty flavors of green apple, pear and a hint of pineapple. Brisk, with lemon-driven
acidity, gossamer tannins and a crisp finish. True to the grape.
2012 Winter’s Hill Vineyard Dundee Hills Pinot Gris
14.5% alc., 800 cases, $17. Whole cluster
pressed, fermented in stainless steel tanks at low temperature, no malolactic fermentation.
golden yellow color and clear in the glass. I was drawn to this wine immediately, with its interesting
aromas of fresh cut apple, tropical fruits, wax and a hint of lily. Pleasing on the slightly creamy palate,
with flavors of baked pear and apple, leading to a palate cleansing finish. The wine shows a slight
salinity to match well with oysters.
2010 Winter’s Hill Vineyard Estate Bottled Dundee Hills Pinot Noir
13.0% alc., 195 cases, $34. Sourced
exclusively from the Estate Vineyard. 100% de-stemmed, fermented in small 1.5-ton open top fermenters.
Aged 24 months in 20% new French oak barrels.
Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. The
aromas draw you into the glass, offering bright cherry, boysenberry, forest floor and smoky oak scents.
Delicate and soft in the mouth, with the flavorful essence of fresh dark red cherries and berries, peppery spice
and aromatic herbs. Finishes with a bright cut of acidity.
2009 Winter’s Hill Vineyard Reserve Estate Bottled Dundee Hills Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 125 cases, $55. Made exclusively from grapes grown in the 35-acre
Estate Vineyard located between Domaine Serene, Stoller Vineyards and Vista
Hills Vineyard. Clones are Pommard, Wädenswil, 114 and 115. 100% destemmed,
24-hour cold soak, inoculated yeast fermentation, aged 31 months in
20% new French oak barrels.
Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. A
fruit-driven nose that has staying power in the glass over time. Enticing aromas
of ripe cherries and raspberries with a hint of spice, briar and forest floor. Fullflavored
with appealing roundness and pitch, featuring earth-kissed black
cherries, black raspberries, and sassafras, set off by well-integrated tannins and
acidity, finishing with a rush of spicy raspberry goodness. A riper fruit profile than the 2010 vintage bottling with
more richness. Impeccable balance for aging. Hard to stop sipping this one.