Download &
print (pdf)

Sips of Recently Tasted California Pinot Noir & Chardonnay & Outliers

I prefer not to simply list wine reviews without including context since wine reviews by themselves don’t tell the whole story. However, lately, I have been inundated with wines to review, and have had a heavy wine region and wine event travel schedule. For that reason, this issue will be devoted to reviews only and the quality of the wines will have to speak for themselves. I have in the past written extensively about practically every producer whose wines are included here, so refer to the Winery Directory for more background information. Anderson Valley wines will be reviewed in the next issue which includes highlights from the Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival.

2012 Banshee Marine Layer Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

13.0% alc., 200 cases, $50. A blend of the best Sonoma Coast vineyard sources including Coastlands, Rice-Spivak, Hellenthal, Emmaline and Jack Hill. Winemaking consultant is Ross Cobb. Aged 15 months in 10% new French oak. · Moderate reddish purple hue in the glass. Aromas of black cherry and coffee-scented oak. Satisfying mid weight core of dark red cherry and raspberry fruit with some finishing length. Impressive balance and harmony with good integration of oak and juicy acidity. Score: 89

2013 Bonny Doon Vineyard Central Coast Vin Gris De Cigare

13.0% alc., $12, screwcap. The pink analog of Le Cigare Volant. A blend of red and white Rhone varieties. · Light orange coral color in the glass. Aromas and flavors of strawberry, raspberry, peach and melon in a clean, crisp and dry style which is tasty and satisfying. This wine does what a Rosé should do: refresh Score: 88

Brick & mortar was established in 2011 in Napa Valley by friends Jordan Rasmussen, Matt Iaconis and Edward Brown under the MSix Wine Group LLC Company title. Matt Iaconis is the winemaker. This was my first exposure to the wines which were excellent.

2011 brick & mortar Napa Valley Pinot Noir

13.3% alc., 84 cases, $44. Released on Oct 1, 2013. Extended cold maceration until native yeast began a spontaneous fermentation in open-top barrels. Some whole cluster. Aged 20 months in once-used French oak barrels. Bottled unfined and unfiltered. · Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Large scale aromas of cherry glaze with a compliment of smoky oak. Delicious core of spiced black cherries with a hint of clove and cola. Broad in the mouth and nicely balanced with suave tannins, integrated acidity, and a polished, aristocratic mouth feel. Score: 92

2012 brick & mortar Napa Valley Chardonnay

14.1% alc., 128 cases, $38. Released from MSix Wines on October 1, 2013. Whole cluster pressed, aged in 25% new French oak barrels in natural caves dug deep into the hills in Napa Valley. Primary and secondary fermentations lasted upwards of 4 months. Lightly fined and filtered. · Light golden yellow color and clear in the glass. Subdued, but pleasant aromas of lemon tart, pastry cream and nutty oak. Nicely composed with charming flavors of lemon, peach and pear with a kiss of oak. Silky in the mouth, with lingering fruit presence on the uplifting finish. Score: 90

Brooks Note is a Marin-based winery focusing on Pinot Noir. Winemaker Garry Brooks and his spouse Joanne, planted a small vineyard in Sonoma in 2002. Both were working in technology, but it soon became evident that their passion was with grapes. In 2004, Garry left the lucrative world of technology to pursue his dream of making wine. He worked part time at Ravenswood while earning a degree in viticulture and enology from University of California at Davis. He made his first Pinot Noir at Acacia in 2007 and later moved on to Kosta Browne, working with Michael Browne and Shane Finley for two years. He then joined Dutton-Goldfield as assistant winemaker working under Dan Goldfield. Dan introduced him to the unique vineyards of Marin County. Garry and Joanne launched their commercial label in 2011. Visit www.brooks-notewinery. myshopify.com to join the mailing list.

2013 Brooks Note North Coast Rosé of Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., $20. 59% Marin County and 41% Yorkville Highlands fruit. · Moderately deep pinkish orange color in the glass. Shy aromas of red berries, stone fruits and dried herbs. The wine comes alive on the palate with bright flavors of herb-dusted strawberry and raspberry. Substantial body and impressive finishing length for a Rosé. This wine will stand up to hearty foods. Score: 89

2012 Brooks Note Marin County Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., 150 cases, $36. · Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. Voluptuous nose of black cherry, black raspberry and Mediterranean spices. Light on its feet but highly flavorful, featuring a core of blueberry, dark cherry and raspberry fruits with an undertone of oak and spice. Discreetly plush on the sustained palate with a mighty finish. The spice component of this wine is most striking. Score: 92

2012 Brooks Note Weir Vineyard Yorkville Highlands Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., 150 cases, $44. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Soaring perfume of dark raspberry, blackberry and earthy flora. Striking attack of blackberry, cassis and black currant fruits that are mouth filling and finish with chewy concentration. An earthy undertone adds interest. Very sleek with harmonious tannins. This wine has the balance to age beautifully and will benefit from additional patience. Score: 94

2012 Byron Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., pH 3.46, TA 0.56, 9,919 cases, $29. Fruit primarily from the estate Nielson Vineyard (both old and newer vines) with a smaller amount from the Sta. Rita Hills. Aged 16 months in 18% new French oak barrels. · Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. The nose attracts with aromas of spiced strawberry and raspberry, violets and vanillin oak. There is plenty of luscious spiced berry and plum fruit but it is somewhat overwhelmed by oakdriven notes of vanilla and dark chocolate. Easy to drink with submerged tannins, finishing a bit shallow and short. Score: 86

2012 Byron Nielson Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., $36. Released November 2013. Clones 114, 667 and Pommard from Santa Barbara’s first commercial vineyard. Aged 11 months in 35% new French oak. · Dark reddish purple color in the glass. A dark-fruited wine with aromas and flavors of plum, black currant and blackberry with an earthy and brown spice underpinning. Mid to full-bodied, with hints of grilled mushroom and dried herbs, and plenty of oak overlay. Velvety on the palate with good finishing intensity. Score: 89

2012 Castalia Rochioli Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., $53. Another in a long string of impressive wines by Terry Bering, the long time cellar master at Rochioli Vineyards. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. A beautifully composed wine with enticing aromas of Bing cherry and spice echoed on the palate with added notes of blackberry, cola and loamy earth. Well-structured, but not imposing tannins, generous, layered concentration and an endlessly long finish. Still very young (Castalia Pinot Noirs typically need a year in bottle for full expression), but a quintessential Russian River Valley Pinot Noir. Score: 94

2011 Cobb Emmaline Ann Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

12.8% alc., 96 cases, $75. This 3- acre vineyard is near the town of Occidental. Dijon clones are planted in Goldridge soil on a southfacing slope. · Light garnet color in the glass. A savory nose featuring aromas of cherry, herbs, pine tree and forest floor. Very light dark red cherry flavor with a modest oak touch. Supple tannins and bright acidity, but very lean on the attack and finish. Seems to be from vines that struggled to ripen in this vintage. Score: 87

2011 Cobb Rice-Spivak Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

12.9% alc., 192 cases, $70. From a 6-acre vineyard near Sebastopol. Dijon clones and a Swan selection are planted in Goldridge sandy loam laced with volcanic ash on a northeastern-facing slope. · Light garnet color in the glass. Enticing aromas of red cherries, mocha, spice and toast. An ephemeral, feminine wine with demure flavors of red cherry, strawberry, raspberry, red licorice and subtle oak. Bright and refreshing with a surprisingly robust and satisfying finish. Score: 90

2011 Cobb Coastlands Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

13.0% alc., 170 cases, $80. Sourced from a 14-acre vineyard near the town of Occidental containing a variety of selections, several rootstocks and a complex soil mix. · Moderately light garnet color in the glass. I love the nose that is redolent of fresh cherries and baking spices. The light to mid weight red cherry and berry core is accented by savory herbs. A slight green thread runs through the background. Has a little more stuffing than the Rice-Spivak and a little more intensity on the tart, red cherry finish. Score: 91

2011 Comptche Ridge Vineyards Mendocino County Pinot Noir

13.2% alc., $47. · Moderately light reddish purple color in the glass. Very shy fruit on the nose with forward aromas of loam, peat and oak. Light and even a bit dilute, with flavors of earth-kissed red cherry and raspberry. Forward with supple tannins and easy drink ability, but not exciting. Score: 87

2012 Comptche Ridge Vineyards Mendocino County Pinot Noir

13.2% alc., $47. · Moderately light reddish purple color in the glass. More sap, vibrancy and complexity in this vintage with aromas of dark cherry, spice and cedary oak, and flavors of cherry, raspberry and spice. Lip-smacking and bright with some finishing acid-driven tang and intensity. Score: 89

2013 CrossBarn by Paul Hobbs Sonoma Coast Chardonnay

14.1% alc., $25, screwcap. · Light golden yellow color and clear in the glass. Complex nose offering a panoply of aromas including lemon creme, lychee, yellow peach, yellow apple, melon and toffee. Very likable, with good brightness and a very suave mouthfeel, featuring lemon, apple and pear flavors. Decent persistence on the uplifting finish. Score: 89

2012 Dragonette Cellars Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 875 cases, $44. A blend of several vineyards including John Sebastiano (60%), Fiddlestix, La Encantada, Zotovich, Radian, and Bent Rock. Clones 113, 114, 115, 667, “828,” 777 and Pommard 4. 92% de-stemmed, 4 to 7-day cold soak, native and commercial yeasts. Aged 15 months on lees in 18% new French oak. Unfined and unfiltered. · Dark reddish purple color in the glass. High-spirited aromas of blackberry, cassis, toasty oak and a hint of spice. Mid to full-bodied, oak-kissed array of dark fruits with integrated tannins and some finishing intensity. Showy and satisfying, and a solid everyday wine, albeit a bit too much oak sheen for me. Score: 89

2012 Dutton Goldfield Azaya Ranch Vineyard Marin County Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., pH 3.63, TA 0.63, 236 cases, $58. Vineyard is located in a cold, foggy valley in western Marin County. 100% destemmed into open-top fermenters, cold soaked for 7 days.Aged 11 months in 50% new French oak barrels. · Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. I could not take my nose away from the glass which was filled with hi-tone scents of black raspberry coulis, crushed blackberries, and spice. A seamless wine that is charming and welcoming, offering a middleweight array of darker berry and plum flavors accented with savory herbs in the background. A vein of bright acidity keeps the wine vivid and refreshing, and the firm tannins provide structure for long term enjoyment. This one really wakes up the mouth. Score: 93

2012 Ernest Vineyards The Engineer Romanini Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., 360 cases, 360 cases, $36. Released spring 2014. Pommard clone and Calera selection. Aged in 37% new French oak. · Medium reddish purple color in the glass. Nicely scented with hi-tone cherry, berry and briar aromas. Mid to full-bodied, with an impressive Bing cherry attack, complimentary oak in the background, and a vivacious finish. The tannins are evident but suave. There is plenty of sappy fruit in this wine, but the wine is still fresh, juicy, balanced and ready for current enjoyment. Score: 92

2012 Ernest Vineyards The Wrangler Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

13.2% alc., 184 cases, $48. Released spring 2014. Grand Vent and Dutton-Freestone vineyards. Pommard, 113 and 667 clones. Aged in 37% new French oak. · Moderately dark reddish purple hue in the glass. The nose offers an appealing combination of black cherry, black raspberry, spice and oak scents. Relatively full-bodied, featuring a core of dark red cherry and berry fruit with a bit of tarry oak in the background. Softly textured with balanced tannins, and some intensity on the finish which sports a good cut of refreshing acidity. Not as precocious as The Engineer, and will benefit from cellaring. Score: 91

2011 Evening Land Spanish Springs Vineyard Edna Valley Pinot Noir

13.0% alc., $20. · Dark reddish purple color in the glass. The nose opens slowly in the glass to reveal aromas of dark stone fruits, oak and herb garden. Luscious essence of sweet black cherries with a hint of cassis, anise, oak and savory herbs. The velvety mouthfeel is welcoming and the firm, dry tannins are well managed. The wine finishes on a high note with a good cut of acidity. Score: 90

2012 Fog Crest Vineyard Estate Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., $53. The vineyard is on a bench above the Laguna de Santa Rosa. Clones are 115, 777, “828,” Pommard and Mt. Eden. Primarily Goldridge soils. The winemaker is Jérôme Chéry, formerly a winemaker at Newton, Littorai, and Saintsbury. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. The aroma of fresh Bing cherries is accented by toasty oak. Soft and velvety in the mouth, this fruit-driven, mid to full-bodied wine, sports the luscious cherry fruit that the Russian River Valley is known for. The tannins are balanced, the velvety texture is particularly appealing, and the oak compliment adds toast and spice flavors. The wine will appeal to those who like a big, fruity style of Pinot Noir with a tug of oak. Score: 90

2011 Gallegos Boekenoogen Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir

14.8% alc., $39. The Gallegos family has been farming grapes in the Napa Valley since the 1950s. · Moderately deep reddish purple color in the glass. Highly aromatic with intense scents of very ripe black cherry and black raspberry. A hedonistic wine that is the epitome of the California fruit experience with a full monty of blackberry and black raspberry fruits, with added plum, spiced raisin and sassafras flavors. The fruit was harvested at the cusp of surmaturité. Very plush on the palate that is both fruit and alcohol driven. This wine was a favorite at this year’s Pinot Summit, showing well in tastings due to its flamboyant fruit and seductive mouthfeel. The wine can be easy to like but it pushes the ripeness envelope and the high alcohol peeks out on the finish. Score: 88

2013 Gary Farrell Russian River Valley Selection Rosé of Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., pH 3.33, TA 0.65, 209 cases, $28. Released May 2014. Pinot Noir clone 37 from Dutton Ranch-Wat Vineyard in the Green Valley of Russian River Valley, harvested at 22º Brix specifically for this bottling. Whole cluster pressed. 70% stainless steel fermented and 30% fermented in used French oak barrels for two weeks. The entire blend was aged 2 months in stainless steel. · Lovely pink apricot color. Satisfying aromas of alpine strawberry, peach, yellow rose petal and a pinch of herbs. Plenty of verve on the palate with bright flavors of strawberry, raspberry, cherry and citrus. A vein of acidity gives the wine focus. Score: 90

2012 Gary Farrell Russian River Valley Selection Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., pH 3.47, TA 0.60, 9,206 cases, $45. Released May 2014. Sourced from 9 top vineyards in the Russian River Valley. Harvest Brix 23-24º. 100% de-stemmed, 5 to 7-day cold soak, 10 to 15-day extended maceration post fermentation. Inoculated for malolactic fermentation and aged for 8 months in 35% new French oak barrels. · Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. Aromatically gifted with aromas of black cherry, spice, cardamom and chile spices and subtle oak. Soft in the mouth and very tasty, featuring dark cherry and black raspberry flavors underlain with oak. A bit exotic tasting for a Russian River Valley Pinot Noir. The tannins are in line and the wine is driven by electric acidity which is a Gary Farrell trademark. Easy to like. Score: 90

2012 Gary Farrell Hallberg Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., pH 3.42, TA 0.71, 1,198 cases, $55. Small percentage of whole cluster to add tannins, spice and complexity. 5 to 7-day cold soak, inoculated fermentation, 10 to 15-day post fermentation maceration. Aged 14 months in 40% new French oak on primary lees. · Dark reddish purple color in the glass. The nose picks up interest over time in the glass, revealing aromas of blackberry, plum reduction sauce and allspice. Has shoulders but is still refined, offering mid weight flavors of blackberry, plum and vanillin oak. Crisp and bright, with penetrating energy and a noticeably persistent finish. More integrated and complete the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. Score: 92

2012 Gary Farrell Hallberg Vineyard 777 Oak Tank Fermented 17% Whole Cluster Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.3% alc., pH 3.50, TA 0.70, 120 cases, $65. Released June 2014. Clone 777 from Block M of the 100- acre Hallberg Vineyard. Partially de-stemmed with whole clusters placed on top of the de-stemmed fruit so the stems could dry and develop more spice and refined tannins. Foot treading of the grapes was used initially to macerate, then 1 to 2 punch downs per day. 10 to 15-day post fermentation extended maceration. Aged 14 months in 50% new French oak barrels on primary lees. · Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. The nose is very shy upon opening but explodes with aromatic goodness the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. Plenty of spicy black berries seduce the senses on the mid to full-bodied palate and fruit-charged finish. Rather exotic, even fascinating, with many nuances unfolding over time in the glass. There is enough fruit to balance the wine’s broad shouldered tannins which will need some time in bottle to fully soften and integrate. A connoisseur's wine. Score: 94

2012 Gary Farrell Rochioli Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

13.6% alc., pH 3.52, TA 0.66, 323 cases, $70. Release September 2014. 5 to 7-day cold soak, 10 to15-day maceration postfermentation. Aged 14 months in 40% new French oak barrels on primary lees. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. A classy wine with high brow aromas of Bing cherries, spice and seasoned oak. Very polished in the mouth, with a charge of Bing cherry and black raspberry fruit that is fresh and alive all the way through the remarkably long finish. Very charming and sophisticated, with the harmony to age beautifully. Score: 93

2013 Gary Farrell Russian River Valley Selection Russian River Valley Sauvignon Blanc

13.5% alc., pH 3.10, TA 0.66, 222 cases, $25, screwcap. Released May 2014. Sourced from Ritchie Vineyard with harvest Brix of 21.9º. 80% fermented and aged in stainless steel, 20% fermented and aged in neutral French oak barrels. The entire blend was aged 3 months on the primary lees. · Very pale yellow with a tinge of green color in the glass. The nose is vibrant and flush with aromas of tropical fruits, grapefruit and a hint of vanilla. Refreshing, energetic and flavorful, with an array of interesting tastes including lemon-lime, guava, white peach, and the slightest oak. The typical grassiness found in Sauvignon Blanc is present but it is only a subtle signature note. The dry, lemon-driven finish urges another sip. Going back many years, Gary Farrell made a string of outstanding Sauvignon Blanc wines, and this wine upholds that tradition. Score: 91

2012 Gary Farrell Russian River Valley Selection Russian River Valley Chardonnay

13.5% alc., pH 3.9, TA 0.66, 6,902 cases, $35. Released May 2014. Sourced from multiple vineyards. Harvest Brix 22-23º. Whole cluster pressed, inoculated with Montrachet yeast. Aged 7 months in 35% new French oak barrels. · Light golden yellow color and clear in the glass. A little reduced upon opening. Aromas of lemon curd, mango, spice and oak improve over time in the glass. The easy drinking array of flavors including lemon, white peach, vanilla creme and nutty oak pick up intensity over time, and there is plenty of acidity to encourage enjoyment. Score: 87

2012 Gary Farrell Westside Farms Russian River Valley Chardonnay

13.6% alc., pH 3.24, TA 0.70, 580 cases, $45. Release September 2014. Wente clone 4. Harvest Brix 22-23º. Whole cluster pressed, inoculated with Montrachet yeast. Aged 8 months in 40% new French oak (barrels and 500- L puncheons). · Light golden yellow color and clear in the glass. Slightly austere and driven by flinty minerality, this wine offers demure flavors of yellow peach and grilled lemon. Somewhat silky on the palate with bright acidity on the soprano finish. I could not connect with this wine. Score: 87

2012 Gary Farrell Durell Vineyard Sonoma Coast Chardonnay

14.1% alc., pH 3.40, TA 0.68, 153 cases, $55. Harvest Brix 23º. Wente selection. Whole cluster pressed. Native fermentation and aged 8 months in 40% new French oak barrels (a mixture of barrels and 500-L puncheons). · Moderately light golden yellow color and clear in the glass. Fresh, clean aromas of steely lemon. Discreet fullness on the palate with flavors of lemon, baked pear, caramel and buttery, smoky oak in the background. Crisp, with a clean mouthfeel. Score: 89

2011 Gypsy Canyon Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., $110, heavy custom bottle. · Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. The nose is reserved, offering demure aromas of spiced plum, black raspberry and cardamom spice. Rich and luscious on the palate with a full-bodied charge of purple and black fruits backed by firm tannins. A fruit-driven wine of considerable intensity, with a velvety mouthfeel, a touch of oak, and good underlying acidity. The finish is satisfying but not unusually long. The palate is more developed than the nose in this wine. Score: 90

2012 Gypsy Canyon Trois Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir

14.0% alc., $95. Presented in a bottle made from 100% recyclable materials. At just 16 ounces, the bottle reduces the raw materials used in production by sixteen percent, leaving a small carbon footprint. Hand made paper label printed on a manual letterpress and sealed with estate-harvested bees wax. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. A vibrant nose that increases in volume over time in the glass. Aromas of cherry, baking spice and sandalwood. The mid weight cherry core is accented with complimentary oak and herbs. The wine is soft in the mouth, elegant, and nicely balanced, with a generous cherry-driven finish that won’t let up. Forward and easy to drink now, but even better the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. Score: 92

2012 Gypsy Canyon The Collector’s Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir

14.0% alc., $110. From the estate vineyard presented in a handblown bottle with a hand made paper label printed on a manual letterpress. The cork is sealed with estate-harvested bees wax. · Medium reddish purple color in the glass. The aromas are penetrating and persistent and feature cherry, dark red berry and baking spices. A well-sustained mid palate of black cherry fruit discreetly concentrated and finishing with grandiose intensity. Not quite as big or dark as the 2011 estate bottling, but riper fruit and a more multifaceted finish. There is plenty of natural acidity to balance the fruit. Score: 92

2012 Hahn SLH Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., $35. Estate grown and produced. Aged 11 months in French oak barrels. · Medium reddish purple color in the glass. The scents of oakkissed black cherry carry over onto the palate with the addition of complimentary spice and toast. A solid, mid weight wine that has reasonably good structure and concentration and is easy to drink. Score: 87

2011 Hanzell Sonoma Valley Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., pH 3.50, TA 0.62, 1,211 cases, $98. A vintage marked by low crop set and considerable shatter with Pinot Noir yields down 40%. Extra suckering, leaf pulling and hedging passes were required to keep the canopy in balance with a light crop. The crop was picked just before the rains that started on September 24. 100% de-stemmed, hand punch downs. Aged 18 months in 50% new French oak barrels. · Moderately light reddish purple color in the glass. Shy aromas of berry jam, dark cherry and violets. Middleweight flavors of black cherry, pomegranate and blueberry with an earthy undertone. Silky, with ripe, modestly firm tannins and impressive balance. Much more expressive on the nose and palate the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. A very classy wine that will age and should be aged for maximum enjoyment. Score: 93

2012 J. Lohr Estates Falcon’s Perch Monterey County Pinot Noir

13.66% alc., pH 3.76, TA 0.70, $17. Dijon and Pommard clones. Harvest Brix 26.5º. Maturation in stainless steel with 15% aged in second fill French oak barrels. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Deep aromas of black cherry, strawberry jam and smoky oak. Mid weight flavors of very ripe black cherry, black raspberry, and strawberry fruit, with spice and oak intermingling in a satisfying wine with some intensity and length on the finish which is replete with cherry liquor goodness. Curiously, there were no new oak barrels used in vinification, yet oak seems to stand out. Score: 87

2012 J. Lohr Fog’s Reach Arroyo Seco Monterey Pinot Noir

14.9% alc., pH 3.75, TA 0.59, 3,340 cases, $35. Harvest Brix 27.2º. High percentage of clone 667. 8 days maceration on average. Aged 8 months in 50% new medium to heavy toast French oak. · Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. Clean aromas of dark stone fruits and berries with a compliment of toasty oak. Quite tasty mid weight attack of black raspberry, blackberry, strawberry and Hoison sauce flavors. Nicely integrated tannins and a pleasing finish leaving behind some cedary oak in its wake. Score: 88

2012 J. Lohr Highlands Bench Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay

14.9% alc., pH 3.64, TA 0.65, 732 cases, $25. Harvest Brix 26º. 100% estate fruit. Native and inoculated fermentation. 100% malolactic fermentation. Aged in barrel sur lie for 18 months in 51% new French oak. · Moderate golden yellow color and clear in the glass. Tropical fruits dominate the nose with softer aromas of lemon pudding and crème brûlée. The flavors echo the nose with added notes of guava, vanilla and subtle oak. Inviting crispiness and commendable balance in an easy drinking, casual style. Score: 89

2012 J. Lohr October Night Arroyo Seco Chardonnay

14.9% alc., pH 3.59, TA 0.63, 1,995 cases, $25. 100% estate fruit. 73% Dijon clone 809 and 27% Dijon clone 95 and 96. 100% malolactic fermentation. Aged in barrel sur lie with weekly stirring for 9 months in 45% new French oak. · Moderate golden yellow color and clear in the glass. Shy aromas of buttery brioche, herbs, resin and nutty oak. A bit unusual flavor profile feature nectarine, nutmeg, citrus and vanilla. Soft and slightly creamy in the mouth with nice balance, but nothing jumps out as exceptional. Score: 88

2012 J. Lohr Arroyo Vista Arroyo Seco Monterey Chardonnay

14.9% alc., pH 3.56, TA0.66, 17,649 cases, $25. 100% estate fruit. Focused more on the aromatic Musqué clone. Harvest Brix 25.7º. 100% malolactic fermentation. Aged in 50% new French oak for 14 months. · Moderate golden yellow color and clear in the glass. An engaging and polished wine featuring aromas and flavors of lemon curd, yellow apple, buttery oak, and an enticing flinty minerality. Well-crafted, with a slightly cream texture and a dry, refreshing finish. Score: 91

Kosta Browne wines are extremely popular. The winery does not have a tasting room since they sell all their wine direct to consumers and have nothing extra to pour. The winery is closed to the public. Large format bottles are for charity auctions only. The wines are sold twice a year (spring and fall) to a mailing list. Currently, there is an extensive waiting list, which comes with a 2 to 3-year wait for a spring allocation of appellation wines and a 5 to 6-year wait for a fall allocation of single vineyard designate wines.

2012 Kosta Browne Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., $64. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. The nose features aromas of black cherry, BBQ, grilled meat and smoky oak. Very soft and smooth on the palate with a modest attack of sweet black cherry and black plum fruits. A slightly smoky note is prevalent in the background. Pleasant, but linear and not exceptional, with a short finish. Score: 87

2012 Kosta Browne Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.6% alc., $64. · Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. Aromas and flavors of black cherry, raspberry and plum with a hint of spice and cola. Soft in the mouth, with balanced tannins and some finishing intensity. A solid wine. Score: 88

2012 Kosta Browne Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir

14.7% alc., $64. · Moderately dark reddish purple hue in the glass. Nicely appointed nose with fresh aromas of blackberry, spice rub and oak. Mid to full-bodied core of purple fruits, complimentary oak, and supportive tannins. The intensely fruity finish is the most satisfying of the three appellation wines in 2012. Score: 89

2012 Kosta Browne Gap’s Crown Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., $84. · Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. Shy, but pleasant aromas of dark red fruits, spice and graham. Tasty mid weight core of sweet black cherry and berry fruits that fill the mouth with pleasure. The wine is quite open and giving, with modest tannins and some finishing length. About the same the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. Score: 89

2012 Kosta Browne Kanzler Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.6% alc., 760 cases, $84. · Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. The nose draws you in with vivid aromas of fresh black raspberry and blackberry fruit. Soft and silky on the palate with nice harmony, this fruit-driven wine is more modest in concentration than in past years and drinkers may relish this expression. That said, this is not a wimpy wine. The fruit, albeit very ripe, is vivid and invigorating. Still satisfying the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. Score: 90

2012 Kosta Browne Cohn Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.7% alc., 36 cases, $84. · Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. Brooding aromas of dark fruits, wine cave, seasoned oak and spice cabinet. Bold and dense charge of purple and black berry fruits with hints of cassis and spice, filling the mouth with goodness and lasting on quite a glorious finish. This wine sports admirable balance and plenty of old vine goodness. Even better later in the day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. A special, even exceptional wine. Score: 94

2012 Kosta Browne Giusti Ranch Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.7% alc., 650 cases, $84. · Dark reddish purple color in the glass. This is a full-bodied, remarkably intensely flavored wine with amazing sap concentration. Waves of blackberry and cassis fruit attack the palate with knock your socks off, Syrah like boldness. How do you get this much fruit concentrate from Pinot Noir? Although a flamboyant mother, it still has soft balancing tannins and a velvety mouth feel. When tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle, the wine had retained its intensity and velvety texture. Michael Browne likes rock n’ roll, and this one rocks. Score: 92

2012 Kosta Browne Keefer Ranch Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.6% alc., 1,266 cases, $84. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Love this nose which has big-time volume with swirling. Aromas of cherry, cranberry and nutmeg lead to mid weight flavors of cherry, strawberry, cola, mocha and baking spices. The brightest wine in the 2012 KB lineup with a good cut of underlying juicy acidity, and a substantial peacock finish. This is one remarkably provocative wine. Score: 94

2012 Kosta Browne Koplen Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.6% alc., 980 cases, $84. · Moderate reddish purple hue in the glass. The nose is not very expressive even with intensive swirling in the glass. Demure aromas of dark berries, smoke and oak finally emerge over time. More giving on the palate with a pleasing middleweight attack of blackberry and black raspberry fruit that hits the mid palate with a vengeance and then fills every nook and cranny of the mouth. The finish has numbing concentration. Typical Koplen, but the aromas haven’t arrived. Score: 91

2012 Kosta Browne Rosella’s Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 539 cases, $84. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. The aromatic and flavor profile is dominated by a generous array of darker berries including boysenberry. Big, fruity and bold in this vintage, yet polished with very soft tannins. The pleasure ends in a very giving finish. Score: 92

2012 Kosta Browne Garys’ Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 793 cases, $84. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Striking raspberry aroma on the nose with a touch of spice. Mid weight flavors of black raspberry, black cherry, brown spice and anise backed by smoky oak. The tannins are refined and the finish is pleasurable. The wine seems a bit closed and impenetrable at this stage and should benefit from more time in the cellar. Tasted twice with this review based on the best of two bottles. Score: 90

2012 Kosta Browne Pisoni Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir

14.8% alc., 200 cases, $84. · Moderate reddish purple color in the mouth. The nose offers a mix of dark red cherry and strawberry fruits with a hint of sweet oak. Discreetly concentrated flavors echo the nose with an added hint of grilled plum. Noticeable finesse and easy approachability, uncommon for a Pisoni Pinot Noir. The finish is strikingly long - an observation I emphasized several times in my notes. Score: 92

2012 Kosta Browne 4-Barrel California Pinot Noir

14.8% alc., 98 cases, $84. · Darkest wine in the 2012 lineup. The aromas are clean, pure and elevating, featuring notes of ripe cherry, raspberry and blueberry with a hint of nutmeg. My notes say, “Wow!” Delicious array of perfectly ripened Bing cherry, raspberry and ollaliberry fruit with riffs of oak-driven mocha and tea. Very suave in the mouth with impeccable balance and a long, multifaceted finish. This wine is always special. In Pinot veritas. Score: 95

2012 La Crema Los Carneros Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., pH 3.74, TA 0.51, 2,745 cases, $40. 667, Calera, Swan, 2A, Pommard and 777. 100% de-stemmed, 5-day cold soak, 70% whole berries in tank. Gentle punch downs several times each day. Aged 9 months in 33% new French oak barrels. · Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. The aromas draw you into the glass with vivacious notes of blackberry jam, black raspberry coulis and sexy spice. Rich, plush and broad in the mouth, with an array of luscious dark stone and berry fruits, complimentary oak barrel presence, and nicely integrated tannins. This wine is a big boy with a smile that will find widespread appeal. La Crema continues to offer consistently superb Pinot Noirs from multiple California appellations. Drawing upon a vast vineyard portfolio, there are few other labels that can match La Crema for unfailing excellence year after year. Score: 92

2012 Littorai Platt Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., $65. · Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. Vivid aromas of alpine strawberry, raspberry coulis, briar and vanillin oak. Delicious fruit charge featuring raspberry, strawberry and cherry with stylish spice. Crisp and clean with modest tannins and a cherry and raspberry fueled finish of notable length and vibrancy. Still young and will take on more complexity with aging. Even better later in the day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. You will like this one. Score: 94

2012 Littorai The Pivot Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

13.6% alc., $70. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. The nose evolves nicely over time in the glass, offering scents of red cherry hard candy, black cherry coulis, dark chocolate, mulch and spice. Not particularly showy on the palate initially with a modest attack of mid weight, nicely ripened black cherry fruit. The wine picks up interest over time in the glass, building in intensity and complexity. The harmony is particularly appealing and the cherry-driven finish is quite refreshing due to its palate-cleansing acidity. Like so many Littorai wines, this one requires more time in the cellar for full expression. Score: 92

2012 Mansfield-Dunne Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., 285 cases, pH 3.72, TA 0.60, $36. Clones 667, 115, 777 and Pommard 5. Aged 11 months in 35% new French oak barrels. Winemaker is Ed Kurtzman. · Light garnet color in the glass. Highly floral on the nose with cherries in the background. Demure and delicate, featuring red cherry and berry flavors. Soft and silky with unobtrusive tannins and easy drink ability. Score: 87

2012 Mansfield-Dunne Peterson Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir

14.3% alc., pH 3.72, TA 0.60, 325 cases, $48. Clones “828,” 667, Pomard 5, 115 and 777. Aged 1 months in 50% new French oak barrels. Winemaker is Ed Kurtzman. · Moderately light reddish purple color in the glass. An array of red fruits perk up the nose. Elegant and silky on the palate with vibrant red cherry and cranberry fruits framed by exotic spices. Charming, with modest tannins and some finishing goodness. A very delicate and forward style that is unique for Santa Lucia Highlands. Score: 90

2012 Manzoni Home Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., 797 cases, $35. Three generations of the family have farmed what is now the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA. Winemaker David Coventry. Dijon clones 115 and 777. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. The nose is nicely fruited with black cherry, black raspberry and blueberry and well-oaked. There is plenty of black cherry fruit presence in the mouth accented with spice and oak-driven notes of anise and mocha. The palate-staining finish is flush with cherry, cola and sassafras. There is a lot to like in this wine but there is too much oak at play and a bit of alcoholic heat shows up on the finish. Score: 89

2012 Margerum Sybarite Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara Sauvignon Blanc

Table wine, $16, screwcap. Sourced from McGinley (50%), Curtis (15%), Grassini (20%) and Star Lane (15%) vineyards. · Light yellow color and clear in the glass. Plenty to discover in this wine with typical Sauvignon Blanc character. Appealing aromas of baked pear, lemon curd, nutty butter and tropical fruits. Intense flavors of lemon-lime, pear, tart apple nectarine, grapefruit and gooseberry. Bright and bracing, with a juicy finish. Score: 89

Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery has been known for large production, reliable table wines at reasonable prices, under the Martin Ray, Courtney Benham, and Angeline Wines labels, often distributed to major high volume wine retailers. More recently, the Martin Ray label has taken on a more sophisticated redesign and the three 2012 Pinot Noirs reviewed here indicate there is a new commitment to ultra premium winemaking under the Martin Ray tag. The wines are more prestigious in presentation including a heavier bottle. Consulting winemaker Dan Goldfield brings experience in Burgundian varietals to the organization whose head winemaker is Bill Batchelor assisted by Lindsey Haughton.

2012 Martin Ray Reserve Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., pH 3.60, $40. Released November 2013. Sourced from Cooper-Garrod Vineyards. Aged 12 months in 40% new French oak barrels. · Moderately light reddish purple color in the glass. The nose is really elevating over time in the glass, offering aromas of black cherry, spice, dark chocolate and wet clay. Mid to full-bodied core of fresh dark cherries, black raspberries and plums with an earthy undertone. Fine-grain tannins create a satisfying mouth feel, and a deep, generous dark cherry and berry finish leaves a pleasant smile. This wine becomes more interesting over time, always a sign of age ability. Score: 91

2012 Martin Ray Reserve Green Valley of Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., pH 3.66, TA 0.54, $35. Released November 2013. Tasting room only. Sourced from the Tina Marie Vineyard. Harvest Brix 24.4º. 100% de-stemmed, aged 11 months in 50% new French oak barrels. · Moderately light reddish purple color in the glass. Very exotic aromas of spice, wild berries and earthy flora. Delicious essence of fresh black raspberries and blackberries that makes a statement on the mid palate. A touch of spicy oak adds interest, the acidity is nicely integrated, and the tannins are soft and composed. A stunning wine that finishes with uncommon length. Wow! Score: 94

2012 Martin Ray Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., pH 3.63, $35. Released June 2014. Tasting room only. Aged 16 months in 50% new French oak barrels. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Grandiose aromas of boysenberry jam, spiced black cherries, and earthy flora. Mid to full-bodied cherry fruit graced by sinewy tannins and a touch of oak. A little wild and feral in nature. Very intriguing with a good thrust of fruit on the aromatic finish. Score: 92

2010 McHenry Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir

13.7% alc., <320 cases, $25. A Santa Cruz Mountains cult wine that is grown, produced and bottled by McHenry Vineyard on Boony Doon Rd in the Santa Cruz Mountains. This 2-acre vineyard sits at 1,800 feet elevation five miles from the Pacific Ocean. Aged 2 years in French oak. · Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Bright aromas of fresh cherry pie glaze, baking spice and sandalwood lead to a light to mid weight core of dark red cherry, sassafras, espresso and spice flavors. Balanced tannins, lively acidity, and a satisfying finish filled with grace and intensity. The wine has plenty of flash when first poured, but loses some appeal over time in the glass indicating it should be drunk now. Score: 89

2012 Migration Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 11,588 cases, $38. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Effusive aromas of Bing cherry, strawberry, cranberry and a little oak spice. The flavor theme is dark cherry accented with cola, spice and oak. Modest in weight, with plenty of sweet fruit on the finish which throws a hint of heat. A solid wine considering its large scale production. Score: 87

2012 Migration Russian River Valley Chardonnay

14.1% alc., pH 3.53, TA 0.54, 8,459 cases, $32. Released October 2013. Grapes harvested from 11 vineyards. Aged 10 months in 90% French oak barrels (35% new), and bottled July 2013. · Light golden yellow color and clear in the glass. Aromas of pineapple, creme caramel, lemon, flint and subtle oak are echoed on the lightly scaled palate which adds a peach flavor. The juicy acidity makes for refreshing drinking. Score: 87

2012 Migration Searby Vineyard Russian River Valley Chardonnay

14.1% alc., pH 3.61, TA 0.51, 278 cases, $55. Old vine Rued clone, planted in 1972, and grown in sandy loam and dry-farmed. Aged 10 months in 35% new and 65% once used French oak, and bottled July 2013. · Light golden yellow color and clear in the glass. Shy, but pleasing aromas of lemon, lychee and toast. Polished and slightly creamy on the palate with delicate flavors of grilled lemon and yellow peach. Nicely balanced with impressive barrel management. Score: 89

2012 Migration Dierberg Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay

14.3% alc., 288 cases, $55. · Light golden yellow color and clear in the glass. Aromatically alive with scents of lemon curd, green apple, nutty oak and vanilla. Very easy to like with an appealingly viscous texture and good flavor intensity. Plenty of lemon and stone fruits propel the juicy finish. Clearly, the Central Coast is one of the most underrated sources for Chardonnay. Score: 91

2011 Pellegrini Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., pH 3.47, TA 0.64, $30. Grapes were sourced from two vineyards in the southwestern corner of the Russian River Valley AVA. 20% whole cluster, 4-day cold soak, native yeast fermentation, aged 11 months in 33% new French oak. · Moderately deep reddish purple color in the glass. The nose draws you in with aromas of cherry, cranberry and baking spices. Very bright, flavorful and appealing, with mid weight flavors of cherries, cola, sarsaparilla, and spice. Forwarddrinking and nicely balanced with submerged tannins and a moderately long and intense finish. Score: 90

2012 Pennywise California Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., pH 3.61, TA 0.60, RS 4.0 g/L, 17,000 cases, $10. Produced by The Other Guys based in Napa. Pinot Noir is sourced from a couple of blocks on the eastern edge of the Bay Area: Livermore and Clarksburg. 78% Pinot Noir, 11% Grenache, 6% Barbera, 3% Petite Sirah and 2% Merlot. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. The blackberry, black currant and black raspberry fruit shows promise in this wine but is overshadowed by the oakdriven imprint of smoke, tobacco and vanilla. The soft, refined mouthfeel is the best feature of this wine. The added red varieties bring a touch of peppery spice flavor. Tasted twice. Score: 85

2011 Peter Paul Wines Trenton Road Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.3% alc., 240 cases, $40. Sourced from grapes grown just north of Forestville on a hillside above the Russian River. Dijon 777 clone. Aged in 70% new French oak barrels. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Tarry, smoky oak dominates the black cherry fruit in the nose. Middleweight core of ripe black cherry fruit immersed in smoky oak. Lacks nuance, length and personality. Score: 86

2012 Peter Paul Wines Gravenstein Highway Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 1,166 cases, $34. The core of this wine is from Anderson-Ross Vineyard on Gravenstein Highway. Clones 115, 23 and 667. Fermented with natural yeast in open-top fermenters after a 6-day cold soak. Aged in 30% new French oak. Unfiltered. · Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. Love the nose on this wine with its hi-tone Bing Cherry, cola and red rose petal aromas. Impressive attack of Bing cherry fruit that fills the mouth with goodness. Discreetly lush with balanced tannins and a lasting finish. My only nit is that alcoholic heat is noticeable in the background. Score: 90

2012 Peter Paul Wines Mill Station Road Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 230 cases, $40. This vineyard is planted in Goldridge soil in a cool area near Atascadero Creek. Dijon 115 clone. 6-day cold soak, natural yeast fermentation in open-top fermenters, aged in 60% new French oak barrels. · Medium reddish purple color in the glass. The appealing aromas of cherry and rose petal are overwhelmed by oak. Moderately concentrated and flavorful core of ripe black cherry, black raspberry and blackberry fruit accented with notes of cola, spice, and imposing oak. A fruit-driven wine with modest tannins and some finishing intensity. Too much oak sheen for my taste and alcoholic heat shows up at the finish. Score: 87

2012 Ram’s Gate Carneros Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., pH 3.60, TA o.55, 1,954 cases, $40. Aged 11 months in new and used French oak. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Deep and dark fruited with aromas of black cherries, black currants, dark chocolate and baking spices. Full-bodied flavors of black cherry and blackberry with appealing earth, cola and grilled mushroom accents that are typical of Carneros Pinot Noir. Mouth filling on the attack and generous and rich on the finish with well-managed oak. Not a subtle wine by any stretch, but you have to like its gritty presence. Score: 90

2012 Ram’s Gate Sangiocomo Vineyards Roberts Road Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.8% alc., pH 3.60, TA 0.55, 442 cases, $68. Aged 11 months in 50% new French oak. · Light garnet color in the glass. Very fruity on the nose with bright aromas of strawberry and cherry. A little baking spice, sandalwood and sassafras chimes in. Thoroughly enjoyable in the mouth with flavors of red berries and cherry that fan out on the palate. There is definitely an oak presence in this wine but it is not imposing. The soft, slippery, and modestly long finish aims to please. Score: 92

2012 Ram’s Gate Glass House Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., pH 3.40, TA 0.57, 252 cases, $62. Aged 11 months in two-thirds new French oak. · Moderately light reddish purple hue in the glass. Pleasing scents of dark cherry pie glaze and spice that pick up vibrancy over time. Forward drinking and noticeably intense, with broad flavors of dark red cherries, spice and oak. Impeccably balanced, this cherry-themed wine unveils many nuances that catch your interest over time in the glass. This beauty is stylish and friendly in the mouth, and, simply put, flat out delicious. Score: 93

2012 Scribe Winery VI. The Hunter Carneros Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., $40. · Moderately light reddish purple color in the glass. Some nice Bing cherry and spice aromas show up on the nose, but are overwhelmed by smoky oak. Relatively light and easy to drink, with flavors of red cherry, cranberry and strawberry. Silky in the mouth with a generous oak overlay. (Disclaimer - my son, Dane, works at Scribe Winery and did not submit this wine for review) Score: 87

2011 Senders Las Brisas Vineyard Carneros Pinot Noir

13.8% alc., 125 cases, $N/A. Released April 2014. Clones 667 (40%), 777 (20%) and Swan (40%). Aged 12 months in 25% new French oak barrels. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. A cherry-themed wine with a savory herb component in the background. Crisp and fresh, with silky tannins and bright acidity. An easy to like, solid table wine. Score: 89

2012 Senses Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

13.4% alc., pH 3.78, TA 0.54, $40. Released fall 2013. Sourced from Hillcrest Estate and Tanuda vineyards. BArrel aged for 11 months in 25% new French oak barres. Winemaker is Thomas Rivers Brown. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Soaring scents of oak-infused red and black cherries and redwood forest. Modest concentration of darker red cherry and berry fruits with a muscular backbone of firm tannins which show up on the finish. A solid wine with charming fruit that could use more time in bottle to soften and integrate the tannins. Score: 89

2012 Sequoia Grove Napa Valley Chardonnay

14.1% alc., pH 3.67, TA 0.65, $28. Grapes were sourced from vineyards in cooler regions of the Napa Valley. Aged 10 months sur lies in 30% new French oak. No malolactic fermentation. · Light straw color and clear in the glass. Enticing perfume of citrus, pear, pastry cream, spice and vanilla. Vivid on the palate with a core of fresh citrus flavors accented with notes of white peach and nutty oak. Easy to like and not overwrought with oak. Score: 90

2012 Shane The Charm Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.3% alc., $42. Primarily sourced from Floodgate Vineyard. Clones 667 and Martini. 20% whole cluster, aged 15 in 20% new French oak. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Lovely nose redolent of fresh Bing cherry and strawberry shortcake. Polished and seductive, with a mid weight core of nicely ripened cherry fruit caressed by modest tannins. A touch of spice and cola adds interest. Tasted later in the day, the wine had further blossomed and sported an engaging, long finish. Score: 91

2012 Shane La Reine Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., $42. Petaluma gap fruit including clones 115, 777, “828,” and Swan. · Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. Somewhat brooding, revealing itself slowly in the glass. Dense and sappy dark berry fruits flood the nose and palate. Some earthy mushroom and peppery spice add interest. Almost like Syrah in fruit liquor richness, with firm, grippy tannins. Lacks finishing length. Needs more time in bottle to reach full expression. Score: 88

Mike Sinor acquired his family’s first vineyard property, the 112-acre Bassi Ranch and 30-acre Bassi Vineyard, in 2013, representing the culmination of 23 years of hard work in the local wine business currently with both Ancient Peaks Winery and Sinor-LaVallee. The vineyard, located just 1.5 miles inland at Avila Beach, was planted in 2000. The 2013 Pinot Gris and the 2012 Syrah (80% from Bassi Ranch Vineyard) are the first estate wines from Sinor-LaVallee. Starting with the 2013 vintage, Sinor-LaVallee will be producing a majority of wines from their Estate Vineyard including mostly Pinot Noir along with small volumes of Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Albarino and Syrah. Mike has been a tireless promoter of the San Luis Obispo winegrowing region as well as significant contributor to the success of the World of Pinot Noir event. The Sinor-LaValle front label has Mike’s thumbprint on the left and his spouse Cheri’s on the right, and the kids’ thumbprints are on the back label. The website is www.sinorlavallee.com.

2012 Sinor-LaVallee San Luis Obispo County Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 438 cases, $30, screwcap. 73% Squire Canyon Vineyard in Avila Beach and 27% Spanish Springs Vineyard in Pismo Beach. Native and inoculated yeast fermentation. 12 days in fermenter. Pressed off in an imported Italian basket press. Aged 11 months in 50% new French oak from Francois Frères. Unfined and unfiltered. · Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. Aromas of blueberries and pomegranate lead to full-bodied flavors of blue and purple berries with a hint of spice and vanillin oak. A big boy, but refined with integrated tannins. A touch of heat shows up on the finish. Score: 88

2012 Sinor-LaVallee Talley-Rincon Vineyard Arroyo Grande Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 142 cases, $40. 100% de-stemmed. 50% native and 50% inoculated fermentation. Average 15 days in fermenter. Pressed off in an imported Italian basket press. Aged 15 months in 50% new Francois Frères oak. Unfined and unfiltered. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. The nose is enticing with fresh aromas of blackberries, boysenberries and oak. Very juicy and vivid on the palate with a delicious array of berry flavors that fan out on the palate. The tannins are well integrated and the wine finishes with polish and generosity. Score: 91

2012 Sinor-LaVallee Anniversary Cuvée San Luis Obispo County Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 48 cases, $50. A blend of all the vineyards Mike Sinor works with. 100% whole cluster. Only produced in special vintages. Fermented in 60 gallon barrels with one end removed. Native primary and malolactic fermentations. Average 12 days in fermenter. Pressed off using an imported Italian basket press. Aged 15 months in 50% new Francois Frères oak barrels. Unfined and unfiltered. · Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. This is a wine that demands your attention. Lovely aromas of wild berries, redwoods, and exotic spices. Discreetly concentrated dark red and purple fruits fill the mid palate with goodness. The tannic backbone is firm and sculpted at this stage, but not intrusive. When tasted the following day from a previously opened and recorked bottle, the wine had elevated, showing more integration of tannins, and a spectacular peacock finish. This is a connoisseur's wine that will reward time in the cellar. Score: 94

2012 Sinor-LaVallee San Luis Obispo County Syrah

15.5% alc., 277 cases, $28. 80% Bassi Vineyard and 17% Laetitia Vineyard and 2% Cannon Vineyard. 65% fermented in 1-ton open top boxes and 35% fermented in a redwood open-top fermenter. Half of lots inoculated with Syrah yeast, the other half native fermented. Total time in fermenter averaged 12 days. Pressed off in an imported Italian basket press. Aged 11 months in 17% new Francois Frères oak barrels. · Deep, dark, inky reddish-purple color in the glass. Very little fruit shows up on the nose which is replete with aromas of smoky, vanillin oak. The plush black fruit load coats the tongue and the vanilla and tobacco oak overlay is more integrated and inviting on the palate. This wine has shoulders, but is still refined. Balanced despite its alcohol load. Decant if you must drink now. Score: 88

2013 Sinor-LaVallee San Luis Obispo Pinot Gris

$18, screwcap. From the estate Bassi Vineyard just 1.2 miles from the Pacific Ocean in Avila Beach. This wine represents a selection of the best fruit from less than one acre of Pinot Gris at the crown of the vineyard with marine sandstone soil. Harvest Brix 22.5º and 24.0º. 20% fermented with native yeast. Primarily cold fermented in stainless steel with a small portion fermented in neutral oak barrels. · Pale yellow color and clear in the glass. The floral nose is accented by scents of apple, pear and nuts. Pleasing mid weight flavors of lemon, lime, pear and apple wake up the mouth, leading to a refreshing finish driven by bright acidity. The fruit picked early provides brightness while the fruit picked later gives fruit richness. One of the better Pinot Gris wines I have had from California. Score: 90

2010 Soliste L’Age D’Or Russian River Valley Chardonnay

13.3% alc., 340 cases, $50. Aged 16 months in French oak. · Moderately pale golden yellow color in the glass. Lovely aromas of lemon pie filling, crisp apple and buttered brioche. Delicious palate presence with fresh and lively flavors of lemon, golden apple, baking spice. The mouthfeel is soft and dreamy in the mouth, the oak is perfectly integrated, and the fruit shows up for an encore on the juicy finish. Conjures a white burgundy with the fat middle palate of Russian River Valley.

2011 Soliste L’Ambroise Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

12.8% alc., 29 cases, $100. MonoClone® “828” from Guidicci Vineyard. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Soaring aromas of cherry, raspberry preserves, and spice, picking up intensity over time in the glass. A harmonious wine with delicious Bing cherry fruit singing in tune with supportive suave tannins and bright acidity. Amazing expression of dark cherry fruit which saturates the mid palate and persists on the big finish. Delightful pinotosity. Score: 94

2011 Soliste Nouveau Monde Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

12.9% alc., 79 cases, $75. MonoClone® Pommard from Keller Estate. · Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Wonderful perfume of red berries, red cherries, baking spice and sandalwood. In the mouth, this wine makes you sit up and take notice. Delicious mix of fresh, vibrant wild cherry, raspberry and red plum fruits with a touch of exotic spice in the background. Seamless and caressing with supple tannins. Lighter in weight but highly flavorful with a very long and charming spiced-cherry finish. Currently in a state of near perfection. Score: 96

2011 Soliste L’Espérance Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

12.8% alc., 104 cases, $75. MonoClone® 115 from Sonatera Vineyard. · Moderately light reddish purple color in the glass. The nose is flamboyant over time in the glass offering aromas of dark cherries, cola and spice. I couldn’t take my nose out of the glass. This wine has a delicious dark cherry core underlain with tobacco oak and spice and seems to dance around in the glass with flavors coming and going to the party. A little more rugged and powerful than the Forét, but retains an easy-going finesse. Highly enjoyable. Score: 93

2012 Soliste Nouveau Monde Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

13.1% alc., 117 cases, $Not released. MonoClone® Pommard from Keller Estate. Large percentage of whole cluster. · Moderately light reddish purple color in the glass. The whole cluster is evident in a good way on the nose and palate. Plenty of exotic spice and flowery bouquet compliments the dark cherry and black raspberry core of fruit which has remarkable length. Crisp, fresh and elegant, yet has a substantial tannic spine. The memorable finish is filled with exotic spice and is endlessly long and gracious. Score: 95

2012 Stemmler Carneros Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., pH 3.33, TA 0.71, 2,003 cases, $25, screwcap. Released May 2014. A blend of Dijon and heritage clones from vineyards near Donum Ranch. Aged 10 months in 20% new French and Hungarian oak barrels. · Moderate reddish purple hue in the glass. The fruit never shows up on the nose to compliment the oak aromas even after an hour in the glass. Much better on the palate with tasty black cherry, blueberry and black raspberry flavors with an added hint of spice, earth and a noticeable oak imprint. Juicy acidity, with dusty tannins and easy drink ability. Score: 87

2012 Stemmler Estate Vineyard Carneros Pinot Noir

13.8% alc., pH 3.80, TA 0.61, 1,727 cases, $44. Released May 2014. A blend of Donum-Roederer, Calera and Martini selections and Dijon 115, 667 and 777 clones representing all nine blocks on the 45-acre Donum Ranch. Each hand-harvested lot was fermented separately using native yeasts. 11 to 25 days on skins. Aged 10 months in 20% new French oak. · Moderately light reddish purple color in the glass. Vibrant aromas of fresh Bing cherries, spice and musky oak. A full mouth full of Pinot Noir featuring sweet, perfectly ripened cherries and welcome oak barrel presence. Seamless, with a silky, long and generous finish. A treat. Score: 91

2012 Stemmler Nugent Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.3% alc., pH 3.71, TA 0.60, 873 cases, $44. Released fall 2013. Estate grown blend of 115 (65%) and 667 (30%) blended with Pommard (5%) from a newer planting. 5 to 7-day cold soak. The 115 lots were barreled down at dryness and the 667 lots received 2 weeks of extended maceration. Aged 10 months in 30% new French oak. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Plenty to like on the nose with bright aromas of Bing cherry, rose petal, sandalwood and baking spice. Deep cherry flavor with accents of cola, anise, and spice. Very lush on the palate but balanced with tannin and complimented by oak. The spice component spoke of whole cluster in the wine. Score: 90

2012 Stemmler Winside Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot

14.5% alc., pH 3.72, TA 0.60 1,349 cases, $44.. Released May 2014. Winside, Inc., a partnership of Danish businesspersons, acquired Donum and Stemmler in the fall of 2011, and in November 2012, purchased Nugent Vineyard, now named Winside Vineyard. A blend of 115 (55%) and 667 (35%) with a Pommard selection (10%). Aged 10 months in 25% new French oak. · Medium reddish purple color in the glass. Very appealing nose with hitone, soaring scents of fresh cherries, red raspberries, and strawberries. A very harmonious offering that is discreetly concentrated and welcoming. The spicy black raspberry core is very tasty, the tannins are suave and well-proportioned, and the elegance is seductive. Even better when tasted later in the day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. A noble wine with personality. Score: 92

Beginning with the 2012 vintage, Talbott is bottling all of its wines under screw caps. Winemaker Dan Karlsen is now focusing on more sheltered sites, where the wind doesn’t toughen the Pinot Noir skins. He has also re-trellised the cordon arms of the vines to ensure even ripening and has eliminated all kicker canes. In the winery, Dan designed and built a room dedicated to open-top fermentation. He also built a custom punch down device. Dan does about 150 individual fermentations each vintage and then evaluates every lot blind.

2012 Talbott Kali Hart Estate Grown Monterey Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., pH 3.64, TA 0.73, $21. 100% estate grown fruit from Sleepy Hollow Vineyard. Vines range in age from 10 to 40 years old. Aged 9 months in 10% new French oak. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Aromas of cherry pie, baking spice, balsam and season oak. Bright and crisp, with vivid cherry and strawberry fruits backed by a significant oak presence. Good attack, with some finishing length and refreshing acidity. Score: 87

2012 Talbott Kali-Hart Estate Grown Monterey Chardonnay

14.3% alc., pH 3.35, TA 0.64, $20, screwcap. 100% estate grown fruit from Talbott’s Monterey vineyards. Whole cluster pressed, 15% racked to French oak barrels (5% new) and aged 9 months sur lie. · Moderate golden yellow color and clear in the glass. Aromas of lemon curd, yellow peach, kiwi and seasoned oak lead to a tasty palate of intense lemon flavor with subtle notes of yellow peach and oak. This wine aims to please with its slightly creamy mouthfeel, crisp acidity and lemon drop finish. Score: 89

2012 Talbott Logan Sleepy Hollow Vineyard Estate Grown Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir

14.8% alc., pH 3.88, TA 0.58, $25, screwcap. 100% estate grown fruit from vines ranging in age of 10 to 40 years. · Medium reddish purple color in the glass. Slightly roasted fruit character on the nose and palate. The attack features wild raspberry, strawberry, blueberry, spice and oak vanillin flavors. Modest in weight and juicy with a fairly long spiced berry finish. This wine pushes the ripeness envelope, but is pleasing and easy to drink. Score: 88

2012 Talbott Sleepy Hollow Vineyard Estate Grown Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir

14.8% alc., pH 3.64, TA 0.69, $42, screwcap. 50% Martini clone planted in 1972 and 50% Dijon clones ranging in age from 15 to 20 years, all planted in the finest blocks of Sleepy Hollow Vineyard. Aged 10 months in 30% new FRench oak. · Moderately dark reddish purple hue in the glass. Nicely perfumed with fresh aromas of dark berries, plum and oak. Vibrant on the attack with delicious black cherry, black raspberry and blackberry fruits accented with plum sauce and anise. Mouth filling presence with a generous, long, slightly alcoholic finish. Score: 90

2012 Talbott Sleepy Hollow Vineyard Estate Grown Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay

14.3% alc., pH 3.32, TA 0.68, $42, screwcap. Vinfied almost entirely with old Wente clone fruit planted in 1972. Sleepy Hollow is situated on 585 acres of benchland in the Santa Lucia Highlands, 13 miles south of Monterey. Whole cluster pressed, inoculated with cultured yeast in barrel, 100% barrel fermented, aged 10 months sur lie in 30% new French oak. · Moderate golden yellow color and clear in the glass. Fruit aromas of lemon and nectarine are layered with scents of earth and salinity. Very crisp and bright with a lean citrus charge, a touch of pear and white peach, and a tight lemon-driven finish. A sophisticated offering reminiscent of fine white Burgundy displaying a mineral-infused character. A superb food wine. Score: 92

2012 Three Sticks “One Sky” Sonoma Mountain Chardonnay

14.8% alc., pH 3.60, TA 0.60, 222 cases, $50. Old Wente selection grown on eastern facing slopes between 900 and 1,100 feet elevation. Soils are red iron volcanic over calcareous strata. Aged 14 months in 50% new French oak. 100% malolactic fermentation. · Moderately golden yellow and clear in the glass. The nose is infused with aromas of lemon, tropical citrus, and buttery oak. The flavors of lemon curd, pear and baked apple are fine, but somewhat weighed down by caramelized oak and alcohol. Slightly creamy on the palate, this wine speaks loudly of “California.” Score: 88

2012 Three Sticks Origin Durell Vineyard Sonoma Valley Chardonnay

14.6% alc., pH 3.62, TA 0.74, 266 cases, $48. Fermented in concrete eggs and aged 14 months in small stainless steel barrels. Malolactic fermentation inhibited. · Moderate golden yellow color and clear in the glass. An array of appealing aromas and flavors include starfruit, grapefruit, lemon-lime, nectarine, yellow plum and banana. Crisp, bright and refreshing with a stony minerality fueling the finish. Score: 90

2012 Twomey Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

13.9% alc., $50. Released May 1, 2014. Sourced from sustainably farmed West Pin, Crinella and Bailey vineyards. Aged 12 months sur lies in 39% new French oak barrels. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Aromas of black cherry, cola and nutty oak lead to a mid weight, juicy palate of black cherry and black raspberry fruits underlain with toasty oak. Silky and elegant, with harmonious tannins and some finishing aromatic interest. Score: 90

2012 Valerie’s Vineyard One Acre Carneros Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., 100 cases, $40. 10th vintage. Produced and bottled at Benziger Family Vineyards in Glen Ellen, Sonoma County by winemaker Jeff McBride. Aged no less than 18 months in new and twice filled French oak. · Moderate garnet color in the glass. Aromas of strawberry, cherry, seasoned oak and brewed tea. Light to mid weight flavors of red cherry, strawberry, raspberry and herbs. Appealing brightness and crispness with a firm tannic backbone and a pleasing cut of acidity on the frisky finish. Score: 90

2012 Walt La Brisa Sonoma County Pinot Noir

14.9% alc., 2,594 cases, $40. Released March 2014. A blend from several select vineyards including Widdoes, Kozlowski, Martinelli, Gregori and Gap’s Crown. Native yeast fermentation, aged in 40% new French oak. Unfined and unfiltered. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Perfumed with black cherry, spice, oak and a subtle floral note. Modest in weight but flavorful with notes of black cherry, spice and anise-laced oak. The tannins and alcohol are integrated and the wine is easy to drink. Score: 88

2012 Walt Gap’s Crown Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.9% alc., 1,114 cases, $65. Release September 2014. Clones 667 and 115. Native yeast fermentation, aged in 65% new French oak. Unfined and unfiltered. · Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. The nose is scented with a mix of darker berries and graham. Soft and polished in the mouth, this fruit-driven wine features black raspberry, blackberry and plum flavors which veer to the ripe side. Lacks nuance and finishes with a strong sense of alcohol. Score: 87

2012 Walt Sierra Mar Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir

15.5% alc., 168 cases, $65 (sold out). Released April 2014. Native yeast fermentation, aged in 50% new French oak. Unfined and unfiltered. · Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. Done well in its style, this wine features appealing aromas of black raspberry, violets, nutty oak and sandalwood. The mid to full-bodied core of earthy black raspberry, blackberry and boysenberry fruits are very plush. A rich entry and rich finish. The prodigious fruit tries to keep the wine in balance but a touch of alcoholic heat peaks out at the end. Score: 89

2012 Walt Rita’s Crown Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir

14.6% alc., 825 cases, $65. Released January 2014. Native yeast fermentation, aged in 60% new French oak. Unfined and unfiltered. · Dark reddish purple color in the glass. The nose smells of oak and spice with little to no fruit. Bombastic purple fruits with sculpted, firm tannins. Rather monotone, entering stronger than it exits. The fruit is still buried in fruit and tannins. The plush, velvety texture is a highlight. Score: 88

2012 Walt Clos Pepe Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir

15.4% alc., 559 cases, $65. Release November 2014. Clone 115 from a lower-vigor section and Pommard from gravely slopes. Native yeast fermentation, aged in 55% new French oak. Unfined and unfiltered. · Dark reddish purple color in the glass. Shy fruit emerges slowly on the nose which is dominated by aromas of oak-driven briar and hazelnut. Impressive attack of black raspberry, blackberry and spiced plum fruit accented by dark chocolate and sweet oak. Somewhat earthy and savory with dry, proportioned tannins and some finishing intensity. Done well in its style. Score: 90

2012 Walt Dutton Ranch Russian River Valley Chardonnay

14.9% alc., 442 cases, $50. Released January 2014. Sourced from a Dutton vineyard west of Sebastopol in the coolest region of the Russian River Valley. Goldridge soils. Native yeast fermentation, aged in 35% new French oak. Unfined and unfiltered. · Moderate golden yellow color and clear in the glass. Pleasant aromas of lemon pie filling, yellow peach and nutty oak are echoed on the palate which is silky. The finish is citrus-driven and refreshing, but offers a sense of alcohol. Score: 87

2011 Wild Ridge Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., $33. This vineyard is located near the hamlet of Annapolis at 900 feet elevation. Goldridge soil, cool maritime air, and surrounding dense forest. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Very savory with aromas of wild berries, spice, forest floor and mushroom. Soft and smooth on the palate with flavors of blueberries, cherries, black raspberries, animale, and spice with a vein of savory herbs running through the background. Juicy, with integrated tannins and an extended finish. Score: 91

Wineries in this Article
Share