Sips of Recently Tasted California Pinot Noir
Read carefully as there are some real gems in this issue. I would be perfectly happy the rest of my life if my
cellar was only stocked with these wines.
Asuncion Ridge Vineyards, Paso Robles
Philip Krumal and partner Michael Dilsaver farm a vineyard high on a ridge overlooking the Pacific Ocean in
Atascadero at the southern end of the Santa Lucia Mountains. The 300-acre property includes a B&B inn. The
7-acre vineyard was established adjacent the inn on a well-drained hillside at 2,200 feet elevation. Several
Pinot Noir clones are planted including Pommard 4 and 5, Wädenswil 2A, 23, Dijon 667 and 777, and an HMR
selection. Philip learning his viticulture and winemaking primarily from Marc Goldberg of nearby Windward
Vineyard and continues to rely on Marc as a consultant. These two wines are the best I have ever tasted from
this property. Visit www.asuncionridge.com.
2012 Asuncion Ridge Vineyards San Luis Obispo County Pinot Noir
14.9% alc., 163 cases, $38.
Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. Aromas of black raspberry, forest floor and nutty oak unfold
slowly in the glass. Delicious mid weight plus core of well-ripened dark berry fruits with a supportive note of
oak. The fruit really sparkles with an aggressive mid palate attack and expansive finish. Modest tannins allow
for enjoyment now, although this wine was even more enjoyable the following day from a previously opened
and re-corked bottle.
2012 Asuncion Ridge Vineyards San Luis Obispo County Barrel Select Pinot Noir
14.8% alc., 54 cases, $58. 100%
free-run juice from all vineyard clones but mainly Pommard and
Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. Don’t
even think about drinking this wine now without decanting.
When tasted a day after opening from a decanted bottle, the
wine was glorious with hi-tone aromas of dark berries and spice.
Robust, yet velvety on the palate, with waves of boysenberry, blackberry,
cola and exotic spice flavors that are perfectly complimented by oak.
Beautifully balanced, with amazing fruit expression only possible in
California. This special wine will excel with even more over time in the
COBB Wines, Occidental
Winemaker Ross Cobb is a Pinot Noir specialist producing superb wines from small, carefully chosen
vineyards in the West Sonoma Coast region. His experience at Williams Selyem and Flowers Winery led him to
found COBB Wines in 2008 at a time when he left Flowers and became the winemaker for Hirsch Vineyards.
He assisted his father in farming the 15-acre Coastlands Vineyard and managed all other vineyards from which
he sourced grapes. Ross picks at modest Brix levels, employs whole cluster fermentation, and ferments with
native yeasts. The 2012 vintage provided some of the most generous wines Ross has ever made.
At Ross’s request, I decanted the following wines 3 hours before tasting and repeated my tasting the following
day. These three wines are among the finest I have ever sampled from COBB.
2012 COBB Diane Cobb: Coastlands Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., 225 cases, $85. A cofermentation of 18 to 20 different
Pinot Noir selections from Diane Cobb’s nursery block of dry-farmed,
own-rooted vines that are among the oldest in the region. Seventh
vintage. 40% whole clusters. Aged 22 months in French oak barrels,
Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. Deep,
penetrating scents of cherry, black raspberry, spice, rose petal and
humid bark. Ever-expanding flavors of black cherry, grenadine, black
raspberry, and Asian 5-spice that saturate every nook and cranny in the
mouth. Impeccable harmony with supportive fine-grain tannins, and a
huge, peacock tail finish that is stunning. I was at a loss for more
superlatives the following day when tasted from a previously opened and
re-corked bottle when the arsenal of aromas and flavors were entirely seductive.
2012 COBB Emmaline Ann Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
12.5% alc., 175 cases, $75. This
Freestone Valley vineyard gets the most shade and fog of any of the vineyards winemaker Cobb works with.
30% whole clusters. Aged 22 months in French oak barrels, 30% new.
Moderately light reddish purple color in
the glass. A loud nose of ever-expanding aromas of cherry, raspberry, rose petal, spice and sandalwood.
Lighter in weight and quite demure, but very flavorful, with tastes of cherry, strawberry, spice and floral
goodness, framed by suave tannins and lifted by a bright spark of acidity. A lengthy finish completes the deal.
Even more whole cluster evident the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle.
2012 COBB Rice-Spivak Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
12.5% alc., 225 cases, $75. Dijon and Swan
selection plantings in Goldridge soil. Aged 22 months in French oak barrels, 22% new.
Medium reddish purple
color in the glass. Perfumed and sensuous, with aromas of Bing cherry, plum, spice, rose petal and smoky oak.
Light to mid weight cornucopia of succulent cherry, strawberry, and blueberry fruits with a vein of citrus in the
background and exotic edges to the experience. Exemplary roundness, with supple tannins, a silky mouth feel,
and a refreshing grip on the finish which offers flavor and cut. When tasted the following day from a previously
opened and re-corked bottle, the aromas were still heavenly, and the finish had picked up steam. Brilliant!
Inman Family Wines, Santa Rosa
Proprietor and winemaker Kathleen Inman crafts Pinot Noir, Rosé of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, and
sparkling wines from the heart of the Russian River Valley. Since planting the 10.45-acre Olivet Grange
Vineyard in the Middle Reach area of the Russian River Valley in 2000, she has built one of the greenest
wineries in Sonoma County, using recycled materials for construction, recycling all waste water, and relying on
solar power. Since the 2009 vintage, she has incorporated more whole clusters in her ferments, and always
strives for balanced wines with moderate alcohol and vibrant natural acidity. She has been a long time
proponent of screwcap closures. The estate and tasting room is located at the junction of Piner and Olivet
Road in Santa Rosa. Visit www.inmanfamilywines.com.
2013 Inman Family Russian River Valley Chardonnay
12.2% alc., 515 cases, $35, screwcap. Sourced from
Pratt-Irwin Lane Vineyard. Harvest Brix 21.5º. Whole cluster pressed, cold settled, and sent to a combination
of 40% new French oak barrels and 60% to small stainless steel barrels. Lees stirring weekly until malolactic
fermentation completed, and monthly thereafter. Native yeast and bacteria fermentations, 100% malolactic
Light golden yellow color in the glass. A Chablis-styled wine that shows modesty and restraint.
Aromas of lemon, crème brûlée, and almond spread lead to a crisp, clean and uplifting flavors of green apple,
lemon, Asian pear and the faintest kiss of oak, finishing with a burst of refreshing, lemon-lime driven flavor that
2012 Inman Family Thorn Ridge Ranch Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
13.7% alc., 226 cases, $56,
screwcap. Sourced from Ted Klopp’s ranch in the Sebastopol Hills with vines planted in Goldridge soil.
Pommard and Dijon 777 clones. Last wine from this vineyard source. Native yeast and bacteria fermentations.
100% de-stemmed, 4-day cold soak, native yeast and bacteria fermentations. Aged 11 months in French oak
barrels, 25% new. Gently filtered by crossflow.
Light cherry red color in the glass. Plenty of interest on the nose
with scents of black cherry, blackberry, dried herbs, earth, tar and wood cask. The flavors of dark cherries and
berries are accented with notes of game and tarry oak. Silky in the mouth, with modest tannins and some
noteworthy finishing power.
2012 Inman Family Olivet Grange Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
13.6% alc., pH 3.65, TA 0.51, 825 cases, $63, screwcap.
Grapes are from the estate OGV Vineyard that is organically farmed.
Clones 114, 115, 667, 777 and “828.” Over 50% whole clusters, native
yeast and bacteria fermentations. Aged 22 months in primarily Sirugue
French oak barrels sur lie with regular stirring.
Moderately light reddish
purple color in the glass. The nose brings a pleasing smile with hi-tone
aromas of Bing cherry, baking spice, and rose petal. Vigorous on the
attack, with delicious flavors of cherry, strawberry, cola, earthy flora,
and spice. Silky and elegant on the palate, with modest tannins,
balanced acidity, and a finish consumed by intense cherry goodness.
Ryan Cochrane Wines, Paso Robles
Ryan Cochrane learned his winemaking at the hand of Roger Nicolas of RN Estate in Paso Robles. He crafted
his first barrel of Pinot Noir in 2010 and has gradually increased his production since. The 2012 wines were
previously reviewed about a year ago and have improved noticeably since then (I did not look at my previous
2012 reviews before this tasting to eliminate any bias). The website is www.ryancochranewines.com.
2012 Ryan Cochrane Fiddlestix Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 134 cases, $43. 75% Dijon
115, 25% Pommard 5. 30% whole cluster fermentation. Aged 10 months in French oak barrels, 20% new.
Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. A bit brooding initially, reluctantly offering aromas of dark berry
fruits, rose petal and oak. The succulent, mid weight plus blackberry and boysenberry fruits flood the mouth
with sweet, sappy goodness, carrying over to a luscious finish offering citrus-laced berry fruits. The most
concentrated and darkest fruited of the four Pinot Noirs tasted here with the most intensity on the finish. The
wine becomes more appealing over time in the glass and showed better oak integration the following day from
a previously opened and re-corked bottle. Decant if you drink now, but better to give this beauty another year
or two in bottle.
2013 Ryan Cochrane Fiddlestix Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., 125 cases, $43. 75% Dijon 115, 25% Pommard 5. 20%
whole cluster fermentation. Aged 10 months in French oak barrels, 20%
Moderately light reddish purple color in the glass. More red-fruited
in this vintage, offering scents of strawberry, cherry and sandalwood.
Appealing elegance on the palate, with a vibrant array of red cherry and
red berry flavors. The tannins are folded in nicely, there is inviting
underlying acidity, the oak plays a complimentary role in the background,
and the long red cherry finish grabs your attention. A completely different
wine than the 2012 vintage offering, but equally enjoyable for its pinot
2012 Ryan Cochrane Solomon Hills Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., 143 cases, $43.
50% Dijon 115, 50% Pommard 5. 30% whole cluster fermentation. Aged 10 months in French oak barrels,
Moderately light reddish purple color in the glass. Shy aromas of dark cherry, baking spice and
tobacco become more effusive over time in the glass. Very elegant, with mid weight flavors of cherry, Damsel
plum, and tobacco at play. Modest tannins, with vivid finishing acidity. This wine charms with finesse.
2013 Ryan Cochrane Solomon Hills Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., 392 cases, $43.
33% Dijon 115, 33% Dijon 667 and 33% Pommard 5. 30% whole cluster fermentation. Aged 10 months in
French oak barrels, 25% new.
Moderately light reddish purple color in the glass. This wine sports a little more
concentration, roundness and polish than the 2012 version. Aromas of cherry, red berry and toasty oak
become more giving over time in the glass. Smooth and debonair on the palate, with a middleweight core of
ripe black cherry fruit that is juicy and persistent. The tannins are supple, their is lively supporting acidity, and
the cherry-fueled finish is uplifting.
2013 Ryan Cochrane Solomon Hills Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay
14.0% alc., 125
cases, $34. Wente clone 4. Native yeast fermentation, 100% malolactic fermentation. Barrel
fermented and aged 10 months in French oak barrels, 40% new.
Moderately light golden yellow
color in the glass. The nose is very charming, with pleasing aromas of lemon peel, brioche and
vanilla pastry creme. Flavors of lemon, Asian pear, white peach and subtle vanilla are accented with
a saline minerality. Nicely balanced with adept integration of oak, and thirst-quenching acidity on a
finish that has some persistence.
2013 Kendall-Jackson Grand Reserve California Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., pH 3.73, TA 0.50, 6,415 cases,
$26. 66% Monterey County and 34% Santa Barbara County Jackson Estates fruit. A potpourri of mountain,
ridge, hillside and benchland grapes. Crafted from the top 7% of Kendall-Jackson lots. 70% of the wine is from
the same vineyard blocks each year ensuring greater consistency. Aged 9 months in predominantly French oak
Moderate reddish purple hue in the glass. Exuberant aromas upon opening of black cherry,
strawberry, clove and forest floor which fade a bit over time in the glass. A cherry-themed wine of good
richness with a pleasing compliment of spice and oak. A forward, easy drinking wine.
2013 Kendall-Jackson Jackson Estate Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., TA 0.60, 3,445 cases, $30.
Released March 2015. Aged 9 months in 71% French oak (40% new) and 29% American oak.
reddish purple color in the glass. Oak-driven aromas of smoke, mocha and vanilla side with black cherry fruit.
Mid weight ripe fruit flavors of black cherry and black raspberry are strongly accented with cola and vanilla.
Well-structured, with balancing acidity, and some finishing intensity.
2013 Olsen Perri Wines L’Apache Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir
13.4% alc., pH 3.68, TA 0.60, 92 cases, $45. A selection of the best 4
barrels of the 2013 vintage. The name gets its inspiration from a violent
but colorful Paris street gang from the late 1800s known as the Apache
(“a-posh”). Grapes were sourced from Hilliard Bruce Vineyards, Bassi
Ranch and Pence Ranch. Clones 777 and Pommard. Minor stem
inclusion, cool native fermentation in small batches, pressed with a
basket press and moved to French oak barrels, 50% new, where it was
aged for 10 months. Unfined and unfiltered.
Moderate reddish purple
color in the glass. Aromas of darker red berries and cherries, green
herbs and oak. The fruit flavors of black cherry and black raspberry are
overlain with an earthy, herbal tone and plenty of toasty oak. The
tannins are nicely folded in and the finish is quite juicy. There is too much
oak at play for my personal taste at present, but this may mitigate some over time in bottle.