Download &
print (pdf)

Many Exceptional Pinot Noirs Reviewed

California Pinot Noir enthusiasts might want to stock up on 2013 and 2014 vintage releases as quantities of premium California Pinot Noir from the 2015 vintage will be significantly reduced. The final California Grape Crush Report 2015 from the California Agricultural Statistics Service revealed that overall wine grape tonnage was down 7 percent compared to 2014, with red wine varieties down 5 percent from 2014. Yields of Coastal Chardonnay and Pinot Noir were particularly affected because of poor weather during bloom. Sonoma County Pinot Noir was down 36 percent off of the five-year average and Sonoma Chardonnay was down 27 percent according to Brian Clements of Turrentine Brokerage. Total tons of Pinot Noir crushed in 2015 was 184,969 compared to 246,905 in 2014. Average Brix crushed was 25.0 in 2015 compared to 24.7 in 2014.



Oregon was more fortunate in 2015, with the Pinot Noir harvest delivering exceptional quality and higher than normal yields. Warm winter weather persisted throughout the spring and summer, with harvest starting about August 26, making the 2015 harvest one of the earliest on record in Oregon.

The California offerings reviewed here span the state from Mendocino County in the North to Santa Barbara County in the South, running the gamut in price from $8.99 to $120. The Willamette Valley Pinot Noirs reviewed in this issue range from $15.99 to $150.



CALIFORNIA


Black Kite Cellars, Anderson Valley (Estate Vineyard), California


Angel Hawk Pinot Noir is a reserve wine only produced in the best vintages. The most age worthy barrels are selected from the three estate vineyard blocks after the first 10-11 months of barrel aging. The wine in these barrels is then blended and returned to oak barrels for a total of 22-24 months of barrel aging.

2013 Black Kite Cellars Angel Hawk Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

14.6% alc., pH 3.40, TA 0.60, 163 cases, $85. Released February 2016. Dijon 114 and 115 and Pommard clones. 2-day cold soak, inoculated with RC212 yeast and punched down three times daily. After fermentation, the wine first rested for 10 months in a mix of 33% new and 1-year-old French oak barrels. The best barrels were aged for another 12 months for a total of 22 months in barrel. · Moderately light cherry red color in the glass. The nose is practically orgasmic, offering soaring aromas of dark red grapes, berries and cherries accompanied by a woodland scent. The rich core of cherry, raspberry and cranberry fruits are well-spiced and are accented with weighted notes of anise and caramel. Bold, yet charming, with good restraint and guile. Score: 93


George Wine Company, Healdsburg, California


Read the full store about George Levkoff here: www.princeofpinot.com/article/1469/. George got a bit off track with these 2014 vintage wines in that are atypical in style for George Pinot. They are higher in alcohol, more extracted and exhibit more oak overlay than is usual with George Pinot. Still, George Pinot is so popular that the 2014 vintage is sold out.

2014 George Vintage XII Leras Family Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.6% alc., $188 cases, $60. Forty-year-old Dijon and Pommard clone plantings. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Very shy, with dominant aromas of toast and campfire and a lack of fruit appeal. Ripe and sappy, with mid weight plus flavors of blackest cherry, blackberry and baking spices overlain with toasty oak. Tannins and acidity are complimentary, but the wine finishes with a slight sense of alcoholic warmth. Score: 88

2014 George Vintage XII Hansen Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.8% alc., 280 cases, $60. 30-year-old Pommard clone plantings. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. The telltale pungent manure aroma typical of this vineyard shows up on the nose as well as the scent of cigar. A very unique and terroirdriven wine that consistently offers a strong manure flavor in each vintage accenting the black cherry and black raspberry fruit flavors. Silky in the mouth with a modest finish that ends with some warmth. Score: 88

2014 George Vintage XII Ceremonial Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.8% alc., 280 cases, $60. 15-year-old Dijon clones plantings. · Moderately light cherry red color in the glass. Toasty oak engages the black cherry fruit in this wine with a luscious, sappy fruit core. The flaunting, very ripe fruit is hard to ignore, but is superseded by oak-induced flavors of herbs, cola and dark caramel. I want to like this wine, but oak gets in the way. Score: 88


Goldeneye, Hopland and Philo, California


Winemaker Michael Fay took over the helm at Goldeneye in 2012, inheriting a diverse Anderson Valley estate program with 24 different clones of Pinot Noir and 69 distinct clone and rootstock combinations. In the 2013 vintage, Michael experimented with different canopy techniques on certain clones so the grapes could be picked earlier and at a slightly lower Brix. Most of the estate blocks were picked at two different times to build diversity in Brix and acidity levels. In the winery, new oak was dialed back ever so slightly on most wines, and some native yeast fermentation was added. Less saignée was done to accentuate the juicy mouthfeel of the wines. I could sense a subtle difference in the 2013 Goldeneye Pinot Noirs and embraced the winemaking direction.

2013 Goldeneye Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 13,625 cases, $55. Released February 2016. 95% estate fruit from four vineyards, 5% fruit from Elke Vineyard. Aged 16 months in 100% French oak barrels, 70% new. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. A beautifully balanced and engaging wine that offers aromas and flavors of black cherry, blueberry, pomegranate, blackberry, spice and dried herbs in a fruit-forward style that is smoothly textured and easy to like. Modest in concentration, with welcome oak seasoning, and a mild grip of tannins. Score: 90

2013 Goldeneye Gowan Creek Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 1,100 cases, $82. Released April 2016. Composed of six different clones. A small percentage of whole cluster was included while subtly reducing the new oak. Aged 16 months in French oak barrels. · Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. Brooding, haunting aromas of dark berries, oolong tea and anise that I found very seductive. Full-bodied, yet nimble, with flavors of blackberry, cassis, black plum, dark chocolate and umami. Very harmonious, long, deep and concentrated, with bashful tannins and a lingering finish that speaks of perfectly ripened fruit. Score: 93

2013 Goldeneye Ten Degrees Estate Grown Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 1,035 cases, $120. Released February 2016. A selection of the finest barrels in the cellar, from the best lots and top estate blocks. The final wine was made from the best 3% of estate grapes and includes 32% Split Rail Vineyard, 32% Gowan Creek Vineyard, 31% Confluence Vineyard, and 5% The Narrows Vineyard. Aged 16 months in 100% French oak barrels (this bottling has the most new oak of the three 2013 Pinot Noirs reviewed here). · Dark reddish purple color in the glass. Deep aromas of dark berry preserves, dark red rose petal and earth lead to a full charge of chewy black fruits. The wine enters aggressively but turns agreeable and silken on the palate, finishing with generous amounts of toothsome fruit, leathery beef and toasted oak notes. The wine is a bit impenetrable and not as expressive as the Gowan Creek at this stage and warrants further cellaring. Score: 92-93


Helen Grace Wines, Napa, California


Peter Colabuono worked with Paul Lato during the 2014 and 2015 vintages where he fell in love with Central Coast Pinot Noir. He crafted a small lot of Sangiacomo Pinot Noir in 2014 in an “unadulterated, minimalist, all free run, 25% oak-aged Pinot Noir.” No website.

2014 Helen Grace Wines Sangiacomo Roberts Road Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., $N/A. Produced at The Wine Foundry in Napa. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Coy aromas of darker berries and an aura of oak lead to a middleweight wine blessed with vibrant flavors of fresh black cherries and black raspberries. Very suave on the palate, with immersed tannins and some finishing power. Still very solid the following day when tasted from a previously opened and re-corked bottle with ebullient fruit aromas and flavors and a seductively smooth mouthfeel. Score: 92


Kutch Wines, Sonoma, California

For complete winery information: www.princeofpinot.com/article/1618/. I was curious why Jamie chose to use no new French oak on the 2014 Pinot Noir wines. In essence, he feels he can build structure and seasoning in the wines with stems instead of oak. Here is what he told me. “New oak can overtake a wine overshadowing the terroir. A new oak barrels is not part of the original terroir, but stems are a part of the terroir as a part of the plant itself. Falstaff Vineyard stems taste more stemmy than McDougall’s stems and that is the signature of the terroir. Stems are obviously wood and add tannin, but that wood or tannin is integrated during fermentation, not after the wine is made as happens when aging wine in new oak. In 2014 and 2015, I completely removed any new oak from my wines for this reason. I don’t need the additional structure from new oak.....Stems can take a wine to heights that are not achievable without using stems. Stems broaden the shoulders of a wine. I have experimented multiple times in multiple vintages with multiple vineyards and always found complexity goes up considerably when a de-stemmed wine is compared to a 100% whole cluster wine. For my style and my hands and my vineyards, I find de-stemmed Pinot Noir to be inferior.”

2014 Kutch Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

12.9% alc., 1,500 cases, $39. A blend of fruit from Campbell Ranch Vineyard (100% whole cluster) in the remote coastal mountains near Annapolis, and Sonoma Stage Vineyard (100% de-stemmed) located at the cold southernmost tip of the Sonoma Coast AVA. Net is 60% whole cluster. Fruit crushed and punched down by foot, native yeast primary fermentation and native malolactic fermentation, aged 11 months without racking on lees in 100% neutral French oak barrels. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Very aromatically pleasing with scents of black cherry coulis, rose petal, spice and pine sap. Beautifully balanced, with a mid weight core of black raspberry fruit enhanced by a floral thread that is appealing. Soft in the mouth with a gracious finish. When tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle, the wine was less aromatic, more tannic and more savory yet the black raspberry core continued to show good intensity. Score: 89

2014 Kutch Falstaff Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

12.9% alc., 350 cases, $59. This vineyard is located at the extreme edge of the Pacific Ocean and is the coldest site Kutch works with. Planted in 2001 by owners Ron and Judy Lougheed in marine quartz sandstone and Goldridge soils to Dijon clones “828,” 777 and 115. Yields often less than 1 ton per acre with very small berries and clusters. 100% whole cluster. Crushed and punched down by foot, native yeast primary fermentation and native malolactic fermentation, aged on lees for 11 months without racking in 100% neutral French oak barrels. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Highly aromatic, with hi-tone scents of black cherry, bark, pine sap and rose petal. Vibrant on the palate, with vivid flavors of dark red cherries and berries and spice accented with a woodsy, earthy bent. Very inviting, with buried tannins and a vivacious finish of graham and soil-fused fruit. This is a wine with many nuances you would hope for and some you didn’t know you wanted. Score: 93

2014 Kutch Bohan Ranch Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., 150 cases, $49. Bohan Ranch was the first modern vineyard planted on the far Sonoma Coast in 1972. The grapes for this wine were sourced from a block planted in 1072 on its own rootstock which is rare in California today. The vines are planted in Yorkville Laughlin loam with a California sprawl trellis and are dry farmed. 100% whole cluster. Native yeast primary fermentation and native malolactic fermentation, fruit crushed and punched down by foot, aged on lees for 11 months in 100% neutral French oak barrels without racking. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. This wine has a distinctive feral and rustic character that is clearly a reflection of the terroir and grape selections. Slightly shy aromatically but pleasant, with aromas of raspberry, sous bois, woodland and dark rose petal. The mid weight flavors of black raspberry and blackberry are framed by mildly astringent tannins. The fruit has remarkable intensity which lifts the mid palate and finish. When tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle, the wine was still uniquely rustic in character and seemed worthy of cellaring for to achieve further expression and to meld the tannins. Score: 92

2014 Kutch McDougall Ranch Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

12.4% alc., 350 cases, $59. This vineyard is located 3.5 miles from the Pacific Ocean at an elevation of 935 feet. The site is farmed by noted vineyard manager Ulises Valdez. The vineyard was planted in 1998 to clone 114 in Graywacke and sandstone soils. 100% whole cluster, native yeast primary fermentation and native malolactic fermentation, aged on lees 11 months without racking in 100% neutral French oak barrels. · Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. Intriguing, mysterious and seductive in every way, with aromas of fresh, dark fruits, floral meadow and forest. Velvety and enchanting on the palate, with sensual flavors of black raspberry, black plum, boysenberry, black tea, spice and floral goodness. The tannins offer good grip and the finish lingers. When tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle, the wine was still extremely appealing with a blessed mix of fruit, spice and floral tones and a huge finish that grabs at the heart strings emotionally. Truly, this is a wine that can make you blissfully happy. Score: 95


Land of Promise, Petaluma, California


Charles and Diana Karren own a distinguished vineyard in the Petaluma Gap region of the Sonoma Coast named Terra de Promissio. The name reflects the family owners who are immigrants pursuing the American dream. Both Charles and Diana were born, lived and worked overseas before pooling their life savings in 1999 to buy diary land in Petaluma in what was virgin territory for wine grape growing. They planted the first 32 acres of Pinot Noir (clones 115 and 777) in 2002 and then ran out of money. With their last dollars, they bought a tractor and lived on site in a used house trailer, and brought Diana’s parents and Diana’s sister over from Russia to help farm the newly planted vineyard. The project is a true family run operation, with all members of the family contributing to the management of the vineyard on a day-to-day basis, with each of the vineyard rows and blocks custom farmed according to each winemaker’s preferences. Eventually, Charles and Diana were able to convert a barn on the property into a home and in 2012 and 2013 planted an additional 18 acres of Pinot Noir (clones 943, 97 and Calera). In 2015, the vineyard’s eleventh harvest, they sold grapes to 13 wineries, many of which were vineyard designated including Pinot Noir from Domaine Della, Kosta Browne, Whetstone and Williams Selyem.

Diana and her mother oversee the making of the Land of Promise wine which was first released with the 2013 vintage. The inaugural wine is sold on the website at www.landofpromisewine.com.



2013 Land of Promise Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., $75. Native yeast fermentation, aged 15 months in 60% new French oak barrels. Bottled unfined and unfiltered. · Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. Lovely aromas of earth-kissed black cherry and blackberry fruits with oak-driven notes of vanilla and dark chocolate. A bold and ripe expression of Pinot Noir with full-bodied flavors of black cherry, plum, blackberry, dark chocolate and a hint of prune. The polished texture is quite seductive and the tannins are well matched to the sappy fruit. When tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle, the wine remained noticeably silky in texture and the black fruited finish was impressive. Score: 90


Masút Vineyard and Winery, Redwood Valley, California

Brothers Jake and Ben Fetzer grew up in the vineyards of Mendocino County where their grandparents, Barney and Kathleen Fetzer established Fetzer Vineyards in 1968. In the early 1990s, the Fetzer brand was acquired by Brown Forman, and second generation vintner Robert Fetzer bought a 1,200-acre property in 1994 and named it Masút, a Native American word meaning “dark, rich earth.” He envisioned a place where he would be able to grow Pinot Noir. Planting began at Masút in 1997 and many wineries began to see the potential of the site. Unfortunately, Jake and Ben’s father passed away in a rafting accident in 2006. The brothers became determined to move forward in his honor. A barn on the property was converted into a winery and the brothers released the first vintage of Masút Pinot Noir 2011. The brothers spearheaded a petition for a new AVA called Eagle Peak Mendocino County that has been approved.



There are 19 distinct blocks of predominantly Pinot Noir planted among 40 acres of rugged, sloped terrain with elevations varying from 800 to 200 feet. Pinot Noir clones include Dijon 113, 115, and 777, and UCD 23, Mt. Eden, and “La Tache.”

2014 Masút Estate Vineyard Eagle Peak Mendocino County Pinot Noir

14.7% alc., 1,800 cases, $45. Clones 115 (50%), 23 (33%) and 777 (17%). Yields 2.9 tons per acre. 100% de-stemmed, fermented in small open-top fermenters. Aged 15 months on lees in 100% French oak barrels, 50% new. Unfiltered. · Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. Elevating aromas of dark raspberries, blueberries and blackberries lead to an intensely fruited and gutsy wine featuring a mid weight plus core of blackberry fruit. The large fruit load is nicely tethered by tannins and the overall impression is one of finesse rather than muscle. When tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle, the nose had blossomed with ingratiating aromas of fresh black raspberry preserves, and the finish stood out for its generous intensity of purpose. Score: 93


Peter Paul Wines, Santa Rosa, California

Peter T. Paul founded Peter Paul Wines after buying the former Grove Street Winery in Healdsburg. Daniel Moore of M2 Wine Consultants crafts the wines. The winery’s focus is Russian River Valley Pinot Noir and Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. The wines are sold on the website at www.peterpaulwines.com.

2013 Peter Paul Gravenstein Highway Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 561 cases, $34. Sourced from vineyards located on Gravenstein Highway between the towns of Sebastopol and Forestville, primarily Anderson-Ross Vineyard. Dijon 115 and clone 23. 6-day cold soak, natural yeast fermentation, aged in 100% French oak barrels, 30% new. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Lovely aromas of Bing cherry, shaved oak and earthy flora. Forward and giving, with mid weight plus flavors of red and black fruits and a pinch of oak. Sleek, with streamlined tannins and some length on the giving finish. Score: 90

2013 Peter Paul Mill Station Road Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 370 cases, $40. Sourced from a vineyard on Mill Station Road which lies to the west of Gravenstein Highway near the tiny town of Graton. Goldridge soils. Dijon 115 clone. 6-day cold soak, natural yeast fermentation, aged in 100% French oak barrels, 60% new. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Pleasing aromas of dark red cherry, black cherry, black raspberry and pomegranate are replicated in the mid weight plus flavor profile. Rigorous in intent with luscious fruit presence, with the vivid fruit load matched to fine-grain tannins. The well-endowed, fruitdriven finish leaves an impression. Score: 92

2013 Peter Paul Hawks Roost Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., 72 cases, $45. Vineyard owner Chuck Jones farms this 5.5-acre vineyard planted entirely to the Mariafeld clone of Pinot Noir. The grapes have been a main component of the Gravenstein Highway Pinot Noir since 2009, but in this vintage it was decided to offer an exceptional three barrel selection that features the vineyard. Aged in 100% French oak barrels, 75% new, for 15 months. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Upon opening, Asian 5-spice really appeals on the nose, with dark fruits showing up over time in the glass. A well-structured wine with plenty of black cherry, black raspberry and blackberry fruit to satisfy. The slightly astringent tannins are a bit aggressive now but should settle down over further time in bottle. This wine has the most cellaring potential of the three wines tasted from the 2013 vintage, but is not the best for drinking now. Score: 91-92


ROAR Wines, Santa Lucia Highlands/San Francisco, California


The grapes for the ROAR wines are from premier vineyards of the Santa Lucia Highlands, including the Rosella’s, Garys’, and Sierra Mar vineyards owned and farmed by the Franscioni family. The wines are crafted in the ROAR winery in San Francisco and are available through the winery’s website at www.ROARWINES.com and through distribution in select markets nationally.

2014 ROAR Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir

14.9% alc., pH 3.77, TA 0.55, 1,814 cases, $42. Clones are Pommard, Pisoni, Swan, 667, 777 and “828.” Aged in 100% French oak cooperage, 58% new. · Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. Shy, but charming aromas of dark fruits and toasted oak. Packed with very ripe fruit flavors framed by sleek tannins and proper oak seasoning. Enjoyable, but not complex. When tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle, the wine again demonstrated commendable balance but the nose was not open for business and oak tended to overshadowed the fruit. This wine will benefit from another 6 to 12 months in bottle. Score: 88-89

2014 ROAR Garys’ Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir

14.9% alc., pH 3.76, TA 0.57, 595 cases, $58. Pisoni clone. Aged in 100% French oak cooperage, 60% new. · Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. Very shy nose upon opening, only revealing some fruit and spice the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. More giving on the palate, with a juicy blend of dark cherry and dark berry fruits touched by oak. Silky and seductive, with style, grace and a finishing surge of fruit. The wine would benefit from another year or two in bottle. Score: 91-92

2014 ROAR Sierra Mar Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir

14.8% alc., pH 3.76, TA 0.55, 648 cases, $52. Swan, Pisoni and “828” clones. Aged in 100% French oak cooperage, 69% new. · Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. Shy, but pleasant aromas of black cherry, raspberry and spice. A charge of well-spiced dark red and black fruits greet the mid palate and linger through a splashy finish. Highly soothing and harmonious, with a gentle grip of tannins and juicy acidity. When tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle, the wine was still shy and tight. Decanting or cellaring advised. Score: 91-93


Saxon Brown, Santa Rosa, California

Owner and winemaker, Jeff Gaffner, has many longstanding grower relationship that he developed over time as a consulting winemaker. He began his career at Chateau St. Jean under the tutelage of vintner Richard Arrowwood, and since has been a winemaker for many artisan labels including Ram’s Gate Winery and Black Kite Cellars. The Saxon Brown label focuses on small lots of vineyard-designated Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from special vineyard sites in Sonoma County, Carneros, Anderson Valley and the Santa Lucia Highlands. The Saxon Brown wines, less than 2500 cases annually, are allocated to mailing list customers at www.saxonbrown.com, with some retail and restaurant distribution in select markets nationally. The wines reviewed here are new spring releases.

2013 Saxon Brown Fighting Brothers Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.9% alc., 254 cases, $48. · Moderately light reddish purple color in the glass. Demure aromas of black cherry and oak spice arrive slowly over time in the glass. Highly flavorful, with robust flavors of black cherry and black raspberry and a bit of spice. Sleek on the palate with a modest finish and submerged alcohol. Score: 91

2013 Saxon Brown Sangiacomo Roberts Road Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.6% alc., 176 cases, $58. Vineyard is located at the western base of Sonoma Mountain. · Moderately light cherry red color in the glass. Highly aromatic, offering a perfume of strawberry, candied cherry and toasty oak. A cherry-fueled wine with a halo of oak that tends to dominate the fruit. Silky and smooth with harmonious tannins and pleasing acidity. This wine will be favored by those who prefer noticeable oak overlay in Pinot Noir. Score: 89

2013 Saxon Brown Durell Vineyard Hayfield Block Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 99 cases, $58. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Aromas of dark cherry liquor, orange pekoe tea and hazelnut lead off. Moderately rich in the mouth with ripe flavors of black raspberry and cassis accented with teasing notes of oak seasoning. Impressive harmony, with immersed tannins and some length on the soft and highly seductive finish. Score: 92

2013 Saxon Brown Gap’s Crown Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.8% alc., 226 cases, $68. · Moderately light reddish purple color in the glass. The nose offers a mix of dark berry, earthy flora and oak aromas that are pleasing. Profoundly fruited on the palate with deep flavors of blackberry and black raspberry. Well-structured with a generous infusion of oak that tends to show up more over time in the glass. The classy fruit in this wine is hard to ignore. Score: 90

2013 Saxon Brown Rosella’s Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir

14.7% alc., 226 cases, $68. · Medium reddish purple hue in the glass. The nose lifts interest with aromas of black cherry, cardamom spice and toast. The mid weight plus flavors of black cherry and blackberry are accented with notes of white pepper and spice. Nicely balanced with commendable oak integration and some length on the finish which leaves a hint of warmth in its wake. Score: 90

2013 Saxon Brown Ferrington Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

14.6% alc., 197 cases, $78. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Effusive aromas of spiced black raspberry and wine cave are very enticing. Caressing on the palate, with mid weight flavors of darker berries framed by slightly astringent tannins. Energetic and forward drinking with a noticeable oak overlay that diminishes over time in the glass. The wine’s most impressive asset is the endless finish. Score: 91


Sedition Wine, Sonoma County, California


Sedition is a family owned boutique winery showcasing the terroir of the Green Valley of Russian River Valley. Co-founder and winemaker Josh Bartels has spent ten years as an assistant winemaker at Kokomo Winery where he crafted wines from all over Sonoma County. The second founder, Jigar Patel, met Josh while the two were students attending Purdue University over twenty years ago. This first release from Sedition Wines is composed of grapes from Chenoweth Vineyards and Graham Family Vineyards. The inaugural wine is available by allocation through the mailing list at www.seditionwine.com. Tasting is available in downtown Forestville at Jigar Wines.

2013 Sedition Chenoweth Vineyards Green Valley of Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

13.8% alc., pH 3.43, TA 0.68, 230 cases, $75. Pommard (Chenoweth Vineyards) and clones 667 and “828” (Graham Family Vineyard). Harvest Brix 25º. Aged 16 months in 33% new French oak barrels. · Light cherry red color in the glass. The nose is quite savory featuring aromas of underbrush, sous bois, and herbs with demure notes of red cherry. Red-fruited and slightly confected, with a savory herbal thread in the background. Smooth in the mouth with buried tannins and a satisfying, bright finish. When tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle, the cherry theme was front and center, the tannins had moved further into the background and the herbal thread provided interest. Score: 90


Tessier Winery, San Fancisco Bay, California

Owner and winemaker Kristie Tacey has been crafting small lots of Pinot Noir from special vineyards in the Russian River Valley and Santa Cruz Mountains since 2009. Her wines are available through the winery website at www.tessierwinery.com.

2014 Tessier Saveria Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., 140 cases, $39. Vineyard owned by Frank Saveria and farmed by Prudy Foxx. Clones 667 and 115. Aged in 33% new French oak barrels. · Light cherry red color in the glass. This wine aims to please with bright aromas of cherry, strawberry, white pepper and sandalwood that are echoed in the flavors in an elegant and lighter-styled wine that offers more gusto than the light color would predict. Softly textured and elegantly styled with complimentary oak accents. The wine held up beautifully the following day maintaining aromatic interest when tasted from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. Score: 90


Tongue Dancer Wines, Healdsburg, California

Tongue Dancer Wines is a new project created by winemaker James MacPhail and “Knowledgeable One” Kerry Forbes-MacPhail. The label is modest in size and scope meant to satisfy James’ cravings for winemaking creativity. The name illustrates James’ style of crafting Pinot Noir and Chardonnay that have mouthfeel, that is, wines that are meant to “dance on the tongue.” The label art is a nod to intellectual whimsy. Next year, a Tongue Dancer Russian River Valley Bacigalupi Vineyard Chardonnay and Tongue Dancer Putnam Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir will be introduced. Visit www.tonguedancerwines.com.

2013 Tongue Dancer Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.75% alc., pH 3.70, TA 0.56, 100 cases, $45. 100% de-stemmed, 5-day cold maceration in small open-top fermenters, native and inoculated yeast ferments, daily punchdowns by hand or foot, and aged 11 months on the lees in 100% French oak barrels, 1 new, 2 from 2012 and 1 from 2011. Lightly filtered at bottling with no fining. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. The aromas of fresh cherry, red berry and spice pick up intensity over time in the glass. Very sleek with impeccable balance, offering mid weight flavors of black cherry and brown spice in a highly enjoyable style that ends on a high note of generous cherry goodness. Score: 92


Waxwing Wine Cellars, Belmont, California

For full winery information: www.princeofpinot.com/article/1470/. Winemaker and proprietor Scott Sisemore is a one-man show and now up to producing nearly 1,000 cases annually. It has taken him two years, but he finally has his Belmont winery up to his standards.

2014 Waxwing Spring Hill Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

12.5% alc., 89 cases, $39. Released March 2016. Fifth bottling from this vineyard located between the town of Petaluma and the northern tip of Point Reyes in the center of the Petaluma Gap. 20 acres were planted between 2001 and 2003 to Swan, Pommard, Calera, and Dijon 667, 777 and 115 clones. This bottling is 100% Pommard clone. Harvest Brix 22.7º. All fruit crushed by foot whole cluster and fermented with indigenous yeast and no sulfur addition in open-top fermenters. Aged 11 months in once-used French oak barrels, with a light filtration before bottling. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. The nose offers a complex array of aromas including red berries, white pepper, earthy flora and a hint of tobacco. The tannins and acidity battle the fruit for supremacy in this wine that is spearheaded by flavors of dark red cranberries, strawberries and cherries. A touch of anise-laced oak adds seasoning. Texturally, the wine’s ruddy tannins create some interest but stick out. The wine’s hi-strung acidity creates an uplifting finish. Score: 89


Wren Hop Vineyards, Windsor, California

Wren Hop Pinot Noir is stylistically unique for its full-bodied, luscious fruit flavors, and character imparted by aging in 100% new French oak. This is a family winery run by partners James McDonough and his father James McDonough, Sr. James and his spouse Jennifer bought a 10-acre Russian River Valley property in 2008 including a 6-acre vineyard named Wren Hop after the resident birds. The first release was from the 2009 vintage. The winemaker is Russell Bevan. Each wine has a unique and provocative name. The wines are sold through the winery’s online store and via a mailing list at www.wrenhop.com.

2013 Wren Hop Vineyards “Oracle’s Whisper” Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.3% alc., pH 3.36, 332 cases, $72. Sourced from Wren Hop Estate Vineyard, clones 667, 777 and 115. Vineyard is located in the Middle Reach of the Russian River Valley on a hillside protected from afternoon heat. The vineyard is planted in Goldridge soil and farmed with organic and biodynamic practices. Aged 14 months in 100% new French oak barrels. · Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. Deep aromas of ripe Bing cherry, boysenberry, Hoison sauce, dark red rose petal and wine cave. A generous charge of sweet black cherry fruit greets the mid palate, encased in firm but refined tannins and accented by welcome oak seasoning. A seamless offering that is luscious and extracted yet agile, finishing with uncommon fruit expression. Score: 92

2013 Wren Hop Vineyards “Witch’s Ladder” Green Valley of Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., pH 3.52, 288 cases, $72. Sourced from Swicegood and Wren Hop Estate vineyards, clones 777 and 115. Aged 14 months in 100% new French oak barrels. · Moderate reddish purple hue in the glass. Nicely perfumed with scents of black cherry, black raspberry, sous bois and seasoned oak. The mid weight darker fruits are lush and sappy, yet bright and crunchy. A riff of spice and oak top note add interest. The tannins are well-managed and the finish is generously endowed. The wine is nicely composed although the oak detracts a bit of pleasure for me, but the oak is non drying and should integrate further over time in the bottle. Score: 91

2013 Wren Hop Vineyards “Architects & Saboteurs" Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir

pH 3.65, 160 cases, $78. Sourced from Bent Rock Vineyard, clones 777 and 115. The vineyard is but a few miles of the Pacific Ocean and has a major maritime influence allowing slow ripening. Aged 14 months in 100% new French oak barrels. · Dark reddish purple color in the glass. Deep, haunting aromas of blackberry, cassis, oak spice and cigar humidor. A mid weight plus array of dark fruits are enchanting and delicious. The tannins are soothing, the texture is refined and the mild oak notes of tobacco and toast are gratifying. This wine has the most extraction of the three wines tasted here, but the acidity keeps the wine nimble. Even better when tasted later in the day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. A bodacious charmer. Pull the cork, put the dog out, find your spouse, turn off all distractions, dim the lights, and engage in some Pinot heaven. Score: 94


More Wines

2013 Bogle Vineyards California Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., $8.99. This winery in Clarksburg consistently offers value for the price. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Aromas of black cherry, black raspberry and floral bouquet hold up over time in the glass. A middleweight mix of black cherry, darker berry and plum flavors are framed by integrated tannins. Nicely balanced with a modest finish that has the slightest warmth. When tasted several hours later, the fruit had faded a bit and the oak had come to the forefront. A good value wine that should be drunk young. Score: 87

2014 Borne Mile Marker 33.89 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

13.8% alc., $24.99. Borne refers to the old byways of France dotted with milestones called bornes. · Moderate light cherry red color in the glass. Aromas of cherry, Asian 5-spice, pepper and bark lead to a lighter weighted and elegant wine with crisp and juicy flavors of cherry, raspberry and cranberry framed by a subtle halo of oak. Mild tannins make for easy drinking. Score: 89

2014 La Voix Winery Rebel Rebel Quinta Del Mar Vineyard Central Coast Pinot Noir

14.0% alc., 1,000 cases, $45. A new project from vintner Steve Clifton (Brewer-Clifton). 10% whole cluster, native yeast fermentation, 28 days on the skins including extended maceration, aged 12 months in most neutral oak barrels (10% new). · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Both savory and fruity on the nose, with aromas of cherry, violet, herbs, toast and floral uplift. The flavors of black raspberry and blackberry are overlain with a generous halo of oak. Otherwise the wine is nicely composed with a silky mouthfeel, a subtle floral undertone, and a slightly tart finish. Score: 89

2014 Ocean View San Luis Obispo County Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., $14.99. Produced and bottled by Sinor-LaVallee in Arroyo Grande by noted winemaker Mike Sinor for Trader Joe’s markets. Sourced from the Estate Ocean View Vineyard located only 1.3 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean. · Moderately light reddish purple color in the glass. The nose opens nicely with swirling, offering engaging aromas of dark red and black berries, spice, briar and a subtle salinity. A giving and satisfying mid weight wine with flavors of blackberry, black raspberry, spice and anise framed by ruddy tannins. Silky on the palate with good cut, subtle oak seasoning, and a satisfying finish with some length. Still highly enjoyable the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. This wine could easily bring three times the price. Score: 90

2012 W.H. Smith Maritime Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.4% alc., $58 (I have seen it discounted to $42). A blend of grapes from several small growers. Winemakers are Bill and Jean Smith who craft the wine in Angwin. · Moderately light reddish purple color in the glass. Toasty oak is at the forefront on the nose with aromas of cigar and vanilla. The charming black cherry and black raspberry fruit core is overlain with aggressive oak. The mouthfeel is satiny and the finish offers up a generous charge of fruit and spice. I have mixed feelings about this wine because the fruit is very classy but there is an onerous whack of oak. Score: 89

2013 Zepaltas Devoto Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

13.6% alc., 72 cases, $46. Vineyard is located in the Sebastopol Hills. Owner and farmer Stan Devotois is a noted organic apple who planted this vineyard in 2006 on Gold Ridge Road. 50% whole cluster fermentation. Aged 14 months in French oak barrels, 33% new. · Light cherry red color in the glass. Aromas of red cherry, brick, sandalwood and toast lead to a light weighted wine with delicate flavors of red cherry and raspberry. A demure wine with appealing finesse with gossamer tannins, but lacking a bit of mid palate impact and finishing power. Score: 89



WILLIAMETTE VALLEY



Anam Cara Cellars, Sherwood, Oregon

2013 Anam Cara Cellars Nicholas Estate Chehalem Mountains Oregon Pinot Noir

13.4% alc., 250 cases, $33. Wädenswil (40%), Pommard (20%), Dijon 114 (25%), Dijon 777 (15%). Aged in French oak barrels, 27% new. · Light cherry red color in the glass. Nicely perfumed with aromas of fresh cherry, strawberry, red rose petal and sandalwood. Engaging on the palate, with discretely concentrated flavors of red cherry, cranberry and Damsel plum. On the delicate side with modest tannins, a silky mouthfeel, and a modest finish. Very Oregonian in demeanor, this wine should pick up intensity over time in bottle. Score: 89-90

2013 Anam Cara Cellars Nicholas Estate Reserve Chehalem Mountains Oregon Pinot Noir

13.4% alc., 47 cases, $45. Dijon 777 (50%) and Pommard (50%). Aged in French oak barrels, 37% new. · Moderately light cherry red color in the glass. Clearly a step up in quality, this wine offers bright aromas of cherry and red berry preserves leading to a middleweight core of black cherry, blackberry, cola, spice and mocha flavors backed by mildly firm and deft tannins. More sappy than the regular Nicholas Estate bottling, with a bigger finish. A very gracious wine that engages with flavor and transparency. Score: 92


CARDEN Cellars, Gaston, Oregon

James Carney moved to Oregon in the early 1980s to study at the University of Oregon and soon became enamored with Oregon Pinot Noir. Nearly 20 years later he partnered with one of his friends and fellow wine lover Susan Weeden to start Carden Cellars. The winemaker is noted Oregon veteran Tony Rynders. The wine is sold on the winery website at www.cardencellars.com.

2012 Carden Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., 745 cases, $48. Aged 17 months in French oak barrels, 60% new. · Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. The nose offers very ripe dark fruited aromas with hints of violet and soy sauce. More engaging on the palate, with mid weight plus flavors of blackberry, boysenberry, black currant and spice. A bold wine with hefty sap and ripeness reflective of the vintage. Highly fruit-driven with deft oak management. Score: 89


Cristom Vineyards, Salem, Oregon

Read about one of Oregon’s most cherished wineries: www.princeofpinot.com/winery/142/.

2012 Cristom Signature Cuvée Eola-Amity Hills Oregon Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., $150. This bottling is rarely produced in small amounts from barrels that call out for a unique expression. The exact blend is not revealed because it is different each time the wine is made. This is only the fifth time this barrel selection from multiple vineyards has been offered since Cristom was established in 1992. Bottled unfined and unfiltered. · Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. Haunting and exotic aromas of spiced black cherry and pine sap. A rainbow of purple and black fruits are accented with spice and floral notes in a gutsy style that offers ripe, honed tannins, unusually intense and caressing mid palate presence, and exceptional, even extraordinary length on the finish that is like a three-hour movie you don’t want to end. There is plenty of whole cluster goodness to engage the Pinot connoisseur in this evocative wine from a special vintage. Score: 95



Mouton Noir Wines, Dundee, Oregon

This winery was founded by French Laundry and Per Se sommelier André Hueston Mack in 2007. The wines were originally created for some of New York’s best restaurants and are now available nationwide. The wines offer clever, irreverent names including the wine reviewed here.

2014 O.P.P. Other People’s Pinot Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

13.8% alc., $15.99, screwcap. · Moderately light reddish purple color in the glass. The nose offers a blend of cherry, rose, dried herbs and oak aromas. Light in weight and easy to drink, with flavors of red cherry and berry with a noticeable infusion of toasty oak. A simple, straightforward, and delicate Pinot Noir. Score: 86


Print entire newsletter