Soliste Pinot Noir: Fanatical Devotion Shows in the Superb Wines
Partners Don Plumley and Claude Koeberle launched Soliste MonoClone® wines with the 2009 vintage,
returning California Pinot Noir to its roots in Burgundy and the craftsmanship of the Cistercian monks of
Vougeot, focusing on Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir: wines produced from single clones, single vineyards, and
matured in single cooperage. The winery’s limited production Pinot Noirs reflect a fanatical commitment to
harness the purity and complexity of one clone from a single vineyard.
You won’t find scores for Soliste wines in the major wine publications. The wines are darlings of sommeliers
throughout the United States and are offered on wine lists of many highly regarded and Michelin-starred
restaurants (visit the website for a listing of restaurant partners). They are produced in tiny quantities and sold
only through an allocated mailing list. If you are a lover of Pinot Noir and have the wallet to match, these wines
are required acquisitions. Soliste Pinot Noir is one of the few that I buy personally for my cellar.
The following extraordinary wines were part of the 2016 fall release of Soliste wines. Soliste began modestly
with the release of 143 cases of Pinot Noir from the Sonatera Vineyard in 2005. In 2009, the proprietors
challenged themselves to make Pinot Noir from a single vineyard, single clone and allocate a single cooperage
barrel house in France to deliver focus without compromise to each wine. The MonoClone® designation was
trademarked, but Don and Claude were not infatuated with the idea because the wines had to deliver. If they
did not, they would have gone back to blending the clones. The MonoClone® wines have turned out to be
The three wines offered here were the result of an ideal growing season for Pinot Noir. Since 2005, Soliste has
dealt with drought, fires, rain at the wrong time when it finally came, heat spikes days before harvest, red
blotch, years with minuscule yields, to name a few challenges. When 20013 arrived, it seemed the weather
was finally cooperative and as Claude put it, “Darth Vader did not show up.”
Typically, L’Espérance is the most feminine and ethereal Pinot Noir that Soliste produces and L’Ambroisie is the
most masculine and enigmatic and that difference is reflected in the wines in this vintage. At a time when most
wineries are releasing their 2014 vintage Pinot Noirs and even 2015 vintage Pinot Noirs, Soliste has released
2013 vintage wines that have clearly benefitted from the additional time in bottle. Pinot Noir is all about
aromatics, texture and refinement, and these wines are blessed with all three.
2013 Soliste L’Espérance Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.3% alc., pH 3.66, TA 0.59, 123 cases, $85.
Sourced from Sonatera Vineyard in Sebastopol, with vines planted in Goldridge sandy loam. Dijon
115. 0% whole cluster. Aged 16 months in French oak barrels, 20% new.
The most Chambolle
Musigny in style with an ephemeral quality that seduces the drinker. Moderately light reddish purple
color in the glass. I thought sure this wine had whole cluster inclusion based on its savory
components. Rapturous aromas of black cherry, raspberry, spice, rose petal and cigar. Velvety in the
mouth, with a well-spiced black cherry core that is highly expressive. Lightest in weight of the three
Pinot Noirs tasted today, but not light in flavor. Floral and toasty oak notes add interest. The delicate tannins
make for an elegant impression. When tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle,
the wine was aromatically intoxicating and the spiced fruit core continued its exuberance. Tres Pinot.
2013 Soliste Renaissance Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.2% alc., pH 3.50, TA 0.67, 147 cases, $85.
Sourced from a special few rows of Sonatera Vineyard. Dijon 777. 50% whole cluster. Aged 16 months
in French oak barrels, 25% new.
Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Deep aromas of fresh
black cherry reduction sauce, sous-bois, and dark red rose petals. An “Oh Man!” nose. The mid weight
flavors of cherry and raspberry combined with more subtle floral and spice notes tug at your taste
buds. Silky in the mouth, with soft, fine-grain tannins and a bombastic cherry-fueled finish. When
tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle, the nose almost brought me to
my knees. Harmony personified.
2013 Soliste L’Ambroisie Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
12.9% alc., pH 3.55, TA 0.56, 49 cases, $100.
Sourced from the secluded Guidici Vineyard surrounded by redwoods in the Sonoma Coast AVA near
Occidental, only 6 miles from the Pacific Ocean. Dijon “828.” 20% whole cluster, Aged 16 months in
French oak barrels, 0% new. Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass.
The most intensely
fruity and darkest fruited nose of the three Pinot Noirs tasted here. Black raspberry, blackberry fruits
are complimented by an assortment of spices including nutmeg. Impressive attack of bold black
raspberry, black cherry and spice flavors that find every crevice in the mouth, but an even more
impressive finish that dances on for minutes. Impeccable balance, with a silk and satin texture, and inviting
acid backbone. When tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle, this wine was
charming, sexy and loquacious with considerable nuance and a harmonious personality. I was taken by this
wine not so much for its sappy fruit, but its complexity and finish.
You may be able to secure an allocation at www.soliste.com or contact Don at email@example.com. Still to come
from the 2013 vintage: 2013 Soliste Solitaire Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir (clone 23, 100% whole cluster), 2013
Soliste Les Griottes Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir (clone “828,”), 2013 Soliste Nouveau Monde Sonoma Coast
Pinot Noir (Pommard clone), and 2013 Soliste Forêt Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir (clone 23).