Recently Tasted California Pinot Noir
Black Kite Cellars, Santa Rosa
Black Kite Cellars was founded by Tom and Rebecca Green Birdsall to showcase the individual Pinot Noir
blocks that comprise the family’s 12-acre Kite’s Rest Vineyard in Anderson Valley. In addition to estate Pinot
Noir, Black Kite Cellars produce small lots of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from similarly expressive vineyards in
both the Sonoma Coast and Santa Lucia Highlands. The bold Pinot Noirs typically feature ripe fruit and high
extraction, generous new oak aging, and adequate acidity for balance.
2016 Black Kite Kite’s Vineyard Rest Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.6% alc., pH 3.50, TA 0.64, 1,625
cases, $50. Dijon 114 and 115, and Pommard clones. Aged 11 months in French oak barrels, 66% new.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Reserved, but pleasant scents of dark berries, balsam and vanilla. Blessed
with copious and well-ripened purple and black berry fruits. The fine-grain tannins are arrested, and the wine
finishes with graciousness and length. There is more oak evident than balance would dictate, but otherwise a
very enjoyable wine.
2016 Black Kite Sierra Mar Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., pH 3.55, TA 0.60, 200
cases, $45. Pisoni “clone.” Aged 11 months in French oak barrels, 50% new.
Moderate garnet color in the
glass. The oak dominates the aromatic profile with scents of spice, vanilla and ash, but there is enough
blackberry fruit aroma to satisfy. A wine for fruit hedonists with a boisterous core of blackberry and cassis
flavors underlain with toasty oak. Suave in texture with very modest tannins, finishing long but with slight
astringency. When tasted two days later from a previously opened and re-corked bottle, there was more
integration of oak but the noticeable tannins persisted on the finish.
2016 Black Kite Soberanes Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.8% alc., pH 3.55, TA 0.59, 268
cases, $45. Pisoni “clone.” Aged 11 months in French oak barrels, 66% new.
Dark garnet color in the glass.
Aromas of roasted coffee beans and toast with no fruit input. Mid weight plus in style, with flavors of toast, char
and espresso obscuring the underlying black fruits. A brutish wine that finishes slightly hot and bitter. When
tasted two days later from a previously opened and re-corked bottle, the oak had released its dominance
somewhat but the finish was still bitter.
2016 Black Kite Gap’s Crown Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
$60. Dijon clone 777. Aged 11
months in French oak barrels, 50% new.
Dark garnet color in the glass.
Leading off are aromas of blackberry syrup, black plum and oak
barrique. Bold and rich in a mid weight plus style, with expansive
boysenberry, blackberry and pomegranate fruit flavors. Nicely
balanced, with deft oak and tannin management. Along with the
glorious fruit, the wine’s most outstanding feature is the suave
mouthfeel. Still shot through with pleasure when tasted two days later
from a previously opened and re-corked bottle.
Jackson Estate, Santa Rosa
These two wines are vinted and produced by Kendall-Jackson Vineyards & Winery.
2016 Jackson Estate Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
15.0% alc., pH 3.66, TA 0.52, 5,025 cases, $38. 80%
Boone Ridge Vineyard, 12% Sable Mountain Vineyard and 8% Philo Vineyard. Multiple clones including 667,
777, “828, “ 115, Pommard 5, Wädenswil 2A and a Calera selection. Aged 10 months in French oak barrels,
Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Very demure nose, offering subtle aromas of black cherry,
fertile earth and toasty oak. The mid weight core of blueberry and black cherry fruit plays alongside flavors of
cola and toast. The tannins are nicely balanced, the alcohol is integrated, and there is some finishing purpose.
Certainly drinkable, even somewhat enjoyable, but this wine lacks aromatic and flavor intrigue.
2016 Jackson Estate Outland Ridge Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
15.5% alc., pH 3.73, TA 0.51,
973 cases, $42. Vineyard is located at 1500-1700 feet elevation. Aged 11 months in French oak barrels, 42%
new. Outland Ridge is a remote vineyard located on a high eastern ridge with Goldridge soils. Clones 667,
“828,” 777 and Pommard 5. Aged 12 months in French oak barrels, 42% new.
Moderate garnet color in the
glass. Shy, but pleasant aromas of black cherry and blueberry-pomegranate juice. Fuller bodied in style with
copious amounts of boysenberry and blackberry fruit accented with notes of char and dark chocolate. More sap
and structure than the Anderson Valley bottling, with good oak enhancement, yet this wine is rugged rather
than suave. The high alcohol sends shivers up my spine, but even at this prodigious alcohol level, the wine
does not taste over ripe or roasted, or alcoholic.
Morgan Winery, Salinas
2016 Morgan Rosella’s Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., pH 3.61, TA 0.59, 99
cases, $64. Pisoni “clone” and Dijon 777. Vineyard planted in 1996 and benefits from the fog and breezes from
its eastern exposure at the Santa Lucia Highlands bench land location. 100% de-stemmed, fermented in opentop
tanks. Aged 10 months in French oak barrels, 50% new.
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass.
Complex aromatic profile that includes scents of dark cherry, spice, and fertile earth. Forward-drinking in a
middleweight style featuring dark red and blue toned fruits and spice. The wine sports non obtrusive tannins
and a lip-smacking finish. I prefer versions from this vineyard that are more feminine and red fruited, but this
wine has class. A little more giving when tasted on the second day after opening.
2016 Morgan Garys’ Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., pH 3.55, TA 0.64, 93 cases,
$64. The 50-acre Garys’ Vineyard was planted in 1997 to the Pisoni “clone” of Pinot Noir. Grapes were 100%
de-stemmed and fermented in open-top tanks. Aged 10 months in French oak barrels, 50% new.
garnet color in the glass. Deep aromas of black cherry, spice, vanilla and earthy mulch. The core of darker
fruits offers expanding flavor in the mouth, and extends its grandeur through a graceful finish. Excellent
harmony, with regal tannins, a silky texture and a pleasing oak underpinning. A very soothing wine.
Sojourn Cellars, Santa Rosa
These wines were tasted with winemaker Erich Bradley in April 2018 and again in my usual fashion at home.
2016 Sojourn Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., pH 3.65, TA 0.60, 900 cases, $42. Released
spring 2018. A blend of five vineyards, primarily Wohler Vineyard with some Riddle and Pratt vineyards. 100%
de-stemmed, open-top fermentation using native yeast after a 5-day cold soak. Aged 11 months in French oak
barrels, 50% new. Bottled unfined and unfiltered.
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Aromas of ripe Bing
cherry, ripe strawberry and oak barrel. Mid weight plus flavors of well-ripened dark stone fruits, black raspberry,
cola, dark chocolate and dark toffee. The fruit is rich and mellow, with accompanying streamlined tannins and a
modest finish. A good introduction to a bolder style of Russian River Valley Pinot Noir.
2016 Sojourn Wohler Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., pH 3.65, TA 0.62, 600 cases,
$48. Released spring 2018. This Forestville Vineyard within sight of the Wohler Bridge was replanted in 2006.
Young clones of 2A, “828,” 115 and 667 in Goldridge soil. 100% de-stemmed, open-top fermentation using
native yeast. The clones were fermented separately. Aged 11 months in French oak barrels, 50% new. Bottled
unfined and unfiltered.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Shy aromas of red berry jam, Bing cherry and dusty
oak. A pleasant enough, mid weight styled wine with fruit flavors of black cherry and strawberry framed by a
compliment of oak. Juicy, but with taut tannins and a somewhat shallow attack and mid palate presence.
Unchanged when tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle.
2016 Sojourn Reuling Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
alc., pH 3.66, TA 0.60, 325 cases, $69. Released spring 2018. This
vineyard is located between Graton and Forestville just off Highway
116. It was planted in 2000 to a Calera selection and two suitcase
Vosne-Romanée selections in Goldridge soil. 100% de-stemmed, opentop
fermentation with native yeast. Selections were fermented
separately. Aged 11 months in French oak barrels, 50% new. Bottled
unfined and unfiltered.
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass.
Complex nose revealing aromas of dark cherry and berry, spice,
incense, earth and oak. A classy wine with engaging mid weight flavors
of blackest cherry, black raspberry, pomegranate and dark chocolate. A
wild savory note adds interest. The wine offers a noticeable, but not imposing tannic backbone, and an opulent
2016 Sojourn Ridgetop Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.4% alc., pH 3.71, TA 0.58, 350 cases, $59.
Released spring 2018. Vineyard is located on a remote site in the true Sonoma Coast near Annapolis. Small
cluster size and tiny berries. Clones 115 667 and 777 were fermented separately in open-top tanks with native
fermentation and then blended. The wine was aged 11 months in French oak barrels, 50% new. Bottled unfined
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Appealing aromas of blackberry fruit, animale, spice
and sous bois. Lush fruit and plush mouthfeel are the wine’s two most outstanding features. Engaging, fullbodied
flavors of blackberry and black raspberry carry over to the generous finish. A concentrated but spirited
wine with deft oak management.
2014 Carpenter Old Road #3 Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.6% alc., 325 cases, $40. Swan and La
Tache selections, Pommard clone.
Moderately light garnet color in the glass. A lighter styled wine that starts out
strong upon opening, but becomes less appealing over time and when tasted the following day from a
previously opened bottle. Aromas of black cherry, spice and oak barrel. Flavors of black cherry, black raspberry
and subtle raisin with energetic oak support, modest tannins and a short finish.
2016 Cobden Wini Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., pH 3.67, TA 0.61, 125 cases, $50. Released
January 11, 2018. Minimal sulfur used in vinification. Lots were inoculated by proprietary yeasts. Aged 11
months in French oak barrels, 40% new.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Aromas of earth-dusted Bing
cherry and cola. Discreetly concentrated spiced black cherry goodness with a hint of tobacco oak in the
background. Silky and refined on the palate, with gentile tannins and a lengthy, cherry-laden finish. This wine is
not a blockbuster, but is more in line with what most prefer in a Pinot Noir. Even better when tasted the
following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle.
2016 Dutton Estate Karmen Isabella-Dutton Ranch Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., pH 3.67, TA 0.59, 952 cases, $46.
Release October 2018. Named for Joe and Tracy’s youngest daughter
who tends to be highly expressive - a perfect Pinot Noir descriptor.
Grapes selected from Thomas Road, Marty’s and Manzana Dutton
Ranch vineyards. clones 115 and “828.” The two clones were destemmed
and fermented separately until the final blending. Aged 10
months in French oak barrels, 35% new. Filtered upon bottling.
Winemaker Terry Adams.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Soaring
aromas of ripe strawberry, muddled black cherry and flattering oak.
Luscious in the mouth, but rounded and light on its feet. The mid
weight, juicy flavors of black cherry and ripe strawberry are caressed by
a touch of oak. I particularly enjoyed the satiny mouthfeel of this wine.
Thoroughly enjoyable now.
2016 Kendric Vineyards Petaluma Gap Marin County Pinot Noir
13.1% alc., pH 3.44, TA 0.60,
RS <20 g/L, 300 cases, $38. This is essentially an “Estate” bottling but for the technicality that the
vineyard and winery (crafted by winemaker Stewart Johnson at Treasure Island, San Francisco)
are in separate AVAs. 8.5-acre vineyard planted in 2002 to clones 37 (Mt Eden), 115 and
Pommard. Harvest Brix 23.0º. Yields were 1.8 tons per acre. 100% whole cluster into open-top
fermenters, indigenous yeast fermentation. One half of lot pressed at dryness after 14 days and
the other half of the lot went 38 days on the skins. Press and free-run juice combined. Aged 19
months on the lees in French oak barrels, 30% new. Egg white fined, unfiltered.
Light garnet color in the glass.
The nose opens over time in the glass to reveal aromas of cherry, spice and timber. Light in color, yet
possessing excellent weight on the mid palate, with juicy flavors of red cherry and cranberry and a touch of
spice. Energetic acidity provides freshness and lift and integrated tannins allow for easy drinking. A delicately
styled wine that can be enjoyed slightly chilled.
2017 Reichwage Sonoma Coast Rosé of Pinot Noir
13.3% alc., 70 cases, $22. Released May
1, 2018. Whole cluster pressed after foot treading in the bin. Aged 6 months on the lees in neutral
Delicate salmon color in the glass. Welcoming aromas of strawberry, peach and dried
herbs hold up over time in the glass. Equally appealing on the palate, with bright flavors of peach,
strawberry, red cherry, kiwi and blood orange The finish is clean, dry and thirst quenching. Chill out
with this beauty this summer.
2016 Reichwage Winery Twin Hills Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.6% alc., 200 cases, $N/A. Unreleased. Vineyard is located in
Western Sonoma County and is organically farmed by owner Max
Reichwage who also sells about 50% of the vineyard’s production to
Littorai (since 2015). 15% whole cluster, native fermentation. Aged 18
months in 20% new Francois Frères 3-year air-dried medium toast
French oak barrels.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Restrained
aromas of purple berries and plum sauce pick up intensity over time in
the glass. Very enjoyable and giving mid weight flavors of boysenberry
and purple grape with the right touch of spicy oak in the background .
The plush, fine-grained texture is particularly appealing as is the finish
that displays some persistence. Still stellar when tasted the following
day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle.
2016 Sarah’s Vineyard Santa Clara Valley Pinot Noir
13.7% alc., 1,380 cases, $25. Estate grown in the Dwarf
Oak Vineyard. Whole berry fermented in small lots and
aged 11 months in French oak barrels. The winery’s entry
level Pinot Noir. Clones 667, 777, 115 and a DRC selection.
100% de-stemmed whole berries, cold soak, native and
inoculated yeast fermentation, hand punch downs. Aged 11
months in French oak barrels, 10% new.
Light ruby red
color in the glass. Nicely perfumed with fresh scents of cherry and
strawberry. Light to mid weight in character, with layers of red cherry
and red berry fruit. Very pleasant to drink, with refreshing juiciness,
gossamer tannins and some finishing length. A subtle earthy/herbal
savory component to the flavor profile allows the wine to rise above a
simple, fruity drink. A great everyday Pinot.