Recent Tastings of California Pinot Noir & Chardonnay
Anaba Wines, Sonoma, CA
The latest offerings are terrific wines showing a gentle hand. The elegant style incorporating vibrant acidity
shows the fingerprint of winemakers Ross Cobb (COBB Wines) and Katy Wilson (LaRue). The grapes are all
hand-harvested and de-stemmed. A 4 to 6-day cold soak is followed by fermentation featuring gentle pumpovers
and punch-downs. Visit www.anabawines.com, and grab some of these beauties for your cellar.
2016 Anaba Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.8% alc., pH 3.51, TA 0.61, 1,187 cases, $42. A blend of select lots
and clones from five vineyards. Clones are Pommard, 115, “828,” 777 and 667. Harvest Brix 23.6º. Aged 20
months in French oak barrels, 35% new.
Moderately light garnet color in the glass. The showy nose offers
aromas of red fruits, exotic spices and pipe smoke. Light to mid weight in an elegant style, featuring juicy red
cherry flavor with the slightest confected tone. Silky in the mouth, with gentle tannins. A giving wine that is easy
to embrace and made for delightful everyday drinking.
2016 Anaba Westlands Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.6% alc., Ph 3.43, TA 0.62, 258 cases, $60. This wine
is meant to capture the essence of the West Sonoma Coast. Sourced from Jay Morris, O’Connor and Clary
Ranch vineyards located in the West Sebastopol and West Petaluma regions. Clones 777, “828,” Pommard,
667 and Calera. Harvest Brix 23.5º. 100% de-stemmed, aged 20 months in French oak barrels, 40% new.
Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Generous aromas of dark red and purple fruits, rose, mulch and
burnt tobacco. The flavors echo the nose in a mid weight styled wine. A little more extraction and seriousness
than the regular Sonoma Coast bottling with a little more mid palate intensity and a more flamboyant finish.
Both the tannins and oak are perfectly integrated.
2016 Anaba Wildcat Mountain Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.8% alc., pH 3.42, TA 0.64, 121 cases, $56.
This hilltop vineyard located at 700 feet elevation was
planted in 1998 by vintner Steve MacRostie and partners.
Clones 115 and 777. Harvest Brix 23.7º 100% destemmed,
aged 20 months in French oak barrels, 20%
Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Teasing
aromas of darker cherry, graham and spice. On entry, the wine wows
you with mid weight flavors of black cherry and spice. The sumptuous
texture caresses and the finish leaves behind endless echoes of
aromatic goodness. The balance is impeccable, the wine has style and
grace, and the overall experience is seductive.
2016 Anaba Sangiacomo-Roberts Road Vineyard Petaluma Gap Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., pH 3.45, TA 0.62,
108 cases, $56. Vineyard planted in 1999. Half the day, the vineyard is shrouded in fog and also affected by
coastal breezes. The block for this bottling is in the flat land at the base of Sonoma Mountain and features welldrained,
silty gravel soils. 100% de-stemmed, aged 20 months in French oak barrels, 25% new.
light ruby red color in the glass. Aromas of blueberry, dark cherry, ash and new leather draw you into the glass.
The dark red fruit core delivers purity and is framed by gentle tannins. The plush texture attracts and the finish
offers racy cherry fruit. The wine takes on more intensity and character over time in the glass.
2016 Anaba Soberanes Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.4% alc., pH 3.44, TA 0.61, 241
cases, $56. Vineyard is owned and farmed by the Pisoni and Franscioni families. Pisoni “clone.” Harvest Brix
24.2º. 100% de-stemmed, aged 20 months in French oak barrels, 30% new.
Moderately light garnet color in the
glass. The nose offers competition between aromas of maraschino cherry, rose and dried herbs and oak-driven
ash and vanilla. Light to mid weight in style, offering earth-toned fruit flavors of black cherry and boysenberry. A
pretty wine with a polished mouthfeel, a dash of toasty oak, and some length on the sweet boysenberry finish.
2016 Anaba Dutton Ranch Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
13.0% alc., pH 3.36, TA 0.67, 278 cases, $42.
Grapes come from the Mills Station Vineyard and Shop Block Vineyard in the Green Valley of the Russian
River Valley AVA lying within the Sonoma Coast AVA. Whole cluster pressed, barrel fermented, 90% malolactic
fermentation, aged 17 months on the lees in French oak barrels, 27% new.
Moderate golden yellow color in the
glass. Delicate aromas of lemon, yellow apple and honeydew melon. Rich and creamy on the palate, and
loaded with pineapple, honey, blond caramel and brioche flavors, with nicely integrated acidity woven into the
fabric of the wine. Nothing to specifically criticize, but just doesn’t excite me.
2016 Anaba J McK Estate Vineyard Carneros Chardonnay
13.9% alc., pH 3.48, TA 0.67, 193 cases, $42.
Wente clone. Harvest Brix 23.5º. Whole cluster pressed, barrel fermented with 65% malolactic fermentation,
and aged 17 months on the lees in French oak barrels, 38% new.
Moderate golden yellow color in the glass.
The aromas of lemon, pineapple and yellow stone fruits build in intensity over time in the glass. Silky and
vibrant on the palate, with appealing flavors of citrus fruits, blond caramel and butterscotch. An upbeat,
energetic wine that aims to please.
Blagden (Versatile Vines, LLC), Healdsburg, CA
I first met winemaker Catherine Blagden a few years ago when she was working with Greg La Follette. She
started the small Blagden label in 2006, featuring Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from the Sonoma Coast, and
sometimes Cabernet Sauvignon. She has been living part of the year in London for the past seven years but
now is back in California and “re-launching” her label, crafting wines at Grapewagon custom crush in
Healdsburg. She still has some stock of Blagden wines dating back to 2012. A second label, Ayiana, was
started with the 2015 vintage and consists of special bottlings and blends. Typically, the wines are held back a
couple of years before release.
Catherine has an impressive resume. She has an MA in Health Psychology from Stanford University and an
MS in Viticulture and Enology from UC Davis. She formed a consulting practice in 2002 with Greg LaFollette
and together they worked on many small artisan Pinot Noir labels including Tandem, Dunah, Londer, Lookout
Ridge, Luna, Sapphire Hill, and Soliste. In 2005, she started the Soliste label while concurrently working at
Gallo of Sonoma. She also spent a harvest at Domaine Dujac in Burgundy.
The winery’s website is currently under development. Join the mailing list at www.blagdenwines.com and for
offerings contact email@example.com.
2012 Blagden Sangiacomo - Roberts Road Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., pH 3.55, TA
0.60, 220 cases, $48. Released March 2017. Clones 115, Swan and 777. 100% de-stemmed, 5-day cold soak,
native fermentation in open-top fermenters, inoculated for malolactic fermentation, and aged 11 months in
French oak barrels, 35% new.
Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Despite being several years old, this
wine benefits from time and was more appealing when tasted a day after opening. Aromas of black cherry,
spice and barrique lead to a light to mid weight styled wine featuring black cherry and blueberry fruit flavors.
Silky, with good t n’a balance, and elegant composure. There is more oak imprint than I prefer.
2013 Blagden Sangiacomo - Roberts Road Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., pH 3.77, TA
0.50, 200 cases, $58. Released March 2018. Winner of 11th Annual International Women’s Winemaking
Competition. Clones 115, Swan and 777. 100% de-stemmed, 5-day cold soak, native fermentation in open-top
fermenters, inoculated for malolactic fermentation, and aged 11 months in French oak barrels, 38% new.
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Pleasant aromas of black cherry, floral perfume and a hint of vanilla.
Expansive flavors of black raspberry and boysenberry are framed by sleek tannins creating a comforting
mouthfeel. More ripeness and extraction in this vintage compared to the 2012 bottling. There is a light imprint
of toasty oak.
2015 Blagden Sangiacomo - Roberts Road Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.6% alc., pH 3.77, TA
0.50, 125 cases, $48. Release March 2019. Clones 115, Swan and 777. 100% de-stemmed, native
fermentation in open-top fermenters after a 5-day cold soak, inoculated for malolactic fermentation, and aged
11 months in French oak barrels, 20% new.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Aromas of crushed dark red
and black berries along with a bit of toasty oak soar from the glass. Mid weight plus in style with plenty of black
fruit stuffing. The wine carries the weight of fruit and alcohol well. Plush and polished on the palate, with
noticeable length to the finish.
2016 Blagden Sangiacomo-Roberts Road Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.7% alc., $Pre-release.
Moderate garnet color in the
glass. Welcoming aromas of dark red and black fruits with an appealing
freshness. Mid weight plus flavors of black cherry, black raspberry,
exotic spices, and a dusting of toasty oak presented in a wholesome
and coordinated fashion. Nuances of loam and floral perfume add
interest. Beautifully balanced, with integrated tannins, and a long finish
replete with black cherry goodness.
2016 Blagden Placida Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.7% alc., $pre-release.
Moderately light garnet
color in the glass. Nicely perfumed with aromas of blackberry, blueberry-pomegranate and hints of floral
goodness and oak. The mid weight core of botanical-infused black cherry fruit has welcome juiciness.
Elegantly composed, with a suave texture and a strikingly long black cherry infused finish.
2015 Ayiana Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., pH 3.72, TA 0.60, 175 cases, $38. Release
March 2019. Label designed in honor of Mom Cynthia H. Grace who succumbed to lung cancer
in 2012 and loved hummingbirds. 100% de-stemmed, native fermentation in open-top fermenters
after a 5-day cold soak, inoculated for malolactic fermentation, and aged 10 months in French
oak barrels, 25% new.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Subdued, but pleasant aromas of
black cherry and black raspberry with overtones of aged barrique. Bold in a mid weight plus style,
with flavors that echo the aromas. Initially a bit reserved and rustic, reaching new heights with
time in the glass. A dash of toasty oak is the background and a bit of tannin shows up on the finish. More
enjoyable when tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle showing better tannin
and oak integration.
Brooks Note Winery, Novato, CA
Garry Brooks offers small-lot Pinot Noirs annually from vineyards in Marin County and Yorkville Highlands. In
2004, he left the world of technology and obtained a degree in Viticulture and Enology from UC Davis. His work
experience includes stints at Ravenswood, Acacia, Kosta-Browne and Dutton-Goldfield. In 2011, Garry and his
spouse, Joanne, decided to start their own commercial brand after working harvests for others since 2004 and
producing many great garage wines for friends and family.
The wines are available on the website at www.brooks-note-winery.myshopify.com. Chardonnay, Pinot
Blanc and a Rosé are also offered.
2016 Brooks Note Marin County Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., pH 3.55, TA 0.63, 200 cases, $36. A blend of grapes
from Azaya Ranch (clones are Wädenswil 2A, 115, 667 and “”828.”) and Chileno Valley Vineyard (Pommard
and “828.”). 10% whole cluster. 3-day cold soak, native yeast fermentation, aged 16 months in French oak
barrels, 33% new, 33% once-filled and 33% neutral. Filtered and bottled in February 2017.
color in the glass. The nose is highly rewarding, featuring deep aromas of cherry, rose petal and baking spice.
Regal and silky in the mouth, with a core of dark chocolate covered black cherry flavor enhanced with an
earthy tone. Seamless, with a pleasing cherry-driven finish.
2016 Brooks Note Weir Vineyard Yorkville Highlands Pinot Noir
13.8% alc., pH 3.56, TA 0.65, 250 cases, $44.
Rochioli selection and Wädenswil 2A clone from the lower,
eastern block planted in 1992 and a Romaneé-Conti
selection from the higher, western block. 10% whole cluster.
3-day cold soak, native yeast fermentation. Aged 16 months
in French oak barrels, 33% new, 66% neutral. Bottled in
Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Seductive
aromas of black cherry, raspberry, spice cabinet and a hint of toasty
oak. Fresh and invigorating in the mouth, with a charge of ripe cherry
and raspberry fruit with a hint of cola. The tannic backbone is finely
tuned and the finish hangs on for what seems like at least 30 seconds.
A real charmer. You should stock up on this one at this price.
Calera Wine Company, Hollister, CA
Calera’s Central Coast Pinot Noir and Chardonnay have been produced since the mid-1980s and have
introduced generations of wine lovers to the quality and style of Calera wines. These wines, which represent
terrific value, are widely distributed and readily available in the retail marketplace. The estate vineyards on Mt.
Harlan are used exclusively for the winery’s vineyard-designate wines that are the crown jewel of the Calera
portfolio. These wines are very limited in production and sold to a mailing list and on the winery’s website at
www.CaleraWine.com. Although the winery has been sold to Duckhorn, long-time winemaker Mike Waller
remains on the job and consistency has been preserved.
Calera’s Mt. Harlan vineyards are located in the Gavilan Mountains 25 miles east of the Monterey Bay. The site
was chosen for its limestone soils and ideal climate. At an average elevation of 2,200 feet, it is among the
highest and coolest vineyard sites in California.
The vineyard-designated Pinot Noir wines reviewed here show impeccable balance and the proper tannic
structure for aging.
Calera has released a 2015 Muns Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir ($48) and a 2016 Bien Nacido
Vineyard Pinot Noir ($48), new vineyard-designates for this winery.
2016 Calera Central Coast Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., pH 3.64, TA 0.60, 14,720 cases,$30. Grapes for this wine
are sourced from some of the finest vineyards on the Central Coast including Solomon Hills, Sierra Madre,
Bien Nacido, Garys’, Laetitia and Pedregal vineyards. Average harvest Brix 24.5º. Aged 11 months in French
oak barrels, 10% new and 90% neutral.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Enchanting aromas of dusty cherry,
violets and rose petal initially, but with time in the glass, oak takes over and char aroma appears. Mid weight
plus flavors of black cherry, purple berry and cola with an overcoat of oak. Plenty of well-ripened fruit stuffing
that carries through the finish, but the aggressive oak imprint detracts.
2016 Calera Central Coast Chardonnay
14.4% alc., pH 3.42, TA 0.67, 13,416 cases, $25.
Sourced from eight of the Central Coast’s finest vineyards including Sierra Madre, Bien Nacido,
Lone Oak, Laetitia, Talley and Pedregal. Average harvest Brix 24.5º. Barrel fermented, native
yeasts, 100% malolactic fermentation. Aged 10 months without racking in French oak barrels,
10% new, 90% neutral.
Moderate golden yellow color and clear in the glass. Well-appointed
scents of lemon, lemongrass, yellow applesauce and melon. Slightly viscous in the mouth with
pleasing flavors of lemon, yellow apple and biscuit. Streamlined, with energetic acidity and oak
way in the background.
2015 Calera Ryan Vineyard Mt. Harlan Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., pH 3.53, TA 0.63, 397 cases, $60. Produced
from relatively young vines planted in 1998 and 2001. At 2,500 feet, ryan is the highest vineyard on Mt. Harlan.
Average harvest Brix 24.0º. Yields in 2015 0.45 tons per acre. Aged 17 months in French oak barrels, 30%
new, 10% second and 60% neutral.
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Highly nuanced nose offering
aromas of blackberry, blackest cherry, pomegranate, fertile earth, bramble and toasty oak. A flood of
enthusiastic boysenberry and blackberry fruit flavors saturate the palate. A hint of spice and toast add interest.
The fruit is supported by very fine-grain tannins and the wine finishes long, dry and lip-smacking.
2015 Calera Mills Vineyard Mt. Harlan Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., pH 3.62, TA 0.66, 309 cases, $70. Vines
planted on their own roots in 1984 and 1998. Average harvest Brix 24.0º. Yield in 2015 0.32 tons per acre.
Aged 17 months in French oak barrels, 30% new, 10% second, 60% neutral.
Moderate garnet color in the
glass. Highly appealing aromas of blueberry-pomegranate, black cherry, spice, fertile topsoil and roasted coffee
beans. Delicious core of black cherry, blackberry and pomegranate fruits are accented with spice and tobacco
oak. Impressive harmony and grace with reigned-in tannins. The finish is exceptionally long.
2015 Calera Selleck Vineyard Mt. Harlan Pinot Noir
14.6% alc., pH
3.53, TA 0.72, 125 cases, $95. Vines planted in 1975 on a tiny 4.8-acre
vineyard. Yield in 2015 0.35 tons per acre. Average harvest Brix 24.0º.
Aged 17 months in French oak barrels, 30% new, 10% second, 60%
Moderate garnet color in the glass. This wine displays the
ripest fruit profile in the 2015 lineup tasted, featuring aromas and
flavors of black raspberry, black cherry and blackberry. The fruit flavors
are really delightful although a little too ripe for me to fully embrace.
The wine has impeccable harmony, with very fine-grain tannins, an
appealing earthiness, a compliment of underlying oak, and a big, fruitladen
Dutton-Goldfield, Sebastopol, CA
This winery is one of the first to have the Sonoma County Certified Sustainable logo on the labels starting with
the 2017 Dutton Ranch wines reviewed here. This logo certifies that the vineyards from which the winery
sources grapes are certified under the Sonoma Winegrowers program’s three categories of assessment: (1)
being socially responsible in how the winery works with their employees, neighbors and community, (2) being
environmentally conscientious with farming and winery practices, and (3) managing business operations to
ensure economic viability and long-term endurance. Visit www.duttongoldfield.com.
2017 Dutton-Goldfield Dutton Ranch Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., pH 3.54, TA 0.56, $45.
Dutton Ranch farms over 80 unique vineyards located in the cooler areas of the Russian River Valley, primarily
in the Green Valley sub-appellation. This wine is a blend of grapes from 12 of these Sonoma County Certified
Sustainable vineyard. 100% de-stemmed, 5-day cold soak, 14-20 days on the skins, and aged 10 months in
French oak barrels, 40% new.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. The nose arrives slowly to reveal attractive
aromas of cherry liquor, black raspberry, fertile earth and savory herbs. Mid weight plus in style, with a core of
earth-toned cherry and blackberry fruits. Highly approachable, with redeeming balance and some finishing
2017 Dutton-Goldfield Dutton Ranch Russian River Valley Chardonnay
13.5% alc., pH 3.44,
TA 0.59, $39. Sourced from 8 vineyards, primarily located in the cool Green Valley of Russian
River Valley. All vineyards are Sonoma County Certified Sustainable. Barrel fermented with a
combination of indigenous and inoculated yeast strains. Full malolactic fermentation. Lees are
stirred twice monthly through the winter. Aged 10 months in French oak barrels, 40% new.
Moderate golden yellow color in the glass. Lovely aromas of lemon, pineapple, fresh yellow apple
and ripe pear. Vigorous flavors of citrus, pear and kiwi follow in a clean, bright style of wine with an
En Garde Winery, Glen Ellen, CA
Winemaker Csaba Szakal, a fourth generation winemaker from Hungary, left his profession as a computer
programmer to start En Garde Winery in 2007. He crafts multiple varietals from sourced grapes including
Russian River Valley Pinot Noirs. Future releases include Pinot Noir wines from Roma’s Vineyard in the
Anderson Valley, Noble Family vineyard in the Petaluma Gap, and a Sonoma Coast (Los Carneros) vineyard.
Csaba told me, “As you can see, I am taking this Pinot thing more and more seriously as time goes on.”
For Pinot Noir, the grapes are de-stemmed but additions of whole clusters are not uncommon. After a cold
soak, native yeasts kick off fermentation in small open-top tanks. Naturally occurring yeasts strains selected
from around the world are introduced to create complexity and to ensure a controlled fermentation. Punch
downs of the cap are by hand. The wines are bottled unfined and unfiltered after 17 months of barrel aging.
Csaba’s wife, Sandy, collaborates with him to determine the final blend for each wine.
I have reviewed Csaba’s excellent Pinot Noir wines since the 2010 vintage.
The winery’s stylish tasting room is open daily on Sonoma Highway in Kenwood. Visit
www.engardewinery.com. The three wines reviewed here will be released in a month or two as part of the
winery’s spring release.
2016 En Garde Starkey Hill Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc.,138 cases, $60. 30+
year-old vines including clones 23, Pommard and “828.” Harvest Brix 24.8º-25.6º. Aged 17
months in French oak barrels, 40% new.
Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Nicely
perfumed with upbeat aromas of black cherry, baking spices and nutty oak. A deeply flavored black
cherry core brings the taste buds to attention in this middleweight styled wine. A real cherry delight
with impeccable oak integration, silky tannins and a wondrous finish. This wine took two days after
opening to really reach its peak, when my notes say “great!”
2016 En Garde Pleasant Hill Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.7% alc., 98 cases, $60. Vineyard is located in
Sebastopol near Starkey’s Hill. 25+ year-old vines
including clones 115, 667, and Pommard. 100% clone 115
in this wine. Harvest Brix 24.5º. Aged 17 months in French
oak barrels, 25% new.
Moderate garnet color in the glass.
The nose is spectacular, offering hi-tone aromas of dark
cherry, dark red berry, spice and rose petal. Delicious black raspberry,
black cherry, spice and cola flavors in a mid weight plus style.
Impressive energy and juiciness with a light dash of oak and a profound
finish. This ephemeral wine is more giving upon opening than the
2016 En Garde Russian River Valley Reserve Pinot Noir
14.9% alc., 121 cases, $80. Clones “828,” 23 and
Pommard. Aged 17 months in French oak barrels, 40% new.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Loamy
aromas join an array of dark fruits on the nose. The mid weight flavors of dark red and black cherry satisfy, yet
the wine is a bit rustic and brooding initially. The alcohol is well integrated and the finest grain tannins provide
textural interest as well as support for longevity. The finish is the longest of the three 2016 En Garde Pinots
tasted. More giving with lively aromatics but with noticeable oak input when re-tasted two days after opening.
This is a wine to put away in your cellar for a few years while you drink the more charming Pleasant Hill
FEL Wines, Napa, CA
FEL Wines was founded in 2014 by vintner Cliff Lede to produce AVA-designated and vineyard-designated
Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris from the Anderson Valley. The label is named as a tribute to Lede’s
mother, Florence Elsie Lede, who first introduced him to wine. Winemaker Ryan Hodgins has been featured in
the pages of the PinotFile in the past and admired for his skills after over a decade of experience.
Visit www.felwines.com. Tasting is available at the Cliff Lede Vineyards Tasting Room in Yountville, open daily.
2016 FEL Donnelly Creek Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., $65. Limited whole cluster
inclusion. Aged in French oak barrels, 20% new, for 16 months.
Moderately light garnet color in the glass.
Intriguing aromas of black cherry and exotic spices lead to a middleweight styled wine with flavors of black
cherry, mushroom and toast. Easy to like, with suede tannins and a succulent, fruit-filled finish. Impeccably
balanced for long-term enjoyment.
2017 FEL Anderson Valley Chardonnay
13.7% alc., $32. Sourced from Savoy and Ferrington
vineyards. Very limited malolactic fermentation. Aged on the lees, without stirring, for 10 months
in neutral French oak barrels.
Moderate golden yellow color and clear in the glass. Scents of
lemon-lime, lemongrass, green apple and jasmine. An acid driven style with flavors of lemon-lime
and green apple. Nervy with a zesty but slightly bitter finish. I have had a number of un-oaked
Chardonnays that I preferred in comparison.
La Pitchoune Winery, Santa Rosa, CA
A boutique producer of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from select Sonoma County vineyards. Tracy Nielsen and
Peter Joachim Nielsen were inspired by a small family property in the south of France named “la pitchoune” or
“the little one.” The name speaks to small production, small lots and the idea that the winery’s small size is its
greatest asset. The winemaker is Andrew Berge, with Tracy assisting.
The small production is sold through a mailing list, a wine club and the website store at
www.lapitchounewinery.com. Tasting is available by reservation.
Andrew related to me his goals. “Because I am attempting to produce distinct, unapologetic wines that have
the potential to age, some reduction is expected when the wines are young and the wines will always lean
more on savory flavors and less on fruit. The savory flavors become oxidized with age and can become stewy,
cooked and unpleasant while the savory flavors evolve into other desirable savory flavors. I am trying to
produce wines that may challenge peoples’ expectations.”
I still found the Pinot Noirs reviewed here from the 2015 vintage full of desirable fruit flavors. The Chardonnays
do show reductive flinty and matchstick aromas upon opening that blow off as the wine is exposed to oxygen.
When I tasted the wines from previously opened and re-corked bottles the following day, the wines were
pristine, with no reductive character I suggest decanting the Chardonnays before you to plan to drink them.
2015 La Pitchoune Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., pH 3.66, TA 0.58, 298 cases, $48. Sourced from
English Hill, Holder and Morris vineyards. Dijon clones 115, 667, 777 and “838.” Average harvest Brix 24.3º.
Aged 11 months in French oak barrels, 25% new, 25% once used, and 50% four years or older.
color in the glass. Aromas of purple grapes, boysenberry and underbrush lead off. Dense and bold in a fruit-driven
mid weight plus style, with waves of dark red and purple fruits greeting the palate. A botanical thread
plies the background. Nicely composed with balanced tannins and some finishing purpose.
2015 La Pitchoune Holder Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.7% alc., pH 3.60, TA 0.58, 48 cases, $68. Vineyard is a 1.25-acre
family operated site. Dijon clones 115 and 667. Harvest Brix 24.3º and
24.6º. Aged 11 months in French oak barrels, 25% new, 25% once
used and 50% four years or older.
Dark garnet color in the glass.
Brooding aromas of dark berries, grape must and nutty oak develop
more appeal over time in the glass. The mid weight plus purple and
black berry fruits flood the mouth with goodness. Subtle oak spice adds
interest. The svelte tannins make for gracious drinking, and the bold
and very long finish puts this wine in an upper category.
2015 La Pitchoune English Hill Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
12.8% alc., pH 3.70, TA 0.59, 48
cases, $68. Dijon 115, 667 and a Vosne-Romanée selection. Harvest Brix 23.0º and 23.4º. Aged 11 months in
French oak barrels, 25% new, 25% once used and 50% four years or older. (This vineyard is located at the
northern end of the Petaluma Gap and is always windy so the skins are super thick resulting in higher phenolic
levels. The higher phenolic levels can stress the yeast and this can cause a smokey character in the wine. The
Vosne-Romanée selection also contributes to that character. The vineyard was also a former cattle pasture)
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Shy aromas of red berry jam, tobacco and smoke. The wine is
blessed with plenty of cherry and cranberry fruit in a mid weight style, but not as exuberant as the Holder
bottling. There is a noticeable smoky component to the flavor profile. The wine was more amendable when
tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle, but I suspect this wine needs a few
years in the cellar. Definitely a terroir-driven wine.
2015 La Pitchoune Van der Kamp Vineyard Sonoma Mountain Pinot Noir
13.2% alc., pH 3.66, TA 0.55, 48
cases, $58. Dijon clones 777, “828,” and a La Tache selection. Harvest Brix 22.0º and 25.5º. Aged 11 months in
French oak barrels, 25% new, 25% once used and 50% more than three years old.
Dark garnet color in the
glass. Pleasant aromas of purple berry and seasoned oak. Sleek and silky on the palate, with vigorous flavors
of blackberry and blueberry-pomegranate that persist through a lengthy finish. There is a savory, earthy
component to the flavor profile as well. This wine has the most tannins of the four 2015 Pinot Noirs tasted, but
they are not aggressive and should serve this wine well as far as age ability.
2015 La Pitchoune Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
14.1% alc., pH 3.47, TA 0.59, 185 cases, $48. Sourced
from Pratt, Chenoweth and Dutton Sullivan vineyards. Selections of Wente, Wente-Hyde, Robert Young and
Mt. Eden. Harvest Brix 23.6º-23.9º. Barrel fermented and aged 16 months in French oak barrels, 10% new,
90% twice used or older. Bottled unfined and unfiltered.
Moderate golden yellow color with slight cloudiness
(unfiltered) in the glass. Aromas of lemon tart, peach, cold steel, old wood and a hint of flint initially. A cozy,
easy to like wine, with ripe flavors of Honeycrisp apple, white peach, lemon curd, honey and a subtle bit of
matchstick in the background initially. Slightly viscous in texture, with a citrus-driven finish. Considerably more
enjoyable when tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle when the aromas of
citrus, white peach and slate were singing and all evidence of reduction had disappeared.
2015 La Pitchoune Pratt Vineyard Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
13.9% alc., pH 3.41, TA 0.61, 52 cases,
$68. Robert Young and Mt Eden clones. Harvest Brix 23.7º. Barrel fermented, aged 16 months in French oak
barrels, 33% new and 67% four years old.
Moderate golden yellow color with slight cloudiness (unfiltered) in
the glass. Shy, but pleasant aromas of oak-kissed lemon and pear. Very polished in the mouth with good
fullness featuring flavors of lemon, pineapple and complimentary toasty oak. The wine finishes softly with a
grapefruit-flavored flourish. Much more appealing when tasted the following day from a previously opened and
2015 La Pitchoune Chenoweth Vineyard Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
13.9% alc., pH 3.39, TA 0.61, 48
cases, $88. Wente-Hyde selection. Harvest Brix 24.0º. Barrel fermented and aged 15 months in French oak
barrels, 50% new and 50% four years old.
Moderate golden yellow color with slight cloudiness (unfiltered) in
the glass. Noticeable flinty, stinky aromas upon opening, decreasing over time in the glass. Fruit aromas and
flavors of lemon, pineapple and yellow grapefruit with a hint of brioche, in a mildly austere but sophisticated
style. Creamy in texture, with a satisfying lemony finish. Considerably more likable when tasted the following
day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle when all reductive aromas had resolved.
Sea Smoke, Lompoc, CA
Sea Smoke’s Estate Vineyard was planted in 1999 in the Sta. Rita Hills. What makes the site unique is that it is
located in one of the only east-west coastal mountain ranges in the United States. Because of this, a layer of
marine fog known as “sea smoke,” travels up the Santa Ynez River canyon each evening cooling the vines.
This cooling influence allows flavors and tannins to slowly and fully mature, and also preserves the bright
acidity typical of the Pinot Noirs from this region.
The ‘Ten’ bottling is a blend of all ten clones planted at the organic and biodynamic-certified Sea Smoke Estate
Vineyard. Winemaker Don Schroeder has been at Sea Smoke for many years and this has allowed him to
understand the nuances of this great winegrowing site. He has learned how to do just enough as a winemaker
to let what makes the vineyard so exceptional to shine through without obscuring the beauty of the site. Over
the past fifteen vintages, ‘Ten’ has become a more complex and compelling wine as a result.
2016 Sea Smoke ‘Ten’ Sea Smoke Estate Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
14.9% alc., pH 3.46, TA 0.60, $82.
100% de-stemmed after hand harvesting. After a 5-day
cold soak, inoculated with cultured yeasts to begin
fermentation. Manual punch downs with a total maceration
time of 16 to 28 days. Aged 16 months in French oak
barrels, 60% new. Bottled unfined and unfiltered.
garnet color in the glass. Alluring aromas of purple berries, spice and a
shade of oak. Immediately open and giving in a mid weight plus style,
featuring flavors of boysenberry and blackberry with a deft hint of oak.
Expansive in the mouth with a cohesive tannic backbone and a very
long and intensely fruity finish. Very polished, with fruit that offers a
really charming spark of pleasure. Even better when tasted several
hours later from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. The balance in this wine predicts favorable age
ability. A perfect accompaniment would be a grilled prime New York steak.
Waits Mast Family Cellars, San Francisco, CA
I have been reviewing the Pinot Noir wines of Brian and Jennifer Waits since their first vintage in 2007.
Vineyard sources have varied through the years, but now all fruit comes from Mendocino County vineyards.
The winemaker is Shalini Sekhar, who has crafted Pinot Noir for Roar, Furthermore and Neely and several
other small brands. In 2015, she was awarded Winemaker of the Year at the San Francisco International Wine
Competition for her work with Furthermore Pinot Noir. The wines are sold primarily through a mailing list at
2015 Waits-Mast Oppenlander Vineyard Mendocino County Pinot Noir
13.6% alc., 118 cases, $45.
Released November 2018. Vineyard is located outside the town of Comptche, 8.5 miles from the Pacific
Ocean. Consistently cool temperatures pervade the growing season and harvest is late. Clones 115 and
Pommard. 100% de-stemmed, native yeast fermentation, aged 16 months in a mix of once-used, twice-used
and neutral French oak barrels. Bottled unfined and unfiltered.
Light garnet color in the glass. Elegantly styled,
with aromas of cherry, strawberry, tobacco leaf and toast. Discreet in weight, with refreshing flavors of cherry,
raspberry and allspice. Good vibrancy, with a suave mouthfeel and some finishing grace and purpose.
2015 Waits-Mast Mariah Vineyard Mendocino Ridge Pinot Noir
13.1% alc., 75 cases, $42. Released
November 2018. Vineyard is located at 2,400 feet elevation. Dry-farmed. Clones 667 and Pommard. 100% destemmed,
proprietary yeast fermentation, aged 16 months in French oak barrels, 40% new. Bottled unfined and
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Primarily oak-driven toast and char aromas. Difficult to coax any
fruit aromas from the glass. Mid weight plus in concentration, with well-ripened flavors of purple and black
berries that fill the mid palate. Sleek in texture with balance tannins and a fruit-driven, slightly sweet finish..
Tasted twice with consistent results.
2015 Waits-Mast Wentzel Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
13.2% alc., 90 cases, $47. Released
November 2018. The 10-acre vineyard near Philo is organically farmed. Dijon clones 114, 115, 667 and 777.
100% de-stemmed, proprietary yeast fermentation, aged 16 months in French oak barrels, 25% new. Bottled
unfined and unfiltered.
Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Aromas of boysenberry pie and underbrush
lead to light to mid weight flavors of boysenberry and blackberry with a bit of nutty oak in the background. The
fruit is supported by mild, ruddy tannins. The wine has a somewhat shallow finish and lacks a bit of stuffing, but
overall is a pleasant drink.
2016 Waits-Mast Nash Mill Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
13.3% alc., $Pre-release. Vineyard is located at the cool northern end
of Anderson Valley.
Moderately light garnet color in the glass. The nose
balances aromas of cherry, fertile earth and oak. Tasty mid weight
flavors of black cherry and raspberry are framed by gracious tannins.
Complimentary oak highlights ply the background. The wine has an
appealingly polished texture. The fruit always stands out from this