Radio-Coteau: Rare & Special
Radio-Coteau is deservedly a true “cult” Pinot Noir. A “cult” wine is one produced
in very small quantities by a very skilled and experienced winegrower and winemaker,
sold and tightly allocated through a mailing list, distinguished by unique
and special wines, and known only to the most dedicated wine geeks..
Owner Eric Sussman developed an interest in wine while studying agriculture at
Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. He ventured to Washington’s Yakima
Valley where he spent several years managing
the vines and cellar of a small artisan
producer. He then moved on to France and
spent the 1995 vintage in Burgundy at
Comte Armand in Pommard and Domaine
Jacques Prieur in Meursault. After returning
to northern California, he worked one year
at Bonny Doon and from 1988-2001 as the
associate winemaker at Dehlinger. He
crossed paths with Bill and Joan Smith, former
owners of La Jota, and current owners of W.H. Smith Wines. They formed a
partnership that became Radio-Coteau Wine Cellars.
“Radio-coteau” are two conjoined words derived from the northern Rhone region
of France. The colloquial meaning is “word of mouth,” but the literal translation is
“broadcasting from the hillside.” Eric first heard this expression from a friend
while living and working in Burgundy. It refers to a commitment to community, to
growers found by word of mouth, tradition handed down in the cellar, and friends
helping at harvest.
The inaugural Pinot Noir releases in 2002 focused on vineyards in the true Sonoma
Coast and Savoy Vineyard in the Anderson Valley. The wines were received by
the wine press with considerable praise and quickly sold out. Andy Tan, noted
sommelier and wine retailer said, “This estate is making the most exciting Pinot
Noir from California.” After tasting through the 2003 lineup (PinotFile, Volume 4,
Issue 44) I noted that all of the wines were superb: “A lot of Pinot and ton of Noir.”
I recently tasted through the 2004 lineup of Pinot Noirs which were released in
March, 2006. Once again, I came away very impressed by the complex array of
flavors, the voluptuous textures, and the sensuality of the wines.
2004 Radio-Coteau La Neblina Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.4% alc., 760
cases, $40. This wine is named for the fog (“La Neblina” is Spanish for fog) that
is ever present in the cool vineyards of the western Sonoma Coast. A blend of grapes sourced from
two vineyards along the Sonoma Coast (growers Kirk Lokka and Bill Smith), the clones are Dijon 115
I love the aromatics featuring perfectly ripe Pinot fruits. There is a panoply of wonderful flavors
including black cherry, cassis, mushrooms, spice, smoke and earth. This is the most structured of the
three wines, yet light as a feather. A warm fuzzy mouth feel leads to a finish that is long and pure.
2004 Radio-Coteau Albirigi Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
alc., 150 cases, $42 (sold out). The Alberigi Vineyard sits on Vine Hill Road in
the Russian River Valley. The vines here were planted in 2001 (Dijon 114, 115,
777) and thrive on the Goldridge soil . This is the debut bottling from a vineyard
sourced exclusively by Radio-Coteau.
This beauty has that Williams Selyem
Rochioli nose that I am continually searching for - spicy Bing cherries, Dr Pepper,
cola, and a touch of rhubarb. The flavors continue the theme and are light as an
angel. Beautifully balanced. This wine does it “nice and easy.”
2004 Radio-Coteau Savoy Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
480 cases, $48 This prestigious vineyard farmed by Richard Savoy is the source
for many notable California Pinot Noirs (Adrian Fog, Barnett, Littorai, and
Roessler). This hillside vineyard is located in a cool, yet sunny site northwest of
Philo and has a multiple range of clones, exposures and soils. The vineyard was
planted in 1992 and 1996. This bottling contains Pommard, Dijon 115, and Martini
This wine has very nice soft red Pinot fruits on the nose and on the palate
accentuated by floral and spice elements. The sweet fruit flavors linger on the finish.
The whole package is nicely balanced.
2004 Radio-Coteau Terra Neuma Sonoma Coast Pinor Noir
74 cases, $48 (sold out). This is also a
debut-bottling from a hillside vineyard farmed biodynamically by the Benzigers. The vineyard is
southwest of Freestone, a few miles inland from the Pacific ocean. It was planted in 2002 to Dijon
clones 115 and 777. I did not receive any allocation of this limited-production wine so I cannot provide
any tasting notes.
2003 Radio-Coteau Hellenthal Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.6% alc., 100 cases.
last year, this was a bruiser that needed a lot of air time. Now it is flat-out terrific. The aromatics are rich
with dark cherries, dark plum, rhubarb, tea and oak. Beautiful dark Pinot fruits with earthy undertones
which are mouth-coating. With air time the wine becomes as soft as a Pinot Noir marshmallow. I would
match this against any Burgundy any time. One of the best Pinot Noirs I have drank this year and the stuff
that Pinot dreams are made of.
Radio-Coteau is a virtual winery with an excellent website: www.radiocoteau.com. There is a mailing
list signup on the website, but at this point, do not be disappointed by very limited allocations.
The W.H. Smith Wines 2005 Pinot Noirs have just been released. There are two wines: 2005 W.H.
Smith Wines Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ($28) and 2005 W.H. Smith Wines Maritime Ridge Sonoma
Coast Pinot Noir $52. The Smith’s first vintage of W.H. Smith Wines was 1992. In 1994, they purchased
260 acres above the town of Cazadero on the Sonoma Coast. The first vintage of Maritime
Ridge Vineyard from this property was 2002. The wines from this vineyard have been rich, plush and
complex and highly touted by the wine press. I recently drank the 2003 W.H. Smith Wines Maritime
Ridge Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir. A superb wine with ripe fruit aromas, a velveteen texture, coating tannins,
and a long and intense finish. The wines are sold to a mailing list in six bottle increments only. The
website is www.whsmithwines.com and the phone is 707-965-9726.