Pinot Noirs from Producers Outside the Anderson Valley that Source Grapes from within the Anderson Valley
Anthill Cellars The three amigos who craft these wines are all Williams Selyem cellar refugees. I
think a better name would be the three aces as they are crafting nothing but winning Pinot Noirs right
now. If you haven’t had Anthill, you haven’t lived. I was shocked to check the website and see 2006
vintage wine still for sale. Strike while you can.
2006 Anthill Farms Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
13.7% alc., $32.
Light crimson in color. Cinnamon
spice, cherry, cardamom aromas which are nose-filling. With time in the glass there are more confected
grape fruit notes with a touch of alcohol peeking out. Light-weighted and elegant,
the wine shows off very appealing cherry and raspberry flavors.. Nothing
epiphanic but a good drink and perfect for the table.
2006 Anthill Farms Demuth Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
Light crimson robe. Complex nose showing black cherry, truffle, oak
and toffee. Charismatic dark stone fruits with an earthy tone. Healthy tannic
backbone. Creamy texture and a slightly dry finish. This will only get better with
cellaring. I could drink this all night.
Brogan Cellars Margi Weirenga crafts Pinot Noir from Burt Williams’ vineyard, Morning Dew
Ranch, in Anderson Valley. Burt is Margi’s father.
Cakebread Cellars Cakebread has a 34 year history of winemaking in the Napa Valley and is
best known for Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. The craft Pinot Noir from both
the Carneros and Anderson Valley appellations.,
2005 Cakebread Cellars Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.6% alc., $49. Sourced
from the Cakebread estate vineyard near Boonville. Made from six clones, all
vinified separately. Aged 14 months in 46% new French oak. The winemaker is
Like many Pinot Noirs I taste from Napa Valley producers, this wine is
heavily oaked. There is prodigious fruit which is dark, plumy and earthy. Maybe it
was the heat at the Festival, but I just couldn’t get close to this one.
Copain Wine Cellars This winery produces highly touted wines in small quantities crafted by
respected winemaker Miles Guthrie in a custom crush facility in Santa Rosa. All of the wines show
fairly assertive tannins and are rather exotic. A Hein Vineyard and Dennison Vineyard bottling from
the Anderson Valley are also available.
2006 Copain “Tous Ensemble” Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
13.1% alc., $32.
All of the Copain Pinot
Noirs show a moderately dark ruby color. The nose leads off with cherry, toast, barnyard and chicken
soup aromas. Cranberry, tart cherry, orange peel, and mocha flavors with a citrus edge to the sharp finish.
Noticeable drying tannins.
2006 Copain Cerise Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
Complex aromatic profile showing black fruits, forest floor,
smoke, oak and a whiff of alcohol. Earth-dusted dark fruit which is
herbal and wood-toned. Massive fruit lacks finesse. Deep, dark and
mysterious, and very primal. Not for Pinot Noir purists. Needs time to
shed its bold tannins. Very typical of this vineyard.
2006 Copain Hacienda Secoya Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
13.2% alc., $47.
This wine has
the most charm and pinotosity of the three 2006 Pinot Noirs tasted. That said, it has a gripy edge with plenty of acidity. The nose
is shy and needs coaxing to bring out the savory herbs, strawberry and barnyard scents. The flavors tend
toward the red spectrum and are tart. Silky in texture but a bit flat. Noticeable tannins will need time to
Couloir Wines This is a brand new producer releasing its first Pinot Noirs with the 2007 vintage.
The founder and winemaker, Jon Grant, is also an assistant winemaker at Turley Wine Cellars. Grant
has learned his trade working in numerous Napa Valley cellars including PlumpJack Winery, Corison
Winery and Robert Mondavi Winery. Couloir means a steep mountainside gorge and reflects Grant’s
love for ski mountaineering. The inaugural wines, both 2007 barrel samples, were offered at the Festival.
I tasted both barrel samples and the wines show great promise. I look forward
to trying them again when they are bottled. 1-888-COULOIR.
Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery The 2006 Sky High Ranch Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
is the inaugural vintage of Ferrari-Carano Vineyard Select Pinot Noir. Yields were only a half-ton per
acre from this vineyard which sits among towering redwoods and lush forest high above the fog line
on the cool, steep slopes of Mendocino Ridge. Released in May.
2006 Ferrari-Carano Sky High Ranch Mendocino Ridge Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., $46.
Deep reddish-purple hue. Very appealing aromas of strawberry
jam and Bing cherry. Rich, sweet dark berry fruit with a citrus note.
Bright acidity on a memorable and long finish. Nicely balanced from start to
finish. The tannins are mildly assertive now and will soften with 6-12 months
in the cellar. This wine has a lot of charisma.
Fulcrum Wines Winemaker David Rossi crafts Pinot Noir at Crushpad in San Francisco. Reviewed
several months ago and re-tasted recently. Still good.
2006 Fulcrum Wines Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., about 100 cases, $60. 50% Akins
Vineyard (Pommard), 25% Hein Vineyard (Pommard), 25% Wentzel Vineyard (Dijon 115, 667, 777).
The aromas of cherry cola and baking spice are very alluring. Nicely presented red cherry and cassis
fruit in a lighter and feminine style. Silky on the palate with lively acidity on a lip-smacking finish.
La Crema You can always expect a dependable glass of Pinot from this producer. Good retail
2006 La Crema Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 2,000 cases, $34.
Just released. Clones are Pommard, 115, 667 and 777.
Very heavy bottle, don’t
try lifting this with one arm. A black cherry delight from start to finish. Notes of
spearmint and smoke add interest to the nose and black raspberry chimes in on
the finish. Plush and healthy ripe fruit with velveteen mouth feel. Impeccable
balance and thoroughly satisfying.
Littorai Noted winemaker Ted Lemon quietly crafts exquisite Pinot Noirs from purchased grapes of
top vineyards in the Anderson Valley, as well as the Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast. His wines
are highly sought after and are only available through a mailing list. The wines described here show
the highs and lows of Pinot Noir - it is a difficult grape to corral. I think minx is the proper term. Ted
doesn’t believe in frau-frau. His labels are simple and to the point. and there is no BS on the back. The
wines do the talking.
2004 Littorai Cerise Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
13.7% alc., 95 cases, $60.
ruby robe. Shy nose that needs swirling in the glass, showing dark fruits, toast, and medicine cabinet. A
bruising and sinister Pinot that is loaded with rich, dark Pinot fruits and an underlying primal earthiness.
Well-crafted and balanced. The soft texture is heavenly. Tasted the next day from a previously opened
re-corked bottle and this wine tasted noticeably smoother and more integrated. I would suggest cellaring
this wine further or decanting it if you plan to drink it now.
2004 Littorai One Acre Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., 140
I had a multitude of descriptors for this wine because it kept changing
in the glass. Pinot Noir is, after all, a chameleon. At times I noted black cherry,
raspberry, plum, sassafras, savory oak, char, violets and some minerality in the
aromatic and flavor profile. A full mouthful of fruit but very smooth and light on its
feet. Iron fist in a velvet glove comes to mind. Impeccable craftsmanship and a
memorable wine. This too drank beautifully the following day indicating there are
many good drinking years ahead for this wine.
2005 Littorai Les Larmes Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., 303 cases, $42. Savoy and Cerise
Dark cherry red in color. Strong herbal and mineral bent to the aromas accompanied
by reductive matchstick notes. Nice mouthful of black cherry fruit which is clean and pure with a
green and citrus note. Something chemical or medicinal is present that I can’t put my finger on. Tasted
two separate bottles and both were very similar. I would wait on this wine.
2005 Littorai Roman Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., 36 cases, $65. A 1.87 acre
vineyard exclusive to Littorai.
Very dark reddish-purple in color. The nose features deep, dark, super
ripe berries, oak shavings, truffle and pine sap. In the mouth there are lovely oak-kissed dark fruits and herbs. Slightly jammy with a suave texture and fine-grained tannins on the finish. Decent but not extraordinary.
2004 Littorai Savoy Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., 360 cases, $55.
best for last. This was one of the best bottles of California Pinot Noir I have had this year and my notes fill
up the best part of a page. This is one of those wines that when you pull the cork, sensual musk-like aromas
waft up from the bottle immediately. Complex scents explode from the glass including black cherry,
chocolate, coffee, smoke, earth, herbs, and barnyard. New aromas dart in and out with each swirl. In the
mouth, there is juicy and succulent dark fruits enhanced by anise and tea notes. Bright acidity and gossamer
tannins lead to a refreshing grip that draws you to a second glass. This is a tour de force for Anderson
Valley. Tasted twice a couple months apart - same result.
Madrigal A small family-owned winery in the Napa Valley (Calistoga) founded in 1993. Madrigal is
a producer of several varietals including Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah and
Zinfandel. The winery will soon release a Pinot Noir from Mendocino Ridge.
2005 Madrigal Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
15.8% alc., 161 cases, $45. Aged
in 22 months in 50% new French oak. Sourced from Toulouse Vineyard.
briefly at the Festival. Pretty decent wine that hides the alcohol well. Plenty of dark
flamboyant Pinot fruits front and center. A wine to sip and contemplate.
Radio-Coteau A boutique producer of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah sold
primarily through a highly allocated mailing list.
Saintsbury Four single vineyard Pinot Noirs from Saintsbury come from Carneros. Cerise Vineyard
is the lone Anderson Valley source.
2006 Saintsbury Cerise Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., 225 cases, $45.
aromas of cherries, berries, herbs and dark chocolate with a hint of alcohol.
Picks up steam in the glass. Rich and muscular black cherry core of fruit
with assertive tannins that need time to soften. Very comforting soft and creamy
texture and a very long finish. A lot of potential here, but patience is needed.
Whitcraft Winery Chris Whitcraft has been making Pinot Noir for what seems like an eternity.
Based in Santa Barbara County, he is a legend in his own time. His friendship with Burt Williams has
allowed him to add a Morning Dew Ranch bottling to his Bien Nacido Pinot Noir lineup. His wines are
not for the faint of heart, and are a bit off the beaten track.
2005 Whitcraft Winery Morning Dew Ranch Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
12.4% alc., $50.
aromatics but some recognizable ripe crushed berries, musk, and floral elements. Sappy dark fruits including
wild blackberries surface with a soapy, floral, and sour overtone. Way too much tannin and far
too tart on the finish. A strange wine that defies description. Probably a bad bottle.
Woodenhead Vintners A Williams Selyem spin off located in Forestville, Sonoma County that has
made some wonderful Pinot Noirs. Nikolai Stez is at the helm and developed a friendship with Burt
Williams while working at Williams Selyem for several years. The two wines below have not been released.
2006 Woodenhead Vintners Wiley Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.7% alc., 358 cases, $60.
This is as different from the Morning Dew bottling as night and day. A
big, big wine, dark and brooding, loaded with tannin. Impenetrable now. Wiley
Pinots from past vintages have been outstanding indicating patience is required with this one.