Canihan Family Cellars
The Canihan family bought their 20-acre vineyard on the southern edge of the Sonoma Valley bordering
Carneros in 1975, but planting did not start for 23 years. Bill Canahan, a second generation San Franciscan,
had worked in Truckee and Tahoe City and was dismayed by the pollution that was damaging Lake Tahoe.
When Bill, together with his father William Canihan, Sr., did initiate their vineyard planting, they were committed
to farming sustainably and biodynamically. They were inspired by a member of the family, August Sieguist,
who had sustainably farmed Pinot Noir and other cool climate varieties in his native Switzerland before
immigrating to the United States in the early 1900s. The Canihans engaged viticulturalist Phil Coturri and
winemaker Alexandra Romanini to assist them in producing estate Syrah, Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir from
The first Canihan Family Cellars release, the 2004 Estate Syrah, won Best Red in Show at the prestigious
2007 San Francisco International Wine Competition. The Canihan Family Cellars 2005 “Exuberance” Pinot
Noir won Gold Medals at the 2008 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition and the 2008 West Coast Wine
Competition. Quite an impressive resume for a very young winery.
The Pinot Noir portion of the estate vineyard is 3.75 acres planted to Dijon clones 115, 667 and 777. Dryfarming
and cane pruning result in small yields (less than 2 tons per acre). The vineyard receives the full
impact of the cooling fog and maritime breezes from the nearby San Francisco Bay. The vineyard is certified
organic by CCOF.
Canihan Family Cellars was one of Crushpad’s (a custom crush facility in San Francisco) first commercial
customers. Winemaking is traditional with a four day cold soak, native yeast fermentation in open-top tanks,
minimal handling and a single racking into Francois Freres barrels. The wines are unfined and unfiltered.
2006 Canihan Family Cellars Alexandra’s Reserve Sonoma Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 705 cases.
With coaxing, scents of dark red stone fruits,
herbs, wildflowers and sawn oak emerge. A little more restrained than the 2004
vintage, displaying dark-hued fruits that are nicely spiced and oaked. All silk
and satin. A subtle green note should resolve with further time in the bottle.
This one will only get better with some aging.
2005 Canihan Family Cellars Exuberance Aleandra’s Reserve Sonoma Valley Pinot Noir
13.7% alc., 200 cases, $60. Aged 12 months in 25%
new Francois Freres oak barrels.
Deep reddish-purple in color. Subdued
but pleasant dark jammy fruit with a touch of smoke on the nose.
Muscular, dark plummy fruit with a touch of herbs and deft oak accent.
The fruit is fully ripe, reminding me of eating perfectly ripe Pinot grapes in
the vineyard at harvest. Smooth, clean and plush with supple tannins and
admirable balance. This wine will appeal most to lovers of powerfully
flavored, fruit-driven Pinots.
2004 Canihan Family Cellars Alexandra’s Reserve Sonoma Valley Pinot Noir
13.8% alc., 25 cases, $65.
All estate grown, 40% 667 and 777, 20% 115. Yields less than 1.5 tons per acre. Aged 16 months in a French
oak barrel. Produced at Crushpad.
Starts off strong with lovely aromas of dark stone fruits, herbs and a touch
of barnyard. With time in the glass, the fruit aromas fade with more oak char and prune surfacing. The attack
is rich with dark fruits, earthiness and a little oak char. Smoothly textured with admirable fullness, and a dry
Canihan Family Cellars Pinot Noirs are available in several fine San Francisco Restaurants and Northern
California retailers. The wines may be obtained directly from the winery by phoning 415-929-8190 or
consulting the website at www.canihanfamilycellars.com. Production will always be small (less than 2,500
cases for all varieties). Tasting is available by appointment.