Anderson Noir Valley Pinot (Pt II)
This issue continues the alphabetical progression (H through Z) through all the major producers of Pinot Noir in
the Anderson Valley and many producers outside the Anderson Valley that source grapes from within the
Anderson Valley appellation. The Pinot Noirs from this region offer a multiplicity of styles, much like California
generally, ranging from wines that are forward and readily drinkable upon release to ones that need years to
uncover deep-seated complexities that lie within. Within stylistic differences, two constants are readily
apparent. The wines can have lower alcohols than their counterparts from warmer growing areas within
California, and the wines nearly always have a lively tug of acidity which makes for refreshing drinking and age
ability. Because of the cool climate, the grapes are able to ripen slowly, achieving full phenolic ripeness without
high sugars, while still retaining brisk acidity. The resulting Pinot Noirs are easy to love and recommend.
Handley Cellars Milla Handley is one of the few women in wine who is both the proprietor and winemaker
at her own winery. Milla is the great-granddaughter of the owner of the Blitz-Weinhard Brewery in Portland,
Oregon, but she realized early on that winemaking was more her suit than large-scale beer production. Raised
in the San Francisco Bay area, she graduated from University California Davis with a degree in fermentation
science, and studied under Richard Arrowood at Chateau St. Jean. In 1978, she moved to Anderson Valley
with her husband, Rex S. McClellan, who went to work at Navarro. Meanwhile, Milla mentored under Jed
Steele at Edmeades and made her first 250 cases of Chardonnay in her home basement in 1982. She
welcomed the rural lifestyle of the Anderson Valley. Luckily, she was mechanically inclined, because when farm
or winemaking equipment broke, there were few people to call on to fix it. Milla and her now deceased spouse
acquired a 59-acre estate on Highway 128 in Philo, part of the historic Holmes Ranch and built Handley Cellars
into a renowned winery producing 18,000 cases of several varieties annually. Planting of the estate vineyard
began in 1986 and continued until 1999, now encompassing 30 acres of Pinot Noir (12.5 acres), Chardonnay
and Gewürztraminer. The Handley Cellars Estate Vineyard was organically certified in 2005 by the California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) which is accredited by the USDA.
When I visited Milla at the recent Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival we hopped into her 4-wheel drive SUV
and headed up Holmes Ranch Road for a view of the valley. We passed a number of family owned vineyards,
including Esterlina Winery & Vineyards, until we reached the peak of the ridge. From here she pointed out the
topography of the valley including Roederer’s expanse of vineyards in the distance and the Hendy Woods
State Park to the West beyond the vineyards (see photo below). The park is named after the “Hendy Woods
Hermit” who lived there in a fallen redwood stump. We continued to drive deeper into the eastern ridges where
Milla lives in blissful isolation with her horse and dogs. Adjacent the house is the 7.5-acre RSM Vineyard
named after her deceased husband. Milla planted this vineyard between 1999 and 2001 to Pinot Noir
(Pommard, 115 and 667 clones) and Pinot Gris and hand tends this beautiful site. In 2005, she released her
first vineyard-designate wine from this vineyard. As we head back down the road, Milla talks about the colorful
people who live in the area including feminist writer Alice Walker (The Color Purple) and Kary Mullis, who won
the Nobel Prize for the discovery of DNA fingerprinting. When we reach her charming tasting room filled with
her family’s collection of Oxacan, Indian and African folk art, it is buzzing with people sampling her wines. It
isn’t long before she is behind the bar, talking proudly about her wines. I manage to pull her away to the
garden courtyard adjacent the tasting room for an informative interview. Listen: “Interview with Milla Handley”
Milla produces an excellent sparkling Estate Brut and Brut Rosé to complement her still wine lineup which
includes Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Syrah and
Zinfandel. Some varieties are sourced from sustainably farmed vineyards in the Dry Creek Valley which Milla
also owns and from other exceptional growers in the Anderson Valley. The distinctive Handley Cellars label
was inspired by Milla’s love of the ancient tribal textiles crafted by African Kuba tribeswomen that, like wine,
reflect both a complex and practical aesthetic.
Milla is assisted in winemaking by Kristen Barnhisel who holds a Master’s degree in Enology from University
California Davis. She has had an impressive winemaking background. She was the first American and the first
woman to work harvest for Ruffino/Nozzole winery in Tuscany, Italy in 1998. The following year she worked
harvest at South Africa’s Warwick Estate, and later had winemaking stints at Columbia Crest, Jordan Winery
and Belvedere Vineyards before joining Handley Cellars in 2004.
Handley Cellars wines are sold through the website at www.handleycellars.com and to a mailing list. There is
also good distribution of Handley Cellars wines to restaurants and retail stores. The winery and tasting room
address is 3151 Highway 128, Philo. The tasting room is open daily and each time you visit you will be
welcomed by a friendly and familiar staff who have been at Handley Cellars for years. Tours are also available
by phoning 707-895-3876 or 800-733-3151.
2006 Handley Cellars Holmes Ranch Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., 715
cases, $40. 46% Romani Vineyard, 37% RSM Vineyard, 15% Handley Estate and 2%
other. 100% de-stemmed, lightly crushed, 40% whole berries, lightly pressed, inoculated
fermentations, aged 9 months in 39% new French oak barrels.
Charming aromas of
cherries, berries and tea leaves. Moderately rich fresh berry flavors with a hint of mocha
and clove, soft tannins and a refreshingly dry finish. A perfect wine for the dinner table.
1998 Handley Cellars Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
This wine was opened in both 750 ml and magnum
format at the Open House on Sunday as part of the Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival.
The wine was still
fresh with bright garnet color from both formats. Elegant and silky red fruits with no discernible tannins from
the standard bottle. The Pinot Noir from the magnum format had more fruit intensity on the mid-palate with
more retained structural tannins. Both wines were fine, but clearly the magnum wine was preferred and will
age for a longer time.
Harmonique Bruce Conzelman, a successful real estate developer and long time Pinot Noir aficionado,
teamed with veteran Anderson Valley winemaker Robert Klindt of Claudia Springs Winery to launch the
Harmonique label in 2002. Rather than produce appellation or vineyard-designate Pinot Noirs, Conzelman
chose to create two Pinot Noirs sourced from different vineyards and clones resulting in two distinctive wines.
Delicacé is a feminine, finesse style while The Noble One is more opulent, structured and commanding. A third
Pinot Noir, Elegancé, was introduced in 2005, sourced from old vines creating a complex, refined and aromatic
wine with bright acidity. Two Chardonnays were introduced with the 2007 vintage. The wines have garnered
many national and international medals and the winery received an award for “Best New Winery” at the Wine
Appreciation Guild’s 2005 Wine Literary Award Press Tasting in San Francisco. Previous vintages have shown
up on my annual “All American Pinot Noir” list.
In January, 2007, the Conzelmans (Bruce’s spouse Moira handles all the marketing) acquired the 52-acre
Christine Woods property and Rose Family Vineyard located across the street from Handley Cellars in Philo.
Renamed the Conzelman Vineyard, some vines are now 29 years old. A winery is planned on the property.
Winemaking is traditional in small lots in 1-ton fermenters, with hand picking, gentle de-stemming, native
yeasts and non-intervention techniques. Typically, the Pinot Noirs are aged in 70% new French oak barrels
for 19 months with one racking and blending of different vineyard and clone lots. The wines are then aged an
additional 6 months before release (the current vintage release for Pinot Noir is 2005).
The Harmonique wines are sold through a mailing list and on the website at www.harmoniquewine.com. An
expanded and updated tasting room that is shared with Claudia Springs has opened next to the Floodgate Deli
at 1810 Highway 128 at Highway marker 16 (call 800-937-1889 for hours). The Harmonique Chardonnays will
be reviewed in an upcoming issue of the PinotFile.
2005 Harmonique Elegancé Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.6% alc., 215
cases, $49.50. Inaugural vintage for this bottling. Harvested at 24.3º Brix.
Sourced in small part from the Day Ranch Vineyard but primarily the Conzelman
(formerly Rose Family) Vineyard. The Old Block (24 years old) of the
Conzelman Vineyard consists of 4 acres of cordon pruned Martini clone. Yields
were less than 2 tons per acre.
Darkest in color of the three 2005 Pinot Noirs.
Hi-tone aromas of plums, raisins, sage and a hint of oak. Rich and ripe flavored
dark fruits with notes of raisin, anise and Snicker’s bar, supple tannins, a silky
and smooth texture, and a bright finish flush with tangerine peel. The oak is
nicely integrated and the brisk acidity makes you reach for another sip.
2005 Harmonique Delicacé Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.4% alc., 274
cases, $55. The grapes for this bottling in 2002-2004 came from primarily the
Wiley Vineyard. In 2005 a frost event led to a loss of all the crop and grapes
were then sourced from Ferrington Vineyard (Wädenswil clone) and Klindt
Vineyard. I was really charmed by the 2002-2004 vintages of this wine and
prefer them over this vintage. Harvested at 25.2º Brix.
Lightest in color of the
2005 Pinot Noirs. When you smell this wine, you want to dive in. Aromas of red
berry tart, violets, musk and Moroccan spice. A delicate red fruit core with a hint
of mocha and spice, noticeable dry tannins and a dry finish. The oak is
commanding. The nose trumps the flavors in this wine.
2005 Harmonique The Noble One Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
alc., 372 cases, $53. Primarily from Klindt Vineyard, clones 113, 115, 667
and Pommard, and a little Day Ranch. Harvested at 24.5º Brix.
black fruits on the nose with an appealing hint of minerality, cola and herbs.
Similar to Elegancé but not as ripely flavored. Well-perfumed dark fruit on
the palate with a good bit of animale and earthiness. Impeccable harmony.
On Saturday night, following the Grand Tasting of Anderson Valley Pinot Noirs, several winemaker dinners are
held in the Anderson Valley and in Mendocino as part of the Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival. I was lucky to
attend the Harmonique Wine Dinner at the Mendocino Hotel in Mendocino. Featuring seasonal organic
produce, local seafood and natural raised meats when possible, this hotel’s cuisine has reached a gourmand
level under chef Joe Brown. Below is the menu just to tease you.
Harrington Wines Harrington is an urban winery, located in the produce district of San Francisco.
Proprietor and winemaker Bryan Harrington is a Pinot Noir specialist whose wines have attracted my attention.
His began making wine in his basement in San Francisco. He went on to take a number of classes from
University California Davis before settling into his winery in San Francisco. He now crafts Pinot Noirs in small
lots (less than 225 cases each) from five California appellations. The 2006 Wiley Vineyard Pinot Noir from
Anderson Valley was a knockout and the 2007 vintage reviewed here is equally impressive. The wines are sold
primarily through a mailing list at www.harringtonwine.com with limited restaurant and retail distribution. This
is an outstanding artisan producer of Pinot Noir that deserves your attention. Photo below shows Bryan (left)
and Ken Zinns pouring at the Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival.
2007 Harrington Wiley Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
alc., 227 cases, $40. Released April 2009. Wiley Vineyard is one of the
westernmost Anderson Valley vineyards located in the deep end of the valley
and often the last Pinot Noir vineyard harvested in the Anderson Valley. This
wine is sourced from the vineyard’s 25-year-old Pommard block and some 777
clone from younger plantings. Harvested at 23.5º Brix. Aged 10 months in
25% new French oak barrels.
Alluring nose of black cherries with forest floor
and stem spice. Very tasty dark berry and plum fruit with edible flower and
chocolate overtones. Comforting in the mouth with soft tannins and bright
acidity. Bottled in August of 2008 and now reaching a perfect drinking window.
2006 Harrington Wiley Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., $40.
black cherries, newly sawed oak and a touch of barnyard are enticing. Black cherry and dark berry fruit
flavors that are earth-kissed. Seamless with an impressive finish that seems to never end. This is a
little-known vineyard gem and the wines I have sampled from the unique terroir have been stellar.
Husch Vineyards The current owners of Husch are the third generation of the Oswald family, Zac
Robinson and Amanda Robinson Holstine. Vineyard manager Al White has been at Husch since 1973 and the
current winemaker, Brad Holstine, has been on board since 2003. The photo below shows Brad Holstine (left)
and Zac Robinson (right). Husch produces 21 different wines, all of which are estate bottled with total
production reaching 45,000 cases annually. Besides its Anderson Valley vineyards, Husch farms the 128-acre
La Ribera Ranch in Ukiah Valley which is planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Sauvignon Blanc,
Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc. Three Pinot Noirs are offered: a value-priced Anderson Valley blend, an
Anderson Valley Reserve, and the Knoll Vineyard (with plantings dating to 1968) single-vineyard bottling. Note
the receipt below from Wente Brothers dating to 1971 for Pinot Noir vines planted in the Knoll Vineyard. All the
Husch wines are superb. Husch’s tasting room is a small, quaint and weathered shack that once was a pony
barn. It is open daily, 10:00 to 5:00 in the winter, 10:00 to 6:00 in the summer. The address is 4400 Highway
128 in Philo. The Pinot Noirs are sold on the website at www.huschvineyards.com with some retail distribution
of the large production Anderson Valley Pinot Noir. Sign up on the website for the semiannual newsletter.
2007 Husch Vineyards Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., 3,938
cases, $23. To be released in June 2009. Fermented in small, open-top
fermenters and punched down three times per day. Aged 10 months in 25%
new French oak barrels.
Moderately light reddish-violet color. A simple but
thoroughly satisfying wine featuring red berries, crushed cherries, savory
herbs, tobacco, and a deft touch of oak vanillin. Terrifically smooth mouth feel
with gossamer tannins. Not a wine to contemplate and won’t send pinotphiles into
ecstasy, but impossible to find a better easy-drinking California Pinot Noir for this price.
Great Pinot bang for the buck.
At the Festival tasting I also sampled the 2006 Husch Reserve Anderson Valley Pinot Noir (14.0% alc., 438
cases, $35) which receives extended aging in 50% new French oak barrels. This is a magnificent wine similar
to the regular Anderson Valley Pinot Noir but amplified in intensity and complexity and well worth your interest.
For an additional treat, I tasted the 2005 Husch Knoll Anderson Valley Pinot Noir (13.9% alc., 425 cases, $38).
This is an intense wine that is very brooding and earthy showing rich cherry and berry fruit highlighted with oak.
It still needs several years to reach its optimum drinking window but it is clearly a marvelous wine of great
pedigree made from 37-year-old vines.
Jim Ball Vineyards Chicago attorney Jim Ball had such a love for Pinot Noir and the Anderson Valley he
left his career to pursue his desire to make his own wine. His dream took root nearly ten years ago with the
development of the Middleridge Ranch located at 1,200 feet on a south-facing hillside just outside of Boonville.
2007 Jim Ball Vineyards Signature Label Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., $46.
Moderately deep garnet color. Very intense aromas of cherries and berries with Provencal
spices. Rich and ripe berry and stone fruit flavors augmented by notes of tar and grilled
meat. Smoothly textured with fine dusty tannins and a clean finish. A hardy wine with
more gumption than the 2006 vintage. It will improve over the next year or two yet is
drinking fine now.
La Crema Winery A family owned estate in the Russian River Valley that specializes in Burgundian
styled Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs from cool climate vineyards in Sonoma, Monterey and Mendocino
counties. Established in 1979, the winery has always been closed to visitors, but the label quickly gained a
reputation for quality at reasonable prices. The owners are Laura Jackson-Giron and her sister Jennifer
Jackson. Several prominent winemakers developed the La Crema Winery style through the years including
Dan Goldfield (Dutton-Goldfield) and Jeff Stewart (Buena Vista). In 2004, La Crema hired Melissa Stackhouse
to oversee winemaking and the wines have reached a remarkable level of quality considering the relatively
large production and value-pricing. La Crema wines are consistently among the best sellers on restaurant
wine lists (even in Napa Valley). All the Pinot Noirs except the reserve Nine Barrel bottling are appellation
blends. When friends new to wine ask for a recommendation of a value-priced good Pinot Noir, I often
recommend La Crema. They usually thank me afterward, but is no secret and an easy recommendation to
make. La Crema wines are sold on the website at www.lacrema.com and through wine stores and
supermarkets. A tasting room is open daily in downtown Healdsburg.
2007 La Crema Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 1,800
cases, $30. Released January 2009. Clones 115, 667, 777 and 23.
Grapes are de-stemmed, cold soaked 4 days, aged 9 months in 48%
new French oak (medium and medium plus toast levels).
garnet color. Lovely perfume of cherries and berries with sage.
Powerfully flavored ripe berry fruit with a base of minerals and earth.
Very friendly in the mouth with a creamy, sexy quality and plenty of vim on the tangy
finish. A high-collared and impressive wine.
Lazy Creek Vineyards The history of this iconic vineyard and winery was profiled in Volume 6, Issue
28. The current owner is Ferrari-Carano who operates this property as a separate winery.
2007 Lazy Creek Vineyards Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., 880 cases, $39. Release
scheduled for Spring . The last vintage crafted by the previous owners (Josh and Beth
Chandler and David Noorthoek, M.D.).
The nose is flush with dark red berries, cherries
and plums with a hint of alcohol. A fruit-driven wine with a spark of underlying citrus.
The prominent tannins and acidity overwhelm the fruit now but definitely worth revisiting
when released next year.
Littorai Proprietor and winemaker Ted Lemon is a man among boys when it comes to crafting ultra-premium
Pinot Noir in California. His story is quite unique. Fluent in French, he studied at the University of Dijon in
Burgundy while still a high school student. He returned on a fellowship in 1980 to study viticulture and enology
at the Universite de Bourgogne. After apprenticing at several notable Burgundy Domaines including Dujac,
DRC, Roumier and Bruno Clair, he returned to the United States to work at Calera Winery. In 1982, while at
Calera Winery, he received a phone call from Jacques Seysses of Domaine Dujac asking him if he would like
to become the winemaker at Domaine Guy Roulot in Meursault, one of the oldest and most traditional wineries
in Burgundy. He became the first, and to this day the only American winemaker and vineyard manager in
Burgundy’s storied history (photo of a young Lemon below in Burgundy). Lemon was able to quickly assimilate
and overcome the skepticism of the village people. His wines were very good and he quickly became
accepted by the locals. After two years at Domaine Roulot, he was lured back to the United States by a French
family that had purchased a vineyard on Howell Mountain above Napa Valley. At Chateau Woltner, Lemon
crafted Chardonnays that soon became a favorite among American wine connoisseurs.
With his winemaking skills honed and assured, Lemon and his wife Heidi founded Littorai in 1993. He had
spent a summer with his wife driving up and down the Pacific Coast tasting local wines and learning about the
soil and history of local vineyards. Lemon had a firm belief in terroir and biodynamic farming inspired by his
years in France. According to Lemon, “I believe soil is of major importance in a wine’s character. It’s clear
there are tremendous differences between wines made from vineyards right next to each other even if they are
vinified and treated exactly the same way.” Finally, Lemon settled on western Sonoma and Mendocino
counties for his grape sources. He believed the finest Pinot Noir and Chardonnay were grown along the true
coastal zone of the continent and was convinced that the mesoclimates of the extreme western portions of the
continent north of San Francisco were diverse enough to create a series of unique terroirs, each with its own
characteristics. He named his new venture Littorai which is a pleural noun formed from the Latin word litor-,
which means the coasts. The word Littorai (lit‘-tor-i), with its reference to geography, reminds us that wine, the
noblest agricultural product, arises from the weave of place (vineyard), time (vintage), and man.
Littorai’s vineyard sources are all carefully supervised by Lemon and include Summa, Thieriot, The Haven and
Hirsch on the Sonoma Coast and Savoy, One Acre, Cerise and Roman in the Anderson Valley. He has
developed a few vineyards himself including a small estate vineyard (The Haven) that is farmed biodynamically
(his impressive compost is shown in the photo below). Littorai was the first modern winery to create a “by-the-acre”
contract for grapes. The first contract was written in 1993 for One Acre Pinot Noir. These contracts, in
which growers are paid for the quality, not the quantity, of what they grow, have now become the norm for
vineyards throughout California. Littorai demonstrated back in 1993 that world class production could be
achieved by low yields, proper clones, vertical trellising, leaf removal and other farming techniques. Littorai
has maintained long-term commitments with great vineyard sites, an exceptional record of terroir-based
winemaking for California. Read Lemon’s take on biodynamics: http://wine.appellationamerica.com/winereview/698/Littorai-Wines.html
Lemon’s Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays are highly lauded and age worthy. I consider
Littorai Pinot Noirs to be among the finest I have ever drunk from the New World. Some
call him “the” Pinot Man. The wines are only sold through a mailing list and to
restaurants. Periodically Lemon releases library wines from older vintages as well as
large format bottlings. Recently, a 10,000 case winery was completed on Lemon’s estate
in Sebastopol and he now accepts visitors for tasting and tours by appointment
(707-823-9486). Ted doesn’t believe in frau-frau and his labels are simple and to the
point with no BS on the back. He doesn’t follow trends or ratings. The wines do the
talking. His autograph is in every bottle.
Lemon has been a consultant for numerous prominent wineries including Howell Mountain Vineyards, Reverie,
Green and Red Vineyard, Keller Estate, Estancia and Archery Summit. He currently is involved in a Pinot Noir
project in Central Otago, New Zealand. He also is a winemaker for Chronicle Wines, producer of terroir-driven
Pinot Noir and Zinfandel (www.chroniclewines.com). Chronicle was pouring at the Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
Festival but I did not get an opportunity to sample the wines. In 2006 a Pinot Noir from the Sonoma Coast (495
cases, $35) and a Cerise Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir (240 cases, $48) were released. The Chronicle
Pinot Noirs are available at www.goldengatewinecellars.com.
All the wines reviewed below are impeccably crafted. Perfect harmony comes to mind. You may not love
every wine but you cannot complain about the superb craftsmanship that fuels the impeccable balance of the
2005 Littorai Les Larmes Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., 303 cases, $42. A vintage marked by
more tannins and concentration.
Moderately light reddish-violet color. This wine speaks of the earth
throughout. Brambly red cherry and plum aromas and flavors with a hint of funkiness, hay, meat and tar.
Bright acidity makes for refreshing drinking.
2006 Littorai Les Larmes Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., 293 cases, $45. Composed of
declassified fruit from Cerise and Savoy vineyards and intended for earlier drinking.
Subdued but very pleasing
scents of cherries, hay and white pepper. Admirable richness with bright flavors of cherries and red apples
flanked by bright acidity. Smoothly textured and easy to drink. I call the Les Larmes bottlings, which are a
blend from the Anderson Valley appellation, “Baby Littorai” wines, as they are perfectly good daily drinkers that
will show well at the table and demand no contemplation. Like babies, they are fun when they are young.
2005 Littorai Roman Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., 36 cases, $65. This vineyard,
owned by Al and Lynn Roman, is located just above Esterlina Vineyard high up Holmes Ranch Road. Only
1.87 acres in size, it sits on a knoll facing due south with full sun exposure. The vineyard has been controlled
and organically farmed since the start by Littorai and the fruit is exclusively Littorai’s.
Complex aromatic profile
of black cherries, spice, grass and smoke. Woodsy cherries, cardamon and tea with a pleasingly soft texture,
fine ripe tannins and a dry finish. This wine has a certain lightness, airiness if you will, making it enticingly
2000 Littorai Savoy Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., $50.
Deep color with a slight
orange tinge to the rim in the glass. The nose is brimming with black cherry fruit enhanced with a
gorgeous secondary bouquet of coffee, cardamon spice and leather. A plush and creamy palate of
roasted plum, root beer, brown spice and tobacco flavors robed in supple tannins and finishing with a
lively grip on the persistent finish. This wine is showing its age beautifully and will be orgasmic for
lovers of older Pinot Noirs.
2003 Littorai Savoy Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.4% alc., 220 cases, $50.
nose of cherries and hay field. Tasty ripe strawberry, black raspberry and black cherry fruit that is vivid
and penetrating. Admirable finesse with mild dry tannins and a persistent meatiness and earthiness to
the finish. Beautifully composed wine with still plenty of life for the long haul.
2006 Littorai Savoy Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., 379 cases, $60. From a vintage in
which the wines are marked aromatically by fruit and flower, generally have less tannins, and earlier
Noticeably lighter and redder in color and lighter in weight than previous vintages from this
vineyard. Delicious ripe strawberry and cherry fruit accented with baking spices and hay. Gossamer tannins create a soft and rather elegant wine that lacks a little punch on the mid-palate. A bright wine that will perform
beautifully at the table.
Rich Savoy was a former book store owner in San Francisco who became one of the
premier growers of wine grapes in the Anderson Valley. The meticulously farmed
vineyard sits on the valley floor just off of Highway 128 west of Philo. There are multiple
clones of Pinot Noir planted in 1991 and 1992, including Dijon clones 114, 115, 667, 777
plus Pommard, Calera, Martini and Wädenswil. Chardonnay is also planted. Over the
years, the vineyard management has shifted to sustainability and incorporation of more
The Pinot Noirs from Savoy Vineyard tend to be earthier in style with darker fruits, grilled
meat, mushroom and forest floor characters. The wines take years to evolve, then
revealing multiple layers of flavors.
Multiple premium producers have accessed grapes from this vineyard including Adrian
Fog, Barnett, Benovia Winery, Breggo Cellars, Drew, Radio-Coteau and Roessler
Cellars. Littorai was the first to bottle a vineyard-designate wine from Savoy Vineyard.
Rich Savoy also owns the Deer Meadow Ranch located 1,600 feet on a ridge above
Boonville. A piece of the Deer Meadow Ranch is known as the One Acre Vineyard,
contracted exclusively to Littorai in 1993. The vineyard was torn out and replanted after
the 2004 vintage due to root louse infestation. The original plantings dated to 1986 and
were Martini and Mount Eden selections and Wädenswil clone. Some of Deer Meadow
Ranch fruit goes to La Crema.
2004 Littorai One Acre Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., 140 cases, $70. The final vintage
from this vineyard which underwent replanting due to phylloxera. As Lemon says using an opera
analogy, “The fat lady came out for one last belt.” This vineyard was planted on poor soils on the Dear
Meadow Ranch owned and farmed by Rich Savoy.
Penetrating aromas of crushed black cherries, ripe
berry jam and spice. A special wine that is layered with rich berry fruit and an appealing earthiness that
reminds a walk in a freshly dewed forest. The smooth mouthfeel is very comforting and the finish
would make Hollywood proud. A profound 100 point Pinot Noir that one could sip all night.
2004 Littorai Cerise Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
13.7% alc., 95 cases, $60. This vineyard
is planted to the Martini clone.
Moderately dark reddish-violet color. Initially shy, the nose explodes over
time in the glass with volumes of black cherries and blackberries. Richly flavored but ephemeral in style
with earth-kissed fruit, beet root and a hint of metal. The tannins have begun to melt away creating a
very smooth and satiny mouth feel. Impeccable balance. Close to the One Acre in sensual pleasure.
Londer Vineyards You won’t find two more friendly winegrowers than Larry and Shirlee Londer. They
are transplants from Albuquerque, New Mexico who moved to the Anderson Valley in 2000 to find solace and
happiness. Running a winery owned by investor partners has not been easy according to Larry and he had no
idea what he was getting himself into when he left a successful ophthalmology practice. He kids, “We work
eight days a week and still don’t have enough time!” Larry had wanted to name the venture Anderson Valley
Vineyards, but the name had already been taken by a winery in Albuquerque and they wouldn’t relinquish it.
The Londers planted a 15-acre Pinot Noir estate vineyard and began sourcing grapes from several notable
vineyards in Anderson Valley (Ferrington, Donnelly Creek, Corby and Valley Foothills) and Sonoma County
(Kent Ritchie). Winemaker Greg La Follette got them started and they quickly received acclaim for their Pinot
Noir, Chardonnay and Gewürztraminer. La Follette’s protege, Richard Davis (Halleck, Calstar and La Czar)
has taken over and continued the success. The Londer estate is stunning with a vineyard encircled by fruit
orchards and towering redwoods. The wines are produced in the Owl Ridge custom crush facility in Sebastopol. The Londers have talked about opening a tasting room for some time, but for now, tastings are
conducted in the Londer’s kitchen at home (707-895-3900). Shirlee is the smiling face of the operation,
managing the difficult task of selling and marketing the wines. The wines are sold through a mailing list with
some retail distribution (www.londervineyards.com). Production is now 5,000 cases annually. The Londer Pinot
Noir style is bold with copious fruit concentration and is well structured to age. The Ritchie Vineyard
Chardonnay is a Kistler slayer. Photo below shows Richard Davis (left) and Shirlee and Larry Londer in the
center at their winery open house.
2006 Londer Paraboll Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
15.0% alc., 524 cases, $54.
Released May 2008. The derivation of the name is “para” which is an art classification for
a deep cherry-red color and “boll” which is boontling for great. A reserve blend that is
sourced from Ferrington and Valley Foothills Vineyards. Wild yeast fermentation, aged 9
months in French oak barrels.
Deep, dark reddish-purple color. A generous core of dark
cherry and berry fruit which is complemented by loam, spice, cola, bacon and a hint of
nuttiness. Sorting ample tannins and brisk acidity and leaving a little heat in its wake on the
MacPhail Family Wines This label was founded in 1998 by James MacPhail who had a passionate
devotion to Pinot Noir. He learned his winemaking in the mid 1990s at Quivera, Pellegrini and Merry Edwards.
A Pinot Noir specialist, MacPhail released his first wines sourced from vineyards in Sonoma and Anderson
Valley appellations in 2002. Most recently, the wines are handcrafted in small lots in a new eco-sensitive
winery in Healdsburg built in MacPhail’s own backyard. The style is rich and ripe and reflective of Merry
Edward’s Pinot Noirs. The wines are sold through a mailing list (www.macphailwine.com) and thru retail
channels. The Radio Flyer wine label and marketing program are very eye-catching and the wines do not
disappoint. For 2007, Anderson Valley Pinot Noirs include bottlings from Toulouse Vineyard, Frattey Shams
Vineyard, Wightman House Vineyard, Ferrington Vineyard and Pratt Vineyard. Production is about 1,500 cases
annually. Tasting is available by appointment on weekdays (call Kim Welch at 707-433-4780).
2006 MacPhail Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.7% alc., 675 cases, $38. Clones are 115,
667, 777 and Martini. Native fermentation, aged 11 months in French oak barrels.
Moderately light ruby color. Very fragrant brambly cherry and cranberry fruits highlighted
with savory herbs. Fresh herbed berry flavors with citrus in the background. A little creamy
with restrained dry tannins and a bright finish marked by a whiff of alcohol. Nothing special
but very decent and will have fans.
2005 MacPhail Ferrington Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.24% alc., 325 cases. Clones 2A, 115,
777. Native fermentations, aged 11 months in French oak barrels, unfined and unfiltered.
Attractive aromas of
strawberry tart, cola and gentle oak. An earthy wine with plenty of berry fruit, a trace of spice and an
undercurrent of greenness. Gossamer tannins and bright acidity. Just o.k. for me.
2005 MacPhail Toulouse Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.9% alc., 375 cases. Clones 2A,
115, 667 and 777. Native fermentations, aged 11 months in French oak barrels, unfined and unfiltered.
Charming and complex aromatic mix of red plums, strawberries, redwood and some good funk. Nicely
composed and layered red fruit palate that is lip-smacking. Perfectly balanced with suede tannins, a
pillowy texture and complete integration of the alcohol. Very Caliesque in style and utterly hedonistic.
Navarro Vineyards Navarro’s historical place in the Anderson Valley was profiled in Issue 18. Navarro
began planting grapes in the Anderson Valley in 1974. Thirty-five years later, the children of founders Ted
Bennett and Deborah Cahn, Aaron and Sarah Cahn Bennett, are now actively involved in the winery as well.
Sarah received a Masters degree and enology and viticulture from University California Davis and has filled the
roll of enologist at Navarro Vineyards. She has applied her research on the phenolics of Mendocino Pinot Noir
to Navarro’s already stellar lineup of Pinot Noirs. Aaron designed Navarro’s first website in 1996, and his
internet savvy adds to Navarro’s impressive marketing history. Navarro’s winemaker for over 15 years has
been Jim Klein (pictured below at the Festival). Navarro now produces 40,000 cases of wine annually, 10,000
cases of which are Pinot Noir. The winery farms nine vineyard sites and is currently adding to its plantings. A
second new winery is under construction in Boonville. There are three Pinot Noirs produced: a Mendocino
appellation blend, a Méthode a l’Ancienne Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, and a Deep End Blend Anderson Valley
Pinot Noir. The wines are sold primarily to a loyal customer mailing list and online at www.navarrowine.com.
Retail distribution is limited and some of the small release wines are only made available to wine club
members. The tasting room and original winery are located at 5601 Highway 128 in Philo. The tasting room is
open daily from 10:00 to 6:00 and the grounds are perfect for picnicking. Tours are offered daily. Many
members of the staff, from tasting room and office managers to cellar workers, all have several family members
working at the friendly winery.
2007 Navarro Vineyards Deep End Blend Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., 1,572 cases, $49. Release date March 2010. Harvest Brix 26.5º.
Clones are 114, 115, 667, 777 and Pommard 4.
This is a precocious wine that
is very approachable now. Charming perfume of a fresh cherry pie with a hint
of oak spice. Plums and berries lead the balanced attack with a perfect tug of
acidity. Smooth and refined with an appealing elegance. Pick any superlative
you want. Could be the best Anderson Valley Pinot Noir I tasted at this year’s
Phillips Hill Estates Owner and winemaker Toby Hill had a successful career in the art business in New
York but longed for a less harried lifestyle. He moved to California and found his piece of heaven in the hills of
Philo on Philo Greenwood Road overlooking Anderson Valley. He built a house and an adjacent art studio, but
when some unfinished Pinot Noir became available in 2002, the study was transformed into a winery and Hill
released his first Pinot Noir. He now sources grapes from Oppenlander Vineyard on Shandel Ranch in
Comptche’s Surprise Valley (just north of Anderson Valley) and Toulouse, Corby and Marguerite vineyards in
Anderson Valley. John Pope, who also crafts wines for Shandel’s Oppenlander Vineyard label, assists Hill in
the winemaking duties. A new tasting room is open in Philo at 8627 Highway 128. Call 707-895-2209 for
hours. I have enjoyed the wines which are crafted in a very approachable elegant style.
2007 Phillips Hill Estates Anderson Valley Toulouse Vineyard Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., 175
cases, $42. From a 17-acre vineyard owned by Vern and Maxine Boltz in the deep end
of the Anderson Valley. Planted in 1997. Yields 3 tons per acre. 33% each Dijon 115
and 667 and 2A. Whole berry fermentation, 5 day cold soak, 15 days on skins. Aged 11
months in 35% new French oak barrels.
Black cherry is the theme here both in the
aromas and flavors. Very light and delicate, smoothly textured, with a touch of oak
spice, fuzzy tannins and a respectable acid lift on the finish. A feminine wine that tries
but fails to seduce me.
2007 Phillips Hill Oppenlander Vineyard Comptche Mendocino County Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., 450 cases, $42. The 18-acre Oppenlander Vineyard is located 8
miles from the Mendocino Coast as the crow flies. Planted in 1998 and 1999, this is
one of four vineyards in this emerging cool climate region. Dijon clones 114, 115 and
667, Pommard clone, Martini selection, all self-rooted. The soil is Oppenlander heavy
clay loam unique to Comptche. Yields were 3 tons per acre. Whole berry
fermentation, 4 day cold soak, 16 days on skins. Aged 11 months in 40% new French
oak barrels. Unfined and unfiltered. Label says, “The momentum of the place gives it
Darkest colored of the 2007 lineup. Deep, rich and dark stone and
berry fruits especially black raspberry. A masculine wine reflective of this vineyard
sporting muscular blackberry and black raspberry flavors with a hint of grapefruit on the
back end. Still reserved and needs some time to evolve. Beautifully crafted.
2007 Phillips Hill Marguerite Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., 50
cases, $37. Sourced from a ridge top vineyard on the east side of the Anderson Valley
located on the old Holmes Ranch property at 1,300 feet. Yields 2 tons per acre.
Grafted from Chardonnay to Pinot Noir clones 115 and Molinari in 2002. Whole berry
fermentation, 5 day cold soak, 16 days on skins. Unfined and unfiltered. Label says,
“Here lives the inspirational possibility of reinvention mixed with a little jene sais quoi.”
Oak char and earth command the nose. Darker berries are featured but oak is the
strongest player and thoroughly dominates the delicate fruit.
2007 Phillips Hill Corby Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
350 cases, $40. The Corby Vineyard was planted in 1995 along the east side
of the Navarro River in the direct route of the fog channel from the Mendocino
Coast. This is the first single vineyard-designate from this vineyard and may
be the last as the property has been sold. 50% Pommard and 50% Dijon 115
clones. Yields were 2.5 tons per acre. Whole berry fermentation, 6 day cold
soak, 16 days on the skins. Unfined and unfiltered. Aged 11 months in 40% new, 20%
1-year, and 40% seasoned French oak barrels.
Moderately light garnet color. The
nose offers redder fruits, particularly Morello cherries, with a hint of flowers, grass and
oak. Medium weighted cherries and strawberries on the palate with a touch of baking spices. Very sensual
and satisfying mouth feel. Tasted twice with different impressions. At the Press tasting I was very impressed
and rated the wine as excellent. Tasted at home I found it to be good but not exceptional. Pinot Noir is such a
minx of a wine that declarations are always subject to the moment.
Philo Ridge Vineyards Fred Buonanno and Heather McKelvey searched for four years before finding
their dream property high on a ridge in the Anderson Valley. They bought the 40+ acres far up in the hills at the
end of a 5.33 mile dirt road in 1999. The existing vineyard had been planted in 1976 to Cabernet Sauvignon
and Merlot by the original owner, Vernon Rose, the former owner of the Christine Woods Winery. The couple
planted Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris on the property under the supervision of vineyardist Norman Koble and
released their first vintage in 2001. They produce eight different varieties but plan to feature primarily Pinot
Noir. The wines are available by contacting the owners through the website at www.philoridge.com or phoning
707-489-2303. Tasting is by appointment on weekends.
2005 Philo Ridge Vineyards Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
13.3% alc., 250 cases, $32. The fruit is sourced
primarily from Ferrington Vineyard. Clones 115, 667 and 777. Picked at 23.5º Brix. Slow fermentation in 1-ton
open top fermenters, 4 day cold soak, aged 18 months in 50% new French oak barrels. Aged 9 months in
bottle before release.
Moderately light in color. The nose is very floral with a green note. Attractive flavors of
fresh berries and cherries with a riff of oak. Soft and smooth with supple tannins.
Raye’s Hill Vineyards & Winery Raye and Dan Sokolow are Chicago natives who moved to
Anderson Valley and planted their estate vineyard in 1997. They studied winemaking at University California
Davis and gained experience assisting other wineries. The Sokolows currently craft 1,000 cases of wine,
primarily Pinot Noir, from their estate vineyard and other notable vineyards in the valley. The wines are sold on
the website at www.rayeshill.com. 707-895-3439. This producer is a “sleeper” in that the label is not well
known or marketed, yet the wines are quite good and very sensibly priced. Definitely worth a look.
2005 Raye’s Hill Vineyards & Winery Henneberg Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., 280 cases, $26. Released January 2008. The 14-acre
Henneberg Vineyard is owned by Matt and Jeannie Henneberg and is located in
the deep end of the Anderson Valley. 100% Pommard clone. 3-day cold soak,
fermentation in 1-ton open top fermenters, pressed into French oak barrels and
aged for 16 months.
This is a pleasing wine that has attractive aromas and flavors
of brown-spiced ripe cherries and cola. Good backbone of ripe tannins and brisk acidity on
the refreshing finish. A great value in a hand crafted artisan Pinot Noir. All the Raye’s Hill
Pinot Noirs are similarly priced.
Roederer Estate Jean-Claude Rouzaud, Chairperson of Champagne Louis Roederer and grandson of
Madame Camille Olry Roederer, chose the 58-acre Anderson Valley vineyard and winery site in 1981.
Roederer now farms over 580 acres of Pinot Noir (primarily sparkling clones 32 and 33, Pommard, and Dijon
114, 115, 667 and 777). All wines are made from estate grapes. The winemaking team is all French headed
by Arnaud Weyrich. Roederer (Maisons Marques & Domaines) also owns nearby Schraffenberger Cellars.
Roederer Estate has been quietly making a still Pinot Noir since 1992 which is only sold through the tasting
room. The barn-inspired tasting room is open daily from 11:00 to 5:00 at 4501 Highway 128 in Philo. The
website is www.roedererestate.com. 707-895-2288. The winery’s superb sparkling wines (Anderson Valley
Estate Brut, L’Ermitage, Estate Brut Rosé, and vintage dated L’Ermitage Rosé) are widely distributed.
2006 Roederer Estate Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
13.8% alc., 397
cases, $24. Released May 2007. A blend of Pommard, 114, 115, 667,
777 and other clones. Yields 2 to 3.5 tons per acre. 100% destemmed,
31% cold soaked, manual punch downs, light filtration, aged
10 months in 19% new French oak barrels.
Delicate light color. Very
floral and grassy nose. Demure ripe strawberry and cherry flavors with
plenty of finesse and a spark of acidity. A rosé sparkling wine without the
bubbles. Will match beautifully with simply prepared salmon.
Roessler Cellars Brothers Richard and Roger Roessler founded Roessler Cellars in 2000. Together with
talented winemakers Wells Guthrie (consulting) and Scott Shapely (formerly of Crushpad and Siduri Wines),
they craft marvelous Pinot Noirs from appellations throughout California. Roessler produces four appellation
wines: Red Label (Sonoma County), La Brisa (Sonoma Coast), Bluejay (Anderson Valley) and Peregrine (Sta.
Rita Hills) plus multiple vineyard-designate wines. Total production of 7,300 cases includes 14 different Pinot
Noirs. An estate vineyard is planted in the true Sonoma Coast in northernmost Sonoma County. Roessler
Cellars’ business office is located off of the town square in Sonoma. A $6 million winery has been built in the
Petaluma Gap region of Sonoma which will allow production to increase to 12,000 cases. Tasting is by appointment (707-933-4440). The wines are sold on the website at www.roesslercellars.com and widely
distributed in fine wine shops. This is a go-to label that you can count on for consistently fine wines.
2007 Roessler Cellars Hein Family Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
alc., 196 cases, $45. Released scheduled for September 2009. This vineyard was
planted between 1997 and 1999. Pommard and three Dijon clones.
ruby color. The nose offers intense black fruit aromas. Richly flavored dark Pinot fruits
complemented by notes of tobacco and dark chocolate. Soft in the mouth and plush in
texture. A brooding wine that will need a few years to reach its apex. Can be drunk
now with short ribs or a steak.
2007 Roessler Cellars Bluejay Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.4% alc., 1,076 cases,
$32. Named for the populace of bluejays west of Philo.
Deeply colored. Aromas of
black cherries, spring flowers and oak. Picks up intensity in the glass. A moderately
light wine that drinks easy. Both black and red fruits, mild dry tannins, a touch of oak
and a pleasing finish. Nicely balanced to work with food. Fine for what it is.
Saintsbury This iconic winery celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2006. David Graves and Richard Ward
met at University California Davis and realized they had a shared passion for Pinot Noir. They staked their
claim in Carneros, largely an unproven grape growing area in 1981. Despite no real business plan and very
little money, they took the plunge. They released 2,000 cases of Pinot Noir from purchased grapes in 1981
and never looked back. By 1991, production had increased to 35,000 cases and their Pinot Noir was on
practically every restaurant wine list in the United States. Saintsbury owed its success to offering wines with a
high quality to value ratio. Graves and Ward like to kid about their success, thankful because, “Our attitudes
and work habits make us otherwise unemployable.” Saintsbury is named in honor of George Saintsbury, a
journalist and professor of rhetoric and English literature at the University of Edinburgh. He was a wine lover
and in 1920, at the age of 75, published Notes on a Cellar which was a collection of opinions and notes about
wine and wine dinners he had enjoyed over the years.
Saintsbury has about 13 acres of vineyard around their unpretentious and weathered barn-like original winery
in Napa Carneros and owns the Brown Ranch Vineyard nearby, but they source most of their grapes from
Napa Carneros growers through long-standing relationships. Frenchman Jerome Chery joined Sainstbury as
winemaker with the 2004 vintage, succeeding Brian Kosuge. That year, Saintsbury abandoned their reserve
bottling and began producing a series of vineyard-designate Pinot Noirs from Napa Carneros and the Anderson
Valley. Because of Chery’s training with Littorai’s Ted lemon, he espouses terroir-based vineyard-designate
Pinot Noirs making the transition a natural for Saintsbury. A second winery has been built in Sonoma. The wines are sold on the website at www.saintsbury.com and through widespread retail and restaurant distribution.
Tasting is available by appointment on weekdays (707-252-0592).
2007 Saintsbury Cerise Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., 1,150 cases, $45.
Released August 2008. Th is 37-acre vineyard is located on steep slopes of the southwestern
facing hills just north of Boonville and is planted to clones 115, 667, 777 and Pommard. Yields were
1.5-2.5 tons per acre. 7 day cold soak, 12 day total cuvaison. Aged 10 months in 24% new French
oak barrels. The only Saintsbury Vineyard Series wine from outside Carneros.
aromas lead to a palate of full, rich dark fruits with earth and chocolate undertones. A muscular yet
deft wine that has the acidity and structure to go the distance. Needs more time.
Schraffenberger Cellars Originally founded in 1981 by John Scharffenberger, this sparkling wine
producer was sold in 1998 and renamed Pacific Echo. It was subsequently acquired by Maisons Marques &
Domaines (Roederer) in 2004 and the original name restored. Tex Sawyer has been the winemaker since
1989. A still Pinot Noir is produced and sold in the tasting room located at 8501 Highway 128 in Philo (open
daily from 11:00 to 5:00). The website is www.scharffenbergercellars.com. 707-895-2957.
2004 Scharffenberger Cellars Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., 578 cases, $23.
Released May 2007. A blend of Roederer, Pommard and Dijon clones from Perkins-Clark,
Redwood Grove and Day Ranch vineyards. Traditional vinification, light filtration.
This is a
very ripe tasting wine veering toward currants and raisins. Smooth with silky tannins. A
good back porch wine.
Skewis Wines Hank Skewis is a veteran of over 25 vintages who honed his winemaking skills at Lambert
Bridge in the Dry Creek area of Sonoma County before launching his namesake label with his wife Maggie in
1994. That year, grower Fred Peterson of the Floodgate Vineyard in Anderson Valley(now owned by
Goldeneye and renamed) offered Hank three barrels of grapes and Hank released 70 cases of Pinot Noir for
sale. Today, he crafts just under 1,000 cases of Pinot Noir from vineyards in Sonoma’s Russian River Valley
and Coastal appellations and the Anderson Valley. Hank’s vineyard sources have varied but have always been
superb. Skewis wines are sold primarily through a mailing list and on the website at www.skewiswines.com. I
have had a number of older vintages of Skewis Pinot Noir and I can vouch for their age ability. The wines
demand patience for optimum enjoyment.
2006 Skewis Anderson Valley Reserve Pinot Noir
13.8% alc., 200 cases, $50.
Harvest Brix 23.6º.
Fresh berry compote with a hint of spearmint on the nose. A
demure and elegant wine featuring red berries and cherries and a hint of mocha.
All velvet in texture. Lacks a little mid palate thrust but is a caressing wine that is
easy to like.
Other Pinot Noirs:
2006 Skewis Salzberger-Chan Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 200 cases, $42.From a 3-acre vineyard planted in 1997 in the heart
of the Russian River Valley appellation. Dijon clone 115. Harvest Brix 24.9º.
Scents of dark cherries, oak char and spearmint. Bright Bing cherry in the mouth
with a nice touch of spice. Some oak char carries through in the background but
dissipates some with swirling (should integrate with further aging of the wine).
Appealing finesse and balance.
2006 Skewis Montgomery Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.6% alc., 110 cases, $45. From a19-year-old vineyard west of Santa Rosa
in the Olivet Road area. Harvest Brix 25.8º.
Dark ruby color. Scents of plum,
cedar and spearmint. Darkly fruited with a citrus tang on the finish. A thick and
rich wine with noticeable dry tannins. Still brooding and linear and needs more
time in the bottle.
Standish Wine Company Founded in 2004 by Ken and Miles Oswald, longtime grape growers and
winery principals. The winery sits on the Day Ranch, a former apple and pear orchard, which was purchased
by the Oswalds from the Day Family in 1978. The Oswalds are distantly related to the famous Mayflower
pilgrim, Miles Standish. Valerie Oswald and Lori Kraemer are the managing directors. The unique tasting room
is upstairs in an old redwood apple-drying barn (photo below). The tasting room is open daily starting at 10:30
AM at 5101 Highway 128 in Philo. 707-895-9213. No website.
2007 Standish Bosc Block Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.9% alc., 48 cases, $70. Released May 2009.
Jackson (23) clone. Brix at harvest 25.25 Aged 11 months in 90% new French oak barrels, two rackings,
unfined and filtered. This wine was offered for sampling at the Festival Press tasting but I did not get a chance
to taste it.
Toulouse Vineyards & Winery Ken and Maxine Boltz are urban refugees from the San Francisco
Bay area where Vern was an Oakland Fire Department Captain and home builder, and Maxine was a flight
attendant and real estate professional. They acquired 160 acres near Philo in 1997, cleared the land and
planted a 17-acre vineyard to Pinot Noir. The clones are 2A, 115, 667 and 777. The vineyard is named
Toulouse after a huge goose weighing in at up to 35 pounds that thrives in the tranquility of the vineyard.
Toulouse supplies grapes to several other wineries (MacPhail, Baxter, Phillips Hill Estates) and produces a line
of varieties under the Toulouse label at the estate winery. The Toulouse wines have improved each year as the
vineyard has matured and are now among the best in the valley. A Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer are
crafted from purchased fruit. The wines are sold directly at the winery and through fine wine retail stores.
Tasting is by appointment, but if the gate is open it is worth checking to see if the Boltzs will receive you. The
winery is nothing fancy and rather rustic, but that is not the point. You will be treated very well here by the
affable and personable hosts. 8001 Highway 128, Philo. 707-895-2828.
2007 Toulouse Vineyards Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
1,140 cases, $42. Released
Moderately deep reddish-purple color. Lovely aromas of fresh cherries
and spice. Mouth filling and concentrated flavors of Bing cherries, Asian spice, dark
chocolate and smoke with a mild grip of tannins. Focused and tenacious with a smooth
texture and very user friendly. Got duck?
Tudor Wines Since 2000, Dan Tudor and first-cousin Christian have been sourcing Pinot Noir from family
owned vineyards in the Santa Lucia Highlands and Anderson Valley to produce small lots of premium Pinot
Noir. The Tudor family has a long history of grape growing dating back several hundred years in Croatia. The
Tudors began growing grapes in California in the early 1900s and still operate one of the largest table grape
vineyards in the country. Dan Tudor made his first wines in 1982 in the Santa Maria Valley and the wines all
won medals in amateur wine competitions. He has used the expertise of noted winemaker Larry Brooks since
1999 to guide him in Pinot Noir production. The wines are available through a mailing list and on the website at
www.tudorwines.com along with limited retail distribution. In addition to the wine reviewed below, there is a
2006 Tudor Balo Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir ($59).
2006 Tudor Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., 825 cases, $39. Aged 10
months in French oak barrels.
Very charming scents of black cherries, oak, shoe
leather and violets. Rich core of ripe black cherry and strawberry fruit with a hint
of root beer and tea. Very soft and demure with fine-grain tannins and a persistent
finish laced with tangerine peel. Everything is in place and this is a delight.
Twomey Cellars Twomey Cellars began as a Merlot specialist in 2000. In 2001, Raymond Twomey
Duncan (a long time owner of Silver Oak Cellars) leased property on Westside Road in the Russian River
Valley which became the centerpiece of the winery’s new Pinot Noir program. In 2006, Twomey began
sourcing fruit from the Sonoma Coast and other California appellations. The former Roshambo Winery in
Healdsburg was acquired by Twomey and retrofitted to produce Pinot Noir. Winemaker Ben Cane, who joined
Twomey in 2007, oversees the winery’s Pinot Noir program. There are now four appellation Pinot Noirs from
the Russian River Valley, Sonoma Coast, Anderson Valley and Santa Barbara County. Twomey offers tasting at
both their Calistoga Soda Canyon Estate (where Merlot is produced) and Healdsburg Estate Monday through
Saturday. Tours of the wineries are available by appointment. The wines are sold on the website at
www.twomeycellars.com and through retail channels.
2007 Twomey Cellars Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., $45.
Moderately light ruby color. Extroverted nose of blackberries, tobacco and
violets. Very tasty core of lush black cherry and black berry fruits. The
flavors attack in waves and hold on. Velvety smooth with soft tannins and
balanced acidity. A seductive wine that perfectly fits the description of an
iron fist in a velvet glove.
Waits-Mast Family Cellars Brian Mast and Jennifer Waits found the romance of wine by exploring
California’s many wine regions. They remark, “Like a verse that haunts you, Pinot Noir kept on finding us,
tapping our shoulder. It was always (and remains) our favorite varietal.” In 2005 they embarked on a journey
to craft their own Pinot Noir under the guiding hands of Scott Shapley and Chris Nelson at Crushpad in San
Francisco. The 2007 Pinot Noirs from Wentzel Vineyard in the Anderson Valley and La Encantada Vineyard in
the Santa Rita Hills are the third releases. The wines are sold primarily through a mailing list and online at
2007 Waits-Mast Wentzel Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., 25 cases, $42. Sourced from
the 10-acre Wentzel Vineyard located near Philo and organically farmed by Roland Wentzel. 100% destemmed,
native fermentation, aged 11 months in 33% new French oak barrels.
An impressive wine filled with
tasty dark cherry and berry fruit, an underlying green note, and sporting a smooth, velvety texture, gossamer
tannins, and a refreshingly clean finish. Close to a Pinot Geek wine.
Woodenhead Proprietor and winemaker Nikolai Stez owes his inspiration to Williams Selyem. He worked
17 harvests at Williams Selyem, and as an assistant winemaker to Burt Williams, learned from the master. His
domestic partner, Zina Bower, is equally passionate about wine and handles the marketing and business side
of Woodenhead. Through his years of contacts in the Russian River Valley, Stez has been able to source fruit
from outstanding Pinot Noir vineyards. Vineyard-designate wines are crafted from the Buena Tierra Vineyard
in the Russian River Valley, Wiley Vineyard and Morning Dew Ranch, both in the Anderson Valley, and
Fruitland Ranch Vineyard in Humboldt County. The wines are sold through a mailing list, on the website
(www.woodenheadwine.com) and through retail channels. A tasting room is open daily at 5700 River Road in
Santa Rosa. Production is about 3,500 cases a year which includes a Russian River Valley appellation Pinot
Noir and Zinfandel. 707-887-2703.
2006 Woodenhead Wiley Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
alc., 358 cases, $60. When I tasted this almost a year ago, it was
impenetrable and brooding. It has now opened up.
Medium ruby color.
Flashy and expressive aromas of cherries and raspberries. Mouth filling
richness with oodles of raspberry fruit, some Asian spice, and a long,
chewy and aromatic finish. Really lovely wine with deft use of oak and
impeccable balance. Expensive, yes, but worth it if you want the full experience.
Zina Hyde Cunningham The Cunningham family history in
Mendocino County dates to 1865 when Zina Hyde bought property
in Ukiah and crafted excellent wines. Bill Cunningham, Zina’s great
grandson, encouraged by cousin Steve Ledson, owner of Ledson
Winery & Vineyards in Kenwood, started Zina Hyde Cunningham in
2004 in Boonville. The quaint Zina Hyde Cunningham Winery and
General Store is located in downtown Boonville at 14077 Highway
128 across the street from the Boonville Hotel. It is open daily from
10:00 to 5:00. The wines (several varieties are produced) are sold
through a mailing list and at the tasting room. The website is
www.zinawinery.com. I have found the wines to be quite charming
2005 Zina Hyde Cunningham Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., 370
cases, $48. 3-5 day cold soak, hand punch downs and pump overs, 14-day
cuvaison, wild yeast fermentation, aged 9 months in French oak barrels.
Moderately intense ruby color. Ornate aromas of black cherry pie, baking spices
and toast. Middleweight cherry and berry flavors which veer to the ripe side.
Caressing texture with imperceptible tannins and little evident oak on an elegant
frame. An easy drinker.
Other Anderson Valley Pinot Noirs worth a look:
Adrian Fog Demuth Vineyard, Oppenlander Vineyard, Savoy Vineyard Pinot Noirs
Artevino (Maple Creek) Tebbutt Vineyards Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
Calstar Cellars Londer Estate Pinot Noir
Domaine Saint Gregory (Graziano) Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
Gryphon Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
Lioco Klindt Vineyard Pinot Noir
Madrigal Vineyards Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
Mendocino Wine Company (Parducci) Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
Radio-Coteau Savoy Vineyard Pinot Noir
Whitcraft Morning Dew Ranch Pinot Noir
Williams Selyem Ferrington Vineyard, Weir Vineyard Pinot Noirs