Cobb Wines: A Revelation
The Cobb Wines website says that they “produce exceptional and classic Pinot Noir wines reflecting the
climate and soils of our coastal Sonoma County vineyards in North California.” I could not have said it better! I
met David Cobb and his winemaker son Ross at the International Pinot Noir Celebration in 2008 and their
wines that were poured then impressed me. Somehow I never got around to revisiting them and after recently
tasting through several 2006 and 2007 Cobb Pinot Noirs, I realized I had been missing out on remarkably good
Sonoma Coast wines brilliantly crafted in a graceful style. These wines are very close in style and character to
the Williams Selyem Pinot Noirs of the early 1990s and deserve a place in every Pinot lover’s cellar.
Cobb Wines is a Pinot Noir specialist focusing on single-vineyard wines that was established in 2001 by
Stephen and Ross Cobb and their parents David and Diane Cobb. David Cobb owns and farms the 15-acre
Coastlands Vineyard and oversees all the vineyards from which the winery sources grapes. David began
growing Pinot Noir at the sustainably farmed Coastlands Vineyard back in 1989 at a time when the only
vineyard neighbor in the extreme westerly location four miles from the Pacific Ocean was Summa Vineyard.
He was a marine ecologist by trade, but studied soils and climatology for years before finding a suitable site on
the ridge tops of the Sonoma Coast. The fruit from Coastlands Vineyard was sold to Williams Selyem until
2001. Ross Cobb, who studied soil science and sustainable agriculture in college, spent time at Ferraro-
Carano Vineyards and Winery and Bonny Doon before he was hired by Burt Williams at Williams Selyem. He
took a serious liking to Pinot Noir and eventually became the winemaker at Flowers from 2004 to 2008. Today,
he is the accomplished winemaker for Cobb Wines. Ross and his father started out make a little wine of non
commercial Pinot Noir from Coastlands Vineyard. The first vintage of commercial Coastlands Vineyard Pinot
Noir in 2001 yielded 130 cases.
Besides Coastlands Vineyard and the special block within known as Coastlands Vineyard Diane Cobb, the
Cobbs source grapes from four other independently owned vineyards located in the western Sonoma Coast
appellation and primarily in the Freestone-Occidental region that has become an epicenter for exceptional
Pinot Noir. Each of the vineyards offers distinct soil types, different microclimates, and a diverse combination of
clones and rootstocks resulting in unique expressions of Sonoma Coast terroirs. These vineyards include
Rice-Spivak Vineyard, Joy Road Vineyard, Jack Hill Vineyard, and Emmaline Vineyard.
This was the first winery in California I have ever reviewed in which each wine in the tasting lineup deserved
my highest accolades. Extraordinary consistency to say the least! Every wine had the whole package:
charming aromatics, seamless and smooth textures, moderate alcohols, alluring elegance, and impeccable
balance. I can’t emphasize the stunning aromatics enough. It is evident David and his son, Ross, are tuned into
Pinot Noir. They nurture Pinot Noir properly in the vineyards, and pick the grapes when they are just nudging
ripeness. The moderate alcohols and flavors reflect this approach. The wines are not inexpensive, but
completely justified in my mind as they are in the very top echelon of premium California Pinot Noir.
2007 COBB Coastlands Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., 240 cases, $68. This 14.5-
acre vineyard is owned and farmed by the Cobb family and contains some of the oldest Pinot Noir vines
on the Sonoma Coast. A very cool site near Occidental, this is one of the last vineyards to ripen on the
Sonoma Coast each season. Several clones including Pommard, Martini, Wädenswil and Mt. Eden
planted on various rootstocks. Yorkville and Kneeland loamy soils.
More intense color than other wines
in this lineup. Aromas of plum sauce, soy, poki, dank cellar and sandalwood. Dancing mix of purple
fruits, earth and oak flavors carry through to a remarkably persistent finish. Intensely fruity and seemingly a
little closed at this time. Keep this one in the cellar a few years.
2007 COBB Joy Road Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.8% alc., 240 cases, $68. A 2.5-acre
vineyard owned by winemaker Terry Adams located a short distance from Coastlands Vineyard on a
1,300-foot ridge top near Occidental. Planted in sandy loam to four different varieties of Pinot Noir.
nose is both savory and floral along with earthy cherry and berry fruits that are quite vivid. Delicious
redder-toned fruits with supportive oak pulled into line with fine acidity. A middle weight wine that is soft
and sensual in the mouth departing with a taunting, teasing and lingering aroma of fresh cherries.
2007 COBB Rice-Spivak Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
alc., 360 cases, $68.
Like the 2006 version of this wine, this is a
remarkable drink. Very expressive fruity nose emphasizing berry tart, the
slightest oak and a hint of spice. Flavors of redder-toned berry fruits fan
out softly on the palate, saturating every corner of the mouth and fading
lithely in a lingering finish with a pleasing grip of acidity. Seamless in
every way, urging you to reach for another sip. A little richer tasting than the
2006 vintage even at a lower alcohol. This vineyard is one fine piece of dirt.
2006 COBB Coastlands Vineyard Diane Cobb Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., 145 cases, $72. A 1.5-acre block in the Coastlands
Vineyard planted to a single Pinot Noir variety chosen by Diane Cobb
through her work with a nursery block at Coastlands that contained over
20 relatively unknown Pinot Noir varieties. This wine commemorates
Diane’s life at Coastlands from its founding in 1989 until her death in
Subdued aromas upon opening, but becomes quite expressive over time
in the glass. Pleasing perfume of fresh berry jam, Morrocan spices and a little
barnyard. Intense black cherry and strawberry flavors like bombs bursting in the
mouth. Earth and hard red candy accents add interest. Juicy and charming with
a finish that would make Hollywood proud.
2006 COBB Emmaline Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
12.8% alc., 166 cases, $72. This 3-acre
vineyard is at the western margin of Sebastopol near Occidental and receives more shade and fog than
the other Cobb vineyards. The Goldridge sandy loam soils are planted to Dijon 115 and 777.
scent of dark stone fruits nicely spiced. An array of brambly fruits show up in the mouth including ripe
strawberries, blackberries and plums. Smooth and silky with bright acidity and fine, ripe tannins create
no rough edges. Truly unique from the other Cobb bottlings.
2006 COBB Rice-Spivak Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.8% alc., 495 cases, $72. 6-acre
vineyardowned by Russell Rice and his wife, Dr. Helen Spivak. Goldridge sandy loam with ash. Dijon
and Swan clone.
Stunning aromas of bright and pure cherries and berries with a hint of forest floor.
Only Pinot Noir can offer a nose like this. Luscious attack of red and black cherries and berries on the
mid-palate with an appealing accent of earthy loam and smoke lifted with balancing acidity (dare I say
minerality), and caressed by fine-grain tannins. Elegant and refined all the way through to the vibrant and
pleasing finish. This is a great wine that really shows off the frilly, sexy side of Pinot Noir.
Cobb Wines are allocated through a mailing list and are available online at www.cobbwines.com. The wines
reviewed above are still available. Production in 2007 was just under 1,400 cases of Pinot Noir.