PinotFile: 10.40 October 20, 2016
- Recently Tasted California Pinot Noir & Chardonnay
- Recently Tasted Oregon Pinot Noir
- Pinot Briefs
- Are Wine Critics, Winemakers and Somms at Increased Risk for Cancer?
Recently Tasted California Pinot Noir & Chardonnay
It is interesting to look at the change in taste for different California varietals over the past 20
years. At this year’s Wine Industry Financial Symposium, David Freed presented two circle graphs showing the
Gomberg Fredrickson Annual Review of California Varietal Volume in 1993 and 2013.
Pinot Noir was among the small “Other” category in 1993 but made up 6% of California Table Wine Volume
(13.2 million cases) in 2013. Chardonnay, on the other hand, showed a 9% decrease in volume. The most
striking change over the 20 years is the increase in volume of Premium Blush, Moscato and Pinot Grigio.
Benovia Winery, Santa Rosa
The 2014 Pinot Noirs were reviewed in June 2016 shortly after bottling (www.princeofpinot.com/winery/276/).
The single-vineyard Pinot Noirs have recently been released and reviewed again here after 4 months in bottle.
Vintage 2014 was the third consecutive drought year in Sonoma County, but the growing season was ideal with
the resulting crop much larger than average. There was just enough rain in the spring to charge with soil with water, and cool summer weather allowed the vines to thrive, leading to the earliest harvest on record.
Winemaker Mike Sullivan made fewer than 1,400 cases of single-vineyard Pinot Noirs, all produced from
sustainably farmed estate vineyards. Mike told me that he thinks the 2014 wines’ style falls intermediate between the
bold richness of the 2012 vintage and the refined, more vibrant and less sappy vintage of 2013. I believe the
wines need at least another year in bottle for most enjoyment. All tastings at Benovia are by appointment,
available seven days a week, and are leisurely, seated tastings in Benovia’s ranch house located at 3339
Hartman Road in Santa Rosa. Visit www.BenoviaWinery.com for more information on the wines reviewed here
or to acquire.
2014 Benovia Bella Luna Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., $80. Release spring 2017. A blend of Benovia estate vineyards fruit.
Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Quite approachable, with effusive
aromas of black cherry, cardamom and peppery spices and a hint of oak. A bit exotically flavored, offering
blueberry and black cherry fruit, spice and even a floral note. Inviting harmony, modest tannins, and a sweet
cherry finish that is uplifting. By the time it is released, it should be orgasmic.
2014 Benovia La Pommeraie Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
alc., pH 3.63, TA 0.58, 498 cases, $60. Released September 2016.
Sourced from Zio Tony Vineyard, a former apple orchard located along
the Laguna Ridge at the edge of the Green Valley of Russian River
Valley AVA. High density plantings of Dijon clones 777 and “828.” 10-day
cold soak, indigenous yeast fermentation lasting almost 3 weeks, aged
16 months in French oak barrels, 40% new.
Moderately dark reddish
purple color in the glass. The nose is rather primary, grudgingly offering
scents of dark fruits, vanillin and toast. More appealing on the palate,
with a mid weight plus core of luscious black fruits. Still a bit unyielding,
but with a lush mouthfeel, and a persistent finish. When tasted the
following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle, the nose
was more giving and the fruit more vivid. A lush, fruit-driven wine, but not
in a compote style.
2014 Benovia Martaella Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., pH 3.59, TA 0.57, 440
cases, $60. Released September 2016. Benovia’s largest estate vineyard with densely planted Pinot Noir
vines. Heirloom and Dijon clones. 25% whole cluster. 8-day cold soak, indigenous yeast fermentation lasting
nearly 2 weeks, aged in French oak barrels, 36% new.
Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass.
Initially, the aromas of black fruits and toasty oak are subdued, arriving with more purpose over time in the
glass. Somewhat unevolved, but enticing, with a compelling core of oak-kissed blueberry-pomegranate and
blackberry fruits backed by firm tannins. When tasted the following day from a previously opened and recorked
bottle, the wine was more aromatic with more fruit expression and personality. Expect this one to evolve
nicely over the next few years.
2014 Benovia Tilton Hill Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.4% alc., pH 3.53, TA 0.61, 492 cases, $60.
Released September 2016. This vineyard is on a ridge top near the town of Freestone, a cold site just a few
miles inland from the Pacific Ocean. 8-day cold soak, indigenous yeast fermentation for almost 2 weeks, aged
in French oak barrels, 45% new.
Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. A blend of blackberry and black
raspberry fruit aromas with oak-driven notes of sandalwood and vanilla. A boisterous wine, with plenty of purple
and black fruit saturating the mid palate and carrying over on the intensely fruity and lengthy finish. Gorgeous
fruit, but a bit one dimensional with noticeable oak presence that should integrate further over time.
2014 Benovia Cohn Vineyard Sonoma County Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., pH 3.78, TA 0.56, 440 cases, $75.
Released September 2016. This is sourced from one of the oldest Pinot Noir vineyards in the region planted in
1970. The vines are organically dry farmed and efforts to reinvigorate the soil and bring new life to the vineyard
has been rewarded. A massale collection of most likely Martini 13 and Pommard clones. Yields just over 1 ton
per acre. 8-day cold soak, indigenous yeast fermentation lasting almost 2 weeks, aged in French oak barrels,
Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. Aromas of dark red cherry and berry are infused
with oak. Modest in weight, with a giving core of cherry and berry fruits. The comforting texture and suave
tannins make very easy approachability. The barrel treatment is still evident on the finish.
Ernest Vineyards, Santa Rosa
A portrait of Ernest is displayed on the labels of the wines. Ernest was a role model for his grandson, Todd
Gottula, who founded Ernest Vineyards with his wife Erin Brooks in 2012. Currently, Ernest Vineyards produces
wine at Punchdown Cellars, but is building a modern production facility, called Grand Cru, located in northern
Sonoma County, that will be a crush facility with space enough for Ernest and a number of like-minded small
producers. Expected opening is summer 2017. Currently, Ernest Vineyards works with 17 different sites or 24
acres of land. The winery’s goal is to offer value so the wines are something affordable for everyone to enjoy.
The winemaker is Kent Humphrey (Eric Kent) and assistant winemaker is Hanna Chort. The wines are sold
through a mailing list available at the impressive website, www.ernestvineyards.com.
2014 Ernest Vineyards The Artist Bush Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
12.5% alc., 131 cases, $55.
From a 12-acre vineyard planted in 2012 and developed for a select set of Dutton Ranch clients including
Ernest. The vineyard is located in the Green Valley of the Russian River Valley AVA. Calera selection harvested
at 22.0º average Brix. Aged 10 months in French oak barrels, 40% new.
Moderately dark reddish purple color
in the glass. Glorious aromas of dark cherry reduction sauce and spice emerge over time in the glass. Very
satisfying in the mouth, with mid weight flavors of black cherry, savory herbs, cola and subtle oak. Sleek
tannins with a silky texture, and an exceptionally long and generous finish. An impeccably balanced wine that
won me over.
2014 Ernest Vineyards The Settler Cleary Freestone Ranch Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
alc., 388 cases, $58. A 6-acre vineyard downslope from Freestone Hill Vineyard in the West Sonoma Coast.
Clones are Pommard, 777, 667 and 113 harvested at average Brix of 23.1º. Aged 10 months in French oak
barrels, 30% new.
Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. Fruit aromas of blueberry and black cherry
are complimented by scents of rose petal and oak. A mid weight plus styled wine, with ripe fruited flavors of
blueberry-pomegranate, plum and black cherry with a background hint of spice and herbs. The tannins are
silky and integrated, the finish is modest but pleasant and the overall impression is one of harmony.
2014 Ernest Vineyards The Grandfather Rayhill Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.0% alc., 161
cases, $56. Clone 115 harvested at 23.4º Brix. Aged 10 months in French oak barrels, 30% new.
reddish purple color in the glass. An array of aromas greet the nose, including black cherry, forest floor and
oak. A harmonious offering, with teasing flavors of dark cherry, red currant and supportive oak. Easy to cozy up
to with invisible tannins, and a grand finish that goes on and on.
2014 Ernest Vineyards The Engineer Romanini Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
12.0% alc., 260
cases, $51. This vineyard was originally planted in Sonoma Valley in 1954 by Antonio Romanini. Pommard
clone and Calera selection harvested at 21.9º average Brix. Aged 10 months in French oak barrels, 40% new.
Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Aromas of forest floor, pine needle, Asian spice, red cherry and red
raspberry lead off. The savory fruits are darker tasting, and the overall tone is rustic and forestry. Rather lean,
with vivid acidity and a dry finish.
2015 Edaphos Green Valley Ranch Chardonnay
12.5% alc., 81 cases, $28. Pronounced “ee-dah-
fos,” it means “base,” or “soil” in Greek. The strategy behind this label is exploration,
experimentation and applying lesions learned making wine under the winery’s other labels. These
are basically laboratory, small-lot wines that incorporate new approaches to winemaking with
different styles and sometimes off beat grape varieties. Rued-Z clone from Green Valley Ranch
harvested at 22.3º average Brix. Cold fermented at 50ºF and aged in 2/3 stainless steel and 1/3
Very light golden yellow color in the glass. Highly floral nose, with added aromas of
white peach and spice. A wine with personality, offering flavors of citrus, white stone fruits, apricot and edible
flower. Exceptional grip and length on the bright finish. This wine works beautifully as a stand-alone drinker, or
can pair exceptionally well with a variety of foods.
2014 Ernest Vineyards The Bombardier Black Emerald Vineyard Russian River Valley Chardonnay
13.5% alc., 141 cases, $42. Sourced from a 17-acre vineyard on Vine Hill Road in the heart of the Russian
River Valley. Originally planted by Duff Bevill to Old Wente clone of Chardonnay in the 1960s, today the owners
are Dennis and Mary Black and the site is called Black Emerald. 75% Black Emerald and 25% Green Valley
Ranch vineyards. Wente 4 and Rued clones harvested at an average Brix of 23.2º. Aged 10 months in French
oak barrels, 43% new.
Moderate golden yellow color in the glass. A more ripely fruited wine with more oak
seasoning. Aromas of charred lemon, yellow apple, poached pear, pastry cream and spice. Richly flavored,
with tastes of lemon, pear, pineapple and toast. Viscous in texture, with some fruit persistence on the finish.
Rewarding ripe fruit flavors, but lacking some of the vibrancy exhibited by The Farmer bottling.
2014 Ernest Vineyards The Farmer Green Valley Ranch Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
13.0% alc., 298
cases, $45. Sourced from a vineyard planted by Warren Dutton in 1969 west of the town of Graton. The clone
is Rued-Z harvested at 23.0º average Brix. Aged 10 months in French oak barrels, 35% new.
yellow color and clear in the glass. Complex nose offering scents of lemon rind, cake spice, white flower, and
flint. Nicely lifted on the palate, with flavors of yellow stone fruits and citrus. Refined and sophisticated, with
impeccable balance and soothing, but not creamy texture.
Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards, Sonoma
Celebrating 30 years, Gloria Ferrer is better known for its excellent sparkling wines, but it also offers solid
value-priced Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Visit www.gloriaferrer.com.
2014 Gloria Ferrer Carneros Estate Chardonnay
14.1% alc., $25. Estate grown. Whole cluster
pressed, barrel aged 9 months in French oak barrels.
Light golden yellow color in the glass. A very
nicely composed wine, with pleasing aromas of apple and lemon oil, and flavors of citrus, apple and
pastry cream. Slightly viscous in the mouth, yet crisp and juicy with no oak intrusion in a balanced style
2013 Gloria Ferrer Carneros Estate Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., pH 3.72, TA 0.58, $27. 21st release for this wine.
100% de-stemmed, 2-day cold soak, aged 9 months in 96% French and 4% Hungarian oak barrels, 14% new.
Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Earth-kissed aromas of black raspberry with a tag of toasty oak.
Mid weight flavors of black cherry and black raspberry with a hint of dark chocolate and tobacco from barrel
aging. Nicely balanced, with good structure and a modest finish.
Loos Family Winery, San Francisco
A very small, urban boutique winery celebrating its tenth anniversary. Owner and winemaker Brad J. Loos is a
member of the Guild of Sommeliers. Emphasis is on ecologically balanced vineyard sources, extended cold
soak, native and cultured yeast fermentation, gentle bladder pressing, gravity flow wine transfer, premium
French oak barrel aging, and minimal racking. Tasting is by appointment in San Francisco. The winery is also
the home of Enological Innovations™, that includes several U.S. patents and patent applications relating to
fermentation technology. Visit the website at www.loosfamilywinery.com.
2014 Loos Family Coastside Cuvée Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., pH 3.69, TA 0.62, 300
hand-numbered bottles, $42. Primarily sourced from Doctor’s Vineyard. Mainly Dijon 777 clone and Swan
selection harvested at 26.5º Brix. Over 10% whole cluster, 4-day cold soak, 14-day primary fermentation using
feral and selected proprietary yeasts. Aged 11 months in medium toast plus French oak barrels, 70% neutral
and 30% new. Bottled unfined with nominal polish filter.
Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Aromas of
grape, Damsel plum, black raspberry and nutty oak. Mid weight flavors of black cherry and blueberry-pomegranate
with a straw note in the background. The tannins are well matched, and the finish is particularly
heady. The wine picks up fruit intensity over time in the glass, yet there is something about the flavor profile
that puzzles me.
2015 Loos Family La Cruz Vineyard Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
14.5% alc., pH 3.36, TA 0.848, 300 handnumbered
bottles, $28. 98.5% Chardonnay, 1.5% Sauvignon Blanc. Wente 4 clone. Harvest Brix 23.2º. 10%
whole cluster, 4-day cold soak, 14-day primary fermentation, aged 11 months in French oak barrels, 70%
neutral and 30% new. Bottled unfined with nominal polish filter.
Moderate golden straw color in the glass.
Inviting aromas of apple, pear, lemon curd and buttery brioche. A nice blend of fruit and oak attributes, with
flavors of yellow apple, lemon, honey, pineapple, and blond caramel with a hint of toast in the background.
Mildly creamy in texture with brisk acidity and some finishing purpose.
Pellegrini Wine Company, Santa Rosa
Pellegrini Wine Company is best known for its estate Olivet Lane Vineyard Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, but the
winery also produces appellation Pinot Noir and Chardonnay sourced from the winery’s own and other Russian
River Valley vineyards. Since Robert Pellegrini took over sole ownership of the winery in 2013, his focus has
been on furthering the quality of Pellegrini wines and the provenance of the Olivet Lane Vineyard. He brought
on winemaker Lynn Krausmann to participate in this focus. Lynn was previously a winemaker for Williams
Selye, Esterlina Vineyards and Clos du Bois. The Olivet Lane Vineyard and Pellegrini appellation wines are
produced on site at the estate winery on West Olivet Road that was designed specifically for small lot Pinot
Noir and Chardonnay production by a former winemaker, Merry Edwards. The Pellegrini Russian River Valley
Pinot Noir and Pellegrini Russian River Valley Chardonnay are available through the winery and website, and
at wine retailers and fine restaurants in select markets nationally. Visit www.pellegrinisonoma.com.
2014 Pellegrini Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., pH 3.64, TA 0.54, 727 cases, $35.
Nicely perfumed with hi-tone aromas of Bing cherry, black raspberry, blackberry and spice. The mid
weight core of black cherry fruit pleases, as does the soothing mouthfeel. The oak overlay is a bit
prominent and the finish is rather modest, but this is a solid wine that will please at the table.
2015 Pellegrini Russian River Valley Unoaked Chardonnay
14.1% alc., pH 3.29, TA 0.74, 2,137
Moderately light golden yellow color in the glass. Fresh aromas of cut apple, lychee and
pear transition to flavors of apple, pear, grapefruit and nori on the palate. Very crisp and clean, with a
slightly creamy mouthfeel.
Ram’s Gate Winery, Sonoma
This is a high level producer with a focus on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from marquee vineyards in Sonoma
County and Carneros and 28 acres of estate vines in Carneros. The inspired architecture and interior design of the winery
make it a destination to savor along with the outstanding wines. Veteran winemaker Jeff Gaffner (Saxon
Brown, Black Kite) crafts the wines. The wines are produced in limited quantities so the wines are rarely
available on the winery’s website. The best way to acquire the wines is to visit the winery or join the mailing list
The Chardonnays reviewed here are barrel aged for 11 months in French oak
barrels, ranging from one-third to two-thirds new.
2014 Ram’s Gate Ram’s Gate Estate Vineyard Carneros Chardonnay
14.6% alc., pH 3.60, TA 0.60, 227
cases, $76. 4.2-acres of hillside vines planted on the Ram’s Gate Estate Faultline Vineyard. A blend of five
clones. Aged 11 months in French oak barrels, 33% new.
Moderate golden yellow color in the glass. This
wine’s nose speaks more of salinity and lees with only a hint of lemon curd and oak aromas. Slightly creamy on the
palate, with flavors of lemon, apple and pastry cream, in a sleek, fresh and understated style that has
exemplary balance and only a bit of oak in the background.
2014 Ram’s Gate Green Acres Hill Vineyard Carneros Chardonnay
14.7% alc., pH 3.30, TA 0.64, 263
cases, $62. The first vineyard that Vittorio Sangiacomo planted. Old Wente clone. Aged 11 months in 40% new
French oak barrels.
Moderate golden yellow color in the glass. An array of enticing aromas include lemon,
Bartlett pear, toasty brioche and a white flower note. Also a bit floral on the palate, with added flavors of lemon
and pineapple. Somewhat restrained, with bracing acidity, a slightly viscous mouthfeel, and some length on the
citrus-driven finish. Nothing but good things to say about this wine.
2014 Ram’s Gate Hudson Vineyard Carneros Chardonnay
15.1% alc., pH 3.60, TA 0.57, 359
cases, $64. Calera clone grown on the Napa County side of Carneros.
Moderate golden yellow color
in the glass. Ripe fruit aromas of lemon pie, pear and pineapple. The essence of lemon is
complimented by flavors of pear, apple and spice in a highly delicious, heady version of Chardonnay.
Very slightly creamy in texture, with spry acidity, and uncompromising intensity and length on the
finish. Impressive balance at this high ABV. This is a Chardonnay to drink by itself, offering a
contemplative experience from one of California’s grand cru Chardonnay vineyards.
2014 Ram’s Gate Durrell Vineyard Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
14.9% alc., pH 3.30, TA 0.61, 355 cases,
$74. Aged 11 months in 33% new French oak barrels.
Moderate golden yellow color in the glass. Elevating
aromas of golden apple, lemon and nutty oak draw you into the glass. Exceptional harmony, with acidity in its
place, and flavors of lemon, Asian pear, vanilla and bark.
Ryan Cochrane Wines, San Francisco
Ryan crafts very small quantities of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from Santa Barbara County. He selects grapes
from the best vineyards he can source and makes wines that reflect the sites from which they originated. Ryan
trained under noted winemaker Roger Nicolas of RN Estate in Paso Robles, where he is now the assistant
winemaker. Ryan produced his inaugural Ryan Cochrane Pinot Noir in 2010. Tasting are not available, but these are
truly hand crafted artisan wines made with passion available for sale on the winery website. Visit
2014 Ryan Cochrane Solomon Hills Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
13.3% alc., 270 cases, $43.
30% 115, 30% 667, 40% Pommard 5. 20% whole cluster. Feral yeast primary fermentation. Aged 10 months in
French oak barrels, 20% new. Bottled unfined and unfiltered.
Moderate reddish purple hue in the glass. Both
cherry and berry fruits and oak aromas blend on the nose. Elegantly styled, with mid weight flavors of cherry,
strawberry, tobacco and dried herbs, even a tomato note. Oak plays a prominent role in this wine that has a
pleasing cherry-fueled, dry finish.
2014 Ryan Cochrane Fiddlestix Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., 190 cases, $43. 60% 115,
20% 113, and 20% 667. 20% whole cluster. Aged 10 months in French oak barrels, 20% new. Bottled unfined
Moderately light cherry red hue in the glass. Aromas of cherry, strawberry and sandalwood lead
to a mid weight flavored wine featuring dark red cherry, cranberry, strawberry and raspberry fruits
complimented by a hint of spice, The tannins are tame, the wine is nicely balanced, and the finish is pleasantly
2014 Ryan Cochrane Solomon Hills Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay
13.3% alc., 70 cases, $34.
Clone 4. Barrel fermented, 100% malolactic fermentation with lees stirring. Aged 10 months in French oak
barrels, 33% new.
Moderately light golden yellow color in the glass. Aromatically pleasing with scents of yellow
apple, yellow peach and brioche. Slightly creamy on the palate, with flavors of lemon, peach, honey, baking
spices and toast. Highly flavorful, with a good acid spine, and a cleansing finish.
Talisman Wine, Sonoma
Proprietors Scott and Marta Rich recently sent me all of their 2013 Pinot Noirs, some of which are very special,
super limited, small production wines. Readers of the PinotFile know that I have been a long time fan of the
Pinot Noirs produced by Talisman, not only for their individuality but also their age ability. Because of the
inclusion of some whole clusters, extended post fermentation maceration, and lengthy aging in a relatively high
proportion of new French oak, the wines benefit from cellaring. The high percentage of new oak and alcohol
tends to mask the terroir when the wines are young. If opened upon release, they need decanting. A quaint
tasting room is located in Glen Ellen and is open Thursday through Monday from 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.. A
personal, comparative Pinot Noir tasting experience is offered. Visit www.talismanwine.com.
2013 Talisman Cuvée No. 5 North Coast Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., 217 cases, $38. Released October 1, 2016.
Sourced from a few young vineyards. 25% whole cluster, feral yeast fermentation, aged 19 months in French
oak barrels, 44% new.
Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. The nose is quite giving, with bright aromas
of black cherry, strawberry, forest floor and exotic spices. Forward drinking and middleweight in style, with
flavors of dark red and black cherry, black berry and anise. The whole cluster has contributed good structure to
the wine. Not particularly complex, but easy to like.
2013 Talisman Weir Vineyard Yorkville Highlands Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., 241 cases, $65. Released
October 1, 2016. Planted in 1992, this vineyard sits at 850-1000 feet elevation. Clones 2A, and Pommard,
along with DRC suitcase and a Rochioli selection planted in gravelly, loamy clay. Aged in French oak barrels,
Moderately light reddish purple color in the glass. Aromas of cherry, forest path, dried herbs and
floral bouquet. A very savory wine, with light to mid weight flavors of black cherry and black raspberry fruits
dominated by flavors of herbs, eucalyptus and toasty oak. Firm, but supportive tannins, with a generous finish
of some length. Still quite savory when tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle.
2013 Talisman Gunsalus Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.6% alc., 314 cases,pH 3.67, TA
0.60, $54. Released May 1, 2016. This vineyard, planted in 2001, is farmed by Pamela and Glen Gunsalus. It
is located in the Green Valley of Russian River Valley AVA. Clones 114, 115 and 777. 30% whole cluster
fermentation. 1 week cold soak, feral yeast primary fermentation, 36 days in fermenter, and aged 19 months in
French oak barrels, 50% new, without racking until just before bottling.
Moderately light reddish purple color in
the glass. Hi-tone aromas of Bing cherry, strawberry and mild toasty oak lead off. Dark red fruited and mid
weight in style, with complimentary oak seasoning and a vivid acid spine. Quite approachable now, with a
modestly intense finish.
2013 Talisman Wildcat Mountain Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., pH 3.68, TA 0.57, 164
cases, $56. Released May 1, 2016. The highest vineyard in the appellation at an elevation of 750 feet. Vines
are planted in rocky soils of volcanic origin and exposed to the full brunt of fog and cold airflow that streams off
San Pablo Bay. The vineyard was established in 1998 by Nancy and Tony Lilly and their partner, winemaker
Steve MacRostie. 25% whole cluster, cold soak, feral fermentation both primary and malolactic, extended post
fermentation maceration, and aging 19 months in French oak barrels, 57% new.
Moderate reddish purple color
in the glass. The nose opens slowly in the glass, revealing aromas of wild berries, underbrush and forest floor.
Good attack of Damsel plum, black cherry and purple berry flavors with an earthy undertone. Some drying
tannins show up on the finish. Much more aromatic with more finishing power and length when tasted the
following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle.
2013 Talisman Jamison Vineyard Destein Estate Bennett Valley Pinot Noir
14.4% alc., 51 cases, $48.
Released June 1, 2016. Inaugural bottling from this vineyard. This vineyard receives the brunt of cold air
through the Petaluma Gap. 565-625 feet elevation. Clone 777 planted in 1996. Aged 20 months in French oak
barrels, 50% new.
Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Aromas of rhubarb, raisin, bruised apple, earthy
flora and a touch of oak. The core of fruit flavors consist of boysenberry and blackberry with nutty oak in the
background. Nicely balanced, with a satiny texture, but nothing stands out, with the fruit fading quickly on the
finish. Better the following day when tasted from a previously opened and re-corked bottle, with a sappy dark
fruit compote character, and resolution of the bruised apple note evident upon opening.
2013 Talisman Red Dog Vineyard Sonoma Mountain Pinot Noir
14.4% alc., 413 cases, $56. Released May
1, 2016. Clones 115, 777 and Pommard 5. Aged 18 months in French oak barrels, 59% new.
reddish purple color in the glass. Aromas of black cherry, graphite and a hint of oak combine in a pleasing
perfume. The mid weight flavors of black cherry, pomegranate and spice evolve slowly over time in the glass.
Nicely composed, with a juicy underpinning, slightly astringent tannins, a silky texture and a modest finish.
Considerably more fruit expression and finishing length the following day when tasted from a previously
opened and re-corked bottle. The oak treatment is very complimentary.
2013 Talisman Red Dog Vineyard Dijon Clones Sonoma Mountain Pinot Noir
14.4% alc., pH 3.66, TA
0.62, 413 cases, $68. Released October 1, 2016. This vineyard, planted in 2000, is located high on the
northwestern flank of Sonoma Mountain at 800 feet elevation and is exposed to cool air and fog from the
Pacific Ocean through the Petaluma Gap. Clones are predominantly Pommard with lesser amounts of Dijon
115 and 777. After feral fermentation, the wine underwent extended maceration before pressing and barreling.
Aged 19 months in French oak barrels, 62% new.
Moderately light reddish purple color in the glass. Aromas of
black cherry, mushroom and toasty oak. Intense attack of black cherry fruit with impressive palate presence.
Weight and weightlessness combined with generous intensity on the finish. The satiny texture seduces, the
tannins are well integrated, and the charming cherry fruit delights. When tasted the following day from a
previously opened and re-corked bottle, the fruit continued to charm and the wine had opened further. This
bottling needs more time in bottle to integrate the oak.
2013 Talisman Adastra Vineyard Los Carneros Pinot Noir
14.9% alc., 316 cases, $56. Released October
1, 2016. This vineyard, planted in 1994 in clay loam soils, is CCOF organically certified and farmed by Chris
Thorpe and Edwin Richards. Clones include 113, 115, 777, Swan, Pommard, Wädenswil 2A and suitcase
selections. Aged in French oak barrels, 62% new.
Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Nicely perfumed
with heady scents of blueberry, cherry, cola and subtle oak. An array of dark red and blue fruits are offered in a
mid weight styled wine, with a muscular tannic backbone but balancing acidity. The oak treatment peaks on the
finish that reveals a bit of alcoholic warmth. When tasted the following day from a previously opened and recorked
bottle, there was better oak and tannin integration, more polish, but still a hint of heat on the finish.
2013 Talisman Adastra Vineyard “Méthode Valise” Los Carneros Pinot Noir
14.9% alc., 20 cases, $125. Released
October 1, 2016. One barrel from a suitcase selection. CCOF
certified organic grapes planted in 1994. 100% whole cluster,
feral yeast fermentation, aged in a new French oak barrel.
Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Very shy nose
offering only oak spice aromas without fruit. A serious, age
worthy wine with a mid weight core of black cherry fruit
enhanced with flavors of savory herbs and exotic whole cluster driven
spices. Substantial tannins yet not indulgent, with remarkable length and
intensity on the finish. When tasted the following day from a previously
opened and re-corked bottle, the nose was still primary, but this wine
was clearly the most complex and interesting in the 2013 lineup. It will
definitely benefit from several years in the cellar.
Recently Tasted Oregon Pinot Noir
There was a time, not long ago, when Oregon Pinot Noir offered tremendous quality at reasonable prices.
Recently, however, the rapid increase in popularity of Oregon Pinot Noir has spurred producers to jack up
prices and in some cases elevate prices to levels that can only be interpreted as greedy. Although research
shows that consumers are trading up and premiumization is driving the market in people over the age of 55
(see chart below), there has to be a limit to that trend and consumers younger than 55 are not participating in
premiumization. Fortunately, the producers whose wines are reviewed here have continued to offer their wines
at affordable prices.
Anam Cara Cellars, Chehalem Mountains
After fifteen years, proprietors Sheila and Nick Nicholas have downsized their operation, but still produce a
very inviting range of limited production Pinot Noirs from the 36-acre Nicholas Vineyard. I have been a fan of
the wines for many years, reflected in the many articles written about this winery in the PinotFile. The winery’s
tasting room is located in downtown Newberg (check website for hours). Tasting by appointment is available at
the vineyard in Sherwood. Visit www.anamcaracellars.com.
2014 Anam Cara Nicholas Vineyard Chehalem Mountains Oregon Pinot Noir
187 cases, $37. Release
spring 2017. 20% Dijon 115, 20% Pommard, 20% Dijon 114, 20% Wädenswil and 20% Dijon 777. Aged in
French oak barrels, 22% new.
Moderately light reddish purple color in the glass. Highly engaging aromas of
cherry, forest floor, spice and rose petal. Mid weight flavors of cherry and raspberry please. A cheerful, bright
wine, with nice balance, the slightest bit of oak seasoning, and a bit of cherry persistence on the finish.
2014 Anam Cara Nicholas Vineyard Reserve Chehalem Mountains Oregon Pinot Noir
147 cases, $50.
Release spring 2017. 40% Dijon 777, 20% Dijon 115, 20% Pommard, 10% Dijon 114 and 10% Wädenswil.
Aged in French oak barrels, 35% new.
Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Soaring perfume of black
cherry, earthy flora and spice lead to a vibrant and expansive palate of dark cherry, raspberry and red currant
flavors framed by vigorous but complimentary tannins. Silk and satin in texture, with graded oak seasoning,
and impressive length on the juicy finish.
2014 Anam Cara Heather’s Reserve Chehalem Mountains Oregon Pinot Noir
14.4% alc., 50 cases, $70.
Release spring 2017. Nicholas Vineyard. 35% Dijon 114, 35% Dijon 115 and 30% Wädenswil. A selection of
specific rows and vines pruned for low yields and barrels that excelled before blending. An elegant expression
of the vineyard in this vintage. Aged in French oak barrels, 75% once-filled.
Moderately light reddish purple
color in the glass. Lovely perfume of crushed black cherries, raspberries and wood spice. Discreetly
concentrated flavors of cherry and cranberry with a submerged oak accent. Light on its feet, crisp and juicy,
with a suede texture and a vibrant finish. An elegant wine that will seduce with its aromatics and lithe
2014 Anam Cara Mark VIII Chehalem Mountains Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
50 cases, $70. Release spring 2017.
Nicholas Vineyard. A selection from reserve barrels with the highest percentage of new oak (40%) meant to be
a bold expression of the vineyard in this vintage. 50% Pommard and 50% Dijon 777.
Moderately dark reddish
purple color in the glass. Aromas of black cherry, black raspberry, spice and tobacco lead off. Full-bodied and
structured, with flavors of purple and black fruits. Sleek and velvety in the mouth, offering the slightest oak
imprint, and exhibiting a very long and mighty finish. A masculine, fruit-driven wine.
Big Table Farm, Yamhill-Carlton
Big Table Farm has received considerable and well-deserved notoriety of late. The farm and winery founded by
Clare Carver and Brian Marcy, Napa expatriates, was featured in a lengthy article in the October issue of
Sunset Magazine. I have raved about the wines going back to their first releases from the 2006 vintage, have
visited their farm twice and can say, “I knew them before they were famous.” Winemaker Brian focuses
primarily on Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris, crafted from premium vineyards located up and down the
Willamette Valley, several of which offer old plantings dating to the 1970s. In ten years time, production has
increased from 150 cases to almost 4,000 cases annually. The wines are produced in a winery on the property.
Brian prefers significant whole cluster and feral yeast fermentation, with punch downs by feet stomping and
minimal S02 additions.
Below are reviews of the 2014 and 2015 vintage wines from the 2016 fall release. The
2014 vintage wines are the first to be produced at the new winery. Tasting at the farm in Gaston is by
appointment only. Visit www.bigtablefarm.com.
2015 Big Table Farm Wirtz Vineyard Willamette Valley Edelzwicker
13.3% alc., 299 cases, $28. Label shows pear blossoms
from Wirtz Vineyard drawn by Clare. Old vine Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris and Riesling from Wirtz Vineyard
planted in the late 1960s. Barrel fermented in neutral oak to dryness and malolactic complete. Bottled unfined
Light golden yellow color in the glass. Aromas of cut apple and poached pear. Pleasant flavors
of apple, pear, and a hint of peach. Steely in character, with a slightly creamy mouthfeel and a dry finish. An all purpose
2015 Big Table Farm Wirtz Vineyard Willamette Valley Pinot Gris
13.2% alc., 159 cases, $32. Label shows pasture wild
flowers drawn by Clare. The clone is particularly dark and the orange color of the wine reflects this. Fermented
on the skins and stems, and finished fermenting in old French oak barrels. Bottled unfined and unfiltered.
Moderate pinkish orange color in the glass. Reserved aromas of peach, spice and terra-cotta. Unique in taste,
with flavors of strawberry, peach, yellow raisin and a hint of smoke and baking spice. Nicely balanced with a
2014 Big Table Farm Wirtz Vineyard Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., 367 cases, $48. Label shows Maple seeds
drawn by Clare. The original plantings were vines obtained from Charles Coury so their origin and clonal type is
unknown. 40 plus year-old vines. Bottled unfined and unfiltered.
Moderately light reddish purple color in the
glass. Welcoming aromas of cherry, cardamom spice and toasty oak. Light to mid weight flavors of cherry,
crystallized raspberry, cranberry, spice and smoke. Good energy and freshness, with surprising mid palate
presence, gentle tannins and some finishing goodness.
2014 Big Table Farm Cattrall Brothers Vineyard Eola-Amity Hills Oregon Pinot Noir
12.9% alc., 193
cases, $48. Label shows Tom Cattrall’s grape deliver truck drawn by Clare. Own-rooted Wädenswil clone
organically farmed. Bottled unfined and unfiltered.
Moderately light reddish purple color in the glass. Pleasant
perfume of crushed berries. Light to mid weight flavors of black cherry and plum with generous tannin somewhat
buffered by juicy acidity. Complimentary oak is supportive, and the tangy, cherry-driven finish satisfies.
2014 Big Table Farm Sunnyside Vineyard Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.7% alc., 348
cases, $48. Label shows roosterdrawn by Clare. This vineyard was
planted in 1971. Bottled unfined and unfiltered.
Moderate reddish purple
hue in the glass. Shy aromas of black cherry and apple fritter. A
middleweight fruit-driven wine with plenty of black cherry and black
raspberry flavor accented with savory herbs. Noticeable but not intrusive
tannins, with a comforting texture and a modestly long but vibrant finish.
This wine grows on you over time in the glass.
2014 Big Table Farm Yamhill-Carlton AVA Oregon Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., 228 cases, $48. Label shows Barn of
Yamhill County drawn by Clare. Addition of Kalita Vineyard combined with Coats and Whitney vineyards.
Bottled unfined and unfiltered.
Moderately light reddish purple color in the glass. Aromas and flavors of
blackberry and black cherry, showing inviting intensity and purpose that carries over to the exuberant finish.
Seamless, with supportive tannins and an earthy thread in the background.
La Crema, Windsor, California
Jackson Family Wines has made large inroads into the Willamette Valley in the past few years, acquiring
wineries (Gran Moraine formerly Solena Estate Winery, Penner-Ash, WillaKenzie Estate), vineyards (Zena
Crown, Maple Grove - unplanted), buildings and land acquired from Evergreen International Aviation in
McMinnville and the historic Taylor Hardware building in downtown McMinnville. Jackson Family Wines now
owns 1,525 acres of land in the Willamette Valley with more than 450 acres planted. Both the company’s La
Crema and Siduri brands based in California source grapes from its Oregon properties.
La Crema Vinera, meaning “best of the vine,” was the original name of this winery established in 1979. It has
been a training ground for several of California’s North Coast most notable winemakers and is currently under
the direction of Elizabeth Grant-Douglas. The La Crema Willamette Valley Pinot Noir is available widely at fine
wine retailers and restaurants. Visit www.LaCrema.com.
2014 La Crema Willamette Valley Oregon Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 24,511 cases, pH 3.66, TA 0.60,
$30. 98% estate fruit from eight vineyards. 100% de-stemmed, 3-day cold soak, fermented in opentop
tanks, aged 9 months in French oak barrels, 23% new.
Moderate reddish purple color in the
glass. Fruit aromas of black cherry and black raspberry are complimented by aromas of savory herbs
and toasty oak, with the oak showing up more over time in the glass. Middleweight flavors of black
cherry, black raspberry and blackberry are underlain with subtle smoky oak. Good intensity of flavor,
integrated ripe tannins, and a juicy finish driven by bracing acidity.
Lumos Wine Company, McMinnville
Dai Crisp and his spouse produce two Pinot Noirs from the home Wren Vineyard in Philomath, Rudolfo
Vineyard and the Temperance Hill Vineyard in the Eola-Amity Hills. Dai has been managing the Temperance
Hill Vineyard since 1999, a source of grapes for many of Oregon’s most notable wineries. The LUMOS tasting
room is located on the Crisp family farm in Wren, Oregon, 16 miles west of Corvallis. These two wines
consistently represent two of the most outstanding values in Oregon Pinot Noir today. Visit
2014 LUMOS Five Blocks Willamette Valley Oregon Pinot Noir
590 cases, $25.
purple color in the glass. The nose reveals itself slowly over time in the glass, eventually offering very
pleasant aromas of dark red fruits with cherry standing out. Black cherry flavor is at the core of this
mid weight styled wine, but added accents of spice, herbs and oak add interest. The tannins are mild,
making for easy approach ability, and the velvety texture is immensely satisfying. Along with the
textural interest, the finish attracts interest with its intensity.
2014 LUMOS Temperance Hill Vineyard Eola-Amity Hills Oregon Pinot Noir
190 cases, $45
Moderate reddish purple
color in the glass. An exceptional wine with very expressive
aromas of muddled black cherries and spicy oak. Sleek and
refined on the palate, with powerful black cherry and black
raspberry fruit flavors that saturate the mid palate and persist
through a very long finish. A wine of pedigree, with courageous
balance and an aim to please.
Temperance Hill Vineyard
This vineyard was first established in 1981 in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA. 97 acres are planted to Pinot Noir
(89%), Pinot Gris (4%), Gewürztraminer (4%) and Chardonnay (3%). The site is certified organic and is
farmed to Oregon Tilth organic standards, and is Food Alliance and Salmon Safe certified.
Temperance Hill Vineyard, at 650-890 feet elevation, is the highest vineyard producing fruit in the Eola-
Amity Hills and is a very cool site. It is bordered on two sides by Bethel Heights and Cristom. The
vineyard has been managed by highly respected grape grower Dai Crisp since 1999.
80% of the wineries that source grapes from Temperance Hill Vineyard make vineyard designates.
Notable sourcing wineries include Adelsheim, Bergstrom, Brooks, Chapter 24, Elizabeth Chambers, Elk
Cove, Evesham Wood, Lange, Lumos, Raptor Ridge, St. Innocent and Walter Scott. Mark Vlossak of St.
Innocent Winery considers Temperance Hill Vineyard to be at the top of Oregon vineyard hierarchy.
Saffron Fields Vineyard, Yamhill-Carlton
Chemical engineers, Dr. Angela Summers and Sanjeev Lahoti, hail from Houston, Texas. As they became wine
enthusiasts, they visited the Willamette Valley in 2003, met with a realtor and found a grass seed farm on
Laughlin Road in Yamhill near WillaKenzie Estate, Lénne Estate and Deux Verts Vineyard in the Yamhill-
Carlton AVA. They developed the property, traveling to the site several times a year, staying in a small shack on
the vineyard. They planted the first 12 acres of Pommard clone Pinot Noir in 2007, and added 12 more acres in
Today there are 32 acres of Pinot Noir (clones are Pommard, Wädenswil, 115, 667, 777, and “828”) and 3
acres of Chardonnay (clones 76 and 548). The vineyard is dry farmed using sustainable practices (LIVE
certified). Their initial grapes were bought by winemaker Tony Rynders who became their winemaker. The barn
on the property was disassembled and the wood salvaged to be used in a tasting room constructed on site.
The architecturally alluring and serene tasting room opened in 2013 and contains the owners’ personal
collection of contemporary art and houses art exhibits as well. A Japanese-styled garden, orchard, vegetable
garden and sculpture garden were added. The tasting room is open daily. Visit www.saffronfields.com.
2014 Saffron Fields Vineyard Willamette Valley Oregon Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., 300 cases, $40. Release
November 1, 2016. Estate fruit plus sourced fruit to reflect the region including five of the six sub AVAs of the
Willamette Valley. Aged in French oak barrels, 30% new.
Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. The nose is rather exuberant with aromas of blackberry, black raspberry and toast. Silky in the mouth, with flavors of
darker berries and cake spices. Forward and easy to drink in a light to mid weight style, with soft tannins and a
2014 Saffron Fields Vineyard Yamhill-Carlton Oregon Pinot Noir
13.8% alc., 700 cases, $55. Release
November 1, 2016. 100% sustainably farmed Saffron Fields Vineyard. Clones are Pommard, Wädenswil, 115
and 777. Aged in French oak barrels, 39% new.
Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. Appealing melange of
dark fruit aromas emerge slowly over time in the glass. Attention-grabbing black fruit
presence and length with inviting contributions of earth, iron and oak notes. The velvety mouthfeel is
particularly engaging, the fine grain tannins are bold yet compatible, and the wine doesn’t hold back on the
2014 Saffron Fields Vineyard Heritage Clones Yamhill-Carlton Oregon Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., 500 cases, $45. Release November 1,
2016. 100% estate grown Pommard and Wädenswil clones. Aged in
French oak barrels, 33% new.
Moderately dark reddish purple color in
the glass. Leading off are aromas of blackberry jam, earthy flora and a
hint of vanilla. A glorious mid weight plus core of dark fruits arrive on the
attack with luscious richness and follow through with a well-sustained
mid palate, finishing long and generous. Despite the generous sap, the
wine is light on its feet with submerged tannins and exquisite balance.
Still highly pleasurable the following day from a previously opened and
WillaKenzie Estate, Yamhill-Carlton
Jackson Family Wines acquired WillaKenzie Estate in the Yamhill-Carlton District of the Willamette Valley this
year so the wines below were crafted by the winemaking team headed by Thibaud Mandet. The winery was
founded by Bernard and Ronni Lacroute who released their first wines in 1995, produced at their modern
gravity flow winery. The name WillaKenzie was derived from the name of the sedimentary soils common to the
Yamhill-Carlton region. Total production, 100% estate grown, is about 20,000 cases annually. The winery’s
nicely-appointed tasting room is open daily. Visit www.willakenzie.com.
2014 WillaKenzie Estate Gisèle
14.2% alc., pH 3.70, TA 0.48, 7,500 cases, $30. Released September 2016.
A blend of clones grown on the WillaKenzie estate and is intended to be approachable early. This wine is
named after Bernard Lacroute’s sister.
Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Aromas of cherry, exotic
spices, crumb cake and earthy flora. Cherry-driven in a feminine style that is vibrantly flavored with crisp
acidity, and a lip-smacking finish with some persistent cherry goodness.
2014 WillaKenzie Estate Pierre Léon Yamhill-Carlton Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., 3,500
cases, $55. The 25-acre Pierre Léon Vineyard was planted in 1996 to clones 113, 114, 115 and 777. The wine
is named after founder Bernard Lacroute’s father, it is a more masculine and structured expression of this
Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. The nose is somewhat primary, offering only
scents of savory herbs. Much more expressive on the palate, with a mid weight plus core of black cherry fruit.
Structured, yet suave, with exquisite balance and a giving, but not exceptional finish. This wine has a strong
physique and is keeping back some of its charm at present and needs more time in bottle. I think this wine will
be more glorious in another 2-3 years.
Bronco to Launch America’s First Wine with Helix Stopper Bronco Wine company will
begin closing wines under its Red Truck® brand using the innovative Helix packaging, the world’s first cork
stopper and glass bottle with easy-to-open and re-close technology. Helix was developed by Amorim and
Owens-Illinois, the world leaders in cork and glass packaging. Bronco’s Red Truck® will be the first US wine to
employ this innovation. The ergonomically designed stopper made from cork and a glass bottle with an internal
thread in the neck allow for twist opening without the need of a corkscrew and re-sealable convenience.
Purple Hands New Dundee Winery Purple Hands Winery has opened a 5,000-square-foot tasting
room and winery as part of the town of Dundee’s revitalization. Owner Cody Wright, whose father is Pinot Noir
icon Ken Wright and the stepdad of winemaker Rollin Soles (Argyle, ROCO), considers himself born with
grape-stained fingers, hence the name of his wine label. The structure is painted a shade of red reflecting the
red Jory soils in the Dundee Hills region. The Dundee City Council has formulated an urban renewal plan to
improve the town’s main street with revamped storefronts and a promenade that will be wine tourist, bicyclist
and pedestrian friendly. The improvements are coinciding with the Highway 99 bypass project that will hopefully
reduce the traffic bottleneck in downtown Dundee. Purple Hands produces about 5,700 cases a year, primarily
single-vineyard Pinot Noirs. Read more at www.oregonwinepress.com/purple-hands-new-face-of-dundee.
WillaKenzie Estate Joins Jackson Family Wines Portfolio This month it was announced
that Jackson Family Wines acquired WillaKenzie Estate, a top Willamette Valley producer of Pinot Noir and
Pinot Gris.The winery was named after the predominant sedimentary soil type on the Estate. 13 different Pinot
Noir clones are planted in the estate vineyards as well as plantings of Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Gamay Noir,
Pinot Meunier and Dijon clones of Chardonnay. The transaction includes the WillaKenzie Estate brand, a
gravity-flow winery, an hillside hospitality center with expansive views, 100 planted acres at the Estate in the
Yamhill-Carlton AVA, and 25 planted acres of Pinot Noir at the Jory Hills Vineyard in the Dundee Hills.
Anderson Valley Winegrowers Association Announces 2017 Schedule Four events
will be offered in 2017: Two Holiday Passport Weekends the first two Saturdays and Sundays in December;
12th Annual International Alsace Varietals Festival, February 25-26, 2017; 20th Annual Anderson Valley Pinot
Noir Festival, May 19-21, 2017; 5th Annual Anderson Valley Barrel Tasting Weekend, July 22-23, 2017.
Additional information and tickets for all these events can be found at www.avwines.com.
Resveratrol Pill on the Horizon As reported in the Wall Street Journal (August 2, 2016) and other
news publications, scientists are trying to put the polyphenol, resveratrol, into a pill form that would duplicate
the observed health effects found in laboratories on yeast worms, fruit flies and mice. Studies to date have
found that to get a beneficial effect from resveratrol, a very large daily dose equivalent to about 1,000 bottles of
red wine are required and this dose produces side effects such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and kidney
problems in human subjects. Researchers in Australia are looking at increasing the potency of resveratrol at a
moderate dose level by combining it with other compounds normally found in wine to duplicate the health-
enhancing natural synergy between resveratrol and other wine compounds. Stateside, Jupiter Orphan
Therapeutics is developing a formulation of resveratrol that prevents it from being broke down in the liver,
increasing its bioavailability. There is no current evidence that available dietary supplements of resveratrol have
any health benefit.
Preference for White Wine Linked to a Specific Gene An interesting post by The Academic
Wino at www.academicwino.com reviewed and analyzed a study published last year in the European Journal
of Human Genetics. The study of genotypes of 3885 individuals suggested that a preference for white wine
may at least in part be controlled by the HLA-DOA gene and this preference may be stronger in women than in
men (two times greater in this study). No associations were found for red wine preference. The authors of the
study speculated that the preference may occur through olfactory recognition since it is known that there are
associations between HLA and preference for certain odors.
Differences in Oak Sensitivity Can Influence Winemaker Styles of Pinot Noir Tim
Hanni, Master of Wine, the author of Why You Like the Wines You Like, maintains that winemakers who
understand their own sensitivities to oak as well as differences in their consumers’ sensitivities are more
prepared when buying barrels and blending wines. For some people, oak is a problem because it contains high
levels of tannins that are astringent. Supertasters or hypertasters make up 25% of the population and are
hypersensitive to basic tastes and do not like strong tannins. Nontasters are more forgiving of oak tannins.
Pali Wine Co. New Tasting Room in San Diego Pali Wine Co. is opening a tasting room on
October 19 in San Diego’s Little Italy district located at 2130 India Street. Grand opening festivities will be on
the weekend of November 5, 2016. To accompany the wines, a creative small-plate menu will be offered. Pali
Wine Co. also has tasting rooms in Lompoc at the winery and in Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone. Established in
2005, Pali Wine Co. produces vineyard designate and appellation specific Pinot Noir and Chardonnay sourced
from vineyards in California and Oregon. Winemakers are Aaron Walker and consultant Kenneth Juhasz. Visit
Hyde de Villaine Acquires Property HdV bought the 33.5-acre site in southern Napa Valley that
hosts its winery. The purchase includes 24 acres of surrounding vineyards. HdV is a partnership between
grower Larry Hyde and Domaine de la Romanée-Conti’s Aubert de Villaine. The winery will also continue
producing wines from the Hyde Vineyard located in Napa Carneros.
Very Cool Wine Opener The vintner’s standing wine opener available at www.potterybarn.com is an
extravagant ($299) device for opening wine but its industrial gear design is very appealing.
Evening Land Vineyards Now Evening Land With the 2014 vintage, Evening Land, formerly
Evening Land Vineyards began exclusively producing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from the 82-acre Seven
Springs Vineyard in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA. The 2014 vintage was the 30th anniversary vintage from Seven
Springs Vineyard and marks the first vintage with Rajat Parr and Sashi Moorman as the sole stewards of the
vineyard. New labels were designed by Michael Kirts.
In 2014 an Anden Pinot Noir was produced in small amounts from old phylloxera affected vines and is available
only as part of a 12-bottle case including the winery's other 3 top bottlings: La Source Pinot Noir, La Source
Chardonnay and Summum Chardonnay. The Estate series of wines included Seven Springs Pinot Noir, Seven
Springs Chardonnay and Seven Springs Gamay Noir. Visit www.elvvines.com.
Wine Tasting Olympics The 43rd Annual Professional and Amateur Wine Tasting Olympics will be held once again this year at Chicago's oldest wine bar, Geja's Café. This is the oldest event of its kind in the nation. Both experts and amateurs are invited on Sunday, November 6, 2016, at 1:00 p.m. for a chance to win an engraved crystal decanter. Contestants are challenged to identify the grape, place of origin and vintage. Entrance fee is $30. RSVP to Geja's Café at 773-281-9101. Geja's Café was recently voted the nation's Best Romantic Restaurant by USA Today readers.
Are Wine Critics, Winemakers and Somms at Increased Risk for Cancer?
In the past two years, two prominent wine writers died from cancer. Oregon wine writer and critic Cole
Danehower died in 2015 from pancreatic cancer and Greg Walter of the Wine Spectator and Pinot Report
passed away in 2016 from colon cancer. There have been several other wine professionals in the news who
died in recent years as well including Willamette Valley Vineyards winemaker Forest Klaffke (throat cancer,
2012), Poetic Wines owner and winemaker Katy Lovell (pancreatic cancer, 2013), Barossa Valley Australia
winemaker Bob McLean (liver cancer, 2015), Burgundy vintner Ann-Claude Leflaive (cancer, 2015) and Dry
Creek Valley winemaker John Pedroncelli (cancer, 2015).
Of course, these isolated cases do not document a significantly increased risk of dying from cancer among
wine professionals. In the United States alone in 2016, there is expected to be 595,690 cancer deaths
reflecting the fact that cancer is a prevalent cause of death. However, the increased exposure to alcohol
among wine critics, winemakers and sommeliers compared to many in the general population suggests that
they may be at heightened risk of dying from cancer.
Since I taste wine almost daily, I wondered about the health risk. It has been well established since the 1980s
that alcohol is a carcinogen at high levels of alcohol intake at several sites in the human body including the
mouth, throat, larynx, esophagus, stomach, colon, rectum, pancreas, liver, lung and breast. There is a dose response
curve, meaning that the risk increases the more alcohol people consume on a regular basis with
smoking tobacco greatly adding to the risk for all cancers, particularly throat and mouth cancer. The quantity of
alcohol consumed matters most for men’s cancer risk, the frequency of drinking is more important for women’s
risk according to Dr. Arthur Klatsky, a renowned health and alcohol researcher.
I asked Curtis Ellison, M.D., Professor of Medicine and Public Health at Boston University and one of the
country’s top authorities on the relationship of alcohol and health, if he knew of a study that showed an
increased risk of cancer among wine writers and critics, and he did not. A.H. Finkel, M.D., who has written
about alcohol and health, told me in good humor that assuming judicious spitting, the only two
risks among wine tasters are (1) dissolution of dental enamel, presumably by acidic wine being held in the
mouth for long periods of time (and exacerbated by fastidious individuals brushing their teeth soon after
slurping and swishing), and (2) stained neckties (a declining risk since hardly anyone wears neckties any more).
He also mentioned that like all critics, those of wine share the risk from enraged subjects of their trade.
Research published in 2015 in the Australian Dental Journal has shown that acid in wine can expose teeth to
erosion. This study found that just 10 one-minute episodes of wine tasting normally
experienced by wine tasters was enough to erode tooth enamel, with teeth becoming vulnerable within a few
minutes of wine acid exposure. Dr. Sarbin Ranjitar of the University of Adelaide who conducted the study said,
“With professional wine tasters and winemakers tasting anywhere from 20 to 150 wines per day, and wine
judges tasting up to 200 wines per day during wine competitions, this represents a significant risk to their oral
health. Our results reinforce the need for people working the profession to take early preventive measures, in
consultation with their dentists, to minimize the risks to their teeth.” These measures include not brushing teeth
the morning of a wine tasting or if brushing is required, use chewing gum to stimulate saliva which is naturally
protective. After wine tasting, do not brush the teeth as that may damage the enamel, but rinse with water and
when it is time to clean the teeth, put some toothpaste on a finger and gently clean the teeth.
I tested my own blood alcohol level on several occasions after tasting with spitting a series of 8 to 12 wines with multiple passes
through each wine (my usual tasting regimen). My blood alcohol level was less than 0.08% on every occasion.
However, I believe those critics who taste large numbers of wine at one sitting, even with judicious spitting, will
exceed that blood alcohol level. Spitting does not insulate one from alcohol absorption for it is proven that there
is some absorption of alcohol through the mucous membranes of the mouth (alcohol is soluble in both water
and saliva and moves easily and quickly within 10 to 20 seconds across membranes), and some alcohol is
absorbed as vapor through the lungs. Fortunately, alcohol dries the mucous membranes of the mouth, causing
the secretion of mucous that protects against absorption.
The jury is out since their is no scientific research to implicate an increased risk of cancer among those who do
extensive wine tasting appropriately. One thing is for sure, however, as Dr. Finkel noted, like all critics, those of
wine share the risk from enraged subjects of their trade. This stress is undoubtedly unhealthy.
Did this short discourse pique your interest about the risks of cancer among wine drinkers? Read further if you
There were several major studies published in 2015 regarding the association of alcohol consumption with the
risk of cancer, and the papers were critically reviewed by the International Forum on Alcohol Research.
The first study was published in the British Medical Journal and titled “Light to moderate intake of alcohol,
drinking patterns, and risk of cancer: results from two prospective US cohort studies.” This study involved
88,084 women and 47, 881 men participating in the Nurses’ Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-up
Study, followed until 2010. The Forum considered this a well-done analysis of two very large cohort studies and
felt that this was an important study presenting data that is of relevance to individuals and agencies providing
advice regarding alcohol consumption. That said, the Forum pointed out that all dietary and lifestyle factors
shown to increase the risk of cancer were not included in the report. The authors of the study concluded that
light to moderate drinking (up to two drinks per day) is associated with a minimal increased risk of overall
cancer. For men who have never smoked, risk of alcohol related cancers is not appreciably increased for light
and moderate drinking. For women who have never smoked, risk of alcohol related cancers (mainly breast
cancer) increases even within the range of up to one alcoholic drink a day. For both genders, there seemed to
be a dose-response increase in risk of cancer with larger amounts of alcohol. Heavy drinking markedly
increased the risk of upper airway and digestive tract cancers. Smoking was identified as an even more
important risk factor than alcohol for cancers.
The second study was published in Permanente Journal by chief author Arthur Klatsky, M.D., titled “Alcohol
intake, beverage choice, and cancer: A cohort study in a large Kaiser Permanente population.” The results of
this very large study indicated that heavy drinking (equal to or greater than 3 drinks a day) was associated with
an increased risk of upper airway/digestive tract, lung, female breast, colorectal and melanoma cancers, with light to moderate
drinking related to all but lung cancer. No significantly increased risk was seen for 12 other cancer
sites: stomach, pancreas, liver, brain, thyroid, kidney, bladder, prostate, ovary, uterine body, cervix, and
hematologic system. For all cancers combined there was a progressive relationship with all levels of alcohol
drinking. Alcoholic beverage choice played no major independent role.
A third study was published in the British Medical Journal, titled “Alcohol consumption and site-specific cancer
risk: a comprehensive dose-response meta-analysis.” The authors of the study concluded that heavy drinking
(the study defined one typical drink as 12.5 g or less per day) of >50 g/day of alcohol increased the risk for
cancers of the upper airway/digestive tract, lung, female breast, and colon and rectum; for those neoplasms
there was a clear dose-risk relationship. Significant increases were reported for heavy drinking for cancers of
the stomach, liver, gallbladder, pancreas and lung, but the risk ratio for most of these were lower. There was an
indication of a positive association between alcohol consumption and risk of melanoma and prostate cancer.
A fourth study was published in Cancer Causes Control titled “Incident cancers attributable to alcohol
consumption in Germany, 2010.” The authors found that there was an apparent increase in the population
attributable risk of cancer for men for upper airway/digestive tract and colon and rectum, but decreases from
alcohol for liver cancer. For women, there was a decrease in colon and rectal and liver cancer from alcohol, but
increases for breast and upper airway/digestive tract cancers.
As the Forum points out, all these studies describe an increased risk for many cancers among heavy drinkers,
especially cancers of the upper airway and digestive tract. Even with the data from these studies, we still
cannot state reliable threshold levels of drinking that increase the risk of cancer. Most reports on alcohol and
cancer are flawed because they lack information on confounding, drinking patterns, beverage choice and the
effects of under reporting of alcohol intake. The studies also omit a discussion of total mortality versus cancer
mortality. One additional complicating factor is that published studies offer varying definitions of light,
moderate and heavy drinking making results more difficult to compare and threshold levels to be determined.
One more interesting study bears mention. A report published in 2016 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine
found that drinkers who exercised 150 minutes a week reduced their chances of dying due to any alcohol
related illness. In physically active groups, only harmful levels of drinking (more than 39 standard drinks a week
for men and 11-29 standard drinks a week for women) were associated with an increased risk of cancer death
and death from any cause. So although the drinking of an average of 2.4 standard drinks a day for men and
1.6 standard drinks a day for women was associated with a 36% greater risk of death from cancer, the risk was
substantially lessened or offset by physical activity.
In summary, the words of Dr. Klatsky should be noted, “For most persons older than age 50 years, the overall
benefits of lighter drinking, especially the reduced risk of atherothrombotic disese, outweigh possible cancer
risk. For young persons, the possible increased cancer risk at moderate intake should be part of an individual’s
estimation of the overall risk-benefit equation for alcohol drinking.”