PinotFile: 6.55 March 17, 2008
- Pinot Paradise on Horizon
- Pinot Noir Summit
- Aromatic & Flavor Elements of Pinot Noir
- Open Your Wallet for Pinot Pleasure
- Pinot Noir Events to Stroke Your Passion
- Pinot Briefs
- Millenials Overwhelmed by Wine
- The Long and Winding Pinot Road, Part VII
Pinot Paradise on Horizon
Each March I look forward to this region’s Pinot Paradise Weekend. Pinot Noir has
found a home in the Santa Cruz Mountains. A hardy brotherhood of passionate
Pinot Noir producers are fueled by mountain spirit and are bringing many distinguished
wines to the marketplace. Production is still very small (around 1,200
acres cultivated), and most of the wine is eagerly snapped up by locals in the
know, but the Pinot Paradise Weekend says to the world, “Come celebrate with
us, meet our dedicated and eclectic vintners, travel our charming back roads, and
taste our juicy Pinot Noirs which are heaven in a bottle.”
The roots of winegrowing in the Santa Cruz Mountains
go back over 150- years when George Jarvis planted
wine grapes in the Vine Hill area of Santa Cruz County.
Many Santa Cruz Mountain winemaking pioneers followed
and their names reflect a storied history lesson
of California Pinot Noir: Charles Le Franc (New Almaden
Vineyards), Leland Stanford (Palo Alto Vineyard),
Agoston Haraszthy (Crystal Springs), Paul Masson
(Paul Masson Champagne Company), Martin Ray (Mt Eden, photo right),
David Bruce (David Bruce Winery), Dick Graff (Mt Eden), Merry Edwards (Mt
Eden), and Randall Grahm (Bonny Doon).
The Santa Cruz Mountains Viticultural Appellation was federally approved in 1981
and was one of the first AVAs to be defined by geophysical, altitudinal, and climatic
factors. The appellation includes the Santa Cruz Mountain range extending
from Half Moon Bay in the north to Mount Madonna north of Gilroy in the south.
The east and west boundaries are defined by elevation, including mountainous
land above 400 feet on the western side, and from 400 to 800 feet on the eastern
side. The squiggly outline of the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA reflects the fog line
that surrounds the mountains (see map, page 2).
This large appellation rambles across 380,000 acres in three counties: Santa Cruz
County to the west, Santa Clara County to the east, and San Mateo County to the
north. Santa Clara County has the most vineyard acreage. Most vineyards are 1-
to 20-acres. Beauregard Vineyards, the largest grower, manages about 100 acres.
Because of the limited number of vines, many wineries source grapes from outside
the appellation, but the Santa Cruz Mountains fruit remains the most prized.
The location of the Santa Cruz Mountains allows for a coastal climate very cozy for growing Pinot Noir.
Warm days, cool nights, coastal fog in the morning, and soft breezes in the afternoon lead to complex
and balanced flavors, food-friendly acidity, and age-worthiness. Out of the total acreage planted in
the Santa Cruz Mountains, only 25% or 300+ acres are planted to Pinot Noir. Slightly more acreage is
devoted to Chardonnay, not surprising because the terroir on the western side of the mountains is
ideal for both Burgundian varietals. There are upwards of 75 Pinot Noir vineyards in the Santa Cruz
Mountains, primarily on the western mountain ridges above Monterey Bay, closest to the coast and
cooling fog influence. Located at elevations of 800 to 2,600 feet, most are under 15 acres in size.
The soils are varied throughout the appellation, and include decomposed rock, clay, loam and limestone.
The overriding effect in most areas is a fresh, mineral character in the wines. Although the soil
type is not uniform, the ocean fog influence is consistent and ties the appellation together. The Pinot
Noir vineyards in the Santa Cruz Mountains can be grouped into five sub-regions: Watsonville area
(fog rushes into the valley “like a freight train” during the extreme fog events of summer), Corralitos
(fog washes in and out like the tides, rising higher and staying longer in some areas), The Summits
(west and south facing summit vineyards experience the cooling effects of lower fog events even when
the fog has not risen to their heights), Ben Lomond (an area that faces the coast and receives the first
ocean fog without it ever crossing much land resulting in dramatic temperature and moisture variations),
and Portola Valley (in and out tidal motion of the fog). Photo below is a view from Silver Mountain
Winery towards Monterey Bay on a chilly morning with fog apparent in the distance.
At the 2008 San Francisco Chronicle International Wine Competition, Santa Cruz
Mountains wineries were awarded seven Gold, seven Silver, and five Bronze Medals
for Pinot Noir made from appellation grapes. Gold Medals for appellation wines were
won by Soquel Vineyards, Storrs Winery, Windy Oaks, and Hallcrest Vineyards. Hallcrest
Vineyards won four Gold and two Silver Medals for wines from several different
appellation vineyards. (For a complete list, go to www.vascm.org).
The Pinot Noirs from the Santa Cruz Mountains have lovely aromatics, luscious red and dark fruit flavors,
easily approachable tannins, lively acidity, and are usually packaged in a light- to mediumbodied
sensual style so juicy you can “nibble” at them. The Pinot Noirs are very modern in style with
generous value-to-price ratios. The wines deserve every pinotphile’s serious interest. I recently
tasted a number of Pinot Noir releases from the Santa Cruz Mountains and my notes are included in
the following pages. The wines from this appellation remain a relative secret, but if you visit and taste,
you will be thoroughly charmed by the wines and the dedicated vignerons in the mountains. The region
is still populated with eccentric and Bohemian folks who have plenty of interest in the other crop
you can smoke rather than the one you drink, but the wine populace is more than welcoming.
The 4th Annual Pinot Paradise weekend is Saturday, March 29 and Sunday, March 30,
2008. On Saturday, drive the mountains on a self-guided tour of participating wineries and enjoy barrel
samples and library wines as part of Pathway to Pinot Paradise. Be forewarned, arm yourself with
a map (available from the Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrower’s Association) as winery signage is practically
nonexistent (the locals won’t allow it and often remove any posted signage), and GPS systems
are inaccurate and unreliable. Cell phones are usually worthless. Plan on visiting three, maybe four
wineries a day at the most as you will inevitably be delayed on the narrow, zig-zaging roads, miss a
turn, or become hopelessly lost. Allow plenty of time to travel between wineries, bring sufficient water
along, and consider a designated driver. Despite the challenges, you will find your excursion a
memorable one and you will be well-received upon your arrival. This is one of the few remaining
wine country outposts where you will never see a limousine and the tasting room staffs are actually
eager to see you. It is an adventure well-taken. Suggested travel itineraries are available on the event
website (below). Participating wineries include: Alfaro Family Vineyards, Bargetto Winery, Beauregard
Vineyards, Burrell School Vineyards, Byington Winery & Vineyard, Domenico Wines, Hallcrest
VIneyards, Hunter Hill Vineyard & Winery, Nicholson Vineyards, Pleasant Valley Vineyards, Roudon-
Smith Winery, Sarah's Vineyard, Silver Mountain Vineyards, Sonnet Wine Cellars, Soquel Vineyards,
Thomas Fogarty, Windy Oaks Estate Vineyards & Winery and Wines of Vine Hill. Sunday morning, the
Technical Sessions at Villa Regusa in downtown Campbell from 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM will feature experts
discussing the growing and making of Pinot Noir in the Santa Cruz Mountains (may include some
tasting), Lunch is included at a nearby restaurant. The Grand Cruz Tasting of Santa Cruz Mountains
Pinot Noirs will be from 2:00 to 5:00 PM after the Technical Sessions. 35 wineries will be pouring their
latest releases in a casual walk-around format and food will be served from local restaurants. Wineries
participating in addition to those listed above include Ahlgren, Black Ridge Vineyards, Cinnabar
Vineyards & Winery, Clos LaChance Wines, Clos Tita, Heart O’ The Mountain, Kings Mountain Winery,
Loma Prieta Winery, McHenry Winery, Mount Eden Vineyards, Muccigrosso Vineyards, Pelican Ranch
Winery, Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard, Sarah’s Vineyard, Storrs Winery, Testarossa Vineyards, Trout
Gulch, and Woodside Vineyards. Individual tickets are $25 for Pathway to Pinot Paradise, $65 for the
Technical Sessions, and $55 (in advance) for the Grand Cruz Tasting. Passes for all events during the
weekend are $125 per person. For tickets and information, phone 831-685-8403 or consult the Santa
Cruz Mountains Winegrower’s Association website at www.scmwa.com.
Burrell School Vineyards & Winery
Dave and Annie Moulton craft multiple varietals
from estate and sourced vineyards in the Santa Cruz Mountains. A historic red schoolhouse dating to
1854 marks the property on Summit Road.
2003 Burrell School Veranda Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
14.6% alc., 675 cases. The Veranda Vineyard sits 800 feet above Monterey Bay
and is planted to Pommard and Dijon clones. Aged in 50% new French oak.
aromas of black cherry, herbs and nicely toasted oak. Black cherry, anise and oak
flavors carry the attack. A burly wine with a woody edge throughout. Soft in texture
and finishing with still lively acidity.
2003 Burrell School Estate Reserve Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
alc., 325 cases. The first estate bottling. Pommard and Dijon clones, aged in 70%
new French oak.
The nose features bright red scents of red cherries, cranberry, and
rhubarb. Sweet tart black cherry and berry flavors are encased in fine French oak
throughout. Better integration of oak here than in the above wine. Earthy and
woodsy with a mildly dry finish that features refreshing acidity. Very primal.
Burrell School Vineyards & Winery is located at 24060 Summit Road, Los Gatos.
5,000 cases produced. Tasting room with beautiful view of estate vineyard and
distant mountain peaks is open weekends. The website is www.burrellschool.com. 831-439-9238.
Dave has been a driving force in the Pinot Paradise event . If you visit, ask to see his tractor collection.
David and Britta Estrada farm a one-acre estate vineyard at 900 feet in the Scott’s Valley
area of the Santa Cruz Mountains. The vineyard is meticulously managed by hand and all 700 vines are
pruned by David, who is also the winemaker and cellar master. As a practicing dentist, his patients
are always startled to see his purple fingers under his gloves during harvest. Production is tiny with
only 75 to 150 cases of Estate Pinot Noir and a few hundred cases of a Pinot Noir Cuvee from purchased
Santa Cruz Mountain grapes. The Estate Pinot Noir is aged for two years in 75% new French oak.
2003 Clos Tita Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
Very attractive scents of bright red cherry, sawdust
and cinnamon spice. Delicious cherry core with cranberry, raspberry, and earthy notes. Still has some
tannins on a moderately lengthy finish and needs food to blunt the tannins.
Clos Tita Winery is located at 4 Kendall Lane, Santa Cruz. The wines are sold directly with limited
retail distribution. The website is www.clos-tita.com. 831-439-9235.
Paul and Amy Kemp have an estate home and vineyard at 2,600 feet in the Santa
Cruz Mountains with sweeping views of the Monterey Bay coastline. Their 3-acre vineyard was
planted in 2003 with primarily Dijon clones of Pinot Noir and is laid out in front of their home. Paul produced
his own inaugural wine in 2003 from purchased grapes using a consulting winemaker for guidance.
Essentially the wine was made in his garage. Both his 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir
won Gold Medals at the 2006 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. When I visited last year at
this time he had just obtained a permit to built a winery on his property and hopes to produce 500
cases of Pinot Noir in the future from primarily estate grapes. The Loma Prieta label depicts a whimsical
magician holding a glass of wine and flying over Mount Loma Prieta with an earthquake fault
2006 Loma Prieta Winery Saveria Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 195 cases, $50. Gold Medal, 2008 San Francisco Chronicle
Wine Competition ($35 and over category).
Confected cherry aromas. Plenty of well-spiced cherries on
the palate with coffee and herbal highlights and an appealing soft texture. A well-bred Pinot that still has
some tannins to shed on the long, stylish finish.
Loma Prieta Winery is located at 26985 Loma Prieta Way, Los Gatos. The wines may be ordered on
the website at www.lomaprietawinery.com. A tasting room should be open this summer. 408-353-
McHenry Vineyard Owner Henry McHenry (not a misprint) is an anthropology professor at
the University of California Davis. A soft-spoken and reserved man, his quiet charm is reflected in the
personality of his Pinot Noirs. The 2-acre McHenry Vineyard on Bonny Doon Road was planted by the
McHenry family in 1972, but succumbed to Pierce’s Disease in 1992. Replanting commenced in 1997,
the last summer of Chancellor (University California Santa Cruz) Dean McHenry life who was an original
partner in the venture. The vines are planted on a sandy mountain slope at 1,800 feet, five miles
from the Pacific Ocean.
The McHenry Pinot Noirs are quite unique in today’s market which is flushed with “Frankenpinots,”
big, extracted, alcoholic and generously oak-infused Pinot Noirs. The McHenry style is one of elegance
and understatement. The wines are examples of pure Pinot Noir unencumbered by alcohol reduction,
toasted oak, and super ripe grape flavors. There is a purity of Pinot Noir in the McHenry
wines that I rarely encounter in wines made in California. Priced ridiculously low considering the
quality, the average consumer may scratch their head after drinking these wines and wonder why I
make such a fuss over them. The reason is, these Pinot Noirs personify delicacy, grace and power
without weight. They force you to seek out subtleties rather than bludgeon you with a fruit onslaught.
2004 McHenry Santa Cruz Mountains Estate Bottled Swan Clone Pinot Noir
13.2% alc., 62 cases, $28. From a Swan clone block of the
McHenry Vineyard. The clone is planted on its own roots in the nonirrigated
vineyard. Aged as the above wine.
Very light rose in color.
Demure aromas of crushed strawberries, roses, spice and subtle new oak.
A silky entry of red berry fruits, especially wild strawberry enhanced by
Xmas spice, with a light and elegant format ending with perky acidity. A
perfect food wine with lighter fare.
2004 McHenry Santa Cruz Mountains Estate Bottled Pinot Noir
13.1% alc., 320 cases, $22. Aged two years in Francois Freres French
Very light rose in color. A little deeper pitched aromas with
more cherry. Slightly more fruit intensity on the attack with delightful
tangy cherries, wood spice and herbs. A perfect example of “power in a
velvet glove” that makes wines from Chambolle-Musigny so sensual and
McHenry Vineyard wines are sold thru email on the website at www.mchenryvineyard.com. 530-756-
3202. I don’t know if older vintages are served in anthropology class.
Muccigrosso Vineyards This is a small family-run operation headed by Michael and Lynne
Muccigrosso. They are long-time residents of the Santa Cruz Mountains who first planted vines in the
early 1980s. Jacob Kauffman is the winemaker and David Agretelis the vineyard manager.
2005 Muccigrosso Vineyards Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., $35.
profile with wet leaf, minerals, flowers and shy stone fruits. Light-bodied and soft in texture with a cherry
and earthy sole. A decent but not exceptional wine with dusty tannins and a mildly dry finish..
Muccigrosso Vineyards is located at21450 Bear Creek Rd, Los Gatos. The wines are sold on the website
Varner Wine Twins Jim and Bob Varner quietly farm a 14-acre vineyard in Portola Valley which
was planted in 1980. They helped out during the 1980s at Thomas Fogerty Winery where they learned
the business. Since their first wine was released in 1996, Bob has handled the winemaking and Jim directs
the sales and marketing. The winery is located on the estate vineyard property.
2005 Varner Spring Ridge Vineyard Hidden Block Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., $42.
Light strawberry red
in color. Appealing perfume of strawberries, baking spice, herbs and oak. Red Pinot fruits are framed
with deft oak and grassy notes. Light on its feet and downy in texture, the style is straight-forward, elegant
Varner Wine is located at 648 Menlo Ave., Suite 5, Menlo Park. The wines are sold on the website in
half and full case lots at www.varnerwine.com. Varner has become more well known for their Chardonnays
which are superb. Three separate bottlings come from the estate vineyard and a valuepriced
Foxglove label Chardonnay is sourced from Edna Valley. 650-321-4895.
Windy Oaks Estate Vineyard & Winery Proprietors Jim and Judy Schultze are escapees
from the high-tech world who have used their twenty years of interest and experience in artisanal
winemaking and winegrowing to create Windy Oaks Estate in the Burgundian monopole model. Pinot
Noir and Chardonnay are produced from a 15-acre vineyard located at 1,000 feet on a ridge overlooking
the town of Corralitos and the Monterey Bay beyond.
2005 Windy Oaks Estate Limited Release Wood Tank Fermented Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., 26 cases, $44. Aged 22 months in 100% new
Intensity is the key word here. Flamboyant black raspberry fruit aromas
fill the glass. Juicy black berry jam flavors have subtle oak, chocolate, and marzipan overtones.
Power to spare in the mouth ending in a lovely raspberry-infused aromatic kiss on the back end. There is notable oak present and a touch of heat peaks out but is not intrusive.
Windy Oaks Estate Vineyard & Winery is located. 85% of the wine is sold to an eager mailing list of
pinotphiles. I am also a fan of the Windy Oaks Chardonnay, produced from 1 acre of the estate vineyard.
The Schultzes have just released a special bottling made from Burgundian-sourced vines of unnamed
origin (26 cases, aged 26 months in 100% new oak, $95, special commemorative silk-screened
label). The website is www.windyoaksestate.com. 831-786-9463, Tasting and tours by appointment.
Pinot Noir Summit
The 6th Annual Pinot Noir Summit was held at Fort Mason Center in San Francisco on Sunday, March
2,2008. I had participated in some of the preliminary judging sessions back in early January. Judging
at this event is unique in that the number of wines tasted is kept to 32 each day. This allows reasonable
time to thoroughly evaluate each wine. Approximately 270 Pinot Noirs were entered from all over the
world, with the majority from California. The final 40 wines were presented to the public at this event
in a walk-around blind tasting format. The consumers were asked to rank their favorites and the results
were compared with the judging panel preferences. After unveiling the wines, additional tastes
were offered by the winemakers and winery reps. A unique added feature is that the men and women
judging results are kept separate. Organizer and hostess of the event, Barbara Drady (photo right), of
Affairs of the Vine, likes to search for gender differences in stylistic preferences of Pinot Noir.
Winners - Men Judging Panel
1st Place: Tie, 2005 Adobe Road Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir,
2005 Heart O’ The Mountain Estate Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
2nd Place: 2005 David Bruce Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
3rd Place: 2004 Sonoma Coast Vineyards Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
Winners - Women Judging Panel
1st Place: 2005 David Bruce Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
2nd Place: 2005 TR Elliott Three Plumes Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
3rd Place: 2006 Ardiri Napa Carneros Pinot Noir
Winners - Men Consumers
1st Place: 2005 Adobe Road Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
2nd Place: 2004 Sonoma Coast Vineyards Sonoma Coast
3rd Place: 2005 Bianchi Garey Vineyard Santa Maria
Valley Pinot Noir
Winners - Women Consumers
1st Place: 2004 Sonoma Coast Vineyards Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
2nd Place: 2005 Gryphon California Pinot Noir
3rd Place: 2005 Bianchi Garey Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
I tasted through all 40 finalists blind at the event rather quickly and amidst much distraction. For what
its worth, my favorites are listed below.
2005 Bianchi Garey Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir $25. Note: I recommended
this wine in a recent issue of the PinotFile and was happy to see my tasting
abilities verifiable and vindicated both in a non-blind (for the newsletter) and
blind (at the Summit) situation. This was my favorite Pinot Noir of the final 40.
2005 David Bruce Winery Bien Nacido Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
2005 Gryphon California Pinot Noir
2005 LaZarre Bien Nacido Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
2006 Paraiso Vineyards Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
2005 RN Estate Fiddlestix Vineyard Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir
2005 Robledo Family Winery Rancho Rincon Carneros Pinot Noir
2006 Vision Cellars Garys’ Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
2005 Adobe Road Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
2006 Ardiri Napa Carneros Pinot Noir (Best Dressed - see below)
2005 Cakebread Cellars Napa Carneros Pinot Noir
2004 Clouds Rest Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
2005 David Bruce Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
2005 Robert Stemmler Nugent Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
2006 San Saba Monterey Pinot Noir
2004 Sonoma Coast Vineyards Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
2005 Cima Collina Chula Vina Vineyard Monterey Pinot Noir
2005 Davis Family Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
2005 Handley Cellars RSM Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
2005 Jekel Vineyards Monterey County Pinot Noir
2005 Kenneth Volk Vineyards Santa Maria Cuvee Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
2006 Longboard Vineyards Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
2005 Signorello Las Amigas Vineyard Carneros Pinot Noir
2005 Stephen’s Cellar Encell Vineyard San Luis Obispo Pinot Noir
2005 TR Elliott Three Plumes Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
2006 Twin Oaks Sleepy Hollow Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
2006 Amity Vineyards Sunnyside Vineyards Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
2006 Amphora Windsor Oaks Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
2006 Bernardus Winery Monterey County Pinot Noir
2006 Claiborne & Churchill Edna Valley Pinot Noir
2005 Heart O’ The Mountain Estate Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
2006 Laetitia Vineyard & Winery Reserve Arroyo Grande Valley Pinot Noir
2006 Laetitia Vineyard & Winery La Colline Vineyard Arroyo Grande Pinot Noir
2005 Mahoney Vineyards Mahoney Ranch Pinot Noir
2005 Mark West Winery Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
2006 Phillips Hill Estates Oppenlander Vineyard Mendocino County Pinot Noir
2005 Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard Branciforte Creek Vineyard Santa Cruz
Mountains Pinot Noir
2005 Savannah Chanelle Tina Marie Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
2005 Three Sticks Durrell Vineyards Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
2005 Willowbrook Cellars Kastania Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
The complete list of entrants for the Pinot Noir Shootout leading to the Pinot Noir Summit event will be
available later this month on the Affairs of the Vine website at www.affairsofthevine.com. Case production
and prices will be listed as well as some pertinent judge’s comments on the wines.
As part of the Pinot Noir Summit, I moderated a panel on Discovering New Stars Along the Pinot Trail.
Four wineries were featured: B Vineyards & Habitat, Russian River Valley (represented by owners Gerald
and Shaun Bybee), Kutch Wines (represented by owner Jamie Kutch, below left)), RN Estate
(represented by owner Roger Nicolas, below right), and Three Sticks Wines (represented by winemaker
Tracey Bledsoe, below right)). A podcast of this seminar will be posted on my website later this
Every wine enthusiast is searching for the next great star producer of Pinot Noir. This is not surprising
for many of these pinotphiles are interested in getting the latest news and what do the first three letters
of “news” spell? Who is going to be the “new” Sea Smoke or Kosta Browne? Finding and identifying
new Pinot Noir producers is a challenge because most of them are small, boutique operations with little
or no marketing budget. Their total production is often less than 1,000 cases, and samples may not
be sent to major wine publications for review. In addition, winemakers by nature tend to be shy and
unassuming and promotion is not their long suit.
Not a week goes by that I don’t discover a new producer of Pinot Noir. How do I find new stars? Sometimes
the new producer contacts me, sends me samples, and invites me to visit and taste. In other
cases, I meet the producer at a Pinot Noir Festival (at least a dozen such events are held yearly now in
California and Oregon) or a wine tasting event. Retailers, the wine press, and wine blogs can also be
valuable sources of introduction.
What do I look for in a new winery? There are many factors to consider, but most importantly, I look at
the vineyard sources and vineyard management, the winemaker’s background and experience ( a caveat
here is that many accomplished winemakers have learned more by experience than by classroom
study), the owner’s (if she or he is not the winemaker) commitment, and the approachability and availability
of the winery principals to the consumer. Most of all, though, what differentiates a potential new
star is the quality of the juice in the bottle.
I met Roger Nicolas of RN Estate at a Wine & Fire event in Santa Rita Hills last year, Jamie Kutch was a
reader of the PinotFile who related his story and aspirations to me. Gerald and Shaun Bybee contacted
me and invited me to taste and visit. I read about Three Sticks Wines in the wine press and was alerted
by Barbara Drady, the organizer of this event. RN Estate, Kutch Wines and B Vineyards & Habitat have
been profiled in previous issues of the PinotFile (search Back Issues at www.princeofpinot.com
Sticks Wines was Founded in 2002 by Bill Price who is also the owner of Durell Vineyards in Sonoma
Valley and thus has the enviable position of having Durell Vineyards as his estate vineyard. The first
three vintages of Three Sticks were produced at custom crush facilities. In 2005, a new facility was initiated
on the east side of Sonoma which contains state-of-the-art winemaking equipment and a unique
design that utilizes moveable tanks, crush equipment and basket press in order to most efficiently utilize
winery space. The winemaker is Don Van Staaveren who brings to Three Sticks years of experience.
He directed the conversion of Artesa Vineyards & Winery from sparkling to still wine production
and crafted many notable Cabernet Sauvignons at Chateau St. Jean during
the last decade. Assistant winemaker Tracey Bledsoe was also at Artesa
where she worked for five years. She holds a Master’s degree in Microbiology
from University of California Davis. Three Sticks plans to produce small lots of
Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from the estate vineyard and a Cabernet Sauvignon
from two vineyards in Sonoma Valley. 1,000 cases will be released with
the 2005 vintage. The 2005 Three Sticks Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
is a blend
of Dijon clones 115, 667 and 777 from 8-year-old vines yielding 1.75 tons per
acre. Winemaking is Burgundian with minimal handling and the wine is aged
14 months in 50% new French oak. A website will be developed soon for wine
purchases. The current phone is 707-935-1863 and the address is 21692
Eighth Street East, Suite 280, Sonoma 95476. This is a new producer to keep
Aromatic & Flavor Elements of Pinot Noir
Barbara Drady of Affairs of the Vine has compiled a comprehensive list of the aromatic elements of
Pinot Noir which she has kindly allowed me to reproduce here. This is a very handy reference list that
you can use to improve your tasting acumen. The list is not all-inclusive. I have revised it slightly.
Aromatic & Flavor Elements of Pinot Noir
Cherry, Black Cherry, Wild Cherry, Dried Cherry
Raspberry, Raspberry Jam
Strawberry, Wild Strawberry, Strawberry Jam
Blackberry, Blackberry Jam
Tangerine, Grapefruit, Orange Peel
Rose Petals, Violets
Earth, Wet Leaves, Forest Floor, Barnyard, Mushroom
Meat, Game, Animale, Sauvage
Herbs, Herbs de Provence
Pine Pitch, Cedar, Oak
Oak-Derived Aromas & Flavors
Earthy: ash, mushroom, shoe box, wet cardboard, musty, leather
Herbaceous: weedy, dill, mown hay, menthol, grass, tobacco
Woody: cedar, sawdust, pencil shavings, sappy, green, pine, tar, resin
Astringent: harsh, chewy, bitter, angular, tannic, drying
Spicy: clove, cinnamon, coconut, vanilla
Toast-Derived Aromas & Flavors
Sweet: brown sugar, bourbon, cotton candy, chocolate, maple syrup, butterscotch,
hot fudge, caramel, molasses, honey, toffee, soy
Creamy: vanilla, cream soda, marshmallow, lactic, butter
Yeasty: popcorn, baked bread, bread stick, cookie dough
Nutty: hazelnut, walnut, almond, peanut butter, coconut
Roasted: cedar, graham cracker, toasted bread, coffee, mocha, cereal
Smoky: barbecue, grilled meats, bacon, sweet smoke, burnt sugar
Spicy: nutmeg, cinnamon, clove, licorice, anise
Rotten egg (hydrogen sulfide)
Mercaptan (sulfur-containing cpd - onion or garlic)
Brettanomyces/Dekkara (horsy, stables, sweaty saddle, )
Wet newspaper, wet cardboard (corky)
Diacetyl (a ketone-buttery or cheesy)
Acetalydehyde (oxidized smell, sherry)
Ethyl Acetate (acetic acid + ethanol - fruity)
Acetic acid (vinegar)
Open Your Wallet for Pinot Pleasure
Confiscate your wife’s Nordstrom credit card and subscription to Vogue magazine, cancel your kid’s
cell phone account, discontinue any superfluous insurance premiums, start riding your bike to work,
anything to save some money for the following Pinot Noirs. Let’s face it, the best sex you have ever
had is still not as good as some of these sensual Pinot Noirs and they can give you prolonged ecstasy
in a bottle for several hours. Cancel the gardener (big deal, you can mow the lawn), tell your wife to
cut her own hair, and send your kids to public school. Pinot Noir is a life-changing, mood-altering experience
and its time you jumped in and indulged with commitment. The following wines have just
been released and you need to act now or Pinot nirvana will never be obtainable. Pop a cork and have
an aromatic orgasm, how easy is that?
Jason Drew has been making wine since 1991 when he helped out his uncle plant a vineyard in the
Napa Valley. He received his winemaking training in both California and Australia. In 2000 he
founded the Drew label with his wife Molly while he was associate winemaker at Babcock Vineyards &
Winery in the Santa Rita hills. In 2003, he left Babcock to concentrate on his own label, and in 2004,
purchased a ridge top property overlooking the Anderson Valley to the east and the Pacific ocean
three miles to the west. A winery was built on the property and the Drews’ first estate vineyard was
planted. Currently the winery’s Pinot Noir grapes are sourced from Santa Barbara County, Anderson
Valley, Sonoma Coast and the Yorkville Highlands. I tasted the current releases and was stoked. All of
the wines tasted have a pretty ruby color and similar moderate weight.
2006 Drew Cargasacchi-Jalami Vineyard Potbelly Block Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir
13.7% alc., 286 cases, $35
This is a
young wine and the nose is quite subdued with subtle notes of red
cherry, grass and sanded wood. The lovely red Pinot fruits are
accented with herbal and woodsy flavors. Light in body and offering
some finesse and lively acidity, this is a good food wine whose flavors
trump the aromas at this stage.
2006 Drew Weir Vineyard Yorkville Highlands Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., 187 cases, $50 (sold out, try
www.wadeswines.com). Weir Vineyard is 15 acres which includes rare DRC and Rochioli selections.
Very enviable aromas of mineral-inflected black cherry fruit, strawberry and cookie dough. Highly likeable
raspberry and strawberry fruit flavors with a glamorous fruity aftertaste accentuated with spice and a
little white pepper. The fruity finish sneaks up and expands in the mouth over a minute - very sexy. The
demure presentation of fruit is very attractive. I like this wine a lot and it is admirable for its perfect balance
and purity. The best from this appellation I have ever sampled. Hock your kids for this one.
2006 Drew Fog-Eater Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., 495 cases, $42. Made from two Anderson
Valley vineyards heavily influenced by coastal fog.
This wine has the most flamboyant aromatics of
the lineup with spiced cherries, watermelon, fresh sawn oak and a little barnyard. Plenty of lovable Pinot
fruits, fine-grained tannins which could use some time to shed, and velvety texture. Doesn’t have the twinkle
that the Weir has, but perfectly fine in its own right.
Drew Wines have limited retail distribution and are sold on the website at www.drewwines.com. The
phone is 707-877-1771.
I recently wrote a feature on Halleck Vineyards in the PinotFile (Volume 6, Issue 45). I recently tasted
through the 2006 releases and I am happy to report that the wines are stellar. The winemaking here is
very refined with tannins and alcohol well integrated. The velveteen texture that makes Pinot Noir so
sensual and appealing are prominently featured in all of the Halleck Vineyards lineup of Pinot Noirs.
These are fruit-driven wines of robust intensity that will reward cellaring. The Three Sons Cuvee is the
most approachable now. After tasting the wines, I sampled them all with a corned beef sandwich (it
was the day after St. Patrick’s Day) and they all shined with the food, but the heightened acidity of the
Three Sons Cuvee made it the best food wine of the lineup at this time. These wines are a true representation
of California’s interpretation of Pinot Noir and they deserve every pinoaficionado’s attention.
These are pure artisanal Pinot Noirs, lovingly crafted in small quantities from a producer who welcomes
fans to connect with the winery family. Production is 1,500 cases each year.
2006 Halleck Vineyards Three Sons Cuvee Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.7% alc., 1,300
cases, $42. This wine is a blend of several vineyards in the neighborhood of the Halleck estate vineyard.
The name pays homage to the Halleck’s three sons, Conner 14, Adam 13, and Quinn 10.
lightest in reddish-purple color of the lineup. Heady black cherry and new-sawn wood aromas leading to
a dark fruit profile enhanced with herbs, oak and cinnamon spice. Silky on the palate and briskly acidic
on the finish. The lightest wine in the lineup but not a weakling by any stretch of the imagination. While
the other wines brood, this frisky youngster is offering considerable pleasure now.
2006 Halleck Vineyards Clone 828 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., 266 cases, $55. From
grapes grown near Annapolis four miles from the Pacific Ocean. 30% new French oak (the usual regimen
for Halleck Pinots). This clone is rarely bottled as a stand-alone wine and is a newer Dijon clone
planted only in recent years in California.
The nose is rife with smoke, cigar box, and gingerbread. Soft,
dark Pinot fruits including cassis and black raspberry, complimented by oak char and cookie dough create
a feast of flavors. This wine is the darkest in nature of the lineup and the most unique. The tannins are
reigned in but peak out at the finish and will soften with bottle age. Yummy.
2006 Halleck Vineyards Hallberg Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.9% alc., 295 cases, $55. From a Sebastopol vineyard that was once
an apple orchard where the Hallecks purchased apples and apple juice.
berries, sen-sen, cherries and crusty bread aromas draw you in. The wine offers
a solid core of dark Pinot fruits with a sidecar of oak and earth, a dusty texture,
admirable acid backbone, and a slightly dry but persistent finish. No octane in
sight. A lot of potential lingering in the background here which needs time to
break out. Be patient with this one. Even better from re-corked bottle next day.
2006 Halleck Vineyards The Farm Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., 250 cases, $55. From a 2-acre vineyard that was previously
blended into the Three Sons Cuvee.
Expressive nose of red and black cherry jam. Very fruity. Lovely
red-fruits presented in an elegant, soft and silky style. A delight to drink and an idol in the making. The
longest and most intense finish in the lineup. Already showing some leg, but will be more revealing with
maturity. Keep this hidden from your relatives.
Halleck Vineyards wines are largely sold through the faithful admirers on the mailing list at
www.halleckvineyard.com. There is limited retail distribution. The address is 8088 Washington Ave,
Sebastopol and the winery address is 3785 Burnside Rd, Sebastopol. Jennifer Halleck handles sales
and marketing when she isn’t trooping her three boys to their after school activities. 707-738-8383.
Brothers Richard and Roger Roessler founded Roessler Cellars in 2000. Together with talented winemakers
Wells Guthrie and Scott Shapely, they craft marvelous Pinot Noirs from appellations throughout
California. I have been a fan for quite some time now and I recently tasted two of their newest releases.
I feature them here because they are worthy of your immediate attention.
2005 Roessler Cellars Savoy Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., 250 cases, $45. Richard Savoy farms one of Anderson Valley’s
premier Pinot Noir vineyards located just west of the town of
Philo. Seven clones are included in this wine.
Deep ruby color of great
intensity. With air and coaxing, very nice ripe dark fruits emerge with
some earthy and oaky notes. Substantial fruit core showy of black cherry
and black raspberry with a hint of wild strawberry. Earthy, even tasting
of soil-dusted fruit. Flirty tannins and plush in texture. More dirt-driven
than the 2004 Savoy which I was ga-ga for, but equally appealing in its own way.
2005 Roessler Cellars Clos Pepe Vineyard Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., 175 cases, $45.
Utterly charming aromas of a freshly-baked cherry pie with a hot browned crust. Delicious stone fruits,
silky mouth feel, and a clean, scented and lip-smacking finish. Impeccable balance. This wine has the
whole package and there is nothing to critique here, just pure, unadulterated drinking pleasure. Brilliantly
crafted and one of the best wines from Clos Pepe Vineyard I have ever had. This one has everything
you could hope for and some things you didn’t know to ask for.
Roessler Cellars is located off the town square in Sonoma at 380 First St W. Tasting here by appointment
- 707-933-4440. Production is 6,500 cases. Roger and Richard and very personable and passionate
about wine. Make an effort to get to know them and their wines. The wines are sold on the website
Pinot Noir Events to Stroke Your Passion
Santa Barbara County Vintner’s Festival This annual event will be held on Saturday, April 19th,
2008 at River Park in Lompoc, 1-4 PM. Over 100 local wineries, artisan foods from local restaurants
and caterers, live music, plenty of Pinot. Tickets are $75, $89 at door. A Vintner’s Visa may be purchased
which is valid Festival weekend for 12 of your favorite wineries and includes tasting fees: $35.
To purchase tickets or for more information visit www.sbcountywines.com or call 805-688-0881.
Pinot Plus Trade Auction
The Second Annual Pinot Plus
Auction will be held on March 29, 2008 at The Carneros Inn
in Napa, CA. Sponsored by the Carneros Wine Alliance, the
auction features a group of unique and rare lots featuring
never-before winery and vineyard partnerships and magnums
from non-resident Carneros-label star winemakers.
Magnums offered in the Silent Auction include those from
Kistler Vineyards (I have NEVER seen a magnum from Kistler), HdV, Ramey Wine Cellars, Shafer Vineyards,
Laird Family Vineyards, Provenance, Charles Creek Vineyard, Steele Wines, Benziger Family
Winery, Nickle and Nickle, and Neyers Vineyard among others. Additional lots include a special lot of
Cuvaison Pinot Noir Block 8 from its Carneros Estate Vineyard Calera clone grapes, one of only ten
available 3-liter bottles of ZD Wines Reserve Pinot Noir, a barrel selected Pinot Noir from MacRostie
Winery’s Wildcat Mountain Vineyard’s Saddle Block, and 18 magnums of 2007 Pinot Noir from the
Donum Estate blocks including East Slope, West Slope, and Ferguson. The Michael Mondavi family
will introduce its Hangtime Carneros Gallery Vineyard Pinot Noir and other unique lots will be offered
by boutique wineries including Adastra, Ancien, Fasmer & Blaise, Molnar Family Wines, Madonna
Estate, Talisman and Toad Hall Cellars. Proceeds from the Live Auction will benefit the education,
scholarship and training programs of early stage wine and food professionals. Proceeds from the
Silent Auction will benefit the newly established Carneros Land Stewardship Foundation. For tickets
and information visit the website at www.carneros.com
Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival
The 11th Annual Anderson Valley
Pinot Noir Festival will be May 16-18, 2008. A Technical Conference kicks
off the event on Friday, May 16 followed by a BBQ at the historic Day
Ranch at Standish Wine Co in Philo. The Grand Tasting will be on Saturday
featuring Anderson Valley’s finest producers at Goldeneye Winery in
Philo. Winery Open houses will be on Sunday, May 18. Accommodations
are limited in the Anderson Valley so RSVP as soon as possible. For tickets
and further information, visit the website at www.avwines.com
. One of
my favorite wine festivals.
Paso Pinot & Paella Cook Off The 5th Annual Paso Pinot & Paella Cook Off will be held Sunday, June
8th, from 2-5 PM. 16 chefs will be cooking their version of paella and 20+ Paso Robles area Pinot Noir
producers will be pouring their wines. The event is held under the towering trees at Templeton Park
and will include music and a dance exhibition. Tickets are $65 and can be purchased from the event
website at www.pinotandpaella.com. All profits go to the Paso Robles Youth Arts Foundation.
New Wine Shipping Packaging New Vine Logistics and
International Thermal Wizards have developed “WineAssure”
packaging that provides insulation during shipping that prevents
temperature swings that can damage wine during shipping in
warmer months. The packaging keeps wine cozy below 70° F
and above 35° F throughout a five day period, regardless of the
outside temperatures. This innovative packaging allows shipping
of wine in most areas year-round and reduces shipping
costs by eliminating the necessity of overnight shipping and replacing
air shipping with ground shipping. The secret to the insulation
is a water and salt solution. Two bottle packages cost
$15 now and insulated boxes accommodating up to a case and
magnums will be available before the approaching summer. The packaging and insulation is made
from recyclable materials and can be re-used by the recipient, discarded with other recyclable materials,
or returned to New Vine Logistics at no charge. For more information visit www.wineassure.com.
Wines of Burgundy
Clive Coates has just released the sequel to his Cote D’Or:
A Celebration of the Great Wines of Burgundy published ten years ago. Wines of Burgundy
is a thoroughly revised and updated book detailing all of the major vintages
in Burgundy from 2006 back to 1959 and includes thousands of tasting notes of the
most notable wines. Coates is a Master of Wine who has spent much of the last thirty
years in Burgundy. A book signing tour begins this month. Hardcover, $60
(available on preorder at www.amazon.com
Irreverent Newsletter W.R. Tish is a wine jack-of--all-trades - wine writer, standup comedian,
speaker and wine event organizer. When his fancy strikes, he sends out an irreverent e-newletter,
www.wineforall.com, which will make you laugh, guaranteed. The newsletter is billed as “my exercise
in poking fun at this thing called the wine biz.” The companion site is www.wineskewer.com
where this currently includes a hilarious spoof titled “100-Point Hall of Shame.” An excerpt: “These
stark naked numbers - which remain no more or less than a single human being’s opinion - are imbued
with guru-esque significance and tattoo-like permanence. Ratings are the wine world’s equivalent of
tabloid pablum - the very opposite of intelligent discourse… .the obsolete relic of last century’s coming-
of-age wine market.” Check Tish out.
Say What? A retailer, The Wine House, sends out periodic e-newsletters touting wines on their
shelves. The latest one I received features a Pinot Noir from Languedoc-Roussillon for $11.49 per bottle.
The wine is billed as “The Pinot Noir of the Languedoc.” but the newsletter starts off saying, “This
wine tastes nothing like Pinot Noir.” Say what? Throughout the rambling, the wine is likened to Pinot
Noir in every way, exalting its “soft, caressing mouth feel, soft tannins, and the subtlety and class of
Burgundy.” The last sentence spills the beans: “Mostly Carignane finished with Grenache and Syrah.”
It is a sad day when Pinot Noir is used to pimp other wines.
Chateau Petrogasm Benjamin Adams Saltzman and Andrew Stuart have founded a website,
www.chateaupetrogasm.com, that “uses images to break down hegemonic language barriers.” Wines
are described using colors, sketches, photography, and other visual media to convey the character of
a wine along with an overall impression of it. It has been said that “Wine is art,” so the shoe fits.
La Paulee San Francisco The second La Paulee took place two weeks ago in San Francisco. The
event is held annually in New York. Organized by sommelier Daniel Johnnes of Daniel Restaurant,
over 300 burgphiles paid $1,400 for the Friday night six-course dinner prepared by luminary chefs
Daniel Boulud, Michael Mina, Traci Des Jardins of San Francisco and Regis Marcon of France. Rare
bottles of Burgundy were uncorked with abandon and wine writer and Decanter contributor Jordan
Mackay said, “If they keep having events like this, there won’t be any old Burgundy
in five years.”
Decanter as Art
Say you have around $3,000 that is burning a hole in your
wallet. Your 5,000 bottle wine cellar needs a conversation piece. The N°4 Decanter
is the perfect choice. The decanter, pictured right, was designed by
Frenchman Etienne Meneau and holds exactly one bottle of wine. For information,
New World Pinot Noir a Pretender?
In the February, 2008 issue of Decanter,
Jasper Morris MW wrote an article titled, “Pinot Noir: The New Pretenders.”
The premise was that “The New World’s many fledgling Pinot regions often
look to Burgundy as the ideal to aspire to. But do any of them even come close in
quality terms?” The conclusion was essentially that New World Pinot Noirs would
never be mistaken for Burgundy and producers should not try to imitate the Old
World. One caveat was that New World Pinot Noir can deliver plenty of pleasure
but “we do not yet see the consistent track record which will surely emerge when
the right sites have been tracked down in each of the budding regions, the ideal
plant material selected and the roots given time to dive down deep into the soil.”
Vigneron Stephen Pepe of Clos Pepe Vineyards and Estate Wines sent me the response to this article
written by winemaker Wes Hagen of Clos Pepe. The following is a portion of Hagen’s comments.
“Traveling to Burgundy every few years helps me understand where Pinot Noir has been. Burgundy is
an initiation into the deeper wisdom and potential of the Pinot Noir grape. Burgundy crafts the most
profound wines in the world … There are some Pinot Noir winemakers in the New World, and I
would include myself in their ranks, that believe Burgundy should be left in Burgundy, and that the attempt
to model New World Pinots on the Burgundian model is not only folly, but is antithetical to the
attempts to establish our own regional identities. Much of Burgundy is steeped in winemaking mythology
and anecdote. Stem-inclusion, viticultural romanticism, rustic production methods, native ferments,
and the idea that providence can trump craftsmanship are all dangerous ideas for a New World
winemaker to imitate. To bring that mythology to the Sta. Rita Hills and try to imitate Burgundian winegrowing
or enology would be like trying to bring a fringe sect of Hinduism to Salt Lake City… So let’s
leave Burgundy to the Burgundians… For now, let’s all try to accentuate the regional characteristics
of Pinot Noir and stop this imitative nonsense… .The New World is trying to establish our autonomy, but
instead of working tirelessly to hone our craft, many of us are trying to hitch our wagons to the style of
the Cote d’Or, and this is distracting us from our true goal to produce wines of distinction and quality
that represent THIS place. Pinot Noir reminds me of the Princess in the folk tale, ‘The Princess and the
Pea.’ You can lay her down anywhere, but if she’s uncomfortable in the least, she will let us know.
There are so few places where Pinot Noir can thrive, let’s celebrate the flavors and differences and
what Burgundy cannot imitate (and vice versa) … Jasper, if you’d ever like to come visit us in Sta. Rita
Hills, I would be happy to give you a dirt-kicking tour of the AVA and show you all the ways we are
distinct from Burgundy (and why that may be a good thing).”
Millenials Overwhelmed by Wine
When I attended the recent Pinot Summit in San Francisco, I
noticed a significant number of millenials in attendance,
eager to taste Pinot Noir. Their eagerness was tempered,
however, by a lack of understanding of how to taste without
swallowing, the mystery surrounding pinotspeak terms being
bantered around like “silky,” “seductive,” “layered,”
“grip,” and “supple,” and just exactly how Pinot Noir is
supposed to taste. A recent study commissioned by Constellation
Wines U.S., and reported in Wines & Vines, confirmed
my observations, with a large portion (23%)of consumers
overwhelmed by wine. We need to direct more
wine education and tastings to the uninitiated and curious,
many of whom are young and anxious to try new drinking
experiences. We must strive to lift the mystique surrounding
wine drinking and emphasis the pleasures, health
benefits, and joy of wine on the dinner table. Let’s start by
embracing millenials at wine events and offering programs
directed at them. And doesn’t it make long-term sense to
offer today’s young people discounts on fine wine purchases?
The Long and Winding Pinot Road, Part VII
The group was formed in January, 1989 as a monthly gathering of wine enthusiasts. The instigator was Ron Marshall,
proprietor of Mr. Stox Restaurant in Anaheim, California. The guidelines were that “Members have a serious
interest in wine, have their own wine collection, and have a desire to enhance their palate and wine education
through group tastings. The premise was that this was not to be a pompous group of wine snobs and “good
jokes would be encouraged at all tastings.” The origin of the group’s name, Le Grand Crew, is lost in history.
Le Grand Crew was a major source of my wine education and inspiration and the group, with few member
changes, has persisted to the present time. Meeting monthly over dinner, we (women were not specifically
banned but few dared to attend) tasted all of the world’s greatest wines from the entire globe and developed
friendships for life.
Early on, I was an outcast and weirdo, the butt of many jokes for my professed love of Pinot Noir. The members
were dedicated Cabernet and Bordeaux drinkers with little interest or patience for other wines. That was all to
change, when in 1991, I organized my first “Superbowl of Pinot Noir” dinner tasting. The idea was to present
the champions, the best of the best New World Pinot Noirs available in the marketplace at that time. Over the
years, the members look forward to the “Superbowl,” and many abandoned the dark side for Pinot Noir.
The wines at “Superbowl I of Pinot Noir” were the following: 1987 Au Bon Climat Sanford & Benedict Vineyard
Santa Ynez Valley ($30), 1987 Calera Jensen Vineyard Hollister ($30), 1987 El Molino Napa Valley
($30), 1987 Williams Selyem Rochioli Vineyard Russian River Valley ($40), 1988 Gary Farrell Allen Vineyard
Russian River Valley ($25), 1988 Robert Mondavi Reserve Napa Valley ($29), 1988 Signorello Proprietor’s
Reserve Napa Valley ($25), 1988 Williams Selyem Sonoma Coast ($25), 1989 Byron Santa Barbara
County ($18), 1989 Etude Napa Valley ($22), and 1989 Williams Selyem Olivet lane Vineyard Russian
River Valley ($25). Looking back, a heck of a lineup and a glimpse of Pinot history. To be continued… … … ..