PinotFile: 9.18 January 19, 2013
- Joseph Swan Vineyards Trenton Estate Pinot Noir Mini-Vertical
- Sips of California Pinot Noir
- Sips of Oregon Pinot Noir
- Dubakella: Great Pinot from an Unexpected Place
- Value-Price Pinots
- Pinot Briefs
- Wine Terms that are Misused and/or Misunderstood
Joseph Swan Vineyards Trenton Estate Pinot Noir Mini-Vertical
The legacy of winemaker Joseph (Joe) Swan has been well chronicled in the pages of the PinotFile (Volume 5,
Issues 25 and 28, Volume 6, Issue 17). At the age of 45, in 1967, while employed as a pilot for Western
Airlines, Swan bought a dilapidated 13-acre Zinfandel vineyard, barn and house on Laguna Road in the
Russian River Valley near Forestville. The house had once been a general store and post office for the tiny
town of Trenton that is no longer in existence. Today, this area of the Russian River Valley is referred to as the
Santa Rosa Plains, an unofficial subdivision of the Russian River Valley AVA between the Laguna Ridges area
to the West and the city of Santa Rosa to the East. The Santa Rosa Plains is only a few miles south of
Westside Road and the Middle Reach subdivision of the Russian River Valley, but the climate here is distinctly
cooler, foggier and wetter.
Swan searched Northern California for years before determining that the property he settled on was
appropriate for fine wine grape growing. He retired from the airlines in 1968 and made Zinfandel from his
property that year. The following year he began a replanting of the vineyard on the property, replacing the
Zinfandel with Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. It was Joe's friend, Andre Tchelistcheff, who advised him to plant Burgundy varieties on this cool site. This coincided with Joe Rochioli’s plantings of
the famous East Block of Pinot Noir at Rochioli Vineyard and only five years after Charles Bacigalupi planted
Pinot Noir on Westside Road near Rochioli Vineyard at the former Goddard Ranch. According to John Haeger
(Pacific Pinot Noir 2008, p. 213), and confirmed by Rod Berglund, the budwood for the Pinot Noir plantings at Swan’s vineyard most probably came from Mount Eden (via France, Paul Masson, and then Martin Ray) through the Experimental Station in
Oakville. Some nursery selections were also planted but later abandoned. Swan marked the most redeeming vines in his vineyard and grafted the nursery selections over from wood he deemed the best. The resulting vine mix was later named the "Swan clone" by Francis Mahoney, the founder of Carneros Creek Winery. An additional block of Pinot Noir was planted just south of the original planting in 1974.
Swan produced some very good and age worthy Pinot Noir from his plantings. The low-vigor soil at the site,
Goldridge in type, has proven to be ideally suited for Pinot Noir and Swan’s vines prospered. The first vintage
of Joseph Swan Pinot Noir was 1973, crafted with consultation from the legendary André Tchelistcheff who was
a friend of Swan’s. Swan’s early Pinot Noirs, along with those of Davis Bynum, Dehlinger (who made his first
vintage at Swan’s in 1975), and Rochioli, established the credibility of Russian River Valley Pinot Noir. Cuttings
from Swan’s vines were eagerly sought after and became widely distributed to other vineyards as the Swan
clone or Swan selection.
Swan was a Burgundian at heart and traveled to France every year seeking to improve his winemaking skills.
His companion was frequently wine importer Kermit Lynch who was fluent in French and translated for him.
Swan experimented with whole cluster fermentation, manual punch downs, and the use of new French oak
barrels, techniques that were unusual for California winemakers in the early 1970s. Anything he saw or heard
about in Burgundy, he would try at home. Swan passed away from cancer in 1989, but his legacy will include
the popularization of the traditional, Burgundian winemaking methods in California that often eschewed the
teachings of UC Davis (Swan was no fan of the teachings of Davis’s Viticulture and Enology Department), his
search for better clonal material, and his openness to new ideas. He was married four times, had at least
seven kids, and died without leaving a will.
Over the years, Swan periodically added new vines to his estate vineyard, including Dijon clones which he
obtained from a French vigneron before the clones became available in the United States. After Swan’s
passing, his son-in-law, Rod Berglund took over. Rod married Swan’s daughter, Lynn (her mother, June, was
Swan’s fourth spouse), in 1986, and helped Swan with his last harvest in 1987. He has overseen the
replanting of the estate vineyard, now named Trenton Estate Vineyard. In 1996, a 3.5-acre block planted to
Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Cabernet Sauvignon, was removed and replaced with budwood from other estate
Pinot Noir vines, plus Dijon clones 113, 114, 115, 667 and 777. Today, there are twelve different clones in the
13-acre Joseph Swan Trenton Estate Vineyard (8 acres of Pinot Noir), including DRC suitcase clones given to
Joe as a gift by an unnamed individual many years ago. In addition, Berglund has modernized the trellis system, changing from Swan's version of head training to a bi-lateral vertical curtain system. This resulted in a reduction and softening of the tannins in the resulting wines. Farming is organic.
The Joseph Swan Trenton Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir is the winery’s flagship bottling and has been produced
annually since 1973 (but not designated as “Trenton Estate” on the label before the 1997 vintage). This wine
was sourced entirely from the original 1969 and 1974 plantings until 2002, when some of the young vine fruit
was included. Every vintage has come from the some piece of ground.
The Trenton Estate Vineyard Pinot Noirs typically are rich, tannic and rustic initially, not unlike many Burgundy
wines. After several years, they become much more approachable, turning earthy, savory, and nuanced, still
with significant structure, and never only about fruit. The wines will easily age more than ten years, as shown
by this vertical tasting. A number of tasters have noted some volatile acidity in the aromatics of some wines
contributing to their “character,” and I found this in the 2003 vintage.
In 2011, a vertical tasting of all 23 released vintages of Joseph Swan Trenton Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir
(1973-2009) was organized in Northern California by Steve and Lisa Rigisich and attended by Rod Berglund:
www.wineberserkers.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=44845&p=604290. In 2006, I attended a tasting of eight
Joseph Swan Pinot Noirs from the 1970s and 1980s (PinotFile, Volume 5, Issue 43). The wines displayed
remarkable retention of fruit flavors with pleasing secondary characters and bouquet. All wines were drinkable
with varying degrees of pleasure. The Trenton Estate Vineyard wines have a common thread, according to Berglund, in that they have a readily definable character unique to the site (so-called "Trenton spice"), and the site produces wines that are not only age worthy, but actually benefit from aging.
Berglund’s winemaking regimen and evolution over the years is described in the Joseph Swan Vineyards
Newsletter at www.swanwinery.com (Part Two, red wines, June 2011 Newsletter). The wines in the vertical
tasting described here included 20%-25% whole cluster, were fermented with indigenous yeast to over 21 days, and aged at least
15 months in at least 66% new French oak barrels. The wines were not racked until blending for bottling.
The Joseph Swan Vineyards Newsletter has been published three times each year since 2010. A Chardonnay
and Syrah are also produced from Trenton Estate Vineyard. The tasting room is at 2916 Laguna Road with the
entrance on Trenton Road and is open Saturdays and Sundays from 11:00 to 4:30 (other days by
appointment). Rod and Lynn are usually behind the counter at the tasting bar.
The Joseph Swan Vineyards label is one of the most timeless and iconic in the wine industry.
Note: Shortly after this article was published, Rod Berglund published an extensive, detailed history of Joseph Swan, his wines, and in particular Trenton Estate Vineyard wines. It is in the winery's February 2013 newsletter at www.swanwinery.com/0213_newsletter.php.
2001 Joseph Swan Vineyards Trenton Estate Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the
glass. Aromas of black cherry, spice, forest floor and old book. Impressive
retention of fruit intensity offering tasty notes of dark cherries, dark raspberries,
cola, seasoned oak and a hint of white pepper. Soft in the mouth with some
length on the slightly astringent finish. Fine the next day from a previously
opened and re-corked bottle. Drink or hold. Very good.
2002 Joseph Swan Vineyards Trenton Estate Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., 383
Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Lovely bouquet of red cherries, beef, musk, old book
and oak. Soft in the mouth with supple tannins, offering flavors of red cherries and berries with an earthy
undertone. An elegant and relatively delicate wine showing its age. Fine the next day from a previously
opened and re-corked bottle, although the finish brings a little heat. Drink or hold short term. Very good.
2003 Joseph Swan Vineyards Trenton Estate Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
Moderate dark reddish-purple hue in the glass. Throwing sediment. Aromas of seasoned oak, leather, wilted
flowers, and nail polish remover (volatile acidity). Rich and saucy flavors of sweet red cherries and berries with
a hint of spice. Clean and fresh with impressive intensity on the long finish. Tasted the following day from a
previously opened and re-corked bottle, the volatile acidity had largely subsided. Hold or drink. Very good.
2004 Joseph Swan Vineyards Trenton Estate Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., 327
Dark black-red color in the glass. Still vigorous with flavor and character, offering a ripe palate of black
cherry fruit accented with spice, cola and earth. Well-balanced tannins with a velvety texture and a smooth,
fulfilling finish. Tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle, the wine was still
vibrant. Many years ahead. Hold or drink. Very good.
2005 Joseph Swan Vineyards Trenton Estate Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., 235
Dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Aromas of black cherries, dried roses, and carnations (slight
volatile acidity). Plush and saucy black cherry and blackberry fruits with an earthy undertone. Well-structured,
with bright acidity, a soft mouth feel, and a refreshing finish. Tasted the following day from a previously opened
and re-corked bottle, the wine was still churning out fruit-laden aromas and flavors. Hold or drink. Very good.
2006 Joseph Swan Vineyards Trenton Estate Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 268
Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Rather shy bouquet, offering scents of blacker fruits,
marzipan, old shoe and brewed tea. On the ripe side with an array of flavors including black cherries, prune,
cola, forest floor and spice. Showing some fruit age, yet retaining young tannins. Good acid spine and some
length on the fruit-driven finish. Tasted the next day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle, the wine’s
sappy fruit veered to the overripe side with a note of sassafras. Hold or drink. Good (+).
2007 Joseph Swan Vineyards Trenton Estate Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., 434 cases, $47. Large crop, yet yields still less
than 2.5 tons per acre.
Dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Vibrant aromas
of black cherries, spice and marzipan. Rich, fleshy and lush, with flavors of
fresh, juicy black cherries and cola with an earthy undercurrent. Strikingly
intense, yet has the structure and acidity to match. Tasted the next day from a
previously opened and re-corked bottle, the tannins had softened, the nose
offered intense dark chocolate notes, and the wine was simply great. Hold or
decant if drink now. Very good (+).
2008 Joseph Swan Vineyards Trenton Estate Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 137
cases, $48. A challenging vintage. A spring frost led to a loss of one-third of the crop. Aged in nearly 75%
new French oak.
Moderately dark reddish-purple hue in the glass. Fresh aromas of dark cherries, prune,
allspice, sandalwood and forest floor. The cherry core is buried in aggressive tannins with oak evident on the
very dry, astringent finish. Relatively dilute compared to other vintages. A little better the following day from a
previously opened and re-corked bottle. My least favorite of this vertical, but still a solid wine. Hold or drink.
2009 Joseph Swan Vineyards Trenton Estate Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., 287 cases, $55. 40th anniversary
of Joseph Swan Vineyards and the 30th anniversary of Rod Berglund’s
first year of making wine. Aged in 66% new French oak.
dark reddish-purple color in the glass. The most expressive nose in the
lineup showing vibrant aromas of black cherries, dark plums,
mushroom, cardamom spice and a hint of vanilla. Delicious earth-kissed core of
dark cherries, raspberries and plums. Rich and full-bodied, with balanced
tannins and acidity making the wine quite approachable now. Great the next
day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. Could drink now because
the tannins are not aggressive, but best to hold for at least another five years. Tasted a couple of months ago,
but I held the review for this feature. A 2013 All-American for sure.
Sips of California Pinot Noir
There are some very special wines among those reviewed here, and by the time they are featured in my end-of-
the-year All-American list, they will undoubtedly be sold out. Nearly all the wines have already been
released, and I believe most of the wines are still available from the wineries. If you are a reader of the
PinotFile, you are familiar with the background information on the wineries, so I won’t go into extensive detail
about them. There are a few Chardonnays reviewed as well.
Artesa Vineyards & Winery
This majestic winery sits on top of a hill overlooking the vineyards of Napa Carneros. The winery dates to the
1980s when the Raventós family, heirs of the Spanish winemaking dynasty Codorniu, began acquiring land in
Napa Valley. In 1997, it was named Artesa, from the Catalan word for handcrafted. Today, Artesa focuses on
Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon crafted by winemaker Mark Beringer. The artfully designed
visitor’s center is one of the most popular in the Napa Valley. Visit www.artesawinery.com.
2011 Artesa Carneros Chardonnay
13.8% alc., pH 3.55, TA 0.63, 2,500 cases, $20. Aged 50% in
30% new French oak and 50% in stainless steel. 20% estate fruit and 80% neighboring vineyards.
30% MLF. A portion of the wine was lees stirred for 5 months. Bottled after 6 months of aging.
yellow color and clear in the glass. Fresh aromas of apple, citrus and butter. Crisp and clean,
refreshing and uplifting, with flavors of citrus, pear, roasted nuts, clove spice and a touch of tropical
fruits. A pleasant, easy to like wine, offering excellent value. An Estate Reserve is also offered at
2009 Artesa Estate Reserve Carneros Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., pH 3.47, TA
0.57, 3,000 cases, $40. 100% destemmed. Aged 10 months in 40% new French
Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Bright aromas of
fresh, very ripe plum and black cherry with hints of musk and grilled beef. Mid
weight flavors of dark berries, black cherries and black plum with a hint of tar
and earth. Very polished with good structural bones. A bit exotic, but very
Carneros in character. Very good.
Benovia Winery and the 41-acre estate Martaella Vineyard are located in the Laguna de Santa Rosa region of
the Russian River Valley. The winery produces Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel from both estate
vineyards (Martaella, Cohn and Falstaff) and premium fruit sources under the direction of “Big Mike,”
winemaker Mike Sullivan. The 2010 wines from Benovia are the finest to date and were released in the fall of
2012. Tasting by appointment. Visit www.benoviawinery.com.
2010 Benovia Savoy Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., $56.
hue in the glass. Deep red cherry perfume with notes of spice and cola. A flat out beautiful
wine that is a killer on the palate with generous flavors of cherries and dark berries accompanied by a
haunting bit of earthiness and sauvage in the background. Soft in the mouth, moderately rich in body,
offering impeccable balance. The best Pinot Noir I have tasted from Savoy Vineyard in the
challenging 2010 vintage.
2010 Benovia Bella Una Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., $56.
Medium reddish-purple color in
the glass. Shy but pleasing aromas of blackberries, char and wet earth. Strikingly flavorful with oodles of dark
berry and plum fruits dressed with exotic spices and smoky oak. The flavors hit the mid palate with a
vengeance and march through to the finish with intensity and persistence. Soft tannins make for easy drinking
now, but this wine is the most backward in the 2010 lineup and needs cellaring. At this stage, the flavors are
ahead of the aromas. That said, it is a gorgeous mouthful of fruit now. Very good.
2010 Benovia Cohn Vineyard Sonoma County Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., $65.
Moderately dark reddish-purple
color in the glass. The nose is more earthy than fruity with added scents of briar and forest floor. Redolent of
lush, dark, earth-infused red and black fruits picking up intensity over time in the glass. Almost bruising in
character. Very softly textured with balanced tannins and a very generous finish. Very good.
2010 Benovia La Pommeraie Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
Dark ruby color in the glass. Stunning aromatics featuring
bright aromas of black raspberries accented with vanilla, oak and spice.
The palate is soft, plush and long featuring delicious black cherry, black
raspberry, black tea and cardamom spice flavors, finishing with an
appealing crispness. This is a saucy, spicy number that grabs on and
brings you to attention. Even better the following day from a previously opened
and re-corked bottle. An 2013 All-American for sure.
2010 Benovia La Pommeraie Russian River Valley Chardonnay
14.5% alc., $48.
Pale golden straw
color and clear in the glass. Aromas of ripe pineapple, crème brûlée, petrichor and banana. Stylish and
smooth on the palate with a delicious array of complimentary flavors including apple, pear, lemon,
buttered brioche, oak, caramel and spice. Beautifully balanced with a long finish. The apple flavor really
stands out in this wine which tastes like the best apple pandowdy you ever had. A celebration.
A family winery located in the northernmost reaches of Humboldt County, California. John and Kimberly Cabot
had many years of experience in organically farming fruits and vegetables in Humboldt County when they
began to plant wine grapes in 1998. Their first wine appeared from the 2001 vintage, vinified by John who is a
self-taught winemaker. Larry Schaffer of Tercero Wines, a producer of Rhone varietals, plans to embark on a
new joint venture with John Cabot. Pinot Noir is sourced from the Anderson Valley. Visit
2010 Cabot Vineyards Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.4% alc., 240 cases, $32. A blend of fruit from Nash
Mill and Valley Foothills Day Ranch vineyards. A mix of Dijon 115 and 667. Aged 11 months in a combination
of 75% once used and 25% new Hungarian oak barrels.
Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass.
Aromas of cherries, cooked fruit and roasted nuts. Very ripe and sweet flavor profile featuring cherries, black
currants, plums and raisins in a middleweight style supported by soft tannins and good acidity. Unchanged the
following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. Decent.
2010 Cabot Vineyards Nash Mill Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
45 cases, $42. A stellar 4-acre vineyard source located in the deep end of the
Anderson Valley adjacent Burt Williams’ Morning Dew Ranch Vineyard.
Pommard clone aged in once used French oak barrels.
color in the glass. Shy aromas of dark red cherries and raspberries with oakdriven
notes of toast and smoke in the background. Wood-infused core of
cherries with some verve, augmented by balanced tannins and refreshing
acidity. Finishes with much fanfare exhibiting a long cherry-driven flourish.
Tasted the next day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle, the wine had
partially shed its oak topcoat, and the fruit was more expressive. I would give
this wine a few years for the oak to integrate and by then it should be special. Good (+).
Chanin Wine Company
Proprietor and winemaker Gavin Chanin studied under Jim Clendenen at Au Bon Climat and Bob Lindquist at
Qupé and has crafted his wines in the same facility used by these two wineries. Bill Price, owner of Classic
Wines, LLC (Three Sticks) formed a partnership with Gavin Chanin in 2012 to form Price Chanin Vineyards.
The new wine brand will focus on small production, single-vineyard wines beginning with the 2011 vintage.
Chanin will continue to produce wines under the Chanin Wine Company label as well as the new label at a
newly established winery at Bien Nacido Vineyards. Visit www.chaninwine.com.
2011 Chanin Wine Company Los Alamos Vineyard Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir
13.62% alc., $48.
Medium reddish-purple hue in the glass. Initially
the showy nose offers aromas of black cherries, dark berry jam and a hint of oak
spice. Over time bramble and floral notes emerge. A seamless wine of
considerable appeal, featuring flavors of dark berries, spiced plums and savory
herbs, supported by supple tannins and bright acidity. Velvety soft in the mouth
with impressive length on the hi-tone finish. Plenty of vibrancy in this wine.
Jim and Mary Dierberg farm three estate vineyards: (1) the 160-acre Dierberg Estate Vineyard just outside the
town of Santa Maria with about two-thirds planted to Pinot Noir; (2) the 70-acre Drum Canyon Vineyard in the
Sta. Rita Hills planted to Pinot Noir; (3) Star Lane Vineyard at the far eastern end of the Santa Ynez Valley
planted to warm climate varieties. Wine production is at a winery on a ridge above Star Lane Vineyard. Nick
de Luca was the longtime winemaker for both Star Lane Vineyard and Dierberg Vineyard wines, but was
replaced in 2005 by Andy Alba, who had been part of the winemaking team at Dierberg Vineyard from the first
vintage in 2001. Pinot Noir is produced under the Dierberg and Three Saints labels. Visit
2009 Three Saints Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., pH
3.51, $24. Sourced from estate vineyards in the Santa Maria Valley
(Dierberg) and Sta. Rita Hills (Drum Canyon). 100% de-stemmed.
Aged 6 months in 100% 1-year-old French oak barrels. Lightly fined,
Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. The
nose offers an array of aromas including blackberry jam, black plum
reduction sauce, soy, stem and herbs. Relatively light core of dark
berry and Hoison sauce flavors with a hint of spice. The tannins are supple and
well integrated and the acidity gives the wine some refreshing vigor. An easy
drinker that is nicely balanced. Good.
2009 Dierberg Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., pH 3.65, $44. Sourced from Drum Canyon Vineyard
planted in 2005. Low vigor rootstocks and a mix of heritage clones. Primarily native yeast fermentation. Aged
16 months in used French oak barrels. Lightly fining for clarity, unfiltered.
Moderately dark reddish-purple
color in the glass. Aromas of black fruits, BBQ grill and toast. Vigorous with flavor and character offering a
core of well-spiced and very ripe black plum and blackberry fruit wrapped in muscular tannins. Soft and plush
on the mid palate and on the very dry finish. A full-bodied, fruit-driven wine that is a touch jammy in character.
2013 marks the 20th anniversary of Littorai, the iconic producer of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay founded by Ted
and Heidi Lemon in 1993. Ted’s wines, all from cool climate coastal vineyards that he either owns or directly
supervises, are classic in style that age extremely well. The 30-acre farm in Sebastopol is as close to any
other in the New World to the biodynamic ideal of self-sustainability with minimal input and output. A hay-bale-walled
gravity-flow winery was opened in 2009 where tasting is conducted by appointment (see photo below).
The wines are sold largely by mailing list with some fine restaurant distribution. Visit www.littorai.com.
2011 Littorai Vin Gris Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
12.5% alc., $26.
Pretty golden peach color with
a pink highlight. The aromas really explode from the glass when the wine is first poured. Scents of
peach, nectarine and nuts. Similar in flavor to a Pinot Noir Blanc with highlights of Rainier cherries
and white peaches. Bright with good integrated acidity and no detectable tannins. Love to have a
chilled glass of this wine with a fresh cut slice of peach in it on a sunny summer day. Good.
2010 Littorai Hirsch Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.1% alc., $60.
Light reddish-purple color in the
glass. Takes awhile to open in the glass, revealing aromas of black cherries, dried rose petals and sweet pipe
smoke. Lightly endowed with cherry and raspberry flavor picking up some intensity over time in the glass.
Very silky with supple tannins. A bit lean and under-ripe. Unchanged the following day from a previously
opened and re-corked bottle. Good.
2010 Littorai Savoy Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
13.7% alc., $60.
Moderately light reddish-purple
hue in the glass. Nicely scented with aromas of fresh black cherry pie glaze, boysenberries and dark
chocolate. Discreetly concentrated flavors of ripe cherries and berries with a riff of sauvage, supported by firm
but not astringent tannins, finishing with some generosity. Solid wine but doesn’t emote. About the same the
next day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. Good.
2010 Littorai B.A. Thieriot Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.4% alc., $70.
Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. This wine
has one of those noses that brings you to your knees. Profuse aromas
of perfectly ripe cherries and berries with an exotic spice and floral
accent. Delicious middleweight flavors of cherry pie glaze, dark red
berry jam, cola, spice and complimentary oak, finishing with impressive
power and persistence. A very polished wine with everything in
balance. Even better the following day from a previously opened and re-corked
bottle. Thieriot Vineyard Pinot Noir is what first hooked me on Littorai years ago,
and I relish the addiction. It just doesn’t get any better than this (although The
Haven Vineyard bottling is very close).
2010 Littorai The Haven Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.3% alc., $75.
color in the glass. A WOW! nose with effusive aromas of plum coulis, black raspberry and
spice. Mouth-filling and mouth-coating flavors of black cherries, plums black raspberries and spice.
Can’t say enough good things about this wine: perfectly anointed tannic structure, very slinky texture,
and a big, big finish. The sauciest of the 2010 Littorai wines tasted here with the most intense finish.
Even better the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. This wine will give the
Thieriot a run for its money. The best Haven Vineyard Pinot Noir to date and the most approachable
Tiny production, very little notoriety, great Pinot. The McHenry family planted the vineyard in 1972 in the Bonny
Doon area of the Santa Cruz Mountains at 1,800 feet elevation, five miles from the Pacific Ocean. The
vineyard was devastated by Pierce’s Disease and ceased production in 1992. In 1997, the 2-acre vineyard
was replanted. The wines are crafted in a delicate, elegant style. Aging is carried out in Francois Frères oak
barrels for two years before release. Unbelievable value. 2009 Estate ($30) and 2010 Estate Swan Clone
($42) also available. Visit www.mchenryvineyard.com.
2010 McHenry Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
13.7% alc., 320 cases, $30. The McHenrys herald the 2010
vintage as “the best.”
Moderately light deep garnet color in the
glass. Lovely aromas of cherries, strawberries, sawdust, cedary
oak and a bit of Christmas cheer (spice). Delicious entry, mid
palate and finish showing thick fruit flavors, yet delicate in
structure and mouth feel. Dark red cherry, dark strawberry, and brown spice
flavors are featured. Silky soft like the hair of an angel in the mouth with very
impressive finishing presence. Highly unique and quite typical of this vineyard.
A perfect marriage of power and finesse.
Steve McIntyre has over three decades of experience in sustainable winegrowing in the Santa Lucia Highlands
appellation. The McIntyre Estate Vineyard was originally planted by the McFarland family in 1973 and contains
some of the oldest Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vines in the Santa Lucia Highlands. Steve McIntyre acquired
the 80-acre property in 1987, which is now SIP certified. 37 acres of the Estate Vineyard are own-rooted Pinot
Noir heritage clone, oldest in the Santa Lucia Highlands. There are 10 acres of Dijon clones 115 and 777 and
13 acres of Chardonnay Dijon clones 96 and 76. The winemaker is veteran Byron Kosuge. Visit the website at
www.mcintyrevineyards.com to acquire the wines. A tasting studio is located at 1 Old Golf Course Road in
2011 McIntyre Vineyards Estate Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay
14.79% alc., pH 3.51, 517
cases, $28. Dijon clone 76. Vinified at Copain Winery in Santa Rosa by Byron Kosuge. Whole
cluster pressed. Fermented in new Siruge French oak barrels. Aged 8 months. 100% MLF.
straw color and clear in the glass. Aromas of lemon curd, baked pear and banana pudding. Tasty
core of pear, lemon-lime citrus, toffee and a hint of banana framed by bright acidity producing a juicy
wine with a crisp finish. Good (+).
2011 McIntyre Vineyards Estate Block K-1 Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay
14.43% alc., pH 3.43, TA
0.69, 100 cases, $38. Whole cluster pressed, fermented in new Siruge French oak barrels and aged 8 months
where it underwent full MLF.
Golden straw color and clear in the glass. Shy, but clean aromas of wet stones,
peach, butter and acacia. A little more body and intensity than the regular Estate bottling with pleasing flavors
of lemon, white peach, brioche, toffee and vanilla, offering a slightly creamy mouthfeel, and finishing dry and
smooth. A Chardonnay that could benefit from a little more time in the bottle but hard to resist now. Very good.
2011 McIntyre Vineyards Estate Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.7% alc., pH 3.63, TA 0.62,
241 cases, $36. From the SIP Certified McIntyre Vineyard. Dijon clone 777 and 115. Indigenous yeast
fermentation and indigenous bacteria malolactic fermentation.
Deep, dark purple color in the glass.
Very fragrant with intense aromas of blackberry jam, black plum sauce, black currants, spice and darkly
colored rose petals. Just gorgeous. Delicious earth bound flavors of black plum, blackberry and black
currant with a very subtle citrus note on the finish. Full-bodied, but not heavy or jammy. Very soft and
ephemeral in the mouth with gossamer tannins and impeccable balance. This wine really speaks of the Santa
Morning Dew Ranch
After Williams Selyem was sold in 1997, Burt Williams bought a 40-acre property in the deep end of the
Anderson Valley located 4 miles west of Philo on a ridge at 750 to 800 feet above the valley. Under the
guidance of vineyardist Steve Williams, the land was cleared and vines planted including cuttings from the
Rochioli Vineyard, DRC suitcase selections from adjacent vineyards, and clones 23 (Mariafeld), 115, 777 and
828. Cool and windy with a southeastern exposure, the vineyard produces clean fruit with thick skins leading to
concentrated wines of good color and rich tannin levels. Average yields are under 2 tons per acre. Williams
crafted a small amount of Morning Dew Ranch Pinot Noir in 2008 and 2009. The 2009 wine was 100%
destemmed and fermented for 15 days in open top, stainless steel tanks. It was then gravity racked to new
French oak barrels. After 15 months, it was gravity bottled, never pumped, and bottled unfined and unfiltered.
The 2009 wine is dedicated to the memory of Burt’s late wife, Jan. Williams has no plans to continue to
produce wine after the 2009 vintage so this bottling is his swan song. The wine was released in the fall of
2012, but a small amount may still be available. Inquires should be directed to Burt Williams at Morning Dew
Ranch, PO Box 487, Forestville, CA 95436.
2009 Morning Dew Ranch Jan’s Cuvée Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
13.6% alc., $75.
Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass.
Alluring aromas of black cherries, spice, white pepper and sweet pipe
smoke. Waves and waves of savory fruit, offering tantalizing flavors of
brandied black cherries, black raspberries, anise and tar. Very polished
with balanced tannins and well-honed acidity. The unbelievably long
finish lasts over a minute and I am not exaggerating. The more you taste, the
more you like this special wine. Even better the next day from a previously
opened and re-corked bottle. Williams Selyem Pinot Noir of the early 1990s De
Ja Vu. Burt is a modest soul, but calls this, “A wine apart.”
Owner and winemaker Kristie Tacey (see photo) specializes in Russian River
Valley Pinot Noir. Armed with winemaking experience at Lost Canyon and JC
Cellars and a Certificate in Winemaking from UC Davis, she launched her own
label in 2009. The name, Tessier, is the original French version of Kristie’s last
name, Tacey. Visit www.tessierwinery.com.
2011 Tessier Saralee’s Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
96 cases, $35. Clones 115 and Pommard 4. Aged in 25% new French oak.
Light reddish-purple color in the glass. Quintessential Russian River Valley Pinot
Noir offering aromas and flavors of fresh Bing cherries, baking spices, clove and
a hint of cola and vanilla. Relatively light in weight, appealingly elegant with mild
tannins, offering a silky mouth feel, and showing off some length on the finish. I
really like this for its restraint and approachability. I would never guess this wine
has moderately high alcohol. Very good (+).
2011 Tessier Saralee’s Vineyard Reserve Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.8% alc., 45 cases, $42. Clone 115. Aged in 50% new oak.
Light reddish-purple hue in the glass. Similar to the regular
bottling but displaying more body and tannin and showing more potential
for mid-term aging. Aromas and flavors of dark Bing cherries, baking
spices and dark red rose petals with a hint of oak. Very polished and
seamless, taking on more character and interest over time in the glass, but still
holding back enough to suggest that the wine has a ways to go before it fully
reveals itself. My only nit would be a subtle sense of heat on the finish, but I like
this wine a lot.
The wine reviewed here is from the Dos Rubios Vineyard (Dos Rubios means “two fair heads” in Spanish), a
partnership between Rob Jensen, founder of Testarossa, and Kirk Williams. The vineyard was designed and
planted specifically to Testarossa’s wishes, and winemaker Bill Brousseau oversees all farming decisions.
Testarossa was founded in 1993 by Rob and Diana Jensen and is one of the largest wineries in the Santa Cruz
Mountains. The winery’s tasting room just outside the winery in Los Gatos is open daily. Visit
2011 Testarossa Dos Rubios Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay
14.1% alc., 282 cases, $39. Clones 76 and 17.
Moderately deep gold color with
a tinge of orange and clear in the glass. Very shy initially, but opens gradually
and becomes quite enticing later in the day from an opened bottle. Aromas of
apple, citrus, grilled peach and vanilla. Soft and smooth, with flavors of white
peaches, citrus, spice and a hint of nutty, toasty oak. Perfectly fine on its own,
but has the balance, acidity and restrained oak to compliment many foods. Better later in the day from an opened bottle.
A negociant wine program by Mark Steven Pope, owner of Bounty Hunter Wine in Napa, California. Waypoint
is the cross section of two coordinates on a GPS, a precise and unambiguous place. In winemaking, the
waypoint or vineyard is everything. The winery’s single-vineyard program offers wines sourced from partners
with sites and growers that are first rate and their names are on the bottle. Visit www.bounterhunterwine.com.
2010 Waypoint Blue Farm Vineyard Carneros Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., $35.95.
This 7-acre Pinot Noir vineyard is in Anne Moller-Racke’s backyard and contains
a mixture of clones. She has been farming grapes in Carneros for over 30 years
and currently is director of The Donum Estate. The name of the vineyard comes
from the blue Victorian farmhouse on the property.
Moderately dark reddishpurple
color in the glass. Aromas of dark berries, Hoison sauce, cigar box and a
hint of smoky oak. Tasty core of dark cherries and dark red berries with touch of
toasty oak in the background. The fruit veers to the ripe side, but is hard to
resist. A worthy mid-weight wine with silky tannins, a soft mouth feel, and a
thrust of black cherry on the finish. Good.
A small garagiste winery in the Russian River Valley modeled after the original Williams Selyem winery. Coowner
Denise Mary Selyem is the daughter of Ed Selyem and both she and her co-owner spouse, Kirk Wesley
Hubbard, worked at Williams Selyem for several years before the winery was sold in 1997. The two-person
operation works out of a small industrial space in the former apple processing plant on Gravenstein Highway in
Sebastopol. All grapes are sourced for a Russian River Valley appellation Pinot Noir and four vineyard-designated
Pinot Noirs. The wines are all lovingly crafted by hand and consistently top shelf through every
vintage. The 2010 vintage wines are classy, elegant and exhibit admirable balance. They are highly
approachable now but will age. 2010 was a challenging vintage, and the wines reflect this. In 2012, the first
two acres of an estate vineyard were planted in Sebastopol using Pommard and Martini clones. The wines are
sold through a mailing list. Visit www.wesmarwinery.com.
2010 WesMar Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., $37. A blend of fruit from the vineyard
designates. Unfined and unfiltered.
Medium reddish-purple hue in the glass. Aromas of black cherry, cola,
hay and floral notes. Modest richness, tasting of black cherries, plums, cola, and black tea. Nicely balanced
with silky tannins and some finishing power. Good.
2010 WesMar Oehlman Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., $40. 12 acres of Martini
clone planted in 1989 and farmed by Karl and Elaine Oehlman. Unfined and unfiltered.
reddish-purple color in the glass. Relatively light in weight in this vintage with aromas of cherries, spice,
bramble and tomato. Elegantly composed with flavors of cherries, strawberries, spice and red hard candy,
framed by mild tannins and bright acidity, with some persistent cherry on the finish. Fine, but doesn’t emote.
2010 WesMar Salzgeber Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., $42. Unfined and
Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Powerful aromatics offering scents of dark red berry
preserves, sandalwood and tea leaf, picking up intensity over time in the glass. A very graceful wine with
considerable charm, exhibiting intense flavors of black cherries, blueberries and plum which expand in the
mouth and finish with remarkable persistence. Very flavorful, yet modest in weight, with good integration of
acidity and tannins. A complete wine. Very good.
2010 WesMar Balleto Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., $40. Pommard clone. Ninth vintage from this vineyard.
Unfined and unfiltered.
Medium reddish-purple color in the glass.
Lovely perfume of black cherry pie glaze, black raspberries, black
currant jam, balsam and baking spices. Delicious core of black cherry
and plum fruit flavors augmented by lavish, exotic spices that expands in
the mouth to reach every nook and cranny. Very juicy and refreshing
with a glorious citrus-cherry finish exhibiting considerable vigor. I seem to
gravitate to this wine in every vintage (Pommard is my paramour). Simply
2010 WesMar Hellenthal Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., $42. 8 clones. Unfined and
unfiltered. Always the most backward wine in the WesMar lineup, needing a few years to blossom.
difficult to pull out much on the nose. Brooding darker berry jam aroma shows up after an hour in the glass.
Full-bodied flavors of blackberries and black plum sauce with a note of loamy earth. Structurally sound with
balanced firm tannins. Almost creamy on the palate with impressive length on the fruit-driven finish. This wine
has a long way to go before it reveals itself. Decant if you must drink now. Tasted the following day from a
previously opened and re-corked bottle, the wine was much more aromatic and appealing. Very good.
A highly lauded and very successful winery producing about 16,000 cases of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Zinfandel
and occasionally other wines from a winery at Allen Ranch (crushing and fermenting) and a new winery that
opened in 2011 on Westside Road (aging, blending, storage and bottling). The new winery offers a striking
contrast to its rural Westside Road location, with a two-story front constructed of steel, wood and glass,
decorated with redwood salvaged from the old Almaden Winery. The wines are sold primarily through an
allocated mailing list, whose members enjoy the benefits of tasting, tours and special events at the winery. The
most desirable releases are snapped up after release, but don’t be afraid to inquire if there are wines of interest
to you, as some may be available. The fall 2012 releases included 14 vineyard-designated Pinot Noirs ($52 to
$100) including the newest vineyard sources of Olivet Lane and Morning Dew Ranch. The 2010 vintage wines
are lighter and more elegant than usual with very appealing textures and excellent oak integration. Visit
2010 Williams Selyem Rochioli Riverblock Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., $78.
Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Appealing aromas of brandied black cherry, dark berry,
spice and faint oak, building in intensity over time in the glass. Soft in the mouth with flavors of black cherries,
cola and carmelized oak with a hint of spice. A bit shallow on the mid palate and finish, but a satisfying wine
2010 Williams Selyem Olivet Lane Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., $75.
dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Long and persistent scents of dark cherries and berries, bramble and
exotic spices including clove. Moderately rich core of blackberry and black plum fruit with a floral and loamy
earth undertone and reigned-in tannins. Good mid palate impression with an elegant citrus-fused finish that
slips off the back of the palate like a silk sheet. Very good.
2010 Williams Selyem Eastside Road Neighbors Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., $52.
Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Very shy nose initially, but opens nicely over time to
reveal penetrating aromas of spiced plum, black cherry and white pepper. Tastes like the best plum
sauce you ever had. Velvet-edged fruit with gentle tannins and a deep plum-infused finish that lasts
more than 30 seconds. The whole package.
2010 Williams Selyem Burt Williams’ Morning Dew Ranch Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., $75.
Moderately light in color with a
reddish tinge. Generous aromas of dark red fruits, bark and maple
syrup. Light and elegant in style, but not wimpy in pleasure, infused with
rocket-powered flavors of red cherries and berries, blueberries, and
tantalizing baking spices. The fruit is invigorated by lively acidity, framed
by fine-grain tannins and full of vibrancy on the refreshing finish. I can’t
say enough good things about this gorgeous wine.
Windsor Oaks Vineyards & Winery
This 710-acre estate has 250 acres under vine with 18 different varieties of wine grapes. The vineyards are
located in three AVAs: Russian River Valley, Sonoma Coast and Chalk Hill. Grapes are supplied to 35 boutique
wineries, with small amounts kept back to produce Pinot Noir and other varietals under the Windsor Oaks
Vineyards label. The winemaker is Julie Lumgair and the consulting winemaker beginning in 2012 is Margaret
Davenport. The estate is open to the public eighteen days each year as well as for VIP tours and tasting by
appointment (707-433-3810). Visit www.windsoroaks.com. The Pinot Noir plantings are in the warmer reaches
of the Russian River Valley so the wines from the 2011 vintage benefited from the growing season’s cool
2011 Windsor Oaks Vineyards Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., 225 cases, $35.
A blend of Dijon clones.
Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. The wine offers an array of
pleasing aromas including cherries, red hard candies, herbs and dried rose petals. On the palate, it aims to
please with deep red cherry flavor underlain with a hint of cranberry and baking spice. Quite juicy, with supple
tannins and a saliva-inducing, mineral-laden acid spine. A fine reflection of the vintage. Good (+).
2011 Windsor Oaks Vineyards Reserve Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.6% alc., 175 cases, $45. A blend of Dijon clones from the finest
Medium reddish-purple hue in the glass. Inviting aromas of black cherry
pie glaze with an array of subtleties including vanilla, herbs and rose petals.
Extremely tasty mid weight black cherry cola flavor with a slight savory oak note
in the background. Well-honed, firm tannins, softly textured, finishing with a lush
cherry salute. This wine displays the ripe, lush cherry flavor that has brought
notoriety to the Russian River Valley. Very good.
2009 Windsor Oaks Vineyards 4 Dijon Clones Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 145 cases,
$35. Dijon clones 667, 115, 777 and 459.
Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Well-perfumed
with aromas of Bing cherries, smoky oak and cigar box. The middleweight core of black cherries with
complimentary accents of vanilla, Coca-Cola and smoke is tasty. The wine is welcoming with modest tannins
and a soft mouth feel. Good.
Sips of Oregon Pinot Noir
One of my New Year’s resolutions is not to over hype any one vintage for California or Oregon Pinot Noir. I
made a big deal about the 2010 Oregon vintage and I still believe that it is a stellar vintage that produced many outstanding wines,
despite the challenges the weather provided. However, I have found some Pinot Noir wines from that
vintage of late that are pleasant, but seemingly unripe and somewhat dilute. These wines speak to tart red fruit
and the austere style of Pinot Noir that appeals to some, but will disappoint those looking for a rush of fruit
on the palate.
I am a big fan of this winery and the wines crafted by Maggie Harrison, and buy the wines every year. The
2010 Botanica bottling from Shea Vineyard was one of my 2012 Pinot Noir All-Americans. I expected big
things from the estate Pinot Noir, Antikythera, as well, but found it to be curiously unfulfilling at this early stage.
It was made in very small quantities because of the vintage challenges, and is now sold out, so I may not be
spot on in my evaluation of this one bottle. Time will tell. The Antica Terra wines are sold through a mailing list,
with additional limited retail distribution of the Antica Terra Willamette Valley bottling. Maggie is also crafting
some interesting wines including a sparkler and a white Rhone, and many surprises are in store down the road.
Visit www.anticaterra.com. Listen to a recent conversation with Maggie on Grape Radio, “Life with Maggie -
Part 2”: www.graperadio.com/archives/2012/08/17/life-with-maggie-part-2/.
2010 Antica Terra Antikythera Eola-Amity Hills Pinot Noir
13.1% alc., $100.
Released November 1, 2012.
Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass.
Aromas of dark red cherries and berries, bramble, stem, rose petal and toasty
new oak. Light and soft on the palate featuring red fruit flavors with a slight
green, herbal undertone. Seamless, with gossamer tannins and a very long,
slightly tart red cherry finish. Tasted later in the day, the wine still had a slight
vegetal and floral tone. I suspect this wine needs more time for full expression
and to fully integrate the oak. Not sure how it will turn out. Good.
Planted between 1977 and 1979, Bethel Heights Vineyard was one of the first vineyards in the Eola-Amity Hills
region. The initial wines were released in 1984. Bethel Heights now turns out approximately 10,000 cases
yearly, most of which comes from the 49-acre Bethel Heights Vineyard and the more recently planted nearby
Justice Vineyard. The winery produces several Pinot Noirs including block-designated bottles which are very
special. Founded by twin brothers Ted and Terry Casteel and their wives Pat Dudley and Marilyn Webb, the
winery now is largely in the hands of the second generation, cousins Mimi (viticulture) and Ben (winemaking)
Casteel. The winery tasting room is open year round, but the hours vary seasonal. Visit
www.bethelheights.com. I tasted the entire 2010 lineup of Pinot Noirs at the winery last summer (Volume 9,
Issue 11). The 2010 Bethel Heights Pinot Noirs reviewed here have impressive color, aromatic expression, fruit
intensity, and finishing length, and are among the most notable of the 2010 wines I have tasted from Oregon.
2010 Bethel Heights Estate Casteel Reserve Eola-Amity Hills Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
12.8% alc., pH
3.45, TA 0.75, 270 cases, $60. A blend of select barrels from several blocks in Estate vineyards and is meant
to represent the best expression of the vintage. This is the only Bethel Heights Pinot Noir that carries the
Casteel family name rather than a place name. In recent years, more of the chosen barrels have come from
the second generation Pinot Noir blocks that are reaching fifteen years of age (The second generation vines
and second generation winemaking team is reaching maturity together!). 50% clone 114 planted in 1996, 20%
667 from Justice Vineyard planted in 1999, and 30% from old vine Wädenswil clone planted in 1977. 100%
destemmed fruit. Barrel aged 11 months in 60% new French oak barrels.
Moderately dark reddish-purple
color in the glass. Fresh aromas of black cherries, black raspberries, grilled plum and rose petals. Mineralcharged
middleweight flavors of red and black stone fruits and berries with beautifully balanced tannins and a
refreshing riff of nervy acidity on the finish. Does not have the intense fruit flavors or density of the three block
bottlings, but its vibrancy and focus is more reflective of the vintage. Very good.
2010 Bethel Heights Estate West Block Eola-Amity Hills Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
12.8% alc., pH
3.31, TA .0645, 132 cases, $50. The heart of the West Block is a 5-acre section of Wädenswil (UCD 1A) clone
vines planted in 1977 on their own roots and are the oldest Pinot Noir vines at Bethel Heights. The Wädenswil
tends to be late ripener with higher acidity and darker color. 100% destemmed fruit. Barrel aged 11 months in
50% new French oak barrels.
Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Alluring aromatics bursting
forth from the glass with notes of dark berry preserves, black currants, dark cocoa, truffle and subtle herbs.
Quite earthy, featuring rich black fruit flavors with hints of black tea leaf and tar, finishing with impressive fruitdriven
intensity and length. The wine offers a mild grip of tannin and well integrated acidity. Quite typical of
Wädenswil clone. Better two days later from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. Very good.
2010 Bethel Heights Estate Flat Block Eola-Amity Hills Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
12.8% alc., pH 3.45, TA 0.66, 167 cases, $58. The
Flat Block is one of seven different sections of Pinot Noir planted over
37 acres in the estate vineyard. It was planted in 1979 on a flat table of
the vineyard and is 100% own-rooted Pommard clone. The soil is
gravelly and of a different mineral composition than the neighboring
Southeast Block. This 3.3-acre block consistently has a distinctive
character, usually offering the most refined and elegant Pinot Noir.
Wines from Flat Block have been bottled separately since 1991.
dark reddish-purple color in the glass. This is one of those wines that makes
you sit up and take notice. Marvelous aromas of black cherries, damp earth, and warm s’mores. Earthy,
exotic, and erotic black cherry and black berry flavors with a compliment of spice. The fruit is robed in ripe, firm
but polished tannins, invigorated with bright acidity, and blessed with a charge of black cherry flavor on the
dancing finish. Seduction.com.
2010 Bethel Heights Southeast Block Eola-Amity Hills Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
pH 3.45, TA 0.65, 135 cases, $50. From a 6-acre section of the estate vineyard planted in 1979 in
deep red clay soil that is volcanic in origin. The vines are 100% own-rooted Pommard clone. 100%
destemmed fruit. Aged 11 months in 50% new French oak barrels. Wines from Southeast Block have
been bottled separately since 1991.
Moderately dark reddish-purple hue in the glass. Scintillating
aromas of dark cherries, raspberry jam and cardamom spice. Intensely flavorful, tasting of ripe black
fruits including cassis, and brewed black Oolong tea. The fruit has remarkable staying power in the
mouth and finishes with pleasing crispness and length. An immensely satisfying wine.
Big Table Farm
A collaborative effort between artist Clare Carver and her winemaker spouse Brian Marcy. The pair moved to
Oregon from Napa, bought a 100-year-old farmhouse and property in Gaston, and started a winery in 2006
producing wines from purchased grapes. Marcy has an impressive resume, having winemaking experience at
Turley Wine Cellars, Neyers Vineyards, Blankiet Estate and Marcassin, all in California. Along with producing
wine, the couple have established a working farm where they raise poultry, pigs, cows and egg-laying chickens.
The wines are sold through a mailing list and a small tasting room at their home. Visit the very informative and
well-designed website at www.bigtablefarm.com. Original art by Clare appears on every label each year and
the hand lettered and pressed labels are affixed to each bottle one at a time.
2010 Big Table Farm Wirtz Vineyard Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
alc., 90 cases, $45. Label features hazelnuts from the neighboring field.
Inaugural offering from this vineyard. The vines from this multigenerational site
in the northern part of the Willamette Valley average 40 years of age.
garnet color in the glass. Complex nose offering aromas of cherries, plums,
spice, and toasty oak. Soft and elegant on the palate with restrained tannins
and a good spark of acidity. Lighter weight dark red fruits are featured,
especially cherry, with a topcoat of smoky oak. A pleasant wine that needs more
time to integrate the oak. Good.
2010 Big Table Farm Cattrall Brothers Vineyard Eola-Amity Hills Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
118 cases, $45. Label features an old truck from the vineyard. Sourced from the oldest certified organic
vineyard in Oregon that was planted in the early 1970s.
Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass.
Bright aromas of black cherries, stem and new oak. Rounded cherry core with an herbal, savory riff, offering a
silky mouth feel, supple tannins and impeccable balance. Still carrying a substantial load of oak. Needs more
2011 Big Table Farm Wirtz Vineyard Willamette Valley Pinot Gris
12.6% alc.,110 cases, $28. An “orange”
wine created by taking a traditionally white grape and leaving it on it’s skins to add color and texture, then
pressing and finished by fermenting to dryness in neutral French oak barrels. Full MLF, unfined and unfiltered.
Medium blood orange color in the glass. An unusual wine that is challenging to describe properly. Aromas of
citrus peel, melon and herbs. An easy drinker that is very light and extremely dry on the finish showing flavors
of white stone fruits, white raspberries, vanilla, orange peel and toast. A welcome aperitif if chilled, or a good
accompaniment to shellfish. Good.
NV Big Table Farm NV Work Horse Red
12.9% alc., 140 cases, $48. A blend of 90% Resonance Vineyard Pinot
Noir (2011) and 10% White Hawk Syrah (2009). Label features Clare’s plough horse. Fermented with some whole cluster. Aged in about 30% new French oak.
Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Intensely fruity on the nose featuring aromas of cherry pie
glaze and black raspberry jam, with hints of pipe smoke and oak. Rich and full-bodied on the palate with a lush
core of black cherry and black raspberry fruits accented with spice and oak. Amazing amount of fruit flavor and
soul packed into a wine with very low alcohol. Good.
Robert Brittan is a former renowned winemaker from California who moved to the Willamette Valley in 2004
and bought a 128-acre forested tract near McMinnville. He replanted 18 acres of vineyards on the property,
retaining some Swan clone plantings, and established an additional 3.5 acres of Pinot Noir in 2008. His first
vintage was 2006. Two Pinot Noirs are offered: a Basalt cuvée and a Gestalt cuvée, the difference being the
type of soils the vines are grown in. The wines are sold through a mailing list with some retail distribution. Visit
www.brittanvineyards.com. Brittan is also the consulting winemaker for a number of Willamette Valley wineries
2010 Brittan Vineyards Basalt Block Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
alc., $50. Sourced from parts the vineyard with the heaviest concentration of
broken sub-marine basalt, resulting in low yielding vines that produce intense
flavors. Primarily Pommard, blended with 667, 777 and 115. Aged 9 months in
25% new French oak.
Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass.
Aromas of dark red berries including cranberries, vitamins, and seasoned oak.
Dark red raspberry, red plum and red cherry flavors are featured underlain with
soft tannins. Finishes with a rush of sour cherry fruit and grapefruit-driven
acidity. Not particularly pleasing on its own, but acid can be your friend at the
dinner table, and this wine should work nicely with a salad dressed with vinaigrette, deep-fried foods or fish
dishes with creamy sauces. Good.
Founder and winemaker of Brooks Wines, Portland native Jimi Brooks, passed away in 2004, and his winery
was bequeathed to his young son, Pascal, who was 16 years of age in 2012 and is the youngest owner of a
winery in the U.S.. Jimi’s sister, Janie Brooks, leads winery operations. In 2006, Chris Williams became the
winemaker and continues Jimi’s wish to produce affordable Pinot Noir and Riesling wines. About 8,000 cases
of wine are produced annually at a winery built over 40 years ago by Oregon wine pioneers Don and Carolyn
Byard. Organic and biodynamic farming practices are paramount at Brooks which owns a 20-acre vineyard in
the Eola-Amity Hills, formerly the property of the Byards. Tasting, which had only been available by
appointment, is now offered Tuesday through Sunday at 9360 SE Eola Hills Road in Amity. Visit
2009 Brooks Janus Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.8% alc., $35.
The winery’s flagship bottling.
Moderately light reddish-purple color in
the glass. Nicely perfumed with aromas of dark red cherries and
berries, forest floor and sandalwood. Tasty core of dark red cherries
with a hint of savory herbs in the background. Light on its feet with
good acidity and mild tannins, finishing with some power and intensity.
2009 Brooks Rastaban Eola-Amity Hills Pinot Noir
13.8% alc., $50. Rastaban is a star, the eye of the
dragon in the constellation Draco. This wine is composed of the most complete and intense barrels in the
cellar and represents the best effort for the vintage. 100% estate fruit.
Medium reddish-purple color in the
glass. Aromas of very ripe black cherries, sassafras, prune and a slight medicinal note. Moderately lush core
of dark raspberry, black cherry and dark chocolate flavors creating quite a noticeable mid palate impression
and finishing long and powerful. A juicy wine with lift from good acidity in the background. Soft in the mouth
with balanced tannins. Bogged down with slightly jammy fruit and ripeness. Good (+).
2010 Brooks Temperance Hill Eola-Amity Hills Pinot Noir
11.8% alc., 200 cases, $45. Old vine vineyard.
Light reddish-purple hue in the glass. Enticing aromas of spiced dark red fruits, brier, forest floor and earth.
Light, but pleasantly flavored, featuring crisp, red cherries and cranberries, finishing with a citrus note. Mild
tannins and easy drinkability. Good.
2010 Brooks Sunny Mountain Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
12.9% alc., 100
cases, $45. Old vine vineyard.
Moderately light reddish-purple color in the
glass. The bright nose really reels you in with aromas of fresh, dark red cherries
and berries and dried herbs. A little more body and a little less acid-driven than
the Temperance Hill bottling, with hi-tone red cherry flavor. A seamless wine
with supple tannins that has enough intensity to create a lasting impression.
2010 Brooks Janus Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
12.2% alc., $35.
Light reddish-purple color in the
glass. The nose offers shy aromas of dark red cherries, and oak-driven espresso. Elegant, relatively
light and feminine, but offering a pleasing assortment of red and black berry fruits with a savory soul,
wrapped in gentle tannins. Plenty of vim and vigor due to bright acidity which makes for refreshing
drinking. A perfect food wine. Very good (+).
The site of the first plantings of Pinot Noir in Oregon in 1961 by Richard Sommer who founded this winery. It is
Oregon’s oldest estate winery. Dyson DeMara took the reigns of the vineyard and winery in 2003 and today
produces a variety of wines from estate and bought fruit, available for tasting and purchasing in the winery’s
tasting room only. Dyson likes to say, “Good wine tastes like a grape, but great wines taste like a place.” Read
the full history of this winery in Volume 8, Issue 39 of the PinotFile. Visit www.hillcrestvineyard.com.
2009 HillCrest Vineyard Memorial Estate Umpqua Valley Pinot Noir
(unlabeled, inquire about availability). From old, non-irrigated, lowyielding
Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. A very
distinctive wine with appealing aromas of black cherries, spice,
sarsaparilla, chocolate mint, and smoke. Striking fruit core of ripe dark
cherries, black raspberries, cherry cola, dark chocolate, spearmint,
spice and sassafras with good tannin support and a generous fruit-filled
finish. Definitely speaks of place and is nothing like any Pinot Noir from the
Willamette Valley or anywhere else in Oregon for that matter. Drink or hold.
This estate consists of 85 acres of vineyards in the heart of the Willamette Valley in the Van Duzer corridor.
Norwegian Dag Johan Sundby, a descendent of a long line of soil tillers, came to the Willamette Valley in 2004.
Dan Rinke has been the viticulturist and winemaker at Johan since 2007. His background includes stints at
Domaine Alfred and Rhys Vineyards in California. The winery offers Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Vin Gris and
Pinot Noir. Visit www.johanvineyards.com.
2009 Johan Vineyards Estate Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
12.5% alc., pH 3.86, TA 0.55, 1,083 cases, $28.
Native yeast fermentations, 42% whole cluster. Aged 11 months in 32% new French oak barrels.
reddish-purple color in the glass. Aromas of wild berries, bramble, lilac with a subtle green (stem) and
medicinal note. Earthy dark red cherries and blueberries are featured in a middleweight style with a green,
vegetal underpinning. Whole cluster just didn’t work in this savory wine. Decent.
2008 Johan Vineyards Estate Nils Reserve Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
12.8% alc., pH 3.77, TA 0.56, 330 cases, $45. A barrel selection of clones 114,
115, 667 and 777. Native yeast fermentations, 50% whole cluster, aged 18
months in 40% new French oak barrels.
Moderately dark reddish-purple color in
the glass. Very shy initially, opening nicely over time in the glass to revealing
uplifting aromas of very ripe dark plum and berry with notes of brown spice and
exotic woods. Impressive mid-palate presence of dark plum and berries with a
hint of spice, balanced nicely by firm tannins and citrus-driven acidity. Well composed
and still young, I would hold for a few more years. Very good.
2009 Johan Vineyards Estate Reserve Willamette Valley Chardonnay
12.5% alc., pH
3.36, TA 0.59, 142 cases, $33. Released November 2011. A winemaker selection of a blend
of Dijon clones 76 and 95. Fermented with native yeasts in 50% new French oak with lees
stirring, and aged 18 months where it underwent 100% MLF. The wine was bottle aged an
additional 7 months before release. Minimal sulfite additions. Unfiltered.
Pale straw color in
the glass with slight cloudiness (bottled with lees). Attractive scent of lemon custard and
buttered brioche. Fresh and frisky, with delicious flavors of lemon, pear, apple, pineapple
and yeasty goodness, silky textured, finishing with a good cut of acidity. One of the more
impressive Oregon Chardonnays I have sampled.
Raptor Ridge Winery
A specialist in Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris located in a modern winery facility and tasting room in Newberg,
Oregon adjacent the 18-acre estate vineyard. Owner and winemaker Scott Shull founded the winery in 1995,
which is named appropriately after the birds of prey that share the property. Wines are crafted from the Estate
Tuscowallame Vineyard and other well-known Willamette Valley winegrowers. Scott and Annie Shull donate 10
cents for every bottle sold to Salud The Oregon Wine Auction which supports vineyard worker health care in
Oregon. The tasting room, with scenic views of Mount Hood, Adams and St. Helen’s is open seasonally and by
appointment. The wines are available on the website at www.raptoridge.com and through limited retail
distribution. The Raptor Ridge Pinot Noirs are typically richly flavored but the 2010 vintage wines show light
color, more elegance, modesty and restraint. Back in 2002, Scott Shull said what still rings true today: “Focus
on flavor, mouthfeel, and aromas in Pinot Noir and let color fall where it may.”
2011 Raptor Ridge Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
12.5% alc., 2,200 cases, $25, screwcap.
Released December 15, 2012.
Light reddish-purple color in the glass. Darker fruits are featured on
the nose including black cherries with a touch of spice and oak. Light and elegant, with satisfying
cherry, blueberry and pomegranate flavors, finishing with an uplifting spiced cherry note. Gossamer
tannins and every easy to drink. An impressive Willamette Valley blend. Buy this by the case for
satisfying everyday drinking. Good (+).
2010 Raptor Ridge Olenik Vineyard Chehalem Mountains Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.0% alc., 100
cases, $38, screwcap. Released March 15, 2012.
Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. The
nose is appealing with an array of aromas including dark berries, sassafras, hickory, pepper and floral accents.
Tastes of the essence of blackberries with an oaky, earthy edge. Well-balanced dry tannins provide good
support and bright acidity on the finish infuses the wine with vigor. Good.
2010 Raptor Ridge Gran Moraine Vineyard McMinnville Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.0% alc., <200
cases, $38, screwcap. Released March 15, 2012.
Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. A
relatively austere wine with hi-tone acidity. Aromas of dark berry preserves, sweet pea and resin. Tasty core of
dark berries and black plum sauce with oak and a green thread running through. Light in weight with balanced
tannins and a bright finish. Lively acidity really elevates this wine. Good.
2010 Raptor Ridge Meredith Mitchell Vineyard McMinnville Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.0% alc., 175 cases, $38, screwcap.
Release early 2013.
Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass.
Nose-filling aromas of spiced red stone fruits. Discreetly concentrated
core of dark red and purple fruits including grapes, with a juicy finish
that lasts and lasts. Satisfying fullness and roundness with a very
appealing velvety mouth feel. Everything is in place with balanced dry
tannins, zippy acidity and perfectly ripened fruit. This vineyard performed
beautifully in this vintage.
2010 Raptor Ridge Shea Vineyard Yamhill-Carlton District Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
12.5% alc., 250
cases, $55, screwcap. Released November 15, 2012.
Light reddish-purple hue in the glass. The fruit hasn’t
emerged on the nose. Aromas of oak and coffee are at the forefront with deep cherry and berry aromas in the
background. Relatively light but satisfying featuring delicious dark berry fruit complimented by oak, finishing
very long. Very young and needs time to soften the tannins and fully integrate the oak, but the pedigree of the
fruit is evident. Good (+).
2010 Raptor Ridge Trig Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.0% alc., 50 cases, $41, screwcap. Released June
2012. A barrel select blend of 50% Shea Vineyard and 50% Meredith Mitchell Vineyard grapes.
light reddish-purple color in the glass. Nicely perfumed initially with aromas of cherry, cranberry and spice,
fading in appeal over time as aromas of tobacco, herbs and geranium emerge. Light and juicy on the palate
with cherry and red berry flavors, supported by fine-grain tannins and a lively riff of acidity. Decent.
Dubakella: Great Pinot from an Unexpected Place
“This wine represents the beginning of a profound journey into the discovery of an unknown terroir.”
Andy Carini produces Dubakella wines, including a Pinot Noir, from a vineyard in Hayfork, California, located
about half way between the cities of Redding and Eureka in Trinity County. Hayfork is about smack in the
middle of the best northern coastal Pinot Noir growing regions of California and the Willamette Valley of
Oregon. The vineyard is in uncharted winegrowing territory, but seems a natural fit for Pinot Noir. Carini
exclaims, “As my years working with this vineyard pass, and we fine tune our farming to the site, the wines are
proving that this is a place for great Pinot Noir, perhaps one of the very best places in the state for it.”
Carini began working with his vineyard, originally planted in 1998, just before harvest in 2004. 7 acres of Pinot
Noir, clones 115 and Pommard, and 2 acres of Pinot Gris are farmed organically. At 2,500 feet on a south
facing slope overlooking Hayfork Valley, the soils are rocky loam with trace veins of limestone throughout. The
climate is Burgundian, with a short, intense growing season with only two months of the year sure to be free of
frost (July and August). Summer day to night time temperature swings of 50 degrees are the norm with highs
up to the high 90s and lows in the 40s.
Carini has never been much of a Pinot Noir drinker (although the Dubakella Pinot Noirs are changing his mind)
and more a “Cabernet and Merlot guy.” He produces Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot under the Carini label.
The Dubakella label is derived from the tallest mountain visible from Carini’s winery in Hayfork. It is a Wintu (a
local Native American tribe) word for “black rock.”
Intensive viticulture focus is practiced here. Each vine is touched by human hands over fifteen times from
pruning to harvest. Yields are controlled, and ripening expedited by severe pruning and dropping of fruit at
several key times throughout the season. The canopy is carefully managed by thinning and positioning canes
and by light leaf removal near the fruit zone.
Carini’s winemaking style is hands off. The only additions are yeast and minimal sulfur dioxide. There is no
watering down, acidification, spinning cone, copper, color boosters, fining or filtration. 90% of the grapes are
typically destemmed followed by a cold maceration. After inoculation, fermentations last 10 to 14 days. Aging
is carried out for an extended time in 100% French oak barrels at which time the wine is bottled directly off its
lees. The wine is then aged in bottle for six to twelve months before release.
The 2005 vintage was the first to express the true potential of this site and region. I tasted this wine on a few
occasions previously and thought enough of it to include it in an annual All-American awards issue. It is still
available from the winery. The current release is the 2007 vintage, the product of a perfect growing season
that allowed the fruit to ripen to perfection. Both vintages were tasted recently and included here.
Visit the website at www.dubakella.com to order wine. 530-628-5258.
2005 Dubakella Trinity County Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., $30.
Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Still fresh with lively
aromas of black cherries, black raspberries, currants, saddle
leather and shoebox. Delicious dark stone fruit and berry
flavor with accents of tea leaf, dark chocolate, cola, and the
faintest oak. Silk and satin on the palate with well-balanced
dry tannins and a memorable finish. Drinking majestically
now, but will last several more years. A superb, winery-aged Pinot Noir for $30 -
how often have you seen that?
2007 Dubakella Trinity County Pinot Noir
14.9% alc., 400 cases, $30. Aged 46 months in
100% French oak barrels before bottling unfined and unfiltered. Aged over one year in
Medium reddish-purple hue in the glass. Hard to take your nose out of the glass.
Enticing aromas of perfectly ripe black raspberries and strawberries. Redolent of a bowl of
crushed berry fruits that are sinfully delicious. A little spicy, a little savory, a little mineralinfused:
very unique and unlike any other California Pinot Noir. Crisp and juicy, with
complimentary tannins, and a very long and satisfying finish. A connoisseur’s Pinot that can
be enjoyed now, but has the impeccable balance to age for many years.
NV Dubakella “Six and Eleven” Red Wine
14.3% alc., $20.
Grenache from the Rogue Valley of Oregon (68%) and Pinot Noir
from Trinity County, California (32%) featuring two vintages that were
five years apart (2006 and 2011).
Moderately dark reddish-purple
color in the glass. Deep, focused aromas of plum, blackberry,
confected black cherries, dark chocolate, spice and rose petals.
Juicy and spicy with a middleweight core of tasty dark berry and dark
stone fruit flavors backed by modest tannins. Certainly not an everyday
combination, but a freakish combination that works. Good.
2011 Angeline California Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., $9.99, screwcap.
Medium reddish-purple hue in the glass. The aromas of spiced plum,
black raspberry jam and graham really jump out of the glass. Tasty
core of dark cherries and plum sauce with accents of herbs, oak, dark
chocolate, spice and cherry hard candy. Moderately concentrated
with balanced tannins and some fruit showing up for an encore on the
2009 Bridlewood Monterey County Pinot Noir
13.6% alc., $17. An E.&J. Gallo property producing a range
of premium wines including Pinot Noir from Central Coast vineyards. Annual production is 125,000 cases. The
winemaker is David Hopkins.
Moderately deep reddish-purple color in the glass. A lot going on in the nose but
not particularly harmonious. Aromas of black cherries, black raspberries, sassafras, cardamom spice, vanilla,
filter paper and cut flowers. Middleweight flavors of dark berries, currants and plums with an accent of oakdriven
smoke and spice. Juicy and crisp, lacking mid palate punch and finish. Decent. (The Sta. Rita Hills
bottling is significantly better).
2010 Hess Select Central Coast Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., pH 3.54, TA 0.59, 5,700 cases, $20. This wine has
just been introduced by long time Hess winemaker Dave Guffy who crafted the Cambria Julia’s Vineyard Pinot
Noir years ago. Aged in used French oak barrels.
Moderately light ruby color in the glass. Reserved aromas
of cherries, bramble and seasoned wood. Very little fruit shows up on the nose, even with extensive coaxing.
Demurely fruited with flavors of cherries, blueberries and strawberries, finishing with a kiss of red cherry.
Elegant with gossamer tannins. Nothing really stands out but the wine is true to its Pinot Noir origin. Decent.
2011 Kudos Reserve Yamhill-Carlton District Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., $19.99. Aged 10
months in French oak barrels.
Moderately light ruby red color in the glass. Aromas of cherries, espresso, dark
chocolate and bramble. Middleweight core of tart red fruits including cherries, cranberries and pomegranates
superseded by muscular tannins which hang around on the hi-strung finish. This wine is out of sorts with too
much acidity and tannins to complement the delicate fruit. Not a very good wine in this vintage. Decent.
2011 La Crema Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.8% alc., pH 3.70, TA
0.55, >50,000 cases, $25. 100% destemmed, 5-day cold soak,
fermentation in open top tanks with daily punch downs. Aged 6+
months in 98% French oak barrels (23% new). Wines were racked
once out of barrel before blending.
Moderately light reddish-purple
color in the glass. Nicely perfumed with aromas of earth-kissed dark
red berries and cherries, dried rose petals and subtle oak, picking up
intensity over time in the glass. Middleweight flavors of dark red cherries and
cranberries with hint of cola, tar, spice and oak, offering caressing tannins, and
finishing with a refreshing juiciness. A solid daily drinker. Surprisingly artisan in
style considering the huge production. Good.
2010 MacMurray Ranch Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
13.8% alc., $20.99.
Medium reddish-purple color
in the glass. Very dull nose, with no fruit making a house call even after 45 minutes in the glass. Light weight
flavors of cherries and strawberries with a hint of herbs backed by ripe tannins and complimentary acidity.
Unchanged the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. Awfully plain. Decent.
2011 Sean Minor Four Bears Central Coast Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., $11.99, screwcap.
reddish-purple color in the glass. Aromas of dark cherries, strawberries, anise, pipe smoke, spice and mowed
grass. Juicy and frisky, with very little tannin, offering bright flavors of cherries, strawberries, raspberries, earth
and sweet smoky oak. Decent.
Laura Volkman Sells Vineyard For several years, Laura has been crafted superb Pinot Noir from
her small vineyard in the Chehalem Mountains. Her three wines, St. James, Jacob Estate and Rachel Estate
have always garnered rave reviews from me. I had a 2006 Jacob Estate Pinot Noir last night with dinner and it
was drinking beautifully. Sadly, health issues prevent Laura from continuing the physical demands of vineyard
and winery work (she was a one-woman winery, performing all the hands-on management of her vineyard and
crafting the wines in the winery). She sold her combination residence and tasting room and vineyard to Bill and
Sandy Sanchez of Tigard, Oregon. Bill is a scientist and Sandy is a school teacher and both are very
enthusiastic about growing and producing Pinot Noir. Laura has moved to nearby Sherwood, where she will be
a consultant for Potters Vineyard as well as for the new owners who produced the 2012 vintage together with
Laura. Because of limited harvests in 2010 and 2011, Laura did not make a Jacob Estate or Rachel Estate.
Instead, she crafted a 2010 Reserve and a 2010 St. James. The Reserve sold out quickly to the wine club. In
2011, Laura made a Pommard Block Pinot Noir and a St. James Pinot Noir. Future plans call for continuing the
St. James label with the 2012 vintage and perhaps more vintages in the future. For inquires about obtaining
Laura’s final solo vintages, visit the website at www.volkmanvineyards.com or contact her at 503-806-4047.
Pinot Paradise Santa Cruz Mtns 2013 The 9th Annual Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Paradise will
be held the weekend of March 22-24, 2013. A Technical Session on Minerality and Taste versus Terroir of the
Santa Cruz Mountains will be followed by a Meet the Winemaker Reception at Mountain Winery in Saratoga.
On Saturday, March 23, the Pathway to Pinot Paradise will invite wine enthusiasts to tour the Santa Cruz
Mountains, stopping at wineries for barrel tastings and tours. On Sunday, March 24, over 30 wineries of the
Santa Cruz Mountains and 20 restaurants from the Santa Cruz area will be offering their delights at Villa
Ragusa in Old Town, Campbell. Winemaker dinners are also planned at Mountain Winery and Shadowbrook
restaurants. Individual events and three-day even package are available at www.scmwa.com.
Pinot Days New York City Pinot Days returns to New York City January 26, 2013. To be held at City
Winery in Lower Manhattan, attendance will be limited to 1,000 public attendees. Over 40 top Pinot Noir
producers will be pouring. For information and tickets, visit www.pinotdays.com.
World of Pinot Noir 2013 The 13th Annual World of Pinot Noir will be held at The Cliffs Resort in the
Central Coast of California March 1-2, 2013. Serious pinotphiles know to show up for this grand event which
includes seminars such as “Up Close and Personal with Kosta Browne,” “Pinot Noir on the Rocks - the
Question of ‘Minerality’,” and “Alcohol and Balance Redux, and How Vintage Comes Into Play.” Many other
activities are planned including a Williams Selyem Winemaker Dinner, a talk on “Terroir: The Soul of La Cote
d’Or,” and a Sta. Rita Hills Focus Luncheon. The afternoon Pinot Noir by the Sea Grand Tastings allow
attendees to sample Pinot Noir from more than 120 wineries. For more information and tickets, visit
www.worldofpinotnoir.com. Some events have already sold out. Book your lodging also now!
Pasadena PinotFest The 6th Annual Pasadena PinotFest will be held at the Altadena Town & Country
Club on February 9, 2013. 100 leading California and Oregon producers of Pinot Noir will participate including
names like Alma Rosa, Arcadian, Clos Pepe, Dutton-goldfield, Hitching Post, Ken Brown, La Fenetre, Loring
Wine Company, Sojourn Cellars, George Wine, Gypsy Canyon and Prodigal. All featured wines can be
purchased at the event at reasonable prices. Tickets are available at www.pasadenapinotfest.com. I would
suggest you buy the VIP admission which allows access to the event early as the small venue becomes quite
crowded as the day progresses. A portion of the PinotFest proceeds, including purchased wines, benefits the
Hathaway-Sycamores Child and Family Services, one of the largest providers of children’s mental health
services in Los Angeles County.
West Sonoma Coast Vintners Visit New York City The WOW Festival arrives in New York on
February 26, 2013, at City Winery. West Sonoma Coast Vintners is an association of wineries that farm grapes
on the far western coastline of Sonoma County. Vintners participating including Cobb, Failla, Flowers,
Freeman, Gros Ventre, Hartford, Hirsch Joseph Phelps, Littorai, MacPhail, Martinelli, Pahlmeyer, Peay, Red
Car, Small Vines, Sojourn, Talisman, and Zepaltas. Visit www.citywinery.com.
Sta. Rita Hills Winegrowers Heading to Desert Tasting of Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noirs on
January 27 at the 3rd Corner Wine Shop and Bistro in Palm Desert. Participating wineries include
Cargassachi, Dierberg, Dragonette, Fiddlehead, Hitching Post, Huber, Kessler-Haak, Liquid Farm, Longoria,
Paili and Zotovich. Tickets available through 3rd Corner Wine Shop and Bistro at 760-837-9600. Sponsored
by the Sta. Rita Hills Winegrowers Alliance, www.StaRitaHills.com.
Mornington Peninsula International Pinot Noir Celebration The Sixth Mornington
Peninsula International Pinot Noir Celebration, modeled after the International Pinot Noir Celebration in
Oregon, will be held February 8-9, 2013. Some tickets are still available. The event will be held at RACV Cape
Schanck Resort on the Mornington Peninsula. Special guests include Jasper Morris MW, Domaine Grivot,
Josh Jensen (Calera), and Ted Lemon (Littorai). Maximum attendance is 200. Visit www.mpva.com.au.
New Zealand Wine Fairs in U.S. The annual tastings will be held this year in New York May 13 and
San Francisco May 16. For information, and to be added to the distribution list for “NZ Dirt - The Inside Story
on New Zealand Wines,” an online news update for the United States market, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Longoria Opening New Winery Richard Longoria is opening a new winery on the southern side of
Lompoc on Chestnut Avenue that will have a tasting room, offices and a room for dinners. Longoria has owned
a winery in the Lompoc Wine Ghetto for 13 years. The winery is expected to be open sometime in September
New Wine Magazine Great Wine News: pairing great wine with great living debuted with the January
2013 issue. Wine news and lifestyle stories from around the globe. Visit www.greatwinenews.com for more
information and to sign up for a complimentary subscription.
‘Sideways The Play’ After a successful run last year in Santa Monica, California, ‘Sideways The Play’
will open in Sonoma County August-September 2013. Producers are Rex Pickett, Mike Myers and Barbara
New Unnamed Dundee Hills Winery Robert Roy, the co-owner of Beaux Frères, and his son, have
bought a hazelnut orchard on Worden Hill Road and plan to launch a new winery on the site with Jared Etzel,
son of Beaux Frères winemaker, Mike Etzel, as the winemaker. The name of the new winery has not been
Powell Hill Winery The original blocks of the Maresh Vineyard in the Dundee Hills were planted in 1970,
making it the fifth oldest continuously producing vineyard in Oregon. Jim Arterberry, following in the footsteps
of his father, Fred Arterberry and grandfather Jim Maresh, has become one of Oregon’s most touted young
winemakers. The Powell Hill Winery was launched by Jim’s mother, and the first release crafted by Jim
produced 25 cases of Powell Hill Winery Maresh Red Hills Vineyard Pinot Noir from the 2009 vintage. No
New Faces of Pinot Noir in Oregon: A number of new hounds have entered the Pinot race. Sweet
Earth Vineyards (owners Nancy and Phil McCullum released their first Pinot Noir from the 2009 vintage priced
at $20, and followed up with an award-winning 2010 Pinot Noir priced at $22: located in Monroe, near
Corvallis, www.sweetearthvineayrds.com). Thomas Gerrie (Thomas Gerrie is the son of Cristom Winery
owner Paul Gerrie and released his first solo effort Pinot Noir from the 2009 vintage: www.gerriecellars.com).
Walnut Hill (a second value-priced label from Toluca Lane, produced from a block of 20-year-old Pommard
vines near the winery’s estate vineyard in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA: www.tolucalane.com). La Famiglia (a
second label from the de Lancellotti Family, first released from the 2011 vintage and crafted by de Lancellotti
winemaker Robert Brittan priced at $30: see www.avalonwine.com).
Lipstick on Wine Glasses There is nothing more exasperating than trying to clean lipstick residue off
the rim of your fine wine stems. The secret is to take a soft cloth, wet it, add some salt to the wetted area of
the cloth, and wipe the lipstick stain off. Voilá! (Getting lipstick residue off the cloth is another story)
Wine Terms that are Misused and/or Misunderstood
Lake Superior State University recently announced the 38th Annual List of Words to be Banished from the
Queen’s English for Misuse, Overuse and General Uselessness. Words that made the list included
“passionate,” “bucket list,” and “trending.” This caught my attention and led me to think of a few wine related
words that are often misused and or misunderstood.
Minerality This term is so poorly defined that it is essentially worthless but wine critics including myself
(reluctantly) continue to use it in their wine reviews. We know that the roots of the grapevine cannot absorb
minerals or mineral flavors from the soil. What is perceived as minerality is thought by some to be due to
reduced sulfur compounds that can simulate the smell of wet minerals and the taste of flint. Clark Smith
(Wines & Vines November 2010) has defined minerality as follows: “An ‘energetic buzz’ in a wine’s finish similar
to acidity, with which it is often confused, but further back in the mouth.”
Bouquet This term is often mistakenly used to describe the aromas of a young wine. It should only be used to
refer to the complex aromas of a mature wine.
Variety or Varietal? The two words are often misused and interchanged with impunity. Each word, however,
has a clear meaning. Variety is a noun and refers to a specific type of grape such as Pinot Noir, or many kinds
of wine such as fortified, still, or sparkling. Varietal is both a noun when referring to a wine made from a single
grape variety, and an adjective when used to say a wine is varietally correct. In the United States, 75% (95% in
Oregon) of the wine must come from the named grape variety before it can be called a varietal.
Acidity There are two main methods of expressing acidity: titratable acidity (TA) which refers to the test that
yields the total of all acids present, and hydrogen ion concentration (pH) which is a measure of the strength of
acidity. The higher the H+ concentration, the more acidic the solution, and since the pH is the negative log of
the H+ concentration, the lower the pH, the more acidic the solution. Wine tends to fall within a range of pH of
3 and 4. The pH is a critical measurement during winemaking and ideally should be below 3.60 for sulfur
dioxide to be effective during the winemaking process. A higher pH will reduce the effectiveness of sulfur
dioxide and increase the chance of Brettanomyces and spoilage organisms growth. The perception of acidity
in a wine is related to the titratable acidity and not pH. Titratable acidity (TA) produces the acid sensation in the
mouth and is most critical for mouth feel. pH and TA values do not run parallel. A wine can have a high pH and
low TA or vice versa.
Punchdown or punch down? Both in correct use.
Screwcap or screw cap? Both in correct use.
Destemmed or de-stemmed? Destemmed is correct usage. Also destemming.
Winegrower or wine grower? Both in correct use.
Fermenter or fermentor? Fermenter is correct usage.
Reserve This is a term that is overused and nebulous because it has so many meanings. It implies a wine of
higher quality, but it can refer to a wine that is a barrel selection, one that has been aged longer, or a wine
sourced from the best blocks in a vineyard. Wineries sometimes substitute the word cuvée, a fancy French
way of saying a blend. It is often simply a marketing strategy for selling wine (or charging more) in which case
it may take on other configurations such as vintner’s reserve, limited reserve, grand reserve, or special reserve
(Kendall-Jackson produces thousands of cases of “Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay).
Estate Bottled This indicates that 100% of the wine came from grapes grown on land owned or controlled by
the winery, which must be located in an AVA. The winery must crush and ferment the grapes, and finish, age
and bottle the wine in a continuous process on their premises. The winery and vineyard must be in the same