PinotFile: 9.30 September 28, 2013
- Robert Stemmler: The “Unwilling Prince of Pinot”
- 2011 Paul Lato Wines: Report on Winery Visit and a Tasting of the Vintage
- Sancerre: Pinot Too
- Sips of Wines Tasted Recently
- Pinot Briefs
Robert Stemmler: The “Unwilling Prince of Pinot”
“Preserve to the utmost the natural character of the grapes;
be first rate but not flamboyant; never compromise with anything.”
Robert Stemmler grew up in the Baden-Württenberg wine region near Stuttgart, Germany during the rule of
Adolf Hitler. He graduated from Bad Kreuznach Wine College and worked as a winemaker in various wine
regions of Germany and acquired a reputation in Germany for uncompromising commitment to excellence,
“Everything given to the wine, the stars of the show.”
Stemmler was brought to Northern California in 1961 by brothers Robert and Peter Mondavi of Charles Krug
Winery in Napa Valley to solve the problem of secondary fermentations in bottled wines. He was the
winemaker at Charles Krug for seven years at a time when the Mondavi brothers began to take over their
father’s winery. He consulted for several notable wineries including Inglenook, St. Clement and Raymond, and
was hired at Simi in 1970 to reactivate the old Simi Winery in Healdsburg.
In 1977, Stemmler opened his own eponymous winery in the Dry Creek Valley of Sonoma County in
partnership with Trumbull Webb Kelly who was a former educator that managed the tasting room and retail
sales. The tasting room at 3805 Lambert Bridge Road in Healdsburg first opened in 1985. I can remember
visiting the original tasting room and Robert Stemmler was one of the first Pinot Noirs I cut my teeth on.
Stemmler produced a variety of wines including Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc,
Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir and by 1986 production had reached 12,000 cases, including 3,000 to
5,000 cases of Pinot Noir. Some wine was produced under a second label, Bel Conte, and Stemmler was also
a consultant for several small wineries.
His distinctive label was designed from a slide taken by Stemmler at the Cluny Museum in Paris of a tapestry
of a famous Flemish artist of the late 15th century, Les Vendanges, a depiction of the grape harvest woven in
Flanders. The artwork was also displayed on a tapestry in the Robert Stemmler tasting room. (Look to the end
of this article for photos of the Stemmler label through the years)
Stemmler made his first Pinot Noir under his own label in 1982. He considered cool-climate, hillside or
mountain vineyards ideal for growing Pinot Noir and preferred old vines for their consistency. Initially, he
sourced Pinot Noir from Jim Forchini’s low-yielding vineyard in the Russian River Valley. As fate would have it,
Forchini was unable to sell four acres of Pinot Noir after the buyer reneged on a promise to buy the grapes,
and he was searching for a buyer.
Stemmler had no plans to produce Pinot Noir at the time, but he saw the quality of the fruit and couldn’t resist
it. According to Harvey Steinman (Wine Spectator), “What struck Stemmler was the high acidity the grapes
were showing despite full maturity and they also tasted good.” Steinman quoted Stemmler as saying, “That’s
what was missing from so many California Pinot Noirs. Flavor. They had flowery, sometimes fruity flavor, but
they didn’t have that berryness, that velvety lingering flavor that I think makes a great Burgundy.”
Stemmler was not inexperienced with Pinot Noir, having consulted at Davis Bynum in the mid 1970s and
worked with Gary Farrell as well who took over the winemaking duties at Davis Bynum in 1978.
The 1982 Robert Stemmler Sonoma County Pinot Noir received numerous gold medals, receiving more
awards than any other wine during 1984 competitions, and captured the sweepstakes award at the West Coast
Wine Competition. A journalist, seizing upon the fact that Stemmler seemingly made the Pinot Noir with some
reluctance, dubbed him the, “Unwilling Prince of Pinot.”
The 1983 vintage of the wine had even better natural acidity and was a Wine Spectator “Spectator Selection.”
In the ensuing years, many accolades followed with Wine Spectator awarding the wines scores in the 90s.
Prominent wine writer Robert Finigan rated the 1984 Pinot Noir first on a list of outstanding California Pinot
Noirs. The 1984 Robert Stemmler Sonoma County Pinot Noir was sourced from three areas in Sonoma
County and won seven major awards, including a Gold Medal at the Sonoma County Harvest Fair. David
Pursglove, writing in the June 1987 issue of Wine Industry News, said, “The 1984 Robert Stemmler Pinot Noir
is among the best Pinot Noirs yet tasted from California. It is almost Burgundian....and better than a lot of reds
from Burgundy. 92 points.”
The 1985 Robert Stemmler Sonoma County Pinot Noir (12.5% alc., 3,000 cases, $18) scored 15.9/20 and third
place in the California Grapevine (Oct/Nov 1987), and 19/20 in The Finigan Wine Letter. The California Visitor’s
Review raved about the wine, exclaiming, “It is glorious and one of the dozen best Pinot Noirs I can recall
tasting in 25 years of comparing wines.”
The 1987 Robert Stemmler Sonoma County Pinot Noir came from six different Sonoma County vineyards,
each dry-farmed, over ten years old, and offering low yields. The sources reflected Stemmler’s insistence on
quality vineyards. Stemmler sourced Pinot Noir from the Bohan Vineyard in the Sonoma Coast before there
was a Sonoma Coast AVA, and received grapes from the Rochioli Vineyard in the Russian River Valley as well.
In a matter of a few years, and preceding the attention brought to California Pinot Noir by the Williams Selyem
1985 Rochioli Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, Stemmler had set a new standard in the industry for
Stemmler’s Pinot Noir winemaking was innovative. He preferred limited (5 day) skin contact, fermented the
grapes warm at 88ºF with some whole berries, and usually employed natural yeasts. Seeds were filtered
before fermentation to reduce tannins and astringency. The wines were racked and blended in January, and
aged 12 to 15 months in a combination of French and air-dried American oak barrels (Stemmler became a
proponent of air-dried American oak barrels over time), and were bottled without fining or filtering. The wines
saw no sulfur until bottling and even then, a very small amount. The resulting wines had moderate alcohol
levels and exemplary balance between acidity and tannin.
In an April 1989 winery press release, Stemmler summarized the character of his Pinot Noir. “My Pinot Noir
has a rainbow of flavors. When it is young, it has flavors of cherries, red berries, and a smell of rose petals. As
it develops, it takes on an earthiness, like mushrooms, and the rose petal aroma becomes more soft, more like
dried roses, with warmth and richness of fine kid gloves.”
Andre Tchelistcheff was said to describe Stemmler’s Pinot Noir as having, “The sensual aroma of a woman’s
leather glove with a hint of her perfume and personal scent.” (Ann Arbor News 6/24/87, Eleanor and Ray
Heald) There are many variations of this famous quote over time purportedly attributed to Tchelistcheff in a
number of circumstances.
Anne Moller-Racke, who founded The Donum Estate, arrived from Germany in 1981 to work at Buena Vista
Winery in Carneros and became friends with Stemmler. Buena Vista Winery took a sizable equity position in
Robert Stemmler Winery, and Stemmler promoted the label nationwide. Finally, in 1989, Stemmler retired to
Palm Springs, California, after winemaking for 35 years, and the Racke family bought his label. Stemmler
wines were initially a wine club and tasting room brand within Buena Vista, but with the sale of Buena Vista and
the founding of The Donum Estate, Robert Stemmler became Donum’s sister brand, sharing estate grown fruit
and a commitment to quality established by Stemmler. The Robert Stemmler Winery facility in Dry Creek
Valley was sold to Pezzi King in 1996.
Beginning in 2008, the Robert Stemmler label was shortened to simply, “Stemmler.” The Stemmler estate
grown wines are produced by the same winemaking staff as for The Donum Estate wines, and Moller-Racke is
the viticulturist in charge of all vineyard management. Both Stemmler and Donum Estate wineries are owned
by Winside, Inc. Current releases include a 2011 Estate Grown Carneros Pinot Noir ($44), a 2011 Nugent
Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir ($44), a 2011 Estate Grown Carneros Chardonnay ($24) and a 2012
Estate Grown Sonoma Coast Vin Gris ($20). The website is www.robertstemmlerwinery.com. Wines are sold
at significant discount to wine club members.
2011 Stemmler Nugent Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., $44.
color in the glass. Highly aromatic, featuring scents of confected red cherry, red licorice, watermelon
and sandalwood. Soft on the palate and flavorful offering middleweight core of Bing cherries framed by mild
tannin and judicious use of oak. Finishes with some length and generosity.
2011 Paul Lato Wines: Report on Winery Visit and a Tasting of the Vintage
It has become an annual tradition for me to visit Paul at his winery at Central Coast Wine Services in Santa
Maria each year before World of Pinot Noir in early March. Each time I visit, I discover that Paul has expanded
his space and is gradually ramping up his modest production.
There is no need to go into detail about Paul Lato as I have written about him extensively in the PinotFile and
have thoroughly enjoyed and praised his wines since the 2005 vintage. If you like your Pinots elegant with
grace, nuance, vibrancy and balance, then Paul Lato is your guy. He is very modest about his
accomplishments, but he has an uncanny knack for finding the “sweet spots” in vineyards and sourcing the
best possible fruit. Paul doesn’t make a lot (about 2,500 cases of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah), and the
wines are only sold through a mailing list and to select restaurants, but if you are fortunate to snag a few
bottles, you will be very pleased. You can find Paul each year pouring his wines at the World of Pinot Noir.
The website, www.paullatowines.com, has been updated with a good description of Paul’s philosophy and
vineyard sources. All grapes are 100% de-stemmed during vinification.
The first wines below were tasted at the winery and had only been bottled ten days prior. The final wines were
tasted at home in September 2013 after 6 months in bottle (Paul had suggested that some of the wines needed
time in bottle to make a proper evaluation).
The 2011 was a “wild child” according to Paul. “Some kids have tremendous possibilities, wonderful talents
waiting to be nurtured, but need just the perfect guidance to express their potential. There was an early frost, a
late frost, spans of unusually cool days throughout the growing season. Yields were low, yet it was necessary
to drop more fruit. Every underachieving barrel in the winery was sold in bulk to protect the integrity of the
vintage.” Paul did a commendable job with what the vintage dealt him.
Winery Tasting March 2013
2011 Paul Lato “le Souvenir” Sierra Madre Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay
14.3% alc., 250
cases, 60. 14-year-old Wente clone. 100% malolactic fermentation. Aged in 66% new French oak barrels.
Light golden straw color and clear in the glass.The nose is both floral and fruity featuring aromas of lemon,
apple and blossoms. Delicate, but pleasing flavors of citrus, almond, vanilla, with bright acidity and a bone dry
2011 Paul Lato “East of Eden” Pisoni Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay
100 cases, $65. Mostly Wente clone. 50% malolactic fermentation. Filtered. Aged in 75% new
French oak barrels.
Moderate golden yellow color and clear in the glass. Very aromatically enticing
with scents of lemon curd, baked apple, and Acacia blossom. Bright and crisp on the palate, offering
flavors of citrus, baked pear, and vanilla with an underlying sea-brine minerality. A big, flamboyant
wine, yet beautifully balanced.
2011 Paul Lato “Duende” Gold Coast Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
14.4% alc., 75 cases, $60.
Own-rooted Martini clone, old vines. Aged in 50% new French oak barrels.
Moderate reddish-purple color in
the glass. The nose is classic Pinot Noir with aromas of griotte, raspberry, forest floor and rose petal. Flavors
of purple grapes and plums drive the moderately sappy core, framed by gentle tannins and good acidity.
Elegant and soft on the palate, with a juicy finish.
2011 Paul Lato “Suerte” Solomon Hills Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 175
cases, $70. 50% 115, 30% 667, 20% 777. 70% new French oak barrels. Unfiltered.
dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Always one of my favorite Paul Lato Pinot Noirs and this
vintage is no exception. The nose is quite shy, but aromas of black cherries and spice emerge with
coaxing. The plush and creamy palate features intensely flavored blueberries and dark stone fruits
wrapped in modest tannins. A sexy, wondrous wine that finishes with uncommon length and
generosity and mouthwatering acidity. The wine shows amazing fortitude so soon after bottling.
2011 Paul Lato “The Prospect” Sierra Madre Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
14.4% alc., 100
cases, $60. Dijon clones 115 and 667. Aged in 50% new French oak barrels.
Moderately dark reddish-purple
color in the glass. Beautifully perfumed with aromas of grapes, plums, forest floor and rose petals. Big-boned
and flashy, with a sappy core of black plum and black currant fruit. Velvety with nicely balanced tannins and a
big, and I mean big, finish. I really liked this wine.
2011 Paul Lato “Seabiscuit” Zotovich Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 100 cases, $70.
Dijon clones 115 and 113. Unfiltered.
Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Aromas of black
raspberry and spice lead to a core of pleasing dark stone and berry fruits with an earthy underpinning.
Satisfying and elegant with modest fine-grain tannins. Definitely needs more time in bottle.
2011 Paul Lato “Lancelot” Pisoni Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.9% alc., 125 cases, $85.
Own-rooted Burgundy clone over 30 years old. 100% new French oak barrels. Unfiltered.
reddish-purple hue in the glass. Shy aromas of purple fruits and oak. Recognizably Pisoni, with muscular
tannins and layers of copious dark fruit, yet offers a pleasing satiny mouth feel and admirable finesse. Needs
time to integrate the oak and tannin, but this is one, big rich pussycat.
2011 Paul Lato “C’est la Vie” Wenzlau Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
13.8% alc., 125 cases, $70.
Clones 115, 667 and 2A. Vineyard is adjacent Sea Smoke. Only vintage. Unfiltered.
color in the glass. Very pretty perfume of fresh black raspberry jam and rose petals. Juicy with good grip on
the palate, featuring flavors of dark berries and plums with a smoky undertone. The signature Paul Lato
silkiness is evident.
Home Tasting September 2013
2011 Paul Lato “Atticus” John Sebastiano Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 125 cases, $65.
Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Redder fruits are featured on the nose with hints of
cardamom spice and earth. Relatively light and delicate, with shy flavors of dark red and purple fruits with a
hint of oak. Seamless with a pleasing tangy cherry drop finish. Doesn’t excite initially, but offers more gifts
over time in the glass. This is a wine that is still somewhat closed and needs patience.
2011 Paul Lato “Seabiscuit” Zotovich Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 100 cases, $70.
Dijon clones 115 and 113. Unfiltered.
Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Enticing aromas of
fresh cherry pie glaze, raspberry jam, white pepper, oak and earth. Very soft in the mouth, with discreetly
concentrated flavors of perfectly ripe black cherries wrapped in supple tannins. A juicy, charming wine that is
the epitome of finesse.
2011 Paul Lato “C’est la Vie” Wenzlau Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
13.8% alc., 125 cases, $70.
Clones 115, 667 and 2A. Unfiltered.
Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. This wine needs
plenty of coaxing to reveal aromas of dark red cherries and berries, clove and oak spice. The leanest wine in
the lineup with flavors of tarry dark cherries and raspberries. The fruit is caressed by soft tannins and
underlain with a racy vein of acidity. Well-crafted, but doesn’t quite deliver the goods yet.
2011 Paul Lato “Lancelot” Pisoni Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.9% alc., 125 cases, $85.
Own-rooted Burgundy clone over 30 years old. 100% new French oak barrels. Unfiltered.
reddish-purple color in the glass. A dreamy nose featuring bright aromas of black raspberry jam, violets and
biscuit. Really delicious and highly expressive on the palate, with unctuous layers of dark red and black fruits,
subtle oak spice, and a hearty savory note. The wine sports admirable balance of tamed tannins and juicy
acidity. Finishes with an explosion of fruit goodness. Professional grade Pinot.
Also available in 2011
2011 Paul Lato “Alegria” Hilliard-Bruce Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir $70.
2011 Paul Lato “Belle du Jour” Hilliard-Bruce Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Chardonnay $55. Aged in 45%
new French oak.
Sancerre: Pinot Too
“It is Sancerre’s reds that are providing the excitement.
Unfortunately this is somewhat of a French secret.”
Jim Budd, Decanter
Sancerre is known worldwide for Sauvignon Blanc, and deservedly so, for the Loire Valley region offers a
pleasing, refreshing style that is almost universally enjoyed. However, as Lettie Teague pointed out in her
article on Sancerre (“Wine’s Tom Hanks: Why Everyone Loves Sancerre,” The Wall Street Journal, April 26,
2013), the soils (both pebbly limestone and siliceous clay) are similar to the soils of Champagne and Burgundy,
so it is not surprising that Pinot Noir performs admirably in Sancerre as well.
Jim Budd (“Sancerre’s Red Dawn,” Decanter, September 2009) notes that when the first French AOCs were
created in 1936, the Sancerre appellation was for whites only. It wasn’t until 1959, that AOC accreditation was
awarded to reds and rosés produced from Pinot Noir. Sancerre Pinot Noir was traditionally light and dilute, and
the grape was often sold to Champagne houses. The modern era of Sancerre Pinot Noir did not began until
the 1990s when a number of talented Sancerre vignerons began turning to more attentive viticulture of Pinot
Noir and vinifying more serious, robust Pinot Noir wines.
Evidence of the existence of vines in Sancerre was recorded by Gregory of Tours in 582 in his Historiae
Francorum. In the 12th century, cultivation of the vine was given added impetus through the combined efforts
of the Augustine monks at St-Satur and the ruling counts of Sancerre. Sancerre was famous for its wines
produced from Pinot Noir and exported from the region along the River Loire. The wine of Sancerre was, in the
opinion of Duke Jean de Berry, the finest wine to be found in the entire kingdom. In more modern times, the
original vineyards, which were predominantly planted to Pinot Noir, were destroyed by phylloxera at the end of
the last century and Sauvignon Blanc was then widely planted.
Sancerre red is something of a rarity outside France. Budd reminds that only 22% of the acreage in Sancerre
is planted to Pinot Noir, production only accounts for 11% of Sancerre wine, and less than 3% of Sancerre
Pinot Noir is exported. I found that many large retailers in the United States carry only a few examples so it
was a challenge to find a representative group to sample. Prices are generally quite modest, with many
exemplary wines priced under $30. The top red from Alphonse Mellot, Génération XIX, is at the high end at
The vineyards of Sancerre are planted throughout the communes of Bannay, Bué, Crézancy, Menetou-Ratel,
Méénetréol, Montigny, St-Satur, Ste-Gemme, Sancerre, Sury-en-vaux, Thauvenay, Veaugues, Verdigny and
After tasting the following ten wines, I should point out that these wines will not offer the fruit intensity that
Americans have come to expect from California and Oregon Pinot Noir. They do offer interesting drinking in a
different style and flavor profile, but among the vast number of outstanding North American Pinot Noirs in the
same price range, the Sancerre Pinot Noirs will be challenged to find an American audience. My best advice is
that if you are curious, stick to a notable importer such as the Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant selections.
2009 Alphonse Mellot La Moussiére Sancerre
13.0% alc., $43.84. Imported by Domaine Select Imports,
Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Earth-bound aromas of dark berries, briar, forest floor,
geranium and vanilla lead to a mid weight core of tasty dark berry and plum flavors, veering to the savory,
rustic side with a hint of grilled mushrooms in the background. Firm tannins and bright acidity frame the fruit
nicely. Soft in the mouth and easy to like.
2009 Matthias et Emile Roblin Enclos de Maimbray Sancerre
12.5% alc., $26. Imported by APS Wine &
Spirits, Oakland, CA.
Moderately light red color in the glass. Strong reduction upon opening that doesn’t blow
off. Aromas of straw, ash and geranium. The wine offers modest red fruit flavors with an underlying hint of
ash. The tannins are suave, the acidity is bright, and the finish is of modest length.
2009 Roger Neveu Le Colombier Sancerre
12.5% alc., $28. Imported by Robert Chadderdon Selections,
Moderately light red hue in the glass. The aromas and flavors of red cherries, balsam and oak are
pleasant. Somewhat dilute in fruit intensity by American standards, but highly accessible with well-balanced
tannins and acidity.
2010 Francois Crochet La Réserve de Marcigoué Sancerre
13.0% alc., 250
cases, $27.69. Imported by Winebow Inc., NY, NY. 100% Pinot Noir, average
vine age 35 years grown in chalky clay soil. Aged in French oak barrels for 14
months. Unfined and unfiltered.
Moderately dark red color in the glass. Very
aromatic from the time the cork was pulled, featuring bright scents of black
cherry, conifer and pie crust. Medium bodied flavors of slightly tart red cherries,
red raspberries and citrus-infused cranberries with a hint of earthiness and oak
in the background. A fruity wine with mild tannins and racy acidity.
2010 Les Hospices Sancerre
12.5% alc., $17.49, screw cap. Imported by Vinum International, Napa, CA.
Light red color in the glass. Strong reduction (burnt match) upon opening that doesn’t blow off. Shy aromas of
dried herbs and oak with little fruit. Light and crisp on the palate with an herbal-toned red cherry flavor, bright
acidity and restrained tannins.
2010 Domaine Reverdy Ducroux BeauRegard Sancerre
12.5% alc., $14.99. Imported by Winebow Inc, NY,
NY. The Reverdy family has been in the Sancerre region since the 15th century. Vigneron is Alan Reverdy.
100% Pinot Noir.
Moderately light red color in the glass. Aromas of cherries, stem and olive. Middleweight
core of darker, ripe cherries framed by muscular tannins. Pleasing concentration with bright acidity.
2010 Daniel Chotard Sancerre
3.0% alc., $24. Imported by Kermit Lynch
Wine Merchant, Berkeley, CA.
Moderately light red color in the glass. Nicely
perfumed with aromas of fresh cherries, raspberries and dark chocolate. Lovely
composure and very giving, with an enticing flavor of black cherry carrying
through the mid palate to the intense and generous finish. Well-balanced finegrain
tannins and lively acidity complete the wine.
2010 Domaine Vacheron Sancerre
12.5% alc., $35. Imported by North Berkeley Wine, Berkeley, CA.
Medium red color in the glass. Opens slowly in the glass, revealing aromas of red cherries and berries. Light
in weight with admirable finesse, offering the essence of fresh Morello cherries. Well-crafted with supportive
oak, modest tannins and lively acidity.
2010 Domaine Hippolyte Reverdy Sancerre
13.0% alc., $23.74. Imported by
Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, Berkeley, CA.
Moderately light red color in the
glass. The aromas rise from the glass with brightness and conviction, featuring
black cherries and smoky oak. Middleweight flavors of dark cherries,
raspberries and dark chocolate, with a good dose of oak. The firm tannins and
underlying acidity round out the wine nicely. The finish is very silky and
2011 Domaine Franck Millet Sancerre
12.5% alc., $16.99. Imported by
Premier Wine Company, Richmond,CA.
Light red color in the glass. Very
“American” in style and character with pleasing aromas of cherries, strawberries
and sandalwood. Light and delicate, but flavorful, offering cherry, strawberry and
cranberry notes backed by supple tannins and a good cut of acidity. This wine
aims to please and is easy to drink.
Sips of Wines Tasted Recently
It is a slow time for wine releases, but this short list is packed with “Too Much Good Stuff,” as the ads for
2012 Alouette Sonoma County Pinot Noir
13.8% alc., $24.99,
screw cap. Vinified by fifth generation Belle Glos Wines winemaker
Joseph Wagner whose family founded Caymus Vineyards. Alouette
is the French name for lark, a songbird that is a familiar sight in
vineyards along the coast of California. The lark has been
romanticized over time and serves as the muse for this wine. 2012
was an exceptional vintage in California and the high quality of the
fruit from the coastal regions of Sonoma County show through in this
wine. Aged in 60% new French oak barrels for 9 months.
Aromas of red
grapes, spice, violets, toast and oak vanillin lead to deeply flavored notes of
cherries, strawberries and sarsaparilla with welcome accents of spice and oak. Very soft and silky in the mouth
with balanced tannins that make for easy drinking. Similar to the Meiomi bottling by the same producer. A
featured wine at Total Wine & More retail chain.
2010 B.R. Cohn Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.6% alc.,pH 3.60, TA
0.63, 2,400 cases, $40. Sourced from Lera’s and Dutton vineyards. Average
vine age 12 to 17 years. Clones 667, 777 and Pommard. Whole berry and
whole cluster fermented with natural and Assmanshausen yeasts. Aged 19
months in 64% new and 36% 1-year-old French oak barrels. Winemaker Tom
Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. Very aromatic initially,
offering bright aromas of Bing cherries, cola and toasty oak. Discreetly
concentrated core of nicely ripened Bing cherry fruit with accents of cola,
mocha, brown spice and oak flavors clothed in soft, dry tannins. The immensely
appealing velvety mouth feel is a clincher. This wine will have wide appeal.
2011 Freeman Ryo-fu Russian River Valley Chardonnay
450 cases, $40. A blend of two vineyards with the largest component
from Keefer Ranch and a lesser amount from Heintz Vineyard (vines
dating to 1982). Aged 14 months sur lies in 21% new and 79% 1, 2 and
3-year-old French oak barrels.
Light yellow color and clear in the glass.
Aromas of lemon, apple and slate lead to crisp, vivid flavors of citrus,
apple, white peach and oak. Plenty to like with forward fruit flavors
reigned in by lively acidity, finishing on a high note with lemon-drop memories.
Still fine the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle.
2010 Furthermore Bohemian Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., pH 3.61, TA 0.56, 74
cases, $40, 375 ml $20. Vineyard is 8 miles from the coast in the western reaches of the Russian River Valley.
Clones 115, 667 and 777. Harvest Brix 27.3º. Native fermentation, aged 12 months in 33% new French oak
Dark reddish-purple hue in the glass. A ripe-fruited and full-bodied wine, featuring aromas of black,
grilled fruits, peat and fennel and flavors of blackberries and ollaliberries. Dense, concentrated and sappy, but
delicious, with a pleasing fruit personality framed by modest tannins, finishing with a burst of citrus-laden fruit.
A decadent wine.
2010 Furthermore Rosella’s Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.6% alc., pH 3.66, TA 0.67, 83
cases, $50, 375 ml $25. Vineyard is farmed by Gary Franscioni. Clones “828” and Pisoni. Harvest Brix 24.7º.
Native fermentation, aged 14 months in 50% new French oak barrels.
Moderately dark reddish-purple color in
the glass. Aromas of spiced dark red stone fruits with hints of vanilla, nuts and stem. Medium bodied core of
dark red cherries with an herbal vein running through and a citrus underpinning. Good crispness and supple
tannins, with a bright tag of cherry on the finish.
2010 Furthermore Sierra Mar Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.8% alc., pH 3.47, TA 0.63, 77
cases, $40, 375 ml $20. This vineyard is located at 1,000 feet elevation at the southwestern corner of the AVA.
Soils are decomposed granite and gravelly loam. Pisoni clone plus “828.” Harvest Brix 27.7º. Native
fermentation, aged 14 months in 50% new French oak barrels.
Dark reddish-purple color in the glass.
Somewhat brooding on the nose with a roasted dark fruit tone accented by nutty, vanillin oak. Delicious, fullbodied
core of fresh dark berries with an earthy undertone. Well-managed tannins with bright acidity and some
finishing length. Big and fruity, but everything is in its place.
2010 Furthermore La Encantada Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
alc., pH 3.39, TA 0.67, 76 cases, $40, 375 ml $20. Vineyard planted by Richard
Sanford. Clones 115, 667 and 777. Harvest Brix 27.5º. Native fermentation,
aged 14 months in 40% new French oak barrels.
Dark reddish-purple color in
the glass. Appealing aromas of blackberries, black raspberries and a dash of
toasty oak. Rich and vivid, with plenty of sappy, dark berry and cassis fruit
flavors. Smooth in the mouth with discreet tannins and a pleasing hint of oak in
the background. The finish is fresh and lively. This wine is woven together
nicely and aims to please.
2011 Kudos Single Vineyard Series Carabella Vineyard Chehalem Mountains Oregon Pinot Noir
alc., $30. A product of NW Wine Co. Aged 11 months in French oak barrels.
Light reddish-purple hue in the
glass. Evocative perfume of dusty cherries and seasoned oak. Noticeable mid palate attack of fresh cherry
and cranberry flavors with a citrus-driven, nervy finish. Straightforward, light, and easy to drink, this wine will
work beautifully at the dinner table.
2010 Lachini Vineyards Lachini Family Estate Chehalem Mountains Oregon Pinot Noir
13.3% alc., pH 3.54, TA 0.731,285 cases, $50, Magnums $115.
Multiple clones (667, 777, 113, 114, 115, 2A and suitcase selection) from estate
vineyard blocks. Aged 17 months in 26% new and 74% 1 and 2-year-old French
oak barrels. Winemakers Mike Primozich and Ron Lachini.
reddish-purple color in the glass. Fragrant with aromas of Bing cherries,
blueberries, pomegranates, savory herbs and conifer forest. Light and
somewhat lean, but flavorful, offering tastes of red cherries and cranberries
framed by supple tannins and bright acidity. This wine offers plenty of finesse for
easy drinking, and finishes with a tangy burst of cherry fruit. Very Oregon in
style and a good reflection of the vintage.
2012 Liberty School Central Coast Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., pH 3.77, TA 0.69, 39,895 cases, $20. From Hope
Family Wines, Austin Hope proprietor. Multiple fruit sources including west Paso Robles, Arroyo Seco section
of Monterey, and San Benito County east of Monterey. Aged 6 months in 80% French and 20% American oak
barrels. Cross-flow filtered before bottling in April 2013. Jason Diefenderfer winemaker.
reddish-purple color in the glass. Quite showy upon opening, fading some over time and taking on a confected
note in the glass. Aromas of purple grapes, cherries and ripe strawberries with a hint of violets. Good fruit
intensity on the palate with easy to like flavors of red and black cherries with a hint of spice and dark chocolate.
Well-managed fine-grain tannins with a sweet cherry finish. Less appealing over time in the glass.
2010 Rhys Alpine Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay
13.2% alc., $69. From 1.73 acres planted to Hyde, Wente and Dijon
clones at 1,230 to 1,400 feet elevation. 24” of top soil over soft shale.
Grapes are slowly whole cluster pressed for 4 hours. The must is
settled overnight and barrels filled in morning. 20-25% new French oak
barrels are used. The wine is left undisturbed in cask without stirring to
complete native yeast fermentation that sometimes can take an entire
Golden yellow color and clear in the glass. Appealing aromas of lemon
peel, pineapple, slate and a hint of nutty, buttery oak. Delicious core of yellow
apple and lemon flavors with a hint of butter brickle and oak. The fruit really
pops in the mouth and hangs on for a very long and glorious finish. Juicy, crisp and thoroughly satisfying in
every way. Yum. Held up beautifully in an opened and re-corked bottle finished over two days. One of the best
California Chardonnays I have ever tasted.
Alpine Vineyard chalky shale underlies the vines:
2010 Rhys Family Farm Vineyard San Mateo County Pinot Noir
12.7% alc., $59. From a 6.16-acre
vineyard planted to Swan, 115, Pommard and Rhys selection in alluvial clay loam soil.
reddish-purple color in the glass. Very complex nose offering an array of aromas including black plum, black
currant, spice, boot leather and hay bale. Moderately rich black fruit flavors with an added hint of cola and tar.
There is so much character in this wine that the drinker is quickly sent back to the glass for another sip, looking
to discover the many nuances over time. The finish is extraordinarily generous and long, and the underlying
cut of acidity really brings the wine to life. The balance predicates a long life for this wine.
2011 ROAR Rosella’s Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.9% alc., pH 3.61, TA 0.55, 451 cases,
$52. Pisoni, 777 and Pommard clones. Aged 11 months in 84% new and 16% 1-year-old French oak barrels.
Moderate reddish-purple hue in the glass. Brightly perfumed with aromas of dark fruits, briar, forest floor and
smoky oak. The core of modest tannins is wrapped in layers of dark red cherry and berry fruit with a prominent
charred oak accent. Still, the wine is juicy and pleasing with some length on the finish. The delicate fruit
essence is currently buried in oak and the wine will benefit from more time in bottle.
2011 ROAR Sierra Mar Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.9% alc., pH 3.75, TA 0.55, 549
cases, $52. Pisoni, Pommard and Swan clones. Aged 11 months in 81% new and 19% 1-year-old French oak
Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Everything comes together nicely in this wine featuring
enticing aromas of black cherry, black currant, spice, forest floor and subtle oak. A mouthful of delicious black
cherry, black raspberry and plum fruit coats the palate and hangs on for a long, generous finish. The fruit really
sings in this wine now, but the wine will benefit from more aging to better integrate the tannins and oak.
2011 ROAR Pisoni Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.9% alc., pH 3.54, TA 0.61, 278 cases, $60. Pisoni clone. Aged 11
months in 58% new and 42% 1-year-old French oak barrels.
reddish-purple color in the glass. Wondrous aromas of black stone
fruits, potpourri, forest floor and oak. Stunning on entry with copious
flavors of dark cherries and berries and Hoison sauce that has real grip.
The wine has some structural muscle but is approachable now. A very
smooth mouth feel and an intense, peacock tail finish complete the experience.
A hosanna to the Pisoni family.
2011 Vino Vargas Rio Ruso Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., $45.
Rio Ruso is Spanish for Russian River. Aged in 30% new French oak barrels.
Winemaker Pedro Vargas.
Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Aromas of
black cherry and ripe strawberry with a slight roasted quality. Fruit flavors of
black cherry and blackberry push the ripeness envelope, but are quite tasty. A
hint of cola and spice add interest. Nicely crafted and very approachable with
mild fine grain tannins.
Central Coast Wine & Food Pop-Up Tasting Tour The first annual Central Coast Wine & Food
tour will take top California vintners from Santa Barbara County to discerning wine and food enthusiasts in
Phoenix (September 2013), Houston (October 2013), New Orleans (November 2013), Miami (December 2013)
and Key West, Florida (January 2014). Wine enthusiasts, media, distributors, restaurateurs, and other guests
will have opportunities to sample award-winning wines and to meet renowned winemakers in person or via
Google Hangouts. California’s Central Coast now has 100,000 acres of vines and many of California’s best
winemakers such as Steve Clifton (Brewer-Clifton), Morgan Clendenen (Clendenen Wines), Wes Hagen (Clos
Pepe), Norm Yost (Flying Goat Cellars), and Mickael Sigoin (Beckman Vineyards and Kaena Wines). The tour
was founded by intrepid traveler and photographer William Fernandez who criss crossed the United States for
three years in a Winnebago, searching for the best slice of the county to put down roots before returning to the
Santa Ynez Valley. For more information, visit www.CentralCoastCA.com.
First Annual Fort Ross-Seaview Wine Festival This event celebrates Sonoma County’s
newest AVA and will be held on an ocean terrace at the historic Fort Ross State Park. The Festival is
presented by the Fort Ross-Seaview Winegrowers on Saturday, October 26 will offer a Grand Luncheon
prepared by renowned Sonoma County chefs and a Grand Tasting. Participating wineries include Del Dotto,
Fort Ross Vineyard, Martinelli Winery, Pahlmeyer, Siduri, Tin Barn, Wild Hog Vineyard, William Selyem and
more. For more Festival information, visit www.fortross.org/festival.htm.
The Wandering Palate New Zealand Red Wine of the Lunar Year (Dragon) Veteran
sommelier Curtis Marsh writes poignantly about the food and wine of New Zealand. You would be well
served to seek out his website at www.thewanderingpalate to read the poem (or song) “Bastards of Pinot Noir,”
inspired by the New Zealand Pinot Noir Celebration 2013, as well as his latest coverage of the Biodynamic
Vigneron of the Lunar Year, Felton Road and its 2011 Cornish Point Central Otago Pinot Noir.
Resurgence in the Use of Concrete Wine Tanks Sonoma Cast Stone, a nineteen year-old
wine country maker of innovative precast concrete, was asked by a group of seven Napa and Sonoma
winemakers several years ago to develop the perfect concrete wine tank. Originally the company began with
an egg-shaped tank, but since then, a variety of square, rectangle, and conical tanks have been added to the
lineup. If you have visited a Northern California winery recently, you probably have seen concrete tanks of
some variety sitting amongst the stainless steel tanks. Sonoma Cast Stone is challenging the French
dominance of concrete wine tanks. Historically, there has been a long tradition in Europe of fermenting and
often storing wine in large concrete vats.
The resurgence of concrete in fermentation in North America is a fascinating story. Concrete is a natural
insulator and keeps wine at cooler and more consistent temperatures. Tanks made today can include an
embedded glycol temperature control system that gives the winemaker precise control and yet keeps the
system separate from the wine. Concrete breathes, allowing oxygen to soften the wine, yet it is a neutral
vessel, imparting only a hint of minerality. Winemakers often comment that wine made in concrete allows the
wine to remain pure and tasting more like where it is from. Even color intensity of the finished wine is
Today, many famous Napa wineries such has Harlan, Screaming Eagle, Rudd and Quintessa are converting to
concrete. A number of Pinot Noir producers in Sonoma County are employing concrete tanks as ancillary
fermenting vessels, including Arista, Kosta Browne, Wind Gap Wines, Thomas George Estates (photo below)
and Williams Selyem. For more information, visit www.concretewinetanks.com.
Couloir Wines/Straight Line Wine Launch Marin County Tasting Room Couloir’s first
dedicated tasting room has opened in downtown Tiburon at 72 Main Street on historic Ark Row. Library wines
and large format bottles are offered along with current releases in side-by-side flights, by the glass, and by the
bottle. The new tasting room is also open to the public for wine tastings, takeaway sales and special events.
Owner and winemaker, Jon Grant, crafts small batch, single vineyard designated Pinot Noirs under the Couloir
label that I can easily recommend. Straight Line Wine is produced from top appellations at a reasonable price.
Total production for both brands is about 2,000 cases. Grant worked in the cellars of many of the top Napa
Valley wineries including Turley Wine Cellars, Plumpjack Winery, Corison Wines and Robert Mondavi Winery
before founding Couloir Wines and Straight Line Wine in 2007. Visit www.couloirwines.com.
Pinot Noir Shootout and Summit The 12th Annual Pinot Noir Shootout is now accepting entries
from wineries. The Shootout finals will be December 14, 2013, in San Francisco. The finalists will be featured
at the Pinot Noir Summit in San Francisco in late February 2014. For a submission form or more information
contact Barbara Drady at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wine & Spirits 2014 Wineries of the Year Pinot Noir focused producers that made the list
include Adelsheim, Bergström, Bindi, Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils, Calera, Domaine Drouhin, Drew, Elk
Cove, Felton Road, Gloria Ferrer, Hirsch, Iron Horse, J. Christopher, LIOCO, Rippon, Truchard, Domaine de la
Vougeraie, and Williams Selyem. Not surprisingly, most of these producers are high-profile wineries with
significant marketing muscle.
Santa Barbara County Celebration of Harvest This event offers four days in Santa Barbara
Wine Country, October 11-14, featuring winemaker dinners, open houses and a Grand Tasting and Silent
Auction on the grounds of Rancho Sisquoc Winery where over 100 wineries will be pouring. It is a time when
winemakers, vineyard managers and all those working in the vineyard and winery trenches come up for air and
celebrate the vintage. Visit www.celebrationofharvest.com for more information.
Pinot on the River 2013 On Sunday, October 27, on the Healdsburg Plaza Square, over 100 Pinot
Noir producers and guest artisan food vendors will focus on limited production West Coast Pinot Noir.
Participating wineries include all the big names (Belle Glos Wines, Benovia Winery, Black Kite Cellars, Failla
Wines, Freeman Vineyard & Winery), J Vineyards & Winery, Keefer Ranch Wines, Littorai, MacPhail,
Papapietro Perry Winery, Patz & Hall, Sea Smoke, Siduri Wines, Sojourn Cellars and The Donum Estate) as
well as less known boutique producers (Alta Maria, Bruliam Wines, Cartograph, Furthermore, Gros Ventre
Cellars, Joseph Jewell Wines, La Rochelle, Masut, Reuling Vineyards, TR Elliott, Waits-Mast Family Cellars
and Wren Hop Vineyards). For information and tickets, visit www.pinotfestival.com.
Wine Doctor Preservation Kit This innovative product includes a Grip-Touch Vacuum Pump to
evacuate oxygen from a bottle after a bottle of wine is poured and seals it tight with a special True-Seal™
stopper that prevents oxygen from leaking into the bottle after the seal is made. A unique red indicator shows
that the seal is achieved and if at some time the seal has been compromised. Sunset said it was the most
effective device of its kind that they have tested. Available at www.savethewine.com from $25.
2013 Sonoma County Harvest Fair to Honor Sangiacomo Family The Sangiacomo
family is to receive the Lifetime Contribution to Sonoma County Wine Industry Award this year at the Harvest
Fair held in Santa Rosa, California, October 4-6. Sangiacomo Family Vineyards has been one of the top
growers in Sonoma County since 1969, with vineyards in Carneros, Sonoma Valley and the Sonoma Coast.
The first winery to bottle a vineyard-designated Sangiacomo wine was Gundlach Bundschu according the
Press Democrat (September 16, 2013). Currently, there are 76 wineries sourcing grapes from the Sangiacomo
family. Visit www.harvestfair.org.
Pinot Noir Vines in Malibu, California Actor and director Emilio Estevez produces wine at Casa
Dumetz with his winemaker spouse Sonja Magdevski. Estevez dug up the front and back yard at his Malibu
farm and planted 800 Pinot Noir vines including clones 667, 777 and 115. The couple tend the vines
themselves and hope to average 50 cases in a good year. The winery also sources other varieties from the
Santa Ynez Valley. A tasting room is located in historic Los Alamos. Visit www.casadumetzwines.com.
¡Salud! Oregon Pinot Noir Auction Tickets on Sale Oregon winemakers will debut the 2012
vintage at this benefit for Oregon’s seasonal vineyard workers and their families. This event is the only
opportunity to acquire unique cuvées made exclusively for ¡Salud!. The Cuvée Tasting and Auction is
November 8 at Domaine Drouhin Oregon winery and the Dinner and Auction Gala is in Portland at The
Governor Hotel on November 9. For information and tickets, visit www.saludauction.org.
Russian River Valley in San Francisco The Russian River Valley Winegrowers and Uncorked
Events present a tasting of Russian River Valley single vineyard wines on Wednesday, October 23, at the
General’s Residence at Fort Mason. More than 25 winemakers and winegrowers will be pouring small lot,
single vineyard wines. Participating wineries include Balletto Vineyards & Winery, Davis Family Vineyards,
Inman Family Wines, John Tyler Wines/Bacigalupi Vineyards, Joseph Swan Vineyards, La Crema, La Follette,
Siduri, Suacci-Carciere, Thomas George Estates, Valdez Family Winery and Williams Selyem. Complementing
the wines will be bites of food and DJ Sol will be spinning grooves. Silent auction items will also be on display,
benefiting the Russian River Valley Winegrowers continued efforts to preserve the region’s agriculture legacy.
Tickets are available at www.singlevineyard.eventbrite.com or visit www.rrvw.org.