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Saintsbury

Owner(s) David Graves, Richard Ward
Web site www.saintsbury.com
 
Link to this site

Saintsbury co-founders David Graves and Richard Ward celebrated their winery’s 25th anniversary in 2006. They were true pioneers in Carneros. After meeting in 1977 at University of California Davis where they were taking classes in enology, and realizing they had a shared passion for Pinot Noir, they started Saintsbury in 1981. This was about the same time as another well-known Pinot producer, Williams Selyem was starting out in the Russian River Valley (the winery is celebrating 25 years in 2007). They decided to stake their claim in Carneros and sourced all of their grapes from that appellation. Carneros had the right climate for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, but the clay soils generally drained poorly and the low annual rainfall made water for irrigation very precious. Despite no real business plan and very little money, they took the plunge. They released 2000 cases of Pinot Noir from purchased grapes in 1981 and have never looked back. By 1991, production had increased to 35,000 cases and their Pinot Noir was on practically every restaurant wine list in the United States. Graves and Ward like to kid about their success, thankful because, “Our attitudes and work habits make us otherwise unemployable!”

Saintsbury is named in honor of George Saintsbury, a journalist and Professor of rhetoric and English literature at the University of Edinburgh. He was also a wine lover and in 1920, at the age of 75, published Notes on a Cellar. This was an unusual collection of opinions and notes about wine and other alcoholic drinks as well as reminiscences about his wine cellar and wine dinners over the years. One of his famous quotes was: “It is the unbroken testimony of all history that alcoholic liquors have been used by the strongest, wisest, handsomest, and in every way best races of all times.”

Saintsbury owed its success through the years to offering a high quality to value ratio. In addition, the wines have been consistent from vintage to vintage and have offered elegant, ripe fruit with supple textures. The wines have gotten a bit riper in recent years, but have never gone too far to the dark side. Saintsbury has about 13 acres of vineyard around their unpretentious and weathered barn-like winery (photos on next page show winery and original plantings of Pinot Noir) and own the Brown Ranch Vineyard nearby, but they source most of their grapes from Napa Carneros growers through long-standing relationships.

The legacy of Saintsbury will show the following distinctions: (1) They limited their production to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and focused on one appellation only (Carneros became an American Viticulture Area in 1983), (2) They were one of the first to plant the Pommard clone of Pinot Noir (1986), (3) They were vineyard pioneers, using vertical shoot trellising in their vineyards at a time most vineyards were still either head-trained or used two-wire California sprawl, (4) They planted the Brown Ranch Vineyard in 1992 (23 acres of Pinot Noir, 8 acres of Chardonnay) using the newer Dijon clones 115, 667, and 777 along with Pommard, (5) They routinely avoided filtering their wines since 1989, and (6) They were one of the first wineries to produce a vin gris of Pinot Noir. They first made theirs in 1989 from a saignee of a portion of the crop to concentrate the wine and named it Vincent Vin Gris.

Through the years, the Saintsbury lineup of Pinot Noirs has included Garnet, Carneros Pinot Noir, Reserve Pinot Noir, and since 1996, Brown Ranch Vineyard Pinot Noir. The Chardonnay program has consisted of a Carneros and in some vintages a Reserve Chardonnay.

Frenchman Jerome Chery joined Saintsbury as winemaker with the 2004 vintage, succeeding Brian Kosuge. Chery has a well-traveled background including apprenticing with Littorai’s Ted Lemon from 2000 to 2004. 2004 marks a significant change in Saintsbury, for they abandoned their reserve bottling, and began producing a series of vineyard-designate Pinot Noirs from Napa Carneros. Chery’s training and experience with Lemon, who espouses terroir-based vineyard-designate Pinot Noirs, made it natural for Saintsbury to make the transition. Chery says his goal is to improve the aromas and texture of the Pinot Noir lineup. From my experience in tasting the 2004 and 2005 wines, he has shown great prowess in achieving his goal. The 2006 vintage wines were comparatively not as stellar but the winery is in good hands.

Reviewed Wines

2009 Saintsbury Cerise Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

703 cases, $45. Release June 1, 2011. The only Saintsbury Vineyard Series wine from outside Carneros. Cerise is located on the steep slopes of the southwestern facing hills just north of the town of Boonville. 37 acres are planted on the 200-acre site. Clones 115, 777 and Pommard. Aged 10 months in 24% new and 27% 1 and 2-year-old French oak barrels. · Moderately deep reddish-purple color showing a slight haze in the glass. Appealing aromatic mix of red and blue berries on the nose. Rich, intense, earthy and darkly fruited, yet displaying a lithe and silky texture due to restrained tannins. The plum and berry fruit is striking and persists on the generous finish. Very approachable now. Very good. Reviewed July 1, 2011 ARTICLE »

2009 Saintsbury Cerise Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc, $45. Saintsbury has produced a Pinot Noir from this vineyard since 2005. Dijon and Pommard clones. 100% de-stemmed, 10 day skin contact, gentle press, aging in 20% new French oak barrels. · Dark berries, black cherries and spice are featured. Soft and elegant in the mouth with well-honed tannins and impressive length. Very good. Reviewed June 24, 2012 ARTICLE »

2009 Saintsbury Cerise Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 704 cases, $45, released January 1, 2012. Pommard, Dijon 115 and 777 clones. Aged 10 months in 24% new, 27% once used and twice used French oak barrels. · Medium reddish-purple hue in the glass. Effusive aromas of fresh, spiced berry compote. Medium weight core of perfectly ripe and vibrant dark red berry fruits wrapped in tame tannins. Impeccable balance. Very good (+). Reviewed June 24, 2012 ARTICLE »

2009 Saintsbury Brown Ranch Carneros Pinot Noir

14.0% alc., $60. Planted to Dijon clones in 1992. · Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. Interesting nose with aromas of alpine strawberries, black cherries, mint, forest and cut flowers. Very savory on the palate with mushroom and earth notes, dark stone and berry fruit, and a supporting cast of firm tannins. Very dry on the finish. Good. Reviewed April 13, 2013 ARTICLE »

2007 Saintsbury Cerise Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

14.0% alc., 1,150 cases, $44.95. Released in the spring 2009. Cerise Vineyard is 37 acres on a 200-acre site just north of the town of Boonville. Clones 115, 667, 777 and Pommard. Aged 10 months in 24% new, 27% 1 and 2-year-old French oak barrels. · Moderately deep reddish-purple color in the glass. Charming aromas of black cherries, red and black berries and cocoa. Rich and fruity and very smoothly textured. An upfront pleasing style that wants for more complexity which will certainly come with more time in the bottle. Good. Reviewed June 8, 2010 ARTICLE »

2007 Saintsbury Cerise Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

14.0% alc., 1,150 cases, $45. Released August 2008. Th is 37-acre vineyard is located on steep slopes of the southwestern facing hills just north of Boonville and is planted to clones 115, 667, 777 and Pommard. Yields were 1.5-2.5 tons per acre. 7 day cold soak, 12 day total cuvaison. Aged 10 months in 24% new French oak barrels. The only Saintsbury Vineyard Series wine from outside Carneros. · Smoky, herbal aromas lead to a palate of full, rich dark fruits with earth and chocolate undertones. A muscular yet deft wine that has the acidity and structure to go the distance. Needs more time. Reviewed June 5, 2009 ARTICLE »

2006 Saintsbury Brown Ranch Vineyard Carneros Pinot Noir

This is the prize in the Saintsbury lineup and consistently the most outstanding Pinot Noir. The vineyard is planted to Pommard and Dijon 115, 667, and 777 clones on four different rootstocks with many soil types and exposures. Yields range from 2.25 to 3.5 tons/acre. It is the only vineyard over which Saintsbury has complete control. The wine typically shows plenty of earthiness and more black than red-fruit character and its finishing persistence is most characteristic. The wine has a label quite distinct from the other Saintsbury wines. The 2006 vintage has not been released, but Jerome Chery gave me a taste at the Pinot Days event in San Francisco in late June, 2008. · Terrific mouth filling presence with red and black fruits that cascade over the palate in waves leaving a lasting impression. Precocious and pleasing at this early stage. Reviewed August 4, 2008 ARTICLE »

2006 Saintsbury Brown Ranch Vineyard Carneros Pinot Noir

Winemaker Jerome Chery has acquired a sensibility about Pinot Noir from his years with Ted Lemon, and this wine from the winery’s flagship vineyard, is a vin de garde for the Carneros appellation. · Brown Ranch wines (this was a barrel sample) show marvelous purity of fruit with all kinds of layered interest such as spice, earth, forest floor and animale. Reviewed March 23, 2008 ARTICLE »

2006 Saintsbury Carneros Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., 24,445 cases, $35 (available at $28 some retail sources). Clones Pommard, Swan, 115, 667, 777. Multiple vineyard sources. 5 days cold soak, 15 days tank time, 9 months in 30% new French oak. · The aromatic profile is of interest, offering black cherries, oak, herbs, white pepper and a whiff of alcohol. Packing plenty of berry and cherry fruit with a little earthy bent, and a mildly dry finish, the wine seems bigger than previous recent vintages of this bottling. Reviewed August 4, 2008 ARTICLE »

2006 Saintsbury Cerise Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

14.0% alc., 225 cases, $45. · Subdued aromas of cherries, berries, herbs and dark chocolate with a hint of alcohol. Picks up steam in the glass. Rich and muscular black cherry core of fruit with assertive tannins that need time to soften. Very comforting soft and creamy texture and a very long finish. A lot of potential here, but patience is needed. Reviewed June 9, 2008 ARTICLE »

2006 Saintsbury Cerise Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

14.0% alc., 255 cases, $45. This vineyard of 37 planted acres is on the steep slopes of the southwest facing hills just north of the town of Booneville. Shallow gravelly loam soils provide excellent drainage. Yields are 1.5-2.5 tons/acre. The second vintage of this vineyard-designate. 7 day cold soak, 16 day total maceration. 11 months in 40% new French oak. · The aromas are subdued and slow to evolve but some pleasant cherry, wild berry and dark chocolate appear with swirling. This is a richer and more tannic wine than the Stanly Ranch with a pleasing punch of black cherry fruit, a velvety texture and a very long finish. Cellaring is advised to meld the oak and tannins. Reviewed August 4, 2008 ARTICLE »

2006 Saintsbury Lee Vineyard Carneros Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 155 cases, $45. Ira and Shirley Lee first planted their vineyard on Los Carneros Avenue in 1967. Saintsbury has been using fruit from Lee Vineyard since 1982. 100% Pommard clone. 4 days cold soak, 9 day total maceration. 11 months in 40% new French oak. · The darkest colored and darkest flavored wine in the lineup. Needs plenty of swirling now to bring forth the muted fruits and temper the astringency. Black fruits throughout and very woodsy, earthy and primal. Give this one a year or two and then get down and dirty with a big grilled steak. Reviewed August 4, 2008 ARTICLE »

2006 Saintsbury Stanly Ranch Vineyard Carneros Pinot Noir

14.0% alc., 495 cases, $45. Dijon 667 (65%) and 115 (35%). 4-5 day cold soak, 11-14 days total maceration varying with lots, 11 months in 40% new Francois Frères and Taransaud (same barrels used on all Saintsbury Pinot Noirs) oak barrels. Saintsbury has purchased fruit from the historic Stanly Ranch since 1984 and this vineyard has been a significant source for the Carneros Pinot Noir and Reserve Pinot Noir bottlings. The current Dijon 115, 667, and 777 and Pommard clones were planted in 2001 with modernization of the vineyard including spacing and vertical trellising. · Bright red cherry and herb garden with a hint of spice and oak on the nose. Light and elegant in the mouth, flavors of dried cherry, wild berries, and savory herbs are wrapped in relatively soft tannins. The healthy acidic spine is the most noticeable of any wine in the lineup. Reviewed August 4, 2008 ARTICLE »

2006 Saintsbury Toyon Farm Carneros Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 304 cases, $45. 100% Dijon 777. 5 day cold soak, 13 day total maceration. Aged 11 months in 40% new French oak barrels. This property was originally a horse ranch. Purchased by Ed and Camille Penhoet in the middle 1990s, and the property was transformed into a dressage training facility. Toyon Farm Vineyard was planted in 2000 and 2001 and is located 500 meters east of Saintsbury’s estate Brown Ranch Vineyard, separated from it by the famous Hyde Vineyard. Located in the northeastern corner of Carneros, the weather is warmer here and soils of volcanic origin mix with the more typical marine sedimentary clay-loams. · The lightest in color and weight in the lineup. Expressive and alluring aromas of cherries, Asian spices, ginger, and baked cookies. Redder fruits in the mouth with a grassy tone and subtle sidecar of oak. Light on its feet with mild to moderate tannins. The most approachable wine of the lineup now. Reviewed August 4, 2008 ARTICLE »

2006 Saintsbury Brown Ranch Carneros Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., $60. · Enticing aromas of strawberries, Bing cherries, brown sugar and baking spices. An elegant and softly textured Pinot Noir featuring a red fruit profile, a touch of earthiness and a deft touch of oak in the background. A seamless wine with a lingering fruit-kissed finish. Not as stellar as the 2005 vintage, but a fine wine in its own right. Reviewed February 12, 2009 ARTICLE »

2005 Saintsbury Brown Ranch Vineyard Carneros Pinot Noir

Great stuffing here and a finish that is like wings on an angel. Reviewed February 26, 2007 ARTICLE »

2005 Saintsbury Brown Ranch Vineyard Carneros Pinot Noir

Winemaker Jerome Chery has acquired a sensibility about Pinot Noir from his years with Ted Lemon, and this wine from the winery’s flagship vineyard, is a vin de garde for the Carneros appellation. · Brown Ranch wines (the 2006 was a barrel sample) show marvelous purity of fruit with all kinds of layered interest such as spice, earth, forest floor and animale. Reviewed March 23, 2008 ARTICLE »

2005 Saintsbury Cerise Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

The first vineyard-series Pinot Noir from the Anderson Valley. This vineyard is on a hillside near Philo, low-yielding with small berries. The challenge here is to tame the extraction. · This is a big and dark wine with dusty tannins on the finish. I would cellar this a year or two before indulging. Reviewed February 26, 2007 ARTICLE »

2005 Saintsbury Lee Vineyard Carneros Pinot Noir

A supple mouth feel, good tannic backbone, very long finish. This will be a Oscar winner. Reviewed February 26, 2007 ARTICLE »

2005 Saintsbury Stanly Ranch Vineyard Carneros Pinot Noir

Fruit-forward, lip-smacking, and ready now. Drink this one first. Reviewed February 26, 2007 ARTICLE »

2005 Saintsbury Toyon Farm Vineyard Carneros Pinot Noir

Like a soft pillow, this beauty finishes clean with fine-grained tannins. Reviewed February 26, 2007 ARTICLE »

2005 Saintsbury Vincent Vin Gris

13.5% alc., $13. · Perfectly fine for a Pinot Noir rosé. A very light pink-orange colored wine whose structure and punch defies the faint color. The nose is appealing with orange peel, juji fruit, and anise and the flavors include strawberry and pomegranate. There is a little richness on the palate and tangy acidity. Reviewed February 26, 2007 ARTICLE »

2005 Saintsbury Garnet

13.5% alc., 16,300 cases, $20. 20% estate fruit. · Light in color, this is a fresh, early drinking style of Pinot Noir. There is a surprising amount of structure and heft with a substantial tannic backbone. There is noticeable oak influence, but plenty of fruit to counterbalance it. Alot of Pinot for less than $20, and an excellent daily drinker. Reviewed February 26, 2007 ARTICLE »

2004 Saintsbury Carneros Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., 21,400 cases, $30. Sourced from Lee, Toyon Farm, Stanly Ranch, Brown Ranch, and other Carneros vineyards. · This Pinot has a little more body and complexity than the Garnet. It is otherwise similar in being a fruit-driven style with deft oak and brown spice. A thoroughly decent quaffer, but I preferred the Garnet for drinking now. Reviewed February 26, 2007 ARTICLE »

2004 Saintsbury Brown Ranch Chardonnay

14.5% alc., $32. As an additional side note, look for my interview with winemaker Jerome Chery on Grape Radio. · An excellent wine with an appealing creamy texture. Topical fruits and bananas in the nose, butter and mineral highlights in the middle, and a clean finish. A very nice compromise between the big, oaky Chards and the more austere, stainless fermented Chards made in California today. Reviewed February 26, 2007 ARTICLE »

2004 Saintsbury Lee Vineyard Carneros Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 2,850 cases, $45. This Carneros heritage vineyard is farmed by Ira Lee, now 85 years old. Pommard and Swan clones of Pinot Noir are included.. A beautiful wine that is just perfect. · The nose is rich with spicy cherries and vanilla and there is a magnificent complexity of flavors including cherry pie, herbs, tea, and Oriental spices. Very clean, silky in the mouth, and perfectly weighted. Superexcellent. Reviewed February 26, 2007 ARTICLE »

2004 Saintsbury Stanly Ranch Carneros Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 4,560 cases, $45. Stanly Ranch Vineyard was originally owned in the 1950s by Louis Martini and the Wente family. It was here that the historic clonal trials of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay were carried out that became the source of Martini and Wente clones of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay that are widely planted in California today. In 2001, the vineyard underwent a modernization, with planting of modern clones, tighter spacing, and vertical trellising. Saintsbury has been sourcing grapes from Stanly Ranch since 1984 and Stanly Ranch grapes have formed the foundation of the Carneros and Reserve bottlings in the past. Saintsbury gets to “cherry-pick” the best vines. This Pinot contains 667 clone only. · A very nicely crafted Pinot with intriguing aromas of dark cherries, browned toast, and anise duplicated in the flavors. The wine finishes cleanly with lively acidity and lingering toasty oak aromas. Reviewed February 26, 2007 ARTICLE »

2004 Saintsbury Toryon Farm Carneros Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 4,260 cases, $45. This vineyard sits on a property that was originally a horse ranch, and today, the owners Ed and Camile Penhoef run a dressage training facility adjacent to the vineyard. This vineyard is separated from Saintsbury’s Brown Ranch Vineyard by the famous Hyde Vineyard. · This wine is composed of 115 clone grapes I have tasted this wine twice. Several months ago I found it quite closed with aromas of mushrooms and earth dominating. There was appealing red fruits but with a herbal, astringent and tannic note to the finish. I tasted it again at the winery recently and the rough edges in the finish had disappeared. It showed very appealing Pinot fruits, a silky texture, and suede-like soft tannins on the finish. Perhaps it was the presence of the winemaker, but the wine honestly tasted significantly better the second time and presumably additional bottle age did the trick. Reviewed February 26, 2007 ARTICLE »

2004 Saintsbury Brown Ranch Carneros Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 5,100 cases, $60. This is the flagship Pinot Noir in the Saintsbury lineup and is worth every penny. · It is the most stylish of the wines with a certain breeding apparent. This is a Pinot to spend time with as the aromas and flavors of cherries, black raspberries, currents, roses, cola, cinnamon, and damp leaves come and go with fascinating and ever changing combinations. The entire spectrum of Pinot fruits can be detected. The wine is light on its feet with very good balance. A true collectable that will hold your interest for years to come. Reviewed February 26, 2007 ARTICLE »