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Owner Jeff Gaffner (yes almost the same last name as mine) made 210 cases the first year after leaving Chateau St. Jean where he spent 15 years. At Chateau St. Jean he started out as a cellar rat, rising to enologist before leaving in 1997 to become operations manager for Beringer. He started Saxon Brown while at Beringer. Saxon Brown is now thriving, and Jeff has to laugh about the old days. Besides Pinot Noir, he makes a Semillon (from Alexander Valley) and Zinfandels (from Sonoma Valley), for a total of 2,500 cases annually. I had a Saxon Brown Pinot Noir in the late 1990s that I thought was terrific and have kept the winery in my radar ever since.
Jeff christened his brand after Jack London's willful heroine in the novel The Valley of The Moon. He identified with a male version of Saxon Brown, a rags-to-riches type who persevered.
Jeff concentrates on site-specific, vineyard-designated Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and in 2016 was producing 14 different releases from various vineyards.
A second label, Etre, offers exclusively unoaked Chardonnay from the Sonoma Coast.
Jef is a consulting winemaker for Ram's Gate and Black Kite in Sonoma, as well as Napa's Xtant and Stephanie. He doesn't employ assistants, preferring to stay tightly connected to his wines, although he has a business partner, Tracey Walker, who oversees marketing, sales and distribution.
Saxon Brown Winery address is PO Box 1832, Sonoma, CA 95476. The phone is 707-939-9530. The wines are sold through a mailing list with some retail distribution. Jeff is also the winemaker at Black Kite Cellars in the Anderson Valley.
2013 Saxon Brown Fighting Brothers Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.9% alc., 254 cases, $48. · Moderately light reddish purple color in the glass. Demure aromas of black cherry and oak spice arrive slowly over time in the glass. Highly flavorful, with robust flavors of black cherry and black raspberry and a bit of spice. Sleek on the palate with a modest finish and submerged alcohol. Score: 91. Reviewed April 2, 2016 ARTICLE »
2013 Saxon Brown Durell Vineyard Hayfield Block Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 99 cases, $58. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Aromas of dark cherry liquor, orange pekoe tea and hazelnut lead off. Moderately rich in the mouth with ripe flavors of black raspberry and cassis accented with teasing notes of oak seasoning. Impressive harmony, with immersed tannins and some length on the soft and highly seductive finish. Score: 92. Reviewed April 2, 2016 ARTICLE »
2013 Saxon Brown Sangiacomo Roberts Road Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.6% alc., 176 cases, $58. Vineyard is located at the western base of Sonoma Mountain. · Moderately light cherry red color in the glass. Highly aromatic, offering a perfume of strawberry, candied cherry and toasty oak. A cherry-fueled wine with a halo of oak that tends to dominate the fruit. Silky and smooth with harmonious tannins and pleasing acidity. This wine will be favored by those who prefer noticeable oak overlay in Pinot Noir. Score: 89. Reviewed April 2, 2016 ARTICLE »
2013 Saxon Brown Sangiacomo Vineyard “Green Acres Hill” Carneros Chardonnay
14.2% alc., 149 cases, $58. · Moderately light golden yellow color and clear in the glass. Uplifting aromas of lemon, nectarine, nori and lees lead off. Reasonably concentrated flavors of baked pear, peach and crème brûlée. Quite expressive with noticeable mid palate and finishing presence. Nicely composed and harmonious with a juicy finish. Score: 91. Reviewed April 22, 2016 ARTICLE »
2013 Saxon Brown Durell Vineyard Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
14.7% alc., 290 cases, $68. · Moderately light golden yellow color and clear in the glass. Unusual aromas of gun metal, lemon twig and alfalfa lead off. Flavors of lemon, baked apple, and candy apple follow in a balanced offering with an hi-tone citrus-driven finish. Score: 89. Reviewed April 22, 2016 ARTICLE »
2013 Saxon Brown Gap’s Crown Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.8% alc., 226 cases, $68. · Moderately light reddish purple color in the glass. The nose offers a mix of dark berry, earthy flora and oak aromas that are pleasing. Profoundly fruited on the palate with deep flavors of blackberry and black raspberry. Well-structured with a generous infusion of oak that tends to show up more over time in the glass. The classy fruit in this wine is hard to ignore. Score: 90. Reviewed April 2, 2016 ARTICLE »
2013 Saxon Brown Hyde Vineyard Napa-Carneros Chardonnay
14.4% alc., 223 cases, $68. · Moderately light golden yellow color and clear in the glass. Admirable complexity in this wine that offers scents of pear, forest flora, blonde caramel, chalk and gun metal as well as flavors of pear, lemon and subtle oak. The fruit grabs on to the palate and sustains, picking up more glamor over time in the glass. Easy to like because of impeccable balance. Score: 92. Reviewed April 22, 2016 ARTICLE »
2013 Saxon Brown Rosella’s Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.7% alc., 226 cases, $68. · Medium reddish purple hue in the glass. The nose lifts interest with aromas of black cherry, cardamom spice and toast. The mid weight plus flavors of black cherry and blackberry are accented with notes of white pepper and spice. Nicely balanced with commendable oak integration and some length on the finish which leaves a hint of warmth in its wake. Score: 90. Reviewed April 2, 2016 ARTICLE »
2013 Saxon Brown Ferrington Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.6% alc., 197 cases, $78. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Effusive aromas of spiced black raspberry and wine cave are very enticing. Caressing on the palate, with mid weight flavors of darker berries framed by slightly astringent tannins. Energetic and forward drinking with a noticeable oak overlay that diminishes over time in the glass. The wine’s most impressive asset is the endless finish. Score: 91. Reviewed April 2, 2016 ARTICLE »
2012 Saxon-Brown Sangiacomo Roberts Road Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.6% alc.. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Inviting aromas of dark red berries and a touch of bramble. Mid weight plus deeply flavored berry and cherry fruits with a savory oak note in the background. Velvety in the mouth with some finishing drive. Score: 90-91. Reviewed April 4, 2015 ARTICLE »
2005 Saxon Brown Durell Vineyard Hayfield Block Sonoma Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 99 cases, $48. Winemaking is traditional with a three day cold soak, slow fermentation, pressed to barrel after 14 days, racked off of the lees after malolactic fermentation, and returned back to the same barrels for 10 months of additional aging. · There is noticeable oak in the nose and on the finish upon opening, but with air time, the oak merges into the background. Aromas of spicy Bing cherry remind me of good Russian River Valley Pinots. This is a very tasty styled wine with plenty of sweet cherry liquor, tea and soy. The texture is soft as a down pillow. The whole package finishes with a cherry kiss. Reviewed February 26, 2007 ARTICLE »