Eric Kent Wine Cellars

Owner(s) Kent Humphrey
Web site www.erickentwines.com
 
Link to this site
Eric Kent Wine Cellars

The label says Eric Kent but there is no Eric Kent. “Eric” is owner Kent Humphrey’s middle name and “Kent” is his first name. Being on the humble side, Kent just could not bear to be blatantly eponymous. He also could not imagine people in a toney restaurant asking the sommelier for a bottle of “Humphrey” Pinot Noir. So, he inverted his first and middle names and his “nom de vin” came to be. In addition, designing a logo with two nice, short words seemed a good way to go.

Kent grew up in California around a family table that enjoyed wine. His college path, however, was not initially wine, but rather the PhD program at University of California Berkeley in French (happily with a full ride as a Regent’s Fellow). He soon opted out of academia and pursued a job in advertising. He started his own agency and the company grew to more than fifty people. That experience gave him an in-depth look at big companies - their politics, creative accounting, and inherent failure to put people first. Kent’s youthful idealism was decimated in the end and the work nearly “sucked the joy out of life.” During these ten years of real-life experiences, he sampled, savored, collected and delighted in wine. When he finally decided to leave the advertising world, his friends and family encouraged him to seek a career in wine.

Initially he considered attending University of California Davis for winemaking training, but realized that many of the wines he most admired were made by people who had no formal training in wine. So he sought some hands-on experience and worked at two different winery facilities. A couple of years later, he was offered the chance to obtain some really classy fruit from top-notch vineyards. While a year earlier than he had planned, he couldn’t pass up the opportunity and Eric Kent Wine Cellars was born. Kent chose to make Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah since these were the varietals that gave him the most personal pleasure. He produced 375 cases in the inaugural 2003 vintage. He has since reached nearly 2,000 cases a year. Given his run-in with big business, he still plans to stay small with growth stopping between 3,000 and 4,000 cases. The plan for that buildup is sensibly paced and he is content to take whatever time is necessary to do it well.

Kent and his wife, Colleen, an accomplished artist, decided one day over a dinner of burgers and Zinfandel to showcase artists on their bottles. The two work in harmony, she assisting him in making blending decisions and he helping her in choosing the individual art works that grace the bottles of Eric Kent wines. Kent and Colleen freelance as an art director/copywriter team to help pay for their winemaking project.

The works of art that are part of the front label of every Eric Kent wine are quite striking. The art is from deserving, but as yet undiscovered talent. Each artist brings a unique vision that compliments the spirit behind the wines. With every vintage, a portion of the wine sales is donated to help support the work of struggling artists. As Paul Root so aptly put it, “The wines speak for themselves and the labels add another dimension to the wine by creating a built-in discussion with every cork pulled.”

Eric Kent Wine Cellars is located in Santa Rosa, CA. The wines are produced at a Santa Rosa custom crush facility. 707-527-9700. Members of the winery’s E/K Direct Club receive 20-25% discounts. Demand has increased markedly in the last year (the 2005 vintage is completely sold out) and most all of the wine is now sold to E/K Direct Club members.

Reviewed Wines

2012 Eric Kent Small Town Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

13.7% alc., pH 3.61, TA 0.66, 382 cases, $48. Released spring 2014. 44% Cleary Ranch and Michael Valentine, 31% Grand Vent, 13% Stiling, 12% Roberts Road vineyards. Clones 667, 777, Swan, Pommard and 113. Celebrating tens years of wine and art. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Attractive aromas of cherry and baking spices with a little dark chocolate showing up over time. Middleweight flavors of black cherry, black raspberry, cola and sassafras, with a hint of tarry oak and orange zest showing up on the long, palate-cleansing, juicy finish. The tannins are nicely managed and the acid adds zest and vibrancy. Develops more interesting nuances over time in the glass. Score: 93. Reviewed April 19, 2014 ARTICLE »

2011 Eric Kent Small Town Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

13.2% alc., pH 3.57, TA 0.61, 414 cases,$48. Release Spring 2013. 38% Cleary Ranch and Michael Valentine, 23% Roberts Road, 23% Kiser/Vella, and Stiling. Clones 777, Swan, Pommard, 667, 114 and 115. · Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Enchanting nose offering aromas of exotically spiced black cherry and plum with a hint of smoky oak. Elegant and soft on the palate, with juicy flavors of black cherries, black raspberries and cardamom spice caressed by gentle tannins and ending on a clean, bright, dark cherry note. One of the most suave Pinots ever from Eric Kent. I like this wine for its seductive character. Reviewed May 5, 2013 ARTICLE »

2010 Eric Kent Russian River Valley Chardonnay

14.5% alc.,pH 3.36, TA 0.62, 272 cases, $40. 86% Stiling Vineyard with small amounts of Wildcat Mountain and Green Acres Hill vineyards. Primarily Rued selection. · Light straw color and clear in the glass. Nuanced nose offering aromas of lychee, chestnut, banana, graphite and bark. Soft in the mouth and rather ordinary with flavors of pear, lemon, honey and roasted nuts. Decent. Reviewed April 13, 2013 ARTICLE »

2010 Eric Kent Small Town Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., pH 3.65, TA 0.63, 365 cases, $45. Released spring 2012. Label artist is Kelly Puissegur. A blend from two Freestone vineyards (Cleary Ranch and Michael Valentine) with a dose of Roberts Road Vineyard from the Petaluma Gap and Stiling Vineyard from the Russian River Valley. Clones are 39% 777, 28% 115, 19% Swan and 14% 667. · Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Fresh aromas of blackberries and black plum sauce with a hint of oak. Mid weight flavors of black cherries, black berries and plum reduction sauce with an earthy undertone. Supple tannins, good supporting acidity, and some length on the finish. The wine grows on you over time in the glass indicating more time will reward the patient. Very good. Reviewed October 2, 2012 ARTICLE »

2010 Eric Kent Stiling Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.6% alc., $48. Cool label by artist Libby Black. · Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Aromas of very ripe Bing cherries, black grapes and peat moss. Very rich and sappy core of black cherry fruit with riffs of cola and toasted oak in the background. Big, bold and flashy, with a fruit-driven finish that sails along. The tannins are modest and the wine is soft in the mouth. This wine shows a Syrahlike edge to the ripe flavors and has too big a fruit load for my taste, but it is well crafted in its style in a vintage marked by heat spikes. Score: 88. Reviewed September 5, 2013 ARTICLE »

2009 Eric Kent Small Town Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

13.7% alc., pH 3.67, TA 0.62, 288 cases, $45. From 65% Freestone Vineyard and 35% Roberts Road Vineyard in the Petaluma Gap. Label photograph from Rofe Horn. · Moderately light reddish-purple hue in the glass. Shy but very pleasant perfume of dark red berries, black cherries, Asian spice and cola, becoming more expressive in the glass over time. Vigorous with dark red fruit flavor, complimented by notes of sassafras and spice including clove. Possessing plenty of character with svelte tannins and welcoming acidity on the generous finish. Really spectacular two days later from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. Best Pinot ever from Eric Kent. Source: mailing list and retail. Reviewed July 1, 2011 ARTICLE »

2009 Eric Kent Wine Cellars Stiling Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.6% alc., pH 3.57, TA 0.63, 183 cases, $45 (sold out). Proprietor and winemaker Kent Humphrey was married in 2002 in a wine country ceremony at Stiling Vineyard. The following year, Stilling Vineyard supplied Kent with his first Chardonnay and Pinot Noir fruit and he has been working with them ever since. Grapes are pulled primarily from Hillside Block planted to Swan clone in 1989. 50% new French oak at slightly high toast levels. Grapes are also sourced from Bunkhouse Block, also planted to Swan clone. This block is often fermented with 1/3 whole cluster and produces an earthier, more herbal. It does better with less oak. Label artist is Eliza Frye. · Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Nicely perfumed with aromas of black cherries, plum sauce and spice. Tasty core of spiced cherries veering to the ripe side. Rich and flavorful, with supple tannins and a seductively soft mouth feel. A fruit-driven wine offering exuberant pleasure. Very good. Reviewed June 24, 2012 ARTICLE »

2008 Eric Kent Wine Cellars Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.6% alc., $35. The artist, Mike Shine, is on the label. · Aromas of cherries, anise, spice, eucalyptus and oak with a hint of alcohol. The nose is quite funky initially but responds to air and swirling. Tasty light flavors of Bing cherries and strawberries with a sidecar of baking spices and red hard candy. Fruit flavors veer to the ripe side, persisting on the fruity finish. Good. Reviewed April 23, 2010 ARTICLE »

2008 Eric Kent Wine Cellars Stiling Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.7% alc., $40. Label art is by Kerry Mansfield, photographer. · Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. Lovely hi-tone Bing cherries spiced with cardamom and clove are featured in this juicy and well-endowed wine. Hints of oak toast, cherry cola and red hard candy add accents. Very typical Russian River Valley Pinot Noir. Nicely proportioned tannins, but could use a touch more acidity. Very good. Reviewed January 27, 2011 ARTICLE »

2007 Eric Kent Freestone Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.8% alc.. · Moderate reddish-purple color in glass. The nose offers considerable pleasure as it emerges over time in the glass showing bright aromas of dark red stone fruits and striking spice box perfume. Very soft and smooth in the mouth with moderately intense flavors of redder fruits, offering a pleasing elegance and balanced tannins. Some aromatic persistence on the finish adds to the pleasure. Source: sold out. Very good (+). Reviewed July 1, 2011 ARTICLE »

2007 Eric Kent Wine Cellars Cleary Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

(barrel sample). Kent Humphrey has been crafting beautiful Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays from the Russian River Valley for three years now. His vineyard sources have been the Stiling Vineyard and the Windsor Oaks Vineyard. The Cleary Vineyard is his first foray into the Sonoma Coast. · Like so many 2007 Pinot Noirs from the North Coast that I have sampled, this one jumps out of the glass with enchanting aromatics and perfectly ripe fruit that hits all of the high notes. Kent seems quite pleased with this one and he should be. Reviewed July 7, 2008 ARTICLE »

2007 Eric Kent Wine Cellars Stiling Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.7% alc., 307 cases, fall. Pronounced “Styling,” this vineyard was planted initially in 1989 with Swan clone and then inter-planted with Dijon 115 clone. This wine is almost entirely Swan clone. 30% whole cluster. Aged in 55% new French oak barrels. Label art is by John Yoyogi Fortes. · The nose is quite charming and accessible featuring black cherries, raspberries and red plums. Caressing in the mouth with soft tannins and defining acidity, the flavors of dried cherries and baking spice stand out. This vintage offers more elegance and restraint than the 2006 version and is a sleek and seductive wine that is quite stylish. Reviewed July 9, 2009 ARTICLE »

2007 Eric Kent Wine Cellars Windsor Oaks Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.9% alc., 352 cases, $39 (Club Pre Release $30.25). Second vintage from a 220-acre Russian River Valley vineyard located east of Highway 101. Planted to 18 varietals, Kent sources four Pinot Noir clones (about 25% of each) including Dijon 114, 115, 667 and 777. An early ripening site that allows for 17% whole cluster inclusion. Aged in 50% new French oak barrels. Label art is by Evan B. Harris. · Ripe, but not overripe, aromas of dark fruits, roses and brown spices. The flavors echo the aromas with an added hint of savory herbs, sassafras and raisins. A pleasing fruit-forward wine with fine-grain tannins and a refreshing finish. Approachable now and showing more pizzazz than the 2006 vintage. Reviewed July 9, 2009 ARTICLE »

2007 Eric Kent Wine Cellars Freestone Pinot Noir

14.8% alc., 148 cases, $48 (Club Pre Release $39), sold out. The label says, “Freestone,” marking the western Russian River location of the two vineyards that provided the grapes. After the label was printed, Kent found out “Freestone” is trademarked and had to change the name to “Small Town” which is the name of the wine on the website. This cool area is most akin to the true Sonoma Coast, with harvest coming three to five weeks later than Kent’s other fruit sources and arriving in the winery at a lower brix with more natural acidity. Clones are Dijon 115, 777 with 7% Swan clone from Stiling Vineyard. Aged in 45% new French oak barrels. Label artist is Meghan Adler. Unfiltered. · This is a spectacular Pinot Noir that is packed with nuanced and layered aromas and flavors. Berry compote, black cherry cobbler, anise, herbs, forest floor all show up in a smoothly textured, beautifully balanced, full-bodied and opulent package that has a very powerful charisma. Understandably sold out. Reviewed July 9, 2009 ARTICLE »

2006 Eric Kent Wine Cellars Russian River Valley Chardonnay

14.7% alc.. Scott Kemp is the label's artist. · Very shy aromatics featuring butter, smoke and roasted nuts. Plenty of body yet restrained with a creamy texture. The white fruits are complimented by flavors of subtle oak, char and almonds. More Caliesque in style than the Sonoma Coast bottling with higher alcohol and more stuffing but with adequate acidity to hold the wine together beautifully. Reviewed --/--/--

2006 Eric Kent Wine Cellars Sonoma Coast Chardonnay

14.3% alc.. · Artist on label is Bob Stang. Attractive aromas of buttered toast, banana and a hint of petrol. Demure flavors of white stone fruits with noticeable citrus accents and hi-toned acidity. Soft in texture with a lingering finish. More in the Chablis vein in style. Reviewed --/--/--

2006 Eric Kent Wine Cellars Windsor Oaks Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.7% alc., 220 cases, $39. Label artist is Sabrina Ward Harrison. · Demure scents of dark red berries, cherries and hay. Clean and bright flavors of redder fruits and savory herbs. Brisk acidity on the tangy finish. Reviewed July 19, 2008 ARTICLE »

2006 Eric Kent Wine Cellars Stiling Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

15.1% alc., 374 cases, $42. Label artist is Tony Speirs · Black cherry, plum, buttered toast and forest floor aromas lead to a mouthful of rich, dark stone fruits that wrap around the tongue and leave a little warmth in their wake. Velvety texture, commendable oak integration, and a decent length to the finish. The darker side of Pinot Noir. This wine will have fans. Reviewed July 19, 2008 ARTICLE »

2005 Eric Kent Wine Cellars Sonoma County Rosé

14.4% alc., $19 · Pale orange in color. Intriguing nose of orange peel and pear with a whisper of heat. Clean and crisp on the palate with flavors of citrus and berries. Perfectly fine. Reviewed October 20, 2007 ARTICLE »

2005 Eric Kent Wine Cellars Sonoma Coast Chardonnay

15.1% alc., 225 cases,$35. The artist on the label (right, below), is Francis Berry. It depicts two nudes cleverly covered up and being observed by a fellow with a colorful fedora. The artist says it “weaves together tragicomic humor and spontaneity.” · The aromatic profile here is more austere with mineral, tropical fruit and citrus notes. The texture is more creamy with less prominent acidity. Crème brulee and oak are present but subtle. This doesn’t have the punch of the Russian River Valley bottling, but will be a better match with food. The alcohol is so well integrated that it adds structure without being intrusive. Reviewed October 20, 2007 ARTICLE »

2005 Eric Kent Wine Cellars Russian River Valley Chardonnay

14.9% alc., 250 cases, $36.25. Mary Black is the artist on the label (left, below). The hot wax based artwork was created on several layers of paper and wax which created many levels of texture and color. Her work mirrors her interest in Jungian psychology, whatever that is. Most of the fruit is from the Stiling Vineyard. · This is a terrific Chardonnay with a lovely nose of butter (100% MLF), lemon and roasted nuts. There is a plenty of toasty oak, citrus and crème brulee flavors and the finishing acidity is on point. A meal in itself. Reviewed October 20, 2007 ARTICLE »

2005 Eric Kent Wine Cellars Stiling Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.8% alc., 300 cases, $38.25. Darin Fenn’s label is a black and white photograph taken with a hand held 35 mm camera and not changed in any way. It features a winter skating rink in Budapest. You will notice that some of the skaters’ images are blurred by motion while the observers are clearly outlined. · The aromatics are a little funky on lift off, but then become quite interesting with dark cherries, spice-particularly cinnamon, oak notes and a hint of coconut. Cherries, spice and herbs compose the flavors which are presented on a soft and elegant platform. The finish is clean and refreshing. The whole package is harmonious. Note: Kent feels this wine will reach an even better drinking window given another 6 -12 months. Reviewed October 20, 2007 ARTICLE »

2004 Eric Kent Wine Cellars Stiling Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

15.2% alc., 250 cases, $35. Don Stiling left his corporate career and planted a 35-acre vineyard on Goldridge loamy soil in the Russian River Valley in 1986. Vineyard manager Jesus Garcia has assisted the Stilings for 14 years overseeing the vineyard. Kent’s wine is sourced from two different vineyard blocks, one hillside and one on the valley floor. The grapes are primarily a field selection of Swan clone. 75% of the grapes were de-stemmed, but not crushed, and placed on top of the remaining 25% whole cluster fruit. The wine was aged for 14 months in 60% new French oak. · An appealing nose of darker fruits especially plum with vanillin highlights. With some air time, the initially shallow fruit takes on shoulder pads and struts out brutish dark berry and current flavors tinged with oak and herbs. The wine is well-rounded and mellow with some alcoholic heat peeking out on the finish after a time in the glass. Reviewed October 20, 2007 ARTICLE »

2004 Eric Kent Wine Cellars Stiling Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

15.2% alc., 250 cases, $35. Label artist is Kevin Keul. The Stiling Vineyard was planted in the mid-1980s and is farmed by Don and Barbara Stiling. This wine is sourced from two different vineyard blocks, one on a hillside and one on the valley floor. The grapes are primarily Swan selection. 75% of the grapes were de-stemmed, but not crushed, and placed on top of the remaining 25% whole cluster fruit. The wine was aged for 14 months in 60% new French oak barrels. · The nose is outrageous featuring the scent of cherry pie with cinnamon ice cream. Oodles of fresh red berries and ripe plums with lovely spice accents cascade over the mouth like silk. Beautifully balanced despite the high alcohol. I usually shy away from Pinots with more than 15% alcohol, but this flamboyant sucker won me over. Really, really, really good. A feast. Reviewed May 22, 2006