|Link to this site|
The husband and wife team of Mike Sinor and Cheri LaVallee Sinor founded Sinor-LaVallee Wine Company in Arroyo Grande in 1997. Mike and Cheri met as students at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in 1993 where they had “Chemistry.” They were married in 1996 in the town of Beaune, in the heart of Burgundy. Both have a colorful background in the wine industry.
Mike grew up in Visalia. His history is intimately tied to the Edna Valley region of California. His first job in the wine business was at Corbett Canyon Vineyards in 1991. Many of you will remember those Corbett Canyon commercials featuring the echo of “canyon, canyon, canyon.” Corbett Canyon was one of the first wineries in Edna Valley, founded in 1978, but has changed ownership several times through the years. Today, it is owned by Rob Rossi, and is a custom crush facility (SLO Winemaker’s Studio) where Sinor now produces his Sinor-LaVallee wines.
Back in 1991, Mike was just trying to earn some money to pay for college, but this job quickly led to a passion for wine. After finishing his studies at Cal Poly in 1994, he started his career at Corbett Canyon Winery and then he took a harvest position at Byron Vineyard and Winery in Santa Maria. Soon he had a permanent cellar position, advanced to enologist, and then became assistant winemaker at Byron working under noted Central Coast vintner Ken Brown. During his time at Byron, Mike traveled to Burgundy and the Rhone Valley to study winemaking. Mike left Byron after the harvest of 2000 to become the winemaker at Domaine Alfred Winery in San Luis Obispo at the site of Chamisal Vineyard. Mike directed the vineyard operations, instituted biodynamic farming, and crafted wines that brought the winery considerable national acclaim, particularly for Pinot Noir.
In 2006, Mike resigned from Domaine Alfred to focus on Sinor-LaVallee Wine Company and Ancient Peak Winery (several warm climate varietals from Margarita Vineyard near Paso Robles). He continues to be much in demand as a winery consultant. Those of you who attend the annual World of Pinot Noir in Shell Beach, California, have probably seen Mike running around directing the show. He is one of the founding board members for the World of Pinot Noir and served as Board President for the 2005 event.
The initial inspiration for Sinor-LaVallee wines was the Burgundy model: finding specific rows of vineyards with world class terroir near where you live, contract for those rows, and make the best wine you can. Mike produced Pinot Noir along with small amounts of Syrah under the Sinor-LaVallee label. The main vineyards, Talley-Rincon and Aubaine were within a bicycle ride from where he lives in Arroyo Grande. Total production was about 500 cases annually.
Beginning with the 2013 vintage, Mike decided to turn his Sinor-LaVallee brand into an all-estate program. all wines are sourced from the Estate Bassi Vineyard acquired in 2013. The vineyard, originally planted in 2001, is perched alongside Highway 101 just inland of Shell Beach and the 30 acres are planted half to Pinot Noir (8 clones), and the remainder split among Syrah, Chardonnay (3 clones), Pinot Gris and Albarino. Mike stopped selling fruit to other wineries in the 2015 vintage and the grapes now go into the 2,000 cases of his own wine.
From the 15 acres of Pinot Noir, Mike produces 44 1-ton lots of Pinot Noir and the best results are shared with wine club members through a white label (lighter wines) and a black label (darker wines).
The wines are currently only available at the winery's tasting room which opened in early 2015 located at 550 1st Street in AVila Beach (open Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 12:00 to 6:00).
2014 Ocean View San Luis Obispo County Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., $14.99. Produced and bottled by Sinor-LaVallee in Arroyo Grande by noted winemaker Mike Sinor for Trader Joe’s markets. Sourced from the Estate Ocean View Vineyard located only 1.3 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean. · Moderately light reddish purple color in the glass. The nose opens nicely with swirling, offering engaging aromas of dark red and black berries, spice, briar and a subtle salinity. A giving and satisfying mid weight wine with flavors of blackberry, black raspberry, spice and anise framed by ruddy tannins. Silky on the palate with good cut, subtle oak seasoning, and a satisfying finish with some length. Still highly enjoyable the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. This wine could easily bring three times the price. Score: 90. Reviewed April 2, 2016 ARTICLE »
2013 Sinor-LaVallee San Luis Obispo Pinot Gris
$18, screwcap. From the estate Bassi Vineyard just 1.2 miles from the Pacific Ocean in Avila Beach. This wine represents a selection of the best fruit from less than one acre of Pinot Gris at the crown of the vineyard with marine sandstone soil. Harvest Brix 22.5º and 24.0º. 20% fermented with native yeast. Primarily cold fermented in stainless steel with a small portion fermented in neutral oak barrels. · Pale yellow color and clear in the glass. The floral nose is accented by scents of apple, pear and nuts. Pleasing mid weight flavors of lemon, lime, pear and apple wake up the mouth, leading to a refreshing finish driven by bright acidity. The fruit picked early provides brightness while the fruit picked later gives fruit richness. One of the better Pinot Gris wines I have had from California. Score: 90. Reviewed July 19, 2014 ARTICLE »
2013 Sinor-LaVallee San Luis Obispo County Pinot Noir
$30, screwcap. Beginning with this vintage, all Sinor-LaVallee wines are from the winery’s estate Bassi Vineyard in Avila Beach planted to 8 clones of Pinot Noir and other varieties. · Moderately light reddish purple color in the glass. A pleasing medley of red and black fruits blended with modest but supportive tannins, and backed by vibrant acidity, making for easy and early drinking. Score: 88-89. Reviewed April 4, 2015 ARTICLE »
2012 Sinor-LaVallee San Luis Obispo County Syrah
15.5% alc., 277 cases, $28. 80% Bassi Vineyard and 17% Laetitia Vineyard and 2% Cannon Vineyard. 65% fermented in 1-ton open top boxes and 35% fermented in a redwood open-top fermenter. Half of lots inoculated with Syrah yeast, the other half native fermented. Total time in fermenter averaged 12 days. Pressed off in an imported Italian basket press. Aged 11 months in 17% new Francois Frères oak barrels. · Deep, dark, inky reddish-purple color in the glass. Very little fruit shows up on the nose which is replete with aromas of smoky, vanillin oak. The plush black fruit load coats the tongue and the vanilla and tobacco oak overlay is more integrated and inviting on the palate. This wine has shoulders, but is still refined. Balanced despite its alcohol load. Decant if you must drink now. Score: 88. Reviewed July 19, 2014 ARTICLE »
2012 Sinor-LaVallee San Luis Obispo County Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 438 cases, $30, screwcap. 73% Squire Canyon Vineyard in Avila Beach and 27% Spanish Springs Vineyard in Pismo Beach. Native and inoculated yeast fermentation. 12 days in fermenter. Pressed off in an imported Italian basket press. Aged 11 months in 50% new French oak from Francois Frères. Unfined and unfiltered. · Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. Aromas of blueberries and pomegranate lead to full-bodied flavors of blue and purple berries with a hint of spice and vanillin oak. A big boy, but refined with integrated tannins. A touch of heat shows up on the finish. Score: 88. Reviewed July 19, 2014 ARTICLE »
2012 Sinor-LaVallee Talley-Rincon Vineyard Arroyo Grande Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 142 cases, $40. 100% de-stemmed. 50% native and 50% inoculated fermentation. Average 15 days in fermenter. Pressed off in an imported Italian basket press. Aged 15 months in 50% new Francois Frères oak. Unfined and unfiltered. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. The nose is enticing with fresh aromas of blackberries, boysenberries and oak. Very juicy and vivid on the palate with a delicious array of berry flavors that fan out on the palate. The tannins are well integrated and the wine finishes with polish and generosity. Score: 91. Reviewed July 19, 2014 ARTICLE »
2012 Sinor-LaVallee Anniversary Cuvée San Luis Obispo County Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 48 cases, $50. A blend of all the vineyards Mike Sinor works with. 100% whole cluster. Only produced in special vintages. Fermented in 60 gallon barrels with one end removed. Native primary and malolactic fermentations. Average 12 days in fermenter. Pressed off using an imported Italian basket press. Aged 15 months in 50% new Francois Frères oak barrels. Unfined and unfiltered. · Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. This is a wine that demands your attention. Lovely aromas of wild berries, redwoods, and exotic spices. Discreetly concentrated dark red and purple fruits fill the mid palate with goodness. The tannic backbone is firm and sculpted at this stage, but not intrusive. When tasted the following day from a previously opened and recorked bottle, the wine had elevated, showing more integration of tannins, and a spectacular peacock finish. This is a connoisseur's wine that will reward time in the cellar. Score: 94. Reviewed July 19, 2014 ARTICLE »
2011 Sinor-LaVallee San Luis Obispo County Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 135 cases, $30. A blend of fruit from Talley-Rincon Vineyard in Arroyo Grande and Squire Canyon Vineyard in Avila Beach. Average yields 2.8 tons per acre. 25% whole cluster. Native and natural fermentation, pressed off with a basket press. Aged 12 months in 50% new Francois Frères French oak barrels. Unfined and unfiltered. · Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. The aromas have not arrived in this wine yet, but with swirling, delicate scents of very ripe stone and berry fruit emerge with a pleasant oak backing. The mid palate attack of strawberry, raspberry and plum fruit flavors are moderately intense. The tannins are well managed and the wine finishes with modest but pleasing length. Good. Reviewed March 23, 2013 ARTICLE »
2011 Sinor-LaVallee Aubaine Vineyard San Luis Obispo County Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 143 cases, $40. This 12-acre vineyard is south of Laetitia Winery on the eastern side of Highway 101. Primarily 667 with a small amount of 777. 33% whole cluster. 50/50 inoculated and native fermentation. Aged 17 months in 50% new Francois Frères French oak barrels. Unfiltered. · Dark purple color in the glass. Scent of loganberry jam, raw beef, and roasted plum. Deep plum flavor with a subtle sidecar of spice, dark chocolate and citrus. Very seductive velvety mouth feel with a robust, long, long finish. Beautiful integration of oak. This wine can be a ball buster, but it is a chiseled ballerina in this vintage that is oozing charm. Always a terroir-driven wine of distinction. Reviewed March 23, 2013 ARTICLE »
2011 Sinor-LaVallee Talley-Rincon Vineyard Arroyo Grande Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 93 cases, $40. Seventh vintage from this block. Yield 2.23 tons from one acre. 100% de-stemmed. Inoculated and native fermentation. Aged 17 months in 50% new Francois Frères French oak barrels. Unfiltered. · Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Aromas of black cherries, black plum sauce, flint stone and forest floor. A savory wine with layers of intense flavor and finishing power, featuring ripe dark red and purple fruits. Very open and inviting with good structural bones and a bold demeanor. Very good. Reviewed March 23, 2013 ARTICLE »
2008 Sinor-LaVallee Luna Matta Vineyard Paso Robles Syrah
14.9% alc., 98 cases, $25. Sourced from 1 acre of this vineyard planted to clone 174. Mike emphasizes that the power in this wine comes from leanness and structure without overt jammy fruit that is often found in Paso Robles Syrah. · Deep, dark purple color in the glass. Lovely perfume of fresh blackberries, black currants, dried plums and oak cask. Layered flavors of plum sauce, dark berries, anise and sassafras. A big-boned wine with a prodigious tannic backbone and an intensely fruity ending that finishes dry and clean. Very good. Reviewed May 15, 2011 ARTICLE »
2008 Sinor-LaVallee San Luis Obispo County Central Coast Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., 133 cases, $29. Vineyard sources vary from year to year as Mike searches for the next vineyard designate. · Moderate reddish-purple hue in the glass. Explosive aromas of cherries, strawberries, cola and cardamom spice. Very tasty core of dark red cherries and berries with subtle oak, cola, chocolate and spice in the background. Lighter in intensity than the other 2008 Sinor-LaVallee Pinot Noirs, but thoroughly satisfying. With supple tannins and impeccable balance, this wine makes a terrific daily drinker and one to buy by the case. Very good. Reviewed May 15, 2011 ARTICLE »
2008 Sinor-LaVallee Aubaine Vineyard San Luis Obispo County Pinot Noir
14.8% alc., $40. · This is not a wine for sissies: you have been forewarned. This vineyard offers big-boned darker fruit with flamboyant tannins. That said, winemaker Mike Sinor has managed to tame the beast, and the wine offers a big gulp of very ripe fruit with plenty of staying power on the finish. The wine is muscular but retains some welcoming charm and possesses an appealing soft mouth feel. Needs a big ribeye. Good. Reviewed March 12, 2011 ARTICLE »
2008 Sinor-LaVallee Aubaine Vineyard San Luis Obispo County Pinot Noir
14.9% alc., 148 cases, $40. This 14-acre vineyard is located just off Highway 101 between the towns of Arroyo Grande and Nipomo. Clones 667 and 777. · Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Scent of moss, crushed rock, earth, oak and cut flowers, with modest fruit aroma. Intense and powerful flavors of red and black fruits with hints of anise, prune and grilled mushrooms. Nicely corralled and not as rugged and daunting as this vineyard is prone to be, with well proportioned tannins and a lengthy finish. Picks up interest and charm over time in the glass. A distinctive and unusual bottling that abounds with character and is very site-specific. Very good. Reviewed May 15, 2011 ARTICLE »
2008 Sinor-LaVallee Talley-Rincon Vineyard Arroyo Grande Valley Pinot Noir
14.8% alc., 73 cases, $40. From a 1-acre block consisting of 14 rows planted to clone 2A. Yield was .73 tons per acre. · Dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Aromas of black fruits, toasted oak and bark. Intense and savory flavors of very ripe dark fruit including spiced black plums and black currants. The fruit is clothed in firm but slippery tannins and there is well-honed balancing acidity. Soft in the mouth and relatively suave, but rather fruit-driven and linear at this stage. May deliver more nuance with time in the bottle. Good. Reviewed May 15, 2011 ARTICLE »
2008 Sinor-LaVallee Anniversary Cuvée San Luis Obispo County Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., 49 cases, $50. This bottling celebrates Mike and Cheri’s marriage in Burgundy in 1996 and is 100% whole cluster. The wine combines Talley-Rincon and Aubaine fruit. Mike calls it his “wild child,” because it is made with indigenous yeast fermentation and natural MLF. Only produced in vintages that warrant it. · The lightest in color in the lineup, sporting a moderate ruby-red hue. Lovely aromas of fresh strawberries, raspberries and exotic woods. More red-fruited and elegant than the vineyard designates, yet packed with flavorful delicately spiced red berry flavor. Seamless, with plenty of sparkle and spirit and a memorable finish with impressive length. Still very appealing the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. About as perfect as it gets. Reviewed May 15, 2011 ARTICLE »
2007 Sinor-LaVallee Luna Matta Vineyard Paso Robles Syrah
14.9% alc., 74 cases, $25. Sourced from a one acre block planted to Syrah clone 174. I tasted this wine with the lineup of Pinot Noirs which is very unfair. Its like driving an Aston Martin and them switching to a Hummer. That said, this is a very exemplary Syrah. · Purple fruits with hints of tobacco, oak and alcohol on the nose. The plum-driven flavors are accented by brown spice. Rich and velvety in texture, with healthy tannins. Decent (+). Reviewed December 16, 2009 ARTICLE »
2007 Sinor-LaVallee San Luis Obispo County Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., 104 cases, $29. An appellation blend of several vineyards. · Deep purple color in the glass. Terrific perfume of black cherries, raspberries, graham, cardamon spice and wet earth. Luscious dark berry fruit packed with flavor. Smooth, deft touch of oak, and admirable harmony. Very approachable. I would be happy drinking this daily. Think Sinor-LaVallee Pinot Noir in a skirt. Reviewed December 16, 2009 ARTICLE »
2007 Sinor-LaVallee Aubaine Vineyard Central Coast Pinot Noir
14.9% alc., 151 cases, $40. This 14-acre vineyard is located just off Highway 101 between the towns of Arroyo Grande and Nipomo. At an elevation of 840 feet, it overlooks the Pacific Ocean. The wine comes from three different parts of the vineyard planted to Dijon clones 667 and 777. · Dark purple color in the glass. Shy scents of black stone and berry fruits, dried herbs and green tea that expand in the glass over time. Rich and opulent black cherry and black raspberry flavors with a complimentary underpinning of earthiness and oak. Smooth as a baby’s bottom and almost viscous in texture. Very leathery but in a $2,000 Prada coat kind of way. Still has some tannins to shed and some integration to achieve, and a little alcohol peaks out as it warms in the glass, but this is a prodigious wine. Very good. Reviewed November 17, 2008 ARTICLE »
2007 Sinor-LaVallee Talley-Rincon Vineyard Arroyo Grande Valley Pinot Noir
14.8% alc., 48 cases, $40. Sinor has a one acre block of Talley-Rincon Vineyard consisting of 14 rows planted to clone 2A. Yields were .73 tons per acre. · Dark purple robe in the glass. Shy aromas of dark stone fruits and subtle spice and toast. The nose improves in the glass over time. Tasty core of black cherry fruit. Fresh and clean with moderate tannins and aromatic persistence on the finish. Will get better with cellaring but very enticing now. Very good. Reviewed December 16, 2009 ARTICLE »
2007 Sinor-LaVallee Anniversary Cuvée Central Coast Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., 47 cases, $50. This wine celebrates Mike and Cheri’s marriage in Burgundy in 1996. It is vinified in the old style of Pinot Noir using 100% whole cluster. The combination of Talley-Rincon and Aubaine fruit is fermented entirely on stems, using indigenous yeast and natural MLF. Not produced in all vintages, it is often referred to as the “wild child” in the Pinot lineup. · Deep, dark purple color in the glass. An “Oh my God” kind of nose featuring blackberries, plums, forest floor, spice, a hint of oak, and a floral note. A peacock tail of black berry fruits unfurls on the palate, saturating the taste buds but retaining a velvety touch. Juicy and exotic with moderate tannins and perfect harmony. This is what drives Pinot Geeks to throw all caution to the wind to find that one great sensual experience. Crazy good. Reviewed December 16, 2009 ARTICLE »
2005 Sinor-LaVallee Aubaine Vineyards San Luis Obispo County Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., $35. · Very dark reddish-purple color. Super ripe dark fruited aromas with some prune and marzipan notes. Dark, dark black cherry and black raspberry saucy fruit with hints of raisin and musk, finegrain tannins, a velvety texture and a crisp, clean finish. A Pinot that exhibits a considerable amount of power that has been corralled nicely into a well-balanced libation. Reviewed November 17, 2008 ARTICLE »
2005 Sinor-LaVallee Talley-Rincon Vineyard Arroyo Grande Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., $35. · With some air time, scents of dark berry jam and restrained oak emerge. Saucy, fat and lush with dark fruits kissed by anise, mocha and oak. Supple tannins lead to a refreshing and dry finish. This wine plays more to classic Pinot. Reviewed November 17, 2008 ARTICLE »
2004 Sinor-LaVallee Aubaine Vineyards Arroyo Grande Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 176 cases, $35. Clones 667 and 777. · Reserved aromas of berry jam and oak char lead to viscous black and blue fruit flavors, tastes of tar, earth and dark chocolate and moderate drying tannins. A big wine that is still “one big rich pussycat.” Reviewed November 17, 2008 ARTICLE »
2004 Sinor-LaVallee Talley-Rincon Vineyard Arroyo Grande Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 100 cases, $35. From a one-acre block planted to clone 2A. · With swirling, aromas of dark fruit, dark caramel and vanillin emerge. Powerfully flavored deep, dark fruits with gripping tannins, but remaining smooth and suave. Intense and lasting dry finish. Reviewed November 17, 2008 ARTICLE »
2004 Sinor LaVallee Anniversary Cuvee Arroyo Grande Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 46 cases, $40. 100% whole cluster fermented from Talley-Rincon and Aubaine vineyards. Foot-stomped by family and friends to celebrate family and marriage. · Intoxicating scents of black raspberries and blackberries, nicely oaked. A big-boned wine with plenty of sweet dark fruit but retaining a mouth filling plushness and smoothness. A welcome citric tang brings up the finish. Fans of the hedonistic style of Pinot Noir will go ga-ga over this one. This wine should drink beautifully for many years ahead. Reviewed November 17, 2008 ARTICLE »