Vinography Images: Tiny Worlds

Pinot Noir clusters, with berries looking like tiny worlds, ripen in the Russian River Valley appellation of Sonoma County. Veraison, the transition from hard green berries to the darker colors of maturity is progressing throughout California wine country.

INSTRUCTIONS:
Download this image by right-clicking on the image and selecting “save link as” or “save target as” and then select the desired location on your computer to save the image. Mac users can also just click the image to open the full-size view and drag that to their desktops.

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PRINTS:
Fine art prints of this image and others are available at George Rose’s website.

EDITORIAL USE:
To purchase copies of George’s photos for editorial, web, or advertising use, please contact Getty Images.

ABOUT VINOGRAPHY IMAGES:
Vinography regularly features images by photographer George Rose for readers’ personal use as desktop backgrounds or screen savers. We hope you enjoy them. Please respect the copyright on these images. These images are not to be reposted on any website or blog without the express permission of the photographer.

The post Vinography Images: Tiny Worlds appeared first on Vinography.

Vinography Unboxed: Week of 3/27/22

Hello and welcome to my weekly dig through the pile of wine samples that show up asking to be tasted. I’m pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently.

This past week included some truly excellent wines, and something that wasn’t quite a wine. Let’s start with that unorthodox little number by Kivelstadt Cellars in Sonoma. Owner Jordan Kivelstadt has been in the wine business for a long time, and like many during the pandemic, he found himself with some time on his hands. He started playing around under the moniker KC Labs, and given that one of his vineyards was part of a larger farm that also grew apples he thought, why not combine them? It makes a certain amount of wacky sense in a way, the bright acid-driven flavors of a just-ripe Gravenstien apple have more than a little in common with the flavors of Sauvignon Blanc. Combine the two and violá, you get Gravignon Blanc. It ain’t profound, but boy is it tasty and fun.

Kivelstadt wasn’t the only one using the pandemic as a time for experimentation. Arpad Molnar, his brother Peter, and their friend Michael Terrien run Obsidian Wine Company, formerly known as Obsidian Ridge, after their property in Lake County that contains extraordinary quantities of that volcanic glass. While their winery has become known for its excellent Cabernet Sauvignon, as well as Chardonnay from another property they have in Carneros, Arpad and Peter, along with their late father, are originally from Hungary, and have maintained an affinity for the wines and sensibilities of the “old country.”

When the pandemic came around, they decided to go down what they would later refer to as The Rabbit Hole. Basically, they just started playing around with some things they remembered from home, and handing them out to their wine club members for feedback. Some of the things they did were so popular, they’ve decided to make them available nationwide, including their version of what they used to call “farmer’s Champagne” back home. The pétillant naturel Pinot Noir they call Pezsgö (which means “sparkling” in Hungarian) is a good example of why there’s a big pét-nat craze right now. It’s bright, refreshing, and super fun.

Shifting gears a bit, and heading into top-tier Pinot Noir for a moment, I’ve got a number of 2020 releases from renowned producer Williams Selyem. These wines are a poignant reminder of the quality of a vintage “that could have been.” The year 2020 was, of course, a horrific fire year on the West Coast, and quite a few producers, from Napa, to Sonoma, to the Santa Cruz Mountains will have little or no wine to sell from that vintage, thanks to smoke taint. But as many commentators like myself have been pointing out, the vast majority of the producers on the North Coast value their reputations and customer relationships far too highly to release smoke-tainted wines. Those wines that do hit the market will invariably be just fine, having been double and even triple checked by their makers before bottling. In the case of their Sonoma County, Central Coast, and Russian River bottlings, Williams Selyem’s wines are more than just fine, they’re fantastic. Along with these regional bottlings, I also tasted a bottle of their Westside Road Neighbors Pinot, which is often one of my favorites each vintage. The 2020 did not disappoint. In addition to these Pinots, I also tasted their Fanucci-Wood Road Vineyard Zinfandel, which offers a lot of fruit for those who are looking for that sort of thing.

Lastly, continuing a theme from previous weeks, I’ve got some lovely old-vine Gamay from some producers in the Beaujolais village of Moulin-á-Vent. All those wines are worth seeking out for their blood-orange, boysenberry and herb goodness, but I think my favorite this week was actually the least expensive of the four, the really nice bottling from Château Bonnet.

I’ve also got one more wine review tucked in there this week, a fine little Malbec blend done in an old-school style from the young Eduardo Imberti in Mendoza, Argentina. He’s a friend of a friend, and his wines aren’t available in the US at the moment, but he’s looking for an importer. He only makes a few hundred cases of wine, and doesn’t even seem to have a web site, but I enjoyed this bottle he sent me. I can put you in touch if you’re an importer who’s interested.

Notes on all these below.

Tasting Notes

NV Kivelstadt Cellars “KC Labs – Gravignon Blanc” Cider, California
Pale yellow gold in the glass, this… wine?…cider?… Wine-cider? smells of baked apples and lemon pith. In the mouth, bright appley lemon flavors have a nice bright snap to them thanks to very good acidity. There’s not much complexity here, but the flavors are quite tasty. Would make a hell of a spritzer with some bubbly water added, but I’d be quite content to drink this on its own, well-chilled. It’s Fun! A blend of organic Gravenstein apple juice and organically farmed Sauvignon Blanc, co-fermented in neutral French oak. 10% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $27. click to buy.

2021 Obsidian Wine Company “Pezsgö” Pet-Nat of Pinot Noir, Carneros Napa, California
A light, hazy ruby in the glass with very fine bubbles, this wine smells of cherry and raspberries and a touch of orange peel. In the mouth, a fairly robust mousse fills the mouth and delivers bright cherry and sour cherry flavors along with hints of raspberries. Bright and cheery, and quite tasty, with a hint of citrus peel in the finish. This wine is a pet-nat of Pinot Noir that was bottled before fermentation completed, allowing the finish of fermentation to naturally carbonate the wine. 12% alcohol. 750 cases made. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $36. click to buy.

2020 Williams Selyem Pinot Noir, Sonoma County, California
A medium, slightly hazy garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cranberry and raspberry pastilles. In the mouth, faintly candied flavors of raspberry and cranberry are bright and juicy and shot through with orange zest and hints of flowers. Juicy, boisterous, and bright, this is a hard wine not to love. 13.8% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $75. click to buy.

2020 Williams Selyem “Central Coast” Pinot Noir, San Benito County, Central Coast, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of blueberries and black raspberries. In the mouth, juicy and bright black raspberry and blueberry flavors are zippy thanks to excellent acidity. Faint tannins are barely perceptible in the background, as notes of flowers and citrus peel linger in the finish. Quite pretty. 13.9% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $75. click to buy.

2020 Williams Selyem Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of raspberries, cherry, and citrus peel. In the mouth, wonderfully bright and juicy flavors of raspberry and citrus peel, and sour cherry are positively mouthwatering thanks to excellent acidity. Faint, gauzy tannins stiffen a little through the finish, as flavors of flowers and citrus peel linger. Excellent. 14.1% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $90. click to buy.

2020 Williams Selyem “Westside Road Neighbors” Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of raspberry and cranberry fruit. In the mouth, wonderfully bright flavors of raspberry, dried flowers, citrus peel, and blood orange have a fantastic zip thanks to excellent acidity, along with a gauzy tannic texture that adds depth to the wine. Notes of dried herbs and citrus peel linger in the finish. Excellent. 14.1% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $125. click to buy.

Vinography Unboxed: Week of 3/27/22

2019 Domaine Paul Janin et Fils “Héritage” Moulin-á-Vent, Beaujolais, Burgundy, France
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of rich cherry and mulberry fruit. In the mouth, wonderful boysenberry and dried herb flavors are shot through with hints of citrus peel and dried flowers. Smooth, and with a stony underbelly, this wine is quite delicious. Made from 100-year-old Gamay vines in organic conversion. 14% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $38. click to buy.

2019 Château Bonnet “Vieilles Vignes” Moulin-á-Vent, Beaujolais, Burgundy, France
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry and boysenberries. In the mouth, blood orange and boysenberry flavors have a nice citrus brightness to them as well as an earthy backdrop that adds complexity. Very faint tannins. Very good acidity. Made from 60-year-old Gamay vines in organic conversion. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $23. click to buy.

2019 Domaine Richard Rottiers Moulin-á-Vent, Beaujolais, Burgundy, France
Light to medium garnet in the glass headed towards ruby, this wine smells of cherry and orange peels. In the mouth, cherry, blood orange, and dried flowers have a nice leathery tannic texture to them. Excellent acidity. 50-year-old Gamay vines. 14% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $26. click to buy.

2019 Thibault Liger-Belair “Les Vieilles Vignes” Moulin-á-Vent, Beaujolais, Burgundy, France
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of horse manure and dried herbs. In the mouth, flavors of blood orange mix with boysenberry, barnyard, and dried herbs. A hint of citrus peel lingers in the finish along with the scent of potting soil. Lightly muscular tannins. Made from 85-year-old Gamay vines. Organically farmed. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $34. click to buy.

2020 Eduardo Imberti Red Blend, Mendoza, Argentina
Very dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of blueberries, licorice, and black cherry. In the mouth, black cherry and blackberry flavors are shot through with a lovely wet earth quality. Excellent acidity, and a citrusy note lingering in the finish. Savory and a little brooding, the wine has a nice honesty to it. A blend of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Bonarda, and Cabernet Franc, each fermented separately before blending. 13.1% alcohol. 4000 bottles made. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Not currently exported, looking for a US Importer.

2020 Williams Selyem “Fanucci-Wood Road Vineyard” Zinfandel, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Very dark purple in the glass, this wine smells of ripe blackberry pie and flowers. In the mouth, sweetish flavors of blackberries, blueberries, and a touch of cocoa powder have a nice bright juiciness to them thanks to excellent acidity. Notes of licorice and ripe blackberry linger in the finish with just a hint of oak. A little rich and ripe for my taste. 14.9% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $100. click to buy.

The post Vinography Unboxed: Week of 3/27/22 appeared first on Vinography.

Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival: May 20-22, Boonville

Exciting things are happening in Anderson Valley. Regular readers will know this thanks to my fairly comprehensive report on the region published last year. The wines, in particular the Pinot Noirs, have never been better, and this oft-overlooked wine region definitely deserves the attention of California wine lovers.

This is why I’m encouraging you to seriously consider attending the region’s annual Pinot Noir Festival, which is coming up in May. Now I normally post about events a few weeks to a month prior to when they happen, but this event is something of a special case. The combination of the event’s popularity, as well as the incredible dearth of hotel beds in the area (something like 130 total) means that things are going to get sold out very quickly.

So consider this fair warning. Book your tickets, and your lodging (unless you plan to drive up for the grand tasting only, which is quite doable) ASAP.

The event consists of a “technical conference” (i.e. seminars for those who want to learn), a preview tasting of the 2019 vintage, and a casual BBQ on Friday, May 20th. On Saturday, the grand tasting takes place, replete with a “Bubble Lounge” where you can taste sparkling wine, Champagne, and caviar (requiring a separate ticket). The grand tasting will feature the wines of more than 50 producers, some of which I guarantee will knock your socks off.

Then all day Sunday the wineries of the valley will hold open houses so you can visit your new favorites, or discover even more great wines before heading back home.

It’s a great time, in a beautiful place, with fantastic wines. I highly recommend it.

2022 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival
Grand Tasting: March 21, 2022
11:00 AM – 3:00 PM
Scharffenberger Cellars
8501 California Highway 128, Philo, CA 95466 (
map)

Tickets for the Grand Tasting are priced at $150, the technical conference costs $100, and the BBQ runs $85. Purchase your tickets online in advance, as they will certainly sell out. I also recommend making a full weekend of it and finding lodging in the valley so you don’t have to drive.

The post Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival: May 20-22, Boonville appeared first on Vinography.

Vinography Unboxed: Week of 11/14/21

Hello and welcome to my weekly dig through the pile of wine samples that show up asking to be tasted. I’m pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently.

This week included a couple more top-tier Proseccos from some of the steepest plots in the region. The Bellenda (love that photo on their home page) is a particularly complex and dynamic rendition of Prosecco, one which includes a salinity that I really loved. The Villa Sandi is also quite compelling, if a bit more classic in its flavor profile.

The Frog’s Leap Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay are both worth seeking out, both for their classic flavors and relative values, as well as for the fact that like all Frog’s Leap wines, they’re made from dry-farmed, organically grown grapes.

Sticking with Chardonnay for a moment, I’d like to draw your attention to the Lombardi Chardonnay, which has a really fresh and crisp citrus aspect to it, while the Sanford Chardonnay takes on a more classically California form.

The four Pinots I have to recommend this week are all pretty solid, with the standouts being the Dutton-Goldfield “McDougall Vineyard” bottling and the Stephen Ross “Stone Corral” wine. Unfortunately the Stephen Ross wine comes in a ridiculously heavy bottle that outweighs some of the thick Napa Cabernet bottles to which I normally object. There’s no reason in the universe that a Pinot Noir needs to have such heavy glass, which basically says “screw the environment, I want you to think my wine is classy.”

Finally, I’ve got one more Zinfandel (more like a red blend actually) from Limerick Lane that is worth checking out, plus a pair of Syrahs from Troon Vineyard in Oregon, both of which have a wonderful savory character that will appeal to anyone who prefers to taste stone rather than sugar in their Syrahs.

Notes on all these and more below.

Tasting Notes

2020 Bellenda “San Fermo” Brut Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore, Veneto, Italy
Palest straw with very fine bubbles, this wine smells of white flowers and wet pavement with a hint of lemon cucumber and a faint resinous quality. In the mouth, wonderfully savory notes of citrus peel, cucumber, a hint of green herbs. Faint saline note with a moderately voluminous mousse that carries an aroma of grilled pineapple. Clean and bright. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $22. click to buy.

2020 Villa Sandi “La Rivetta” Brut Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore di Cartizze, Veneto, Italy
Palest straw with very fine bubbles, this wine has a remarkably floral aroma with the sweetness of green apple. In the mouth, bright green apple and white flowers mix with a hint of green melon, and a touch of saline and citrus pith all carried on a nice mousse. Lovely bright and quite classic in expression. Score: around 9. Cost: $45. click to buy.

2020 Frog’s Leap Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley, California
Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of green apple and a bit of passionfruit. In the mouth, bright green apple, passionfruit, and kiwi flavors have a nice juiciness and a hint of cut grass. Nice silky texture. 13.4% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $25. click to buy.

2019 Frog’s Leap “Shale and Stone” Chardonnay, Napa Valley, California
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of bright lemon curd and a hint of buttered popcorn. In the mouth, the wine is lovely and silky but with a nice crisp edge thanks to excellent acidity. Lovely lemon curd and a touch of toasted bread mix with bright juicy lemon juice and grapefruit. Barrel fermented for only about 4 days and then poured warm into a large concrete “room” where it finishes fermentation at its own pace. Stays for 11 months and the bottle, right off its lees. 13.4% alcohol. Score: around 9 . Cost: $30. click to buy.

2019 Sanford Chardonnay, Sta. Rita Hills, Santa Barbara, California
Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon curd, white flowers and a hint of melted butter. In the mouth, tangy pink grapefruit, melted butter, lemon curd and a touch of butterscotch mix with a nice brightness thanks to very good acidity. There’s a toasty bread and oak note in the finish. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $35. click to buy.

2019 Lombardi Wines Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma, California
Light gold in color, this wine smells of lemon pith and lemon oil. In the mouth, bright lemon and pink grapefruit flavors have a nice clean snap to them thanks to excellent acidity. There’s a nice white floral overtone to this wine and thankfully very little trace of oak. Quite pretty. 13.4% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $50. click to buy.

2018 Stephen Ross “Stone Corral Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Edna Valley, Central Coast, California
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of bright cherry and raspberry fruit. In the mouth, gorgeous raspberry and cherry notes are bright with excellent acidity and dusted with faint tannins. Dried herbs and orange peel linger in the finish with a tangy mouthwatering sour cherry quality. Delicious. 13.7% alcohol. Packaged in a shamefully heavy bottle weighing 1.67 kg full. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $60. click to buy.

2018 J. Cage Cellars “Hallberg Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of green herbs, cherries, and cranberry. In the mouth, cranberry and cherry flavors have a faint boysenberry kick at the end with some nice floral tones. Faint tannins, good acidity. 14.4% alcohol. 175 cases made. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $49. click to buy.

2019 J. Cage Cellars “Cuvee ’42” Pinot Noir, Sonoma County, California
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells of raspberry and cranberry fruit. In the mouth, simple but pleasurable raspberry fruit flavors mix with a hint of cherry and dried herbs. Faint tannins. Decent acidity. Straightforwardly tasty. 14.2% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $39. click to buy.

Vinography Unboxed: Week of 11/14/21

2019 Dutton-Goldfield “McDougall Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Fort Ross-Seaview, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of bright cherry and cranberry fruit. In the mouth, wonderfully pure, even crystalline berry flavors of cherry, cranberry, and raspberry are shot through with a faint hint of cedar and a touch of dried herbs that linger in the finish. Excellent acidity and barely perceptible tannins. 14.1% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $60. click to buy.

2019 Limerick Lane Cellars “Estate Cuvee” Red Blend, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Dark purple in the glass, this wine smells of blackberry and licorice with a hint of black pepper. In the mouth, bright blackberry and boysenberry flavors are wrapped in a leathery throw of tannins. Excellent acidity brings a citrus-peel quality to the finish, along with herbs and dried flowers. A blend of 56% Zinfandel, 37% Syrah, and 7% Petite Sirah. 14.6% alcohol. 200 cases made. Score: around 9 . Cost: $85. click to buy.

2019 Troon Vineyard Syrah, Applegate Valley, Southern Oregon, Oregon
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of potting soil, iodine, and mulberries. In the mouth, wonderfully saline flavors of boysenberry, huckleberry, rusty iron, dried flowers, and forest floor swirl in a gorgeous haze of powdery tannins. Dashi and a hint of green herbs linger in the finish. Made with biodynamically farmed grapes, and fermented with no additions, save “minimal effective” sulfites. 14.4% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $35. click to buy.

2019 Troon Vineyard “Siskiyou” Syrah, Applegate Valley, Southern Oregon
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells of blueberries, wet chalkboard, and the barest whiff of camphorwood. In the mouth, wonderfully crystalline flavors of blueberry and blackberry mix with chopped aromatic herbs, dried flowers, and a wonderful dashi umami character which makes the mouth water. Excellent acidity and a nice pine bough freshness lingering in the finish. Made with biodynamically farmed grapes, and fermented with no additions but “minimal effective” sulfites. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $50. click to buy.

The post Vinography Unboxed: Week of 11/14/21 appeared first on Vinography.

Vinography Images: Silent Partner

An active Pinot Noir fermentation bubbles and foams at Kistler in Forestville, CA as yeasts do their work. Winemakers get all the credit, but the yeasts really do all the work, converting the sugars of the grapes into alcohol, and busting those sugars apart from many other complex molecules that contribute to wine’s flavors and aromas. Have you thanked your yeasts recently?

INSTRUCTIONS:
Download this image by right-clicking on the image and selecting “save link as” or “save target as” and then select the desired location on your computer to save the image. Mac users can also just click the image to open the full-size view and drag that to their desktops.

To set the image as your desktop wallpaper, Mac users should follow these instructions, while PC users should follow these.

ORDER THE BOOK:
The work of photographer Jimmy Hayes can be further appreciated in his recently published monograph, Veritas, by Abrams Books / Cameron + Company. Order the book from the Abrams web site.

PRINTS:
Fine art prints of this image and others are available from Jimmy Hayes Photography.

ABOUT VINOGRAPHY IMAGES:
Vinography regularly features images for readers’ personal use as desktop backgrounds or screen savers. We hope you enjoy them. Please respect the copyright on these images. These images are not to be reposted on any website or blog without the express permission of the photographer.

The post Vinography Images: Silent Partner appeared first on Vinography.

Vinography Images: Walk the Plank

Well-used planks span the top of fermentation tanks filled with Pinot Noir at Kistler Winery in Sonoma County. Originally best-known for their Chardonnay wines, Kistler Vineyards has become just as popular for their Pinot Noirs in recent years.

INSTRUCTIONS:
Download this image by right-clicking on the image and selecting “save link as” or “save target as” and then select the desired location on your computer to save the image. Mac users can also just click the image to open the full-size view and drag that to their desktops.

To set the image as your desktop wallpaper, Mac users should follow these instructions, while PC users should follow these.

ORDER THE BOOK:
The work of photographer Jimmy Hayes can be further appreciated in his recently published monograph, Veritas, by Abrams Books / Cameron + Company. Order the book from the Abrams web site.

PRINTS:
Fine art prints of this image and others are available from Jimmy Hayes Photography.

ABOUT VINOGRAPHY IMAGES:
Vinography regularly features images for readers’ personal use as desktop backgrounds or screen savers. We hope you enjoy them. Please respect the copyright on these images. These images are not to be reposted on any website or blog without the express permission of the photographer.

The post Vinography Images: Walk the Plank appeared first on Vinography.

Vinography Unboxed: Week of 10/10/21

Hello and welcome to my weekly dig through the pile of wine samples that show up asking to be tasted. I’m pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently.

I’ve got a few more Williams Selyem wines to share with you this week, including their rich and bright Estate Vineyard Chardonnay, which threads the needle between old-school California tropicality and zingy, leaner styles of Chardonnay. It was good, but not as great as the various Pinots I tasted from them this week, the best of which was their Lewis MacGregor Vineyard Pinot Noir, which had a wonderful crystalline purity and incredibly perfumed aromatics. These wines are more easily purchased than ever before (you can even find them at wine.com) but they ain’t cheap. If you’re in the habit of buying $100+ California Pinot Noirs, you’ll enjoy these for sure.

Veteran winemaker Bob Lindquist sold his famed Qupé winery in 2018, but he hasn’t stopped making wine. This week I tasted a fun little number of his that is an equal blend of Chardonnay and Viognier, which makes for a weighty, fruity wine that fans of richer whites will enjoy.

Regular readers will know that I recently posted one of the most comprehensive articles ever written on the Anderson Valley here on Vinogaphy. I tried to review as many Anderson Valley wines as I could get my hands on for that article. There were a few producers who, for various reasons, I was unable to get wines from. One of those was LIOCO, but I’m happy to share my thoughts on their Anderson Valley wines with you this week. And they’re pretty damn good. Their Chardonnay from the Skycrest vineyard is lean and bright, but almost brighter is their blush rosé, named Ojo de Perdiz, which is a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and a positive delight to drink.

Of the three Pinot Noirs that LIOCO sent through, my favorite was the La Selva, which had (thanks to whole cluster fermentation, I suspect) a lovely toasted-brown-rice-tea flavor that was quite compelling. But all three wines are worth seeking out for sure.

I opened a Syrah this week from the Central Coast producer Timbre Winery, whose music-themed wines include this one called “The Hook.” It’s got a very nice black-olive savoriness along with its blackberry fruit that some people will love.

And last but not least, I’ve got the latest Cabernet Sauvignon from Bella Union, another brand under the Far Niente group of wineries that is focused on more moderately-priced wines sourced from vineyards across the Napa Valley. The 2018 Cabernets from Napa are excellent, but are tightly wound as a rule, and need a bit of time. This bottle will be singing in 3-5 years.

Notes on all these below!

Tasting Notes

2019 Williams Selyem “Williams Selyem Estate Vineyard” Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
A slightly hazy yellow gold in the glass with green highlights, this wine smells of pineapple and candied lemon peel. In the mouth, pineapple, lemon peel, grapefruit, and lemon curd flavors have a nice bite to them thanks to very good acidity. Lemon pith and pomelo linger in the finish. 14.2% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $100. click to buy.

2020 Lindquist Family Wines White Blend, Central Coast, California
Light greenish-gold in color, this wine smells of lemon curd and peach jam. In the mouth, rich and silky flavors of peach, crème anglaise, and candied citrus peel have a soft acidity. An unusual blend of 50% Viognier and 50% Chardonnay that is fairly tasty, if a bit rich. 13.5% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $20. click to buy.

2018 LIOCO “Skycrest Vineyard” Chardonnay, Anderson Valley, Mendocino, California
Light gold with a hint of green, this wine smells of pastry cream and lemon zest. In the mouth, bright silky flavors of lemon curd, pink grapefruit, and citrus pith have a zippy quality thanks to excellent acidity. Floral notes linger in the finish. 12.9% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $62. click to buy.

2020 LIOCO “Ojo de Perdiz” Rosé Blend, Anderson Valley, Mendocino, California
The palest peachy blonde in color it could easily be mistaken for a white, this wine smells of watermelon rind, apricot skin, and green strawberries. In the mouth, green strawberries, watermelon rind, and a nice citrus pith quality have a fantastic bright snap to them, thanks to excellent acidity. Mouthwatering, with just a hint of salinity in the finish. A blend of 77% Pinot Noir and 23% Chardonnay co-fermented with native yeast and aged in neutral oak for 8 months. Bottled unfined, unfiltered. 12% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $38. click to buy.

2019 LIOCO “Edmeades Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, Mendocino, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of wood shavings and raspberry bramble with hints of dried herbs. In the mouth, faint tannins grip the edges of the mouth, and flavors of raspberry, cranberry, and redcurrant swirl with dried herbs and toasted brown rice flavors. Excellent acidity. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $??

2019 LIOCO “La Selva” Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, Mendocino, California
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells of hojicha – brown rice tea – with hints of raspberry and dried herbs. In the mouth, wonderfully juicy citrus-peel acidity mixes with black raspberry and redcurrant flavors. Lean and bright and faintly saline. 13% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $52. click to buy.

2019 LIOCO “Kiser” Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, Mendocino, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of dried flowers, redcurrant, and sour cherry. In the mouth, sour cherry, redcurrant, and raspberry fruit are lean and mouthwateringly bright with citrus peel tang in the finish. Juicy and sour and ever-so-tasty. 13% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $82. click to buy.

Vinography Unboxed: Week of 10/10/21

2019 Williams Selyem “Williams Selyem Estate Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry and cranberry fruit. In the mouth, bright cherry and cranberry flavors are shot through with dried herbs and a hint of cedar. Faint tannins ghost the edges of the palate. Excellent acidity and wonderful purity. 13.4% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $150. click to buy.

2019 Williams Selyem “Lewis MacGregor Estate Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cranberry and pomegranate and a hint of cocoa-dusted almonds. In the mouth, juicy flavors of cranberry, cherry, and raspberry have a fantastic sour-cherry kick to them along with a hint of citrus peel. Outstanding acidity and brightness. 13.6% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $130. click to buy.

2019 Williams Selyem “Eastside Road Neighbors” Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of raspberry jam and raspberry leaf. In the mouth, pure, crystalline raspberry flavors mix with raspberry leaf and a touch of tomato leaf and other dried herbs. Excellent acidity with a hint of citrus peel keeps this wine fresh and bright, even stony on the palate. Quite tasty. 13.7% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $100. click to buy.  

2018 Timbre Winery “The Hook – Donati Vineyard” Syrah, Edna Valley, Central Coast, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of blackberries, kalamata olives, and a hint of oak. In the mouth, rich, but savory blackberry, black olive, and a touch of earth are bright with decent acidity. There’s a faint orange peel note that lingers in the finish. Aged for 18 months in 20% new French oak. 14.% alcohol. 75 cases made. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $??

2018 Bella Union Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry and blackberry fruit with a hint of oak. In the mouth, tightly wound, fine-grained tannins wrap around a core of black cherry and cassis tinged with earth. Tight and somewhat compact on the palate, this wine would do better with a couple of years of age in the bottle. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $70. click to buy.

The post Vinography Unboxed: Week of 10/10/21 appeared first on Vinography.

Poised for Greatness: Tasting The Evolution of Anderson Valley

Given all the fuss that has been made about Pinot Noir in the post-Sideways era, you would think that Mendocino’s Anderson Valley might have eked out a bit more mindshare in the brains of wine lovers, along with the attention being given to other sources of great Pinot right now, such as Santa Barbara, the Sonoma Coast, and the Santa Cruz Mountains.

But somehow, this tiny wine region’s reputation, not to mention awareness, for consumers remains throttled by at least two main natural constraints: being an hour farther from San Francisco than Russian River Valley wine country (decidedly not on a major thoroughfare), and the dearth of fancy places to stay and eat when you’re done with your day of wine tasting.

Those in the know (or simply intrepid enough) who venture over the Yorkville Highlands and down into the idyllic, quiet green of Anderson Valley can discover something that most of the state’s top winemakers have known for years. It’s one of the best places to grow Pinot Noir on the planet.

Lichen Winery in Booneville, photographed by Seth Lowe.

A World Apart

Every time I make my way down the winding curves of Highway 128 into Anderson Valley, I am struck by just how different it feels from the wide-open river flats and hills of the Sonoma appellations from which I came. The light is different, the scale of the landscape is different. There’s an arboreal intimacy to Anderson Valley unlike any other place in California Wine Country.

Only 1 mile across and roughly 15 miles long, bounded to the northeast and southwest by heavily wooded ridges, this little valley carved by the Navarro River feels diminutive, precious, and a little wild—like you’ve discovered someplace secretly special.

Compared to just about any other California coastal wine region, that’s almost certainly true. Distinctly more rural, less populated, and less wealthy than other coastal wine country destinations, Anderson Valley sports less than 150 hotel rooms and a mere 8 sit-down restaurants (two of which only serve breakfast and lunch).

This little valley carved by the Navarro River feels diminutive, precious, and a little wild—like you’ve discovered someplace secretly special.

Local zoning laws prevent short-term rentals and make the creation of grand winery architectural statements (let alone buildings with multiple stories) all but impossible. The lack of city-like infrastructure for water and sewage, not to mention internet and electricity, dramatically limits whatever growth the strict local laws and preferences might allow.

Anderson Valley towns are more like villages, and the wineries more like farms with tasting rooms than thriving tourist destinations. In a way, the valley has managed to preserve a sense of how California’s wine country used to be, before wine and wine tourism became big business. Because, for the most part, wine is not yet big business in Anderson Valley.

While the sparkling winery Roederer Estate farms 620 acres of vineyards in the valley, and Jackson Family Wines farms more than 300, most people own less than 20 acres of vineyards, and 1/3 of the vineyard properties in the valley are less than 5 acres in size.

The entire AVA is a mere 2500 acres, split among roughly 90 different vineyards. Roughly 30 wineries make their home in the valley, while the grapes from the 2017 vintage were purchased and bottled by more than 110 wineries located outside the valley.

Poised for Greatness: Tasting The Evolution of Anderson Valley
Looking northwest towards the coast on the southern edge of Anderson Valley

A Long Quiet History

The Anderson Valley was first planted with grapes in 1894 by Italian immigrants who came over the hill and settled in the valley named after early pioneer Walter Anderson, who arrived in 1851. And while wine was certainly made in the valley during the early part of the 20th century, things didn’t really get going until after the repeal of Prohibition.

New vineyards were planted by farmers in the 1940s and 1950s, with middling results, often due to poor choice of grape varieties. But the first real efforts to make wine in the valley weren’t until 1964 when Dr. Donald Edmeades, a physician from Southern California, planted 24 acres of grapes under a sign that read “Edmeades’ Folly.”

Edmeades was joined by the Husch family a few years later, and the modern era of Anderson Valley wine was born. Navarro Vineyards started in the early 1970s, and as these three made better and better wines, the industry’s reputation and population grew.

Several well-known Anderson Valley names arrived in the 1980s, including Milla Handley, who, as one of the first women to graduate with an Enology degree from UC Davis, got her first job working for Edmeades.

But the most significant event of those times was the entrance of Champagne Louis Roederer in 1982, who cannily recognized that the unusually cool valley was perfect for the high-acid, early-picked grapes needed for sparkling wine.

For a long while (and, it might well be argued, still to this day) the best Anderson Valley wines, in particular, Pinot Noirs, were usually made by wineries located outside the valley.

Around this time, the region applied for and received its American Viticultural Area designation, listing 6 wineries, 16 vineyards, and 582 acres under vine.

The Roederer purchase had a seismic impact on the valley (and frankly on California wine as a whole), resulting in a significant influx of new wineries and the planting of many more vineyards in the 80s and 90s. By then, these vineyards tended to be focused on either a more Germanic (or Alsatian) angle, with Riesling, Gewürztraminer, and Pinot Gris, or, alternatively, on Pinot Noir.

Thanks to pioneering efforts in the 1980s by names such as Williams-Selyem and Merry Edwards, California Pinot Noir had become “a thing.” In the early 1990s, many of those who were (or who would become) the most famous names in California Pinot Noir began sourcing grapes from Anderson Valley or occasionally purchasing vineyards outright.

Despite increasingly appearing on the labels of wines costing $100 or more, Anderson Valley remained something of a sleepy little slice of wine country.

Poised for Greatness: Tasting The Evolution of Anderson Valley

The Journey to Quality

Like many emerging wine regions, especially those that are slow to attract wine tourism, the wines of Anderson Valley were fairly mixed in quality up until quite recently. A few early pioneers in the region such as Navarro Vineyards and Handley Cellars made high-quality wines as far back as the late 1980s, but the journey of Anderson Valley has been something of a slow emergence from being little more than a cottage industry.

For a long while (and, it might well be argued, still to this day) the best Anderson Valley wines, in particular Pinot Noirs, were usually made by wineries located outside the valley.

While the demand for grapes from the likes of Williams-Selyem, Littorai, Copain, Peay, and others encouraged quality farming and increased acreage in the 1990s, little of the winemaking knowledge from those efforts made its way back to the local producers.

“It took a long time for the local wine community to be a majority populated by people with a) formal wine training, b) knowledge of the wines of the world, and c) access to the world of information about wine that the internet has made available,” says Thom Elkjer, an author and journalist who has lived in Anderson Valley since 2001 and now spends half his time working as the valley’s sole ambulance driver.

Even by 2005 or 2006, when I began to taste California wines extensively and regularly, there were still a lot of fairly poor wines made in Anderson Valley, both among the Alsatian varieties as well as in Pinot Noir.

That is true no longer.

Poised for Greatness: Tasting The Evolution of Anderson Valley
The Maggie Hawk Vineyard

Hey, Neighbor

Jackson Family Wines purchased the original Edmeades property in 1988 and went on to purchase several other vineyard plots over the years, culminating in the purchase of Balo Vineyards in 2019. In addition, the company bought Copain Wines and Siduri Wines in recent years, both of which owned no vineyards but sourced fruit from Anderson Valley.

Jackson Family now owns and farms more than 300 acres in the valley, with fruit going to a number of their wine labels, including the exclusively Anderson Valley wines of Maggy Hawk, a brand started by Jess Jackson’s wife Barbara Banke in 2007.

Anderson Valley has always been the refuge of people who want to get away from everyone else.

When Jackson and Banke first came to town, they were treated much like any large corporate outsider who arrives in the cloistered and quirky Anderson Valley. Which is to say, they were pretty much seen as Satan incarnate.

Anderson Valley has always been the refuge of people who want to get away from everyone else. Indeed, the Anderson family from whose name the valley derives moved there to get away from the people flooding the Sacramento area during the gold rush of the 1850s.

By 1900 or so, the largely counter-culture residents had developed an extensive slang vocabulary, known as Boontling, which has continued to evolve over the years. Now more a local legend than a serviceable argot, Boontling is still spoken by a few die-hard locals in the town of Boonville.

“Mendocino is not a place people come to fit in or go along,” says Elkjer. “People come up here to escape regulation and do their own thing.”

Needless to say, the locals didn’t take too kindly to the Jackson Family at first, but after twenty years of being a relatively upstanding member of the community, they’ve gained a little social capital, which is just what Gilian Handelman needed for her latest project.

Handelman is Vice President of Education at Jackson Family Wines. A former enologist and a former director of marketing and education for Wine & Spirits magazine, Handelman is both amazingly connected in the world of California wine and insatiably curious.

“Did you know that Anderson Valley has one of the lowest prices per ton for Pinot Noir of anywhere in coastal California?” says Handelman. “Only Monterey county is lower than us. I found that very surprising.”

Sparked by this fact and a long-standing passion for underdogs, Handelman conducted surveys of what sommeliers across the country thought of Anderson Valley, and the comments that came back were “all over the map.”

What this meant to her is that unlike other wine regions (she points to the Willamette Valley as a prime example) Anderson Valley has not told its story very well.

In fact, thought Handelman, Anderson Valley doesn’t even know what its story is.

Getting to Know the Neighborhoods

For years, locals in Anderson Valley have had nicknames for different sections of the valley. The farthest northern, fog-laden reaches out towards the coast that are among some of the coldest vineyards sites in California are known as the Deep End. Further south up the valley towards Philo, but still heavily foggy and cold, is a neighborhood called Poleeko, which is how you say Philo in Boontling.

Around Philo, the valley narrows considerably, and this pinch point, along with a raised ridge just to the south, tends to stop the advance of the coastal fog.

This effect is so pronounced that the temperature differences on either side of Philo put Poleeko and the Deep end into the coldest, Region I classification of wine-growing climates (known as the Winkler Scale), while on the other side, the large neighborhood known as Boonville falls into Region II (more like the Russian River Valley, or the Coombsville AVA in Napa).

Poised for Greatness: Tasting The Evolution of Anderson Valley
A map of the “neighborhoods” generated by Gilian Handelman, looking northwest towards the Pacific.

The remaining neighborhoods are the Western Ridges and Eastern Ridges, which even at their Northwestern extremes often sit above the coastal fog and receive significantly more sun.

These neighborhoods were the closest thing Handelman found to any systematic understanding of the valley as a whole, so that’s where she began. With the aplomb of someone who knows how to do serious enological research on terroir, she began a campaign to convince local winemakers to do a scientific study of whether these neighborhoods actually meant anything in terms of the wines the valley produced.

“I basically sent a note to everyone in the valley saying we’d like to explore the terroir better and consider ways of studying it so we can all speak with a unified voice,” says Handelman. “We told everyone to show up with a barrel sample of 2017 wines from a neutral barrel, and then we lined them up from North to South and tasted through them. About 45 people showed up, probably half of them just to find out what those crazy Jackson Family people were up to. But some were genuinely curious.”

It was a haphazard tasting and was more about building trust than anything else. The group discussed getting weather station data, digging soil pits, and more. Of course, there was also controversy.

Some people believed that identifying sub-regional differences could be an important part of telling the valley’s story and learning about the terroir. Others worried that focusing on such differences has the potential to dilute the broader Anderson Valley story. A few others suggested the neighborhoods weren’t actually aligned with the true factors that shaped the nature of the valley’s wines.

In the end, though, Handleman sensed some enthusiasm, even if slightly tepid, for the idea of such a study.

But then the pandemic hit, and things got wonky. Handelman managed to get some weather data, but couldn’t find anyone to crunch it. The soil scientists who had said they’d dig some pits and do analysis for free weren’t returning e-mails or phone calls.

But even amidst all the craziness, in 2020 Handelman managed to convince 18 producers to harvest grapes from various neighborhoods at roughly the same sugar levels, and then to make the wines exactly the same way, using the same yeasts, the same barrels, and the same winemaking protocols.

The tastings so far and the data they have yielded are still preliminary, but some of the variables such as perceived tannin levels, acidity, and body aren’t showing clear correlations to neighborhoods.

Definitive results, however, aren’t what Handelman was shooting for. “I think most importantly, [the study] has gotten us talking and tasting more together. The valley has been tight-knit forever, and there’s been some of the ‘you’re an outsider’ thing going on. But being together, tasting together, talking about each other’s wines, influencing each other? That’s the glue that helps you develop the terroir story. Part of terroir is cultural.”

Unmatched Potential

It’s been several years since I’ve tasted more than 20 or 30 Anderson Valley wines in a sitting, so I was particularly excited by the prospect of getting to taste more than 100 of them, thanks to the generosity of the Anderson Valley Winegrowers Association.

Just for fun, the tasting was organized to group the wines according to the neighborhoods in the valley, in the event that I or the other journalist present were able to glean something from that context.

While in all honesty I was likely biased against discovering clear sub-regional signatures from the start (having participated in many different tastings along these lines in California), I can say with certainty that no clear pattern or characteristic emerged that might clearly distinguish one neighborhood from another. At least to my palate.

It is my personal belief that there are too many variables at play (harvest date, grape chemistry, yeast type, maceration duration, stem inclusion, pressing strength, barrel regime, cellar temperature, oxygen exposure, racking regimen, just to name a few) for commercial wines to clearly demonstrate differences across sub-regions as small as those in Anderson Valley. Which is why, of course, Handelman is doing her terroir study with as many of these variables controlled as possible.

I’m also likely in the camp with those who believe that the neighborhoods are probably all wrong anyway in terms of what might actually drive serious differences in wine style. Leaving aside the important fact that these neighborhoods have nothing to do with soil types within the valley, they also don’t really distinguish between elevations. Upper hillside fruit in a given region is going to perform very differently than valley floor fruit, just to select one variable of many.

Something is going on in Anderson Valley, and it’s pretty damn exciting.

My tasting of 170+ Anderson Valley wines didn’t yield much in terms of conclusions about sub-regionality. But it did yield some pretty strong conclusions about just how far things have come in the valley when it comes to wine quality.

Frankly, I was very impressed with the overall level of quality across the board with these wines. Even six or eight years ago, a tasting like this would have had a lot of wines in it that had issues — faults, clunky winemaking, egregious use of new oak, ripeness problems, and more. Such flaws were remarkably absent from this tasting. Instead, the wines were almost uniformly of high quality, and many were nuanced and excellent.

What’s more, I genuinely liked a large majority of the wines. Had I done a tasting of Napa Valley Cabernets, Dry Creek Zinfandels, or Paso Robles Rhone Blends, it’s far from certain that I would have liked as many wines as I did in this one.

Something is going on in Anderson Valley, and it’s pretty damn exciting.

Even leaving aside the wines made by superstar wineries located elsewhere, the advancement of quality, with Pinot Noir in particular couldn’t be more evident. While the varied micro-climates of the valley continue to yield wines that range from ethereal and delicate to more robust and powerful, Anderson Valley’s resident winemakers seem to have acquired a confident restraint and an appreciation for subtlety. Put another way, the winemakers of Anderson Valley have gotten a lot better at letting the place do the talking.

“Part of what’s happening, I think,” says Handelman, “is that we’re seeing a younger generation taking over in the valley, and these folks are experimenting more, with more stems, less new wood, earlier picks—all of those things that a younger mindset in the Pinot universe has been pushing towards. And those practices are now more widely revered, adopted, and shared. The valley is evolving.”

“Everything’s more professional, is the simplest thing you can say,” adds Elkjer, “but that touches everything. Just take farming for example. There’s three vineyard management companies, if my numbers are correct, that farm about half the appellation. They’re taking some direction from owners in a few cases, but largely they’re relying on very smart [outside] people’s advice. The bozo farming of the past has gone right out the window.”

So perhaps we are entering the golden age of Anderson Valley wine. The real question is whether the region can, or even wants to take things to the next level.

Poised for Progress

By my calculations, roughly 140 producers in Northern California make Anderson Valley designated wines. Yet the Anderson Valley Winegrowers Association has only 64 winery members. The operating budget of the organization is so small that it has a hard time paying its staff what they are worth, and relies heavily on volunteer work to make ends meet. Never mind doing something like putting on a roadshow of top wines for sommeliers in New York.

In some ways, the counter-culture, introverted, scrappy rural sensibilities of Anderson Valley may be holding the region back from greater fame.

While the valley might be ready for its moment in the spotlight from the standpoint of wine quality, it’s not ready for prime time yet when it comes to building a brand for the region and marketing that brand in the crowded public square of the wine industry.

In some ways, the counter-culture, introverted, scrappy rural sensibilities of Anderson Valley may be holding the region back from greater fame.

“There’s a scarcity consciousness here that makes things like marketing a luxury,” says Elkjer.

On the one hand, that’s not such a bad thing if you’re a serious Pinot-file or a Riesling nut. For now, you can still pick up an absolutely killer bottle of Anderson Valley Pinot Noir for $30 to $45. Wine of the same quality from the Sonoma Coast or Russian River Valley would probably cost you $60 or more. The idea that there are great Anderson Valley Rieslings and Gewürztraminers to be had under $20 is almost shocking in this day and age.

But in order to truly grow and flourish, Anderson Valley needs more attention. It needs more visitors. It needs more mindshare among consumers.

The Anderson Valley Winegrowers Association recently went through some serious upheaval, leading to something of a house cleaning, and the installation of a promising new Executive Director who brings a level of professionalism to a position that has been held in the past simply by well-meaning winegrowers who wanted to help.

A clear vision and strategy are great starting points. So is better organization and collaboration. But what the region really needs to take things to the next level is more money. For starters, the Winegrowers Association needs to raise its annual dues.

While there are a few big players in the region who can do more (and some are doing a lot already), it’s really the many small producers, many of whom can’t be bothered to even be members of the winegrowers association, that could make all the difference.

If you’re a winery that makes Anderson Valley Pinot Noir and you’re not a part of the Winegrowers Association, it’s time to join. Help the tide rise and lift all the boats.

Anderson Valley wines are ready to compete at the next level of excellence. The question remains whether the people behind them are ready to do what it takes to make that leap.

No matter what, though, there has never been a better time to go discover some great wine in Anderson Valley.

Trust me when I say it’s definitely worth the drive.

Poised for Greatness: Tasting The Evolution of Anderson Valley
The tasting lineup.

Tasting Notes

Notes on more than 170 different Anderson Valley Wines follow below. The wines are listed by color in descending order of their scores, and roughly grouped by variety within each score band. Most of these wines were provided as part of the large, focused tasting shown above that took place over 2 days in early July 2021. Some of the wines below were press samples sent to me at a later date and most were tasted between July and the date of publication.

Sparkling Wines

Poised for Greatness: Tasting The Evolution of Anderson Valley

2015 Roederer Estate “l’Ermitage Brut” Champagne Blend
Pale gold in the glass, with medium-fine bubbles, this wine smells of salty sea air, buttered toast, and apples. In the mouth, a silky, voluminous mousse delivers wonderfully bright lemon peel and apple flavors mix with toasted brioche and seawater as beautiful saline lemon notes linger in the finish. Fabulous acidity. 12.5% alcohol Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $55. click to buy.

2013 Lichen Estate “Grand Cuvee” Blanc de Noirs Sparkling Wine
Pale greenish-gold in color, with very fine bubbles, this wine smells of toasted brioche and lemon oil. In the mouth, apple, and crabapple mix with toasted sourdough, seawater. Crisp, but with some lovely toasted bread notes, too. Mouthwatering. Disgorged in August of 2019. 70% Pinot Noir, 30% Pinot Gris. 10 g/l. 60 months on the lees. 12.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $85 click to buy.

2016 Lichen Estate “Blanc de Gris” Sparkling Pinot Gris
Palest greenish-gold in the glass, with extremely tiny bubbles, this wine smells of apples and pears and white flowers. In the mouth, a soft velvety mousse delivers flavors of apple and pear and white flowers with a faint tangy sweetness that is quite charming. 32 months on the lees. 100% Pinot Gris. 11 g/l dosage. 12.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $50 click to buy.

2015 Handley Cellars Blanc de Blancs Sparkling Wine
Palest greenish gold in the glass with very fine bubbles, this wine smells of wet chalkboard and lemon pith. In the mouth, some wonderfully steely and stony lemon pith, green apple, and sea air flavors have a gorgeous minerality. Quite pretty. 12.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $56 click to buy.

MV Roederer Estate “Brut Library Reserve” Brut Sparkling Wine
Pale gold in the glass with fine bubbles, this wine smells of lemon and apples. In the mouth, a moderately coarse mousse delivers apple and lemon flavors mixed with a hint of orange peel and butterscotch. Excellent acidity, with a faint bitterness and salinity in the finish. Disgorged in 2018. 12 g/l dosage. 12.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $35

2017 Reeve Wines “Kiser Vineyard” Blanc de Noir Sparkling Wine
Light yellow-gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon curd, butterscotch, buttered toast. In the mouth, toasted brioche, lemon oil, and golden apple flavors have a nice cut to them thanks to excellent acidity and a very low 1g/l dosage, there’s also a hint of herbs that evoke a touch of marijuana to this wine. Chalky notes linger in the finish. Very nice. 12% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $85

2013 Roederer Estate “l’Ermitage Brut” Rosé Champagne Blend
Light to medium peachy-bronze in color with medium-fine bubbles, this wine smells of mulling spices and dried citrus peel. In the mouth, an expansive, silky mousse fills the mouth with flavors of bitter orange, candied citrus, seawater, and yeasty, toasty bread. Distinctly savory with a dried herb note that lingers with citrus peel in the finish. 12.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $70. click to buy.

2018 Bravium “Wiley Vineyard” Blanc de Noir – Brut Nature Sparkling Wine
Palest peach in color with very fine bubbles, this wine smells of crabapples and citrus peel. In the mouth, apples and citrus peel and a nice saline character also offer some raspberry notes. Despite being called a blanc de noirs, this wine has some color to it, that might lead you to call it a rosé. 12.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $50

2016 Lichen Estate Brut Rose Sparkling Wine
Palest peach in color with very fine bubbles, this wine smells of berries and cantaloupe. In the mouth, juicy berry and citrus flavors have a nice candied orange peel quality. Excellent acidity. 100% Pinot Noir with 2.5% still Pinot Noir for color. 32 months on the lees. 11 g/l dosage. 12.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $50 click to buy.

Poised for Greatness: Tasting The Evolution of Anderson Valley
County Line “Beads” Pet-Nat

2020 County Line Vineyards “Orfin Lotts – Beads” Rosé of Pinot Noir Pet-Nat
A cloudy, peachy pink in color with very fine bubbles, this wine smells of peach yogurt and berries. In the mouth, juicy and bright flavors of berries, peaches, and Ranier cherries are lifted across the palate on a surprisingly expansive mousse, which leaves a faint impression of sweetness on the palate. While the nose is slightly funky here, the rest of the wine is quite clean, with just the barest tang in the finish. Quite tasty. 12% alcohol. Closed with a crown cap. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $36. click to buy.

NV Roederer Estate “Brut” Rosé Champagne Blend
A light peach color in the glass with medium bubbles, this wine smells of strawberries and citrus peel with a hint of warm hay. In the mouth, a silky, voluminous mousse lifts flavors of berries, citrus peel, and herbs across the palate with a lovely aromatic sweetness that cruises to a nicely dry finish with a saline kick. Incredibly easy to drink, with great acidity. 12.5% alcohol Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $29. click to buy.

MV Scharffenberger Cellars “Black Label” Brut Sparkling Wine
Pale greenish-gold in color, with moderately fine bubbles, this wine smells of green and golden apples. In the mouth, apple and citrus pith mix with white flowers and a faint sourish star fruit quality. Good acidity, faint bitterness in the finish. 12.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $25 click to buy.

NV Roederer Estate “Brut” Champagne Blend
Light gold in the glass with medium bubbles, this wine smells of freshly cut apples and wet chalkboard. In the mouth, a smooth and fluffy mousse delivers flavors of apples, pears, a hint of citrus peel, and just a touch of buttery salinity. The finish is just faintly bitter. Still seems to be the best value sparkling wine made in California. 12.5% alcohol Score: around 8.5. Cost: $23. click to buy.

2015 Toulouse Vineyards “Goose Bubbles” Brut Sparkling Wine
Pale greenish gold in the glass, with very fine bubbles, this wine smells of green apple and white flowers. In the mouth, green apples, sweet celery, and white flower flavors are bright and crisp, and fruity. 12.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $48

2019 Bee Hunter “Method Rurale” (aka PetNat) Blanc de Blancs Sparkling Wine
A faintly cloudy, pale greenish-gold in color, this wine smells of chamomile and honey. In the mouth, a faint effervescence delivers flavors of apples and some citrus pith with a sourish acidophilous tang in the finish. 12.4% alcohol. Score: between 8 and 8.5. Cost: $??

2017 Goldeneye Brut Rose Sparkling Wine
Palest peach in color with very fine bubbles, this wine smells of baked apples and orange pith. In the mouth, raspberry jam and orange marmalade mix with a faint sweetness have less acidity than I would like. 4 g/l dosage. 12.5% alcohol. Score: around 8. Cost: $65

2017 Pennyroyal Farm “Blanc de Noir” Blanc de Noir Sparkling Wine
Palest greenish gold in the glass with very fine bubbles, this wine smells of green apples and white flowers. In the mouth, fairly sweet green apple and white flowers recall prosecco. Clean and bright and doubtless crowd-pleasing, but a little sweet for me. 10g/l dosage. 12% alcohol. Score: around 8. Cost: $4

White Wines

BETWEEN 9 and 9.5
2017 Bee Hunter “Filigreen Farms” Pinot Gris
Pale straw in the glass, this wine smells of chamomile and poached pear. In the mouth, bright pear and lemon flavors mix with yellow herbs and a wonderful, yes, bee pollen note that lingers in the finish. Excellent acidity and length. Quite delicious. I suspect there’s a little residual sugar here, but it’s definitely to this wine’s benefit. 13.2% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $28

Poised for Greatness: Tasting The Evolution of Anderson Valley

2018 Lichen Estate “Noir” Pinot Noir Blanc
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of Ranier cherries and white flowers. In the mouth, Ranier cherry and floral notes have a bright juiciness to them and a faint tannic texture that adds complexity. Notes of cherry linger in the finish. Excellent acidity. 12.5% alcohol Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $32 click to buy.

AROUND 9
2014 Bee Hunter “Late Harvest” Riesling
Light yellow gold in the glass with a hint of green, this wine smells of honey and orange peel. In the mouth, flavors of honey and citrus pith mix with blood orange and white flowers. Despite being labeled late harvest, this wine has remarkably little overt sweetness. Very unusual and compelling. This tastes a bit like a Spatlese or Auslese trocken. Unfortunately, this vineyard was mistakenly sprayed with a chemical that killed the vineyard, so it is no more. 9.7% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $32 click to buy.

2019 Handley Cellars Pinot Gris
Palest straw, nearly colorless in the glass, this wine smells of citrus pith and pears. In the mouth, crisp and clean flavors of pear and white flowers have a nice hint of minerality as a light tannic grip lingers in the finish along with floral and Asian pear notes. 13.6% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $24 click to buy.

2019 Lichen Estate Pinot Gris
Pale straw in color, this wine smells of pears and sweet cream with a touch of honeysuckle. In the mouth, there’s a faint sweetness and notes of white flowers, pears, and sweet cream. Nice acidity keeps the wine crisp and juicy across the palate, and there’s a sweetish note in the finish suggesting a little residual sugar. 2.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $29 click to buy.

2019 Maggie Hawk Pinot Noir Blanc
Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and citrus pith. In the mouth, bright berry and citrus peel mix with Ranier cherries and a touch of tropical fruit. Excellent acidity and brightness, with a faint salinity. Quite delicious. 14.2% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $57 click to buy.

2020 Navarro Vineyards “Edelzwicker” White Blend
Palest gold in the glass, this wine smells of white flowers, pears, and a hint of lychee. In the mouth, lightly sweet flavors of white flowers, lychee, and Asian pear have a nice juicy brightness thanks to excellent acidity. Lovely balance, and very classic in its expression. A lovely aperitif wine. A blend of 40% Pinot Gris, 28% Riesling, and 32% Gewurztraminer. 13.3% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $19.5 click to buy.

2019 Phillips Hill Riesling
Pale greenish-gold in the glass, this wine smells of honeysuckle and mandarin orange zest. In the mouth, wonderfully bright Asian pear and mandarin orange flavors mix with a hint of aromatic herbs. Excellent acidity, and wonderful balance, with only an aromatic sweetness. I think there might be some sugar there, but like all really good Rieslings, it’s balanced by enough acidity that the wine doesn’t taste sweet. 12.6% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $26

2019 Toulouse Vineyards Gewurztraminer
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine has an incredible floral perfume with hints of tuberose and orange peel. In the mouth, juicy and bright orange peel and very strong lychee flavors keep the mouth watering thanks to excellent acidity. Quite delicious. 13.8% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $28 click to buy.

2018 Rhys Vineyards “Bearwallow Vineyard” Chardonnay
Palest gold in the glass, this wine smells of bee pollen, lemon pith, and grapefruit pith. In the mouth, Meyer lemon curd and pink grapefruit flavors are silky and suffused with notes of white flowers. Delicate acidity. Named after the shale soil series in the vineyard: Wolfey-Bearwallow). 12.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $90 click to buy.

2018 Copain “Skycrest Vineyard” Chardonnay
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon curd and lemon pith. In the mouth, wonderfully bright citrus pith and lemon curd flavors have a hint of vanilla and a wonderful floral citrus pith finish. Bright, juicy, and delicious. 13.1% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $55

2018 Drew “Bahl Briney” Chardonnay
Pale yellow-gold in the glass with a hint of green, this wine smells of white flowers and lemon pith. In the mouth, lemon and apple flavors have a nice crystalline brightness to them and a faint hint of lemongrass, lemon, and orange oil in the finish. Excellent acidity and length. 13% alcohol Score: around 9. Cost: $33 click to buy.

2019 Dupuis “Ferrington Vineyard” Chardonnay
Light yellow-gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon curd, lemon juice, and white flowers. In the mouth, wonderfully bright lemon curd and lemon pith flavors mix with pink grapefruit and a hint of vanilla. Foot trodden and then aged in neutral barrels. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $52 click to buy.

BETWEEN 8.5 and 9
2018 Foursight Wines “Charles Vineyard” Semillon
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of candied lemon peel and yellow herbs. In the mouth, candied lemon, chamomile, and bee pollen flavors mix with a hint of citrus pith, and a faint aromatic sweetness that lingers in the finish. Very pretty.13.8% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $29 click to buy.

2019 Handley Cellars “Estate Vineyard” Gewurztraminer
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of honeysuckle, jasmine, and candied orange peel. In the mouth, silky flavors of orange peel and orange blossom have a nice citrus snap thanks to excellent acidity. There’s a trace of bitterness and a tiny bit of heat in the finish, but the flavors are super compelling. 13.2% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $26 click to buy.

2018 Lichen Estate “Les Pinots” White Blend
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of candied orange peels and mulling spices. In the mouth, citrus peel and berry notes have a bitter/sweet quality to them that is fairly compelling. Hints of pear and citrus peel linger in the finish. Excellent acidity. A blend of 60% Pinot Noir, 40% Pinot Gris. 11.8% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $32 click to buy.

Poised for Greatness: Tasting The Evolution of Anderson Valley

2020 Pennyroyal Farms “Pinotrio” White Blend
Palest greenish-gold in color, this wine smells of Ranier cherry, pear, and citrus peel. In the mouth, citrus peel, cherry, and Asian pear flavors have a nice crispness thanks to excellent acidity. There’s also a faint tannic grip to the wine that adds complexity with texture. Quite pretty, though with a distinct off-dry, light sweetness to it. An unusual blend of 39% Pinot Blanc, 38% Pinot Noir, and 27% Pinot Gris. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $33 click to buy.

2019 Phillips Hill Gewurztraminer
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of orange blossom water and floral aromas. In the mouth, faintly sweet orange blossom and lychee notes have decent acidity and crispness. There’s a faint bitterness in the finish like pear skin. 13.8% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $19 click to buy.

2018 Rhys Vineyards “Alesia” Chardonnay
Palest gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon pith and a touch of Meyer lemon blossom. In the mouth, lemon juice, lemon pith, and pink grapefruit flavors have a brisk zippiness thanks to excellent acidity. Notes of citrus pith linger in the finish. Mouthwatering. 12.8% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $45 click to buy.

2018 Maggy Hawk “Skycrest Vineyard” Chardonnay
Light gold in the glass with a hint of green, this wine smells of lemon curd and cold cream. In the mouth, silky flavors of lemon curd and cold cream have a nice zippy brightness to them thanks to excellent acidity. Lemon peel and a touch of herbs linger in the finish. 13.8% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $65 click to buy.

2019 Radio-Coteau “Savoy Vineyard” Chardonnay
Pale greenish-gold in color, this wine smells of lemon and grapefruit pith with a hint of buttered popcorn. In the mouth, silky flavors of lemon curd, melted butter, and a hint of pineapple are rich and sensual, but missing just a little kick of acidity that would make them more exciting to me. I’d love this wine to have a little more edge. But it’s hard to argue with the flavors. Unfiltered. 13.4% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $52. click to buy.

AROUND 8.5
2020 Fathers+Daughters Cellars “Ferrington Vineyard” Sauvignon Blanc
Pale greenish-gold in color, this wine smells of lime and lemon pith. In the mouth, lemon and lime pith and juice have a nice crisp brightness and a faintly chalky pithiness that lingers in the finish. Excellent acidity. Quite refreshing, if slightly on the austere side.12.4% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $25

2019 Goldeneye Winery “Randolph Block” Gewurztraminer
Palest gold in the glass, this wine smells of orange blossom and honey. In the mouth, silky flavors of orange blossom water and orange peel are clean and want to be crisp, but don’t quite have enough acidity to pull it off. It’s hard to argue with the flavors, however. 12.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $40.

2020 Navarro Vineyards “Cuvèe Traditional” Gewurztraminer
Pale greenish-gold in color, this wine smells of orange peel and white flowers. In the mouth, lychee, orange peel, and a touch of citrus pith have a nice crisp brightness and a lightly chalky tannic texture. 13.4% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $20.

2019 Reeve Wines “Vonarburg Vineyard” Riesling
Pale gold in the glass with a hint of green, this wine smells of tangerine and white flowers. In the mouth, a slightly austere wet chalkboard quality underlies citrus and floral notes. There’s a chalky quality to the finish. Quite dry. 12% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $38.

2018 Copain “Dupratt” Chardonnay
Pale greenish-gold in color, this wine smells of oak and lemon pith. In the mouth, lemon curd, vanilla, and the toasty notes of oak have a nice clarity and brightness to them, thanks to very good acidity. Silky and smooth on the palate, I wish I tasted less wood here. 13.3% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $50 click to buy.

2019 FEL Wines Chardonnay
Pale greenish-gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon curd and a touch of orange peel. In the mouth, lemon curd and a hint of orange zest mix with a faint hint of pineapple and vanilla in the finish. Very good acidity and length. 3.9% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $32 click to buy.

2019 FEL Wines “Savoy Vineyard” Chardonnay
Light gold in color with a hint of green, this wine smells of lemon curd and pineapple and white flowers. In the mouth, crisp and juicy lemon curd, vanilla, and a touch of oak mix with pineapple and some additional tropical fruit flavors. Excellent acidity keeps the wine bouncy, though there’s a touch of heat in the finish. 13.9% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $48.

2018 Meyer Cellars “Donnelley Creek” Chardonnay
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon curd and oak. In the mouth, lemon and golden apple flavors mix with toasted oak and a hint of white flowers. Good acidity and length. I wish I tasted less wood. 13.6% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $32 click to buy.

2018 Kosta Browne “Cerise Vineyard” Chardonnay
Palest greenish-gold in color, this wine smells of lemon curd and lemon pith. In the mouth, lean and bright flavors of lemon zest, grapefruit pith, and a hint of toasty, nutty oak have excellent acidity but leave a slightly bitter note in the finish. 13.4% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $110 click to buy.

BETWEEN 8 and 8.5
2019 Bravium Chardonnay
Pale gold in color, this wine smells of lemon pith and a hint of Play-Doh. In the mouth, lemon pith, citrus peel, and a touch of cold cream are bright with decent acidity. Citrus pith and hints of bitter orange linger in the finish. 13.4% alcohol. Score: between 8 and 8.5. Cost: $25 click to buy.

2018 Domaine Anderson “Estate” Chardonnay
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of candied lemon peel and a hint of apple skin. In the mouth, apple skin, lemon juice, and a touch of bitter herbs have a nice brightness thanks to decent acidity. The herbal and citrus peel astringency lingers in the finish. 13.1% alcohol. Score: between 8 and 8.5. Cost: $30 click to buy.

2020 FEL Wines Pinot Gris
Pale straw in the glass, this wine smells of pear and pear skin with a hint of dried herbs. In the mouth, pear and pear skin flavors have a faint bitterness to them, along with the sweetness of the fruit. A hint of citrus oil comes into the finish. Decent acidity and length. 13.8% alcohol. Score: between 8 and 8.5. Cost: $28 click to buy.

2019 Foursight Wines “Charles Vineyard” Sauvignon Blanc
Pale greenish-gold in color, this wine smells of citrus peel and pith. In the mouth, crisp lemon and lime flavors have a faint pithy bitterness as they head to the finish. Good acidity. 12.7% alcohol. Score: between 8 and 8.5. Cost: $29 click to buy.

2018 Handley Cellars “Estate Vineyard” Chardonnay
Pale to light gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon curd and tropical fruits. In the mouth, silky flavors of lemon, pineapple, and tropical fruit cocktail lean slightly towards the bitterness of orange peel in the finish. Decent acidity. 13.2% alcohol. Score: between 8 and 8.5. Cost: $28 click to buy.

2020 Husch Vineyards “Dry” Gewurztraminer
Palest greenish-gold in color, almost colorless, this wine smells of orange peel and white flowers. In the mouth, the wine is restrained, with orange peel and lychee flavors mixed with an Asian-pear-skin bitterness. Comes across as slightly dilute. 13.9% alcohol. Score: between 8 and 8.5. Cost: $16 click to buy.

2020 Pennyroyal Farm Sauvignon Blanc
Palest greenish-gold, nearly colorless in the glass, this wine smells of green apple and pear and a hint of candied lime. In the mouth, lime and green apple and pear flavors have a faint sweetness to them, with decent acidity. There’s also a creaminess to this wine that is unexpected. 12.9% alcohol. Score: between 8 and 8.5. Cost: $25.

2020 Read Holland Wines “Wiley Vineyard” Riesling
Pale greenish-gold in color, this wine smells of honeysuckle and green apples. In the mouth, tart green apple and floral notes have a mouthwatering quality thanks to excellent acidity. Very green in quality, with a hint of celery of vegetal note along with the green apple skin in the finish. 12.8% alcohol. Score: between 8 and 8.5. Cost: $30.

2019 Husch Vineyards “Vine One” Chardonnay
Palest straw, to the point of being nearly colorless in the glass, this wine smells of sweet floral notes that have a hint of bubble gum to them. In the mouth, linalool and floral notes are somewhat confection-like, backed by decent acidity. Comes across as slightly candied, with a tiny bit of heat in the finish. 14.2% alcohol. Score: around 8. Cost: $20.

2019 Pennyroyal Farms “Hammer Olsen Vineyard” Chardonnay
Pale to light gold in color, this wine smells of slightly yeasty lemon and pineapple aromas. In the mouth, lemon, some bitter herbs, and citrus pith have a slightly yeasty note to them, with a touch of oak on the finish. 13.1% alcohol. Score: around 8. Cost: $35.

2020 Philo Ridge Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of candied green apple and gooseberries. In the mouth, green apple flavors are slightly candied and a little flat, missing some acidity and crispness that would make it more vivacious. The flavors are good, however. 13.2% alcohol. Score: around 8. Cost: $20.

BELOW 8
2020 Fathers+Daughters Cellars “Ferrington Vineyard” Chardonnay
Pale greenish-gold in color, this wine smells unusually of herbal oils, alfalfa, and citrus pith. In the mouth, citrus pith and herbal notes make for an unusual character. Slightly odd. 13.2% alcohol. Score: between 7.5 and 8.

Pink Wines

2019 Foursight Wines Rosé of Pinot Noir
A pale peach in the glass, this wine smells of raspberries and watermelon rind. In the mouth, bright raspberry and strawberry fruit have a brilliant, bright snap thanks to excellent acidity. Faint aromatic sweetness on the finish with a hint of citrus peel. Delicious. 13.1% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $35.

Poised for Greatness: Tasting The Evolution of Anderson Valley

2020 Navarro Vineyards Rosé of Pinot Noir
Pale baby pink in the glass, this wine smells of wet chalkboard, strawberries, and raspberries. In the mouth, lean and bright berry and citrus flavors have a fantastic, mouthwatering brightness to them, with hints of citrus peel and a faint savory herbal note that adds some complexity. Excellent. 13.2% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $22 click to buy.

2020 County Line Vineyards “Elke Home Ranch” Rosé of Pinot Noir
Palest peachy-pink in the glass, this wine smells of citrus zest and floral notes with a hint of marijuana resin. In the mouth, zingy and bright citrus peel and strawberry flavors have a nice silky, even creamy texture and lovely pastry cream overtones complete the finish. Very pretty. 12% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $25. click to buy.

2020 Pennyroyal Farm Rosé of Pinot Noir
Pale baby pink in color, this wine smells of hibiscus and cranberry. In the mouth, cranberry and rosehip flavors have a nice juiciness to them and a lovely silky texture. Very good acidity and length. 13.1% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $25.

2020 Lula Cellars Rosé of Pinot Noir
Pale baby pink in the glass, this wine smells of red berries and citrus peel. In the mouth, berry and citrus peel flavors have a nice bounce thanks to very good acidity. Silky and slightly weighty on the palate. Clean and bright. 12.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $36 click to buy.

2020 Toulouse Vineyards Rosé of Pinot Noir
Pale peachy pink in color, this wine smells of watermelon and a hint of radish. In the mouth, berry and watermelon fruit flavors are subtle and soft, with a faint woody radish note to the wine. Decent acidity. 13.6% alcohol. Score: between 8 and 8.5. Cost: $28 click to buy.

Red Wines

AROUND 9.5
2018 Drew “Wendling Vineyard” Pinot Noir
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of dried flowers and black raspberries. In the mouth, crystalline flavors of raspberry and dried flowers are wedded to a stony earthy core of this wine. Wonderful floral notes linger in the finish. Fantastic acidity and purity.Outstanding purity and complexity. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $70 click to buy.

Poised for Greatness: Tasting The Evolution of Anderson Valley

2019 Drew “Fog-Eater” Pinot Noir
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells of intensely perfumed raspberry and floral aromas. In the mouth, raspberry, and redcurrant flavors are bright and mouthwatering with fantastic acidity. Hints of floral and citrus peel linger in the finish, along with a stony note that is quite compelling. Barely perceptible tannins. 13.4% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $45 click to buy.

2019 Willams-Selyem “Savoy Vineyard” Pinot Noir
Medium garnet with purple highlights, this wine smells of cherries and floral perfume. In the mouth, wonderfully bright cherry and raspberry flavors are bursting with juicy acidity as citrus peel and a hint of bergamot oil linger in the long finish. Barely perceptible tannins. Delicious, fresh, and incredibly aromatic. 13.8% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $120. click to buy.

2019 Willams-Selyem “Ferrington Vineyard” Pinot Noir
A faintly hazy, medium-to-dark garnet color with purple highlights, this wine smells of intensely juicy and sweet raspberry aromas. In the mouth, that intensity continues with positively mouthwatering flavors of candied raspberries and faint floral notes. Wonderfully perfumed, with only barely perceptible tannins. Fantastic acidity carries through a long finish scented with orange peel. Simply bursting with flavor. 13.6% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $100. click to buy.

BETWEEN 9 and 9.5
2016 Bee Hunter “Angel Camp” Pinot Noir
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry and dusty dried herbs. In the mouth, the wine has a nice savory dried herb and dusty road flavor, with a core of cherry and raspberry fruit. Hints of redwood bark linger in the finish with a hint of bitterness. But then, just when you think you’ve experienced everything this wine has to offer a wash of floral perfume enters the finish and blows your mind. Excellent acidity.14.2% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $80.

2017 Copain “Edmeades” Pinot Noir
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells of sweet cherry compote. In the mouth, juicy and bright cherry and raspberry fruit flavors are dusted with faint tannins and touched with a hint of citrus peel and dried flowers. Very pretty, with excellent acidity and length. 13.1% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $59 click to buy.

2019 Failla Wines “Savoy Vineyard” Pinot Noir
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of raspberries and raspberry leaf with a hint of woody stems. In the mouth, wonderfully silky flavors of raspberries, dried herbs, and dried flowers have a wonderful electricity to them thanks to fantastic acidity. Hints of herbs ad citrus peel linger in the finish along with faint, grippy tannins. 14% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $55. click to buy.

2018 Foursight Wines “Zero New Oak” Pinot Noir
Light garnet in color, this wine smells of raspberry and raspberry leaf. In the mouth, gorgeously bright raspberry and redcurrant flavors mix with sour cherry and a faintly saline quality that, combined with the excellent acidity, makes for a mouthwatering, totally delicious package. Outstanding. 13.7% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $44.

Poised for Greatness: Tasting The Evolution of Anderson Valley

2019 Foursight Wines “Clone 05” Pinot Noir
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells of raspberry, sour cherry, and floral aromas. In the mouth, juicy and bright raspberry pastilles and a hint of strawberry mix with floral notes and excellent acidity. Perhaps missing some depth and complexity but who wouldn’t love the positively vivacious bright raspberry fruit here? Faint, powdery tannins tickle the edges of the palate. 13.9% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $57.

2017 Kosta Browne “Cerise Vineyard” Pinot Noir
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of ripe cherry and raspberry fruit. In the mouth, raspberry and cherry notes mix with a hint of dried herbs and cedar. Silky, nicely balanced, with excellent acidity and barely perceptible tannins. Quite pretty. 13.4% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $150. click to buy.

2018 Peay Vineyards “Savoy Vineyard” Pinot Noir
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells of raspberry and sour cherry and a hint of resinous herb. In the mouth, juicy raspberry, sour cherry, and redcurrant flavors mix with citrus peel and a touch of herbs. Excellent acidity keeps the saliva flowing as does a faint salinity. Delicious. 13.3% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $61 click to buy.

2018 Phillips Hill Winery “Day Ranch” Pinot Noir
Medium garnet in the glass with purple highlights, this wine smells of dried flowers and black raspberries. In the mouth, juicy cherry and black raspberry flavors are mouthwatering thanks to excellent acidity. That floral quality continues with dried flowers that linger through the finish. Faint muscular tannins. 13.7% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $47 click to buy.

2018 Read Holland “Deep End” Pinot Noir
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and raspberry, and citrus oil. In the mouth, juicy cherry and raspberry fruit is tinged with cedar and a nice earthy undertone. Excellent acidity leaves citrus peel and dried herbs lingering in the long finish. 13.7% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $60 click to buy.

2018 Reeve Wines “Wendling Vineyard” Pinot Noir
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of bright cherry fruit and a hint of dried flowers. In the mouth, exceptionally juicy cherry and raspberry fruit flavors have a citrus peel kick and excellent, mouthwatering acidity. Faint, powdery tannins linger with hints of dried flowers in the finish. Very pretty. 13.9% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $??

2018 Rhys Vineyards “Bearwallow Vineyard” Pinot Noir
Light to medium ruby in color, this wine smells of earth and candied redcurrant. In the mouth, raspberry and redcurrant flavors are fantastically juicy with hints of dried flowers and cedar. Fantastic acidity keeps the wine bright and zippy, as notes of candied orange peel linger in the finish. Layered and delicate with barely perceptible tannins. 13.8% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $90 click to buy.

2018 Boonville Road “Broken Leg Vineyard” Syrah
A cloudy dark garnet in the glass, this wine makes the mouth water right from the very first sniff of white pepper and charred steak layered over black cherry and blackberry. In the mouth, beautiful white and black pepper flavors mix with blackberry and black cherry that have an almost saline quality. Soft, leathery tannins buff the edges of the mouth. Gloriously cool-climate in aspect, and refreshing with its mere 13.9% alcohol, this wine has excellent acidity and balance. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $35

Poised for Greatness: Tasting The Evolution of Anderson Valley

2019 Rivers-Marie “Bearwallow Vineyard” Pinot Noir
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of bright cherry and cranberry fruit. In the mouth, gorgeous cherry and cranberry flavors are silky and juicy with fantastic acidity and possess a lovely purity. Faint dried floral and herbal notes surface in the finish. Definitely leans towards the rich side of Pinot, but wonderfully lithe and bright. Only the faintest of tannic textures. 14.1% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $80. click to buy.

2018 Gros Ventre “Cerise Vineyard” Pinot Noir
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of raspberries and dried herbs with a hint of cedar. In the mouth, lovely raspberry and redcurrant flavors are wrapped in a gauzy blanket of tannins, as dried herbs and dried flower notes float across the palate and sour cherry lingers with a note of citrus peel in the finish. Thrillingly bright acidity and a lovely texture. 13.6% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $62. click to buy.

2018 Arista “Ferrington Vineyard” Pinot Noir
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and cranberries. In the mouth, flavors of raspberry and cranberry are zingy and bright thanks to fantastic acidity, while faint tannins brush the edges of the palate and citrus peel notes linger in the finish with a hint of forest floor. Quite delicious. 14.1% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $80. click to buy.

2018 Papapietro Perry “Charles Vineyard” Pinot Noir
Medium ruby in the glass with garnet highlights, this wine smells of cedar and raspberries. In the mouth, bright raspberry and pomegranate flavors have a lovely aromatic sweetness to them and excellent acidity. Faint, gauzy tannins buff the edges of the mouth, while hints of raspberry pastilles linger in the finish. Lovely and finessed. 13.9% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $64. click to buy.

AROUND 9
2017 Bee Hunter “Wentzel Vineyard” Pinot Noir
Medium garnet in the glass with ruby at the rim, this wine smells of tart sour cherry and raspberries with a hint of pennyroyal. In the mouth, raspberry, redcurrant, and sour cherry fruit make for a tangy, mouthwatering experience with hints of dried herbs and citrus peel that linger in the finish. There’s a nice stony underbelly to this wine, accentuated by chalk-dust tannins.13.8% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $60.

2014 Bee Hunter “Wiley Vineyard” Pinot Noir
Light to medium ruby with a hint of brick at the rim, this wine smells of dried apples and dates and dried herbs. In the mouth, silky flavors of raspberry and dried herbs mix with citrus peel and dried apple. Unusual and distinctive, and starting to show some of its secondary aged characteristics. Excellent acidity.13.7% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $60.

2017 Copain “Les Voisins” Pinot Noir
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cranberry and cherry fruit. In the mouth, silky flavors of cherry and raspberry mix with a darker, earthier carob note that blends with the faint dusty dried herbs on the palate. Barely perceptible tannins. Very good acidity. Pretty. 13.2% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $42 click to buy.

2019 Dupuis “Wendling” Pinot Noir
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and raspberry and earth. In the mouth, cherry and slightly meaty umami flavors mix with hints of herbs and citrus. Very good acidity, but could be brighter.13.9% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $57 click to buy.

2017 Dutton-Goldfield “Angel Camp Vineyard” Pinot Noir
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and dried flowers. In the mouth, raspberry and cherry flavors have a snappy brightness thanks to excellent acidity and a nice dusty road and dried herb underbelly that is very pretty. Faint, grippy tannins add structure to the wine and linger in the finish with a hint of citrus peel. 14.1% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $62 click to buy.

2018 Foursight Wines “Charles Vineyard” Pinot Noir
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of raspberry and mulling spices. In the mouth, bright raspberry fruit has a deliciously bright juiciness thanks to excellent acidity. Faint, powdery tannins grip the edges of the palate as hints of cedar and citrus peel linger in the finish. 13.7% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $52 click to buy.

2017 Handley Cellars “Helluva Vineyard” Pinot Noir
Medium ruby in the glass with garnet highlights, this wine smells of cherry and cedar and dried flowers. In the mouth, bright and juicy cherry and raspberry fruit flavors are shot through with dried herbs and citrus peel, with hints of dried apple and floral tones emerging on the finish. Powdery but muscular tannins and excellent acidity. 13.8% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $45 click to buy.

2017 Kosta Browne Pinot Noir
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of ripe cherry fruit. In the mouth, ripe cherry and cedar notes are zingy with excellent acidity that brings an orange peel quality to the finish along with raspberries and nearly imperceptible tannins. 14.1% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $100 click to buy.

Poised for Greatness: Tasting The Evolution of Anderson Valley

2018 Lula Cellars Pinot Noir
Medium garnet with purple highlights, this wine smells of intense cherry and cranberry aromas matched with a hint of sinsemilla. In the mouth, bright and slightly candied flavors of cherry and raspberry are shimmering and pure and very juicy thanks to excellent acidity. A vibrant, juicy wine that many will love for its fruit expression. Faintest tannins. 14% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $45 click to buy.

2019 Lussier “Cote de Boont” Pinot Noir
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of floral and raspberry aromas. In the mouth, raspberry, herbs, and a very stony quality are quite compelling, draped as they are in gauzy tannins. A savory, earthy, herbal note lingers in the finish with a hint of oak. 13.6% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $40.

2019 Lussier “Roma’s Vineyard” Pinot Noir
Light ruby in color with garnet highlights, this wine smells of raspberry and redcurrant and dirt. In the mouth, very stony, crunchy, lean flavors of raspberry and redcurrant mix with herbs and florals as slightly muscular tannins grip the palate. Excellent acidity. 13.2% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $??

2018 Maggy Hawk “Afleet” Pinot Noir
Light garnet in the glass, this wine smells of raspberry and cranberry fruit with a hint of dried herbs. In the mouth, bright raspberry fruit is dusted with powdery tannins and the scents of dried herbs and orange peel. Excellent acidity keeps the wine bright and juicy. Hints of cedar enter the finish. 13.8% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $65 click to buy.

2018 Maggy Hawk “Unforgettable” Pinot Noir
Light garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and pomegranate. In the mouth sweetish cherry and pomegranate flavors have a wonderful brightness thanks to excellent acidity. There’s a hint of herbs and the tiniest hint of fresh jalapeño greenness in the finish, along with faint tannins. 14.2% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $65 click to buy.

2018 Meyer Cellars “Monument Tree” Pinot Noir
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of dried herbs and muddy earth and white miso with a hint of raspberry. In the mouth, raspberry and dried herbs, cedar, and road dust all combine for a fairly savory combination with a hint of oak that lingers in the finish. Faint, dusty tannins. Interesting and distinctive.12.7% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $56 click to buy.

2018 Navarro Vineyards “Deep End” Pinot Noir
Medium garnet in the glass with a hint of a haze to it, this wine smells of raspberry and lavender. In the mouth, that floral quality continues with raspberry and cedar notes underneath. Excellent acidity and dusty, fine-grained tannins. Savory herbal notes in the finish. Gives the impression of honesty, as opposed to flashy winemaking. Lovely.14.1% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $55 click to buy.

2018 Navarro Vineyards “Methode a l’Ancienne” Pinot Noir
Light garnet in the glass but headed towards ruby, this wine smells of crushed dried herbs and dried flowers. In the mouth, faint but athletic tannins wrap around a core of savory herbs, red berries, and road dust, even as bright acidity brings in notes of citrus peel and blood orange. Quite delicious, especially for those who appreciate the savory side of Pinot Noir. I know from experience that this wine ages beautifully for decades. 14.1% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $35 click to buy.

2018 Pennyroyal Farm Pinot Noir
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of raspberry and cherry. In the mouth, somewhat stony cherry and raspberry flavors have a nice crystalline clarity to them, thanks in part to excellent acidity. Hints of fresh herbs garland the finish. 14.1% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $39.

2018 Reeve Wines “Rhoda” Pinot Noir
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of slightly meaty cherry and raspberry fruit. In the mouth, raspberry and raspberry leaf flavors have a nice brightness thanks to excellent acidity, along with fairly muscular tannins for a Pinot. Notes of dried flowers and a hint of umami linger in the finish. 13.6% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $48 click to buy.

2018 Reeve Wines “Kiser Vineyard Suitcase Block” Pinot Noir
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of raspberry and redcurrant. In the mouth, raspberry and redcurrant flavors mix with sour cherry for a tart, lean vibrancy. Fantastic acidity keeps the mouth watering, as fairly muscular tannins grip the palate. There’s boisterous energy to this wine, and a citrus-saline kick in the finish. Quite tasty. 12.4% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $??

2018 Rhys Vineyards “Porcupine Hill” Pinot Noir
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and cranberry fruit and a touch of orange peel. In the mouth, raspberry, orange peel, and redcurrant flavors mix with dried herbs and a touch of earth. Excellent acidity, silky texture, and the faintest of powdery tannins. 13.8% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $105 click to buy.

2018 Siduri “Edmeades Vineyard” Pinot Noir
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherries. In the mouth, bright cherry and sour cherry fruit have a muscular, powdery tannic texture and bright citrusy acidity that keeps things vibrant on the palate. Quite tasty. 14.2% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: around 9. Cost: $55.

2017 Smith Story Wine Cellars “The Boonies” Pinot Noir
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of raspberry and cedar. In the mouth, bright raspberry, cedar, and orange peel flavors are wrapped in a suede blanket of tannins. Excellent acidity and length. Very pretty. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $58 click to buy.

Poised for Greatness: Tasting The Evolution of Anderson Valley

2017 Smith Story Wine Cellars “Helluva Vineyard” Pinot Noir
Light garnet in the glass, this wine smells of sweet raspberry pastilles and herbs de Provence. In the mouth, bright raspberry fruit is juicy and lean, but carried on a silky texture, with wispy tannins that tighten the corners of the mouth. Hints of herbs and citrus peel hang in the finish. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $48 click to buy.

2018 Smith Story Wine Cellars “Helluva Vineyard” Pinot Noir
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of raspberries and floral scents. In the mouth, bright raspberry, black raspberry, and floral flavors have a nice brightness to them and great acidity. Somewhat surprisingly muscular tannins coat the mouth and put a slight squeeze on the palate through the finish. 14% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $48 click to buy.

2019 Weatherborne Wine Corp Pinot Noir
Light garnet in the glass, this wine smells of floral cherry and raspberry aromas. In the mouth, raspberry and cherry flavors have a nice tinge of violets to them with gorgeous acidity and gauzy tannins that coat the mouth. Excellent acidity and balance. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $??

2019 Wentworth Vineyard and Ranch “Nash Mill Vineyard” Pinot Noir
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of raspberries and herbs. In the mouth, bright raspberry and herb flavors are wrapped in a powdery haze of tannins that stiffen slightly as the wine finishes with hints of orange peel and dried herbs. Quite juicy and delicious with excellent acidity. 13% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $75 click to buy.

2018 Radio-Coteau “Savoy Vineyard” Pinot Noir
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of sweet cherry and raspberry fruit. In the mouth, wonderfully bright cherry and raspberry fruit have a faint earthiness to them, along with a hint of toasted oak and vanilla. Wonderfully balanced between richness of fruit and brightness of acidity, with hints of bitter green herbs lingering in the finish. Barely perceptible tannins. 13.4% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $70. click to buy.

2018 Cakebread Cellars “Annahala Ranch” Pinot Noir
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry and cedar. In the mouth, raspberry and cherry flavors blend under a suede blanket of tannins. Good, citrusy acidity keeps things bright, even as some earthier notes creep into the finish, leaving things nicely savory. Ages in 33% new French oak. 13.4% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $60. click to buy.  

BETWEEN 8.5 and 9
2019 Bravium “Wiley Vineyard” Pinot Noir
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells of crushed herbs, wet wood, and the floral aromas that suggest whole clusters. In the mouth, raspberry, herbs, and green wood flavors have a silky texture and faint but muscular tannins. I’d like slightly more acidity here if I could get it. 13.2% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $40 click to buy.

Poised for Greatness: Tasting The Evolution of Anderson Valley

2019 Dupuis “Le Benedict” Pinot Noir
Medium to dark garnet in the glass with a purplish cast, this wine smells of black cherry and black raspberry. In the mouth, rich black raspberry and cherry flavors are wrapped in a fleecy blanket of tannins. Excellent citrus-peel acidity keeps the darker, richer flavors from being too thick, but there’s a brooding, denser quality to this wine. 13.9% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $49 click to buy.

2019 FEL Wines Pinot Noir
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cranberry and pomegranate. In the mouth, cranberry, pomegranate, and raspberry fruit flavors have a nice brightness thanks to excellent acidity. Faint, powdery tannins gain strength as the wine finishes, with notes of citrus peel and cedar lingering on the palate. 14.1% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $40 click to buy.

2018 Goldeneye Winery Pinot Noir
Medium garnet with purple highlights, this wine smells of bright cherry and cranberry fruit. In the mouth, bright and juicy cherry fruit is rich and pure with a nice cedar and dried herbs note that emerges in the finish, along with a hint of orange peel. Excellent acidity. On the rich side of Pinot, but so well balanced by acidity it’s hard not to be charmed. There’s a tiny bit of heat on the finish, however. 14.6% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $58 click to buy.

2017 Handley Cellars “Estate” Pinot Noir
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of dusty roads, dried herbs, cherry, and a hint of carob. In the mouth, cherry and cranberry flavors mix with mulling spices and road dust. Fine-grained tannins add texture around the edges of the mouth. Good acidity. Definitely more on the savory side. 13.3% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $50 click to buy.

2019 Lichen Estate “Moonglow” Pinot Noir
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of raspberry and floral notes. In the mouth, raspberry and black raspberry flavors have a nice stony underbelly and thick, powdery tannins that flex their muscles as the wine heads to the finish with hints of dried flowers. Excellent acidity. 14.2% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $39 click to buy.

2019 Littorai “Les Larmes” Pinot Noir
A light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry and raspberry fruit with a hint of dried herbs. In the mouth, cherry, raspberry, and hints of cedar are bright with good acidity. Dusty tannins add some texture to the wine and savory notes of dried herbs linger in the finish. Excellent acidity, but perhaps not as complex as it could be. This is basically all the Anderson Valley Pinot Noir that didn’t make it into vineyard-designated bottlings at Littorai. 12% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $60 click to buy.

2019 Lussier “Golden Fleece” Pinot Noir
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of earth and raspberries. In the mouth, deeply earthy raspberry flavors are shot through with green herbs and road dust. Muscular, mouth-coating tannins make for a fairly brawny expression of Pinot Noir. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $??

2017 Pangloss “Charles Vineyard” Pinot Noir
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells of cedar and raspberry, and redcurrant. In the mouth, raspberry and cherry flavors have a nice gauzy tannic texture and hints of dried flowers and herbs. Good (but could have better) acidity. 14.3% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $63 click to buy.

2018 Philo Ridge Vineyards “Philo Ridge Vineyards” Pinot Noir
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of sweet cedar and raspberry, and dried herbs. In the mouth, raspberry, redcurrant, and dried herb flavors are dusted with powdery tannins and a touch of citrus peel. Dried herbs linger in the finish. Good acidity. 14.1% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $32 click to buy.

2018 Rhys Vineyards “Alesia” Pinot Noir
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of redwood bark, cherry, and cranberry. In the mouth, bright cranberry and raspberry flavors have a faintly candied note to them, but are enlivened with excellent acidity and shot through with a faint dried herbal note. Fresh and juicy. 13.8% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $45 click to buy.

2018 Toulouse Vineyards Pinot Noir
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of dried herbs and raspberries. In the mouth, savory notes of dried herbs mix with raspberry and redcurrant as dusty tannins coat the nooks and crannies of the mouth, gaining strength as the wine finishes with dried herbs and road dust. Good acidity.14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $42 click to buy

2019 Twomey Cellars “Monument Tree” Pinot Noir
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of raspberry, raspberry leaf, and miso paste. In the mouth, slightly saline flavors of raspberry and cherry mix with a hint of nutmeg and white miso. Herbs and a touch of dried citrus peel linger in the finish. Faint, dusty tannins. 14.3% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $68 click to buy.

2018 Walt Wines “Blue Jay” Pinot Noir
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of raspberry jam. In the mouth, sweetish, bright candied raspberries mix with a hint of citrus and cedar. Decent acidity, but a tiny bit of alcoholic heat creeps into the finish. 14.9% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $38 click to buy.

2019 Wentworth Vineyard and Ranch Pinot Noir
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of raspberry and raspberry leaf. In the mouth, bright raspberry and green herbal flavors have a nice brightness thanks to excellent acidity which leaves a touch of grapefruit pith in the finish. Faint, dusty tannins. 13% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $50 click to buy.

2018 Dupuis Wines “Baker Ranch” Syrah
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of blackberries and struck match. In the mouth, crunchy blackberry and blueberry flavors crackle with bright acidity and are shot through with green herbs and notes of black pepper that linger in the finish. Nice balance between fruit and savory qualities. Fermented with whole clusters and native yeasts, then aged in neutral oak barrels. Comes from a vineyard high up on the southern ridge of Anderson Valley at 1200 feet of elevation. 13% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $47 click to buy.

AROUND 8.5
2017 Baxter “Valenti Vineyard” Pinot Noir
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and cedar. In the mouth cedar and cherry and raspberry flavors mix with an angular slightly bitter quality. Excellent acidity, with herbal notes on the finish. Lightly muscular tannins. Feels slightly compressed. 13.4% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $52 click to buy.

2017 Baxter “Langley Vineyard” Pinot Noir
Light garnet in the glass, this wine smells of dried flowers, plum, and black raspberry. In the mouth, somewhat heady flavors of black raspberry and dried herbs and flowers have a fleecy tannic texture, with some drying of the mouth. To me it the texture feels like too much oak influence in this wine, though the flavors of oak are relatively minor notes at this point. 14.1% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $52 click to buy.

2018 Bee Hunter Wine Pinot Noir
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry and plum and herbs. In the mouth, plum and cherry flavors have a dark, dusty earthiness to them, with notes of cedar and sawdust. Good acidity, with citrus peel lingering in the finish. 14.3% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $42 click to buy.

2019 Bravium Pinot Noir
Light garnet in the glass, this wine smells of wet wood and herbs with red berries. In the mouth, cedar, green herbs, and woody-stemmy flavors mix with cherry and candied raspberry notes. Very good acidity, with sneaky muscular tannins that show up with some squeeze in the finish. 13.1% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $32 click to buy.

2018 Cakebread Cellars “Two Creeks Vineyards” Pinot Noir
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of struck match and raspberries. In the mouth, raspberries, and cherries mix with dried herbs and some dusty earth. Good acidity and a nice herbal freshness to the finish. Leave alone for a while, or decant to get past the reduction. 13.7% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $45 click to buy.

2018 Cakebread Cellars “Apple Barn Vineyard” Pinot Noir
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of struck match and cherry fruit. With some time and air, that reduction aroma dissipates. In the mouth, cherry and raspberry fruit flavors have a nice fleecy tannic texture to them and hints of herbs and citrus that linger in the finish with a nice umami note. Ages in 40% new French oak. 14% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $60. click to buy.  

2018 Fathers+Daughters Cellars “Vineyard Select: Roma’s” Pinot Noir
Light ruby in the glass with some garnet highlights, this wine smells of red apple skin, mulling spices, and potpourri. In the mouth, lean raspberry and dried herbs mix with potpourri and mixed dried herbs for a savory mouthful that features a lot of dried orange peel. Very good acidity. 13.7% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $45.

2019 FEL Wines “Savoy Vineyard” Pinot Noir
Medium purple in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and black plum. In the mouth, sweetish notes of black cherry and raspberry mix with a hint of dried herbs. Powdery, mouth-coating tannins gain stiffness as the wine finishes. Good acidity.13.8% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $70 click to buy.

2019 Hartford Family Winery “Velvet Sisters” Pinot Noir
Medium purple in the glass, this wine smells of dried flowers including lavender, and dark cherry fruit. In the mouth, slightly sweet cherry and black raspberry fruit has a nice brightness thanks to very good acidity, but also a sweet density that will appeal to those who like their Pinots dark and intense. Well balanced, though, for all that richness. 14.9% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $70 click to buy.

2018 Husch Vineyards Pinot Noir
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of candied raspberries and cherry. In the mouth, lightly bitter notes of cedar and licorice wrap around a core of sweetish cherry fruit. Faint tannins. Decent acidity. 13.9% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $25 click to buy.

2018 Lichen Estate Pinot Noir
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of earth and cherries. In the mouth, fairly round flavors of cherry and earth have a somber, subdued quality, draped as they are in a thick, muscular blanket of tannins. Decent acidity keeps things moving along across the palate, but there’s a darker, muddier quality to this wine that will appeal to those looking for the savory side of Pinot. 14.4% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $65 click to buy.

2017 Pangloss Cellars Pinot Noir
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and cranberry aromas with a hint of dried herbs. In the mouth, cherry and cranberry fruit is a little flat on the palate, and wants more acidity. Nice flavors, with a cedar-citrus note at the end, but I would like it to be brighter. 13.9% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $40 click to buy.

2016 Philo Ridge Vineyards “Helluva Vineyard” Pinot Noir
Light to medium ruby in the glass with orange at the rim, this wine smells of raisins, dried apples, and mulling spices. In the mouth, dried apples, dried cherries, and mulling spices mix with dried orange peel and herbs. Very bright acidity keeps things fresh, but this wine is showing a lot of aged characteristics at the moment. Time to drink up. 14.1% alcohol. 110 cases made. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $32.

2017 Texture Wines “Ferrington Vineyard” Pinot Noir
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cedar and cherry and a hint of manure. In the mouth, that faintly barnyard quality continues with cherry and raspberry fruit, along with faint herbal notes. Peanut-buttery tannins. 13.9% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $48 click to buy.

2018 Thomas T Thomas Vineyards “Buster’s Hill” Pinot Noir
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry compote and cedar and herbs. In the mouth, cherry and raspberry fruit mixes with dried herbs and citrus peel as bright acidity keeps things vibrant. Muscular tannins. A hint of astringency in the finish. 13.8% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $85.

2019 Twomey Cellars Pinot Noir
Medium garnet in the glass with purple highlights, this wine smells of cherry and cranberry fruit. In the mouth, cherry and cranberry fruit are wrapped in a skein of fine-grained tannins. Decent acidity, but not enough to keep the flavors from feeling slightly flat. A slight hint of carob creeps into this wine, along with dried herbs that linger in the finish. 14.4% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $50 click to buy.

2018 Walt Wines “The Corners” Pinot Noir
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of cherries and a hint of cola. In the mouth, sweet lush cherry fruit is dusted with faint tannins and heads to a citrus-tinged finish that also has some alcoholic heat, thanks in part to this wine’s prodigious 15.2% alcohol. Slightly lower in acidity than I would like. Fairly plush. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $75. click to buy.

2016 Woodenhead “Wiley Vineyard” Pinot Noir
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of cedar and cranberry with chopped green herbs. In the mouth, roasted fig and red apple skin mix with raspberry jam and notes of wet earth. Good acidity leaves notes of orange peel in the finish, along with the faint suede of tannins. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $60 click to buy.

BETWEEN 8 and 8.5
2018 Goldeneye Winery “Gowan Creek” Pinot Noir
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of rich cherry compote, prunes, and oak. In the mouth, dark plummy and cherry flavors mix with cedar and the vanilla of oak. Muscular, slightly drying tannins. Good acidity. Dark and ripe and too much of both for me. 14.2% alcohol. Score: between 8 and 8.5. Cost: $88 click to buy.

2019 Hartford Family Winery “Muldune Trail” Pinot Noir
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry cordials. In the mouth, rich and sweet cherry and slightly bitter herbs mix with cedar and tacky, muscular tannins. Good acidity, but comes across as a bit too brawny. 15% alcohol. Score: between 8 and 8.5. Cost: $70 click to buy.

2017 La Crema Pinot Noir
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cedar and cherries. In the mouth, somewhat flat cherry flavors mix with cedar and hints of herbs. Faint tannins buff the edges of the mouth. Needs more acidity and more complexity, but there’s nothing wrong with these flavors. 14.4% alcohol. Score: between 8 and 8.5. Cost: $50 click to buy.

2017 Pennyroyal Farm Pinot Noir
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of earth and cherry and a hint of manure. In the mouth, a bit of barnyard mixes with saline flavors of cherry and black plum. Herbs linger in the finish with fine-grained tannins. Good acidity. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 8 and 8.5. Cost: $39.

2018 Siduri Pinot Noir
Medium garnet in the glass, with purple highlights, this wine smells of cherry and even darker berry flavors. In the mouth, a touch of raisin character mixes with cherry and cranberry compote. Faint, putty-like tannins. Decent acidity. Slightly overripe for my palate. 14.2% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: between 8 and 8.5. Cost: $40 click to buy.

2018 Smith Story Wine Cellars “The Boonies” Pinot Noir
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells of dried herbs and oak. In the mouth, raspberry and dried herb flavors are oak-inflected and feel a bit squeezed on the palate. Muscular tannins coat the mouth. A bit too much wood influence here for me. 12.7% alcohol. Score: between 8 and 8.5. Cost: $65 click to buy.

2017 Texture Wines “Wendling Vineyard” Pinot Noir
Medium garnet in the glass with purple highlights, this wine smells of cherry and black raspberry fruit. In the mouth, there’s a slightly muted quality to the wine, with cherry and raspberry flavors wrapped in a muscular skein of tannins. Decent acidity but somehow not as expressive as it could be. 13.8% alcohol. Score: between 8 and 8.5. Cost: $ click to buy.

2018 Thomas T Thomas Vineyards “Reserve” Pinot Noir
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and cedar. In the mouth, earthy cherry and cedar flavors are wrapped in a muscular fist of tannins that give this wine, despite bright acidity, a sort of brawny character. Earthy finish. 13.9% alcohol. Score: between 8 and 8.5. Cost: $80.

2019 Twomey Cellars “Bearman Bend” Pinot Noir
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of sweet cherry fruit. In the mouth, silky and rich flavors of cherry and raspberry jam don’t have quite enough acidity to keep them from feeling a little flat on the palate, while thick muscular tannins coat the mouth. A bit ripe for my taste.14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8 and 8.5. Cost: $??

AROUND 8
2018 Baxter “Ferrington Vineyard” Pinot Noir
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells of oak and red fruits. In the mouth, spicy oak notes mix with raspberry and sour cherry flavors that are vibrant thanks to very good acidity. Muscular, powerful tannins squeeze the palate and dry out the mouth. Too much wood here, which is felt in texture more than flavor. 13.7% alcohol. Score: around 8. Cost: $56 click to buy.

2018 Domaine Anderson “Estate” Pinot Noir
Medium garnet in color with purple highlights, this wine smells of cassis and raspberries. In the mouth, somewhat angular tangy flavors of black cherry and raspberry have a faint sourness to them. Putty-like tannins, sharp acidity. 13.8% alcohol. Score: around 8. Cost: $45 click to buy.

2018 Husch Vineyards “Knoll” Pinot Noir
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry compote. In the mouth, cherry and tamarind flavors are slightly muted and compressed, with notes of oak hanging around the edges. Bitter finish. Decent acidity. 14.4% alcohol. Score: around 8. Cost: $42 click to buy.

2019 Lula Cellars “Lula Vineyard” Pinot Noir
Medium to dark purple in the glass, this wine smells of very ripe dark cherry and black raspberry fruit. In the mouth, rich black cherry fruit is tinged with oak and wrapped in stiff, mouth-drying tannins that also seem to come from wood. Perfumed fruit struggles to shine against the weight of the oak. 14% alcohol. Score: around 8. Cost: $65 click to buy.

The post Poised for Greatness: Tasting The Evolution of Anderson Valley appeared first on Vinography.

Vinography Unboxed: Week of 8/29/21

Hello and welcome to my weekly dig through the pile of wine samples that show up asking to be tasted. I’m pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently.

Let’s get started with a lovely wine that I’ve now had a couple of times, which is a “side-project” of winemaker Marty Mathis, who makes the wines at Kathryn Kennedy Winery in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The “M. Mathis Winegrower” Grüner Veltliner is one of the better renditions of that variety in California, and a lovely expression of the Alfaro Vineyard in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

I’ve also got notes on the latest Jordan Chardonnay and Cabernet for you this week, both of which continue to do what Jordan has done so well for decades, which is to deliver consistently tasty wines at reasonable prices.

It’s rare that I get sent wines from Texas, but I got a couple recently from C.L. Butaud that were worth sharing. The Pinot Gris Ramato in particular, was quite tasty and well done, as was their Tempranillo, though it must be said for a winery that claims to produce “sustainably” their choice of packaging for the red is completely deplorable, representing one of the single heaviest dry-red wine bottles I’ve encountered. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times. Choosing lightweight bottles is literally the single easiest and highest impact thing a winery can do to reduce its carbon footprint almost overnight.

OK, now that I’ve stepped down off my soapbox, let’s not overlook the very pretty rendition of Pais, by the J. Bouchon winery in Chile’s Maule Valley. This wine is made from 100+ year-old vines of dry-farmed Pais. For my money, it’s one of the highest quality-to-price-ratio wines on the market.

Speaking of high QPR, you could do a lot worse than the 2019 Firesteed Pinot Noir I opened this week that, even with a little age on it, was still delivering excellent bright fruit that will satisfy a lot of folks, and at $15, it’s a helluva deal, especially for Pinot Noir, which is getting a lot harder to find at that price at all, let alone in decent quality.

Two slightly more expensive renditions of Pinot also satisfied this week: the Emeritus Hallberg Ranch Pinot from the Russian River Valley, and the Dutton-Goldfield from the Van Der Kamp Vineyard on Sonoma Mountain.

For many years I’ve been telling anyone who would listen that some of the best value red wines on the planet are the dry reds from the Douro Valley, and this week I got a couple of bottles from the Prats and Symington family that continue to deliver on that promise. Whether it’s the $18 Prazo de Roriz or the $27 slightly more complex Post Scriptum, both of these wines are delicious and punch well above their weight class.

Notes on all of these below.

Tasting Notes

2020 M.Mathis Winegrower “Alfaro Vineyard” Grüner Veltliner, Santa Cruz Mountains, California
Light gold in color, this wine smells of wet chalkboard and citrus pith with a hint of yellow herbs. In the mouth, bright pear, lemon peel, and wet pavement minerality all have a nice briskness to them thanks to excellent acidity. Crisp and juicy and easy to drink. 12.5% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $ . click to buy.

2019 Jordan Winery Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
A pale yellow-gold in color, this wine smells of lemon curd and grapefruit. In the mouth, bright lemon pith and pink grapefruit flavors are mild and juicy, with a nice crispness and no overt oak character. Pleasantly tasty. 13.7% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $36. click to buy.

2020 C.L. Butaud “Ramato” Pinot Gris, Hill Country, Texas
A pale, coppery peach color in the glass, this wine smells of citrus peel and yellow plums. In the mouth, flavors of yellow plum, citrus, and a faint berry note are all juicy and crisp with a faint chalky tannic grip. Good acidity. 12.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $22.

2018 J. Bouchon “Pais Viejo” Pais, Maule, Chile
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of berries and wet pavement. In the mouth, bright juicy berry flavors mix with wet pavement and a touch of flowers. Hints of strawberry linger in the finish. Faint, but muscular tannins. Great acidity. Made from 100+-year-old, dry-farmed vines of Pais. Aged for 4 months in concrete before bottling. 12.5% alcohol. Closed with screwcap. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $17. click to buy.

2019 Firesteed Pinot Noir, Oregon
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry and cranberry compote. In the mouth, sweetish cherry and cranberry flavors are simple and straightforward, if slightly confectionery in quality. But at this price, that’s more than acceptable. Faint tannins and decent acidity. 13.5% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $13. click to buy.

2017 Emeritus Vineyards “Hallberg Ranch” Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of faintly meaty red apple skin and raspberry jam. In the mouth, bright sour cherry and raspberry flavors mix with a nice saline umami character that, along with faint dried flowers, lingers in the finish with citrus peel brightness. Excellent acidity, and a nice resonant depth to the wine. Quite delicious. 13.7% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $45. click to buy.

Wine Prats and Symington, Post Scriptum de Chryseia, Douro DOC, 2015, 750  ml Prats and Symington, Post Scriptum de Chryseia, Douro DOC, 2015 – price,  reviews

2019 Prats & Symington “Post Scriptum de Chryseia” Red Blend, Douro, Portugal
A very dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry, black currant, and chocolate. In the mouth, black cherry, blackberry, and cocoa powder flavors also have a hint of cola nut to them, along with a faint, fine-grained tannic structure. Good acidity and length, with just the faintest of heat on the finish. Quite tasty. A blend of 56% Touriga Franca, 33% Touriga Nacional, 7% Tinta Roriz, and 4% Tinta Barroca. 14% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $27. click to buy.

2018 Prats & Symington “Prazo de Roriz” Red Blend, Douro, Portugal
Very dark garnet in color, this wine smells of blackberry and boysenberry fruit. In the mouth, wonderfully juicy blackberry and boysenberry flavors are dusted with fine tannins and a touch of mulling spices in the finish. Excellent acidity keeps things quite fresh in the mouth, making this a very easy wine to drink. A blend of 35% Touriga Franca, 25% Touriga Nacional, 20% Tinta Roriz, and 20% of many other red varieties. Ages for 6 months in large old oak casks. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $18. click to buy.

2017 Jordan Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, Sonoma, California
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of black cherry with a hint of espresso and the barest whisper of green herbs. In the mouth, juicy and bright black cherry and cola notes mix with a boysenberry quality, as somewhat muscular tannins flex and tense around the edges of the palate. Hints of dried herbs linger with a touch of licorice root in the finish. Very good acidity keeps things fresh. 13.8% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $ 59 . click to buy.

2018 C.L. Butaud Tempranillo, High Plains, Texas
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of red fruits and toasted oak. In the mouth, cherry and boysenberry fruit flavors are shot through with toasted oak and faint, putty-like tannins. Good acidity makes this wine quite drinkable, and the oak, while perhaps stronger a presence than I would like, has a refined character. 14.1% alcohol. 250 cases of obscenely heavy bottles made. And when I say obscene, I mean obscene. These bottles are like the Hummer H2 of wine packaging, some of the heaviest I have ever seen. Each full bottle weighs almost 2 kg, or over 4.5 pounds. Shame, shame, shame. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $54.

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Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 52: Pinots Crossing (Dutcher Crossing Single Vineyard Recent Releases)

So… the global [pandemic has now gone on so long that not only have we crossed the threshold of 50 virtual samples tastings, but we’re circling back and revisiting producers that have already held such events…

In this case, that’s actually a positive development, as I got a chance to revisit the single vineyard wines of Dutcher Crossing—this time, however, focusing on three SV Pinot Noir releases from the 2018 vintage rather than (quite lovely) Sonoma Chardonnays.

Leading the virtual sipping were Dutcher Crossing winemaker Nick Briggs, and Terra de Promissio Vineyard’s impeccably-polite owner Diana Karren. As Briggs put it, the idea behind the single vineyard tastings was to once again showcase how DC “really explore that site and how those clones interact with that site.” But since the only people who really care about clones are winemakers, vineyard managers, and vine nursery staff, we are going to spend a lot more time talking about the three vineyards and the three wines showcased, and a lot less time (ok, probably none) talking about Pinot vine clones here. Anyway, let’s dive in!

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 52: Pinots Crossing (Dutcher Crossing Single Vineyard Recent Releases)2018 Dutcher Crossing Terra de Promisso Vineyard Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast, $53)

Terra de Promissio is currently the most designated single vineyard in all of Sonoma County, appearing on over ten bottlings. Diana and husband Charles Karren bought the site in 1999, and planted it in 2002. And then everything kind of went to hell. “When the vines went in,” Karren recalled, “I was seven months pregnant.” Issues stacked up and funds got so tight that she contemplated dropping out of school and declaring bankruptcy at the time. Thankfully for them (and for us), the family rallied some funding and it pulled them through (“our story [of the vineyard] is the story of America for us” she noted). Dutcher Crossing has been working with this site since before the Petaluma Gap AVA was officially approved, so they have a feel for what works best when it comes to Pinot there. “They treat us as friends and family,” Karren mentioned when discussing DC; “I love that they’re very much involved in the grape-growing process.”

DC sources from the ocean-facing hillside at TdP vineyard (according to Karren, “the stakes are bent at an angle” in the first few vineyard rows due to the wind.) The position promotes thicker skins to protect the grapes—and thus more structure and color in the resulting wines. Briggs mentioned that “this is the wine I always grab” when asked which of his Pinots happens to be his favorite. And, well, it is pretty damned good. It’s big on flavor (pomegranate, black cherry, black raspberry), big on spices (black tea leaf, cedar, dried herbs), structure, suppleness, and power. This is about as robust as Sonoma Pinot gets, and is flexing its textural muscles, but in a polished and authentic way. Yeah, it’s structured, but that fruit is all silky showiness, too.

 

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 52: Pinots Crossing (Dutcher Crossing Single Vineyard Recent Releases)2018 Dutcher Crossing Bucher Vineyard Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley, $53)

As per Briggs, this site near Healdsburg sees “warmer days, and not even as cool” evenings, promoting more of a “Sonoma aroma.” Seven different Pinot clones were planted by John and Diane Bucher on this 30+ acre hillside spot, with the steepness of the vineyard adding the potential for more complexity (helping to balance the natural lushness of the fruit that comes off this warmer spot).

There is great fruitiness here (ripe cherries galore), enticing aromas (graham cracker, vanilla, citrus peel, earth, and backing spices), and a young structure. But it’s also perky in its palate liveliness, and buoyant in its cherry fruit flavors (which are ripe and fun without being obnoxious about it). The finish closes out with more black cherry and hints of pepper, and the whole thing feels gorgeously balanced.

 

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 52: Pinots Crossing (Dutcher Crossing Single Vineyard Recent Releases)2018 Dutcher Crossing Cut Root Vineyard Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley, $56)

This is the inaugural vintage from this site, the culmination of about six years of work (vines went in in 2015). “We were only able to develop about four acres,” Briggs pointed out, with the rest of the site too steep or wooded to plant (the vineyard sits near Occidental). It’s a cooler, less windy site, protected by the 100-feet tall Redwoods that surround it.

The hard work to prep the site was worth it—based on this release, the spot has serious potential for top-notch Sonoma Pinot. Rose petal notes mingle with herbs, black pepper, tea leaf, and both dry and fresh red currant fruit aromas. The palate is at once large/expressive and also lithe/transparent, with a long, spicy, mineral finish that’s laced with chocolate and earth tones. This is damned fine stuff, with a promising future ahead of it.

Cheers!