Posts Tagged ‘sonoma coast’

Tasting Notes – 2009 Freestone Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast, Estate

Freestone – another of my unsung favorite producers. I fell in love with their tasting room and wines 3 years ago when I first visited. Everything about a Freestone experience is casual and relaxed, but viagra for sale in the uk first class.  I am hoping to get out sometime again for a photo shoot and visit  soon, but until then, take my word for it, and enjoy the relaxed drive to this  gem.

I was lucky enough to receive a pre-release Media sample of this Pinot Noir. Its not been released to the public just yet, so this is a a teaser, but should be soon.

The 2009 Freestone is from the Estate Pastorale and Quarter Moon vineyards.

2009 Freestone Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast, Estate

To The Eye: Opulent brick red color

On The Nose: A bouquet of red fruit and cranberry with lingering aroma of spice.

In The

Mouth: A cornucopia of pleasant experiences for your palate. A bit young and tight when first opened, after a few minutes in the glass this beauty quickly becomes endearing. Give her a swirl.  This Pinot Noir dances in the mouth with cherry, bright cranberry, hints of other red fruits, spice, and earth.

This wonderful Pinot Noir delivers in the front and mid palate, and doesn’t disappoint in the finish, as it lingers and teases, making you yearn for another taste.

Recommendation: Highly Recommended. 92 points. Buy.  Drink. Ideally hold and cellar and extra bottle if you can –  this Pinot Noir has acidity and structure to age and gain complexity, although I am not sure if i could leave it alone if in my cellar. $55.  Media Sample.

Vinification Notes:  15 months in French oak barrels, 55% new, 45% two-three year old. Alcohol 13.5%.


Wine Review: 2006 Tin Barn Vineyards Sonoma Coast Syrah (Coryelle Fields Vineyard)

I have had the pleasure to visit Tin Barn several times. ‘Tin Barn’ is an apt name; its a full production ‘Urban Winery’ that is part of the collective known as Eighth Street Wineries. (Look for the twice a year Eighth Street Wineries Open House, don’t miss!)

This cool climate Syrah comes from the coastal hills east of Jenner, at an elevation of 1000 feet. Twelve years ago, industry veteran Carolyn Coryelle planted both a meadow and a hillside block; the 2006 vintage is sourced from the rocky hillside.

Wine Review: 2006 Tin Barn Vineyards Sonoma Coast Syrah (Coryelle Fields Vineyard)

To the Eye: Inky deep purple, classic Syrah color, impenetrable to light

On the Nose: Smoked meat, bacon fat. Layered beneath is blackberry, black fruit.

In The Mouth: The extra aging time helps this Syrah show well –  good balance of fruit, tannins, and mouthfeel. The black fruit carries over from nose to palate, and is immediately present, but without being oppressive or jammy. A hint of sweetness from 50% new French oak, complementary to the wine. (Syrah is a varietal that generally benefits from some new oak., even with my bias to neutral/used oak.) The finish is pleasant, lingering. Modest 14.8 % alcohol.

Where to Buy: Check/call for distribution outlets (if any, only 115 cases made.) Available online. (I noted a 15% discount through December on the website when writing this.) Retail:  $25 (media sample)

Food Pairing: Most red meats and stews. Smoked meats, turkey.  BBQ. Lamb.

Recommendation: I have poured this wine for friends recently (blind), and it was well received. I enjoyed it enough to purchase a bottle, in addition to the Media Sample; would recommend you do as well. This drinks well now, I’d be inclined to lay a few bottles down as well – a syrah with some time in the cellar is a wonderful thing.

Wine Geek Info:

Harvested: October 8th, 2006
Barrels: 50% New French Oak
Aging: 20 months
Bottled: July 2nd, 2008
Alcohol: 14.8%
pH: 3.75
TA: 6.4g/L
Production: 115 cases
Release: Summer 2010

Romance with Rosé – DUNSTAN, Durell Vineyard 2009 Rosé of Pinot Noir

The world through DUNSTAN Rosé glasses

Ever since I had a taste of DUNSTAN Rosé at a summer wine event, I lusted after this wine.  Finally I caught up with it at the launch of the 2009 vintage.  I got to explore what it was about my first taste that made this wine so memorable.  In the process I spent time on the Durell Ranch where the grapes are grown and learned the story behind the wine and it’s label.

Like most romances, this one begins with the visuals. An extraordinary salmon-peach wine color radiates through clear glass, with a silver foil that seems to reflect the color of the wine.  Label information is spare … an ethereal horseshoe shape etched in metallic ink and a website address on the back. At this point, we don’t know from which type of grape this Rosé is made, which process is used, nor anything about it’s character. But I am only more enchanted and more curious.

I went over to meet with Chris Towt, who in partnership with Ellie Phipps Price make wines from a single block of the Durell Vineyard in the Sonoma Coast wine-growing region.  I learned that the object of my desire is a Rosé of Pinot Noir, from grapes planted by Phipps Price in 2005, resulting in this first vintage in 2009.  This silvery liquid is produced using the saignée (pronounced ‘sonyay’) method that involves making rosé from red grapes by bleeding off some of the juice after a limited time in contact with skins. Since skin contact is what gives color to wine, limiting time “on the skins” results in the many shades of Rosé you see in the marketplace. (The two other methods of making Rosé are vin gris – where red grapes are pressed to yield lightly-colored juice; and blending – where red and white wine or juice is blended together.)

The DUNSTAN Horseshoe

The website tells the Dunstan story in the words of Ellie and Chris: “You’ve seen a horseshoe hanging above a doorway — a symbol of protection and luck.  According to 10th century legend, a blacksmith named Dunstan was visited by the Devil to have his shoes reset.  While fitting the shoes, Dunstan quicked the Devil who implored for the shoe to be removed.  Dunstan agreed, but only after the Devil promised never to enter a dwelling with a horseshoe hanging above the door. When we were first planting the Ranch House Block at Durell, a very large horseshoe was unearthed.  Rusted and obviously very old, it served as the inspiration for the name of our new wine.”

The Durell Vineyard

Ranch House Block at Durell Vineyard

The Durell Vineyard is so well-known as an origin point of fine wines of distinct complexity that many wineries include it on their labels. And many award-winning wines have their genesis from these 400 acres. I’ve even seen it advertised along the roadside, such as the “Durell Pinot” sign outside Chateau St. Jean in Sonoma Valley. Don van Staaveren is the winemaker for Dunstan. He was winemaker at Chateau St. Jean from 1985-1997, and has been making wines from Durell grapes for many years.  How did DUNSTAN decide to make a Rosé? It was van Staaveren’s idea. DUNSTAN is getting such good feedback, they are already planning for more cases of Rosé in the coming vintages.

DUNSTAN’s Ranch House Block of the Durell Vineyard is planted in 3-1/2 acres of Chardonnay and 5 acres Pinot Noir grapes. The DUNSTAN launch also saw the first release of their 2008 Chardonnay and 2008 Pinot Noir.  The way the DUNSTAN horseshoe image is carried out across the bottles makes for a stunning trio – golden Chardonnay with gold foil, gold metallic ink, and Pinot Noir in a commanding black bottle with black foil. The wines can be purchased at the DUNSTAN online store.

Dunstan the Pony

Dunstan the Pony

Towt and Phipps Price share a love of horses and ride regularly on the property. We stop by the stables to greet Dunstan, a little Indian pony Ellie purchased at auction from the BLM Colorado Wild Horse Inmate Program. Ellie is actively involved in rescue efforts and recently was instrumental in saving 172 wild horses from going to slaughter at a Nevada auction as part of the Lifesavers Wild Horse Rescue. Dunstan rushes up when he sees Chris and – now completely tame – responds affectionately to a nose rub and a handful of fresh hay.

DUNSTAN is open by appointment only for tours and tasting. Call the winery at 707.933.3839 or email to schedule.


Wine: 2009 DUNSTAN Rosé, Durell Vineyard, Sonoma Coast

Color: Salmon, silvery apricot

Aromas: Layers of floral melon, butterscotch, and a hint of mint

In the Mouth: There’s a soft mouth feel, a pleasant viscosity. Front of mouth is fruity, distinctly strawberry. Fleeting taste of bacon at the back of the mouth, with a lingering mineral finish that expands and contracts … like an almost-remembered summer day. Refreshing, addictive.

Pairing: Salmon and tuna sushi, thin sliced cured meats and melon, white mushroom and cream sauces, herb-roasted poultry.  The romance of this Rosé lends itself well to a picnic, BBQ, or festive holiday table.

Wine Geek Details:

Alcohol: 14.1%
Hand-harvested, Sept 9, 2009
Brix: 25
TA: 0.82 g/100ml
pH: 3.45
Acreage: 5 acres Dijon clones (115, 667, 828, Clara, and Swan)
Aging: 50% neutral oak / 50% stainless steel
Cases Produced: 59
AVA: Sonoma Coast
Winemaker: Don van Staaveren

$24 Retail

Illusive “wow factor” of wine found in a Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

How do you know when you like a wine?  “It should have a wow factor … it should scream at you,” says John Saemann, vintner at Clouds Rest Winery in Sonoma County.  Clouds Rest has been hand-producing Pinot Noir from a small Sonoma Coast vineyard since 2002.  These are collector’s wines, priced outside my budget at around $100 a bottle. Good news: a new addition to the Clouds Rest Pinot lineup is available, and at a much lower price point. It’s Femme Fatale, a younger release from the same vineyard, priced at $45 ($39 with case discount). K&L Wine passes along their discount, bringing it down to $39 for a single bottle purchase – outright affordable for a Pinot Noir in this class.

2008 Femme Fatale

I got the wow factor when I tasted the 2008 Clouds Rest Femme Fatale recently … rich cherry red, aromas of ripe stone fruit, flavors of blackberry, plum, pepper, light smoky tannins and hint of rosemary … rolling into a soft, mouth-filling viscosity. My attention shifted to follow the flavor explosion and structure of this wine.  And I’m not alone. Beth Arnold wrote of Clouds Rest Pinot Noir in Huffington Post, “Their Pinots retail for at least $100 a bottle. But, my God, I was almost in tears they were so good.”  And she lives in Paris, so you can imagine the wines she has access to on a regular basis.  “Pinot is a wine for me that brings together so many varietal characteristics into one glass,” John told me, with a heavenward roll of his eyes. Wow factor is more than the look, feel and taste of the wine … it is a quality that transports and totally engages you — like a great movie or a conversation with a good friend.

Seamann says Clouds Rest wanted to give more people access to their Pinot Noir, but without compromising the label.  Femme Fatale is the answer; grapes come from the same vines and terroir Clouds Rest is known for, and the wine-making process is the same, except for bottle aging.  Femme Fatale is released earlier (younger), saving the winery on storage cost. How much? Up to 3 years of bottle aging for the collectors wines. Savings are also passed along through simpler packaging. Femme Fatale’s lighter weight bottle is less costly to ship. Paper labels save cost compared to gilt silk-screened labels on the heavy Burgundian bottles used for collectors’ wines.

Narrow rows above the clouds at Clouds Rest -- Photo: Scott Schuette

What goes into creating the “wow factor” in a wine?

A few things: winemaking skill and style, choice of barrels, choice of grape stock planted, farming style – and terroir. Think of terroir as the vineyard version of “location, location, location.” In this respect, Clouds Rest, on it’s perch above Petaluma California, is very unique.

I walked the vineyard with Scott Schuette, Clouds Rest General Manager and unofficial photographer. Scott tells me the vines are planted at 1250 feet, on an ancient volcanic knoll that was never before cultivated. It had been impossible to farm because of steep terrain and the volcanic rocks strewn over the landscape. To create the vineyard, Seamann ripped out rocks – some quite large – down to a 6-foot depth. Huge piles of extracted rocks dot the property today.  Rows are planted just 3 feet apart, the only known 36”x36” density in California — and possibly anywhere. On less than 2 acres, there are 10,000 vines – producing volume equivalent to about 10 acres of vineyard. Crowding plants this way would normally invite mildew and fungus. But because Clouds Rest is situated in the Petaluma wind gap, there is constant movement of marine air between the Sonoma coast and San Pablo Bay. Rows are deliberately angled to capture maximum sun and air movement on the hill.

Volcanic rocks extracted

The Clouds Rest philosophy is to orchestrate what the vineyard gives them. Having a rockstar winemaker helps too: Anthony Austin who studied under Andre Tchelistcheff, a legendary winemaker of Napa and Sonoma Valley. A Healdsburg (Sonoma county) California native and University of California Davis graduate in enology, Austin directed the first crush at Firestone Vineyards in 1976. He went on to become an award-winning winemaker of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in the Santa Barbara area, and returned to make wine in Sonoma in 2001.

Irrigation lines and a huge water storage tank are visible on our walk, and yet no water was used during this wet weather year. These deliberately austere conditions – rocky, windy, crowded, dry — are influenced by the French “intensive” method. Intensive farming forces the vines to compete and struggle, resulting in small fruit of dense and complex flavor.

Dense clustering

Pinot Noir is a notoriously difficult grape to cultivate. It is thin-skinned, prone to rot, viruses, diseases, and vulnerable to over-crowding.  Tchelistcheff has said, “God made Cabernet Sauvignon whereas the devil made Pinot Noir.” There is a reason Pinot Noir is higher priced: the grape is difficult to grow and takes a great deal of viticultural skill and hands‐on processing to result in a good bottle. Against these odds, the wow factor is alive and well in Femme Fatale.  And Austin believes the harsh conditions at Clouds Rest force the grapes to develop thicker skins; thereby retaining more flavor and essence.

What gives wine the “wow factor” for you?

At the end of the day, the wow factor is about what you like. Wine preference is unique to each person, so what appeals to you may be different than for others. What gives a wine the wow factor for you? Where does the aroma and taste transport you to? What do you think goes into creating the wow factor in a wine? Please comment below – Simple Hedonisms would love to hear about your experiences!

Where can you find Femme Fatale?

Fem Fatale, as well as Clouds Rest Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, are available at Roadhouse Winery Tasting Room in Healdsburg, and Bounty Hunter in Napa. Check the Clouds Rest website for online purchase and for a list of restaurants pouring Clouds Rest wines. And as mentioned, K&L Wines is carrying 2008 Femme Fatale.

Clouds Rest will be pouring at Family Winemakers of California, Aug 22-23 at Fort Mason Center in San Francisco.

Clouds Rest will be a featured in the “Grand Reserve” tent at Taste of Sonoma: Wine Country Weekend during Labor Day holiday. They are also pouring at the Sept 3rd Winemakers Lunch and at other venues throughout the event.

Wine Review – James Family Cellars 2007 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

Greetings Simple Hedonisms Lovers

I am enjoying a rare week with no business travel, and brimming with anticipation for this Saturday’s 2010 Pinot Noir Summit, with 8 hours of seminars, blind tastings, and food pairings on my beloved varietal, Pinot.  (Only 250 tickets total, and a handful left for the full or partial day event, check this post for special discount Barbara was nice enough to extend blog readers.)

Tonight’s treat is the James Family Cellars 2007 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, Stony Point Vineyard. I have had this Pinot a few times at Cellars of Sonoma, and was a fan from the first mouth swirl.Gold Medal Wine

This is a small family of growers, now also turned Vitners; after a decade of growing and selling their fruit, they turned to making small lots. For a first release, I think they did exceptionally well.

I am becoming rapidly growing fan of Sonoma Coast and Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, and need to get out of my backyard here in Russian River more (hard to leave my favorites ) and explore more in person.

Color: Clear, violet, to ruby.

Nose: Pleasant, classic Pinot aromas of cherry, red fruit, a hint of floral.

In the Mouth: Mouth pleasing but not overpowering cherry, strawberry, a hint of cranberry, vanilla. Great balance, mouthfeel, weight.The finish is as a Pinot should be – a velvety lingering kiss that slowly dissipates in your mouth, with no sign of heat or tannins, just hedonistic pleasure that makes you want another mouthful.

The James Family

Whether its my palette become more attuned to Pinot Noir delicacies, or just fatigued to over extracted Pinot Noirs trying to be a Rhone like varietal, I really liked this release. It captures the essence of Pinot, but doesn’t required you be the Burghound to enjoy it.

Highly recommended; $35 at Cellars of Sonoma, sold direct, and possibly other venues.

Hope to see you other Pinot Lovers Saturday!

Wine Geek Notes:

Cases Produced: 211 cases

Varietal Composition: 100% Pinot Noir

Appellation: Sonoma Coast

Barrel Aging: 10 months in French Oak (33% new)

Titratable Acidity: 0.53g/100ml

Clones: 113, 115, 828

Vineyard: Stony Point Vineyard

Harvest Dates: 9/29 and 10/5/07 Alcohol: 14.3% pH: 3.68

Wine Review – 2007 Mayo Chardonnay “unwooded” (aka unoaked)

I visited Mayo for the first time a few weeks ago, during the Heart of Sonoma Valley Open House, as reviewed earlier this month.

When I learned they had a unoaked chard, I bought a bottle, blind as it wasn’t available for tasting. I have written several recent articles on unoaked chardonnay and discussed the nature and flavor profile of this style of chardonnay. I am planning a review soon, of a side by side comparison of many, so if you produce one, or know of one, let me know soon.

The marketeer in me doesn’t jazz on the term ‘unwooded’ but the description on the back label captures perfectly the essence of this style. “Ever wonder what chardonnay really tastes like underneath all that oak? We’ve made this wine for ourselves for a few years, loving the fruit forward, mineral…qualities if offers. We thought it was time to let it loose on the public.”

And I am glad they did, although its no longer on their website, so wondering if they are sold out.

This is another great expression of pure chardonnay fruit.  It doesn’t specify it did not undergo malolactic fermentation, but my guess is it didn’t.

The 2007 vintage is from the Sonoma Coast, Risk Vineyards. 454 cases made. 13.9% alcohol.

Color: Pale to medium yellow, good clarity

Aroma:  Scents of wet stone, grapefruit, and a hint of peach

In the Mouth: Bursting with citrus when it first hits the palette, pleasant taste of kiwi and peach on the mid palette,and a pleasant finish that lingers citrus and a hint of minerality.

I will repeat my mantra on drinking quality white wines: DO NOT OVERCHILL. If its been in the fridge, take it out for 15 minutes. If the glass is cold to touch, warm it in your hands. Cold masks all the aroma and flavor profiles the winemaker worked so hard to achieve.


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