MORE PINOT NOIRS
- Adam &
Dianna Lee are a couple of wine fanatics who were bitten so hard by the wine
bug, they began making wine at home.
Now things are totally out of hand, as they launched their own label
This is named after some mythical goddess who held the wine of "eternal
life." I've read some news articles about wine having positive
health benefits, but nothing quite so dramatic as immortality. Wait
until CSPI, a self-proclaimed group of health Nazis, figures out this!
Today this label is one of the benchmarks for California Pinot Noir.
Tasting through their line-up, I'm usually impressed by the over all high
quality of the wines. Most are vineyard designated and while I find
some better than others, the qualitative differences are small.
The Lees have the right idea about making Pinot Noir. They seem to
understand the idea of "terroir" and allowing the grapes to
express the character of where they originate, rather than seeking to craft
or mold the wine to their particular idea of what the ideal Pinot might be.
They don't filter or use fining agents to clarify the wines. It's not
that they're opposed to those techniques, but they feel if the wine doesn't
require fussing with, then don't fuss with it!
As a result, we've seen uniformly good wines from this producer.
That's fortunate, because the wines are priced at numbers which scare off
most wine drinkers. Siduri's vineyard sources are asking high prices
and those new oak barrels don't exactly grow on trees. Well, maybe
they do, but they still cost a fortune and the Lee's replace a significant
percentage of them each vintage.
Most of the wines are produced in small batches amounting to less than 400
The 2011 Pisoni is a delight...the cooler-than-normal vintage seems to have
produced a wine with a fairly firm backbone. It's nicely fruity and
lightly oaked, showing cherries, red berries and a faintly herbal, leafy
The 2011 Russian River is a classic Sonoma Pinot and a classic Siduri
wine...balanced, nice fruit (you can tell it's Pinot Noir from the first
Keefer Ranch is a lovely Sonoma vineyard and its wine is typically showing
dark cherry fruit and maybe a note of red plums. 2011 is the current
- Currently in stock:
2011 SIDURI "Keefer" Russian River
Valley Pinot Noir SALE $49.99
2011 Santa Lucia Highlands "Pisoni Vineyard" Pinot Noir SALE
2010 Sonoma Coast "Hirsch" Vineyard Sale $59.99
2011 Russian River Valley $31.99
- This label is
the work of a former professional "cork puller." Emmanuel
Kemiji was the sommelier at San Francisco's Ritz-Carlton dining
He must have had too much to drink one night, because he embarked on a
project of actually making wine. Now he's got some help from an old
college buddy who, coincidentally, was the winemaker for a Carneros winery
"Miura" name, aside from being that of a famous "boiler"
maker (famous for 'low mass boilers') and of a Japanese porno queen, refers
to a rather strong Spanish bull. Bull fighters in Spain (where
Emmanuel spent a number of years in his youth) regard the "Miura"
as the most formidable of opponents.
The famous (legendary) bull-fighter Manolete met with death in a battle
against a Miura bull in 1947.
So, Kemiji, taking the bull by the horns, has a number of wines under his
Though they make wine from some of the more famous Santa Lucia Highlands
sites, there's a cooler-climate vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands...Silacci.
The 2006 from that site is terrific and a bit more elegant.
The same crew makes a dynamite Syrah...Antiqv2s...one of the few in
California that, at times, has actually resembled a good Rhône wine!
- Currently in stock:
- 2006 Santa Lucia Highlands "Silacci"
Pinot Noir SALE $56.99
2010 Santa Lucia Highlands "Silacci"
Pinot Noir SALE $54.99
little winery is the work of wine geek/winemaker Mat Gustafson and his wife
Mat has worn many hats in the wine business...he's played sommelier at a
restaurant with a phone book for a wine list. He's been a tour guide
at a Napa winery before being their ambassador in the Southern California
market. And, bitten by the wine bug, he's become a winemaker, having
learned a bit at Oakville Ranch in Napa and from working with Merry Edwards
His philosophy in winemaking features indigenous yeasts, low levels of SO2
and minimal cellar treatment (like filtering). They so concerned about
leaving a "carbon footprint," their bottles come without foil
We are big fans of Mat's killer Valdiguie (it comes from a really old vineyard
in Knights Valley and it gives cru Beaujolais wines a run for the
money. $17.99. Delicious!) and we found a really nice Pinot in
the portfolio. The Valdiguie used to be labeled as Gamay, but they
recently discovered these 60+ year old vines are not Gamay. Valdiguie
is a grape finding its roots in the Languedoc region of France, not
We have a terrific Pinot Noir from this winery...it's from a tiny vineyard
situated between the towns of Occidental and Sebastopol and it's called the
TnT Vineyard (Tanya and her husband Tom). It's a dynamite Pinot Noir, true to the varietal and
it is not a Cabernet-Wannabe. Nor does it taste like Syrah...we like
the bright cherry/pomegranate-like fruit tones to this wine. It's
medium-bodied and elegant.
Currently in stock: 2007 PAUL MATHEW Russian River Valley "TnT"
PINOT NOIR SOLD OUT
Pisoni is a nut! I remember meeting this fellow a number of years
ago. He was driving by and due to celestial alignments, stopped into
our humble wine emporium.
He poked around the shop, looking at the various wines and was unusually
delighted that we had some bottles of various wines from the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti.
Pisoni told me he was growing some Pinot Noir and that I ought to stop by his
little vineyard down in Monterey. I have never taken him up on his
One day, I may have to make the trek!
Pisoni's family has owned acreage in Monterey County for many years.
The Santa Lucia Highlands features some east and south-east facing slopes
which are considered ideal for early-ripening varieties; Pinot Noir,
Mr. Pisoni, according to the legend, was roaming around Europe and had
occasion to taste one of the Romanée-Conti wines. The poor fellow
could not believe the extraordinary quality of what he was drinking.
The story is that he made his way to one of the "DRC's" vineyards
and appropriated some cuttings. These were brought back
surreptitiously and I imagine the statute of limitations has run out on him
being nailed for some kind of smuggling. The vines have been
propagated and now Mr. Pisoni is the proud owner of a modest
"domain" of Pinot Noir vines. I believe he also has planted
some Syrah, as well.
He sells the fruit from these vines for a hefty sum and winemakers line up
to purchase the grapes and make "Pisoni Vineyard" Pinots.
The Pisoni name has become synonymous with Pinot Noir.
Now Gary Pisoni even has his own label of Pinot, competing with the other
famous folks such as Patz & Hall and Siduri (and Miura, listed
above). The first wines were made at Peter Michael's Winery, but now
Jeff Pisoni makes them at the Copain facility in Sonoma. Interesting
that they ship the fruit so far away to make wine from their own vines!
The 2010 is a big wine with Cabernet-like tannins. It's fairly
full-bodied, too...should be interesting to see how this wine develops.
The wine is a bit tight at this stage.
We have been impressed,
too, with the Pisoni's "other" label. It's called
"LUCIA." You shouldn't make the mistake of calling this a
"second" label. The Lucia brand is found on non-Pisoni grown
- Currently in stock: 2010 Pisoni "Santa Lucia Highlands"
Pinot Noir Sold out
2006 LUCIA Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir 375ml
- Gary and Rosella
Franscioni are the owners of a wonderful vineyard in the Santa Lucia
Highlands of Monterey County. You may have seen the "Gary's"
designation on some Pinot Noirs, he being the less :notorious" Gary,
with his neighbor Gary Pisoni being the most
Some people are willing to substitute the word "crazy" for
Both Gary's grow great Pinot Noir.
The ROAR label is the Franscioni's foray into the world of wine sales, the
wines were being made in concert with Adam and Dianna Lee, the equally
"notorious" dynamic duo from the Siduri winery in Sonoma.
Adam, apparently, still does some consulting, but wine wizard Ed Kurtzman
handles the enology and such.
Production of ROAR wines has gown a bit over the past few vintages. We've
been fans since the first vintage and the wines continue to be of good
quality and honest prices.
We typically receive a few bottles of these Pinot Noirs and are delighted to
be able to share them with our friends.
There's a 2009 bottling of Garys' vineyard Pinot Noir...nice bright cherry
notes to this. The 2007 Pisoni is a bigger, slightly jammy red.
The 2009 Rosella's has nice raspberry notes and a touch of sweet oak, while
the Santa Lucia Highlands bottling from 2009 is bright and shows red cherry
notes and it's a bit lighter than the single-vineyard wines.
We do not ship these, as they are a 'reward' for customers who shop in the
- Currently in stock: 2009 ROAR Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir SOLD
2009 GARYS' Vineyard Pinot Noir SOLD OUT
2009 ROSELLA'S Vineyard Pinot Noir SOLD OUT
new property is the work of a creative fellow named Bob Davids. This
guy has an amazing story, starting off in various phases of the automotive
industry, working for General Motors. From there he grew wings and
worked for aviation mogul Bill Lear.
Later he got into electronic games and founded a company called
Radica. If you've ever seen a fishing rod "game" with an
electronic bass fishing game attached to it: That is Bob Davids' own design!
working in Hong Kong cranking out electronic games, he attended a wine event
and a bottle of 1947 Château Climens from France's Barsac region put Davids
under its spell. So enchanted by wine was he that Davids came to
California and bought a hundred acre property near the Santa Ynez
The winery gets its name from the smoke-like fog that wafts over this
property from the Pacific Ocean.
Sea Smoke currently has a lot of buzz amongst the wine geek
community. The winemaker was a young lady named Kris Curran. We
understand the current winemaker is a fellow named Don Schroeder.
- The wines we've tasted have been very showy. They are big, ripe,
deep reds with a note of Burgundian-styling, but we find them more
reminiscent of some California Syrah wines. These are dark in color
and lavishly-oaked. Notes of mocha and toasty oak are common in each
wine. Since they're new, availability is rather limited.
- Currently available: Please inquire...
- The Smiths are
former Peninsula residents who bought a piece of dirt on Howell Mountain
back in the 1970s and planted Cabernet there. The old winery on the
property was owned by a guy named Hess, well before the Swiss fellow, Donald
Hess, opened his little cellar across the Valley.
The Smiths made big, sturdy, husky, rough-and-tumble Howell Mountain
Cabernet under a label called La Jota. We were on board in
the early days, but I found the wines too tannic and hard. I'm certain
we fell off the Smith's radar screen and they fell off ours.
They sold La Jota to the Markham winery in 2001 and Markham sold it recently
to Wine Baron Jess Jackson (who doesn't have enough wine brands to sell,
The Smiths, however, still cultivate some vines on Howell Mountain and they
embarked on a Pinot Noir project in Sonoma.
I recall tasting some wines of this label and wondered what all the fuss was
about. They'd gotten wonderfully encouraging numerical scores for
wines which, to me, did not taste like benchmark Pinot Noir.
On a whim, I purchased a bottle of their 2006 Maritime Pinot Noir for a
blind-tasting. We were going to have a look at some Sonoma County
Pinots and so we splurged for a bottle of the Smith's wine.
This was an impressive wine and I was a bit surprised, frankly, that the
fellows on the tasting panel that evening were so fond of the wine.
One taster hated it and this reaction wasn't a surprise, as I noted on my
score-sheet that this wine is "a bit particular." In fact,
if I had been told we had a French ringer in the line-up, it's the WH. Smith
I'd have pegged as some sort of Gevrey-Chambertin or
They make several different bottlings, but the one designated
"Maritime" they consider to be their best. The 2006 comes
from two vineyards in Freestone, a top site in the Sonoma Coast
appellation. Three other vineyards contribute to the
The fragrances are herbal and reminiscent of forest floor scents. It's
not a fruit bomb, nor is this especially oaky (only 10 months in French
oak). It's the sort of wine which starts out with an element of
mystery and intrigue and continues to perplex all throughout the time it's
in your glass. I wouldn't recommend this to every Pinot drinker...it's
the sort of wine which will totally enthrall those who are "on the same
wave-length" and disappoint those whose "receivers" attract
too much static.
Currently in stock: 2006 WH. Smith Sonoma Coast
"Maritime" PINOT NOIR SALE $49.99
2007 WH. Smith Sonoma Coast "Marimar" PINOT SALE
"THE SHOP" (Byron Kosuge Wines)
- Though this
label is rather obscure, the fellow who owns it has been making good Pinot
Noirs on a modest scale for many years.
You may have tasted some of Byron Kosuge's work from his days as the
winemaker at Carneros' famed temple of Pinot Noir, Saintsbury.
He actually grew up in the town of Davis where his father taught at the
university. Though Dad was a biochemist, Byron studied American and
English literature before embarking on his own "best cellars"
Kosuge doesn't seem to be one of those vintners who's terribly interested in
the "show business"-like aspects of wine marketing. In fact,
he says "I could never be a 'rock star' winemaker. I'm much too
ordinary for all that. In fact, I don't even speak
French..." So, in an era of "celebrity winemakers" who
demand their client wineries charge big bucks for wines with which they're
associated, here's a down-to-earth guy who makes good wines.
"The Shop" is the name of the brand as "Byron" was
already taken and "Kosuge" doesn't roll off the tongue like
"Lafite" or "D-R-C." The name comes from the tool
and equipment shed used by a vineyard management crew in the Carneros
region. Byron bought fruit from the vineyard near "the shop"
and it's the source of his Carneros Pinot Noir.
Kosuge made a delightful wine, showcasing the bright berry and mild cherry
notes of Carneros Pinot. Though matured in French oak, wood is well in
the background here. It's smooth enough to drink now and probably can
be cellared for 3 to 5 more years. Slightly more than 300 cases were
Currently in stock: 2006 THE SHOP Carneros Pinot Noir $31.99 (last
- VIANDANTE DEL CIELO
producer George Lucas has owned a fair bit of land in Marin County where he
has Skywalker Ranch near the town of Nicasio.
Lucas, of course, is famous for his hand in movies such as Star Wars,
American Graffiti and the Indiana Jones films.
- He's long been a friend of Francis Ford Coppola and, years ago, had
mentioned his modest vineyard in Marin. Coppola offered to vinify the
grapes at his winemaking facility and so Lucas, years ago, had a small
amount of wine to give as gifts to his friends.
The 2009 vintage is currently in stock...they made less than 30 barrels of
this Pinot Noir. The vineyard has a number of clones of Pinot, which
may account for a measure of its complexity.
There's a hint of a brown spice note accompanied by light cherry aromas and
a touch of oak. It's quite drinkable now, but should last several more
- Currently in stock: 2009 VIANDANTE DEL CIELO Marin County PINOT
WAXWING WINE CELLARS
- Here's a label you probably have not heard of.
Winemaker Scott Sisemore has a number of interesting enological notches on
his belt...he started his winemaking journey at McDowell Valley Vineyards in
Mendocino and later spent time at Rosenblum Cellars and Ravenswood. He
was affiliated with our friends at the Pellegrini Family winery where they
specialize in Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
Some Pinot producers are challenged to make numerous small lots, buying
fruit from vineyards scattered around the state (or beyond). Scott has
been making Pinot Noir and Syrah from fruit grown in Sonoma, though he's
dipping his toe in the Santa Cruz Mountains' pool and exploring that region.
Waxwing's 2010 Pinot offers a nice cherry-like fruit note and there's a bit of
earthiness here along the lines of "forest floor" tones. We
find a hint of other red fruits, perhaps it's rhubarb or maybe
wine is medium-bodied, not tannic, but balanced. It's very fine
immediately and we think a year or two or three in bottle will enhance it
Scott is increasing production and this wine tallied to all of three
barrels, a big increase from the two he made previously!
- Currently in stock: 2010 WAXWING Russian River "Toboni"
PINOT NOIR $29.99
OREGON (PINOTS, etc. )