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MORE PINOT NOIRS


SIDURI

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 called "Siduri."  

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 cases.  

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 note.

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 sniff)...medium-bodied...

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 vintage...
 
Currently in stock: 
2011 SIDURI "Keefer" Russian River Valley Pinot Noir SALE $49.99
2011 Santa Lucia Highlands "Pisoni Vineyard"  Pinot Noir SALE $57.99
2011 Santa Lucia Highlands "Garys Vineyard" Pinot Noir $49.99
2010 Sonoma Coast "Hirsch" Vineyard Sale $59.99
2011 Russian River Valley $31.99
2012 Sonoma Coast $22.99





MIURA
This label is the work of a former professional "cork puller."  Emmanuel Kemiji was the sommelier at San Francisco's Ritz-Carlton dining room.  

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 called Saintsbury.

The "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 "Miura" banner.    

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





PISONI VINEYARD
Gary 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 offer.  
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, especially.

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 2011 came and went in an instant....it was a small production in terms of quantity...



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 wines.  


 
Currently in stock:  2011 Pisoni "Santa Lucia Highlands" Pinot Noir Sold out

2006 LUCIA  Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir 375ml  $20.99










ROAR
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 "notorious".  

Some people are willing to substitute the word "crazy" for "notorious."

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 store.
 
Currently in stock:  2009 ROAR Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir SOLD OUT
2009 GARYS' Vineyard Pinot Noir SOLD OUT
2009 ROSELLA'S Vineyard Pinot Noir SOLD OUT

 






SEA SMOKE

This 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!



While 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 River.  

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...




RYME CELLARS

Ryme Cellars...there is a rhyme and a reason for this name:  Ryan & Megan are the proprietors of Ryme Cellars.

The couple first met in Australia at Dave Powell's Torbreck winery (Dave took on a couple of investors and has since been booted out of his own winery!  Ouch!!) before coming home to California.

She grew up in a world of gastronomy as her parents run the famed Monterey-area restaurant called Passionfish.  

The pair vinified a ton of Aglianico back in 2007 and things have escalated from there!  

They have been making a few wines of Italian varieties under their Ryme label and the couplet launched another label, Verse, for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

The 2011 Pinot Noir comes from the Las Brisas vineyard in Carneros.  The vineyard is owned by "Cabernet Frank" Mahoney, a feller who's been growing Pinot Noir since the early 1970s (we carry his own label of Pinot Noir which is pretty good, too) and the fruit for the Verse wine is from two clones:  Joe Swan and the "Gamay Beaujolais" clone of Pinot Noir.  ((The former is a shy-bearing vine, as Swan would rip out vines which produced an abundant crop until his vineyard was entirely low-yielding Pinot Noir vines and the latter was thought to be Gamay, but it is not "Gamay Noir," but a Pinot Noir variety.))

We like the bright red fruit qualities of this wine.  You won't mistake it for a Pinot blended with Syrah as the wine has the 'snap' of a nice crisp, dry red.  It's elegant and an easy-drinker, plus it's affordable!

This may, actually, do well with a couple of years of bottle aging, but it's rather charming now...so we suggest drinking it in its youth.

 

Currently in stock:  2011 VERSE "Carneros" PINOT NOIR $26.99

 

 



WH. SMITH

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, apparently).

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 Nuits-St.-Georges.  

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 blend.  

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  $42.99







VIANDANTE DEL CIELO
Film 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 years.
Currently in stock:  2009 VIANDANTE DEL CIELO Marin County PINOT NOIR $34.99
 

 


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 2011 Pinot offers a nice cherry-like fruit note and there's a bit of earthiness here along the lines of "forest floor" tones. It's from the Spring Hill Vineyard, a windy site near the Petaluma Gap...it's so windy, in fact, they don't have to do any leaf-thinning for managing the canopy of the vines; the wind shreds the leaves allowing a bit of sunlight to hit the grapes!

The wine is medium-bodied and supple on the palate, so it's beautifully drinkable now.  You could set some bottles aside for a year or two or three...but it's very attractive now.

Scott is increasing production and this wine tallied to all of four or five barrels, a big increase from the two he made at the start of his Waxwing adventure! 

 
Currently in stock:  2011 WAXWING Russian River "Spring Hill Vineyard" PINOT NOIR $29.99

 





 

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