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 2012 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
2012 Russian River Valley $29.99
2012 Sonoma Coast $22.99
- 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
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 2011 came and went in an instant....it was a small production in terms
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: 2011 Pisoni "Santa Lucia Highlands"
Pinot Noir Sold out
2011 LUCIA Santa Lucia Highlands "Garys'" Pinot Noir
750ml SALE $49.99
- 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...
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
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
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
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 Sold Out
- 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
- 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 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
PINOT NOIR $29.99
a wine made by a kid who grew up in Wisconsin and whose early wine
exposure was to Carlo Rossi jug wine which came in a bottle with a finger
Well, he's come a long way from Altoona or Eau Claire and is now a cellar
rat at the Lee Family's Siduri winery as well as working on his own
Zepaltas brand wines.
Ryan Zepaltas had dreams of being a legend in the world of skateboarding,
but that didn't work out and it doesn't pay the rent. He'd met a
fellow who invited him to work at a winery in Sonoma and from there he ran
off to New Zealand to work a harvest and get his feet even more wet than
they were here.
Returning to California, he was hired by Adam and Dianna Lee at Siduri,
where he's gotten a great education in making good Pinot Noir.
And he's now got his own label and has been attracting some attention for
his Zepaltas wines.
We were delighted to have a look at Ryan's range of wines and found the
2012 Sonoma Coast bottling to be our favorite. And it's
The Sonoma Coast Pinot comes from four vineyard sites and the blend
tallied to all of fourteen barrels. Amazingly, it's well below 14%
alcohol, another feature in its favor. The wine saw about four new
French oak barrels and we like the nice mix of red fruits, cherry notes
and hints of sweet wood.
It's a reasonably smooth wine, being fairly supple on the
Currently in stock: ZEPALTAS 2012 Sonoma Coast
PINOT NOIR SALE $29.99
OREGON (PINOTS, etc. )