West Sonoma Coast: Distinctive, Cool Climate Pinot, Chardonnay & Syrah

West Sonoma Coast vineyard looking toward the ocean (courtesy West of West Festival)


West of West is the early August weekend festival devoted to wines made from grapes farmed on the far western coastline of Sonoma County. This year was the event’s third outing and it was based in an ideal new location: Sebastopol’s spacious Barlow Event Center. All in all, it was one of the most enjoyable and well organized regionally focused wine events I’ve ever attended.

There’s a confident aura of success evident in this festival that derives, in part, from the presence of some of California’s most accomplished winemakers. We’re talking the likes of Littorai’s Ted Lemon, Failla’s Ehren Jordan and Peay’s Vanessa Wong. Other great producers with long track records that have estate vineyards in this region include Flowers, Marcassin and Peter Michael.

Littorai's Ted Lemon

Littorai’s Ted Lemon

The festival’s programming was also smart, hip and fun. I particularly enjoyed a blind Syrah seminar tasting led by Ehren Jordan that took participants through 11 wines from seven regions. Audience members were asked to guess which of the wines were from cool versus warm climates, and from the Old World versus the New. Ehren, together with Master Sommelier Gillian Balance and wine writer Alder Yarrow, shared quips along with their impressions of the wine and thoughts on the trajectory of the making of Syrah in California.

West of West Syrah seminar

West of West Syrah seminar

The grand tasting—held both Saturday and Sunday–featured wines from three dozen producers. I tasted many excellent Pinot Noirs, Chardonnays and Syrahs at this event all attesting to the favorable conditions for these particular varieties in the largely cool, high altitude conditions of California’s true Sonoma coast.

The official Sonoma Coast AVA dates back to 1987. Thanks to its main proponent, Sonoma Cutrer–which wanted an appellation encompassing all of its far flung vineyards in order to be able to use the term “estate bottled” on their labels—the appellation’s boundaries cover 750 square miles, all the way from Carneros in the southeast to just north of Annapolis in the northwest.

The focus of West Sonoma Coast Vintners, the association of wineries and growers that sponsors West of West, is the northwestern slice of this vast region descending from the coast near Annapolis down to the Sebastopol Hills. This area, comprised of only about 10% of the territory encompassed by the total Sonoma Coast AVA, extends about seven miles inland on average except for a large bulge, running as much as 15 miles inland, where the southern portion takes in the Green Valley AVA immediately to the west of the Russian River Valley appellation. Besides Green Valley, the other federally recognized AVA contained within this unofficial West Sonoma Coast area is the Fort Ross-Seaview AVA that was just approved at the end of 2011.

This AVA starts at an elevation of 920 feet, and most of its steep, pine forest enclosed vineyards are located at about 1200 feet above sea level, with some running as high as 1800 feet. This puts them well above the fog line, so they receive plenty of sun during the ripening period, but with cooling breezes from the ocean and rivers in its canyons that usually keep the temperature from getting as high as vineyards further inland, like those in Russian River Valley.

The new AVA was the focus of the festival’s morning seminar on Saturday, August 3, with two of the pioneer growers in the area—David Hirsch and Lee Martinelli, Sr.—moderated by San Francisco Chronicle wine writer Jon Bonné. David and Lee reminisced about the early years of wine growing in what was then a very remote location, while the tasting focused on Pinot Noirs from seven AVA producers from both the 2010 and 2011 vintages.

Fort Ross-Seaview Pinot Noir seminar panel at 2013 WoW

Fort Ross-Seaview Pinot Noir seminar panel at 2013 WoW

The first modern plantings of wine grapes in the area were the 1972 vineyards planted by Mick Bohan, a sheep rancher whose family had first arrived in the area in the 1870s. David Hirsch came to Fort Ross in 1978 and began planting primarily Pinot Noir in 1980. Daniel Schoenfeld, owner of Wild Hog Vineyard, put in his first grapes—Zinfandel and Gewürztraminer–in 1981. He later budded the Gewürz over to Pinot Noir. Lee Martinelli, Sr.’s father-in-law, George Charles, first planted Chardonnay in 1981. He and Lee together planted Pinot Noir in 1995. Wine writers first began extolling the quality of wines from this area in the mid-1980s.

The panelists suggested there might be an influence on the wines from the forests that surround them. David Hirsch told us that Bob Unterman, an influential local agronomist, concluded the area’s soils are tremendously acidic due to pine deposits from these forests. In preparing the ground for plantings the soils here typically have to be amended with large quantities of lime. Jon told us he regularly feels he detects a “coniferous” quality in the region’s Pinots, which he characterized as possessing a “dark minerality.”

The Pinot Noirs at the tasting, and others from this area I’ve tasted over the last few years, consistently exhibit the darker fruit spectrum of Pinot Noir: black cherry, black raspberry, and the occasional blackberry. They also tend to have firm, sweet tannins and good acidities, making for very structured wines that benefit more than most California Pinots from a few years of bottle aging.

Due to the steepness of the terrain, the relatively small amount of land suitable for farming, the inadequate water supply and generally low yields, there will never be large quantities of wine from the West Sonoma Coast. What there is, though, is well worth seeking out if you are a fan of cool climate Pinots, Chardonnays and Syrahs.

Of the 102 wines I tasted at WoW, eight were barrel samples. Finished wines rating 92 points or higher for me came from 17 of the 36 wineries represented: Baker Lane, Ceritas, Cobb, Failla, Flowers, Fort Ross, Freeman, Halleck, Hirsch, Littorai, Peay, Red Car, Small Vines, Sojourn, Soliste, Sonoma Coast Vineyards and Zepaltas.

Ehren Jordan

Failla’s Ehren Jordan


My highest rated Pinots at the event included several meriting 93 points or higher. More than half of those—i.e., the Ceritas 2011 Costalina; Failla 2011 Occidental Ridge; Flowers 2011 Camp Meeting Ridge; Littorai 2011 Hirsch and Platt bottlings; Peay 2011 Scallop Shelf and Sonoma Coast; and Soliste 2010 Foret—are, unfortunately, sold only in tiny quantities through the wineries’ mailing lists and/or are already sold out. That makes the following highly rated Pinots that still are available even greater relative bargains: the Failla 2011 Estate (93+ points, widely available at an average price of $36), Failla 2011 Hirsch (93 points, $58), Fort Ross 2009 (93+ points, $38), Fort Ross 2009 Reserve (94 points, $55), Hirsch 2010 San Andreas Fault (93 points, $61), and Hirsch 2011 The Bohan-Dillon (93 points, $38).

My highest rated Syrahs at this event were the Failla 2010 MxM Estate (95 points, mailing list only), Peay 2011 La Bruma (93 points, mailing list only), and Red Car 2010 Estate (93 points, $35).

There were also a lot of strong Chardonnays at the tasting, but the only one I rated 93 points or higher was the 2011 Ceritas Porter-Bass (winery mailing list only).

For my complete tasting notes on the 102 West Sonoma Coast wines I sampled at this year’s event, see below.

Baker Lane

  • 2009 Baker Lane Syrah Estate Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium dark red violet color; aromatic, pepper, smoke nose; medium bodied, pepper, smoke palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points

  • 2010 Baker Lane Syrah Estate Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Very dark red violet color; appealing, stemmy, tar, pepper, smoke nose; tart roasted black fruit, tar, tart berry, violets palate with good balance; medium-plus finish (13% alcohol) 92+ points

Banshee

  • 2011 Banshee Pinot Noir Marine Layer – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Dark cherry red color; aromatic, sandalwood, tart cherry nose; tasty, sandalwood, tart cherry palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish 91 points

  • 2011 Banshee Pinot Noir Tina Marie – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Dark cherry red color; focused, cranberry, tart cherry nose; cranberry, tart cherry, raspberry puree palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points

Benovia

  • 2012 Benovia Chardonnay Fort Ross-Seaview Sonoma Coast – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Barrel sample – light yellow color; pear, almond, toasted almond nose; creamy textured, pear, almond, toasted almond palate; medium-plus finish (20% new oak) 91-92+ points

  • 2012 Benovia Pinot Noir Tilton Hill Sonoma Coast – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium dark ruby color; sous bois, cranberry nose; sous bois, cranberry, rosehips palate; medium-plus finish 91-93 points

Ceritas

John Raytek and Phoebe Bass of Ceritas

John Raytek and Phoebe Bass of Ceritas

  • 2011 Ceritas Chardonnay Porter-Bass Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Light yellow color; tart pear, apple nose; juicy, ripe pear, ripe apple palate; medium-plus finish 93 points

  • 2011 Ceritas Chardonnay Heintz Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Light yellow color; very appealing, ripe pear, vanilla nose; ripe pear, vanilla, pineapple palate; medium-plus finish 92+ points

  • 2012 Ceritas Pinot Noir Hellenthal Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Barrel sample – medium ruby color; appealing, tart cherry, tart raspberry nose; tart cherry, tart raspberry, mineral, saline palate; medium-plus finish (own rooted Calera clone) 92-94 points

  • 2011 Ceritas Pinot Noir Costalina – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium dark cherry red color; very appealing, tart cherry, raspberry nose; tasty, delicious, tart cherry, raspberry palate; medium-plus 93+ points

  • 2012 Ceritas Pinot Noir Elliott Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Barrel sample – medium dark cherry red color; floral, ripe cherry, raspberry nose; floral, ripe cherry, raspberry palate; medium-plus finish (clones 112, Mt Eden; 40% whole cluster) 90-92 points

Cobb

Ross Cobb

Ross Cobb

  • 2008 Cobb Pinot Noir Emmaline Ann – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium cherry red color; appealing, ripe cherry, confectioner’s sugar nose; ripe cherry, confectioner’s sugar palate; medium-plus finish 92+ points

  • 2009 Cobb Pinot Noir Joy Road Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium dark cherry red color; cranberry, rosehips nose; focused, cranberry, rosehips, tart cherry palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish 92+ points

  • 2010 Cobb Pinot Noir Coastlands Vineyard: Diane Cobb – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium dark cherry red color; sous bois, cranberry nose; sous bois, cranberry palate; medium-plus finish 92 points

Emeritus

  • 2010 Emeritus Vineyards Pinot Noir William Wesley – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Very dark cherry red color; cranberry, sous bois nose; cranberry, sous bois palate; needs 1-plus year; medium-plus finish (14.3% alcohol) 89 points

  • 2010 Emeritus Vineyards Pinot Noir Hallberg Ranch – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Dark cherry red color; tart cherry, cranberry nose; tart cherry, cranberry palate; medium finish 88 points

Failla

  • 2012 Failla Chardonnay – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Light yellow color; tart pear, apple nose; tasty, ripe pear, apple palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points

  • 2011 Failla Pinot Noir Estate Sonoma Coast – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium dark ruby color; focused, ripe black cherry, blackberry, black currant nose; tasty, ripe black cherry, tart blackberry, violets palate; could use 1-2 years; medium-plus finish 93+ points

  • 2012 Failla Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium cherry red color; tart cherry, floral, roses nose; tasty, ripe cherry, ripe raspberry palate with grip; medium-plus finish 93 points

  • 2011 Failla Pinot Noir Hirsch Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Dark cherry red color; cranberry, rosehips nose; cranberry, rosehips, tart cherry palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish 93 points

  • 2011 Failla Pinot Noir Occidental Ridge Sonoma Coast – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Dark cherry red color; rosehips, cranberry, tart cherry nose; tasty, delicate, tart cherry, ripe cranberry palate; medium-plus finish 93+ points

  • 2010 Failla Syrah MxM Estate – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    From magnum – nearly opaque purple red violet color; very aromatic, pepper, roasted plum, lavender, white pepper nose; tasty, tight, complex yet somehow delicate, roasted black fruit, pepper, white pepper, lavender palate with near medium acidity; needs 3-4 years; long finish (13.9% alcohol) 95 points

Flowers

  • 2011 Flowers Chardonnay Sonoma Coast – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Light yellow color; ripe pear, white jasmine nose; ripe pear, white jasmine, tart pineapple palate with good acidity; medium-plus finish 92 points

  • 2011 Flowers Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium dark cherry red color; sous bois, cranberry nose; tight, sous bois, floral, delicate, cranberry, tart cherry palate; medium finish 92 points

  • 2011 Flowers Pinot Noir Camp Meeting Ridge – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium dark cherry red color with pale meniscus; appealing, tart cherry, light cedar, raspberry nose; tasty, poised, tart raspberry, tart cherry palate with delicacy and firm sweet tannins; medium-plus finish 93 points

Fort Ross

Linda Schwartz of Fort Ross

Linda Schwartz of Fort Ross

  • 2011 Fort Ross Pinot Noir Sea Slopes Fort Ross Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium dark cherry red color; reticent, dried green herb, cranberry, oregano, sous bois nose; tight, tart cherry, cranberry palate with medium acidity; needs 3-4 years; medium-plus finish 91 points

  • 2009 Fort Ross Pinot Noir Fort Ross Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Dark cherry red color; saline, tart raspberry, raspberry preserves nose; tasty, tart cherry, mineral, salmon palate; medium-plus finish 93+ points

  • 2009 Fort Ross Pinot Noir Reserve Fort Ross Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Very dark cherry red color; floral, tart cherry, raspberry jam nose; very tasty, raspberry, raspberry jam, ripe cherry palate with balance; medium-plus finish 94 points

  • 2009 Fort Ross Pinotage Fort Ross Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Pre-release – very dark cherry red color; tart blackberry, tar, reduction, confectioner’s sugar nose; tight, tart blackberry, confectioner’s sugar, tar, reduction palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish 91 points

Freeman

Ed Kurtzman (winemaker) and Akiko Freeman (proprietor)

Ed Kurtzman (winemaker) and Akiko Freeman (proprietor)

  • 2011 Freeman Pinot Noir Rosé – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium orange pink color with pale meniscus; appealing, grapefruit nose; ripe cranberry, sous bois, black cherry palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points

  • 2011 Freeman Pinot Noir Akiko’s Cuvée – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Dark cherry red color with pale meniscus; cranberry, sous bois, iodine nose; tasty, black cherry, ripe berry, tart blackberry palate; medium-plus finish 92+ points

  • 2011 Freeman Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Dark cherry red color with pale meniscus; tart cherry, ripe raspberry nose; tasty, ripe berry, ripe raspberry, raspberry jam palate with good acidity; medium-plus finish 92+ points

Freestone (Joseph Phelps)

  • 2011 Freestone (Joseph Phelps) Chardonnay Sonoma Coast – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Light yellow color; almond, baked pear nose; almond, baked pear palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points

  • 2011 Freestone (Joseph Phelps) Pinot Noir Freestone Vineyards – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Dark ruby color; oak, green herb, cranberry nose; oak, green herb, tart cranberry palate with medium acidity; needs 1-2 years; medium-plus finish 86+ points

  • 2010 Freestone (Joseph Phelps) Pinot Noir Quarter Moon – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium dark cherry red color; ripe cranberry, oak nose; ripe cranberry, oak, green herb palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish 87+ points

Gros Ventre

  • 2011 Gros Ventre Pinot Noir Campbell Ranch – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium dark ruby color; baked cherry, tart berry nose; baked cherry, tart berry palate; medium-plus finish 90 points

  • 2011 Gros Ventre Pinot Noir – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Slightly cloudy, medium dark cherry red color; tart cherry, raspberry syrup nose; simple, ripe cherry, confectioner’s sugar palate; medium finish 88+ points

  • 2011 Gros Ventre Pinot Noir First Born – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Slightly cloudy red ruby color; ripe cranberry, tart cherry nose; ripe cranberry, tart cherry palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points

Halleck

  • 2012 Halleck Gewürztraminer Dry Gewurtztraminer Saralee’s Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Very light yellow color; aromatic, gardenia, jasmine nose; tasty, gardenia, jasmine, ripe lime palate with racy acidity; medium-plus finish 92+ points

  • 2012 Halleck Sauvignon Blanc Little Sister – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Very light yellow color; fresh, lemon grass, lime nose; delicious, lemon grass, fresh lime palate; medium-plus finish 92+ points

  • 2008 Halleck Pinot Noir Hillside Cuvée – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium red color; tart strawberry, saline nose; tasty, tart strawberry, saline, mineral palate; medium-plus finish 92+ points

Hartford Court

  • 2010 Hartford Court Chardonnay Far Coast Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Light medium yellow color; pineapple, lemon chiffon nose; pineapple, lemon chiffon palate; medium finish 86+ points

  • 2009 Hartford Court Chardonnay Seascape Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Light medium golden yellow color; almond, marshmallow, tart lemon nose; tasty, almond, marshmallow, tart lemon palate; medium-plus finish 89 points

  • 2011 Hartford Court Pinot Noir Land’s Edge Vineyards – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium ruby color; oak, tart cherry nose; oak, tart cherry palate; medium finish 87+ points

  • 2010 Hartford Court Pinot Noir Far Coast Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Dark cherry red color; oak, tart cherry nose; oak, tart cherry palate; medium finish 87 points

Hirsch

Jasmine Hirsch

Jasmine Hirsch

  • 2011 Hirsch Vineyards Chardonnay – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Light yellow color; tart apple, tart pear nose; tasty, tart apple, tart pear, ripe lemon palate; medium-plus finish 92 points

  • 2010 Hirsch Vineyards Pinot Noir San Andreas Fault – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Dark cherry red color; appealing, ripe cherry, black cherry, subtle spice, black raspberry nose; tasty, poised, black cherry, black raspberry, tart strawberry palate; could use 1-2 years; medium-plus finish (30% Pommard) 93 points

  • 2010 Hirsch Vineyards Pinot Noir Reserve – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium cherry red color with pale meniscus; cranberry, green peppercorn nose; cranberry, green peppercorn, tart cherry palate; medium-plus finish (from old vines) 91+ points

  • 2011 Hirsch Vineyards Pinot Noir The Bohan-Dillon – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium cherry red color; floral, ripe raspberry, cherry nose; tasty, ripe cherry, ripe raspberry palate; medium-plus finish (good value at $34) 93 points

LaRue

  • 2011 LaRue Wines Pinot Noir – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium cherry red color; watermelon, cranberry nose; juicy, ripe cranberry, tart cherry palate with orange acidity; medium-plus finish 90+ points

Lattanzio

  • 2011 Lattanzio Pinot Noir Umino Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium dark cherry red color; hibiscus, rosehips nose; light medium bodied, hibiscus, rosehips, cranberry palate with medium acidity; medium finish 89 points

Lioco

  • 2011 Lioco Pinot Noir – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium ruby color; baked cherry, vanilla nose; tasty, plush but balanced, ripe cherry, baked raspberry palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points

  • 2011 Lioco Pinot Noir Hirsch Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Dark cherry red color with pale meniscus; cranberry, rosehips nose; tight, cranberry, rosehips, tart cherry, raspberry jam palate; needs 1-2 years; medium-plus finish (30-40% whole cluster) 91+ points

Littorai

  • 2011 Littorai Chardonnay Thieriot Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Light yellow color; very appealing, tart pear, apple nose; tasty, poised, ripe pear, apple palate; medium-plus finish 92+ points

  • 2011 Littorai Pinot Noir The Pivot Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Dark cherry red color; very appealing, ripe cherry, baked raspberry nose; tasty, focused, ripe cherry, baked raspberry palate; needs 2-plus years; medium-plus finish 92+ points

  • 2011 Littorai Pinot Noir Hirsch Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium dark cherry red color; tart cherry, cranberry nose; poised, tart cherry, cranberry palate; needs 2 years; medium-plus finish 93 points

  • 2011 Littorai Pinot Noir Platt Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Very dark cherry red color; appealing, black cherry, black raspberry nose; rich but balanced, black cherry, black raspberry palate; medium-plus finish 93 points

MacPhail

  • 2012 MacPhail Pinot Noir Rosé – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Very light orange pink color; tart cranberry nose; tart cranberry, tart watermelon palate; medium finish 90+ points

  • 2011 MacPhail Pinot Noir “The Flyer” – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Dark cherry red color; tart cherry, ripe cranberry, oak nose; tart cherry, ripe cranberry, oak palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish 90+ points

  • 2011 MacPhail Pinot Noir Sundawg Ridge Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Very dark cherry red color; tart cranberry, tart cherry nose; tasty, tart cranberry, tart cherry palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points

  • 2010 MacPhail Pinot Noir Gap’s Crown – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Dark cherry red color; oak, ripe cranberry nose; plush, floral, ripe cranberry, oak palate; medium finish 89 points

Marimar

  • 2009 Marimar Estate (Marimar Torres) Pinot Noir Dona Margarita Vineyard, Chico’s Run – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Dark cherry red color; cranberry nose; tart cranberry palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish 89 points

  • 2009 Marimar Estate (Marimar Torres) Pinot Noir Mas Cavalls Dona Margarita Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Dark cherry red color; tart cherry, cranberry nose; silky textured, tart cherry, cranberry palate; medium finish 89 points

Martinelli

  • 2009 Martinelli Chardonnay Charles Ranch – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Light medium yellow color; pineapple, oak nose; pineapple, oak palate; medium finish 86 points

  • 2011 Martinelli Pinot Noir – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium cherry red color with pale meniscus; intense, oak, red fruit nose; intense, oak, red fruit palate; medium finish 87 points

  • 2010 Martinelli Pinot Noir Three Sisters Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Dark cherry red color with clarity; oak, light green peppercorn, talc nose; tart berry, light green peppercorn, oak palate with grapey note toward finish; medium-plus finish 90 points

Pahlmeyer

  • 2011 Pahlmeyer Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium dark ruby color; oak, tart cherry nose; tasty, ripe cherry, red fruit palate; needs 1-2 years; medium-plus finish (14.9% alcohol) 91+ points

Patz & Hall

  • 2010 Patz & Hall Pinot Noir Jenkins Ranch – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Fall 2013 release – dark red violet color; ripe cranberry, stems nose; ripe cranberry, stems, sous bois palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish (15% whole cluster) 89+ points

  • 2011 Patz & Hall Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Dark red violet color; ripe cranberry, oak, tart cherry nose; plush, ripe cherry palate with sweet tannins; medium-plus finish 91 points

Paul Hobbs

  • 2012 Paul Hobbs Chardonnay CrossBarn Sonoma Coast – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Light yellow color; apple, baked pear nose; apple, baked pear palate; medium finish 88 points

  • 2011 Paul Hobbs Pinot Noir CrossBarn Sonoma Coast – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium dark red violet color; ripe cranberry, oak nose; medium bodied, cranberry, tart cherry palate; medium finish 89 points

Peay

Peay's Vanessa Wong

Peay’s Vanessa Wong

  • 2011 Peay Vineyards Chardonnay Estate – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Light yellow color; almond, ripe pear nose; oak, almond, ripe pear palate; needs 2-3 years; medium-plus finish 90+ points

  • 2011 Peay Vineyards Pinot Noir Scallop Shelf – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium dark cherry red color with pale meniscus; appealing, ripe cranberry, ripe cherry nose; tasty, rich but balanced, ripe cranberry, ripe cherry palate; medium-plus finish 93+ points

  • 2011 Peay Vineyards Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium dark cherry red color; appealing, tart cherry, baked raspberry nose; tasty, rich but balanced, ripe cherry, raspberry palate; medium-plus finish 93 points

  • 2011 Peay Vineyards Syrah La Bruma – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Very dark red violet color; entrancingly appealing, lifted, violets, black pepper, tart black fruit, incense, cardamom nose; very tasty, a little tight, tart black fruit, violets, tart berry palate with good balance; long finish (12.5% alcohol) 94 points

Ramey

  • 2010 Ramey Chardonnay Sonoma Coast – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Light medium yellow color; appealing, hazelnut, almond nose; tasty, hazelnut, almond, tart pear palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points

Red Car

  • 2011 Red Car Chardonnay Zephyr Farms – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Light yellow color; tart pear, oak nose; tasty, tart pear, apple palate; medium-plus finish 91 points

  • 2011 Red Car Pinot Noir Estate Fort Ross – Seaview – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Very dark cherry red color; appealing, black cherry, black raspberry, baked black cherry, subtle spice, nutmeg nose; tasty, tart black cherry, black raspberry, nutmeg, coffee palate with good acidity; medium-plus finish 92 points

  • 2011 Red Car Pinot Noir Heaven & Earth Bohemian Station – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Dark cherry red color; sous bois, hibiscus nose; light bodied, delicate, cinnamon, tart cherry, hibiscus palate; medium-plus finish 92+ points

  • 2010 Red Car Syrah Estate – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Very dark red violet color; initial reduction, lavender, violets, tart berry nose; very tasty, balanced, tart berry, violets, tart black cherry palate with near medium acidity; needs 2-plus years; medium-plus finish (13.3% alcohol) 93 points

Siduri

  • 2012 Siduri Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast Pratt Vineyard – USA, California, South Coast
    Barrel sample – medium dark ruby color; gunpowder, baked raspberry nose; plush, gunpowder, baked raspberry, light pepper palate; medium-plus finish 90-91+ points

  • 2011 Siduri Pinot Noir Hirsch Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium ruby color with pale meniscus; green peppercorn nose; stemmy, green peppercorn, tart cherry palate; needs 4 years to integrate the stem inclusion; medium-plus finish 89 points

Small Vines

Paul and Kathryn Sloan of Small Vines

Paul and Kathryn Sloan of Small Vines

  • 2012 Small Vines Wines Chardonnay – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Light yellow color; ripe pear, apple nose; rich, tart pear, ripe apple palate; medium-plus finish (Mount Eden & Hyde clones; 10% new oak; 10% stainless steel; picked at 22.2 brix) 92+ points

  • 2012 Small Vines Wines Pinot Noir MK Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Barrel sample – dark cherry red color; appealing, ripe cherry, strawberry, raspberry nose; tasty, rich but balanced, ripe cherry, strawberry, raspberry palate; medium-plus finish 92-94 points

Sojourn

  • 2011 Sojourn Pinot Noir Campbell Ranch Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium ruby color; ripe cherry, black cherry nose; ripe cherry, black cherry, ripe raspberry palate; medium-plus finish 91 points

  • 2011 Sojourn Pinot Noir Ridgetop Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium cherry red color; tart cherry, ripe cranberry nose; tight, ripe cherry, cranberry palate; needs 2 years; medium-plus finish 91+ points

  • 2011 Sojourn Pinot Noir Silver Eagle Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium ruby color; ripe cherry, ripe cranberry nose; ripe cherry, ripe cranberry palate; medium-plus finish 92 points

Soliste

Soliste Cellars' Claude Koeberle and Donald Plumley

Soliste Cellars’ Claude Koeberle and Donald Plumley

  • 2011 Soliste Cellars Sauvignon Blanc St Andelain – USA, California, Sonoma County
    Light yellow color; lime, lime cream nose; textured, lime cream palate; medium-plus finish (16 mos in cigar barrels, no malo) 92+ points

  • 2010 Soliste Cellars Chardonnay L’Age D’Or – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Light yellow color; ripe lime, lime cream nose; tasty, rich, lime cream, mineral palate; medium-plus finish (30% malo) 92 points

  • 2010 Soliste Cellars Pinot Noir Foret – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium ruby color; ripe cherry, vanilla nose; rich, balanced, ripe cherry, raspberry, raspberry jam palate; medium-plus finish (50% whole cluster, 5 picking passes at harvest, gentle basket press) 93 points

  • 2012 Soliste Cellars Pinot Noir Soleil Rouge – USA, California, Sonoma County
    Very light pink color; watermelon nose; tasty, watermelon, tart cherry palate; medium-plus finish 91 points

  • 2009 Soliste Cellars Pinot Noir T-Block Sonatera Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Light medium ruby color; floral, cranberry nose; tasty, juicy, tart cranberry, tart cherry, mineral, floral palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish 92+ points

Sonoma Coast Vineyards

  • 2011 Sonoma Coast Vineyards Chardonnay Gold Ridge Hills – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Light yellow color; lemon, baked lemon nose; lemon, baked lemon, bay leaf palate; medium-plus finish 90 points

  • 2009 Sonoma Coast Vineyards Pinot Noir Freestone View Block Balisteri Family Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium ruby color; savory, baked cherry, ripe cranberry nose; cranberry palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish 90 points

  • 2010 Sonoma Coast Vineyards Syrah Occidental Road Vineyard Sonoma Coast – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Dark red violet color; appealing, complex, tar, roasted black fruit, pepper, violets, Worcestershire sauce nose; tasty, tight, violets, tart berry, tar palate with integrating oak; long finish (13.9% alcohol; 3.55 pH) 92 points

32 Winds

  • 2011 32 Winds Chardonnay Lucky Well U.V. – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Light yellow color; almond, baked pear nose; creamy textured, almond, baked pear palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points

  • 2011 32 Winds Pinot Noir Lucky Well U.V. – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Dark cherry red color; oak, cranberry, cinnamon nose; juicy, cherry, cinnamon palate; medium finish 88+ points

  • 2010 32 Winds Pinot Noir Hirsch – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Cloudy medium cherry red color; cranberry, sous bois nose; cranberry, sous bois, tart cherry palate; medium finish 89 points

Wild Hog

  • 2010 Wild Hog Vineyard Pinot Noir Estate Bottled – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Nearly opaque purple red violet color; VA, baked cherry, berry nose; simple, tart berry, berry jam palate; medium finish 87 points

Zepaltas

Ryan Zepaltas

Ryan Zepaltas

  • 2011 Zepaltas Pinot Noir DeVoto Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    From magnum – medium ruby color; cranberry, tart cherry nose; tasty, cranberry, tart cherry, raspberry palate; medium-plus finish 92+ points

  • 2012 Zepaltas Pinot Noir DeVoto Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Barrel sample – medium cherry red color with pale meniscus; floral, hibiscus, ripe raspberry nose; tart cherry, ripe raspberry palate; medium-plus finish 91-93 points

  • 2012 Zepaltas Pinot Noir Suacci – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Barrel sample – medium cherry red color with pale meniscus; tart cherry, vanilla nose; plush but balanced, tart cherry, vanilla, hibiscus palate; medium-plus finish 91-92+ points

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8 Responses to West Sonoma Coast: Distinctive, Cool Climate Pinot, Chardonnay & Syrah

  1. Erin says:

    Wonderful post! Small correction: Red Car Estate Syrah 2010 is priced at $50, our Sonoma Coast Appellation wine runs at $35. Thanks!

    • Richard Jennings says:

      Erin,
      Thank you for the kind words, and for the correction. I’ve corrected this on the version that will appear on Huffington Post.

  2. Thanks for a great write up about a great event, and for your kind words about Soliste! We are delighted to be part of such a wonderful gathering of amazing wineries

  3. Stephen Brown says:

    Nice writeup Richard, looks like we had many of the same favorites. One possible minor correction – I believe the Small Vines ’12 Pinot barrel sample is actually the first vintage from their Estate vineyard (same as the Chardonnay), not the older MK vineyard?

    • Richard Jennings says:

      Stephen,
      Thank you very much (and you obviously have good taste 😉 ).
      I checked with Kathryn Sloan on what was poured at Small Vines that weekend. They are all sold out of prior vintages, so they were only pouring barrel samples. The poured both the MK vineyard Pinot and the estate Pinot. I only had a chance to try the MK barrel sample though.
      –Richard

      • Stephen Brown says:

        My mistake Richard – thanks for checking! I’m a big fan of the MK but thought the Estate Pinot sample was very good, and I recommend checking it out if you get the opportunity – maybe at Pinot On The River in Oct?

  4. Pingback: Terroirist: A Daily Wine Blog » Daily Wine News: Curmudgeonly

  5. Donn Rutkoff says:

    Thanks for a nice writeup and for the photos. Good to have a face & name to go with the brand.

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