1178 Broadway -- Burlingame, California 94010
Telephone 650-343-0182



HOURS:
Monday 9-7 Tuesday-Saturday 9-7:30
Closed Sundays.




Inquire About A Wine--Gerald at Weimax.com


Please check our Home-Page for Shipping Info.


Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for our Sporadic Emails

For Email Marketing you can trust

 

SUSSUDIO ???

FLORAL ALBARIÑO

SARDINIAN WHITE

BOONTLING PINOT

NEW SONOMA RHONE-ISTE OF NOTE

REMARKABLE PINOT

LAKE COUNTY ZIN

STELLAR NEW ARTISAN RIOJA

OSTATU BLANCO

GREAT GRUNER VELTLITER $13.99

NICE LITTLE PINOT $9.99

STONY RIESLING

BLAYE ME!
$14.99

NEW MADIRAN
$14.99

DRY MUSCAT
FROM AOSTA

I'M OKAY
YOUR RUCHE

"TEXTBOOK" CHARDONNAY

RIOJA BARGAIN

PRETTY PETTY SARAH

FORAGING FOR PINOT NOIR

MARSELAN...A HYBRID OF CABERNET & GRENACHE

CLASSIC MACON $13.99

CRISP MOUNTAIN WHITE

BEST BUYS
Good Wines for $5-$15

CASTELÃO BARGAIN

STELLAR BLAUFRÄNKISCH ESTATE

CAMPANIAN DELIGHTS

COLORFUL ZIN

23 TO BUY 25 REASONS

FIE, FY, FO, FUM

ROMORANTIN

DOURO DYNAMITE

PORTUGUESE RED BARGAIN

BARGAIN ZWEIGELT

GRAND SYRAH FROM AN UNUSUAL PLACE

SERIOUSLY FINE KIWI SAUVIGNON BLANC
$21.99

SPICY AGLIANICO

WHITE BURGUNDIES OF NOTE

MARSANNE BARGAIN

CHERRYISH TUSCAN RED SALE $10.99

2013 TAVEL ROSE

DRY NEW YORK RIESLING

PROSECCO FOR ADULTS

UNUSUAL ROSSO FROM THE COLLINE NOVARESI

BILLIONAIRE'S WINES UNDER $30!

BARGAIN WHITE BORDEAUX

PIERCINGLY GOOD
WHITE

TOP OF THE LINE
CREMANT

ANOTHER RULLY GOOD WHITE

UNIQUE BUBBLY DESSERT WINE

RESERVE QUALITY RIOJA

LA INA SHERRY

BARBERA OF NOTE

LETTUCE SHOW YOU A GOOD PINOT NOIR

NEW, ARTISAN PINOT NOIR

SUPER VERONESE SALE $12.99

PIEMONTE'S GRAND VIN BIANCO?

WHITE BURGUNDY OF NOTE

GAMAY FROM THE FRENCH ALPS

DELICIOUS, FRESH ROSÉS

GREAT GRUNER VELTLINER

GOOD ELEVEN-BUCK CHIANTI

FLOWERY, CURIOUS RED

OLD FAVORITE KIWI SAUVIGNON IS BACK

OLD PATCH RED
ZIN BLEND

MONCUIT'S GRAND CRU CHAMPAGNE

HONEYED MUSCAT

SPICY 
GEWÜRZTRAMINER

Napa Valley Grape Info
2002

2010

Amazing FRENCH CIDERS

FIZZY LAMBRUSCO

 

 

HOME PAGE

AMERICAN WINES

CALIFORNIA PINOT NOIRS

RHONE WANNABEES

ZINFANDELS

SAUVIGNON BLANCS

MERLOTS

OREGON WINES

CALIFORNIA CHARDONNAYS

CALIFORNIA CABERNETS

RIESLING & GEWURZ

WASHINGTON STATE

CANADIAN WINES

Adventuresome  Wines

ROSÉS !!

FRENCH WINES
ALSACE
BEAUJOLAIS
RED BORDEAUX
WHITE BORDEAUX
RED BURGUNDY
WHITE BURGUNDY
RHÔNE VALLEY
THE FRENCH ALPS
SOUTH OF FRANCE

LOIRE


CHAMPAGNE

 

ITALIAN WINES
PIEMONTE

VALLE D'AOSTA

NORTHERN ITALY

CENTRAL ITALIA

TUSCANY

SOUTHERN ITALIA


SPANISH WINES
Spanish Sherry
& Other Delights


PORTUGUESE WINES

SWISS WINES

GERMAN WINES

AUSTRIAN WINES

ARGENTINA

CHILE

AUSTRALIA

NEW ZEALAND

SOUTH AFRICA

OBSCURE WINES

DESSERT WINES

CHAMPAGNES

HALF-BOTTLES

SPIRITS

CIDERS

BEER
Even Real "Bud"!

OTHER STUFF

WINE TASTING

WHAT'S OPEN


UPCOMING TASTINGS

TASTING RESULTS
  
NEWSLETTER

SHIPPING INFO

ETC.

 

TASTING REPORTS

HOW TO ORGANIZE A BLIND-TASTING

BLIND TASTING ARCHIVE

MY 2013 EURO WINE ADVENTURE BOOK

CHATEAU MONTELENA
VERTICAL


ALBA WINES EXHIBITION 2007

ALBA WINES EXHIBITION 2008

SCHRAMSBERG vs THE FAMOUS FRENCH

German Wine "Master Class" Tasting

S & M FOR WINETASTING GEEKS

TEAR-WAH
TASTING

2014 SF INTERNATIONAL WINE COMPETITION

2013 SF INTERNATIONAL WINE COMPETITION

2012 SF INTERNATIONAL WINE COMPETITION

2011 SF INTERNATIONAL WINE COMPETITION

2010 SF INTERNATIONAL WINE COMPETITION

2009 SF INTERNATIONAL WINE COMPETITION

2008 SF INTERNATIONAL WINE COMPETITION
Periodically Amazing

2007 SF INTERNATIONAL WINE COMPETITION
The Nose Knows!

2006 SF INTERNATIONAL  WINE COMPETITION.
SPIT HAPPENS

2005 SF INTERNATIONAL WINE COMPETITION.

2004 SF WINE COMPETITION TASTING

The 2003 SF WINE COMPETITION

2002 SF WINE COMPETITION TASTING 

A Vertical Tasting of Nalle Zinfandels

 

ETC.

RANTINGS & RAVINGS

WINE ROADS of EUROPE

Food/Wine/Friends
A Photo Gallery

MASTER OF WINE ESSAY TOPICS

Old Bottles: A TASTE OF HISTORY

Bob's Venetian Diary

Bob's Paris Notes Updated Spring 2007

Wine Writer's Confession

NEW "CULT" WINERY

Some Restaurant Reviews

HOW TO SELL WINE.
Info For Brokers and
Wine Distributors.

HOW TO HOLD A TRADE TASTING

$100,000 WORTH OF WINE MARKETING ADVICE:  FREE!
Mainly for Foreign Vintners

MOLDY CORKS

Study Reveals Experts Taste More Than What's In the Glass!

OKANAGAN VALLEY WINE TOUR-2010

BRIAN'S 2005 SUMMER VACATION WITH UNCLE

Gerald's Tour de France 2006

GERALD'S TOUR DE FRANCE 2008

A TOUR OF PORTUGAL-2009

HOW TO SPEAK BETTER ITALIAN

PONZI'S 40th
ANNIVERSARY

ROOSEVELT'S 2005 CHILI COOK-OFF

ROOSEVELT'S 2007 CHILI COOK-OFF

Grape Goddess

Ross Bruce Birthday

ALESSIA DALL'U

CCIV

FAQs

BURLINGAME

Links

CALIFORNIA PINOT NOIRS

wpe6.jpg (11782 bytes)Having its home in both Burgundy and Champagne, Pinot Noir has been in California for many years, probably since the late 1800s.  It is a fussy and finicky grape variety, prone to genetic changes which means there are many "clones" of Pinot Noir. 

The grape tends to produce wines which have much less color than Cabernet or Zinfandel, for example.  I have seen, in many tastings, wines which are color-poor, but, curiously,  have the most intense fragrance.  Tasters are frequently swayed by the color and appearance of a wine and cannot credit a weakly colored wine with having more intensity to its "nose" than deeper colored/less fragrant wines. 

NA02221_.WMF (16510 bytes)Years ago, it was not uncommon for California winemakers to "fortify" their Pinot Noirs with something such as Petite Sirah.  The wines had great color and, perhaps, a bit more body and tannin, but the peppery Petite Sirah detracted or overwhelmed the subtle and delicate cherry-like Pinot Noir fruit.  

Curiously, in France's Burgundy, it was said vintners or negociants routinely beefed up their wines with some deeper red from the south of France (or Algeria, which was a major wine-exporting region once-upon-a-time!).   A Burgundy house was recently discovered to have been selling wines illegally blended with stronger red wine from outside the appellation.  (Quel surprise!)  
The temptation is great to make beefier wines, as critics and their audiences, often find "bigger is better."

I am certain some local vintners still adulterate (or "enhance," depending upon one's perspective) their Pinot Noirs with darker, stronger varieties.  One prominent winery owner chided me for even asking such a question, though he would not declare that his wines were 100% Pinot Noir!

It seems that Pinot Noir varies according to clone, soil, exposure, climate and we haven't even discussed vinification.  Many Burgundy winemakers will tell you their wine does not reflect the Pinot Noir grape, but instead the grape reflects the terroir.

Some producers will tell you the juice should be kept at a cold temperature (which inhibits fermentation) and macerated on the skins for a week before fermentation is initiated.  Other winemakers say this is a recipe for disaster.  Some winemakers claim to ferment with the stems, while others say this is not the way to make good Pinot Noir. 

As you can understand, controversy abounds!

FD00985_.wmf (4442 bytes)The aromas of Pinot Noir vary as a result of so many of the factors enumerated above.  We prefer to find bright fruit aromas, reminiscent of cherry or strawberry.   We like a bit of vanillin from the oak. 

Some Pinots have a gamey quality to them.  In his book entitled "BURGUNDY" by Anthony Hanson, this expert writes "Great Burgundy smells of shit.  It is most surprising, but something the French recognized long ago, a sent la merde and a sent le purin being common expressions on the Côte.  Not always, of course;  but frequently there is a smell of decaying matter, vegetable or animal, about them.  This is nothing new."  

Uh, well, we prefer the cherry and berry notes, thank you!

Years ago, there was a school of thought which felt that California was too hot for Pinot Noir.  Oregon enjoyed some notoriety as experts wrangled over which area was producing the best West Coast Pinots.  An east coast tasting, written about in the New York Times (some years ago, now) said the favored wines were Oregon and Burgundy when tasted with the labels exposed.   When the wines were poured for a blind-tasting, California won. 

Today's wine critics are having an impact on Pinot Noir production.  Since the dynamics of most blind tastings (and tastings that are not "blind") is to find the biggest and most intense wines, Pinot Noirs of elegance and refinement are marked down as thin and light, while wines with Syrah colors and Cabernet tannins are now often garnering the highest scores.  

Pinot Noir winemakers are, it seems, interested in picking Pinot Noir as ripe as possible.  One vintner told me the trend is to harvest the fruit when it's close to 16 to 18 percent "potential alcohol."  Then water is added to the juice and the fermentation ensues.  I am not sure what benefits are obtained by picking at this high level of sugar, but it seems to be popular amongst the young winemaking crowd.

The high ratings encourages consumers to buy these sorts of wines and it encourages winemakers to produce this style of Pinot.   

We have noticed the alcohol levels of Pinot Noir are often pushing 14% to 15%, sometimes even more!  It's not about the alcohol, though.  It's about "balance."  Some wines can still be balanced and delicious at a high octane level, while others can be totally out of whack.

We have had some Pinots which were made from such over-ripe fruit, the wines resemble late-picked Zinfandel.  One even has scored in the mid-90s from a prominent critic despite the wine having little in common with Pinot Noir. 

There's an awful Pinot that receives high praise from various publications.  We've had four vintages in tastings and the wine routinely finishes in last place.  All we can figure is the winery sends in samples of someone else's wine (probably French Burgundy, since it is often described as being reminiscent of Grand Cru level wines) and they bottle plonk.  If the wine they send to critics is the same as what they sell, this calls into question the expertise of those writing about wine.

Anyone who claims to be a Pinot aficionado and who tastes California wines such as Etude, Patz & Hall, Harrington, En Route and Dehlinger, and who puts down these wines, simply doesn't understand the subject.  I think you might even add the Siduri and Au Bon Climat and The Ojai Vineyard labels to this list.

 

SOME PINOTS WE LIKE:

ALMA ROSA
Richard Sanford is one of the pioneers in Santa Barbara County wine history.

He teamed with a fellow named Michael Benedict back in the 1970s and planted vineyards in the region that's today known as "Santa Rita Hills."  The pair started a winery called Sanford & Benedict, which later morphed into the Sanford Winery.  I don't know what became of Benedict, but Sanford ran his own place for many years.   In 2005 he and his wife were fired by the import and wine distribution company which invested in the Sanford Winery.

We understand there were major disagreements concerning Sanford's insistence upon organic farming.  His steadfastness to this ideal did not, apparently, sit well with the Terlato/Paterno folks.

Sanford now has launched a new brand called Alma Rosa.  We had their first two Pinot Noirs in a blind-tasting and the wines finished 1st and 2nd!  I especially liked the La Encantada Vineyard bottling and we continue to be pleased by this wine.

We currently have some bottles of Alma Rosa's entry level bottling in the shop...it's a tip of the cap to Richard Sanford and his pioneering efforts in the Santa Rita Hills.

Currently in stock:  2012 ALMA ROSA "Santa Rita Hills" $27.99
2011 ALMA ROSA Santa Rita Hills "La Encantada" PINOT NOIR  Sale $39.99
 





AU BON CLIMAT

One can only imagine the impact on California's legal system had Jim Clendenen graduated from law school!

Instead, he'd had a visit in France and thought he might prefer the world of Pinot Noir & Chardonnay to that of tortes, contracts and people suing the crap out of each other.

The winery was initially the work of partners Adam Tolmach and Jim Clendenen.  Adam eventually left to make his own wines under the Ojai Vineyard banner and and Jim continued making ABC wines.

Clendenen was always a strong personality and this helped his efforts to sell the Au Bon Climat wines.  The \various offerings reflected the personality of Mr. Clendenen, being wines which were not universally-appealing, but bottles which had character and complexity.  

If you were a fan of French Burgundies, there was a good chance you might find the Au Bon Climat wines to have some appeal.

The winery made a lot of Chardonnay in the early days, but today their production of Pinot Noir is said to be roughly equivalent to their Chardonnay.

ABC offers a number of single vineyard Pinots.  

We're fans of the entry level bottling with the Santa Barbara County appellation.  The 2012 is in stock presently.  It usually is blended with a small addition of Mondeuse, a variety which likely contributes a bit of color and body to the wine.  We like the dark berry fruit notes in this wine...it's a shade fuller in body than most Pinots, but still has a measure of charm to it. Think blackberry/blueberry as the sort of fruit character rather than the cherry/vanilla sort of character of many California Pinots.

Currently in stock:  AU BON CLIMAT 2012 Santa Barbara County PINOT NOIR   $21.99

 
 

 


BELLE GLOS
Maybe you're a fan of Caymus Cabernets and have wondered what Caymus Pinot Noir would taste like.

Well, I can tell you Caymus used to make Pinot Noir from Rutherford-grown fruit many years ago.  They even made a Pinot Noir Blanc called "Eye of the Partridge."  What fruit they didn't use themselves was sold off to Inglenook. 

 Nobody paid much attention to Pinot back then.  Pinot Noir grown in Rutherford!  Never mind that the fruit had short hang time and ripened quickly...all people paid attention to was "Brix" (a measure of the sugar content of the grapes).  

Chuck Wagner must have never gotten rid of the "bug" to make Pinot Noir.  He has about 150 acres in Santa Maria, just north of Santa Barbara.  He's also working on a Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir "project."

The Pinot Noir appears not under his Caymus or Mer Soleil labels, but as "Belle Glos."  This is named after Chuck's Mom, Lorna Belle Glos-Wagner.  One of her grandfathers was a grape grower who had a vineyard on Howell Mountain, while the other was a winemaker at Inglenook in the early 1900's!  She's still living on the Caymus property.

The early releases were okay, but seemed to lack a bit of polish and brightness.  The wines seem to have gotten better over the past few vintages, so the learning curve was a relatively speedy one.

We have the 2012 Las Alturas bottling in stock.  This comes from Monterey's Santa Lucia Highlands, an area some people seem to over-estimate as a site for great Pinot Noir.  Having recently tasted through a few dozen wines from the S-L-H area, I can say this wine is amongst the top Pinots of the region.
The wine is beautifully fruity and shows lots of black cherry-like Pinot fruit.  There's a nice level of oak in this wine and the relatively mild level of tannins makes it very drinkable in its youth.

There's also the 2012 Clark & Telephone Pinot Noir which comes from a vineyard at the intersection of Clark Avenue and Telephone Road in Santa Maria.
This shows nice red berry fruit notes and a touch of brown spice.  It's a medium+-bodied Pinot Noir...and like its Monterey County cousin, drinking this in its youth is probably a good idea.
 
They introduced an entry-level bottling and this wears the brand name "Meiomi."
The name is said to be a Wappo and/or Yuki word referring to the "coast."  And the grapes are sourced from coastal vineyards ranging from Santa Barbara, Monterey and north in Sonoma.

It's a showy little wine, being nicely fruity with cherry cola sorts of aromas and flavors...best served at cool cellar temp...not a wine for aging, as it's best consumed in its youth.

Currently in stock:  2012 Belle Glos Santa Maria Valley, Santa Barbara County "Clark & Telephone" Pinot Noir  SALE $39.99
2012 Belle Glos Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey County Pinot Noir  SALE $46.99
MEIOMI 2013 Pinot Noir $21.99



 




 

 


ERIC KENT
This young fellow is named Kent (Eric) Humphrey and his brand name is Eric Kent.  

Kent studied French during his time at UC Berkeley and went on to work in the advertising business before being seriously bitten by the wine bug.  

He doesn't have his own winery, but produces some terrific (so far) wines (Chardonnay, Syrah and Pinot Noir) at a custom crush facility.  

Each vintage of each bottling comes adorned with some rather interesting art work.  Kent's wife is an artist and she manages to convince her art world colleagues to let their artistry adorn bottles of Kent's vinous artistry.  We've found the various wines we've had in the shop to be of interest, both to the eye and palate.

The winemaking has been "vineyard based."  Like so many winemakers, the mantra here is "great wine is made in the vineyard."  Kent's philosophy is to simply vinify the wine and guide it to bottle with a minimum of fuss.  

We currently have a 2012 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir which is a blend of six clones of Pinot Noir.  Winemakers like to rattle off the clone numbers, as though consumers really care.  Most fall asleep as the vintner prattles on about "Clone 667" or "Clone  777" (is that a Boeing aircraft, or what?).  The fruit comes from 4 different vineyard sites and six different clones of Pinot Noir.
 
The wine highlights lots of red fruit notes...cherry and raspberry are evident right from the start.  There's a suggestion of oak, but it's nicely intertwined with the fruit.  We think this might age nicely, too, but it's so charming now...how can we resist!?!

As with most Eric Kent wines, production is small.  I think they made 350 cases of this wine.  Pricing remains quite reasonable given the quality.

Currently in stock:  2012 ERIC KENT Russian River Valley PINOT NOIR $47.99
 


 
 

 
 
 




HARRINGTON
You know Bryan Harrington is a fanatic!  The guy has been working in a San Francisco watering hole and/or a restaurant as his "day" job.  But the guy also has a viticulture "project" in The City.  He's got something like five dozen Pinot Noir vines he tends in two different sites.  One is Bernal Heights and the other on Potrero Hill.

I don't know if he makes any wine from these vines, but we do have a couple of delicious Pinots that he made in a small facility in Berkeley.  Bryan and Sasha Verhage (Eno Wines) bought the old Grape Leaf Cellars.


What we've liked of this fellow's wines is that they taste like Pinot Noir and they nicely reflect the vineyards from which they come.  We've now had close to a handful of vintages of Harrington's wines and we're thrilled to taste such elegant and refined wines.  So many winemakers seek numerical point scores and so they work to make beefy, big wines.  

Harrington's typically have finesse, something many California Pinots lack.


Our current pick is a wine from Mendocino's Anderson Valley.  It comes from the Wiley Vineyard, a property owned by a fellow whose family has been involved in the world of book publishing.

If you've ever bought a "For Dummies" book...that's in the empire of John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Anyway, we really enjoy the Harrington Pinot from the Wiley vineyard...it has a touch of wild strawberry fruit and a mildly floral tone.  This is a smooth, supple wine on the palate with a hint of wood.  Thoroughly delicious, it's drinkable now and should remain in good shape for a handful of years.

Currently in stock:

HARRINGTON 2009 Anderson Valley "Wiley Vineyard" Pinot Noir $37.99
 
 
 


 
 
 
 
 

 


PATZ & HALL
The Patz & Hall story began in the mid-1980s when Donald Patz was a marketing guy at Flora Springs and James Hall was assistant winemaker there.  The two eventually went their separate ways, but were pals who decided a collaborative effort would be a challenge.

Add to the mix, Anne Moses (she turns water into wine) and Heather Patz (the glue that holds the place together) and you have a couple of dynamic duos.

They've been making really fine Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays for well more than a decade.  They bottle some regional wines, along with a number of single vineyard offerings.  

Impressively, the wines have been consistently good.  I don't know if they're attentive in the vineyard and cellar or if they sell off wine in bulk which doesn't make the cut.  But what they choose to put their label on has been reliably fine.
 
 

Winemaker James Hall.


The 2012 Sonoma Coast is a delightful wine.  It's from a number of famous-named vineyards...Dutton, Martinelli, etc. Lots of nice cherry, pomegranate and berry notes with some brown spice tones such as nutmeg, clove and cinnamon.  The wine is smooth, supple and easy to drink.  It's best at cool cellar temp, of course.  Probably best in its youth, too.



There's a Hyde vineyard bottling of Pinot these days...we've long been fans of the Hyde bottling of Chardonnay.  From the Carneros region, the 2010 displays loads of strawberry fragrances and flavors.  It's wonderfully perfumy, too.  Exotic.  

The Pisoni bottling is one of the best Pisoni vineyard wines on the market...deeply fruity, fairly full as Pinots go...nice now with duck or lamb as there's even a little 'grippy' edge to this wine.

Currently in stock: 2012 PATZ & HALL Sonoma Coast PINOT NOIR  (Winery Price $45) SALE $39.99
2010 PATZ & HALL Carneros "HYDE" PINOT NOIR SALE $59.99 (last bottles)

2010 PATZ & HALL Santa Lucia Highlands "PISONI VINEYARD" PINOT NOIR  $84.99


 


 
 
 


PEY-MARIN
We've known Jonathan Pey and his wife Susan for decades!  He worked for a major U.S. wine importer and marketing company.  Susan has been affiliated with a restaurant group for many moons.  

After years of promoting and selling wines for others, they soon scratched the itch to make their own.  It was time to follow their passion as wine growers and winemakers.  

And so, Scenic Root Winegrowers was born at the tail end of the last century.


In our younger days, they lived in The City and, with no kids, were able to venture down the Peninsula and have some vittles and vino at my place.  Jonathan used to bring a "mystery" wine.  The first time I think I guessed the wine as "Loire Valley Chenin Blanc" in a nanosecond.  It was some sort of Monmousseau Vouvray, if I recall correctly.  

This frustrated the heck out of Jonathan and the next visit he poured the wine from a humungous grocery bag...and I took a sniff, mid-service, guessed it to be a Cabernet Franc and returned to the kitchen to fetch more plates.

"Damn!"  It was a Chinon or some other sort of Cab Franc red from the Loire.

Some years later the couple settled in Marin and they cultivate (organically, we understand) a few acres in this cool climate and challenging region.

We currently have their modestly-priced Sonoma Coast Pinot in stock.  It's called The Forager and it's a 2012 vintage from the Sonoma Coast appellation.  It's from three vineyard sites and comprised of five different clones of Pinot Noir...there's a nice touch of new French oak to the wine, but just enough to add a few notes of complexity, but not so much as to be oaky or woody.  

They offer the wine at a very friendly price, too, so for a nice California Pinot which would qualify for the designation of "good value," give this a try!
 

 


Post-script:  We recently attended a trade showing of numerous Pinot Noir wines from various West Coast producers.  Some of the wineries are very prestigious, if judging by the price tags on the bottles.  The wines ranged from $30-$120 a bottle.  And, sorry to say, none was as charming as The Forager and all were damned expensive, "worth" their price simply because of the label on the bottle.

 
 
 
Currently in stock:  2007 PEY-MARIN "Trois Filles" PINOT NOIR Sold Out

2012 THE FORAGER "Sonoma Coast" PINOT NOIR $21.99






ROBERT SINSKEY

For an old, well-established winery, we find Sinskey to be a name that's a little bit below-the-radar of many wine drinkers.  

Part of this lack of notoriety is due, in part, because Sinskey isn't a huge public relations guy.  In fact, he's a bit allergic to many wine publications, not offering free samples of his wines so that some critic can come up with a numerical score to describe and quantify the wine.  When you make wines which are intended for the dinner table and not for beauty contests, this is a perfectly sensible philosophy.

In fact, Rob Sinskey proudly says he's not interested in making a wine that's going to earn a 96 point rating from today's critics.  In fact he says "We don’t care what score the wine didn’t get because we don’t want to drink what is currently defined as a 96 point Pinot Noir. We prefer to work with nature, grow it well and do  the minimal to make a classically proportioned Pinot Noir."

The Sinskey name has been around for more than two decades and we think they make terrific Pinot Noir these days.  

The story began with Rob Sinskey's father, who was a doctor and wine aficionado.  He bought some land in the Carneros region as the acreage was economical in those days.  Doc Sinskey was selling grapes, but then when the big winery buying his fruit was sold, the new owners cancelled the contract.  And Sinskey ended up being "paid" for past sales by, essentially, inheriting land in the Stags Leap District which had a winery use permit.  Soon the Sinksey name would be emblazoned on bottles of wine.

Young (at the time) Rob Sinskey had received a degree in fine arts from a school in New York and dad needed help.  Sinskey's been helping ever since.

Over the years they'd purchased grapes from neighboring growers to augment their production and finally they decided to just grow their own.  And in the early 1990s they embarked on a program of cultivating grapes biodynamically.  

The 2010 Carneros Pinot Noir is a delight.  The wine has beautiful Pinot Noir fragrances with notes of cherry, strawberry and pomegranate.  Oak is not a main feature of this wine, as they work diligently to showcase the grape in Sinskey wines.  The tannins are modest and it's delicious in its youth and should remain in good condition for a number of years.  

Sinskey notes the summer was fairly cool in 2010, but a heat wave caused some of their grapes to become too high in sugar and, of course, they produced a high-octane wine.  He said this might make for a high numerically-scoring wine, but he prefers to make a drinkable wine.  As a result, something close to 30% of the production was "de-classified" and it did not make the cut!
Currently in stock:  2010 ROBERT SINSKEY Carneros PINOT NOIR $37.99





MARGUERITE RYAN CELLARS

Marguerite Ryan, known as "Peggy" to her friends, graduated from law school but then enrolled in the University of Warren Winiarski.  

That "school" has many noteworthy graduates, including Paul Hobbs, John Kongsgaard and Michael Silacci.  Add Peggy Ryan to the list.  

She came to California in the early 1990s and enrolled in some enology classes.  Ryan landed a job at Stag's Leap Wine Cellars doing lab work.  

The Ryan Cellars label was born in 1996 and it's grown from a mere 70 cases of wine to several hundred.  Knowing she tries to make balanced and refined wines, I suppose Mr. Winiarski influence has had a major impact on her winemaking philosophies.  

The Ryan Cellars label encompasses Pinot Noirs from several top, famed vineyard sources.  Peay Vineyard in the Sonoma Coast appellation is one.  Another is the famed Pisoni Vineyard, along with other Santa Lucia Highlands sites.  There's also been Pinot Noir from a vineyard in Napa's Wild Horse Valley (where Winiarski used to source Riesling, once upon a time).  And there's been a Pisoni vineyard bottling, too.

Our favorite for the past few years has been from Monterey's Silacci Vineyard.  This is a modest-sized property near the town of Gonzales.  We understand it's farmed organically and the budwood for the Pinot Noir came from the Pisoni vineyard.  The 2007 was a classic Pinot with nice cherry aromas and the grape is in the spotlight, not the oak barrel in which it was matured.  It is now sold out...

We recently tasted a delightfully complex, yet young, Pinot from the Van der Kamp vineyard.  This is a marvelous site on Sonoma Mountain and they have some rather mature vines on this property.  ((We fondly recall being big supporters of the Van der Kamp's foray into sparkling wine a decade, or two, ago.  Now we're still getting wine from those vines, but in a different format!))

The 2010 has some dark cherry fruit with a plum note.  There's a touch of forest floor here, too.  Quite charming and it's quite drinkable now.  Production, as always, is minuscule.

Currently in stock: 
2010 RYAN CELLARS "Sonoma" Van Der Kamp Vineyard  $48.99





LA FENETRE

Throwing caution out the window is winemaker and former sommelier Joshua Klapper.  

He's a young fellow who grew up on the East Coast and as a teenager, found himself a job as a server at Cafe Boulud, a chi-chi New York restaurant.

Klapper was exposed to the world of wine and with a sniff and sip of a 1945 Chateau Latour, the kid was doomed.  

He ended up at USC in business school in 2001 and the following year was working in a new, fancy place in Los Angeles.  Being closer in LA to good wineries than he was in Manhattan, Klapper dreamed of making his own wine and having his own brand.  And so, La Fenetre was born in 2005.

I know we were amongst their earliest wine merchant accounts.  I'd tasted the wine at a trade event in Southern California (I go there to spy, once in a while) and was impressed by their Syrah.

And Klapper still makes good Syrah, but we were recently enchanted by a couple of really good Pinot Noirs.

Under the La Fenetre label we have a 2009 from the Sierra Madre vineyard.  This site was planted back in 1971 and the parcel Klapper uses comprises an acre and a half and features four clonal selections of Pinot Noir.  

The wine is light in color, intensely fragrant with nice Pinot Noir aromas and a touch of an earthy note.  We like the strawberry quality and the hint of brown spices from the oak.  It's a smooth red wine...medium to medium-light bodied.

The price is right, too.  He had been asking fifty bucks for this, but as the market is hugely competitive and a bit sluggish at the top end, we're able to offer this for $29.99.

There's also a "second" label called A Cote...
2010 À Côté Pinot Noir
The grapes came from a vineyard in Mendocino's Anderson Valley, but they labeled it merely as "North Coast" since the grape grower didn't want their name on a wine costing twenty bucks.

The vineyard is young and it's farmed organically according to Klapper.  He decided to leave 20% "whole clusters" in the fermentation tank, wanting to capture as much berry fruit as possible.  And he did!  

This is a lovely "everyday" Pinot...it shows handsomely at cool cellar temp.
 

Currently in stock:  2009 LA FENETRE Sierra Madre Pinot Noir (List $50) Sold Out

2010 A COTE "North Coast" PINOT NOIR Special Sold Out

 

 

GARNET

The owners of the Saintsbury winery in Napa's Carneros region started making an entry-level bottling of Pinot Noir they dubbed "Garnet."

It was a great bottle of well-priced wine but the tremendous success it had took the spotlight away from their normal bottling of Carneros Pinot, as well as the various single-vineyard wines they made.

Sales of Garnet grew to such a level that they ended up building an entirely separate winemaking facility for it and then, one day in late 2010 or early 2011, they sold the Garnet brand as well as the winery where it was being produced.

The buyer of the brand is the vineyard company which had been supplying Saintsbury with the Pinot Noir grapes, Silverado Winegrowers.  The Silverado bunch owns something like 11,000 acres of vineyards, with holdings for the Garnet brand being situated in Monterey County, Carneros and the Sonoma Coast appellations.

We currently have their 2012 Monterey bottling of Garnet Pinot Noir.  It smells and tastes like good Pinot Noir, is below 14% alcohol and sells for $14.99 a bottle...

Currently in stock:  2012 GARNET Monterey County Pinot Noir  Sale $14.99

MORE PINOT NOIRS

 

 

winepour.gif (12696 bytes)Wine Tasting Today

TO INQUIRE ABOUT A WINE:  
Copyright © 1999 WEIMAX October 25,  2014