MORE PINOT NOIRS
- 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 2010 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:
2010 Santa Lucia Highlands "Silacci"
Pinot Noir SALE $54.99
- This little enterprise is the work of Steve Kistler and his
daughters. Kistler is a brand famous for its Chardonnays and Pinot
Noirs. A new owner of one of their vineyard sources apparently
expressed interest in partnering with Kistler, so Steve sold him a hefty
percentage of Kistler Vineyards.
So the new chapter in Kistler's tale is a small production of Pinot Noir
in a newly-built winery in the town of Bodega, a few miles east of Bodegas
Bay and a 15 minute ride southwest of the town of Occidental.
Phelps' Freestone winery is also a few minutes' ride from Bodega.
We have a 2014 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir from this new label/old winemaker.
The fruit comes from two vineyard sites, the Bodega Headlands and
Occidental Station vineyards. They leave the juice to macerate with
the grape skins for five days prior to the fermentation kicking
off...native yeasts...François Freres French oak barrels...60% new
cooperage. No fining or filtering...yadda yadda yadda. Sounds
Luckily it tastes good, too. The wine shows nice dark cherry fruit
and just a whiff of wood...with 60% new oak you might expect the wood to
be more prominent, but when you have good fruit, sometimes the oak is
dominated by the wine.
Currently in stock: 2014 OCCIDENTAL Sonoma Coast
PINOT NOIR $66.99
PATZ & HALL
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 nearly three
decades. They bottle a regional Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast), 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.
The founders hit the jackpot in the Spring of 2016 when the Ste. Michelle
Wine Estates company bought the whole operation. Patz & Hall say
they're sticking around, but we do not know the future of this place.
Winemaker James Hall.
The 2015 Sonoma Coast is a delightful wine. It's from a number of
famous-named vineyards...Dutton, Martinelli, etc. Lots of nice cherry,
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 2013
displays loads of strawberry fragrances and flavors. It's wonderfully perfumy,
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: 2015 PATZ & HALL Sonoma Coast PINOT
NOIR (Winery Price $47) SALE $39.99
- 2013 PATZ & HALL Carneros "HYDE" PINOT NOIR
2014 PATZ & HALL Santa Lucia Highlands "PISONI VINEYARD" PINOT
NOIR 89.99 (last bottles)
- The Peay
brothers have a cool little wine venture in the northern, coastal reaches
of Sonoma County...the northernmost vineyard site in the Sonoma Coast
From the town of Sea Ranch, you'd drive about 15-20 minutes to reach
beautiful "downtown" Annapolis, some 4 miles inland from the
And while some Sonoma Coast vineyards are above the fog in the mornings,
the Peay vineyards are often shrouded in morning fog and they routinely
get some maritime breezes, further cooling their vines.
To get grapes ripe in Annapolis, yields must be rather meager, otherwise
the fruit doesn't achieve sufficient sugar levels to make wine. It's
quite a challenging venue and it's what makes the Peay wines rather
distinctive and special.
There's been a bit of backlash from California's uber-ripe sort of wines,
spawned by wineries seeking to achieve high numerical point scores from
various critical journals. A few wine-specialist labs even offer
analysis services to help wineries guarantee 90+ point scores and to
achieve this twisted "success," relatively high levels of
alcohol are required.
One group of vintners organizes tastings and seminars to trumpet their
lower alcohol, higher acid wines. Maybe you've seen references to
"In Pursuit of Balance" events?
We have attended a few of them and found a number of scrawny, malnourished
wines which we did not find balanced in two respects:
1) lacking "soul" and masquerading as deluxe bottlings.
2) price tags that are totally out of balance considering the quality of
At these tasting events, we've found but a small percentage of the
wineries showing off their wares to be of interest.
And the Peay wines routinely shine brightly!
One of the Peay brothers handles the marketing of their wines and over the
past few years we've found the availability to be a bit
unpredictable. Sometimes they hope to restrict the sale of their
wines exclusively to restaurants with the hope consumers will be favorably
impressed, contact the winery and buy cases at top dollar, thus depleting
Other times reality sets in and they need some help finding
We currently have a lovely Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir. It's a nice,
crisp Pinot Noir with some red berry/cherry notes along with a hint of
orange peel. Add to the mix a faintly earthy tone...underbrush,
perhaps. The wine is quite charming now and a good match with duck
or lamb. It can probably age well for a few years, too.
Currently in stock: 2016 PEAY Sonoma Coast Pinot
Pisoni is a nut! I remember meeting this fellow a number of years ago,
well before he achieved any sort of fame or notoriety.
- He was driving by Burlingame 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 there was something about
cuttings from Burgundy...the La Tâche vineyard of Romanée-Conti...and that I ought to stop by his
little vineyard down in Monterey. It turned out he was, according to
the legend, cultivating Pinot Noir vines that had been brought to California
from France's Burgundy region. The cuttings he had obtained, goes the
story, were brought in surreptitiously and he's propagated these and started
with a few acres.
Gary's dad, the late Eddie Pisoni, started a farming business in 1952 in
Monterey. He grew lettuce, onions, tomatoes, broccoli, beets and
The family purchased 280 acres, or so, in the Santa Lucia Highlands,
intending for livestock. The land was too dry for farming
But Gary had been bitten by the wine bug and so he planted Pinot Noir,
wanting to make his own version of Grand Cru caliber Pinot Noir.
Pisoni attended San Jose State University and he enjoyed French wines,
especially Bordeaux. Bordeaux, that is, until he discovered Burgundy.
In those early 1980s he was cultivating Pinot Noir and the quality of the
fruit turned out to be promising. His Mom and Pop gave him the green
light on planting more and the rest is history.
The land, though, was quite dry and Pisoni, for many years, drove a truck
into the hills to give those thirsty vines a bit of water. It took
many years before they were able to locate water on the property. That was
With his friend and neighbor, Gary Franscioni, Pisoni collaborated don a
newer vineyard which is called Garys' Vineyard for the two Garys.
- There are two Pisoni sons: Mark and Jeff. Sons of Bacchus,
Mark studied Agricultural Economics at UC Davis as well as earning an MS in
Farm Business Management at Cornell University back East. He wears the
title of Vineyard Manager and he also oversees the Pisoni Farms, their
vegetable business. Five hundred acres of produce, so that's nothing
to sneeze at!
Jeff Pisoni went off to Cal State Fresno and learned winemaking there.
He experienced some vintages at Sonoma's Peter Michael winery and at
Monterey's Bernardus Winery before taking on the winemaking duties for the
The Pisoni and Lucia wines are made in Sonoma wear Jeff Pisoni
Their Pinot Noirs are not shy & retiring...these routinely display notes
of ripe Pinot Noir fruit.
The 2016 Lucia comes from the Pisoni, Garys' and Soberanes vineyards.
They use only French oak and the wines sees about one-third new barrels.
The fruit, being rather intense, seems to soak up the wood so oak isn't
dominating. The wine is quite charming presently and will grow, likely,
for a couple of years.
The 2015 Garys' is displays some of the brown spice notes we like in Pinot
Noir. There's bright red fruit notes of cherry and raspberry, too.
The harvest yields were smaller than normal.
- Currently in stock: 2016 LUCIA "Santa Lucia Highlands"
Pinot Noir SALE $44.99 (last bottles)
2015 LUCIA "Garys" PINOT NOIR $59.99
- 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 three 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. He was a bit of a foodie and thought
Pinot Noir would be the wine of the future, as it was versatile on the
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 Sinskey 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
They have a nice cellar along the Silverado Trail. It's got a nice
patio for tasting their wines under the sun and an indoor tasting bar that's
adjacent to a professional kitchen. Rob's wife is a chef and so
combining their talents, visitors are treated to a few pours of Sinskey's
wines and Maria Sinskey's culinary treats.
- They have numerous cavernous cellars where their various wines are
slumbering until they're ready to bottle.
Cooperage that has been emptied and cleaned are waiting to be placed back in
a stack of barrels.
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
The 2014 Carneros Pinot Noir is a delight.
They use heirloom clones of Pinot Noir and the wine is comprised of 32
"lots" of batches, as each parcel is picked and vinified separately.
They source from five estate-owned vineyards in the Carneros region.
The vineyards are harvested at night and the juice is fermented with
indigenous yeasts. It's put into French oak and they use about 30% new
wood, enough where you can sense a bit of oak seasoning, but not so much
that it shifts the focus from the fruit to the wood.
The wine has beautiful
Pinot Noir fragrances with notes of cherry, strawberry and
pomegranate. There may even be a faintly floral tone to the
fragrances. As noted earlier, 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.
- Currently in stock: 2014 ROBERT SINSKEY Carneros PINOT NOIR SALE
- The Franscioni family has been in Monterey County since the mid-1880s when
Silvio Franscioni Sr. settled in the area and engaged in dairy
farming. His son Joe changed the family enterprise from milk to
agriculture and he grew beans, beets and potatoes. Joe's son Gary
studied Agri-Business at Cal Poly and took the reins of the family
farm. They had 200 acres of row crops in the Salina Valley.
He saw that wine grapes had good potential, so he planted the family's first
vineyards in 1996. That site is called Rosella's as it's named after Gary's
In 1997, thinking this might be a good move, he partnered with local legend
Gary Pisoni and these two friends planted what's now known as "Garys'
Vineyard" as it's owned by the two Garys. Those grapes are
highly sought-after and some Franscioni had the idea of keeping some fruit
and trying his luck with winemaking.
The first vintages of what's called ROAR were well-received. They were
vinified by Adam and Dianna Lee who founded the Siduri winery. They
bought fruit from Franscioni, as well.
The Lees assistant winemaker was a fellow named Scott Shapley and he's been
affiliated with ROAR since their first vintage in 2001.
They've been making wine in various facilities from Sonoma and currently in
San Francisco. They're in an urban winemaking facility sharing space
with a few other vintners.
The Franscionis have two sons who've both taken a shine to the ROAR wine
Adam studied accounting at the University of San Diego and worked as a bean
counter for a biotech company before deciding to join his folk's business.
He's is found in the cellar assisting Shapley. He also is ROAR's road
warrior and we see him periodically presenting the wines hither and yon.
Nick Franscioni studied Computer Science and Business Administration at USC
in Los Angeles and worked as a business consultant before coming back home
to "consultant" with his father on vineyard management. He,
too, plays the role of road warrior and is seen at trade tastings presenting
the ROAR wines.
The wines have been made with the idea of simply guiding the fruit in
the bottle. Grapes are picked at night and brought to the winery in
the morning...they're destemmed and the juice is cold-soaked for a few days
before the start of fermentation. Once the fermentation has finished
and the wine is dry, they'll put the Pinot Noirs into French oak. They
have three favorite cooperages and buy a fair bit of new wood for each
The Pinot Noirs continue to be very showy. They make some good
Chardonnay, too, but they're more famed for the Pinots.
We get a few bottles with each release.
- As these are a bit rare, we don't offer these precious bottles for
shipping...they're a reward of sorts for customers who set foot in the shop.
(Thanks for understanding that.)
- Currently in stock: 2016 ROAR Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
2016 GARYS' Vineyard Pinot Noir $59.99 (last bottles)
2016 SIERRA MAR Pinot Noir $53.99 (last bottles)
Ryan, known as "Peggy" to her friends, graduated from law school but
then enrolled in the University of Warren Winiarski.
MARGUERITE RYAN CELLARS
That "school" has many noteworthy graduates, including Paul Hobbs,
John Kongsgaard and Michael Silacci. Add Peggy Ryan to the
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
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
The Ryan Cellars label has offered 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.
Today we have a Sonoma Coast bottling from the 2013 vintage. The total
production is a whopping 42 cases. Yes...two barrels. It comes from
the Walala Vineyard, a little patch in the northwestern part of the Sonoma Coast
appellation. The Kosta Browne winery has used fruit from this place for
its Sonoma Coast bottling.
Ryan's wines tend to be lighter and less oaky, so if you're a Kosta Browne fan,
this is probably not a wine you'll find to be to your taste.
We like it, though. But then we don't require a wine to be
inky dark in color, have tons of oak (though we do enjoy a bit of wood in some
of our wines) or be tannic or sweet.
Currently in stock:
2013 RYAN CELLARS "Sonoma Coast" Walala Vineyard 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...
- SOQUEL VINEYARDS
- The Bargetto name is etched in stone in the annals of Santa Cruz wine
We knew the Bargetto name back in the late 1960s as they were the best
source of fruit wine in the state of California.
The family always seemed to want to be held in high regard for wines made of
A couple of the Bargetto clan, a set of twin brothers, founded this competing
brand called Soquel Vineyards, back in 1987. Peter and Paul Bargetto
teamed up with an old school friend of theirs (Jon Morgan) and this little
enterprise is making some nice wines these days.
We've found a couple of Pinot Noirs to be worthy wines and have brought in their
2014 Estate Bottling of their Partner's Reserve.
It comes entirely from their small estate in Soquel and we like it for a variety
1. It smells and tastes like Pinot Noir.
2. There's a nice touch of oak (80% new French oak, but it's not
3. It's well-priced so we can afford to drink it more than
4. It's under 14% alcohol (13.8%).
- Currently in stock: 2014 SOQUEL VINEYARDS Santa Cruz Mountains
"Estate" PINOT NOIR "Partners' Reserve" Sold
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 2015 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 Ascona Vineyard in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
We are told there were less than 3 barrels of this wine produced from a
little vineyard along Skyline Boulevard in Los Gatos. This place is
about 5 miles south of Mount Eden's estate in Saratoga. It's kind of a
gentleman farmer's vineyard, though whomever planted the Pinot Noir there
included a few interesting clones: Pommard, Louis Martini, Mount Eden
and clone #115. The wine spent about 15 months in oak in once-used
We like the red fruit notes of this medium-bodied, rather elegant
Pinot. It's low in alcohol for a California Pinot Noir, just a tad
The wine can be put on the dinner table for service tonight...but thanks to
a good level of acidity, it should continue to develop for a few more years
if you want to stash a bottle or two for future drinking.
- Currently in stock: 2015 WAXWING Santa Cruz Mountains "Ascona
PINOT NOIR $44.99
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