Burgundian Pinot Noir From Willamette Valley

Today’s Story: Cristom Vineyards

Cristom Vineyards was founded in 1992 by Paul and Eileen Gerrie in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA of the Willamette Valley. I previously wrote about them when I reviewed their 2016 Estate Viognier in Textbook New World Viognier and I am excited to explore one of their single vineyard Pinot Noirs today. Cristom consists of eight estate vineyards totaling just over 100 acres, four of which are planted to Pinot Noir (Eileen, Jessie, Louise, and Marjorie) and four that are planted to Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Viognier, and Syrah. Using sustainably farmed estate fruit, winemaker Steve Doerner practices minimal intervention in the cellar to produce wines that transparently showcase the terroir of each site.

Today’s Wine: 2013 Louise Vineyard Pinot Noir

100% Pinot Noir; 13.5% ABV

The 2013 Louise Vineyard Pinot Noir is slightly translucent pale ruby in color with hints of garnet. Given 45 minutes or so to open up, the wine blossoms with a nose of cherry, black raspberry, stemmy strawberry, cola, bacon fat, dried tobacco, forest floor, dried green herbs, and cinnamon. On the palate, I get notes of sweet plum, black cherry, licorice, worn leather, tobacco, sous bois, nutmeg, rocky mineral, and light oaky spice. This is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (-) and slightly chewy tannins, and a medium (+) length finish.

Price: $40. I got this for an incredible deal, which makes it a fantastic value proposition for my tasting. With an average price closer to $60 or more in the marketplace, however, this falls into the category of “worth it” but not classified as a great value. Pair with herb roasted chicken, rack of lamb, or charcuterie and cheese.

Gamay With a Mind Blowing Value Proposition

Today’s Story: Marchand-Tawse

Marchand-Tawse is a Burgundian négociant created through a collaboration between Pascal Marchand and Moray Tawse. Both Pascal and Moray are French Canadians, making their success in Burgundy somewhat unusual.

Pascal Marchand comes from a background in wine (after working a few years as a merchant sailor on freighters in the Great Lakes), having taken over Clos des Epeneaux in Pommard in 1985 at the age of 22. Pascal was one of the early adopters of organic and biodynamic viticulture in Burgundy, bringing heightened quality to Clos des Epeneaux and world renown to its name. Jean-Charles Boisset later approached Pascal to run his family’s Domaine de la Vougeraie in 1999, and he remained there until 2006 when desiring more freedom in his ventures. Pascal took over at Domaine Jean Fery, all the while setting the stage for his own label that would eventually become Marchand-Tawse.

Moray Tawse, on the other hand, has a background in finance and co-founded First National in Canada which focuses on real estate lending. He has had a long-standing love of wine, however, which led him to establish Tawse Winery which is one of Canada’s leading wineries. Thanks to his love of Burgundy, Moray approached Pascal in 2010 and the two established their partnership.

Marchand-Tawse sources fruit from a great number of vineyards, most of which are either organically or biodynamically farmed. The négociant produces a wide range of wines, spanning appellation and village bottlings up to some of the greatest Grand Crus. Pascal’s winemaking style is rather traditional, seeking to have the fruit and terroir express themselves in a most honest and transparent form. Many of the wines, like the one I’m reviewing today, are left 100% whole cluster and not destemmed before fermentation in stainless steel tanks. Aging for my wine today, amongst others in the portfolio, occurs in French oak barrels 0% new and there is no fining or filtration before bottling.

Today’s Wine: 2016 Coteaux Bourguignons

100% Gamay; 12.5% ABV

The 2016 Coteaux Bourguignons is mostly opaque pale to medium purple in color with ruby hues. Once this opens up, the nose showcases aromas of red cherry, raspberry, baked strawberry, violet, lightly charred soil, finely crushed rock, and stemmy underbrush. On the palate, I get notes of brambleberry, plum, ripe raspberry, pomegranate, dried forest floor, clay, green herbs, and light smoke. This is light- to medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium tannins, and a long finish. I could see this developing further over the coming few years, but it’s hard to resist right now. 362 cases produced.

Price: $24. This is an outstanding value wine in my opinion, as it drinks with such depth and terroir expression rarely found in bottles of this price range. The quality of fruit is also spectacular. Pair with seared duck breast, coq au vin, or grilled salmon.

Mouthwatering Single Vineyard Chardonnay

Today’s Story: Rivers-Marie

Last week I enjoyed the 2015 Silver Eagle Vineyard Pinot Noir from Rivers-Marie so much that I decided to revisit the producer for a Chardonnay.

To recap from my post last week, Rivers-Marie is a family-owned winery established in 2002 by husband and wife duo Thomas Rivers Brown and Genevieve Marie Welsh. Thomas and Genevieve work with vineyards throughout the Sonoma Coast (especially in Occidental-Freestone) and produce Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, with small amount of Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa fruit as well. All of the Rivers-Marie wines are meant to be refined and terroir driven, showcasing each unique vineyard site through single vineyard bottlings. This being said, they produce some appellation wines as well.

Today’s Wine: 2012 B. Thieriot Vineyard Chardonnay

100% Chardonnay; 13.8% ABV

The 2012 B. Thieriot Chardonnay is gorgeous deep gold in color and transparent. This was singing right out of the bottle but blossomed further as it opened in the glass and warmed slightly. The nose showcases aromas of golden apple, crisp pear, stone fruit, honeysuckle, flint, toasted nuts, sea shell, saline mineral, and dried vanilla bean. Once in the mouth, the wine displays notes of green apple skins, mango, lemon zest, tropical citrus, toffee, slight smoke, dill, wax, saline, and brioche. This is medium-bodied and well-rounded with high acidity and a long, lingering finish.

Price: $100. This is pricey for a California Chardonnay no doubt, but I would certainly buy this again. While clearly a California Chardonnay thanks to the fruit profile, there are a lot of characteristics of Burgundy here and both the quality and depth are compelling. Pair with roasted chicken, lobster, or asparagus and shaved hazelnut.

Another Delicious Bottling From Jolie-Laide

Today’s Story: Jolie-Laide

Today I return to another bottling from Jolie-Laide, a boutique winery established by Scott Schultz in Forestville, CA that I have written about several times already. If you missed my prior posts, my review of the 2016 Provisor Vineyard Grenache linked here contains the most in-depth background on Jolie-Laide and Scott, and I encourage you to check it out. If you would like to read my reviews for the 2019 Trousseau Gris and 2016 Halcon Vineyard Syrah to augment your knowledge of the portfolio, they are linked here and here, respectively.

Today’s Wine: 2017 Shake Ridge Vineyard GSM

Blend of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, and Viognier (no tech sheet); 13% ABV

The 2017 Shake Ridge GSM is mostly opaque medium purple/ruby in color with pale purple variation at the rim. Once this opens up, the nose showcases aromas of blackberry, blueberry, anise, violet, slight barnyard, stemmy underbrush, and granite. On the palate, the wine displays notes of plum, brambleberry, tart wild blueberry, lavender, tobacco, gravel, herbs, black pepper, and mild spice. This is light- to medium-bodied with high acidity, fine-grained medium (+) tannins, and a long finish.

Price: $38. I think this is a good value GSM blend, and while it comes across slightly bigger than other Jolie-Laide wines I’ve enjoyed the same quality and focus on an honest wine is still starkly apparent. Pair this with venison steak, grilled lamb, or charcuterie.

One of California’s Most Famous Cult Pinot Noirs

Today’s Story: Marcassin Vineyards

Marcassin Vineyards is an incredibly small “cult” winery established by Helen Turley and her husband John Wetlaufer in 1990. Focusing entirely on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, Marcassin produces around 2,500 to 3,000 cases of wine annually and a large majority goes to mailing list customers (with the waiting list said to be thousands of names long). The estate Marcassin Vineyard consists of 20 acres on the Sonoma Coast and, thanks to its growth from 10 acres over time, is now the main source of Marcassin’s fruit. With her vineyards planted very densely, Turley intentionally limits yields to produce healthier and more concentrated fruit which she then harvests on the riper side. Turley ferments her wines using only native yeasts, keeps them on the lees for 6-8 months, and ages them in 100% new oak barrels. When it is time for bottling, the wines are unfined, unfiltered, and do not see cold stabilization. The wines typically hit the market (or rather their collectors’ cellars) five years after the vintage.

Today’s Wine: 2007 Blue-Slide Ridge Vineyard Pinot Noir

100% Pinot Noir; 14.9% ABV

The 2007 Blue-Slide Ridge Pinot is opaque pale to medium ruby in color with purple hues. This took some time to open up in the glass, but once it did the incredibly complex nose changed overtime to showcase black cherry, blueberry, black raspberry, black licorice, dried tobacco leaf, forest floor, black pepper, black olive, cinnamon, charred green herbs, and crushed rock. On the equally complex palate, the wine changed with each sip to display notes of sweet raspberry, red cherry, wild blueberry, strawberry jam, red licorice, tobacco, loamy earth, underbrush, mushroom, mild baking spice, and charred oak. This is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (-) tannins, and a long finish. Still a lot of life left in this wine, though it is pretty well balanced already given the high ABV.

Price: $275. While this is certainly one of the best California Pinot Noirs I’ve had, I can’t say it is a good value at the price I paid. I understand the incredible rarity of this wine, but it is simply a treat that has been on my bucket list that I don’t see myself spending the money on again. If you are on the mailing list, however, that is a completely different story. Pair this with seared duck breast, roasted chicken, or rack of lamb.

Gorgeous Rioja Blanco

Today’s Story: R. López de Heredia

I previously wrote about R. López de Heredia, one of my favorite producers in Rioja, when I reviewed the 2006 Viña Tondonia Reserva in One of My Favorite Rioja Producers Does It Again. LdH is a family-run winery established in 1877 by Don Rafael López de Heredia y Landeta after he fell in love with the Rioja Alta region, particularly the area of its capital Haro. All of the fruit sourced for these wines is estate-owned, a pathway they started following early on when Don Rafael realized it was the surest way to ensure impeccable quality of his vineyards, fruit, and wines. All harvesting is accomplished solely by hand and the fruit is treated very delicately in baskets made at the winery’s cooperage. In the cellar, the López de Heredia family follows traditional winemaking methods passed down from generation to generation.

Today’s Wine: 2008 Viña Tondonia Reserva Blanco

90% Viura, 10% Malvasía; 12.5% ABV

The 2008 Viña Tondonia Reserva Blanco is beautiful deep gold in color and transparent. The exquisite nose showcases aromas of peach, apricot, honeydew, chamomile, hazelnut, brioche, honey, and seashell, while the palate displays notes of lime zest, melon, orange marmalade, tropical citrus, white florals, toffee, almonds, and mineral. This wine is light- to medium-bodied with gorgeous high acidity and a plush, luxurious mouthfeel into a long finish.

Price: $65. Even though these are more expensive than their red counterparts (thanks to a smaller production) I find them to be just as superior a value for their gorgeous depth and complexity. Pair this with lobster, roasted chicken, or almonds.

Rockstar Single Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot

Today’s Story: Rivers-Marie

Rivers-Marie is a family-owned winery established in 2002 by husband and wife duo Thomas Rivers Brown and Genevieve Marie Welsh. Thomas is well-known throughout California winemaking thanks to his consulting practices and winemaking stints with names like Schrader, Maybach, and Outpost, however Rivers-Marie is a personal project born in Pinot Noir. Working with vineyards throughout the Sonoma Coast (especially in Occidental-Freestone), Thomas crafts Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and small amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon (Calistoga, St. Helena, and Oakville) in a more restrained, terroir-driven style than can be expected from his other ventures. The Pinot Noir bottlings consist of appellation wines and a number of single vineyard offerings, all produced with native yeasts and partial whole cluster fermentation. Thomas’ Chardonnays are made in similar minimalistic fashion with whole cluster barrel fermentation, no stirring, limited sulfur additions, aging in 0-25% new French oak, and are bottled unfined and unfiltered. The Cabernets are made to walk the fine line between power and elegance, showcasing classic Napa Valley fruit but not overpowering the terroir expressions.

Today’s Wine: 2015 Silver Eagle Vineyard Pinot Noir

100% Pinot Noir; 14.1% ABV

The 2015 Silver Eagle Pinot Noir is opaque medium purple/ruby in color. This takes some time to open up in the glass, but once it does the nose showcases aromas of cherry, black raspberry, dried strawberry, forest floor, game, cola, mint, baking spice, and crushed rock. On the palate, the wine displays notes of plum, black cherry, licorice, blue florals, tobacco, charred earth, dried green herbs, and iron. This is medium-bodied with high acidity, medium (-) tannins, and a long finish.

Price: $75. Not cheap for California Pinot Noir and getting up there with some of the bigger “cult” brands, but this is very elegant and definitely worth the price. This seems to be made in a slightly more refined style than many of the opulent, “in your face” Pinots that command similar or higher prices. Pair with herb-roasted chicken, mushroom risotto, or assorted charcuterie.

Middle Tier People Pleaser From Napa Valley

Today’s Story: HALL Wines

HALL Wines is a family owned and operated winery established by Kathryn and Craig Hall in the Napa Valley. The Halls purchased the Sacrashe Vineyard in Rutherford in 1995, though did not open a winery there until a grand opening in 2005. In between, however, the Halls acquired the Bergfeld Winery in St. Helena in 2003 and opened as HALL St. Helena in July, 2003. HALL consists of roughly 150 acres of estate vineyards planted to Bordeaux varieties of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Sauvignon Blanc, though they also source from carefully selected winegrowing partners. With the vineyards farmed organically and controlled to lower yields, the fruit for HALL Wines is intended to be as healthy as possible and highly concentrated. All fruit is hand-harvested and taken to the wineries in small baskets where it is destemmed and cold soaked before fermentation begins. During primary fermentation, HALL uses both natural yeasts and pure cultured yeasts followed by secondary fermentation which may include malolactic bacteria added to help the wines along the way in small French oak barrels. HALL uses French oak barrels more than 50% new for the aging process, which lasts 16-22 months for the reds before bottling.

Today’s Wine: 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon

87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Merlot; 15.8% ABV

The 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon is opaque deep ruby in color with purple hues and fairly heavy staining on the glass. Given a couple hours to decant, the wine blossoms to showcase a nose of blackberry, blackcurrant, spiced plum, loamy earth, basil, baking spice, vanilla, mocha, and oak. There’s also a good amount of heat from the high ABV. On the palate, I get notes of cassis, black cherry, fig, anise, tobacco, wet slate, savory garden herbs, chocolate, and cedar. This is full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (+) tannins, and a long finish.

Price: $55. This is about what you’d expect for the price-point, not necessarily making it a good “value” but not saying it’s overpriced. With how age-worthy this seems, it could be a good addition to your cellar to break out in several years for those Napa Cab lovers. Pair with ribeye, grilled lamb, or burgers.

Refreshing and Fun White From Santorini

Today’s Story: Estate Argyros

Estate Argyros was established in 1903 on the island of Santorini and today is run by fourth generation winemaker Matthew Argyros. The estate consists of 120 hectares with vines averaging 70 years old, all of which are ungrafted (original rootstock) thanks to the island’s inorganic soil providing immunity to Phylloxera. All vineyards are planted to indigenous varieties of Santorini, including Assyrtiko, Aidani, and Mavrotragano. Argyros farms their vineyards organically under sustainable guidelines, using no pesticides and only grape skins and stems following harvest as compost. All harvesting is accomplished by hand and winemaking is very traditional, yielding wines that are transparent representations of their very unique and difficult terroir.

Today’s Wine: 2018 Assyrtiko

100% Assyrtiko; 13.5% ABV

The 2018 Assyrtiko is transparent pale gold/yellow in color with water white variation near the rim. Once this opens up, the nose showcases aromas of lemon and lime zest, green apple skins, white lily, damp grass, saline mineral, flint, and light smoke. On the palate, the wine displays notes of lime, grapefruit, lemongrass, peach, sea salt, volcanic minerality, and chalk. This is light- to medium-bodied and bone dry with high acidity into a crisp and refreshing finish. The fruit is sourced from 100-120 year old ungrafted vines and fermented in stainless steel vats.

Price: $30. This is a solid value for its quality, and it’s also a fun wine to try because I hadn’t had any Assyrtiko before. Pair this with oysters, sushi, or salad with grilled chicken.

Beautiful and Traditional Napa Cab

Today’s Story: Mayacamas Vineyards

Mayacamas was established in 1889 by German immigrant John Henry Fisher and is located in the Mt. Veeder AVA of the Napa Valley. Fisher went bankrupt in the early 1900s, however, and the winery ceased production with the onset of Prohibition (although bootleggers are said to have made wine in the cellars during the early years). Mayacamas was owned by the Brandlin family during the 1920s and 1930s, before being purchased by Jack and Mary Taylor in 1941 when the estate received its current name. Mayacamas changed hands yet again in 1968 when Robert and Elinor Travers purchased it, with the couple quickly setting about expanding the aging facilities and vineyard holdings while planting and replanting vines. Charles and Ali Banks purchased Mayacamas in 2007, though the winery has since changed hands again to the Schottenstein family.

Though the history of Mayacamas is long and inclusive of many ownership changes, the one constant is the traditional style of winemaking they practice. Mayacamas was one of the wines in the 1976 Judgment of Paris (they poured their 1971 Cabernet Sauvignon) which showed the estate can stand up with the greatest Californian and French wines of the world. Mayacamas dry farms their vineyards and transitioned a large portion to organic viticulture in 2013, further enhancing the quality of fruit. Very traditional in style, they age the wines in neutral oak to not mask any of the true expressions of the Cabernet Sauvignon variety or the terroir.

Today’s Wine: 1989 Cabernet Sauvignon

100% Cabernet Sauvignon; 12.5% ABV

The 1989 Cabernet Sauvignon is very youthful opaque deep garnet in color with plenty of ruby left. After 3 hours in the decanter, this beauty blossomed with a nose of blackcurrant, blackberry, cherry, redcurrant, pencil shavings, cigar box, tobacco, forest floor, truffle, gravel, and thyme. On the palate, the wine displays notes of blackberry, crème de cassis, black plum, redcurrant, violet, graphite, tobacco, sous bois, green herbs, cracked black pepper, and cedar. This is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium dusty tannins, and a long finish. If tasted blind 100 times, I’d call this 1st or 2nd Growth Left Bank Bordeaux every time.

Price: $200. If provenance is impeccable, like this bottle was, this is absolutely worth the price. Drinking up there with some of the greats of Bordeaux, this is an incredible value. Pair with filet mignon, roasted lamb, or portobello mushrooms.