Pierson Meyer — from a mountain grows pinot

wine bottle labelPeirson Meyer Wines were born from a friendship that was formed in early 2001, when Lesley Warner-Peirson, her husband Alan Peirson, and Robbie & Shannon Meyer met at Peter Michael Winery.  With a shared passion, their first wine, the L’Angevin Russian River Chardonnay, was produced in 2001.

Today, Peirson Meyer crafts small lot wines sourced from Sonoma and Napa, and made to reflect the land.

Starting with the 2014 Rosé of Pinot Noir, with only 50 cases (2 barrels) produced, winemaker Robbie Meyer really enjoys the use of native yeast.  In this wine, Pinot Noir clones 777 and 828 from two Sonoma County vineyards create this pale pink princess with rose petals, ripe peaches and berry coulis.  An elegant and restrained rosé that deserves to be the centerpiece of a summer day.  $32

While Peirson Meyer is known for Pinot Noir, the 2013 Ritchie Sauvignon Blanc comes from a cooler site where the grapes ripen more slowly.  Using the native yeast and a gente pressing of whole clusters, this wine is aged in neutral oak.  Bursting with tropical melon and juicy pears, the minerality shines through with a chalky, floral finish. $30

In contrast, the 2013 Ryan’s Sauvignon Blanc comes from a much warmer site in Napa Valley’s Oak Knoll district, and produces a bolder, more tropical style of wine.  Native yeast fermentation reveals dense apricots and honey, with slight banana notes.  $30

One of the highlights of our tasting experience was the ability to taste three chardonnays side by side.  Doing so allows us to really see the differences each site makes, as well as the nuances of wine making such as barrel selection or yeast selection.

First, the 2012 Russian River Valley Chardonnay.  Aged in 45% new French Oak, and fermented with native yeast (are you starting to see the pattern here?), it is a blend of three vineyards.  Robbie allows malolactic to complete naturally, and uses the native yeast to his advantage, creating a natural, and rich wine.  Viscous and replete with baked apples and nutmeg.  $38

The 2012 Sophia’s Chardonnay comes from a site in the Russian River formerly known as the Sullivan Vineyard.  With 40 year old vines located near Graton, in the west of Sonoma County, this wine is nutty and cirrus driven, with preserved lemons, caramel, vanilla and fresh cream.  $44

The 2012 Heinz Vineyard Chardonnay from the Sonoma Coast appellation is physically near the Sullivan Vineyard, yet worlds apart.  Restrained and clean, with Asian pears and graphite.  This wine is clean and focused.  $55

Finally ,we were treated to a trio of Pinot Noirs, each one unique, but with some wonderful similarities.

2012 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir is classic Russian River, with dark forest floor, cola, and cherry notes.  Holiday baking spices dance on the tongue in this rich Pinot Noir.  $44
In the small town of Graton, the Miller Vineyard turns Russian River on it’s head by offering a lighter style of Pinot Noir.  The 2012 Miller Vineyard Pinot Noir has bursting black cherry, root beer, and raspberry flavors with cracked pink peppercorn aromas.  The savory aspect of this wine with mushrooms and cedar flavors give it an enchanting profile that is sure to please.  $50
In contrast, the 2012 Bateman Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir comes from the Sonoma Coast region north of Miller Vineyard, and gives this wine brighter acid, and a more masculine, defined structure.  Savory, earthy funk in all the best ways, the Bateman wafts bergamot and tangerine, with a hint of tomato leaf from it’s cool hillside foggy lair.  This elegant wine is an instant classic.  $60
Pierson Myer also producers a lovely Merlot and and Cab Sav, but for these purposes, I’d stick to the Chardonnay and Pinot Noirs.  These are perfect for your holiday table, and gift giving!
Thank you to the good folks at Peirson Meyer for hosting us in their gorgeous vineyard house, high on top of Howell Mountain, as well as Relish Communications and Michelle Yoshinaka.  Make a point of seeking out these wines for your table, you won’t be sorry!

Spell Estate – Diversity in Pinot Noir

Wandering the aisles of the annual Pinot Days in San Francisco is a combination of old friends, new discoveries, and random skee ball shooting.  This year, there was a new venue, new wineries, and new tastes abounding, of which a few really stood out.

I fully admit that I stopped by the Spell Estate table, simple for the reason that I had never tried them.  When approaching events of this size, I often target those “new to me” folks, of which I am unfamiliar.  I was happy that I had the opportunity to do so, because Spell Estate really is a special find that I have on my “must buy” list for Pinot Noir now.  After chatting with winemaker Andrew Berge, I knew that I was excited to taste the full line up.  Thanks to
General Manager Allisun Groat, I was able to taste the large variety that Spell Estate offers and here are some of my notes.

Founded in 2006, Spell Estate was inspired by Bill & Tiki Spell’s love of Pinot Noir.  Committed to delivering the best expression of Pinot Noir possible, they focus on the vineyards to create world class Pinot Noir.

Engaging winemaker Andrew Berge, who grew up in Europe and is deeply indoctrinated with the wine & food lifestyle, was a smart move for the Spells.  With a depth of experience in winemaking, Andrew is passionate about his wines.  With Spell, as well as his other label La Poutchine , Andrew can extract the expression of each microclimate and terroir as detailed as small patch of vineyard on a steep slope. With each winery comes a unique style, both created and ever evolving by Andrew Berge.

 2013 Alder Springs Pinot Noir – Located just 12 miles from the Pacific Ocean, the fruit comes from three blocks planted between 1700 and 1900 feet.  The volcanic soils here lend themselves to the earthyly old world character of this wine, will tea leaves, dried herbs, and leather, with a bright garget color.  With the earthy underlying notes, the bright red berry and cherry notes are calling attention to this age worthy example of Mendocino Pinot.
2013 Weir Vineyards – Yorkvile Highlands Pinot Noir – just southeast of Anderson Valley, Yorkville Highlands is the gateway to Pinot country.  The Weir Vineyard is planted between 850 and 1000 feet, with the cooling influences of the coastal fog, giving this wine a brilliant cherry base with macerated strawberries.  A hint of graphite and smoked meat round out the finish.  With just 43% new oak, the wine is balanced and calm with the remaining 50% one year or older.

2014 Umino Vineyard Pinot Noir – a classically bold Pinot, with strong cherry flavors and a rich and sultry mouthfeel.  With the vineyard located in the far western reaches of Sebastapol, in western Sonoma County, the foggy influence moderates the hot summer days creating beautiful acid and structure.

2011 Marimar Estate Pinot Noir – from a vineyard on the true Sonoma Coast, in Freestone, this luxurious wine is bursting with tangerine and bright berry, while the forest floor mingles with honeycomb and graham crackers in the deeper layers.  Delicious for those of us who enjoy acid.

The flagship of Spell Estates Pinot Noir lineup is the 2013 Terra de Promissio.  Just east of Petaluma, the maritime influence in the Petaluma Gap helps to maintain cooler temperatures and slows ripening.  Planted in 2002 to 777 and 115, the Terra de Promissio has a plethora of flavors, from strawberry and raspberry paired with tart cranberry, to classic cherry.  The spicy notes of star anise and cinnamon flow through the edge of toasty oak and coffee, with a finish of dark chocolate.  A truly memorable Pinot to hold on to as long as you can resist!

All wines are $48, except the Terra de Promissio, which is $58.

Make sure you stop by and taste these wines when the opportunity strikes!  Tastings can be arranged by special appointment.

Stay tuned for more on Andrew Berge’s other project, La Poutchine!

Expression is in the eye of the drinker

What do you think about when you think about wine?  Flavor, name, price?  When I think about wine, I think about location.  Where is it from?  Is it from a vineyard I know?  An area that I’m fond of?  Somewhere new?  All of these things are characteristics of wine that peak my curiosity, and make me want to know more.

I love wines that express their sites and show the uniqueness of the area.  Luckily for me, there are winemakers that are as driven and curious as I am.  In this case, Matt Licklider and Kevin O’Connor of LIOCO, who founded the winery with the fundamentoal idea that wine should be an expression of terroir.  in this case, Matt Licklider and Kevin O’Connor wanted to express the unique charachteristics of various terroirs of California Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, as well as a unique blend – Indica, a Rhone style blend.

By selecting the best possible fruit available from independent grape growers,, they are able to express control over their fruit and hone in on the exact fruit and characteristics that make the best wine.  Through careful clonal selection, sustainable practices, and careful site selection, the wines are born in the vineyard.

Moving indoors to the winemaking itself, using wild yeast in hand sorted grapes, with very little oak treatment, you get unique, wild, clear representations of the fruit in each bottle.  Having known about LIOCO since my early days of blogging, I was excited to have the opportunity to taste the latest releases.

First up, the fresh and lively 2012 Estero Russian River Valley Chardonnay.  This blend of two vineyards, both in Russian River Valley, reflects the cooling influence of the sites, low in elevation and susceptible to the fog fingers that linger in the mornings.  This proximity to the ocean creates a need for longer hang time, delivering a strength in flavor and bright acidity that is so magical in this wine.  This is what chardonnay should be:  expressive, bright, fruit driven.  Vinified in all neutral oak, the selection of blocks for the Estero is very specific, with all other lots going in to the Sonoma County bottling.  The Estero is showing Meyer lemon, lemon curd, fresh cream, underripe nectarines, fresh cream, and a flinty mineral finish that dances on your palate.  For $35, I’d drink this all day.

Next, two Pinot Noirs from different areas of California.  The first, the 2012 Laguna Sonoma Coast, is a blend of the Teach-Mor and Hirsch vineyards, both from the extreme Sonoma Coast.  This wine is everything I love about Sonoma Pinot Noir, with tangy, hibiscus and bright cherry filled bursts of flavor, with forest aromas of cedar and mushroom.  Fermented from wild yeast, the fruit was fermente with 30% whole cluster bunches.  With vineyards in the fog catching zone, the cool temperatures create the bright red fruit and zingy acidity that I love so mcuh.  This wine was not long for the table as we drank it quickly and happily, but it will age well and the big black raspberry and pomegranite notes are tasty with Thai curry and anything bacon.  Yum!  At $38 it’s an affordable luxury.

The second Pinot is from the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA, south of San Francisco at at elevation.  The 2012 Saveria Vineyard Pinot Noir is also 30% whole cluster, and is unfined and unfiltered.  Finding fruit from a well kept secret in the Saveria Vineyard 6 miles from the Pacific Ocean, clones 115, 667 and 777 are cooled by constant morning fog and a diurinal swing of ~40 degrees.  That ocean is fickle she is!  Aromas of gingerbread and Christmas trees are followed by flavors of balsamic strawberries, rose hips, cranberry sauce with orange zest and black cherry.  The juicy red fruit lingers with the spice box on the finish that is just wonderful, with a touch of cedar smoke lingering on my palate.  A splurge at $50, this would be a wonderful wine with your Easter ham.

The wines of LIOCO bring back the true meaning of terroir, and what it means to be a winemaker and not a wine factory.  WIth so many wineries tryign to achive continutity year after year, makign a product that is a known entity, LIOCO strives to go beyond that and focus on expressing the fruit as much as they can.  Every vineyard and every vintage demands different treatmetn, and deserves careful attention and focus through bottling.  These guys are doing it right.  Balance, flavor, uniqueness.

If you would like to visit the winery, it is located in an urban wine ghetto in Santa Rosa, CA.  Open by appointment only, you can find them at liocowine.com.

These wines were provided by the PR company for consideraton, but I have been known to buy a bottle or two of LIOCO myself.  After this trio, I will buy a bottle or three more!

From Blogger to wine maker – Thralls scores a home run

Thralls Family Wine - Luscious LushesIt’s enough to make a make for TV movie, or at least – a great article in the Sunday food section.  You know the story, small town boy, goes to the big city to live a dream and makes it big.

In this case, this is the story of a little blogger who could.  When I first met Ed Thralls, he was part of the first handfull of bloggers that were a group, around wine country, figuring out what this social media thing was all about.  Ed was also one of the finalists for the now infamous Murphy-Goode lifestyle (which is another story – for another blogger – who also makes wine.  But more on that later).

Interning at Holdredge Wine (who, as it happens, is someone I have known for over 10 years, and also makes world class Pinot Noir) as cellar rat, Ed sucked up as much knowledge about winemaking as he could.  Realizing that he couldn’t possibly leave this wonderful world of delicious Pinot Noir and juice, he made the leap and moved to wine country full time.  While working a full time job in the wine business, he tested, crafted, experimented, and made wine.  Thus, the Thralls Family Wine label was born.

These days, Ed has created a line of four distinct, terroir driven Pinot Noirs from around Sonoma and Mendocino counties.  Each wine expresses a different piece of personality that makes Pinot Noir such an amazing wine.

Thralls Wine

Ed Thralls – Photo by Thea Dwelle

First up, the so called entry level 2012 Russian River Pinot Noir.  This juicy, balanced, and bold example is everything I love about Russian River Valley.  Not overblown like so many Russian River Pinots can be these days, the bright cherry, cranberry adn red fruit sing out with bold flavor and juicy fruit.  Using 1/3 new French oak gives this wine those beautiful hints of baking spice, without overwhelming it.  This is a fantastic everyday drinker for $32.

Next, moving in to a single vineyard showcase, the 2012 Bucher Vineyard Pinot Noir is one of my favorites.   With a deeper cherry flavor base, Bucher shows more black cherry, dark raspberry, and forest floor than the brighter Russian River.  The nuances of cedar and white pepper on the finish leave you guessing for more after the first sip.  This is a wine that gets better with time, so try it over a couple of days, and see what develops!  $40

Moving further west, the 2012 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir takes a step away from the bolder 667 and 777 clones of the Russian River bottlings.  Bringing in some bright 115 and 114 froim the cool, foggy Sonoma Coast, this Pinot Noir has alpine strawberries, cranberry, bergamot smokiness and amazing acid.  This wine goes native, using all wild yeast with 10% whole cluster fermentation to give it a bit of a wild thing note.  Yum!  $36

Finally, for the Pinot Noir geeks in the group, the 2012 Roma’s Vineyard Pinot Noir from Anderson Valley is one for the ages.  100% Pommard clone goes in to this unfined and unfiltered gem, which looks a bit like cloudy cherry Kool-Aid but tastes like a dream.  Roma’s Vineyard sits at about 1800 feet in elevation, high above the valley floor, which creates a sunbelt in a cool climate.  This beauty is popping with mushroom, pine needles, bright cherry cider and rhubarb pie.  It’s bright and has brilliant acidity, and will pop with any mushroom dish or creamy cheese.  $42  (Editor’s Note:  Another fabulous Roma’s Pinot, make in an entirely different style, can be found in Cartograph’s Anderson Valley Pinot Noir.)

The 2012’s are Thralls’ third time out of the gate, with the 2008 Syrah being his first attempt at going it on his own.  Beginning with the 2011 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, Ed fed a passion for pinot, and intends on continuing this tradition of small lot, hand crafted premium pinot noirs while also sourcing chardonnay for his next release.

I can’t wait to see what comes next for the Navy Brat from Atlanta, who came to  Sonoma County to pursue a dream!

Hats off to you Wine Tonight, and cheers!

 

Heart like a Lion

2008 Pinot Noir, Sonoma CoastWhen I first met Leon Glover, winemaker, owner, bottle washer, and mad scientist at Lionheart Wines, several years ago at Crushpad, I knew he was going to make some special wines.

Recently, I had the chance to catch up with him and see how things were going.  WIth the wines resting (ok under lock and key and held hostage but the powers that be at the form Cr***p&%, but who’s counting), I thought they deserved some extra love.  Getting them out of the warehouse was a challege that required some patience, but it was worth it to taste Lionheart’s wines.

First up:  The 2008 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir from Gap’s Crown Vineyard.  This is one of my favorite locations for Sonoma Coast pinot.  Typically, you think of the Sonoma Coast as a region that develops bright acid, cranberry and juicy red fruit.  2008 however was an odd year.  High temperatures for a long summer as well as bad fires in Mendocino led to a big dark and dense wine, with spikes of acid.  That tell cranberry, black cherry, cola, and black raspberry came out to dance on my tongue   The mellow use of only 1/3 new oak balances out this wine without overpowering it.  $42

Lionheart makes several other wines, and I will be sharing those one by one.  I hope I tantilize you with my tastes, and that you run over and buy some for yourself!