kw09julygl.jpgGrapelive Latest: July 29, 2009

I’m declaring 2007 the vintage of Pinot in California, especially as I begin tasting some new releases from small vintners that are dedicated to terroir driven wines and let the vineyards show their unique flavor profiles. I think overall this amazing vintage showcases everything that is great about Pinot Noir, giving rich and deep layers, slightly dark color and flavors, but with refined elegance and good firm acidity that will allow aging and lifts the fruit. After some thin or fat vintages that still produced fine Pinot Noir, this vintage puts everything together in a more complex and complete fashion. 2006 for the most part had softer flavors, though nice and sweet with smooth depth, the color was also remarkable light in some cases, but they will not match the 2007’s for substance and cellar potential, so enjoy your 2006’s now and get the 2007’s and count on them lasting a good long time, though you might not want to wait after trying them!

The 2007 vintage also marks the return of Gary Farrell as an artisan winemaker, and he is releasing his new Alysian (label) wines from his favorite vineyards in the Russian River Valley, including Rochioli, Allen and Starr Ridge for his new line up of Pinot Noir(s) plus adds the “new” Floodgate Vineyard. These wines look to restore him to his former glory and highlight his sublime talents as one of the best winemakers in the region. His rebirth is perfectly timed and new releases are intensely flavored and intriguing wines that have stunning purity and deep fruit that will impress his fans of old and bring a new wave of followers, no question. Gary’s new line up includes a rich and full-bodied Chardonnay much in the Williams-Seylem and Rochioli does with loads of sweet pear, toasty oak and long apple pie and vanilla cream finish. The Chardonnay seems much more interesting than anything I alysian.jpgcan remember from his old label that bares his name, and the Pinot Noirs too have much more character and terroir to them, plus they are in a riper and vibrant style that makes them really stand out. The new Floodgate Vineyard Pinot is very unique and bold giving the drinker lots of pleasure and something to savor, but Farrell has put most of his attention on his main cuvee, the plain Russian River Valley Pinot Noir that gets his hand selected best lots from the top sites, which this vintage include Rochioli, Allen, Starr Ridge and other tiny plots that showcase the best grapes from the Russian River. So the savvy wine buyer and wine enthusiast should take advantage of this wines availability and better price than the most costly single vineyard releases for smart drinking, though I must say the Floodgate was worth the price and I will not pass up the single vineyard Rochioli, when Gary releases it later this year!

After releasing her wonderful 2005 Ryan Pisoni Vineyard Pinot Noir late, Peggy Ryan is now following that great effort with the 2007 Ryan Silacci Vineyard Pinot Noir, a wine made with the “Pisoni Clone” blocks in the Silacci Vineyard just west of the Santa Lucia Highlands, where the famed Pisoni Vineyard is located. Silacci is a cool site and has a longer growing season which lets the grapes get darker and riper, but still with plenty of acidity. The new Ryan Silacci is a bold and meaty wine that feels tight and powerful now in its youth, but is all ready textured and deep in complex flavors, even rivaling the Pisoni for intensity. Peggy Ryan and her Ryan Cellars label have been knocking it out of the park lately and continues to really impress for style, quality and price, considering she usually produces less than 200 cases of each single vineyard Pinot Noir she crafts.

So for the Pinots of 2007, I say stick to California as both Oregon and Burgundy had much weaker efforts with some thin and bitter wines. While if you can find 2005 Burgundies, and even some 2006’s, then there was the powerful 2006 vintage in Oregon, with the Willamette Valley Pinot giving super rich fruit and lovely depth. All that doesn’t mean there were not exceptions as I found out when I tasted the 2007 Shea Vineyards Pinot Noir releases recently with Dick Shea. Kudos to Dick and his very talented winemaker Drew Voit, for delivering fantastic wines from a hard and challenging year in Oregon, from this special vineyard. These wines along with the Beaux Freres must be considered the Grand Cru of Oregon and no matter the vintage should be sought after. I tried the 3 different Pinot Noir selections from Shea Vineyards, the Estate, the Pommard Clone and the Homer Block, all of which gave wonderful perfume; depth and beautiful pure fruit and all were worthy of more attention in the future. The surprise was the Shea Vineyards Chardonnay, and for the second vintage in a row, I was blown away with the elegance and layers found in this wine, making a real contender to go up against the best from Puligny or Chassagne Montrachet(s) in other words, you just need to try this beauty!


alysianpinot.gif2007 Alysian Pinot Noir Russian River Valley.
Gary Farrell has finally got back to doing what made him famous, back doing what made him one of the best winemakers in California that is making small lots of handcrafted wines from great vineyard sites and expressing his region, his love of terroir in the Russian River Valley. His fans will rejoice that he has come back from the mass produced corporate world that took over his namesake label. Instead of overseeing 100,000 cases of wines, including wines made from grapes from all over California, he has turned back to his favorite passions, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, only from the Russian River. The first vintage is a stunning debut with the rich and intense Russian River Valley Pinot, which has lots of terror character and vibrant flavors. The palate explodes with black cherry, raspberry, strawberry jam and plum fruits mixed with cola bean, sweet spices, lavender, and smoky sweet toasty oak leaving a long vanilla cream finish.
($48 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

*Can be ordered through RANCHO CELLARS 831-625-5646


ryansilacci07.gif2007 Ryan Cellars Pinot Noir “Silacci Vineyard” Monterey.
Coming hot on the heels of her late release of the Pisoni Vineyard Pinot Noir, Peggy Ryan has now just released the powerful and young 2007 Silacci Vineyard Pinot that comes from special selections of “Pisoni Clone” sections of the vineyard that lays just west of the main Santa Lucia Highlands. Over the last few vintages many small talented producers are buying grapes from this cool climate site, feeling the grapes are getting longer hang time and developing fuller flavors and darker colors with losing grip or acidity. Peggy’s 2007 Silacci has massive and meat fruit, dark color and dense structure all held together by firm acidity making for a blockbuster style Pinot Noir and a complex wine to enjoy soon and for many years to come. The nose is bursting with sweet smoke, violets, briar and game with an intense palate of blackberry, cherry, plum and currants with tea spices, dried flowers, licorice and plenty of toasted French oak shadings. This wine is wound up and has lots of vigor, so be sure to let it breath, and is best if decanted!
($47 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive

*Can be ordered through RANCHO CELLARS 831-625-5646


shea07.gif2007 Shea Vineyards Pinot Noir “Shea Vineyard” Estate, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
This wine is beautiful and layered and lovely in every way, and even more amazing since the vintage was so difficult and was tough for most vintners in the Willamette to make complete and complex wines, with most turning out thin if not unpleasant wines. Shea and his winemaker beat the odds and produced a wonderful line up of Pinot, and especially good is this cuvee from this Grand Cru class vineyard. The Estate Pinot shows elegant and refined flavors and sublime balance with subtle perfume and round flavors. The nose is bright with wild flowers and rose petals, with hints of oak and spice leading to a palate of red currant, plum and a solid core of pure cherry fruit that is persistent through to the long lingering finish. This wine fills out with air and while bright and vibrant it is lush and full in the mouth with hints of mineral, light baking spices, piecrust, fennel and vanilla.
($48-50 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive


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