Saturday, June 30, 2012

Lynmar Estate Winery – A Garden of Eden in Sebastopol, California

After visiting Mauritson Family Wines in Healdsburg and then Merry Edwards Wines in Sebastopol last weekend I headed a little further down the road and around the corner to Lynmar Estate Winery. As you turn from down Frei Road, the winery is completely hidden from the view of the roadside. So as you turn into the driveway and pass by a neighboring house and then go through a large hedge of trees. Once you do you’ll suddenly find yourself at an absolutely beautiful winery which features an open-space tasting room with breath-taking vistas of vine covered hills surrounded by stunning colorful botanical and vegetable gardens.

Lynmar Estate Winery is part of the Russian River Valley AVA. The estate was purchased by Lynn Fritz in 1980 and was originally used as a vacation home on which he developed by adding trees, shrubs and grape vines incrementally transforming it from a pasture to a vineyard with lush gardens. Then in the early 1990s the Lynmar Estate Winery was established as it began producing and selling wine. In 2008, after achieving success with the wine, Lynn and his wife Aniysa moved into the vacation house making the 100-acre ranch their permanent home.

Sustainable and organic agriculture govern the vineyard activity. It borders the Laguna de Santa Rosa, a 250 square-mile watershed that is home to mammals, reptiles, native plants and migrating birds. The vineyard and winery team uses the most habitat-friendly farming techniques and is sensitive to the needs of this ecosystem. 

The estate has 40+ acres of grape vines, nine of which are over 40 years old. Their Quail Hill Vineyard was originally planted in 1971 and has some of the oldest Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vines in the Russian River Valley. While the older blocks are valued for their balanced fruit, a phased replanting of Quail Hill Vineyard in 1996 was begun to better match each sub block with its optimal clonal selection and rootstocks. This replanting program includes 71% of the vineyard and was completed in 2005. 

While visiting I tasted the following wines:

My first wine was the 2010 Laguna Ridge Chardonnay. This wine was barrel fermented in 60-gallon French oak barrels (5% new) and underwent partial (50%) malolactic fermentation. The wine was then aged for 11 months sur-lie, with weekly stirring of the lees. On the nose I picked up faint aromas of white flowers, orange blossoms, dried pears, apricots, apples, butterscotch, caramel and a hint of toasted marshmallows and vanilla. On the palate it is well balanced with refreshing acidity and a lingering medium (+) length finish. This is a spectacular Chardonnay that sells for only $20 a bottle and in my travels I have found wines like this to cost $30(+) so it is very reasonably priced. I brought one home to share with friends.

The second pour was the 2008 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir. The wine is bright ruby in color with fruit driven aromas of BIG fresh black cherries, blackberries, spice and a hint of vanilla. It is very soft and fruit driven, definitely a “drink now” wine. There are many Pinots like this in the $30 - $35 range so at $40 a bottle it isn’t competitively priced.

The third wine was my favorite in the line-up, the 2008 Freestone Cuvee Pinot Noir. A blend from two sourced vineyards, 50% Freetsone Vineyard and 50% Hawkhill Vineyard.

The Freetsone Vineyard is owned by Joe Phelps who is known for the Napa Valley meritage. Insignia. In 1999, Joe Phelps, his son Bill, and the Joseph Phelps Vineyards management team purchased a former dairy farm of 89 acres in Freestone located in the true Sonoma Coast ostensibly to grow Chardonnay. It turned out the site was equally suited to Pinot Noir. Planting began in 2000 with staged replanting until 2007. The Freestone Vineyard Estate consists of three distinct properties. The Pastorale Vineyard was planted to 34 acres of Pinot Noir and 21.7 acres of Chardonnay at the end of Freestone Flat Road. The Pastorale Vineyard was then joined by two other nearby vineyards following the acquisition of additional property: Quarter Moon Vineyard (41 acres of Pinot Noir), and Ferguson Vineyard (6 acres of Pinot Noir) which is farmed under a long-term lease.

The Hawk Hill Vineyard is owned by Paul and Vicki Michalczyk and it was named for the Red Tail and Cooper’s hawks that are seen regularly at the vineyard. The vineyard is situated on the western edge of the Russian River Valley appellation in a very cool site a mere six miles from the Pacific coast, just east of the small village of Freestone. In this extremely cool vineyard, these downward trained shoots bring their leaves into close proximity with the soil, which radiates just enough extra heat to keep the vines going when nearby vineyards have defoliated. This briefly extended ripening period helps push the fruit toward perfect ripeness and flavor development.

A 50/50 blend of grapes from these two vineyards, the Freestone Cuvee was aged 14 months in 60 gallon French oak barrels (62% new). This wine exudes floral and herbal aromas with complex layers of black cherries, red plums and cinnamon stick. This wine sells for $42.50 a bottle and I brought one home to add to my collection.

The fourth and final Pinot was the 2008 Hawk Hill Pinot Noir. All of the grapes are hand-harvested early in the morning and immediately transported to the winery where they were hand-sorted before being de-stemmed and transferred without pumping into small (2.5 and 5 ton) open-top fermenters. This de-stemmed fruit was then cold-soaked for 7-8 days at 50°F before allowing native yeast fermentation to begin. Each fermentation was punched down by hand 2 to 4 times per day as needed. Total skin contact time was 14-18 days depending on the lot. The new wines were then drained (with skins gently basket-pressed) and lightly settled overnight, then put into barrels where the secondary, malolactic fermentation occurred. Racking was minimal, with aging on light lees until the final blend was assembled. This wine was bottled unfined and unfiltered. On the nose it is bolder than the previous Pinots with wild blueberries, blackcurrants, red plums, strawberries and a hint of anise. On the palate it has superb balance of acidity and silty tannins. It is a great wine but there are many like it in the $45-$55 range on the market. Yet this wine sells for $70 a bottle!

To visit or for more information:

Lynmar Estate Winery
3909 Frei Road  
Sebastopol, CA 95472
Phone: 707-829-3374