Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Whitehall Lane Winery – St. Helena, California

Whitehall Lane was founded in 1979 by pioneering vintners Art and Bunnie Finkelstein who have been producing legendary wines in the Napa Valley since the 1970’s. They named the winery after the road that runs along the south border of the property, Whitehall Lane. They focused their winemaking efforts to producing a small production of high quality Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Later they sold the winery and founded Judd’s Hill Winery which I visited in September, 2011.

Today Whitehall Lane Winery is owned by Thomas Leonardini, who acquired the property and facility in 1993. The Leonardini family then expanded and renovated the winery’s production by instituting a new barrel-aging program and sourcing more fruit from the finest Napa Valley vineyards.

The Leonardi family now owns six vineyards on 110 acres which includes the location of the winery on the Whitehall Lane Estate Vineyard (Rutherford AVA), the Rutherford West Vineyard (Rutherford AVA), the Bommarito Vineyard (Rutherford AVA), the Oak Knoll Vineyard (Oak Knoll District AVA), the Leonardini Vineyard (St. Helena AVA) and the most recently purchased Fawn Park Vineyard (St. Helena AVA).

These prime valley-floor vineyards, including the Leonardini Vineyard in St. Helena, are dedicated to producing fine Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir.

Since the Leonardini's acquisition of Whitehall Lane Winery in 1993, all of the Cabernets in the reserve program (with the exception of the “off” year 1998) have scored between 91-97 points in The Wine Spectator. Whitehall Lane Winery is also the only winery in the world to place #5 or higher in the Wine Spectators Top 100 on three separate occassions. The winery has also been voted “Winery of the Year” from the Quarterly Review of Wines and Wine and Spirits Magazine.

The tasting room has two different flights. The first includes their Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. The second is their Reserve flight consists of a line-up of Cabernets. I chose the latter and tasted the following wines:

My first pour was the 2008 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, a blend of 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Merlot, 4% Malbec, and 2% Petite Verdot. This wine is very bold and intense with loads of black cherries, cassis and blue berry pie. It is full bodied with a well-rounded mouth feel but with a little of heat on the finish. This wine sells for $40 a bottle.

My second wine was the 2008 Reserve Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine is deep and inky dark purple and red towards the rim. On the nose this wine is similar to the previous Cab, but on the palate it has much bolder and yet supple tannins with a firmer grip but on the finish the wine has less alcoholic heat. The flavor profile also has an additional note of cocoa on the return. This wine sells for $75 a bottle.

My third wine was the 2008 Millennium Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. The Millennium vineyard is located less than one-half mile from the winery estate on the northwest edge of the Rutherford Appellation. Whitehall Lane purchased the property in 2000 and all but four acres of this 20-acre vineyard property is currently being replanted. After removing the vines at the end of 2007, they conducted an analysis of the soils throughout the vineyard in order to isolate vineyard blocks based on soil criteria. Subsequently they have created four new vineyard sub-blocks that will be planted with ideally matched rootstocks and clones in an effort to grow grapes with optimum complexity and flavor, each with its own irrigation system. Row orientation and trellis systems were then matched to suit growth and sun exposure. The remainder of the vineyard that is under redevelopment will begin producing fruit in 2011. Overall, I’d say this wine is probably way too young to be truly appreciated now. The nose is extremely tight and closed, it has immense tannins with a huge drying grip and the fruit profile seems very dense, concentrated and yet also reserved. Perhaps the wine needed to be decanted more but I suspect that it needs to be revisited in a few more years. Having said that, it is very difficult to determine the quality of the wine at this point. To do so might be like critiquing a new-born infant for its lack of mobility. This wine sells for $85 a bottle.

My final wine was the 2008 Leonardini Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. The Leonardini Vineyard consists of approximately 10 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon and a little more than two and one-half acres of Merlot. The land was first put under vine in the late 1800’s when the Lewelling Family settled on a large tract of land on the southern outskirts of St. Helena. A century later, the Leonardini Family bought the vineyard in 1993 and had two separate wells drilled and irrigation added to feed the vines during the growing season. Rootstocks and grape clones were then matched to the climate and soil to insure quality fruit. The rootstock that was chosen works well in Cortina Gravely Loam and clones were picked because of their excellent track record in the Rutherford and St. Helena climates. The canopy and pruning system in place allows maximum sun exposure without over-cropping. The result of these efforts is that the wine from this land has been so successful that The Wine Spectator selected the Leonardini Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon as the finest representation of the St. Helena appellation. In comparison to the previous wine, the Leonardini Cab is BIG and yet more relaxed, expressive with well-rounded fruit, well structured tannins and is immediately drinkable NOW and yet undoubtedly could be well-cellared for another decade. On the nose and palate I picked up cassis, blackberries, dark chocolate, followed by anise on the tail end. On the palate it has slight drying tannins that have a firm but not over-whelming grip that is followed by a very long finish. While I preferred this wine to the Millennium Cab this wine sells for $85 a bottle, so for the price point the Reserve Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon was my favorite in the line-up.

To visit or for more information:

Whitehall Lane Winery
1663 St. Helena Highway
St. Helena, CA 94574
Telephone: 1-707-963-7035

Monday, January 30, 2012

Corison Winery – Home of Old Vine Cabernet in St. Helena, California

Earlier in the week I drove through Sonoma and visited a winery in Santa Rosa with barely a single wild flower in sight… so with warm and sunny weather in the forecast for the weekend I was really looking forward to heading out to the Napa Valley for the beginning of the Mustard Season which runs through February and March.

So, with that in mind I drove up to St. Helena to taste at Corison Winery - the 110th winery I have visited in the Napa Valley since the Spring of 2000.

Founder and winegrower Cathy Corison specializes in crafting artisanal Cabernet Sauvignon that reflects the terroir of great benchland vineyards located between Rutherford and St. Helena, where deep, stony alluvial soils provide ideal growing conditions for the Cabernet vine.

The Corison Winery is the home of the Kronos Vineyard, eight acres planted exclusively to St. Georges rootstock. As one of the last old Cabernet Vineyards in the Napa Valley, it is one of the few vineyards to have produced world-class fruit continuously for more than four decades. Farmed organically and growing on gravelly loam soils, the gnarly old veterans produce scant yields that result in wines of rare concentration and refinement. 

Cathy Corison discovered her passion for wine while pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Biology at Pomona College in Claremont, California. Inspired by the notion that wine is “alive at every level,” she went on to receive a Master's in Enology from U.C. Davis in the mid 1970’s.

While serving as a winemaker for other wineries such as Chappellet Vineyard, Staglin Family Vineyard, York Creek Vineyards and Long Meadow Ranch, she honed her skills in producing well-crafted wines. Then with a desire to put make her own wine, in 1987 she made the first vintage of Corison Cabernet. 

Though it's Cathy’s name on the label, Corison is a true family winery. Cathy’s husband, William Martin, a winery Renaissance man, designed the barn, keeps all the equipment humming and manages the day-to-day details of running the business.

If you are visiting the Napa Valley during the months of February or March and want to view the spectacular display of wild flowers during this season, most of the flowers are in the central part of the valley along Highway 29 from Oakville up to St. Helena. And if you want to experience some of the finest wines in this region, then I highly recommend visiting Corison Winery.

While visiting I tasted the following wines:

My first pour was the 2008 Gewürztraminer, sourced from a 30-year-old vineyard in the Anderson Valley. This is not your typical sweet, super-floral style Gewürz but a light an elegant wine with subtle fruit and floral notes that is very crisp, dry and has a long finish. On the nose and palate I picked up melon rind, white grapefruit, lychee nut and a slight chalky minerality. This wine sells for $30 a bottle.

My second wine was the 2007 Helios Cabernet Franc – Napa Valley. I’m not a big fan of Cab franc as a stand-alone wine but I was really impressed with this one as it displays all the wonderful fruit characteristics of the varietal without all the typical green vegetal notes. On the nose it exudes fresh black and blue berries and on the palate it is full bodied with a round mouth feel with some tart red currants followed by a very distinct boysenberry pie character on the finish. If I was blind-tasting this wine, I would never guess it was 100% Cab Franc and would tend to think that it might have a little Malbec in it. A really nice wine for $40 so I brought one home.

My second red wine was from the library, the 2001 Corison Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine is surprisingly youthful in appearance – bright ruby red colors without a touch of garnet or brick on the rim. On the nose I picked up blackberries, black currants, molasses, coffee and vanilla. On the palate I picked up more red fruits, particularly red currant. The tannins are soft, it has great structure and mouth watering acidity. A really great wine for $80 a bottle.

My third red wine was also form the library, the 2002 Kronos Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. This is a very Bordeaux-like wine and needs some air to breath to really enjoy its beauty so I highly recommend decanting it.  I spent a lot of time swirling the glass, repeatedly returning to the nose and was absolutely delighted as the bouquet developed in the glass. On initial impact it is somewhat earthy and mushroomy and then as it opens it displays an array of black and red fruits (blackberries, blueberries, black currants) followed by anise and some spice on the back end. The nose on this wine is not “in your face” attacking your senses all at once, but has a gradual evolution from start to finish. On the palate the nose is repeated with supple drying tannins and a long finish with a hint of anise on the return. This is what I call a  “wine of interest” – one that makes you think and pay attention to its beauty. A fabulous wine for $125 and I brought one home to share with friends at an up-coming dinner.

My final wine was the 2007 Kronos Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine is similar in its fruit profile to the 2001, but without the earthy-mushroomy notes. It is bright and fresh, with great acidity and backbone and easily drinkable now. But, 2007 was such a  great year if you plan on buying one I’d buy another to compare 10 years form now. This wine sells for $98 and undoubtedly will sell for a lot more 5 - 10 years from now.

To see more pictures, check out Erik Wait’s Wine Country Photography at:

To visit or for more information:

Corison Winery

987 St. Helena Highway

St. Helena, CA 94574

Telephone: 1-707-963-0826

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Paradise Ridge – A Wine Sculpture Gallery in Santa Rosa, California


Having spent the last couple months visiting urban wineries around the San Francisco Bay Area (Alameda, Ghiradelli Square in S.F., Oakland, San Carlos, Santa Rosa) I’ve been eager to get back out into the wine country. 

This time of year the prime locations for doing photography tend to be either in vineyards with very gnarly old vines (such as at Borra Vineyards in Lodi) or on valley floors where wild flowers grow in abundance. With this in mind, I intend to focus the next couple months on roaming the Napa Valley.

But another interesting venue for doing wine country photography are locations where the primary objective is to snap shots of a winery’s display of their philosophy in their architecture and creation of art. One such place is in the east hills of Santa Rosa at Paradise Ridge, a family owned and operated winery, which has the “Marijke’s Grove” outdoor sculpture gallery where after doing a self-guided vineyard tour you can head into the tasting room to sample their selection of wines from the Russian River Valley and the Rockpile Viticultural Area.

The estate was discovered in 1977 by Walter Byck and Marijke Byck-Hoenselaars and the winery was later founded in 1991. Located on a 156-acre wine estate in the heart of Sonoma County just minutes from downtown Santa Rosa. Paradise Ridge Winery offers spectacular natural vistas overlooking the Russian River Valley, expansive decks and terraces open to panoramic landscapes, including rolling vineyards and pastoral wine country scenery. 

While visiting I tasted the following wines:

The first pour was the 2009 Sauvignon Blanc from the Stetson Creek Vineyard, Dry Creek. On the nose I picked up freshly squeezed lemons, grapefruit, followed on the palate by very sharp acidity that precedes just a hint of creaminess and a touch of chalky minerality on the finish. This is a very intense and focused Sauv Blanc that attacks the senses, a fair priced wine at $20 a bottle.

My second pour was the 2010 Brides Blush Rosé a blend of Zinfandel and Syrah from the Russian River Valley. On the nose I picked up fresh strawberries, cranberries, and on the palate it has refreshing acidity with a hint of smoke and spice on the finish. This wine is fairly dry and isn’t your typical “white zin” nightmare, but may be more enjoyable during the summer months. Overall, a really nice wine for only $18 a bottle.

My second white wine sample was the 2010 Estate Chardonnay from the Nagasawa Vineyard. This wine is whole-cluster pressed and barrel fermented in 100% French Oak with 80% Malolactic fermentation. This is a big and bold Chard with layers of butterscotch, caramel, baked apples, lemon curd, and toasted bread on the nose. On the palate it is slightly creamy yet maintains its crispness, and in addition to the fruit from the nose it has hint of hazelnut on the finish. If you like this style of Chard, this one is well balanced and refrains from going “over the top.” It sells for $34 a bottle.

My first red wine was my favorite in the line-up, the 2008 Estate Zinfandel from the Hoenselaars Vineyard. This wine has bright fresh fruit (blackberries, raspberries) followed by dried plums, smoked bacon and good acidity. It is a bold, flavorful and complex wine that is well balanced and has a really enjoyable prolonged smoky finish. This would be a great wine for back yard barbeques! This wine sells for $40 a bottle and I brought one home.

My final red wine was the 2007 Elevation Cabernet Sauvignon from the Rockpile Vineyard. This is a Bordeaux blend of 88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Petit Verdot, 3% Merlot and 1% Cabernet Franc. On the nose I picked up red currants, bittersweet baker’s chocolate, strawberry preserves, a hint bell pepper and eucalyptus. On the palate the nose is repeated with drying tannins on the front. A well structured full-bodied wine that sells for $40 a bottle.

My final wine was the 2008 “Ode To Joy” Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc. A delightful wine that displays honey, graham crackers, white flowers, with a definite intense sweetness and yet it has sufficient acidity to keep it from becoming “goopy.”  This wine sells for $37 a bottle.

To visit or for more information:

Paradise Ridge
4545 Thomas Lake Harris Drive
Santa Rosa
Phone: 1- 707-528-9463


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Borra Vineyards – A World Class Family Winery in Lodi, California

Borra Vineyard's historical roots go very deep in Lodi California, in fact the winery represents three generations of family members. The foundation of the winery goes back a hundred years ago to Stephen Borra’s maternal grandfather (Giuseppe Manassero) and the family’s tradition of wine making go even further back to Benevagiena, a small town in Italy. 

Stephen’s wife Beverly (Bowman) was born directly across the street from the where the winery is today on Armstrong Road. After Stephen and Beverly married in 1966, they saved enough money to follow in his family’s footsteps by buying the home and the remaining 30 acres of the family ranch on Armstrong Road, the birthplace of his mother and the location where his parents had met.

Borra Vineyards then is more than just a piece of land, or a winery, it is a piece of the family heritage - one to pass on to the children and grandchildren. The Borra’s continue to live at the home ranch on Armstrong Road flanked by their grown children and their families on nearby, adjacent ranches. 

Stephen began making wine for his family in 1967 and after nearly a decade of success he formally started Borra Vineyards. The winery was then bonded in 1975 and they began producing Barbera and Carignane wines from their grapes in Lodi.

In 1992, the Borra family purchased an additional 200 acres of ideal vineyard property that runs along the north bank of the Mokelumne River, the Gill Creek Ranch, located in the Clements Hills , which was already planted to old vine Zinfandel and Chardonnay. Subsequently they planted additional acreage of Merlot, Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.

Borra owns two vineyards that represent the very best of the Lodi Wine Appellation, the Carrú Vineyard located in central Lodi, is the oldest of the two vineyards and has been in the family for over one hundred years.

A couple years ago I worked part time for Borra Vineyards serving in the tasting room and I worked in the winery (filtering, racking, blending) in order to complete a few college enology course requirements. So I’ve been a fan of their wines for quite some time.

Borra Vineyards typifies the kind of winery I like to visit and would want to work in – they’re family owned, they produce quality estate wines and the atmosphere of their La Dolce Vita Club events is like a communal gathering where friends come together to taste the latest releases and enjoy Borra’s hospitality.  

All of this gives the winery a strong local country “home town” feel that you won’t find in many stuffy and snooty Napa and Sonoma wineries today that are owned by mega corporations and big conglomerates. In fact, I remember the first time I worked in Borra’s tasting room, I was wearing a tie and Stephen told me to take it off as he laughed, “This is a farm!” So if you want to taste quality wines without all the snobbery… this is THE place to go!

On Saturday January 14th 2012, Borra Vineyards hosted a “Fusion Red Carpet Celebration” on to celebrate being chosen as “One of America’s Finest Wines” - a winner of The 3rd WSJwine Annual Dozen 2011 competition which was viewed in the The Wall Street Journal by 1.7 million people the previous week:

“Over 800 wines were tasted blind last year by a panel of top judges, led by the world’s No. 1 wine writer, Hugh Johnson. Of those highly-regarded wines only the best 24 made the final cut, grouped as The WSJwine Annual Dozen 2011 and The Luxury Dozen, along with other respected names, such as Pine Ridge, St. Supéry and Trefethen of Napa, and Scott Harvey of Amador. WSJwine is a partnership between The Wall Street Journal and the world’s leading direct-to-home wine merchant.”

And if that wasn’t reason enough to celebrate, their 2009 Red Fusion won a Double Gold at the prestigious 2012 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition in the “Rhône Other Varietals & Blends-up to $19.99” category. This competition is considered the “Largest Competition of American Wines in the World,” with a record-setting 5,500 different wines submitted.

So, with all this celebrating going on I returned to Borra Vineyards with a friend who was also celebrating his birthday, to sample the wines and to get reacquainted with the owner/winemaker, Stephen Borra, and winemaker Markus Niggli as well as John Bjork of Pantheon Cellars.

 (Left to Right: John Bjork, Stephen Borra, Erik Wait, Markus Niggli)

While visiting we tasted and thoroughly enjoyed the following wines:

The first was the 2010 Chardonnay. Unfortunately the white wines were served VERY cold so they needed a little coaxing to get the aromatics. This wine $19.99

The second pour was the 2010 White Fusion. Previous vintages of this wine were a Viognier, Marsanne and Rousanne blend which I really liked. But wine maker Markus Niggli changed this vintage to a unique blend of Viognier and Gewürztraminer which I found to be a very interesting combination of two well-known floral and tropical varietals. The result is a bouquet of white flowers, lychee nuts, grapefruit, white peaches and on the palate it is very crisp followed by a great minerality, especially on the finish. This wine sells for $16.99 a bottle.

We then transitioned to the reds, the first two being 2008 and 2009 Red Fusion. WOW! These wines are both absolutely fantastic and yet very different in profile.

The 2008 Red Fusion is a blend of 42% Petite Sirah, 22% Syrah, 22% Zinfandel, 9% Alicante Bouschet, and 5% Mouvedre. The bouquet of the ’08 reaches your sense long before the glass gets near your nose and it has an extremely long finish. I picked up plum jam, cherry pie, a sweet potpourri candle (think “Aroma therapy”), bacon, roasted peppers, more bacon, sweet tobacco, more bacon, cappuccino, more bacon and vanilla. The nose and finish of this wine just goes on, and on, and on and absolutely fabulous wine for only $18.99 a bottle.

The 2009 Red Fusion is a different blend than the ’08, whereas the ’08 was Petite Sirah dominate the ’09 is Syrah dominate with a blend of 79% Syrah, 15% Petite Sirah only 5% Zinfandel, 1% Alicante Bouschet, and NO Mouvedre. The ’09 Red Fusion is very different than the ’08 as it is deeper, darker and more earthy with slightly more spice and a little more reserved on the aromatics. The fruit profile is also a little different displaying red raspberries, strawberries and figs and a little pepper and spice. This wine also sells for only $18.99 a bottle!

We loved both the 2008 and 2009 Red Fusion, but I purchased a ½ case of the ’08 Red Fusion (3 bottles to give to my friend for his birthday) I may go back and buy some of the ’09 before they sell out!

The next sample was the 2007 Old Vine Barbera which come from Home Ranch Carrú Vineyard. I’m not the biggest Barbera fan, but this is one of sweet pipe tobacco, bacon, red currants, and damp earth. This wine sells for $25.99 a bottle.

Our next pour was the 2006 Merlot. I’ve tasted this wine before, but it seems to me to have significantly improved with age. In color it has slight indication of brick red on the rim but on the nose it is very expressive of black cherries, dried cinnamon stick and a little spice. On the palate the tannins are supple but still maintain a firm grip. If you’re a Cabernet fan, you’ll like this Merlot for only $18 a bottle.
the best I’ve had from California.  This wine displays a hint of

Reserve Wines

We were then privileged to sample two of their Reserve wines.

The first was the Lot 09 47.5 Red Wine. This wine is a blend of 80% Petite Sirah, 10% Syrah, 10% Mouvedre. In profile, I think of this wine as the big brother of the 2009 Red Fusion – more dense, concentrated, more focused and serious meat eater’s wine. This wine sells for $35 a bottle.

The second Reserve wine was the 2007 47.5 Syrah. This wine is 100% Syrah and displays a bold nose of blueberries, boysenberries, dried dark fruits, new leather, and anise as well as some spice and pepper. I’ve been tasting a lot of Syrahs lately in Sonoma and Santa Rosa and I’d put this one up against them all in a blind wine tasting any day of the week. A great wine for $35 a bottle, I bought ½ case (3 bottles to give to my friend for his birthday).

La Dolce Vita Wine Club Members Only

I was then privileged to sample two of their “Club Member Only” wines. These are VERY small production wines that are only made available to members of Borra’s La Dolce Vita Wine Club. I have tasted these wines before (different vintage) and access to these wines is reason enough to join the club!

The first was the 2009 Field Blend Members Reserve which is a blend of 55% Old Vine Barbera, 20% Carignane, 14% Petit Sirah and 11% Alicante Bouschet. I’m not sure what the magic is in this blend, but was just a “hint” of sweet pipe tobacco of the Barbera is really pronounced in this wine which is followed by root beer, red currants, and damp forest floor. If you like the smell of tobacco, this is a wine you can enjoy just sitting around smelling all day without any smoke in the air. Only 156 cases were made of this truly unique wine that sells for only $19.99 a bottle to club members and I was blessed to buy four bottles (2 bottles to give to my friend for his birthday).

The final wine of the day was the 2009 Finesse Members Reserve which is a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Merlot. This is a BIG powerful wine that would kick many Napa wine’s butts in a street fight. On the nose I picked up fresh ground French Roast Coffee, black cherries, dark chocolate and vanilla. Only 120 cases were produced and yet it sells for only $19.99 to club members.

Borra Vineyards is a small production winery, so if you have not yet tasted their 2008 or 2009 Red Fusion or any of their other fabulous wines, now is the time to visit or place your order.

To visit or for more information:

Borra Vineyards

1301 E. Armstrong Road

Lodi, CA 95240

Phone: 209-368-2446

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Siduri Winery and Novy Family Wines – An Urban Winery in Santa Rosa California

Continuing the theme this winter of visiting urban wineries, I returned to Santa Rosa to sample a line-up of wines from an urban winery that operates out of a warehouse in a business park. The winery has two labels, Siduri Winery, which only produces Pinot Noir, and Novy Family Wines which is co-owned by family members and specializes in Syrah and Zinfandel.

Siduri Winery

While many wineries associate themselves with Bacchus, the Roman mythical god of wine, the name Siduri is derived from a character in the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Babylonian Goddess of wine, who held the wine of eternal life.

Siduri Winery was founded by two Texans, Adam and Dianna Lee who more than 15 dreamt of moving to California to make the finest Pinot Noir from the best vineyards they could find. In 2004 Siduri celebrated its 10-year anniversary and today with a very small crew they produce over 25 different Pinot Noir wines each year, representing the largest Pinot Noir focus of any California winery. 

Adam and Dianna began their wine-making careers by working together in a small family-owned winery in the Dry Creek Valley. They then launched Siduri Wines in 1994 with their first release. Another important member of the wine making team is the Cellar Master and assistant wine maker, Ryan Zepaltas. A native of Wisconsin, he first worked in a harvest cellar job at La Crema Winery where he learned all the basics of cellar management. After two years at La Crema, he headed to New Zealand to work for famous Sauvignon Blanc producer Villa Maria.  In 2000 Ryan interviewed with Adam and Dianna Lee and then joined the team as Cellar Master and Assistant Winemaker for Siduri.

Today, Siduri produces single vineyard Pinot Noir from 20 different vineyards stretching from Santa Barbara in Souther California all the way north to Oregon’s Willamette Valley. In order to do so they have establish relationships with top tier growers/vineyards including Pisoni, Van der Kamp and Clos Pepe. 

All of their Pinot Noir is produced unfiltered and unfined in an effort to maximize the expression of these very diverse sites. So, like many other urban wineries, they rely on vineyard sources for their grapes. However, whereas most wineries without vineyards buy their grapes by the ton Adam and Dianna purchase their grapes by the acre from low yielding vines and then sort the grapes for themselves ensuring only the best grapes make it into the crush. In addition, they use indigenous yeasts and indigenous malolactic fermentation with a minimal “hands on” approach to winemaking.

In the cellar, they vinifiy each wine separately by block, clone and barrel type in order to maximize the individual components and provide greater complexity to the final blend. This approach also enables more flexibility in crafting a wine using only the best and most harmonious lots.

Novy Family Wines

 While Siduri Winery focuses on Pinot Noir they also own a second label called Novy Family Wines which is a collaboration between Adam and Dianna Lee of Siduri Wines and Dianna’s family of Ennis Texas; her parents Adolph and Rose Marie Novy and her brothers and sisters-in-law, David and Angela Novy, Bryan and Kathy Novy and Steven and Marie Novy. The Novy family roots go back to Czechoslovakia where the name Novy means “new”.

Having already founded Siduri Winery, in 1998 Adam and Dianna along with Dianna’s parents, brother in laws and their wives founded Novy Family Wines. With a focus on Syrah and Zinfandel from many of the same vineyard sources as Siduri, Novy Family Wines quickly established itself as a top producer. In 2005, The Wine Spectator called the Novy Syrahs “Stellar” and named the 2003 Novy Sonoma County Syrah to their prestigious TOP 100 WINES OF THE YEAR. That same year, the San Francisco Chronicle named the 2003 Novy Rosella’s Vineyard Syrah to their TOP 100 WINES OF THE YEAR.

While visiting Siduri Winery and Novy Family Wines I tasted the following wines:

The first wine was the 2010 Novy Russian River Valley Gewürztraminer. This wine displays a classic Gewürz fruit and spice profile (lychee nuts, tropical fruits, and honeydew melon), except that it is a little sweeter than most. Apparently this was due to a stuck fermentation in which the native yeast quit turning the sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide and thus it left behind a little sugar and yet it maintains good acidity so it isn’t syrupy sweet. While some people might not like this wine’s profile, sometimes it is good to have a bottle such as this for your guests who are non-wine drinkers but might enjoy something sweet or it can pair well with spicy dishes to counterbalance the spicy-heat. So, at only $19.50 a bottle I brought one home.

My second wine and first Pinot was the 2010 Siduri Chehalem Mountain Pinot Noir. This wine has a very distinct pepper profile followed by black cherries. On the palate this wine is extremely dry and the fruit profile is over run by the pepper. I’d have to say “pass” at $30 a bottle.

My second red wine was the 2010 Siduri Keefer Ranch Pinot Noir. Somewhat muted on the nose (though this may have been due to the winter chill in the air) but after swirling it for a while and cupping the glass with my hands I was able to coax out of it what I consider to be a classic California Pinot profile – bright berries, a little dried cinnamon stick, a hint of cola and some earth. On the palate it has refined tannins, noticeable but not overbearing, and the wine has mouth watering acidity that screams out to be paired with food. A really nice wine for $49 a bottle.

My third red wine was the 2010 Siduri Sonatera Pinot Noir. On the nose this wine is earthy along with dried currants, black cherries, forest floor and herbs. On the palate fruit the tannins are supple with a medium to full-bodied mouth feel. Complex and layered, ending with caressing tannins and a long finish. A really nice wine, it sells for only $49 a bottle .

My final Pinot was the 2009 Siduri Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir. This wine is more fruit forward and rich than the previous Pinots on the nose and palate with luscious cherries and plums, cocoa and cinnamon. On the palate it has supple tannins, good acidity and a full-mouth feel. This was my favorite in the line-up and yet it sells for only $30 a bottle so I brought one home.

I then transitioned back to Novy Family Wines, the first was the 2007 Novy Stolpman Vineyard Nebbiolo. A bright cherry red wine, light bodied with strawberry preserves and some Asian spice on the nose followed by some earthiness. On the palate it is crisp with mouth watering drying tannins that make your teeth stick to the front of your gums. I don’t come across this varietal very often in my wine country travels so this one is a “must taste” wine and it is at a very fair price of only $19 a bottle.

My next three reds were all Syrahs, each with a very distinct profile.

The first was the 2007 Novy Judge Family Vineyard Syrah from the Bennett Valley. This is a very earthly wine with a hint of burnt rubber on the nose followed by crispy bacon and pepper on the tail end. On the palate I also picked up some blueberries. This wine really isn’t my style of Syrah but I think others might enjoy it more than I did and it sells for only $17 a bottle. Perhaps this wine might fair better if paired with barbequed meat.

My second Syrah was the 2008 Novy Christensen Family Vineyard Syrah. I didn’t care for this wine, it has just WAY too much white pepper that overshadows the fruit. In fact, for a while all I could get out of the nose was pepper but eventually as I kept swirling the glass I was able to coax some blackberries and blueberries out of it followed by an extremely peppery finish on the palate as well. At $25 a bottle, I’d have to say “pass.”

My third and final was the 2008 Novy Simpson Vineyard Syrah. This wine has a lot of black fruit (berries, plums) and cherries as well as some bitter-sweet chocolate and creamy vanilla. The nose is repeated on the palate with a very long blueberry pie and vanilla finish. I liked this one so much I brought a bottle home for $25.

My final wine of the day was the 2010 “Oley” Late Harvest Viognier from the Russian River Valley. Golden yellow, this wine displays honey, brown sugar, crème brulee, and canned pears on the nose. On the palate it has a semi-oily viscosity but it is NOT syrupy as it also has really good acidity. A really delicious wine, it sells for $19.50 (375 ml ‘half-bottle’)

For more information or to visit:

Siduri Wines and Novy Family Wines
980 Airway Court, Suite C
Santa Rosa, CA 95403
Phone: 1-707-578-3882