When sommeliers talk about California Pinot Noir the Russian River Valley is quite often the preferred region and when a list is made of favorite wineries Williams Selyem is always within the “Top 10”. This winery has been hailed by many of my friends and fellow Pinotfiles so it has been on my “must visit” list for quite some time. So, with my 48th birthday coming up the first weekend of July I made a reservation and celebrated the day experiencing some of the best California Pinots I have ever tasted. These wines have extremely limited distribution and tend to get significant markup in the very few retail stores that carry their wines. The winery has no sign at the entrance indicating its location on the Westside Road and reservations are required far in advance. In fact I made my appointment about 6 weeks prior to my visit.
Williams Selyem Winery was founded by Burt Williams and Ed Selyem who began their enological endeavors under the Hacienda del Rio Winery label in a garage in Fulton, California. Their first wine was a 1981 Zinfandel and quickly thereafter they began making Pinot Noir.
In 1998, they were ready to move on and sold the winery to New York businessman John Dyson, who hired Bob Cabral as Executive winemaker. Bod had previously worked as winemaker for De Loach, Kunde, Alderbrook and Hartford Court and guided Williams Selyem to become the iconic winey it is today with new vineyards and crafting the winery’s trademark elegant style and overseeing the construction of a $14.8-million winery. However, after serving as the chief winemaker for 16 years he will be stepping down at the end of 2014 and has visions of creating his own label.
While visiting I sampled the following wines, but the descriptions below hardly do them justice:
2012 Vista Verde Vineyard, Limestone Ridge Chenin Blanc
This is a clear white wine, pale straw in color with low viscosity. On the nose it is clean with moderate intense aromas of candied lemons, yellow flowers with hint of a salty minerality and a slight gun-flint smokiness. On the palate it is dry and very crisp with HIGH acid, it is light bodied and a medium+ length finish. This wine sells for $35 per bottle.
2012 Unoaked Chardonnay, Russian River Valley
This is a clear white wine, straw in color with moderate intensity and medium viscosity. On the nose it is clean with subtle aromas of lemon, white peaches, and green apples. It is dry with a medium+ acidity, it is medium bodied with medium alcohol and a medium length finish. The wine is a bit austere but if you prefer a California Chards done in a Chablis-like style you’ll enjoy this wine. This wine sells for $39 per bottle winery but it retails for $69 at a local wine shop.
2011 Block 10 Estate Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley
This is a clear ruby wine at the core that transitions to magenta at the rim, it has moderate intensity with and medium viscosity. On the nose it has pronounced intense aromas of ripe cherries, plums and strawberry preserves, fresh roses, hints of smoke and bacon, followed by a touch of clove and spice. The nose on this wine is very fruit forward and it is quite seductive as well. I don’t think I have ever come across a Pinot that immediately made me say “WOW!” at the first sniff. On the palate it is very soft on entry with silky medium- tannins, medium+ acidity, it is has medium+ body and an extremely long finish. This wine sells for $85 per bottle.
2012 Westside Road Neighbors Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley
This is a clear ruby colored wine with medium intensity and moderate viscosity. On the nose it has moderate aromas of Bing cherries with hints of cola, a hint of smoke, black pepper and anise. On the palate it is dry with medium- velvety tannins, medium+ acidity and a long finish. This wine sells for $69 per bottle at the winery but it retails for $110 at a local wine shop.
2011 Bucher Vineyard Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley
This is a clear ruby colored wine with medium intensity and moderate viscosity. On the nose it has moderate aromas of Bing cherries, strawberries, mushrooms, forest floor with hints of dried herbs, a hint of smoke, black pepper and anise. On the palate it is dry with medium silky tannins, mouthwatering medium+ acidity and a long finish. This wine was not as fruit forward as the previous Pinots and it has more of the mushroom-earthiness that I prefer so it my favorite wine in the line-up. I brought one bottle home for $59.
To see more pictures of Williams Selyem Winery, check the link below to Erik Wait’s Wine Country Photography:
To visit or for more information:
Williams Selyem Winery
7227 Westside Rd
Healdsburg, CA 95448