2019 Pinot Noir by Morgan, Santa Lucia Highlands, CA

2019 Pinot Noir (Santa Lucia Highlands) by Morgan Winery, Salinas, CA

Bright, clear, ruby color. Shy nose, greets with wet hay, subtle raspberry, cherry and sweet cranberry. Swirling unlocks red vine licorice, honey nectar, and a sweet citrus afternote reminiscent of Meyer lemon. All mere suggestions at their most intense. Sophisticated.

Body greets with a gentle, soft, weighted, zesty, viscous composure. Once the palate adjusts, a soft, bitter, licorice, wet wood, cranberry, and slightly under-ripe raspberry dominate the expression. The overall expression is familiar yet different. This is clearly Santa Lucia Highlands, one of my favorite regions for Pinot Noir. A crisp, refined oak caramel vanilla rounds out the body without distracting the palate and rendering the mouth feel more plush and luxurious. This whole act quietly vanishes leaving the palate slightly dry and moist, completely neutral. Impressive. That’s a first.

This iconic region and its fairly neutral terroir among other key factors make it the perfect place for growing and making rich, nuanced, exquisite Pinot Noir with a unique expression of its fruit characteristics. In this way, this wine showcases this iconic region so well. By blending so many clones it becomes a true celebration of SLH and Pinot Noir. What a great representation. Nicely done!

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2019 Rosé of Pinot Noir by Dawn’s Dream Winery, Carmel by the Sea, California

2019 Rosé of Pinot Noir (Santa Lucia Highlands) by Dawn’s Dream Winery, Carmel by the Sea, California

Rose gold color. Aromatic nose greets with strawberry, white cranberries, wet wood and a hint of honey. Swirling intensifies the nose, adding a bit of cantaloupe and dusty earthy essence. This is Pinot Noir!

Body greets with a punch of citrus lemon, under-ripe strawberry and a faint, crisp caramel. This creates a slightly viscous, weighted mouth feel. Hints of white pepper pop up randomly as the body fades, leaving behind a dry grippy lemon zest, touch of minerality and a tingle of spice.

I keep thinking Bougie Rosé 🤣🤦🏽‍♂️. This wine is proof that Rosé is best when made from Pinot Noir. Clean, crisp, light and refreshing.

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2020 Rosé of Pinot Noir (Whole Cluster) by Willamette Valley Vineyards

Tonight’s Occasion: 2020 Rosé of Pinot Noir (Whole Cluster) by Willamette Valley Vineyards, Oregon.

Rich Rosé, strawberry almost copper color. Reminds me of my favorite orange wine. Full bodied aromatic nose with intense ripe, strawberry, cherry and raspberry. This nose screems everything you would expect from a Rosé. I love it. A subtle secondary earthy leather lingers in the background. It is a Pinot Noir after all. Sweet Citrus, honeysuckle and jasmine emerge as it breathes. Stop it already!

A silky viscous weighted body greets the palate immediately. Sweet citrus reminiscent of Meyer lemon adds a touch of tension across an otherwise velvety smooth body. Strawberry and cherries carry over very nicely. A smattering of white pepper. As the body thins out towards the back, a faint crisp, refined caramel reminiscent of neutral French Oak emerges. It mineral underpinnings are revealed in the finish through slightly moist lips.

This is a classic Rosé. Very nicely composed. It is further elevated by Pinot Noir from this region. It retains a broad appeal while keeping the enlightened palate entertained. Every cellar should keep this Rosé on hand. Great value and great job guys!

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2019 Pinot Noir (Wholer Vineyard) by Sojurn, Sonoma

Tonight’s Occasion: 2019 Pinot Noir (Wholer Vineyard – Russian River Valley) by Sojourn Cellars, Sonoma, CA

Dark ruby color. Aromatic nose with red berries, raspberries and that all too familiar Sonoma Dirt up front. This is where my mind goes every time I think of Sonoma Pinot – the dirt. Damp earth mixed with dry grass/hay. Sometimes more forest floor, sometimes more mushroom, open field as is the case with this one. Swirling vigorously adds a touch of red vines licorice. The entire bouquet intensifies. Almost intoxicating. Love it!

Body is balanced right down the middle, front to back. A soft plush mouth feel greets the palate with light raspberry, touch of strawberry all wrapped in a weighted, silky texture. Tannins are barely noticeable and secondary, providing just enough structure. A gentle spice warmth gradually emerges towards the back as the body fades, leaving behind subtle bitter cola. The two gently coating the lips. And just like that, with little fanfare, the show is over. Time for another sip!

I love what Sojourn is doing with their Pinot Noirs. You can’t go wrong here. Great, faithful Pinot from Sonoma. Highly recommend. You won’t be disappointed!

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2018 Pinot Noir by Lusso Della Terra, Fiddletown, Amador, CA

Tonight’s Occasion: 2018 Pinot Noir (Adelaida District, San Luis Obispo) by Lusso Della Terra, Fiddletown, Amador, CA

Ruby red color. Light bright cherry cola. Subtle damp earth. Swirling unlocks hints of red vines licorice and eucalyptus. I like it.

Body greets immediately with lots of bright fruit. Raspberries, cherries and red berries. A subtle oak further accentuates the fruit expression, and softens the body further, resulting in a soft, smooth mouth feel. Hints of banana peel emerge towards the back so faint you’d likely miss it. This marks the transition to finish as a warm spice heat emerges then intensifies through the finish. A gentle crisp tannic grip slowly tugs at the palate, alternating between wet and dry and the spice warmth creeps further down the chest.

I met up with a owner winemaker Edward not long ago. It was a rainy winter afternoon and I got to taste their eye watering lineup with Ed and assistant winemaker Clare. I like that they are up to and think they’re a great addition to the Fiddletown area. The line of bubbles deserves its own segment. It’s incredible. Great wines with a vibrant modern vibe and broad appeal. Definitely a must if you’re in the area. I’m looking forward to seeing what Ed and Clare do with the coming harvests! Nicely done Ed, Clare.

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2020 Pinot Noir (Whole Cluster) by Willamette Valley Vineyards, Oregon

Tonight’s Occasion: 2020 Pinot Noir (Whole Cluster) by Willamette Valley Vineyards, Oregon.

Rich ruby color. Bright colorful bouquet of ripe cherries, raspberries, cranberry and pomegranate. Wet earthy leather, slightly mineral sedimentary. It adds a great terroir driven dimension to its playful disposition. Soft oak vanilla further accentuates the fruit expression. Nice.

Light body with bold fruit character. A rich vanilla amplifies the expression and lends a creamy undertone without being over-oaked. A balancing act with Pinot Noir indeed. A subtle bitterness lingers throughout, likely due to its mineral underpinnings. Body quickly dissipates over the palate leaving behind a sweet cherry cola essence which develops a slight root beer essence before vanishing, leaving the palate slightly moist palate, another subtle indication of its mineral underpinnings.

This is a great pleaser of a wine! Pinot Noir from this region, when done right, can sometimes be perceived as a bit abstract because of the way it’s unique volcanic/mineral terroir is uniquely expressed. This wine however, compensates for these characteristics very nicely. This opens up it’s appeal to a broader spectrum of palate, especially beginners or folks who are still discovering Pinot Noir as a whole. A great every day sipper for the intermediate to advanced palate. Buy a case! You won’t be disappointed! Very nicely done!

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Happy 75th Birthday Roger!

Last week I had a chance to sit down and catch up with one of my all-time-favorite Vintners, Roger Roessler of Roger Roessler Wines. On the menu was lunch at Della Santina’s in Sonoma, a family owned and operated Tuscan soul food experience. If you haven’t been, I highly recommend you stop by. To top it off, we were joined by our distinguished host, none other than owner and founder ‘Danny’ who shared endless stories from his upbringing in Italy to his exploits in San Francisco. What a special treat to share a meal with over a century and a half of knowledge and life experience.

We paired appetizers with with a Vermentino from Italy. Main course with 2004 Pinot Noir (La Brisa) from Roger’s private reserve and a Nebbiolo from Langhe!

By age 21, Roger had opened his first restaurant. He spent the following two and a half decades or so in the business of opening restaurants across the country. After accumulating what I would imagine a wealth of experience in the culinary and service industry Roger decided to dive into the wine world and share his passion for Pinot Noir with us. Taking a step back, this now seems like the logical thing to do. Food an all it’s nuance eventually must be paired with Pinot Noir. The highly personalized service and attention to detail carried over from all those years in the culinary and server industry.

I have been following Roessler wines for well over a decade now and can trace my profound appreciation for Pinot Noir back to that first visit to the Roessler tasting room just off the square in downtown Sonoma. I scoffed at the idea that anyone could  pour 16 different Pinot Noirs and they’d be discernible. Boy was my young palate in for the lesson of a lifetime.

Roger is a Vintner in every sense of the word. Roger Roessler Wines, a small boutique gallery winemaker in the truest form. Unshackled by any traditional estate. Over the years he’s sourced grapes from some of the most coveted vineyards as well as other small hidden gems you’ve probably never heard of. He’s also owned a few over the years. Bringing together a small team of passionate individuals around a singular mission – to bring you good Pinot Noirs faithful to their origins.

The Roger Roessler lineup reads like a compendium of Pinot Noir from up and down the pacific coast. A visit to their understated tasting room makes for a nice, focused quiet study. In one stop you can explore the various nuances of this varietal’s expression from one region to another. This is precisely why Roger Roessler Wines was picked as the 2020 Winemaker of the Year. They have played no small part in my journey through wine. I’m pretty sure you won’t be the same after a visit either.

Thank you for bringing us all those great vintages all these years Roger. I look forward to many more! Happy Birthday!

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2018 Pinot Noir (Santa Lucia Highlands) by E16 Winery, Fair Play, CA

Tonight’s Occasion: 2018 Pinot Noir (Doctor’s Vineyard – Santa Lucia Highlands) by E16 Winery, Fair Play, Sierra Foothills, CA

Clear ruby color. As soon as you uncork it, the space fills up with bright ripe red berries. Rich. Bright raspberries, cranberries drape over a soft dusty suede leather. Swirling intensifies the berries, adding a subtle pomegranate and a fine rock dust. This wine has a strong sense of place. It carries all the hallmarks of Santa Lucia Highlands. Indulging in Artisan Pinot from this region is distinct pleasure.

A silky, slightly weighted viscous body immediately drapes over the palate. Firm acidity reaches across the palate, drawing a firm tension. It’s an interesting sensation. This reinforcing an otherwise subtle, unobtrusive, thin, barely noticeable tannic structure. A refined caramel further elevates the fruit in an otherwise fairly dry body, creating a rich, opulent mouth feel. Midway through, a prominent spice emerges and remains through the finish and down into the chest. Body slowly fades leaving behind harm, slightly parched lips.

In a region dominated by Rhone and other big varietals, E16 is a an oasis for the Pinot lover in me. Pouring Pinot Noir from up an down the pacific coast, it’s a great change of pace for anyone looking to switch gears or simply take a walk on the subtler side. This is a well built wine with great sense of place. It’s really refreshing to enjoy and taste Artisan Pinot Noir from the central coast without having make the long trip down. Robert and the crew at E16 are onto something here. Nicely done! Cheers my friend.

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2017 Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast) by Amrita Cellars

Tonight’s Occasion: 2017 Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast) by Amrita Cellars, Santa Rosa, CA

Nose is very shy. Every note is little more than a whisper. Crisp raspberry, bright red berries overlay a subtle wet woody grassy turf. Red vines licorice eventually emerge as it breathes.

Body is balanced from front to back. Greeting with a very soft, silky mouth feel. Berries carry over albeit very restrained. Subtle citrus and cola like linger. Faint shadows of structure precipitate as the body fades into clouds and whiffs of the different notes. This show continues, slowly diminishing until there’s very little left on the palate but faint dusty grit and candle flames worth of warmth on winter night.

This is an very nice take on the classic Burgundian style of Pinot. It is very subtle. The average palate would likely find this too abstract and nuanced. However for the intermediate to advanced palate, it should prompt focus and quiet appreciation. I can also see this showing well as a chillable red. I think it’s impressive that such a small artisan wine can show such nuance and subtlety. Nicely done Sunny!

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WineSnob Discount

Sunny, owner/winemaker would like to invite you to taste his small batch production artisan wines. I think you should too, especially if you enjoy California Pinot Noir. You can order yours via their website Amrita Cellars (amritacellars.com) and use Promo/Discount Code WS2022 to get 10% off your order. A great opportunity to support a small artisan winemaker and explore another hidden gem off the beaten path. Be sure you share your thoughts and tasting notes with me.

2019 Pinot Noir (Ridgetop) by Sojourn, Sonoma

Tonight’s Occasion: 2019 Pinot Noir (Ridgetop – Sonoma Coast) by Sojourn Cellars, Sonoma, CA

Clear ruby color. Long legs. Bright raspberry and red berries on the nose. Fresh wet grassy turf, wet wood and hints of cola in the background. Welcome to the Sonoma Coast!

Even keeled body greets with a suggestion of citrus, raspberries, cola. A prominent refined caramel reminiscent of neutral French oak emerges and lingers along with a moderate warm spice heat. Thin fine tannins provide light, crisp, unobtrusive structure that lingers through the entire experience. Body quickly vanishes leaving behind crisp tannic grip, spice warmth and a slight bitter cola. As it breathes, the body develops a slightly creamy body. I love it!

I this is the second of three picks I brought back from my last visit to their tasting room. I found all their wines to be really well made and representative. This one has a bit more of a playful pleaser disposition while still echoing key characteristics of the terroir and region at large. They recently released a slew of new wines and I’m eager to get a closer look at the new lineup. Nicely done Sojourn! 🍷😁👌🏽

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