Archive for April, 2014

Tasting the Wines of Patricia Green Cellars at MacArthur Beverages

Patty Green is in town and I was fortunate to catch up with her and Andy Creemer at MacArthur Beverages.  You may recall that over the winter I enjoyed her 2012 Patricia Green Cellars, Pinot Noir, Reserve, Willamette Valley and  2012 Patricia Green Cellars, Pinot Noir, Estate Old Vine, Ribbon Ridge.  Patty first worked in wine when she started with Richard Sommers at Hillcrest Vineyards, made wine at La Garza Winery, and subsequently at Tori Mor.  Over those years she learned a whole lot of what to do and not to do. In 2000, she and Jim Anderson purchased Autumn Wind Vineyards which became Patricia Green Cellars.


Patty poured eight different wines, seven from the 2012 vintage and one from the 2011 vintage.  She feels the 2012 will evolve beautifully in bottle.  She has not come across a vintage like this often and is clearly still excited about it.  For her it was one of the perfect vintages with no bug pressure, beautiful weather, and perfect fruit.  In fact, when the Freedom Hill fruit came in they took away the sorting conveyor and just put the fruit straight into the destemmer.  The fruit for the wines we tasted came from vineyards near the winery except for Freedom Hill, which is about an hour away.

A lot of people make wine from Freedom Hill.  Dan Dusschee called her up one day to ask if she wanted some fruit.  There were several blocks available so Jim and Patty took all of them without any discussion.  They have complete control of their blocks.  Patty spends a lot of time in the vineyard looking at what is going on and discussing with the vineyard managers about any developing issues.

All of the wines we tasted were from single-site vineyards except the Notorious.  All wines undergo spontaneous fermentation, only one cooper is used, they are bottled unfined and unfiltered.  Patricia views the wood as a tool to complement the different sites with their soils types.  In 2001 that Patty and Jim decided that Cadus was the only cooper they liked.  She finds it gives huge consistency to their wines.  Most of her wines see roughly 30% new oak but the Notorious sees 100% new oak.  The Dundee Hills fruit delivers sweetness so they do not need the additional sweetness from Allier oak.  The Allier oak is used on the wines which are earthy to complement it with sweetness.  They use Nevers oak a lot in the Balcome.

Balcome is the epitome of volcanic soils in Dundee Hills.  Olenik is the only vineyard in Chehalem Mountain dominated by rocks from an ancient flood.  To her the soils look like those of Chateauneuf du Pape.  This wine is made from 100% Wädenswil clone.  For Patty it provides the “back of the house” effort and is structured. The Pommard clone is the front of the house with its floral fruit.  For Patty the Olenik is a standalone with its lovely “long-chained” tannic structure.  The Notorious is different wine in terms of both oak and lees.  At barrel clean they will go in and taste the lees.  If the quality is exceptional they will pour back about five gallons worth of lees into barrel without stirring.

The Estate wine is the melting pot with three clones represented: 115, Pommard, and Wädenswil.  Those are the three clones she primarily uses but there is some 777.  Estate Old Vines is sourced from the original planting under Autumn Wind Winery in 1987.  This block is located adjacent to Beaux Freres.  This is a big deal because there are not many old vines in Oregon.  Earlier this week she poured wines from the 2000 and 2003 vintages at a library tasting hosted at Ripple restaurant.  She was excited about how her wines mature and that there is growing acceptance that Oregon Pinot Noir will develop with age.  After tasting and drinking a range from the 2012 vintage I am firm believer that Patty’s wines should be left in the cellar.  She will be back at MacArthur Beverages on Friday so take the opportunity to find out for yourself.  In the meantime please find my short notes below.


2012 Patricia Green Cellars, Pinot Noir, Balcombe, Dundee Hills
There was a dark red nose followed by clean, black and red fruit in the mouth. The flavors were minerally with moderate structure and a citric lift.  Young.


2012 Patricia Green Cellars, Pinot Noir, Olenik, Chehalem Mountain
This showed a little bramble on the nose.  The tart red fruit in the mouth had depth.  The fruit flavors became red and black with some ripe sweet notes.  There was some structure and a darker aftertaste.


2012 Patricia Green Cellars, Pinot Noir, Estate, Ribbon Ridge
This had a dark nose.  The tart red fruit was very clean and accessible.  It picked up some black fruit with air and slightly more prominent acidity.


2012 Patricia Green Cellars, Pinot Noir, Estate Old Vine, Ribbon Ridge
This bore a dark red nose.  There were clean flavors on the front of the tongue which seamless flowed into a blacker finish.  There was almost a hint of creaminess.  The wine was refreshing with baking spices in the enjoyable aftertaste.


2012 Patricia Green Cellars, Pinot Noir, Freedom Hill, Willamette Valley
The fruit was compact with a slight pepper hint.  It had more verve with a good mix of complexity and baking spices.  The aftertaste was long.


2012 Patricia Green Cellars, Pinot Noir, Notorious, Willamette Valley
The nose was darker, complex, and had an earthy hint. The wine was balance but more up front with both fruit and structure.  The dark, coil flavors existed over low-lying dark blue fruit and texture.


2011 Patricia Green Cellars, Pinot Noir, Estate Etzel Block, Ribbon Ridge
The nose had  some fresh herbs.  In the mouth were tart red fruit on the tongue, old perfume flavors, and very moderate texture.  The wine was delicate with a spicy hint in the finish.


2012 Patricia Green Cellars, Pinot Noir, Estate Etzel Block, Ribbon Ridge
This nose revealed dark red aromas.  The wine was noticeably tart on the front and sides of the tongue.  It was a little round with some texture and an enjoyable mix of cool red and ripe black fruits.

The 2014 Wine Blog Awards Are Accepting Nominations

April 29, 2014 2 comments

The 8th Annual 2014 Wine Blog Awards are now open for nominations.  If you enjoy reading this blog then please consider nominating it at Submit Your Favorite for any appropriate category.  Over the last year I have written a large number of unique posts which you may find on the History of Wine tab beginning with The First Vintages of the Colony of Virginia.  I truly believe no other wine blog has matched my contributions to our understanding of the History of Wine.  So please consider any of these posts when submitting your nominations.

Nominations will only be accepted through May 2nd, this Friday, so do not hesitate to submit!  Remember, you may submit multiple posts and categories.


“[T]erraced mountain sides with vineyards like those of Madeira, Vesuvius and Etna” : Jose Gomes Serrao’s Hawaiian Wine

It is safe to write that during my recent trip to California one of the last things I expected to see was an empty bottle of Hawaiian wine.  There is a collection of old, empty bottles at the Taylor & Norton wine shop in Sonoma.  Standing next to 1945 Rebello Valente, Vintage Port and 1959 Chateau Grand Puy-Lacoste, Pauillac was the red labeled bottle of “Pure Unadulterated Serrao’s Own” from Jose Gomes Serrao.  The label states the wine was “Made From Grapes Grown At Kaumana, Hilo, Hawaii”.


This struck me as unusual.  Thomas Pinney wrote that in 1937 there were two wineries licensed in Hawaii.[1]  In his footnote he continues, “Because neither Colorado nor Hawaii can have had any significant grape production, these operations presumably depended on grapes from California, if in fact they produced wine at all.”  I did not find the report he specifically cites but another Federal report lists two bonded Hawaiian wineries as of July 1, 1943.[2]  These were the Serrao Wine & Liquor Co., Hilo and the K. Takitani Winery, Makawao.  We know from recently published work that Jose Gomes Serrao cultivated the vine and produced wine on Hawaii from 1903 through Prohibition.[3]  In this post I briefly describe the origins of Hawaiian winemaking along with the efforts of Jose Gomes Serrao which parallel those of the Hawaii Agricultural Experiment Station.


The cultivation of the grapevine in Hawaii dates back to March 4, 1792, when Captain George Vancouver left grapevines, orange trees, and garden seeds.[4]  In 1815 Don Francisco de Paul Marin, also known as “Marini” or “Manini”, planted a vineyard for the king.  He reported that he made 38 gallons of wine but it is not stated whether this was from his vines or those left by Vancouver.  On January 26, 1819, Camille de Roquefeuil reported that Don Francisco Marina “makes a fairly decent wine from vines he brought from California.”[5]  On April 17, 1822, Reverend Daniel Tyerman visited “M. Manine, a Spaniard”.[6]  Here he found three acres laid out with a garden, vineyard, and orchard.    The vines were “trained after the Spanish fashion in bushes, flourish luxuriantly.”  The vineyard was located on “the slope of a beautiful hill” at the foot was a small river.[7]  Reverend Tyerman was informed they were bear fruit three times per year but the third was prevented, “least it should too much exhaust the stocks.”  Jacques Arago found the grapes “excellent”.   One report from a few years later indicates that Don Marin had “cultivated the vine so successfully as to have made tolerable wine”.[8]  Charles Samuel Stewart found that a “considerable quantity of wine is yearly made from his vineyard.”[9]  The site of Don Francisco Marina’s vineyard was locally known as “ka pa Waina”.[10]  It appears this is a literal translation of the English vineyard.[11]  Don Marin continued to cultivate the vine and produce wine until the early 1830s.  Today the location of his vineyard is commemorated by Vineyard Street.


Chart of the Sandwich Islands. Vancouver, George. 1798. David Rumsey Map Collection.

Chart of the Sandwich Islands. Vancouver, George. 1798. David Rumsey Map Collection.

It is interesting to note the encouragement for viticulture and vinification given in the annual address of The Royal Hawaiian Agricultural Society in 1853.[12]  Stating that these views were “in common with a large portion of the community” it was noted the volcanic soils of the islands might be equated to the Italian wines of Vesuvius, those of Tokay, and Hermitage.  It was felt that vineyards could be established in areas where sugar and coffee could not be produced.  The production of wine would allow a new product to be exported, reduce the cost of the wine available for purchase on the islands, and promote temperance.  I did not spend much time researching the second half of the 19th century but it appears to be a quiet period.  In the 1897 Petition Against the Abrogation of the Treaty Between the United States and Hawaii the California Wine Makers’ Corporation feared the removal of a heavy duty on non-grape wines of Hawaii because such wines had “threatened the extinction of the California wine trade with the Hawaiian Islands.”[13]


The Hawaii Agricultural Experiment Station was funded by Congress and established in 1901.[14]  An experimental vineyard was planted the following year in 1902.  In March 1906, a cooperative experimental vineyard was planted on Maui.[15]  This vineyard contained 175 different varieties of “wine grapes” and was overseen by Portuguese settlers.[16]  These cooperative experiments with private growers continued for years.  It was anticipated that an influx of immigrants from Spain, Portugal, and the Azores would make grape growing and winemaking profitable.[picture of grapes]  By 1915 it was acknowledged that a particular clone of the Isbella vine, brought by the Portuguese from Madeira, showed the greatest success.[17]  Small vineyards were to be found near Honolulu, Hilo, Kona, Makawai, and the lower slopes of Haleakala.  The vineyards located closest to cities typically provided table grapes.  Wine was made at several locations, presumably using the Isabella grape.  Apparently it was “necessary to fortify it heavily to prevent deterioration.”[picture]  In addition to determining the grape varieties ideally suited to the islands the station investigated trellising, pruning, and fertilizing.[18]


By 1899, the Gomez Serrao family had 80 acres of Isabella grapes growing near Hilo.  These vines were grown from cuttings Jose Gomes Serrao brought from Madeira to Hawaii in 1883.  By 1903, Jose Gomes Serrao was producing wine from his Kaumana vineyard.  The timing between his efforts at producing wine and those of the Experiment Station should be investigated.  Please read the blog post Jose Gomes Serrao: Distilling in Paradise for his background story.  One early advertisement from November 17, 1909, offers “New Grape Wine” suggesting one “Try This Home Product.”[19]  Just several days later the article “Serrao’s Wines Fine Home Product – Industry That Is Developing In Hawaii County Is Winner” was published.[20]  The articles states that Jose Gomes Serrao was cultivating grapes in Hawaii for “the manufacture of the purest and best wines to be found anywhere.”  That year he produced 2,498.40 gallons of wine primarily from his estate fruit but also from the vineyards of his neighbors.  His first harvest must have occurred in August 1909 because he expected his next harvest to be eight months later in March 1910.  He had planted five additional acres in the hopes of producing more than 5,000 gallons of wine.  These vines were expected to bear fruit in 1911.  This suggests his and neighboring estates contained some 10 acres of vines.  Presumably these vines were planted at low altitudes where “the grapes ripen well and are not broken as in the higher altitudes.”  As for the quality it was noted that many people who formerly purchased Californian wine had purchased Serrao’s wine due to the “perfect purity” and the belief in “supporting home industry.”



Jose Gomes Serrao also advertised his “Serrao Liquor Company” throughout the years in Our Navy published by the U.S. Navy.[21]  One advertisement from 1910 notes amongst other drinks “Pure Kaumana Wine, ‘Serrao’s own’ made from Kaumana (Hawaaiian) Grapes.”  His ventures must have been successful for his company helped fund a laboratory near the “Volcano House” for use by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.[22]  By 1913 Jose Gomes Serrao was repeatedly listed as “the wine expert of Hilo” and that “Kaumana Wine is a product of the ‘Big Island’ and is absolutely pure.”[23]  In September 1916, Jose Gomes Serrao exhibited at the Second Annual County Fair of the Big Island.[24]  He displayed his Kaumana wine in kegs and bottles.  There was also a realistic arbor of grape vines.  Just several years later, the enactment of Prohibition effectively ended his success in wine production.  When wine production was eventually resurrected by his sons, the shipping restrictions during World War II forced the final closure.

[1] Pinney, Thomas. A History of Wine in America: From Prohibition to the Present.
[2] Liquor industry. Hearings before a subcommittee of the Committee on the judiciary, United States Senate, Seventy-eight Congress, first session, on S. res. 206. 1944. Hathi Trust Digital Library.
[3] Love, Ken; Paull, Robert. “Growing Grapes in Hawai’I” Fruit, Nuts, and Beverage Crops. February 2014, F_N-26. URL:
[4] Yearbook of Agriculture. 1902. URL:
[5] Birkett, Mary Ellen. Hawai’I in 1819: An Account by Camille de Roquefeuil. The Hawaiian Journal of History, vol. 34 (2000). URL:
[6] Journal of Voyages and Travels by the Rev. Daniel Tyerman.  1832. URL:
[7] Arago, Jacques. Narrative of a Voyage Round the World in the Uranie and Physicienne Corvettes, Commanded by Captain Freycinet, During the Years 1817, 1818, 1819, and 1820. 1823. URL:
[8] Voyage of H.M.S. Blonde to the Sandwich Islands, in the years 1824-1825. 1826. URL:
[9] Stewart, Charles Samuel. Journal of a Residence in the Sandwich Islands During 1823, 1824, and 1825.  1828. URL:
[10] Honolulu Star Bulletin.  All about Hawaii. 1920. URL:
[11] Ke Kauoha Hou, etc. (The New Testament, etc.) Hawaiian & English.1859. URL:
[12] The Transactions of the Royal Hawaiian Agricultural Society, Volume 1. 1854. URL:
[13] Congressional Serial Set. 1897. URL:
[14] Krauss, Beatrice, H. “A Short History of the Hawaii Agricultural Experiment Station, 1901-1982”.  College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, University of Hawai’I at Manoa. URL:
[15] Hawaii Agricultural Experiement Station. Annual Report. 1902. URL:
[16] A second report indicates 124 varieties. Experiment Station Record, Volume 17.  1906. URL:
[17] Report of the Hawaii Agricultural Experiment Station. 1915. URL:
[18] Economic Entomology: Pamphlets, Volume 149. 1922. URL:
[19] Evening bulletin., November 17, 1909, 3:30 EDITION, Page 7, Image 7. Honolulu. Library of Congress.
[20] Evening bulletin., November 22, 1909, 3:30 EDITION, Page 8, Image 8. Honolulu. Library of Congress.
[21] U.S. Navy. Our Navy, Volume IV, No 7. November 1910. Hathi Trust Digital Library.
[22] Report of the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Hawaiian Volcano Research Association. 1917. Hathi Trust Digital Library.
[23] The Maui news., September 06, 1913, Page 6, Image 6. Wailuku. Library of Congress.
[24] The Hawaiian gazette., September 29, 1916, Page 6, Image 6. Honolulu. Library of Congress.

Categories: History of Wine

From 1971 Barisone, Barolo to a 2012 Italian Red Auslese: An Italian Themed Tasting with Lou

Lou and I recently got together in his tasting room to continue exploring older wines.  The theme was Italian wine so we naturally started with the 2008 Weingut Ratzenburger, Steeger St. Jost, Riesling Spatlese Trocken from Germany.  The fruit for this wine was sourced from the steep Steeger St. Jost vineyard which is located on soils of blue-black Devon slate.  This area called Bacharach famously takes its name from the Celtic Baccaracum or slate altar of Bacchus.  Sadly this was destroyed in the mid 19th century.  David Schildknecht reports that fermentation did not finish until mid-July.  Maybe this is why the wine had such a gentle nature.

The red wines began with the 2012 Ignaz Niedrist, Sudtirol, Kalterersee Auslese which I mistakenly (and understandably) mistook for an Austrian wine.  Regardless, I believe this is the first red Italian Auslese I have ever drunk.  Its actually quite good being a fresh and crisp wine with darker fruit.  We then moved back four decades to the 1971 Osvaldo Barisone (Francesco Rinaldi), Barolo.  There is absolutely no indication on the label that this wine was made by Francesco Rinaldi and if you search online everyone states as such but with no reference.  The ever thorough Mannie Berk of The Rare Wine Co. provided the reference.  The Osvaldo Barisone wine shop still exists in Turin.  After Mannie secured his parcel he interviewed Osvaldo Barisone with the help of an interpreter who stated himself that the wine came in demijohns from Francesco Rinaldi.  Note, this does not imply that other vintages of Barisone are from Francesco Rinaldi.  This name might sound familiar because Darryl and Nancy opened a bottle of 1967 Francesco Rinaldi & Figli, Barolo.  You may read about this wine and a little more background in my post Tasting Old Wines with Darryl and Nancy at Blue Grass Tavern. Our particular bottle of 1971 was incredibly aromatic and showed intriguing tension in flavor.  I have not drunk much older Barolo so to combine that experience with drinking a demi-john aged wine from a top-notch vintage is positively unique.  There are still bottles available so I recommend you snag one to try.

The 1988 Antonio Vallana, Spanna del Piemonte came from a large parcel of wines imported by Mannie Berk.  For background on this wine please check out the Vallana Retrospective at Del Posto and Ken Vastola’s tasting notes from that dinner Vallana Vertical: 2010 – 1954.  According to the Wassermans, Vallana used to produce six different Spannas until the inauguration of the DOC.  So its possible this is a blend from five vineyards.  Our bottle was decisively more barnyard in aroma than fruity.   Lou conjured up the straw descriptor which I could not shake from my mind.  We finished the evening with the very modern 2003 Oriel, Etereo, Barolo.  I found it decent the first evening, clearly very young, but on the second evening it showed strong potential as a very modern Barolo.


2008 Weingut Ratzenburger, Steeger St. Jost, Riesling Spatlese Trocken – $29
Imported by Fleet Street Wine Merchants.  This wine is 100% Riesling.  Alcohol 11.5%.  There was a more floral nose with low-lying aromas of apple and pear.  In the mouth there was a touch of creaminess and some density.  The wine picked up some weight, stone notes, and a touch of acidity on the sides of the tongue.  There was some tang in the dry finish.  This wine had a gentle nature.  *** Now-2019.


2012 Ignaz Niedrist, Sudtirol, Kalterersee Auslese – $25
Imported by Fleet Street Wine Merchants.  This wine is 100% Trollinger.  Alcohol 13%.  There were cooler aromas of red and black fruit.  The enjoyable nose eventually took on Kool-Aid aromas.  In the mouth were attractive flavors of darker red fruit.  There was good acidity in this fresh, crisp wine that had slightly grippy tannins.  The cherry fruit was lighter in body yielding a clean finish and good aftertaste.  *** Now-2017.


1971 Osvaldo Barisone (Francesco Rinaldi), Barolo – $125
Imported by The Rare Wine Co.  Alcohol 13.5%.  This was intensely aromatic with leather, dusty fruit, roasted meats, mushrooms, and eventually chocolate powder.  In the mouth it was very fresh with tart red cranberry flavors and an orange hint.  The mouthfilling flavors had a lot of verve leaving texture on the tongue and the throat.  There was a lot of acidity which gave tension to the flavors.    There was acidity and tart fruit on the tongue from the beginning morphing into a tangy finish and long aftertaste. This has a long life ahead.  **** Now-2029+.


1988 Antonio Vallana, Spanna del Piemonte –
Imported by The Rare Wine Co.  Alcohol 12%.  There was a true barnyard nose with dark red fruit, straw, and an underlying mix of fruit.  In the mouth the tart red and black fruit turned more citric red with a wood note in the middle.  Then a burst of brighter fruit came out, subsided, only to return in the finish.  There was water acidity and a lengthy aftertaste of mellow, dark flavors.  *** Now-2026.


2003 Oriel, Etereo, Barolo –
This wine is 100% Nebbiolo sourced from the Monforte d’Alba region.  It was aged for 30 months in 100% new French oak barrels.  Alcohol 14%.  There was a Nebbiolo nose with sweet spice and just a little maturity.  In the mouth was a tight core of fruit that was powdery, dark, and primary.  The flavors were tightly wound but ripe with wood notes from tannins that built in texture.  With air this very modern wine revealed its dense and clean flavors with refined texture.  ***(*) Now-2034.

The 2014 MacArthur Beverages 29th Annual California Futures Tasting

At the end of March Lou and I attended the 29th California Futures Tasting organized by Andy Creemer of MacArthur Beverages. This event is sponsored by MacArthur Beverages for the benefit of The Addy and Bruce Bassin Memorial Cancer Research Fund. Held at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel the ballroom easily held over 40 wineries pouring more than 100 different wines. This year I was invited by organizer Andy Creemer to attend both the afternoon and evening sessions so that I could take notes on as many wines as possible for the store website. I knew from experience that I could not taste all of the wines. I focused in on new wineries, old favorites, and those I have not written about before. The tasting has roots in barrel samples of California Cabernet Sauvignon but this year there was a selection of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Rhone blends. The wines represented released selections, unreleased finished wines, and barrel samples most of which were pulled just one week prior. To order these and other wines please check out the California Futures page at MacArthur Beverages.  For notes on last year’s event please read The 2013 MacArthur Beverages 28th Annual California Futures Tasting.



Arns Winery is located within a 160 acre estate of which only a small portion is planted with vines.


2010 Arns, Cabernet Sauvignon
There were nice flavors of ripe fruit that was racy and had depth. The clean and dense fruit made way to a spicy finish. Drinking well.


Barnett Vineyards was created by Fiona and Hal Barnet in 1983. Originally focusing on Cabernet Sauvignon wines the estate vineyards are located on steep terraces at the top of Spring Mountain located at 2,000 feet. Today they produce a variety of white and red wines with fruit sourced from estate and single-vineyard fruit.


2012 Barnett, Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountain
The aromatic nose made way to lots of sweet fruit in the mouth. This was a forward wine with spicy tannins that built in the mouth before the surprisingly softer finish. The fruit enveloped everything.

2012 Barnett, Cabernet Sauvignon, Rattlesnake
The good nose led to fresh, very sweet and floral fruit. Spice flavors developed towards the finish where the flavors leaned towards purple and black. The flavors complemented the texture and spicy hint.

Bevan Cellars

Russell Bevan and Victoria de Crescenzo were inspired to produce wine after meeting Philip Togni, Bob Foley, Greg La Follette, and Kal Showket.

2012 Bevan Cellars, Sauvignon Blanc, Kick Ranch, Sonoma County
The nose was intense with grassy aromas of Sauvignon Blanc. Though this was a weighty wine in the mouth it had lively flavors on the tongue. There were notes of white tropical fruit which puckered the mouth toward the finish. The wine draws you in to taste more.

Cliff Lede Vineyards

Cliff Lede was established in 2002 on 60 acres of land. The gravity-flow winery was finished in 2005. The vineyard is planted primarily to Cabernet Sauvignon. For the 2011 vintage of Poetry the naturally low-yields and active leafing meant they were able to produce good wine albeit in a reduced amount.


2012 Cliff Lede, Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap
There was more red fruit on the nose with cranberry aromas. In the mouth were weightier and round flavors of red cranberry fruit. There was good extract, a fresh nature, and subtle barrel hint. It took on a dark note in the finish.

2011 Cliff Lede, Poetry, Stags Leap
There were flavors of minerally black fruit with a nice ripe core of fruit and ripe tannins. It has some grip to the black fruit which stood out amongst the racy nature.


Dunn Vineyards originated in 1978 when Randy and Lori Dunn purchased 14 acres on Howell Mountain. Since 1982 they have produced two wines which are both 100% Cabernet Sauvignon: the Napa Valley and Howell Mountain.  This remains a family run operation with son Mike Dunn managing the vineyard and winemaking under the eye of Randy Dunn.


2012 Dunn, Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain
The nose stepped out of the glass. In the mouth were dense flavors of red fruit, earthy notes, and bramble fruit. The acidity was integrated. This dense wine bore unique flavors that continued into the persistent aftertaste. Drinking well now but will age.

EMH Vineyards

EMH Vineyards originated in 1999 when Merrill Lindquist purchased her estate. The Special Selection is produced using just a portion of the wine from the various barrels. This maintains the quality of the base wine.


2012 Black Cat, Cabernet Sauvignon
There was a scented nose of red fruit and perfume. In the mouth were lovely, clean flavors of red fruit, warming acidity, followed by some spicy and tart hints. This was an approachable and enjoyable red fruited wine.

2012 Black Cat, Special Selection
This was a little more aromatic with strawberry and cherry aromas. In the mouth were tart, yet ripe flavors of strawberry and cranberry fruit, a little spice, watering acidity, and a fine texture. The flavors were more defined and lasted through the long aftertaste.

2009 Black Cat, Cabernet Sauvignon
The good nose was a touch darker with bramble berry. There were tart red fruit mixed with black fruit flavors complemented by a hint of wood note. This was showing well with some weight, nice acidity, and persistent aftertaste.

Fontanella Family Winery

The Fontanella wines originated when Jeff and Karen purchased a 26 acre property in 2005 and launched their brand in 2008.


2012 Fontanella, Cabernet Sauvignon, Mt. Veeder
There was dense fruit on the nose. This savory wine had fresh fruit that was sweet and ripe. It mixed with spices and a spicy structure. The wine built in flavor and was outright enjoyable.

2012 Fontanella, Cabernet Sauvignon, George III Beckstoffer
There was a subtle but spiced nose which did not hint of the mouth where there were good flavors of glycerin infused fruit. A great entry, though primary in flavor, there was a good core of fruit that surrounded the powerful tannins. This has good flavor.

Hensley Family

Hensley Family Vineyards was founded by Mike and Carol Hensley and first released a wine in 2009. Mike is a resident of Houston, Texas where he owns and operates a commercial printing business. After many years of visiting Napa Valley he decided to enter the wine business. Jeff Fontanella is the winemaker.


2012 Hensley Family, Cabernet Sauvignon, Hillside
There were dense aromas of sweet blue fruit. In the mouth this savory wine had approachable fruit with a good balance between acidity and tannins. The nice fruit already tastes complex.

Mark Herold Wines

Mark Herold started working in the wine business as a Research Oenologist at Joseph Phelps Vineyard. After his own 1998 Merus he started a consulting business where he has worked with Kamen, Kobalt, and others. Amongst other vessels he employs concrete cubes and not eggs.


2011 Mark Herold Wines, Flux
The firmer nose bore spices, black, and red fruit. In the mouth was a core of unexpected ripe black and red fruit that was spicy and sappy. It had a good glycerin feel before spices came out.

2012 Mark Herold Wines, Flux
The nose was aromatic with primary berry aromas. In the mouth were ripe and sweet fruit flavors that were lively on the tongue. This wine had lots of texture, a spicy structure that dried the gums, and citric red fruit in the finish.

2011 Mark Herold Wines, Acha
The nose had darker red fruit aromas. In the mouth the flavors were lively on the tongue with some bottle age that showed off the dark red fruit to good effect. Drinking well.

2012 Mark Herold Wines, Acha
This had a dark, bramble berry nose. The good fruit was very lively on the tongue, with fine, drying, citric tannins offset by good, underlying flavor. Needs time.

2011 Mark Herold Wines, Collide
The good nose revealed citric red fruit that was taking on maturity. In the mouth the very lively flavors followed the nose with savory flavors and good, earthy darkness. A good, young wine.

2012 Mark Herold Wines, Collide
This had a grapier nose. In the mouth were livery, tighter flavors of juicy fruit, watering acidity, and strong, fine drying tannins. Young.

2011 Mark Herold Wines, Cabernet Sauvignon
The nose mixed black fruit with bell pepper. There was a softer and saline start to the green pepper and fruit. Evocative of the sea it had very fine, powerful tannins.

2012 Mark Herold Wines, Cabernet Sauvignon
There was a very subtle nose of purple berries. In the mouth the wine was smooth and polished with bright red flavors, and very fine tannins at the end. Seems balanced to age well.

Paul Hobbs

Paul Hobbs Wines was founded in 1991 and produces small production wines from fruit sourced from the highest quality vineyards. Today he also produces wine in Argentina under the Vina Cobos label and additionally imports wines.  In 2012 Paul Hobbs purchased a 63-acre vineyard in Coombsville.  The Nathan Coombs Estate is the inaugural release and is named after Nathan Coombs who arrived in Napa County during the summer of 1843.


2012 Paul Hobbs, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
The fresh, sweet flavors of black and red fruit had attractive glycerin in the mouth. This seamless wine was supported by subtle, fine, drying tannins.

2012 Paul Hobbs, Cabernet Sauvignon, Nathan Coombs Estate
This showed more inky and racy fruit that had lush hints of minerals. Showing in an attractive manner, the acidity was integrated and matched by a bit more enjoyable structure. It took on a little spice in the finish.

Kathryn Kennedy Winery

Kathryn Kennedy is rooted in California. Her first vintages were sold to Mount Eden Vineyards until she established her own brand in 1979. Today the estate wines are still produced from the eight acres of vines that Kathryn planted in 1973 with cuttings from David Bruce. For this estate the use of wood is to impart texture.


2005 Kathryn Kennedy, Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Cruz Mountains
This was very aromatic with finely perfumed fresh herbs and some sweaty, black fruit. In the mouth were acidity driven flavors of black and red fruit with a firmer touch before some ripeness came out towards the finish. There were mature notes, minerals, and herbs in this lively wine. The aftertaste was effortless with cool and dense flavors of black fruit.

2009 Kathryn Kennedy, Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Cruz Mountains
The nose stood out with a touch dark and brambly aroma. In the mouth were flavors definitely driven by acidity but in a seamless manner. The flavors began with tart black fruit on the tongue tip then a savory hint for some ripeness made way to the long aftertaste. This was very satisfying and showed great balance of support from structure.

Ladera Vineyards

The vines of Ladera are located on volcanic soils which were first planted with vines in 1877. The wines are made in the historic stone Brun & Chaix Winery built in the 19th century. It underwent renovation and modernization when it was bought in 2000. The vineyards are located between 1600-1800 feet which is above the 1400 foot fog line. Thus in 2011 they were above the rains.


2012 Ladera, Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain Reserve
Already pleasing, this wine had some weighty flavors of blue fruit, glycerin feel, and hint of citric red fruit. This very young wine had drying tannins, watering acidity, and a bit of a tang. For the cellar.

2011 Ladera, Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain Reserve
There was a good, articulate nose of fresh scents. In the mouth the red, perfumed fruit had good tangy and salivating acidity. There was a drying structure as black fruit flavors came out towards the finish. There were dried herbs in this young wine which I found hard to describe.


The Jack Larkin estate is named after Sean Larkin’s son. The Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced from Pritchard Hills Melanson Vineyard which is farmed by John Arns. The Cabernet Franc is sourced from a family vineyard just north of Napa.

2012 Larkin, MacArthur Beverages Red Wine
The red fruited nose had a bit of an enjoyable earthiness to it. In the mouth the clean red fruit had a citric note, watering acidity, and a very fine structure. It left a clean finish.

2012 Larkin, Cabernet Franc
There was an interesting nose which was followed in the mouth by a sort of vintage perfume and blue/black fruit mixture. It had nice lightness and watering acidity.

2012 Larkin, Cabernet Sauvignon
This was lively in the mouth with bramble fruit and baking spices. It had a spicy middle that slowly built spices and texture with air. Definitely ripe with an easy going nature that persisted into the long aftertaste.

Meteor Vineyard

Meteor Vineyards dates to 1998 when Barry and Tracy Schuler purchased a proper in Coombville. The vineyard was planted in 1999 on a rocky knoll at 500 feet. The soils are volcanic and might be part of a caldera. The vineyard is planted with only Cabernet Sauvignon and this particular wine is produced from three different clones.


2010 Meteor Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, Perseid
There was a youthful greenhouse note to the nose with some complexity developing. In the mouth the flavors were similar with a tart, ripe red fruit presence. The flavors took on black fruit and spice in the aftertaste.

2012 Meteor Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, Perseid
The nose was fruity, bright, and clean with a little barrel note. In the mouth were brighter flavors with ample notes of ripe, baking spices. The acidity came back towards the finish where there was chewy and grapey structure. It showed some barrel influence from youth.


Montagna is located at nearly 1200 feet on Pritchard Hill.


2009 Montagna, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tre-Vigneti
There was a clean nose of black-red fruit and a hint of youthful greenhouse aromas. There was a surprising round and dense start before a greenhouse note. The acidity built in the mouth. The wine was quite approachable but was still compact and young, ready for aging.

2010 Montagna, Cabernet Sauvignon, La Presa-One South
The nose was perfumed with a little greenhouse note. There was a sort of cranberry-red fruit aspect that mixed with pastilles and floral flavors. It had a spicy kick in the finish followed by black fruit and structure evident on the gums.

2012 Montagna, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tre-Vigneti
The nose was juicy with cranberry and sweet black fruit aromas. In the mouth the wine was round with a hint of glycerin to the red fruit. The flavors picked up black fruit and citric notes. This fresh wine had nice structure and a spicy aftertaste.

2012 Montagna, Cabernet Sauvignon, La Presa-One South
The nose revealed fresh, floral fruit. There was an attractive start in the mouth with round flavors of red fruit, good extract, and a racy, mineral note in the finish. It had watering acidity. Through very approachable this will age well.


Pahlmeyer history begins when Jayson Pahlmeyer and his friend John Caldwell traveled to Bordeaux in 1972 where they acquired cuttings from five varietals. The Caldwell family owned a 55-acre parcel where they set about creating a vineyard. It took six years for the vineyard to be productive. The history is marked by amazing connections such as Randy Dunn’s period as winemaker, Bob Levy work with Chardonnay, and Helen Turley’s period as winemaker. Today Helen’s assistant Erin Green is now the winemaker.


2012 Pahlmeyer, Merlot
The nose revealed dark red berries. In the mouth this forward wine had sweet fruit flavors of cherry, mocha, and a hint of spice delivered in a seamless and smooth manner. Very approachable.

2012 Pahlmeyer, Proprietary Red
The nose was much more subtle. There was a lush start to this very forward wine with increasingly ripe black fruit flavors, black licorice, perfumed flavors, and cool spice. This attractive wine developed more structure.


This wine is produced from vines on a ~6 acre vineyard located at 1,000 feet in elevation. The vineyard is west-facing so it receives the afternoon sun. There is only one tank so everything is blended in then fermented with indigenous yeasts.

2012 Peacock, Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountain
The nose was grapey with yeasty aromas. In the mouth the red and black fruit had lots of presence and was supported by good structure which leant a nice mouthfeel. There were flavors of cinnamon baking spice in the finish followed by a spicy aftertaste.

2012 Peacock, Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountain
The flavors were rounder in the mouth with a hint of earth and black licorice. It maintained a round feel with nice acidity, texture, and a persistent aftertaste. A good wine to drink.


Joel Peterson produced the first two vintages of Ravenswood in the “tin shed” at Joseph Swan Vineyards.  The initial wines were single-vineyard Zinfandel but soon Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot followed.  Today there are also variety and vineyard blends.  The Icon represents the pre-Prohibition trend of producing field-blend wines.


2012 Ravenswood, Pickberry
There was a seamless start to the wine with red fruit, a hint of greenhouse, then black fruit that mixed with watering acidity. The flavors were lighter in this youthful wine which had an appropriate tannic structure.

2011 Ravenswood, Icon
There was blacker fruit in the mouth, a little juicy nature, and some grip. This too was lighter with watering acidity, good structure, and a dark earthy hint.

Relic Wine Cellars

Relic began in 2001 by making a few barrels of Pinot Noir. Today they produce wine from many different varietals sourced from Napa Valley and the Sonoma Coast.


2012 Relic, Cabernet Franc, The Prior
The low-lying nose was dark with lifted cranberry and hints of sweetness. The flavors were round in the mouth with lots of texture and mouthfeel from the beginning. The notes of ripe spices and tannins built as the wine took on verve and structure in the finish. There was a bit of spicy tannins.

2012 Relic, Cabernet Sauvignon, The Artefact
The nose was low-lying followed by dense flavors of ripeish blue and black fruit in the mouth. The acidity was there but seamless with the fresh red and blue fruit that mixted with lots of texture. The mouthfeel continued throughout the long and thick aftertaste.


The Monte Bello vineyard was originally planted in 1886 in the Santa Cruz mountains. The vineyard fell into disrepair during Prohibition and was essentially abandoned in the 1940s. In 1949 eight acres of Cabernet Sauvignon were replanted with the rest of the vineyard following suit. Ridge continued the tradition of presenting two barrels samples. To help out with the 2011 vintage, they placed reflective material on the ground, and the Cabernet Sauvignon turned out best. They blended in about 5-10% press wine. In 2012 vintage the vines began to show signs of stress and the harvest took place over 12 days instead of the typical five weeks. With the 2013 vintage the Merlot did not respond well to the drought but the Cabernet Franc did.


2011 Ridge, Monte Bello
There was a good nose with an earthy hint to the red and blue fruit. This was lively, fresh, and youthful in the mouth with red fruit that slowly built just the right amount of tannic structure. It became a bit chewy in the finish.

2012 Ridge, Monte Bello
This had a tighter nose. In the mouth were tart and tangy red fruit flavors, tang, fine texture then cranberry notes.

2013 Ridge, Monte Bello
There was a good, clear blue/black fruited nose with a hint of yeast. The flavors were lively on the tongue showing red fruit which became progressively darker. The wine had a sense of lightness and a good structure of citric tannins.

Round Pond

Round Pond Estate was created in 1983 when Bob and Jan MacDonnell purchased the first parcel in what would become the estate. For the last decade it has been run by brother and sister Miles and Ryan MacDonnell.


2011 Round Pond, Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford
There was an attractive nose of racy black fruit. In the mouth the savory, dense flavors were attractive and covered the tongue. It had a cool aspect and ample mouthfeel.

2012 Round Pond, Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford
This wine was very dense with attractive, ripe blue fruit, and spicy tannins. There was good balance between the tannins and integrated acidity.

2012 Round Pond, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve
There were cool flavors of fruity blue and black notes. There was glycerin in the mouth followed by building tannins that made way to a tighter, firm and citric finish. This should age.


Sanguis is the result of Matthias Pippig’s farming and winemaking efforts. His Loner series of wines are all single-varietal wines, two of which are sourced from the John Sebastiano Vineyard. This vineyard spans over 1200 feet in elevation. It is cool and always windy, so much so that rye grass is planted between the rows to control the wind. The vines were planted in 2007 and though they are only pruned 20-25% the yields are very low. For the Loner series of Chardonnay the fruit from the different vineyards is treated the same. Thus the W-12a shows off its windy Santa Rita Hill origins and the W-12b that of the cool Bien Nacido vineyard.


2012 Sanguis, Loner, Chardonnay W-12a
The textured nose revealed white, tropical aromas. In the mouth the white and yellow fruit slowly built in flavor becoming chewy with an interesting floral perfume. There was a sense of brightness at first followed by ripeness as the flavors took on some weight. There was a lot of texture in the aftertaste.

2012 Sanguis, Loner, Chardonnay W-12b
The nose had some white fruit and perfume. In the mouth were round and forward flavors that had some glycerin. This wine was less textured, more seamless with a gentle and lush, long aftertaste.

2012 Sanguis, Loner, Pinot Noir R-12a
This was very floral with honeysuckle-like aromas overlaying red fruit. In the mouth the floral red fruit was ripe and round with some glycerin before the fine and long textured aftertaste.

2012 Sanguis, Loner, Pinot Noir R-12b
This was floral with black and purple fruit. The wine was lively on the tongue with hints of darker, fruitier red flavors towards the finish. It was weighty with almost savory notes, good complexity, and spicy finish.

2011 Sanguis, Verve, Grenache
This was a bit berrylicious on the nose being very fruity. There was a subtle entry with lots of spice, a softer personality towards the finish and round mouthfeel.

2011 Sanguis, Pilgrim, Syrah
There was a little spice to the nose. In the mouth was black and red fruit that had grip. The Christmas spiced middle turned towards red fruit with grip in the finish. There was a very fine tannic structure that came out leaving very fine, drying spicy tannins in the aftertaste. Needs time.

Signorello Estate

Signorello Estate has its origins when Ray Signorello Sr. purchased a 100 acre estate near the Silverado Trail. The original goal was to sell grapes to existing wineries but the bountiful harvest of 1985 let them try their hand at producing wine. Today there are nearly 41 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Merlot, Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Viognier.


2010 Signorello, Cabernet Sauvignon, Estate
The subtle nose was followed by round fruit and vintage perfume in the mouth. The wine had a racy middle with water acidity. It took on cooler flavors of black fruit and became drier towards the finish. The vintage perfume persisted into the finish. Drinking well.

2012 Signorello, Cabernet Sauvignon, Estate
The nose had higher-toned red fruit. In the mouth were round and fruity flavors which were forward. There was a lot of fruit flavor which bore some glycerin, spicy power, and drying tannins in the finish. Amongst the drying tannins were attractive racy, minerals.

2012 Signorello, Cabernet Sauvignon, Padrone
The red fruit had citric lift in the mouth. There was verve to the textured tannins in the fine, drying structured. There was an ethereal and haunting nature to the fruit but this wine certainly needs cellar time. This should develop well.


The Someston estate is a massive 1600 acres planted with 200 acres of vines. The land was originally known as Soda Valley and Elder Valley both of which have 19th century origins. However it was only in 2004 that F. Allan Chapman assembled the estate.


2012 Priest Ranch, Cabernet Sauvignon
There was a coolest smelling nose with red fruit and some cranberry aromas. The wine was surprisingly round in the mouth with citric lift and citric tannins. There was watering acidity, fine drying tannins, and an ethereal note in the finish.

2012 Somerston, Cabernet Sauvignon
This had weightier, low-lying, dense flavors and extract. It was quite approachable with good flavor and very fine, drying tannins in the structure.

Tablas Creek

The fruit for the Esprit de Tablas is sourced from vines propagated from budwood cutting from the Chateau de Beaucastel estate in the Rhone. The 120 acre vineyard is certified organic. The fruit is fermented in open and closed stainless steel fermenters using native yeasts. The wines go into barrel then are blended and aged in 1200-gallon French oak foudres.


2012 Tablas Creek, Esprit de Tablas
The nose revealed primary fruit aromas. In the mouth there was a very round start with accessible flavors of red and black fruit. It was densely focused, clean, seamless, and maintained a sense of ease.

Three Clicks

Three Clicks is named on account of the first journalist, Harry Allen Smith, to legally drink alcohol after the repeal of Prohibition. He allegedly received a “three click” telegraph notifying him of repeal. The Grenache Blanc is sourced from Gary Branham’s vines at Rockpile. This area is known for its red wines so it took some convincing to get these vines planted. As such they were only planted several years ago and this is the first bottling from them.

2013 Three Clicks, Grenache Blanc, Rockpile
The nose revealed brighter, white fruit aromas. In the mouth the white fruit was driven and picked up weight and texture on the tongue. There were precise flavors and clearly defined texture. A lot going on for a wine produced from baby vines.

“[S]oil of nearly absolute perfection in every particular”: An Historic Tasting of Joseph Swan Vineyards


Joseph Swan Vineyards is located in the Russian River Valley.  This valley lays north-west of San Francisco reaching within miles of the Pacific Ocean.  Named after the Russian-American Company this area has been home to vineyards since the settlers first planted vines in the early 19th century.  The modern history of wine production only dates back to the 1960s.  This is when local growers began switching to cool climate grapes.  Amongst this group, Joseph Swan is recognized as a pioneer in the production of Pinot Noir.[1]  I recently attended a tasting dinner of Joseph Swan wines as the guest of Mannie Berk, The Rare Wine Co., at the Tribeca Grill in New York City.  This tasting featured a deep lineup of vintages from six different decades which focused on the flagship wine the Trenton Estate Pinot Noir.  Two weeks after the dinner I tasted several more wines at the winery.  Incredibly, only two people have produced these wines, Joseph Swan and his son-in-law Rod Berglund.

Rod Berglund and Mannie Berk.

Rod Berglund and Mannie Berk.

My glass of the 1973 Trenton Estate Pinot Noir that evening was a gorgeous wine combining both youthful aromas and bottle aged complexity.  It was poured from magnum, which undoubtedly contributed towards its state.  I kept recalling how the vines were only planted four years prior.  It also reminded me strongly of the 2011 Trenton Estate Pinot Noir.   I asked Rod about this similarity and he expressed that regardless of vintage and viticultural practices the nature of Trenton Estate shines through.  He feels there is a real move toward the center of winemaking in the valley and thinks the next generation is going to develop and highlight the terroir of their vineyards.  Joseph Swan did this from the beginning with the 1973 vintage.  Rod recollects that only one bottle and four magnums of the 1973 are left in the old stone cellar.  The 2011 vintage is fortunately still available at the winery and perhaps just a small bit at the Rare Wine Co.  I strongly recommend you seek out this unique and timeless wine before it disappears.


In 1967, Joseph Swan paid $43,000 for 13 acres, a two story barn, an old farm house with a cellar, and a few other buildings.[2] He purchased the estate from Florence Entzminger who was the daughter of Philip Glass, the first postmaster of Trenton.  The house itself had once been the old post office, telephone exchange, and general store for Trenton.  Surrounding the house were old Zinfandel vines dating back to the 19th century.  It was these particular vines which provided the fruit for the first wine to bear the Joseph Swan label, the 1968 Zinfandel.  The wine was made and stored in the cellar of the house.  No one knows how much was made but our particular bottles came from the old cellar.

Crop from Illustrated atlas of Sonoma County, California. Reynolds & Proctor. 1898. David Rumsey Map Collections.

Crop from Illustrated atlas of Sonoma County, California. Reynolds & Proctor. 1898. David Rumsey Map Collections.

The origins of the Zinfandel vineyard can be traced to the late 19th century.  The estate is located just east of Forestville near the area which is still known as Vine Hill.  In the early 1880s William Hill of New York purchased 6,000 acres of the El Molino land grant.[3]  Here he planted 200 acres of vineyard in the Trenton area.  It is said that the small town of Trenton developed as a result.  The area known as Vine Hill was subdivided into 50 farms of which 27 were settled by the spring of 1885.[4]  Philip Glass became the first postmaster of Trenton in November 1887[5], a position he kept until retirement in 1898.[6]  In 1891 it was recorded that 19 different people were mostly growing Zinfandel exclusively to be made into wine.[7]  These vineyards ranged from eight to 65 acres in size.  The vineyard of Philip Glass contained 27 bearing acres of Zinfandel and Burger vines which yielded some 16 tons of fruit.  It appears that William Hill produced his last vintage in 1891.  The following year no wine was made and the winery was leased to Dresel & Co.[8]  The number of acres bearing fruit must have continued increasing.  Two years after Miller & Hotchkiss enlarged the Trenton Winery[9] they leased the William Hill winery.[10]  That same year in 1893, Philip Glass’ vineyard had shrunk to 23 bearing acres but it yielded 65 tons of fruit.  Philip Glass was amongst the handful that produced wine.  To do so he employed some 3,000 gallons of oak and redwood cooperage.

The greatest Pinot Noir Joseph Swan ever drunk was Kanaye Nagasawa’s 1946 or 1947 Fountaingrove.  Another great bottle was from a nearby vineyard and dated back to the 1940s.  Despite these successful efforts Joseph Swan is considered the first to plant Pinot Noir in the Russian River Valley with the intention of making wine.  At the time there were not very many good Pinot Noirs.  Hanzell and Martin Ray were making good wines but it was not yet a proven combination of grape and location.  Andre Tchelistcheff told Joseph Swan to plant Burgundy grapes because it was a cool area so in 1969 the Zinfandel vines were pulled out.  The vines were beginning to fail and with Zinfandel everywhere there was no point in keeping them.

Joel Peterson, Joseph Swan, Andre Tchelistcheff. circa 1974. Image via Rare Wine Co from Joseph Swan Winery.

Joel Peterson, Joseph Swan, Andre Tchelistcheff. circa 1974. Image via Rare Wine Co from Joseph Swan Winery.

The year the Zinfandel was ripped out the vineyard was first planted with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.  Joseph Swan continued to produce Zinfandel while his young vineyard matured.  To do so he purchased fruit from other vineyards for the 1969-1976 vintages.  The Zinfandel sources moved around throughout the years.  One source became the Mancini vineyard.  This parcel of Zinfandel was planted in 1920s.  It is separated from the Zeigler Vineyard by only a street yet these vineyards were always harvested differently.  In fact Frank Mancini, when he was 87 years old, thought they had always been different.

Crop from Geologic Map of the Sebastopol 7.5' Quadrangle. Version 1.0. California Geologic Survey. 2008.

Crop from Geologic Map of the Sebastopol 7.5′ Quadrangle. Version 1.0. California Geologic Survey. 2008.

The soil descriptions of the late 19th century Trenton vineyards typically note “sandy loam” with a few “gravelly loam”.  These most likely refer to the modern Goldridge fine sandy loam and the Altamont gravelly fine sandy loam.[11]  Today the Joseph Swan vineyard is noted for its Goldridge soil.  This soil was originally deposited by an ancient inland sea several million years ago.  Cody showed us samples of the soil obtained when the vineyard was ripped prior to replanting.  They were yellow in color with fine sand grains that could easily be scraped off with a fingernail.  The marine origins were indicated by complete shells some two to three inches in width.  The soils of Philip Glass’s vineyard were noted as “sandy loam” and “adobe”.  The Trenton vineyard lies at the edge of a complex geologic pattern.  Rod noted that adobe is generally the by-product of volcanic activity on the east-side of the Sonoma valley and that there is almost no clay in the current vineyard.  However, back in the 19th century the vineyard was at least 10 acres bigger.  Rod postulated that when the family owned other land the adobe might be related to the cinder cones located on the other side of the Trenton hill.


An additional block of vineyard was planted in 1974 just south of the 1969 block.  That same year the present winery was built, affectionately called “the tin shed.”  The tin shed is located just inside the estate entrance near the top of a hill.  The building sits relatively low with a crush pad and shading trees on one side and wooden lattice work bordering the vineyard sides.  Access is gained through thick wooden doors.  There is an intimate feel inside no doubt due to the bounty of fruit from the last two vintages.  The wooden and stainless steel barrels of wine were stacked three high, past the red I-beam in the ceiling which signifies more typical volumes.  On the wall is the historic photograph of Joel Peterson, Joseph Swan, and Andre Tchelistcheff.  Joel Peterson interned with Joseph Swan from 1972-1976 and helped build the tin shed.  It is here that he produced his first two vintages of Ravenswood wine.  Joel believes the photograph was taken in 1974 capturing Andre Tchelistcheff holding a vine suffering from Pierce’s disease.


Until recently the 1973 vintage was believed to be the first commercial release for Pinot Noir but this honor is actually owed to the 1972 vintage.  Accordingly to Rod, he was approached by a friend who worked with Joseph Swan in the early years and still has three bottles and one magnum of the 1972.  Rod has not found the bottling records but knows it was sold over at least a several month period.  Not too much could have been sold for the three year old vines bore a very small crop.  The 1973 vintage would then represent a more commercial volume of production.

Joseph Swan planted Chardonnay when he first planted the vineyard in 1969.  The first commercial Chardonnay was the 1974 vintage.  He could not get any new French oak barrels so he bought some Bourbon barrels.  He prepared the barrels by scraping them out.  For his first vintage he fermented the Chardonnay in these barrels.  Joseph Swan soon learned you could not really scrap everything out.  The alcohol of the wine was higher than expected from just the grapes.  Rod said it was an interesting wine, not quite Maderized and while others liked it, Joseph Swan did not.  The 1975 vintage was the first Chardonnay vintage where Joseph Swan felt he hit it right.  It probably helped that he did not use the Bourbon barrels.  The first few Chardonnay vintages were all non-malolactic wines with naturally high acidity.  This style was not typical for California at the time.  Joseph Swan produced two different lots of Chardonnay in the 1980 vintage, one underwent malolactic fermentation and the other did not.  Unfortunately both lots were bottled with the same label.


In the early years everything was bottled from barrel and not tank.  At first they used to bottle both in regular size and magnums.  The magnums came from different warehouse so they were more expensive than regular bottles.  Joseph Swan would bottle the best barrels later and give these bottles to his best friends and those who supported him.  In 1980 he bought a bottling tank so everything from that vintage forward is consistent.  Rob figures the early barrel variations which Joseph Swan originally noticed are no longer as evident due to the age of the wine.   The early vintages were finished with unbranded corks.  It was not only a lot harder to get equipment and materials back then; there were a lot fewer choices.  By the mid-1970s the corks were branded. Rod feels this was probably done because Joseph was often in France and observed the practice.  In the 1980s many of the early wines were recorked with branded corks.  The reason and extent of this is not known but believed to be limited to the library wines from the early 1970s.

Joseph Swan had a particular vision when he started out.  In 1980s his perspective shifted and he felt if a wine was not a vin de garde, it wasn’t worth making.  He spent a lot of time drinking “ancient” wines and also took periodic trips to France with Kermit Lynch.  Joseph Swan wanted to make wine that was so bitterly hard and tannic, that it would take 20 years before one could drink it.  Once a year Joseph Swan would cook dinner and have many people over to taste his wines.  He always asked everyone to take notes about the wines which he would review afterwards.  Despite the profusion of notes Joseph Swan would describe his wines using five words, “showing fruit” or “drink or hold”.  Helen Turley came over when the 1984 Pinot Noir was first served.  Some said 1984 was the greatest Pinot Noir Joseph Swan had ever made.  Rod thought it was the worst wine Joseph Swan ever made, that it would never be drinkable.  Joseph Swan did not know, concluding it will either be good or it never will be.  Rod felt it took 20 years before it was drinkable.  Joseph Swan’s final vintages in the 1980s continued to be backward and meant for the cellar.  Rod first worked with the 1987 vintage then took over the vineyard and winery upon the death of Joseph Swan in 1989.


The viticultural practice has changed three times throughout the estate’s history.  Rod likens the origins to Burgundy but with a Californian sensibility.  There was 12×12 foot spacing at first so a tractor would fit.  Then it was reduced to 6×10 with Rob going further to 1m x 2m.  Rob could have gone tighter due to low yields.  Joseph Swan originally bought trellising equipment but abandoned it.  The vines would grow up to the top of stake then the tops cut off.  The spurs would keep growing off creating arms which Joseph Swan did not like it.  He had envisioned three stations at the top, middle, and bottom.  Joseph Swan would kneel before the vine and view it in an attempt to see ahead two years in the future.  He was the only would who could visualize this growth such that a stations would not shade those below.  It took forever to trim the grape vine because he kept looking at it and pruning was often finished in June.  Rod recalled that Joseph Swan pruned vines so severely, that he was always fighting the vines.  He always wanted lower yields.

Rob pruned the vineyard one time when Joseph Swan was sick.  The picking crew could not figure out the method and he realized he could not prune the vineyard himself so adopted a trellising vertical shoot positioning system.  Rob leaves more wood out there so more can grow and vine can put energy into growing naturally.  He will train a cane down one or both ways on the wire so that the canes come up between wires.  This provides a thin curtain so light reach all of the clusters.  Rod had to change his practice facing vine decline due to the old vines not producing well.  He switched to cane pruning so the 2011 vintage of Trenton Estate is sourced from roughly 80% cane pruned vines.  Rod lets the barrels develop individually until blended for bottling.  This allows him to believe the cane pruned vines have better quality wine.


The 1973 was included because of Rod’s recent experience.  One evening Josh Reynolds came to the winery during the barrel tasting weekend.  He brought scores of bottles to taste.  Rob kept opening up older Pinot Noir until it was late and he thought no one would appreciate them.  He recalled there was still some 1973 magnums and thinking it was a dead vintage, brought them up.   Upon pouring the wine everyone sobered up and thought it was wine of the night.


The 1997 vintage yielded the biggest crop they had by far even though he thinned half the crop off some vines.  The yields were 1-0.75 tons.  The 1997 Pentagon originated from two barrels of wine aging in 100% new oak.  Rod thought he might be able to detect a difference in the 25 barrel blend if they were left out so he figured if he could not really notice he would bottle them separately.  That left the issue of coming up with a name since they never released a Reserve.  He settled on Pentagon, somewhat as a joke but also from the irregular five-sided section the fruit came from.  This block was surrounded on two sides by Chardonnay.   Tom Rocchioli had a three-cornered bock and the Octagon block wine was named after octagon house.   Rod continued the pentagon theme by pricing it at $55.55 per bottle and limiting availability to three bottles per person.  As for the label it was based on black t-shirts that had a red swan for visibility.  It turned out this was the only time he bottled a second pinot noir.  In 2007 Rod thought he could do it again for he had a good, decent sized crop.  He had two barrels from the same block but when he took them out of the blend it made a difference.  So Rod included them in the final blend.

Both 2007 and 2009 were no thinking vintages.   The 2009 vintage was an easy and wonderful vintage.  The 2011 vintage is the current release for the Trenton Estate Pinot Noir.  It was a very cold vintage but Rod feels cool vintages are to their benefit.  The 2011 came from primarily older vines but some younger vines as well. The 2011 has some grapes from vines replanted in 1990s.  So this blend represents a lot of Swan clone vines as well as all five Dijon clones.   Joseph Swan made Rob promise to graft all vines over to Dijon clones after his death.  Rod could not do this.  He thinks of the vineyard in terms of areas and not clones, such as where the vines are on the slope.   Thus he can pick by ripeness parameters.  Rod feels the clonal differences becomes secondary after a few years and that the site is more important in the Trenton vineyard.  This is highlighted by the Trenton View wine.  In the Trenton View vineyard the upper part of the hill has similar soil to the Trenton Estate.  The lower part transitions to valley floor and tastes more like Saralee Vineyard which is valley floor.  Steve Heimoff once tasted this wine and said it was like “Trenton Estate Jr.”  Rod feels the estate character came through from top and the pretty aspect came from the bottom.



We began with bottles of a Hungarian pétillant wine made as an homage to Huët’s Pétillant.  These bottles had aged in Mannie’s cellar for roughly two years.  It was an appropriate start for Rod, once by chance, made a wine from Furmint.  The tasting notes are organized by type.  Those from the Rare Wine Co. dinner are augmented by notes taken during a subsequent winery visit and from bottles purchased from the winery.  These later notes are indicated below.  This is the second Joseph Swan dinner hosted by the Rare Wine Co.  You may read about the previous event in John Tilson’s Joseph Swan: A California Wine Legend.  I highly recommend you take the time to read through Rod’s newsletters.  He recent writings on balance, feral yeast, and grape seeds ring true to his voice.

2009 Királyudvar, Tokaji Pezsgő, Henye, Brut
The nose smells of some age with yellow fruit and some toast.  In the mouth the round yellow fruit becomes honied then dry spices came out.  There were small, fine and firm bursting bubbles which became still towards the finish as maturity and toast notes came out.  The acidity came out as well as riper flavors with dry minerals.  There was a dry, textured minerally aftertaste.  Drinking well right now.



2012 Joseph Swan, Faux Pas, Trenton Estate
Tasted at winery.  Tropical notes come through on the nose.  There was some weight to the racy flavors that became creamy towards the finish.  It had both supporting acidity and some toast.

2011 Joseph Swan, Chardonnay, Ritchie Vineyard
Purchased at winery.  The flavors of ripe lemons existed in a glycerin body that was rich in feel yet had grip.  It showed a little toast in the finish.  This was best on the second night.

1975 Joseph Swan, Chardonnay
From the darker bottle with the sound cork.  The color was a clear, light amber.  The nose was slightly stinky with almost piercing aromas and low-lying petrol.  In the mouth this was clearly a mature wine due to the subtle flavor of nuts towards the finish.  There was some density to the flavors as well as watering acidity.  Others reported the second bottles had apple flavors and good acidity.



2012 Joseph Swan, Rosé, The Vineyard Next Door, Russian River Valley
Tasted and purchased at winery.  Slightly stinky at first the nose cleared off to reveal cherry aromas.  In the mouth were cherry flavors nearly reminiscent of a ripe, rather light red wine.  There was a round mouthfeel with slightly earthy notes and a delicately textured ripe finish.  This drank best with extended air.

Pinot Noir


2011 Joseph Swan, Pinot Noir, Trenton Estate
Second bottle purchased at winery.  The nose was very aromatic and beautiful with continuity in the mouth.  There were cherry fruit flavors with acidity inside before the flavors morph from red to blacker red.  The fruit was very clean and took on some tannic grip with air.  Drinking well now but will mature.

2010 Joseph Swan, Pinot Noir, Trenton View Vineyard
Tasted at winery.  The young fruit revealed elegant Pinot Noir aromas.  The tart red fruit was simpler than the Trenton Estate.  There was a citric note before the black and red flavors of the finish.  It left an impression of black minerals.

2010 Joseph Swan, Pinot Noir, Great Oak Vineyard
Tasted at winery.  The nose was tight with robust aromas of darker red and black fruit.  In the mouth the tart red fruit became blacker with rounded edges and integrated acidity.  There were some tannins evident in the back end.

2009 Joseph Swan, Pinot Noir, Trenton Estate
The nose was subtle and tight revealing some dark aromas.  In the mouth were riper, richer dense young fruit.  The flavors were more assertive but good.  There seemed to be less acidity with respect to the fruit.

2007 Joseph Swan, Pinot Noir, Trenton Estate
The nose returned to the likes of the 2011 vintage with fresh, concentrated red fruit.  In the mouth were brighter and redder flavors that showed more tannic grip and good acidity.  The cherry flavors made way to a larger and darker, assertive finish with lots of grip.

2006 Joseph Swan, Pinot Noir, Trenton Estate
The nose was youthful with primary fruit but developed darker, brambly notes of Pinot Noir.  In the mouth were ripe, vigorous flavors of red and black fruit which showed ripeness.  The acidity came out followed by black minerals, ripe notes, and an assertive finish.

2000 Joseph Swan, Pinot Noir, Trenton Estate
There was a rich, aromatic nose that clearly showed bottle age.  The nose did fall off with air.  In the mouth the flavors of strawberry jam were soft and enjoyable.  There were attractive and expansive flavors of earth and mature red fruit.


1997 Joseph Swan, Pinot Noir, Pentagon, Trenton Estate
The nose was fresh with menthol and blacker fruit.  In the mouth were red, ripe cherry fruit that became blacker towards the finish.  This was a bigger wine with ripeness returning in the finish.  There was certainly structure inside.

1995 Joseph Swan, Pinot Noir, Trenton Estate
There was a fresh hint on the nose with raspberry and pastille aromas.  With air the maturity came out along with perfume and leather.  The flavors began with old wood and red fruit that was lighter in nature.  It had watering acidity, grip from the structure, and old notes in the finish.

1992 Joseph Swan, Pinot Noir, Trenton Estate
This had ripe, grippy fruit, acidity, and very fine citric tannins.  There was weight to the flavors which draped over the tongue.

1985 Joseph Swan, Pinot Noir, Trenton Estate
There were hints of menthol and freshness on the nose before it became sweaty.  The red fruit leaned towards ripe, cranberry.  The tannins were still there.


1984 Joseph Swan, Pinot Noir, Trenton Estate
There were attractive earthy, mature leather notes and still noticeable tannins.  There was just a hint of ripeness at the front as well as acidity on the sides of the tongue.  It was a little rough in the finish.

1983 Joseph Swan, Pinot Noir, Trenton Estate
The more subtle nose was complex with herbal aromas.  In the mouth the drying structure matched the citric red fruit which became powerful, cranberry flavors in the finish.  This was matched by powerful citric tannins.

1982 Joseph Swan, Pinot Noir, Trenton Estate
The nose was old with both maturity and complexity.  The red fruit became lighter in the middle before the tannins came back out.

1976 Joseph Swan, Pinot Noir, Trenton Estate
This smelled very mature with bacon notes.  The flavors were earthy with a vintage perfume hint.  There was an old flavor profile in general with ripe cranberry and salivating acidity in the finish.


1973 Joseph Swan, Pinot Noir, Trenton Estate
The nose was fresh and still had aromas of primary fruit.  In the mouth were fresh and very youthful flavors of red fruit.  This was a light wine with, clean, lithe fruit and just a hint of leather and ripeness.  A lovely wine that will surely last.



2006 Joseph Swan, Syrah, Great Oak Vineyard
Tasted at winery.  There were heavy aromas of berries, spices, and dried flowers.  The flavors were tight in the mouth with black and red fruit.  The structure was evident with drying tannins before light flavors came out in the back.



2008 Joseph Swan, Zinfandel, Mancini Ranch
Tasted at winery.  The nose was evocative of macerated, jammy berries.  In the mouth the mixed berries had lipstick and powdery notes.  This wine had a lot of texture, particularly in the finish where there were drier, red fruit flavors.

1968 Joseph Swan, Zinfandel
This was a markedly different, darker color.  The nose bore older, vintage fruit and sour cherry.  The flavors, as expected, were completely different.  It began with leaner flavors then old fruit and acidity picked up.

[0] “…which gives the finest climate, for peaches, and nearly all other kinds of fruits, to be found anywhere. This, coupled with a soil of nearly absolute perfection in every particular, goes to make up the great Sebastopol and Forestville fruit region.” Journal: Appendix. Reports, Volume 3. 1893. URL:
[1] Haeger, John Winthrop. North American Pinot Noir.  2004.
[2] The majority of this post is derived from notes of Rod’s comments during the Rare Wine Co. dinner and subsequent emails.  A few comments came from a brief conversation with Cody at the winery.  Thus any mistakes are solely my own.
[3] Hutten, Penny. Forestville. Arcadia Publishing. 2008.
[4] Daily Alta California, Volume 38, Number 12740, 1 March 1885. California Digital Newspaper Collection.
[5] Daily Alta California, Volume 42, Number 13963, 23 November 1887. California Digital Newspaper Collection.
[6] Los Angeles Herald, Volume 25, Number 173, 22 March 1898. California Digital Newspaper Collection.
[7] Directory of the Grape Growers, Wine Makers and Distillers of California. 1891. URL:
[8] The Vineyards in Sonoma County. 1893. URL:
[9] Pacific Wine & Spirit Review. Volume 39. 1898. URL:
[10] Pacific Wine & Spirit Review, Volume 34. 1896. URL:
[11] Whitney, Milton. Field Operations of the Bureau of Soils, Volume 17. 1919. URL:

A Great Achievement: 2001 Pavie

David Bloch tucks into his case of 2001 Chateau Pavie to find an amazing wine.


2001 Chateau Pavie, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru
This was the fourth bottle I have opened from a case purchased on release. Not decanted – opened about 3 ½ hours before drinking with a few ounces poured off. The wine has a floral bouquet that could fool the most diehard Bordeaux drinker into thinking Burgundy. Maybe Chambolle. Incredible aromas of flowers and sweet spices. Very inviting. First sips were of ripe plums and blueberries. Beautifully textured. Layered. Unfolds to more dark fruits with a zip of acidity – almost like orange zest. The wine shows a hint of smoke and more exotic spice notes. While a rich and full bodied wine, it remains light on its feet – very well balanced. Tannins hide behind the rich fruit. Maybe a little chocolate milk too. The bottle had quite a bit of sediment (maybe seen if one looks closely at the photo). This is really a great Right Bank wine that needs to be tasted to be believed. A star from a lesser vintage that has proven itself over time to yield many a gem. Pavie naysayers take note – this is an amazingly classy wine with a long life ahead.

Several Pictures From California








Categories: Image

Two Early Drinking Rhone Wines

Both of the wines featured in this post are drinking well right out of the bottle.  They both have clean red fruit that is enlivened by the acidity.  The 2012 La Bastide Saint Dominique, Chateauneuf du Pape is certainly more serious with balance for short-term development, not for old-bones.   Perhaps it is perfect for the cold-snap that Washington, DC is now leaving.  The 2012 La Font de Vent, Notre Passion, Cotes du Rhone Villages is the lightest of the pair.  I would drink it as an alternative to rosé.   These wines were purchased at MacArthur Beverages.


2012 La Bastide Saint Dominique, Chateauneuf du Pape – $32
Imported by Simon N Cellars.  This wine is a blend of 80% Grenache, 10% Syrah, 5% Mourvedre, and 5% Cinsault sourced from vines 15-50 years old.  Alcohol 15%.  The delineated aromas were of pure cherry notes.  In the mouth were cherry and Kirsch flavors that were ripe but enlivened by acidity.  This morphed to raspberry with more acidity before turning black with tannins in the finish.  The finish had extract,  moderate structure with fine drying tannins, and minerally bits.  There was some heat in the aftertaste.  *** Now-2019.


2012 La Font de Vent, Notre Passion, Cotes du Rhone Villages – $13
Imported by DS Trading Company.  This wine is an even blend of Grenache and Syrah.  Alcohol 14%.  This was a fresh and light wine with red fruit flavors of cherry and strawberry.  The ripeness builds up, taking on acidity that made for some zing in the finish.  Good for the spring.  ** Now-2016.


The Timeless 1986 CVNE, Viña Real, Rioja Reserva

To some degree how I think about old vintages of Bordeaux has barely changed since my Bristol University days.  Back then I would often chat with my friends about the 1961 and 1970 vintages as we poured over David Peppercorn’s maturity chart.  There is no doubt if I was now presented a bottle from 1961 I would first think about it as a 30 year old wine instead of its proper 53 year age.  Over the last several years I infrequently drank wines prior to the 1998 vintage.  This year is an exception, with Rioja alone representing vintages from the 1920s, 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s.  In this span of just several months my perspective on what is an old vintage from Rioja has changed.

C.V.N.E. advertisement from La Época (Madrid. 1849). 10/4/1922, no. 25,672, page 3.

C.V.N.E. advertisement from La Época (Madrid. 1849). 10/4/1922, no. 25,672, page 3. Biblioteca Nacional de Espana.

Thus with a bit more exposure I viewed the unopened bottle of 1986 C.V.N.E, Viña Real, Rioja Reserva as young and to some degree, did not hesitate to pull the cork.  The Viña Real was first released in 1920 taking its name from the vineyard situated next to the old Camino Real running through El Ciego in Rioja Alavesa.  Today at least half of the fruit is still sourced from estate vineyards in Rioja Alavesa with a blend that is mostly Tempranillo followed by Mazuelo, Graciano, and Garnacha Tinta.  This particular bottle had an attractive nose of red fruit and mature wood box aromas.  The flavors in the mouth were not as complex as the nose perhaps because they were youthful with plenty of acidity and still some structure.  It is possible I opened this bottle to early!  This wine was purchased from The Rare Wine Co.


1986 C.V.N.E (Compañía Vinícola del Norte de España), Viña Real, Rioja Reserva –
Imported The Rare Wine Co.  Alcohol 13%.  The nose bore scented aromas of tart red fruit and wood box.  In the mouth the flavors took on moderate weight with slightly ripe and tart raspberry notes that became drier towards the finish.  There was plenty of acidity complemented the tart red flavors.  This wine was still fresh with a bit of structure in the long aftertaste.  *** Now-2034.