Much has been written and romanticized about Pinot Noir. We’re told that, like a child, it’s finicky, fickle and requires continuous coddling. Like a woman, Pinot Noir can be inscrutable and beguiling.
All of which may in fact be true, but what’s become abundantly clear is that Sonoma Valley is uniquely positioned as a Pinot paradise. With mountain gaps that open vineyards to cool, coastal influences and proximity to the bay in the southern reaches, it’s like a valley formed specifically to craft incredible Pinot Noir. It’s this rich diversity of conditions, spanning five distinctly different AVA’s, that makes an assemblage of Sonoma Valley Pinot Noirs a showcase of the varietal’s remarkable range of flavors.
As we head into the cool days of winter, we thought it would be fun to introduce you to a few of the finer selections grown and crafted here in Sonoma Valley. It’s by no means a comprehensive list. And you’re more than encouraged to explore and discover others. But we hope they provide a glimpse into just what makes Sonoma Valley such an incredible place for Pinot Noir.
Dunstan 2012 Durell Vineyard Pinot Noir
THE WINE: 2012 was a classic vintage at the legendary Durell vineyard in the southwestern hills of Sonoma Valley, straddling the Carneros, Sonoma Valley and Sonoma Coast appellations. Spring was warm and dry, so a good crop was set up for the warm summer days and cool nights. The wine is a deep ruby-red with bright aromatics of red raspberry, strawberry preserves, black cherry and (here’s one you don’t often hear) Szechuan peppercorn. On the palate it’s silky yet firmly textured.
DUNSTAN is housed in a lovingly restored 1923 Ranch House, making for an intimate, private and secluded tasting experience available by appointment only. There’s a vineyard amphitheater tucked naturally into the southern slopes of Sonoma Mountain. In the gorgeous setting you’re surrounded by the Ranch House block of Durell vineyard, all of which is 100% Certified Sustainably farmed.
Sojourn Cellars 2013 Sangiacomo Vineyard Pinot Noir
THE WINE: This is Sojourn’s 10th vintage sourced from six distinct blocks in the acclaimed Sangiacomo Vineyard in Sonoma Valley, at the western base of Sonoma Mountain. The moderate climate of the 2013 vintage allowed flavors to mature slowly, while the juice retained fresh natural acidity. Hence, the wine is deep, with lush creamy textures and dark red fruit flavors. It is nicely balanced with seductive aromas of dark cherry, black tea and earthy forest floor.
At Sojourn’s Tasting Salon, conveniently located in the beautiful town of Sonoma, wine lovers sit and enjoy a comparative tasting, where all the nuances of each wine can be thoroughly savored and appreciated. It’s a deep dive experience, with reservations required.
Hanzell Vineyards 2012 Sonoma Valley Pinot Noir
THE WINE: Blended from classified barrels from Hanzell’s three estate Pinot Noir vineyards, this flagship wine represents their finest effort to interpret these unique sites into an age-worthy, collectible wine. After recommended decanting, the wine offers inviting red fruit aromas of pomegranate, Rainier cherry and cranberry combined with rose, lavender, sandalwood and Indian spice to create a penetrating, complex, perfumed quality. On the palate, the broad red fruit flavors along with blood orange and tobacco are carried by fine tannins, which provide great depth and length.
Hanzell offers an immersive, private experience, hosted by a knowledgeable Estate Educator. The tour begins in the original Ambassador’s 1953 Vineyard, followed by a driving tour of the estate vineyards; Zellerbach Vineyard, de Brye Vineyard, Ramos Vineyard and the Sessions Vineyard. Afterwards, a stroll through the state-of-the-art winery and barrel-aging cave while you learn more about Hanzell’s remarkable history, farming and winemaking philosophy. In the Heritage Winery, a seated tasting of current release wines concludes the visit.
Canihan Family Wines 2012 Pinot Noir
THE WINE: Canihan uses organic vineyard management practices, dry-farming and hand-harvesting only at their Sonoma Valley estate vineyards bordering on the Los Carneros appellation. It’s a low-yield, high-touch approach to farming, and in 2012 the season was nearly perfect for gradual ripening. This bold, zesty, complex, and textural Pinot Noir displays exotic spices wrapped in embracing layers of blackberry, vibrant Bing cherry, Earl Grey tea and dark chocolate.
Wine tastings at Canihan are held in their 120-year-old barn in their certified organic estate vineyards on the southeastern outskirts of the town of Sonoma. If you stop by, you’ll likely find Bill Canihan pouring. It’s by no means a fancy venue, but the rustic old barn and well house provide a picturesque backdrop to taste this incredible Sonoma Valley Pinot Noir.