Showing posts with label Petaluma Gap. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Petaluma Gap. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Great Sonoma Chardonnay

Petaluma based Adobe Road Winery owner Kevin Buckler is a real-life race car driver.  His winemaker, Garrett Martin, reportedly drives the speed limit and brakes fully at stop signs.  The Adobe Road Racing Series of wines includes Apex, Redline, The 24 and the latest release, SHIFT 2019.  Their less "racy" bottlings include the 2019 Famighetti Vineyard Viognier and the 2019 Adobe Road Chardonnay, Petaluma Gap, Sangiacomo Vineyards, Roberts Road.  

Information is a little scant for the latter wine, but previous vintages have been 100% Chardonnay, taken from the Sonoma side of the Carneros appellation and aged for ten months in a mixture of new and used French oak and stainless steel.  Malolactic fermentation was stopped at 30% and the wine rested on its lees - the spent yeast.  Alcohol kicks in at 14.3% abv and the wine sells for $52.

Martin says the "scrappy little organic vineyard … always surprises with its richness and intensity of detail."  The wine has a medium-rich golden tint and a nose that cries to be noticed.  The peach and nectarine aromas are lovely enough, but there are delicate touches of lemon and even a hint - just a hint - of butter.  The palate offers a custard-like flavor which seems to be at once sweet and savory.  The mouthfeel plays games, too - racy acidity, no, creamy and hefty.  This is really a great tasting Chardonnay, one of the better ones I have had from California.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Badass Pinot Noir

MacPhail Wines is a Cloverdale collaboration between fifth-generation Hess Family members Tim and Sabrina Persson and winemaker Matt Courtney, who says he likes his oak to stay in the background.  They all reportedly feel that wine is art with a splash of science.  They make wines of the Sonoma Coast and Anderson Valley.

The Flyer is 100% Pinot Noir grown in the Sangiacomo Lakeville Vineyards in the Petaluma Gap.  Lots of fog means additional hang time for the grapes, which means riper fruit.  The grapes are hand-harvested and sorted, destemmed.  For the 2016 vintage they used Pinot Noir clones 777 and 23, both fermented in same tank, with full native fermentation.  The wine is aged 11 months in French oak, 30% of which is new. 

The wagon on the label reportedly represents "timeless design and exceptional quality."  Oh, and Tim and Sabrina signed the back label.  The wine hits 14.5% abv and retails for $50.

Be warned, this wine does not smell like Pinot Noir.  It's big, it's bold, it's frightfully funky.  Only medium ruby in color, the nose is full of forest floor, smoke and tar.  The palate is all dark fruit, bathed in a savory soak, sprayed with violets and punched with acidity and healthy pack of tannins.  Oak adds to the experience, but doesn't overpower.  You won't have to be careful with pairings, as this Pinot will match up with the beefiest beef dishes.

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Friday, May 19, 2017

Sonoma Coast Pinot Gris

In the 1970s, an Italian immigrant in California's Bay Area taught his grandson how to make wine. Fred Cline took the information and ran with it, starting a winery and eventually moving the operation to Sonoma County's Carneros Valley.

Cline Cellars now has sustainably-grown ancient Zinfandel and Rhône varieties in Oakley, more Rhône grapes in Carneros and Pinot Noir in the Petaluma Gap.  Winemaker Charlie Tsegeletos produces wines that, according to Cline, "express the unique qualities of California fruit, and their specific sense of place."

Baseball fans may want to know that Cline partners with Wines by Design on a San Francisco Giants Pinot Gris. It's sourced from the winery's Sonoma Coast estate vineyard, and they say it’s a "hit."

The Cline Estate Pinot Gris is also sourced from the Petaluma Gap vineyards and is fermented and aged in stainless steel.  It hits 14% abv and sells for $15.

This California Pinot Gris is lightly tinted with a yellow-green hue. It smells of apples, peaches and apricots with some lemon zest adding to a complex nose. An earthy aroma underlies all else and provides a base from which the other aromas work. The acidity is fairly bracing, and will welcome seafood. Flavors of apple, lemon, and tangerine come forward with stone fruit on the finish.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Mother And Daughter Work Together On Chardonnay, Pinot Noir

Tasting a wine while in the company of one whose livelihood depends on the impressions left by said wine is not always fun. Sometimes you swirl extra long, swish it around for awhile, searching for something nice to say. Sometimes it’s hard to do.

This time it was easy. Trombetta Family Wines CEO Rickey Trombetta Stancliff (on left) was dragged over my way by a publicist friend to pour wines that were made by her daughter, Erica Stancliff. The pressure was really on. If I don't like them, I insult not only her, but her daughter as well. Swirl, swirl, swirl. Swish, swish, swish.

To be honest, Rickey didn't seem like someone in the middle of a PR tour prior to the Pinot Days Los Angeles event.  She was quite at ease. She broke out the tools of the trade - a map of her growing area and the comfy spiel about its virtues, but not before sitting back in our outdoor setting and commenting, "What a lovely day it is!" I got the feeling she was confident her wines would be well received, that she had fielded all the compliments before. To her credit, she made me feel like my opinions sounded fresh to her ears, even though I knew they did not. Her daughter’s creations in Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are completely praiseworthy.

Rickey - and Erica - have a great history in wine. They both worked with California wine guru Paul Hobbs, the result of a chance meeting and friendship that followed. It was Hobbs, in fact, who offered a taste of Merlot to a ten-year-old Erica, who wrinkled up her nose at the idea of tasting wine. She then proceeded to describe that wine as a super taster would, using descriptors like leather, tobacco and pepper. Her palate was revealed, and Hobbs put in a waiver claim on her right there.

Sure enough, Erica followed her nose - and palate - to an oenology education. The rest is in the bottle.


Grapes for the Trombetta Chardonnay and one Pinot Noir come from Gap's Crown Vineyard, a 100-acre parcel in the Petaluma Gap region, which will hopefully receive recognition as an AVA by summertime 2016. Easy sailing is predicted in the area that boasts more growers than wineries. The Petaluma Gap bridges the gap between the Pacific Ocean and the bay,allowing for a wind tunnel effect blow through, making it a very cool climate area. Smaller, more concentrated berries and great acidity are the results of that cool breeze. The region is contained mostly in Sonoma County, but it dips south into Marin County a bit.


Trombetta Chardonnay, Gap’s Crown Vineyard 2014 is Erica’s first attempt at Chardonnay. I wish all my first times had been like this. A great growing season in the cool Petaluma Gap region gave some August fog, common on the Sonoma Coast, which helped make for optimal ripening.
Rickey said, "Erica wanted to make a Chardonnay in which the old world meets the new
world." The wine puts me in mind of both worlds. Two barrels saw new French oak, while six were aged neutrally. The wine hits 14.2% abv and runs $50 at retail. 200 cases were produced.

The wine has a rich, golden hue and shows an absolutely gorgeous oak effect, just enough to put me in mind of classic California Chardonnay. There is tropical fruit, lemon chess pie and caramel in the whiff as well. The palate is where the old world comes into play. The acidity is right on the money, and only a slight touch of vanilla comforts the apples, pineapple and citrus flavors. The wine is very well balanced and shows great weight, the result of malolactic fermentation which occurred in the barrels and aging on the lees - the spent yeast cells. Eight months of aging in French oak was just right. About a third of that oak was new, the rest neutral.

Pinot Noir

The grapes for Trombetta's Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast 2013 hail from Peterson Vineyard, a few miles west of Gap’s Crown. Again, there is very little production from this cool climate vineyard, which means tiny berries and concentrated aromas and flavors. This wine also comes in at 14.2% abv with 272 cases made, selling at $45.

The wine shows a lovely, deep ruby color, and an elegant nose of cranberry, violets, pomegranate and black tea. A savory streak of spices runs through this graceful Pinot. On the palate, there are flavors of cranberry, raspberry and pepper spice, and the acidity is great. Forest floor notes add complexity and depth to this sophisticated wine.

For the Trombetta Gap’s Crown Pinot Noir 2013, they went back to Gap’s Crown Vineyard, harvesting grapes grown at an elevation of about 800 feet, the highest point in the parcel. Eight months in oak - 25% new - barely leaves a mark to take away from its charms. Alcohol is still at 14.2% abv, while the retail price is $65.

More color than in the Sonoma Coast offering shows immediately, a deeper and darker shade than the other bottling. The nose is a little more savory, too, with more tea notes but still offering a basket full of bright fruit. The palate shows darker, but it does not go near what we might call "bold." It is deeper and richer, again with food-friendly acidity to die for.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Cool Pinot Noir Blows In From Sonoma's Petaluma Gap

Bottlenotes launched a new live tasting event series on Twitter in October.  The first tasting event was hosted by noted wine writer Karen MacNeil and focused on 2012 Sonoma Pinot Noir wines.  I was provided with Pfendler Vineyards 2012 Pinot Noir and invited to participate.

Pfendler Vineyards was founded by Kimberly Pfendler (left) in 2007 with the goal of producing world-class Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from her family’s mountain property in the Petaluma Gap region of the Sonoma Coast AVA.  Representatives of windy Petaluma Gap are currently trying to get the grape rolling for an appeal to establish AVA status for the subregion within the enormous Sonoma Coast AVA.

Pfendler’s late husband Peter planted the family’s first vineyard in 1992 - he opted for Bordeaux varieties at that time.  Although the grapes struggled to ripen, he was inspired by the Petaluma Gap’s potential, and over the next 15 years, he experimented in planting various Pinot Noir and Chardonnay clones  As it turns out, they thrived in the cool-climate, maritime-influenced area.

Kimberly Pfendler is as sold on the Petaluma Gap’s potential as her husband was.  “There is no other area in California I can think of that offers such great new potential for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay as the Petaluma Gap,” she says.  “The region is like a wind tunnel, with the mountains funneling in cool Pacific breezes and ocean fog.  Our vineyards extend from the mountain top to its base, allowing a tremendous variety of sun and foggy climates.”

Sonoma Pinot Noir guru Greg Bjornstad (right) is Pfendler’s winemaker.  “I’ve always been a fan of Greg’s wines,” Pfendler adds, “and I am most impressed by his talent for making wines that express a sense of place.”  Bjornstad takes a hands-on approach in the four estate vineyards and adopts a minimalistic approach in the winery.

This 100% Pinot Noir utilizes destemmed grapes of the Joseph Swan, Calera and Pommard clones.  It is aged eleven months in French oak, half of which was new.  For eight months the juice sits sur lie - in contact with the spent yeast used during fermentation.  This gives the wine more weight, a bigger mouthfeel.  It carries an alcohol level of 14.4% abv.  Only 350 cases were made and the wine retails for $45.

Fairly darkly tinted, this Pinot looks like it means business, and it does.  Aromas of black cherry and coffee grounds dominate the nose and continue building on the dark theme.  The flavor is dark, too, with black raspberry, black tea and black cherry providing plenty of power.  Speaking of power, the business end of the tannins are not shy.  It's pretty enough for pork, brawny enough for beef.