Tasting Report: West of West Wine Festival 2015

The West of West Wine Festival is all about wine at its westernmost terminus in the United States: The Sonoma Coast, where dense fog and craggy conditions make growing conditions ripe only for a few prized varietals — chardonnay, pinot noir, and syrah.

Recently I spent an afternoon at the WoW grand tasting, working through dozens of wines from the region. Many are dense and powerful, but a surprising number find elegance and grace in the Sonoma Coast, too. My clear favorites came from Peay, always a standout, DuMOL, and Failla — which showcased just how different pinots from this region can be (even when the vineyards are right next door).

Brief thoughts on all wines tasted follow.

Tasting Report: West of West Wine Festival 2015

2014 Baker Lane Vineyards Viognier / B+ / racy, engages with minerality to tame the heavy aromatics
2013 Baker Lane Vineyards Sonoma Coast Cuvee Pinot Noir / B+ / good balance, chocolate, earth, wood, some astringency
2012 Baker Lane Vineyards Pinot Noir Reserve Sonoma Coast / B+ / quite dense, dried herbs, cherries, licorice
2012 Baker Lane Vineyards Sonoma Coast Cuvee Syrah / B / quite dry, lots of meaty notes
2010 Baker Lane Vineyards Sonoma Coast Estate Syrah / B / rich, good balance, herbs and meat but lighter in style
2014 Baker Lane Vineyards Rose / A- / very fresh, light strawberry shortcake
2014 Charles Heintz Vineyards Rachael Chardonnay Sonoma Coast / B+ / nice balance, fresh, solid vanilla core
2014 Charles Heintz Vineyards Searby Chardonnay Sonoma Coast / B / unoaked; bold, lots of rosemary notes
2014 Charles Heintz Vineyards Valentina Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast / C+ / very weedy, some sweetness
2014 Charles Heintz Vineyards Roxy Syrah Sonoma Coast / C- / far out of balance
2012 Claypool Cellars Rice Spivak Vineyard Pachyderm CC Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast / B+ / somewhat bolder and fresher
2012 Claypool Cellars Pachyderm CC Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast / B+ / herbal, some meaty notes
2013 DuMOL Vineyard Connor Joy Road Vineyard Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast / A- / more aromatic, thinner body
2012 DuMOL Vineyard Connor Joy Road Vineyard Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast / A / great balance, bittersweet notes, lovely
2013 DuMOL Vineyard Isobel Charles Heintz Vineyard Chardonnay Sonoma Coast / A / beautiful, perfect balance of fruit and spice
2013 DuMOL Vineyard Isobel Charles Heintz Vineyard Chardonnay Sonoma Coast / A- / more acid here, some greenery notes
2013 DuMOL Vineyard Aidan Wildrose Vineyard Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast / A / pretty fruit, with some meaty edges
2012 DuMOL Vineyard Jack Robert’s Run Gregori Vineyard Syrah Sonoma Coast / B+ / intense herbs with clear viognier notes, apricots; body lacks power
2013 Failla Chardonnay Sonoma Coast / A- / gentle, nice balance, mild in style
2013 Failla Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast / A- / chewy, some dried cherry/raisin notes, a bit of citrus
2013 Failla Occidental Ridge Vineyard Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast / A- / darker, stewier, with Burgundy character
2013 Failla Hirsch Vineyard Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast / A- / very fruity, citrus leads to a light tannin on the finish
2011 Flowers Sea View Ridge Estate Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast / B+ / herbal, a bit edgy
2012 Flowers Camp Meeting Ridge Estate Chardonnay Sonoma Coast / A- / nice fruit, tropical notes and caramel lacing
2012 Flowers Sea View Ridge Estate Pinot Noir Block 17 Sonoma Coast / A- / lots of depth, pretty
2012 Flowers Camp Meeting Ridge Estate Pinot Noir Block 15 Sonoma Coast / B+ / slightly thin and overly herbal
2012 Flowers Sea View Ridge Estate Pinot Meunier Block 19 Sonoma Coast / B+ / exotic, some stone fruit, baking spices
2011 Fort Ross Vineyard Symposium / B- / a pinot noir/pinotage blend; strong dried herbs, off finish
2013 Fort Ross Vineyard Sea Slopes Pinot Noir Fort Ross-Seaview / B / gentle style; some herbs
2011 Fort Ross Vineyard Pinot Noir Fort Ross-Seaview / B / lots of acid, some florals, slight cheesy element
2011 Fort Ross Vineyard Pinot Noir Reserve Fort Ross-Seaview / B / stronger herbs, Burgundy focus
2010 Fort Ross Vineyard Pinotage Fort Ross-Seaview / B- / light fruit with olive notes, very dry
2012 Fort Ross Vineyard Stagecoach Road Pinot Noir / B / bolder body, pungent herbal character
2012 Furthermore Pinot Noir Estate Vineyard / B+ / delicate and floral
2012 Furthermore Alchemy Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast / A- / a cuvee; dense, a bit brooding, give this one some bottle age
2012 Furthermore Gloria Vineyard Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast / B+ / some sweetness, a bit of raisin and Christmas spices
2012 Furthermore Gap’s Crown Vineyard Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast / A- / big and bold, bright fruit, some cocoa powder
2014 Furthermore Eden Vineyard Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast / B / very young, florals and jam; needs time to develop
2006 Peay Vineyards Estate Chardonnay Sonoma Coast / A / a bit salty, aging beautifully
2013 Peay Vineyards Estate Chardonnay Sonoma Coast / B+ / classic structure, buttery and nutty
2013 Peay Vineyards Scallop Shelf Estate Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast / A- / drinking young, herbal and perfumed
2013 Peay Vineyards Pomarium Estate Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast / A / big and tough, chewy, cherries and dark fruits, lush, wonderful
2013 Peay Vineyards Ama Estate Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast / A / nice balance, fruit forward, emerging earth notes
2013 Peay Vineyards La Bruma Estate Syrah Sonoma Coast / B+ / drinking young also, very fruity and quite acidic
2009 Peay Vineyards Pomarium Estate Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast / A / gorgeous, dense fruit with a slight sweetness
2012 Sojourn Cellars Oakville Cabernet / B / a cheat (not from the Sonoma Coast); dusty and chewy, classic young cab
2013 Sojourn Cellars Campbell Ranch Vineyard Chardonnay Sonoma Coast / B+ / huge aromatics, lots of rosemary
2013 Sojourn Cellars Silver Eagle Vineyard Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast / A- / big and fruity, almost jammy; tea notes; edged with licorice
2013 Sojourn Cellars Ridgetop Vineyard Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast / B+ / much tougher, woody, lots of herbs
2013 Sojourn Cellars Campbell Ranch Vineyard Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast / A- / nice balance, rich and lush
2013 Sojourn Cellars Sangiacamo Vineyard Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast / A- / explodes with chocolate notes; earthy on the finish
2013 Sojourn Cellars Gap’s Crown Vineyard Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast / B+ / deep, big body; some dense fruits
2014 Soliste Soleil Rouge Rose of Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast / B+ / very light style of wines; nice acid, lots of strawberry
2012 Soliste L’Esperance Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast / B+ / very fresh berry, light herbs, delicate with big acidity
2012 Soliste Foret Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast / B+ / quite floral, aromatic, quite delicate
2013 Soliste Narcisse Pinot Noir / B / citrus and lime notes, some candy character
2013 Zepaltas Wines Heintz Vineyard Chardonnay Sonoma Coast / B / traditional, lots of tropical notes, some caramel
2013 Zepaltas Wines Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast / B+ / easygoing, nice finish, herbal punctuation
2013 Zepaltas Wines Devoto Vineyard Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast / B / quite herbal, drying, ginger notes
2013 Zepaltas Wines Suacci Vineyard Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast / A- / stronger in style; classic dark fruit

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