Sonoma, aka Pinot Country
How Pinot Noir is coming into its own in a diverse appellation
I became familiar with John Holdredge's Pinots (and Zinfandels!) in about 2006, when I stumbled on a few at a dinner in Sonoma that summer. I was smitten and worked to get the wines distributed into the New York market, where I was happy to introduce them to an audience looking for lighter-style California Pinot Noirs. They were a great success. And while I didn't see any Zins at Holdredge on my last visit, I hardly missed them. Seriously, the current line-up chez Holdredge is fabulous and one could certainly argue that no one is making better wines than John. Different, of course, but better?
The style here is a combination of classic, ripe Californian fruit with all the incumbent alcohol and hands-off winemaking, and the results speak for themselves. Where one all too often finds six different vineyard wines tasting of winemaking when visiting a tasting room, here you find six different wines with only the suggestion of a winemaking style that favors the gentle influence of oak and the subtle roundness it brings to wines. With pricing that ranges from the low $30s for the Russian River Bottling to $50 for the Single vineyards, these wines remain relative values in the marketplace.
While it's a bit early, the 2011’s are the current release on the Holdredge website, and you should be on the lookout for the 2012 Rochioli Vineyard. It's a knockout Pinot and along with John's 2012 Schiopettino (all full of warm cherries, spice, a little ink and minerals), it’s simply an awesome wine.
Crazily fragrant with soaring florals, spiced orange rind, cranberry, and tart cherry aromatics. This enters the mouth with a firm burst of ripe fruit delivering plenty of texture early on but remaining tense and vibrant on the palate, with lovely zesty red berry fruit cut with super fine-grained, lightly dusty tannins. The finish is long and precise, dominated by raspberry fruit that offers impressive purity and persistence. 93 points
700 cases, 6 vineyards, 13 clones
Cola, chalk, animal fur and a touch of smoke all top the core of wild cherry fruit found on the nose. In the mouth this is smooth and polished, with a seductive texture that is both rich and supple. The mid-palate is packed with dark berry fruit framed with a bit of spice, all leading to an earthy back end and long finish that features a nice transparent mineral note that cuts through the lingering wild cherry fruit. 91 points
A little stemmy and floral on a nose that is a bit low and yet quite perfumed with a hint of peppery spice; high toned and showing a touch of oak. This is surprisingly round in the mouth and even a little slick in an appealing way, offering a broad yet transparent feel that shows nice freshness with the early hints of watermelon accenting the woodsy, wild raspberry fruit. Elegant with a fairly long finish, this is impressive but it is also fairly large-scaled in this line-up. 92 points
Very perfumed on the nose with layers of sweet spices, violets, ginseng, smoke, a little licorice and pollen. In the mouth this is a little candied, delivering sweet raspberries and maraschino cherry flavors up front in a polished, plump, easy drinking style. There’s good length here and the fruit flavors do add a bit of a darker profile on the finish, but bright acidity keeps this fresh. There are moments when this seems a bit heavy and dull with all the fruit here. Not exactly my style, but certainly well done. A blend of nine distinctly different clones. 91 points
This smells quite ripe, with hints of plummy fruit and candied blueberries on the nose paired with a fine cinnamon edge and a little stemmy floral note. On entry, one senses more of an oak imprint here than with the other bottlings. The style is smooth and ripe, if a little on the softer, sweeter side of things, with lots of slightly candied black cherry fruit. There’s a nice spine of fine tannins that add some contrasting mouth grab here and persist into the long, powerful finish, which does show a bit of alcohol. Fairly intensely fruit and notably structured in this line-up. 91 points
Fleshy fruit on the nose is framed by a hint of pencil lead, sharp with an almost spricotty freshness and sweetness to the perfumed red cherry and strawberry fruit. This is almost a bit soft in the mouth, but just when you think the broad, mouth-filling texture is going to go over the edge, the wine pulls back and shows the polished and smooth Holdredge style underpinned with a delicate yet supportive structure. This is downright seductive with a core of juicy red raspberry and strawberry fruit that pops on the back end with excellent inner mouth perfumes, ending with a very soft, seductive, and persistent finish. Just lovely. The name comes from the clone used for this wine: Martini. 93 points
This has a stunning nose, high-toned and floral, with spicy, lightly smoky accents to the earthy small berried fruits that offer up a nuanced beet root note. Soft yet structured, there is lovely depth here with a rich front edge followed by nice nuanced spice notes and very pure, defined red berry and black cherry skin fruit that shows off nearly perfect integration. This remains very perfumed on the back end, with a little savory olive wood note on the long finish that features a nice hint of cherry pie. This is flamboyantly wide open and absolutely gorgeous. 94 points