Sonoma, aka Pinot Country

How Pinot Noir is coming into its own in a diverse appellation

Inman Family
Kathy Inman has quietly been producing some truly compelling Pinots in Sonoma, even when her style of wines (lower in alcohol, fresh and crisp) was decidedly not in favor. Today the pendulum has swung and Kathy's wines have a bit of a cult following. Perhaps it's their delicacy, or the winery's commitment to the environment, featuring a first (for me) electric car charging station in the parking lot, as well as devotion to organic farming methods and avid use of recycled materials from cars, from the steel used in the tasting room to recycled paper used for wine shippers.
All of this certainly plays into the ideal of a winemaker, but ultimately what counts is what makes it into the bottle, and with Inman that is purity and finesse. Almost all the wines produced, with the exception of the Rosé and the Pinot Gris, are allowed to ferment spontaneously, and there is a minimum of intervention practiced here. There are there Pinots produced here, ranging in price from $35 for the Russian River appellation Pinot to $63 for the Single Vineyard bottling. The winery tasting room is surrounded by the estate vineyard, known as Olivet Grange, and it's with this wine that one gets the fullest expression of the delicacy and detail that Inman wines can provide. Not bad for a winery that was only established in 2000.
There’s a touch of cola or kukui nut on the nose over lovely layers of rhubarb, beet root and red fruit fruit, with subtle hints of stems and a very fine green edge. This is very light on the palate, with aromatic rose petals, red cherry and cranberry fruit, and just a touch of older wood adding a gentle earthy cast. There’s plenty of nice red fruit on the finish, which shows a little pasty tactile quality adding fine tension that lengthens the finish. 90 points
Big and spicy on the nose, with a deep olive wood briar accent to the rich blackberry fruit that’s topped with nuanced floral and lightly smoky aromas. This is smooth and moderately rich in the mouth, with a layer of baby fat covering the fine-grained tannins and supporting acidity. A nice tart, almost black cherry note dominates the palate and drifts off on the finish, which does show a bit of heat. A bit more than I’m used to from Inman. 89 points
Lightly aromatic on the nose with a lovely gentle sweetness of waxy ripe red cherry over a light camphor base, topped with intriguing hints of rosewater. This is wonderfully light, crisp and focused in the mouth, with excellent snap of almost tart but ripe red cherry and cranberry fruit framed by hints of cinnamon and rhubarb. The finish shows lovely purity and energy, with persistent raspberry flavors and the merest hint of tannin offering a touch of mouth grab. 91 points

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Sonoma County Wines

Holdredge Pinot Noir Russian River Valley (2011)
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Holdredge Pinot Noir Russian River Valley Bucher (2011)
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Holdredge Pinot Noir Russian River Valley Selection Massale (2011)
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Holdredge Pinot Noir Russian River Valley Rolling Thunder (2011)
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Holdredge Pinot Noir Russian River Valley Mazie Rose (2011)
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Schug Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir (2010)
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Schug Carneros Pinot Noir (2010)
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Schug Carneros Estate Winery Heritage Reserve Pinot Noir (2009)
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Inman Russian River Pinot Noir (2009)
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Inman Family Pinot Noir Thorn Road (2009)
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Inman Family Pinot Noir Russian River Valley Olivet Grange Vineyard (2009)
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Woodenhead Pinot Noir Russian River Valley (2008)
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Woodenhead Vintners Pinot Noir Humboldt County (2008)
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Woodenhead Pinot Noir Anderson Valley Wiley Vineyard (2009)
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Woodenhead Pinot Noir Wet Kiss Russian River Valley (2010)
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Porter Creek Chardonnay Russian River Valley (2011)
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Porter Creek Viognier Russian River Valley Timbervine Ranch (2011)
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Porter Creek Pinot Noir Russian River Valley Fiona Hill (2010)
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Porter Creek Pinot Noir Russian River Valley Hillside Vineyard (2010)
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Porter Creek Carignane Mendocino County Old Vine (2010)
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Porter Creek Zinfandel Russian River Valley (2010)
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Porter Creek Syrah Russian River Valley Timbervine Ranch (2010)
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Mentioned in this article


  • Snooth User: outthere
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    324443 3,823

    Great write-up GdP! John Holdredge is a character and just visiting with him is just as fun as tasting his wines.

    Apr 12, 2013 at 3:28 PM

  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 204,459

    Thanks, you got that right, but I would still want to taste his wines, even if it had to e without him!

    Apr 12, 2013 at 3:36 PM

  • Snooth User: InWineTruth
    Hand of Snooth
    220106 1,634

    Greg, this is a good list of SoCo Pinot. How about DuNah(estate & Sangiacomo) and the irrepressible T.R.Elliott, and the Carneros grower Mahoney Vineyards? Consistently, damn fine wine!

    Apr 13, 2013 at 8:16 PM

  • Walter should know better than to make a comment about Napa not being able to make Pinot Noir. School House Pinot Noir made from the small berry clone of the Romaine de La Conti has been famous for years and bringing in big bucks since Schoonmaker planted the vines in the 1950's. Granted it was only available in restaurants and one or two retailers in the Bay area on a yearly allotment basis at about $500.00 a case on average, however it was unarguably the best Pinot made in California bar none. Now I don't know if it is still produced, as I heard at one time they had disease problems in the vineyards, but it would be interesting to do a blind side by side tasting with some of the Johnny come lately's. Same could be said of tasting some of Louis Martini's wonderful 1940's & '50's Zinfandel's against the current contenders. A much unknown and underrated wine.

    Apr 14, 2013 at 8:17 AM

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