Sonoma Pinot Noir

Classic Pinot Noir from Sonoma County


Pinot Noir has a long history in Sonoma County. Long before Miles and Jack left much of Santa Barbara in shambles in the movie Sideways, growers in Sonoma were working out the wheres and whys of Pinot Noir.

While being famously fickle, Pinot at the same time is very expressive, potentially developing a great array of signature notes that change with clone, climate, and winemaking. Ideally suited to cooler climates -- it is, after all, from the rather cool climes of France’s Burgundy region -- Pinot Noir loves the heights and shielded valleys that Sonoma affords.

From the heights above the "true” Sonoma Coast (the Sonoma Coast appellation is pretty large and much of it falls outside of what many consider to be the actual coast) to the more famous appellations of the Russian River or Sonoma Mountain, Sonoma has spent decades working on Pinot and we are lucky enough to be here for the payoff!

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While you can still find Pinot Noir in many regions of Sonoma County, it has become increasingly obvious that for the highest quality of Pinot you should turn to the Russian River Valley, along with its sort-of sub-appellation the Green Valley and the "true” Sonoma Coast.

In both of these regions, cooler temperatures give the Pinot vines ample time to mature. The wines they can produce are more elegant and show better balance than the sometimes more muscular styles that come from many of Sonoma’s warmer climes.

4 Producers to Watch

1.) Deloach Vineyards 2007 Deloach Pinot Noir Green Valley

Slightly smoky on the nose with a touch of hot cocoa and balsam accenting the earthy dark fruit tones. On entry, this is soft and fairly rich in a fruit-forward style that highlights the slightly-candied cherry fruit of the mid-palate. The wine is medium to medium full bodied with nicely integrated acids and soft tannins that add a nice fleshy feel to the wine, though the finish is a little light with some powdered sugar and spice tones accenting a zesty, almost apple skin-toned note on the finish. The finish does add a bit of length, and this is soft and broad in a popular style. 89pts

2.) Twomey 2008 Twomey Russian River Pinot Noir

This is a decidedly assertive wine on the nose with graham cracker and cocoa notes accenting the meaty, black cherry fruit that shows hints of black tea, cola, coriander seed and vanilla. With its big, rich entry this is a bit deceptive at first but quickly rallies to show great acidic spice and fine freshness. The fruit has a lovely stemmy edge to it in the mouth and is fresher than the nose suggests. The tannins are really soft, giving the wine some breadth, while not detracting from the core of wild cherry fruit that flows across the palate. There is a bit of wood tannin that pops on the finish, and while this comes off a bit simple, it shows great purity to the fruit and finishes with solid length. 90pts

3.) Papapietro Perry 2007 Papapietro Perry Pinot Noir Peters Vineyard

This is super stemmy and earthy on the nose with hints of cola, green anise seed and a touch of lavender accenting the lightly spiced, slightly jammy core of strawberry fruit. This shows lots of fruit up front, with a sweet/tart edge but this remains light and elegant in the mouth with flavors that mirror the aromas. The mouthfeel is both rich and light at the same time with a lovely core of wild raspberry and wild strawberry fruits accented by notes of stems, spice and earth. With nice length and lovely purity to the sweet fruit, this is a wine with very broad appeal. 92pts

4.) Lynmar 2007 Lynmar Estate Quail Hill Pinot Noir Russian River Valley

Intense on the nose with a touch of licorice and deep notes of dried flowers accenting the almost musky fruit tones. On entry this seems to be a touch tight with noticeable tannin in a chunky style that feels a bit extracted. There are nice mocha overtones to the core of rich-yet-simple and quite ripe dark berry fruits that yields to dark cherry tones on the backend. The wine drops off quite quickly on the finish as the tannins once again become obvious. I would expect this to gain length and innermouth perfume with some age, say 12-18 months, but at the moment it is not showing as much as one might expect. 88pts

2006 Lynmar Estate Pinot Noir Russian River Valley

This offers up wonderfully ethereal and perfumed aromas of flowers, light red fruit, rhubarb, and lingonberry, with top notes of wood smoke and sandy soil tones. In the mouth this is very light and elegant with bright, transparent red fruit tones backed up with hints of stemminess, and a suggestion of vanilla that floats above the fruit. The sour berry/sour cherry fruit in the mouth shows a lovely nuanced spicy edge over a core of natural sweetness that leads to a long, soft, caressing finish with just a hint of Christmas spice. Really gorgeous Pinot that is easy to enjoy. 92pts

Two of My Favorite Sonoma Producers

Deloach Vineyards
While Deloach makes some great Pinots, they’ve been famous for years as a source of Sonoma County Zinfandel. This is some of the best that the Russian River AVA has to offer, always produced in a timeless style.

Lynmar Estate
Lynmar has been producing benchmark Russian River Valley Pinot Noir and Chardonnay since their first vintage in 1996, which can’t be surprising when you consider that they continue to source fruit from vines planted in 1971!

Mentioned in this article


  • Snooth User: John Andrews
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    36106 3,448

    Of course there is Sonoma Valley & Carneros they part of Sonoma County and produce some great Pinot Noir as well. :-)

    Jun 01, 2010 at 1:16 PM

  • Snooth User: John Andrews
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    36106 3,448

    By the way ... love the focus on Sonoma County.

    Jun 01, 2010 at 1:16 PM

  • Snooth User: mickeybdc
    475997 6

    DeLoach '07 Green Valley is a magnificent renditionof the grape.

    Jun 01, 2010 at 3:14 PM

  • Snooth User: John Andrews
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    36106 3,448

    Other producers I'd watch:

    - Williams Selyem (although the source from all over california)

    - Arista (as above but more reasonably priced)

    - Rosseler

    - Hartford Family

    - Kistler

    - Three Sticks

    I could go on and on! ;-)

    Jun 01, 2010 at 3:55 PM

  • Snooth User: mikeakay
    205453 6

    Good call on the DeLoach. If you like those then a couple more producers to try that feature pinots in all price points are La Crema and Sebastiani. Don't let the "names" scare you away from trying the fine Pinot Noirs they produce. I enjoy trying new Pinots so thanks Greg for your suggestions and thanks to HondaJohn as well.

    Jun 01, 2010 at 4:12 PM

  • Snooth User: Holy Grail
    Hand of Snooth
    492484 4

    Fort Ross Vineyards, less than a mile from the coast, is flying under the radar. Jeff Pisoni was just named as new winemaker.

    Jun 01, 2010 at 4:14 PM

  • Snooth User: mickeybdc
    475997 6

    Thanks to all !

    Jun 01, 2010 at 4:16 PM

  • Snooth User: acpfoto
    298071 2

    Great your focusing on the Sonoma!

    Green Valley Rocks

    Keefer Ranch Pinot
    August West Graham Family Vineryards
    Patz Hall Chenoweth Ranch

    These are fun fun wines.

    Jun 01, 2010 at 4:50 PM

  • I don't usually like Pinots, but I just had the de Loach 2007 and it was amazing. A wine that good for $17 is just unbeatable.

    Jun 01, 2010 at 6:09 PM

  • Snooth User: outthere
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    324443 4,154

    Kosta Browne, Gracianna, Merry Edwards, En Route, Emeritus, Gary Farrell, Lattanzio, Suduri... I could go on all day too. So hard to pick just 5 when there are scores.

    Jun 01, 2010 at 6:46 PM

  • if we are talking sonoma and russian river pinots, don't forget Sojourn and Paul Hobbs! I'm looking forward to trying some of the ones posted above.

    Jun 01, 2010 at 7:18 PM

  • Snooth User: outthere
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    324443 4,154

    Correction: Suduri = Siduri. Was typing with my glasses off.

    Jun 01, 2010 at 7:49 PM

  • Snooth User: outthere
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    324443 4,154

    Funny you mention the "True" as I was driving through it Sunday on a joy ride through Graton, Occidental, Freestone and points beyond. As I was passing through I thought to myself, "The folks on Snooth talk about this as hallowed ground and here I am with it practically in my back yard and it's no big deal." The things I take for granted sometimes. No, I'm not rubbing it in. Well, maybe just a little.

    Typo correction: Suduri = Siduri. Was typing without my glasses on.

    Jun 01, 2010 at 7:58 PM

  • Snooth User: dan4444
    475344 1

    Any thoughts on Chime Willamette and Chime Sonoma? Have tried the former and greatly enjoyed

    Jun 01, 2010 at 8:01 PM

  • I would suggest Martinelli, Dutton, Rochioli and Dehlinger (which can be delicious after 7-10 years of age).

    Jun 01, 2010 at 8:16 PM

  • This is starting to turn into quite a list. Although I like many that are listed above, in the interest of sharing, I have to add a few of my other favorites from Sonoma: Failla, Hirsch, Freestone, Marimar Torres, Radio-Coteau, MacRostie Wildcat Mountain... And the list could go on.

    Jun 01, 2010 at 8:43 PM

  • Snooth User: BG422
    343567 19

    There are many wineries mentioned above whose Pinots I have tasted and would second the accolades given them. I would like to add a big second, Greg, on Papapietro-Perry -- a truly great source for Pinot Noir. I would like to add MacPhail and Landmark to the list of excellent Sonoma sources for Pinot Noir.

    Jun 01, 2010 at 9:44 PM

  • Snooth User: brave man
    234586 1

    hirsch gets my vote, other wine makers using his grapes or his own wine. dont forget peay.

    Jun 01, 2010 at 10:01 PM

  • Snooth User: asdcore
    489283 23

    Thanks for the great article.

    Jun 01, 2010 at 10:06 PM

  • This is a wonderful opinion. The things mentioned are unanimous and
    needs to be appreciated by everyone.
    <a href="" rel="dofollow">Furniture Packages Turkey</a>

    Jun 02, 2010 at 3:28 AM

  • Interesting report. I recently compared Pinot Noir from California, France and Germany http://www.schiller-wine.blogspot.c...

    Jun 02, 2010 at 4:30 AM

  • Snooth User: Aundy
    Hand of Snooth
    360472 18

    Also check out Belle Glos Pinot Noir on the Sonoma Coast - Taylor Lane Vineyard and our Pergola Trentina trellising system. See the beautiful video on Facebook.!/pages/Belle-Glos-Pinot-Noir/120782411292720

    Jun 02, 2010 at 2:10 PM

  • If you haven't tried Forchini's 2007 RRV Pinot you're missing out. Jim Forchini has been a grower since the early seventies with many high end producers purchasing his grapes. It all begins in the vineyard right? He produces only small amounts of his wines, try it before it's all gone...not to be missed, an especially great price point! I love it!

    Jun 02, 2010 at 2:11 PM

  • Snooth User: ksimback
    226880 33

    Greg, good call out on the Twomey - I've visited them a few times and love the '07 RRV and Sonoma Coast... unfortunately they don't sell much retail in NYC so you gotta get them on mailing list or ship direct from the winery. I have one '06 RRV and looking forward to popping that one soon!

    Jun 02, 2010 at 4:05 PM

  • Snooth User: kentrosi
    511324 22

    Dumol makes a RRV that is to die for!

    Jul 01, 2010 at 5:43 PM

  • Snooth User: kulhluk
    90347 12

    probably enough comments already, but how I developed my love for pinot noir had a lot to do with our, 5 or so year, California experience. Early 70's when all hell broke loose in worldwide acceptance of Cal wine, we lived in Cupertino. Every sunday, I would take 2 glass gallon jugs to a Gilroy winery (have to forgive, maybe memory at 75, don't remember the name) and get them filled from a barrel for 3 dollars each. Ain't nobody out there who can beat that (I don't think).
    This is a fantastic site for the kind of info worldwide enthusiasts can conjure up.

    Jul 13, 2010 at 4:15 PM

  • 3 bucks a gallon... WOW!

    Jul 13, 2010 at 4:30 PM

  • Snooth User: andiianni
    506975 24

    I'd just like to second Aundy's recommendation for Belle Glos Pinot Noir. We just drank a 2006 a few weeks ago and I daydream about it almost daily....

    Jul 13, 2010 at 7:16 PM

  • Check out Dutcher Crossing. It has an amazing Pinot, Cab and their Chardonnay is awesome!

    Aug 17, 2010 at 7:26 PM

  • Snooth User: Masaryk
    71775 16

    Continually missed by even the locals, the illuminating Pinot Noir from Porter-Bass is a stunning example of a Russian River Pinot Noir. Sourced from their estate, this winery is tough to get to, but should you make the trek, your world will be changed.

    Sep 21, 2010 at 2:59 PM

  • Snooth User: bpkrug1
    585913 6

    There certainly have been some excellent comments concerning Russian River, Sonoma Coast, and all the other areas of Sonoma in general, that produce world class Pinot Noir. I'd like to add a few others to the list if I may. My personal pick in both 2007 and 2008 vintages for bargin priced Pinot Noir is from Pellegrini Family Vineyards in Santa Rosa, CA.. Their 2007 'Olivet Lane' Estate Bottled Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, offers perfect balance of fruit , acid and tannin, with ability to age. The 2008 from the same vineyard, shows an interesting contrast between the two vintages. Much more forward, and darker fruit flavors, with the characteristic high acid level of 2008. The bargin part is that I purchased both vintages at Costco for just $19.99/bottle. I'm not sure what the winery charges, but you can check the web site @http://WWW.PELLEGRINISONOMA.COM.
    I seem to recall Gary Farrell using fruit from 'Olivet Lane Vineyard' in his first Pinot Noir in the 1990's. The other Pinot Noir producer I really like is, Walter Hansel Winery, Hansel Family Vineyards, Russian River Valley, also located in Santa Rosa, CA.. Stephen Hansel, owner/winemaker produces five outstanding Pinot Noirs. The Hansel Family Vineyard Pinot Noir, which I believe is from plantings of Rochioli cuttings, North Slope Pinot Noir, South Slope Pinot Noir, Cahill Lane Pinot Noir, Cuvee Alyce Pinot Noir. They range in price from $32.00-$36.00/bottle, on the current, 'Fall/Winter 2010 Wine Offering', mailing list. You can read more about these wines in issue #187 of Robert Parker's, The Wine Advocate, top of page 16, or @ eRobert You can reach Hansel Family Winery @ (707) 525-3614. On another note, with regard to the entry by 'kulhluk'. I can say that when I was 14, my father would drive from our home in San Mateo, CA., to Gilroy, CA., and come home with several cases, of Grenache Rose', Red Burgundy, and a white wine, the name of which I can't recall. All came in one gallon glass jugs, with four bottles/case, made by, (not sure of the spelling), the Conrotto Winery in Gilroy. There would always be a gallon jug, sitting on the floor next to my fathers chair, at the dining room table, for a quick refill of his wine glass. Strange as it may seem, particularly on a Friday or a Saturday night, a gallon would miraculously vanish from the closet. Such was my introduction to wine in the early 1960's....

    Sep 22, 2010 at 3:48 AM

  • Don't forget about Moshin ... they are to die for as well!

    Jan 13, 2011 at 3:07 PM

  • Snooth User: Rickc72
    462856 4

    Don't forget MacMurray Rance with Sonoma Coast, Russian River Valley and Central coast variety. My favorite. If you haven't tried it, you'll love it.

    Jan 13, 2011 at 5:34 PM

  • Snooth User: alanol
    Hand of Snooth
    458649 44


    Jul 07, 2011 at 1:19 PM

  • Snooth User: clark801
    801265 6

    Great article. My wife and I just returned from the Russian Rive on a Chard/Pinot Noir trek and I wish I had read the article before we went -not that we could have fit much more in. What struck me more than anything was the connection the Russian River winemakers have to the land. Vineyards are small in the Russian River area and they seem to know every patch, every clone, what growers are doing what - an incredible family and community. There weren't many people there when we visited so every tasting was a private experience, often with the owner or winemaker. Our favorites were Gary Farrell, Alysian (Gary Farrell's new label), and Lambert Bridge in the Dry Creek Valley. That said, almost every winery we visited was special - Hartford, Lynmar, Merry Edwards, Papapietro Perry, etc. And by the way - Healdsburg is a fabulous little town.

    Jul 07, 2011 at 5:00 PM

  • Snooth User: Epray
    921947 20

    Landmark consistently makes highly rated Pinot Noir and Chardonnay -- they are my favorites. Another smaller producer, Trione Family Wines in Geyserville are making some good Pinot, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc among others.

    Sep 08, 2011 at 6:51 PM

  • Snooth User: kellarina
    939682 2

    Yum, so many delicious Pinot Noirs mentioned! PapaPietro and Moshin for sure. Talisman is one of our very favorites for beautiful, soulful single vineyard PNs from various appellations of Sonoma county - one bottling from Wildcat Mountain...

    Sep 23, 2011 at 11:47 AM

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