New Releases from Sojourn Cellars

Monday, July 28, 2014

I've been a fan of Sonoma-based Sojourn's Pinot Noir program for some time. They're one of the most reliably outstanding fruit-forward California Pinot Noir producers I've come across.

So I was very pleased to receive samples of their 2012s to give me an excuse opportunity to crack open some bottles early, for a window into this well-regarded vintage from a well-regarded producer. While bottles I previously purchased from their mailing list rest.

2012 California Pinot Noir has been a tricky vintage for me to get my arms around. After the 2009 vintage where Wine Spectator called it the best ever and I felt like I was throwing a bulls-eye every time I popped a bottle, 2012 has been tricky.

Crops were abundant, but a bunch of healthy fruit doesn't directly lead to wines of depth, complexity and concentration. Restraint is required in the vineyard otherwise you'll wind up with thin, non-descript wines. That's been my experience tasting through appellation wines, even from well-regarded producers I've previously enjoyed: 2012 is good, but not necessarily as good as 2009.

These 2012 single vineyard Pinots from Sojourn are well-crafted. Some are extraordinary. Here are my notes...

2012 Sojourn Silver Eagle Pinot Noir
14.2% Alcohol
325 Cases Produced
$59 Release Price

Spectacular. What Sojourn does best is site-specific yet fruit forward California Pinot Noir and this is a great example of their style. Bright light magenta in color but *full* of effortless power and finesse. Aromatically this is an amazing explosion of perfectly-ripened strawberries, briar patch, and orange peel. So light on its feet but it gets serious on the palate. The medium/slightly-full bodied mouthfeel is surprising given how light in color it is. Just brilliant across the palate and on the finish. A tremendous accomplishment here.

Classic California Pinot Noir. Wonderful.

95/100 WWP: Classic

2012 Sojourn Ridgetop Pinot Noir
14.4% Alcohol
450 Cases Produced
$59 Release Price

Dark magenta visually. About 60% opaque. This wine absolutely leaps from the glass. Strawberries, violets, orange oil and supporting woody aromatics. Lively on the palate. There's a brash vibrancy to this wine that's tremendously appealing. Kind of like a youthful prodigy where you're wondering how great they might become. 93+ for now with room for improvement with integration.

93/100 WWP: Oustanding

2012 Sojourn Campbell Ranch Pinot Noir
14.2% Alcohol
275 Cases Produced
$59 Release Price

Although this wine is free of particulates visually, there's a silky chalky aspect to this wine across the entire experience worth noting. Aromatically it's classic California Pinot Noir: Strawberries for days with supporting herbs/briar patch. But also an undeniable calcium-esque aspect even on the nose. On the palate it's very easy to enjoy with a slightly tart note on the backend that keeps it in check. A really terrific California Pinot Noir that I've got no arguments with whatsoever. It's a joy to drink. But somehow it just doesn't raise the bar in terms of excitement that some of the other 2012 single vineyard Sojourn Pinot offerings have.

91/100 WWP: Outstanding

2012 Sojourn Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.4% Alcohol
1,375 Cases Produced
$39 Release Price

Pop and pour. This flirts with greatness but a few off notes mar an otherwise very pleasant experience. I got a touch of band-aid on the nose. And a bit of a campy note on the palate. I waited a few weeks after it arrived but if I were to open another bottle soon I'd give it a couple hours of air. It may help.
89/100 WWP: Very Good

Conclusion and Recommendations

The quality of the Sojourn Ridgetop Pinot wasn't surprising. That's been one of my favorite Sojourn bottlings across a number of vintages at this point, and this 2012 is another winner.

But the Silver Eagle takes it to another level. Not necessarily because it clobbers you over the head with weight, but because it delivers intensity of flavor and depth that's almost shocking given its moderate complexion. It does what Pinot Noir - domestic or otherwise - does best: Deliver depth of flavor that would be at home in a bolder variety like Cabernet Sauvignon while carrying itself in a confident finesse-driven package.

The Campbell Ranch is solid - and an absolute joy to drink. But at $59 for California Pinot Noir I'm looking for magic. And since it's often attained I think this one struggles just a bit to support its price point.

I want to taste more 2012 appellation California Pinot Noirs before writing them off entirely. Like I said - they're good but not great in my experience. The 2012 Sojourn Sonoma Coast is solid. However, I fear the 2013s are going to be rolling in soon for a fall release and we'll be forgetting all about the 2012s soon.

For now, my gut is telling me to focus on 2012 single vineyard bottlings from well-regarded producers that I have personal experience to maintain a high batting average.

Like I said earlier in this write-up of their newly-released 2012 Chardonnays, Sojourn is a mailing list play. Psychologically they've got it figured out: Free shipping on 6+ bottles, 10% on 12+ bottles. How easy is that? Definitely sign up for their mailing list if you're not already.

Samples for review.

Question of the Day: What are some of your favorite Sojourn single vineyard Pinots historically? 


Tasting Brunello di Montalcino at La Gerla

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Alberto Passeri overlooking La Gerla's gli Angeli Vineyard in Montalcino
To provide a point of comparison to the more modern-leaning Casanova di Neri we visited, I was looking for a traditional producer with international acclaim. I consulted historical ratings from Wine Spectator and Antonio Galloni's Vinous Media and a producer that popped up on both which I wasn't previously familiar with was Le Gerla (pronounced "la jer-la").

Wine Spectator rated the 2007 La Gerla gli Angelia Riserva Brunello ($75) 97 points. Antonio Galloni rated the 2006 La Gerla Brunello ($55) 94 points. Both of these sounded like terrific quality-price-ratio wines, but digging a bit deeper I found La Gerla to be regarded as a more traditional producer so I was looking very much forward to visiting.

After having lunch in Montalcino we popped in the address for La Gerla into my iPhone. For the most part driving in Tuscany was a breeze. But this route took us through narrow passageways and down dirt roads our trusty Fiat 500L might never forget. It was a wild ride!

But just like other wineries we'd visit, just when we thought we were totally lost we pressed on a little further and found our target.

The La Gerla winery is situated just north of the town where the hills of Montalcino begin to flatten out. It's the site of their famed gli Angeli vineyard ("vineyard of angels") and they own an additional vineyard south of town. Depending on the vintage, grapes from the two vineyards are used to compose their Brunello.

La Gerla was founded in 1974 by Sergio Rossi who purchased the land from the well-regarded Brunello producer Biondi-Santi. Unfortunately Sergio died in 2011. His family continues to own the property and Alberto has continued to manage the property in addition to serving as winemaker and agronomist. Vittorio Fiore (Podre Poggio Scalette) consults.

The vistas and site are absolutely gorgeous.

We arrived (in July) shortly after hail damaged some of the vines at gli Angeli. I'd read about this phenomenon (hail during growing season) in WSET courses. But it was fascinating to see the effects of hail tangibly, first hand, on the vines. It's hard to believe it would hail in Tuscany in July. It's hot during the day.

Alberto explained that the timing of such an event determines its impact. Not only are the leaves undermined, but direct impact from the hail on young grapes leaves them susceptible to rotting.
But since the grapes were green when the hail fell, and some did indeed take a shot, they'll have time to heal up and still produce fruit worthy of production.

gli Angeli is indeed a cooler vineyard than their other property to the south, due in part to the its northern exposure. The combination of terroirs provides flexibility in blending their classic Brunello. In cooler vintages gli Angeli isn't produced at all and it's entirely blended into their classic Brunello.

Traditional Brunello is aged in big barrels. 5,000 - 10,000 liters. And this is how La Gerla's Brunello and gli Angeli Riserva are indeed produced.

They also make a wine called Birba ("smart ass") that's also 100% Sangiovese but aged in 200 liter barriques.
Big barrels for traditional Brunello in back,
barriques of "Birba" up front
We started off tasting the 2012 Rosso (~$19). Fresh and juicy with nice acidity.

Next up, the 2010 Birba. 100% Sangiovese. 15% alcohol. Nice stuff. I'd definitely check it out if I see it here in the states.

But I was here to taste the gli Angeli and the Brunello proper.

Since the gli Angeli sees more time in oak (due in part to the size of the barrels it ages in) we tasted the 2009 La Gerla Brunello and the 2008 La Gerla gli Angeli Riserva.

The 2009 Brunello (~$50) was ripe and round. Ready to go. But not terribly dense. Alberto explained that their wines do very well in restaurants. With an offering like this I can see why. It's a "buy" for me.

The 2008 gli Angeli went in an entirely different direction. Earthy, tarry notes. Firm, but tolerable tannins. A wine built for aging?

Conclusion and Recommendations

La Gerla is a terrific producer to visit in Montalcino. Their wines are produced in a traditional style but they're well-regarded and relevant on the international stage.

Going strictly off scores, one might conclude that the La Gerla Brunello was going to be "good" and the more expensive gli Angeli Riserva "great". But as is often the case - the more affordable wine is just flat out better suited for immediate consumption.

These 2008s and 2009s aren't the massive tannic beasts that I've sometimes wrongly stereotyped Brunello as being. There's a lot of vintage variation in the region and in years where wines aren't as well-suited for the long haul they can often be truly better for early enjoyment.

Find the 2009 La Gerla Brunello on Wine-Searcher.

Check 'em out:
La Gerla

Related reading:
Up next: A visit to Fattoria di Felsina. I'd love it if you subscribed to the site for future updates.


New Releases: Sojourn Cellars Chardonnays

Sojourn Cellars is a Sonoma producer known mostly for their fruit-forward yet site-differentiated Pinot Noirs. But in the past couple years they've release Chardonnays for the first time, sourced from several of the same vineyards where their Pinots come from.

It's common for Sonoma producers to specialize in Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Producers like Littorai, Rochioli and Kistler come to mind.

See also: Littorai Visit and Tasting Report

Even Kosta Browne is making a Chardonnay these days, so it's not surprising that Sojourn would eventually branch out into the variety. But what would a Sojourn Charonnay be like? And would it appeal to folks like myself who adore Sojourn's Pinot Noirs across a number of vintages and bottlings?

See also: Interesting times at Kosta Browne

I tasted 3 of Sojourn's Chardonnays from the highly acclaimed 2012 vintage. Near-ideal conditions led to abundant crops. In some cases, I've seen this result in thin wines lacking vibrance, but top producers effectively managed yield levels to produce concentrated wines with finesse and elegance. These 2012 Chardonnays from Sojourn are an example of that.

Like with the Sojourn Pinot Noir, wines produced from each vineyard show enjoyably distinct characteristics.

Here are my notes...

2012 Sojourn Durrell Vineyard Chardonnay
14.3% Alcohol
274 Cases Produced
$48 Release Price

Brilliant light golden color with a tinge of green and appealing clarity especially considered it was bottled unfined. There's an attractive bright citrus note on the nose that transitions brilliantly to the palate with a soft edges and a hint of vanilla and a satisfying finish. As compared to the 2012 Campbell Ranch, the Durell lacks the feral notes present in the Campbell and is fresher and more appealing to me overall.

91/100 WWP: Outstanding

2012 Sojourn Sangiacomo Vineyard Chardonnay
14.1% Alcohol
300 Cases Produced
$45 Release Price

Visually, this is spun gold with a hint of verde. Aromatically clean with citrus and tropical notes. Medium-full bodied. Ripe pears, crunchy apples, and vanilla notes with a mouth-filling finish. Rich yet pure. Nice stuff.

90/100 WWP: Outstanding

2012 Sojourn Campbell Ranch Vineyard Chardonnay
14.1% Alcohol
174 Cases Produced
$45 Release Price

Light/bright gold in color. On the nose, there's a hint of a wild feral note that's not uncommon in this category. Behind that I get pears, and golden delicious apples. The mouthfeel is satisfyingly medium-full bodied. The flavors on the palate trend towards the same fruits evident on the nose, but they're as they'd taste if they were made into pie-filling but tasted cold. Citrus and tropical notes linger on a finish of medium length.

88/100 WWP: Very Good

Conclusion and Recommendations

From a pure enjoyment perspective if you like Sojourn's Pinot Noirs but don't necessarily like Chardonnay these wines probably won't convert you into a Chardonnay lover. But as someone who enjoys a lot of Sojourn Pinot Noir I can say I liked these Chardonnays quite a bit. They're well made. But variety preferences due to flavor profile run deep and I'm still very much a Pinot guy.

Nobody runs a better list than Sojourn. Free shipping on 6+ bottles. 10% off on 12 or more bottles. Great value every time. I never have to think twice before placing another order. Check out their mailing list here.

Samples for review.

Check back soon for a report on newly released 2012 Sojourn Pinot Noirs. I'd love it if you subscribed to the site for future updates.

Question of the Day: Have you tried Sojourn's Chardonnays yet? If so, what did you think?


$10 of $75 at Whole Foods via AmEx Sync

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

If you've got an American Express card (or cards!) you can enjoy $10 off a $75+ purchase at Whole Foods Market. You can get this deal once for each AmEx card you have - even cards for authorized users - so you can effectively get 13.3% off at Whole Foods for $75 times how ever many AmEx cards you have.

The deal needs to be activated for each AmEx card you want to use. The easiest way to do this is by logging into your AmEx account and navigating to "Offers for You". If you want to activate the deal for multiple cards, use the multi-tab browser trick by exposing the offer for each card then clicking each offer to enable it for all of your cards.

If you don't see the offer available for one or more of your cards you can also activate it via Twitter:
To avoid overshoot consider buying $75 gift cards or paying for larger transactions with multiple $75 swipes (a split tender) if your cashier can figure out how to do that.

Using these techniques you should be able to get 13.3% off on groceries. Or perhaps more relevantly applicable to this wine blog, stack this offer with Whole Foods typical 10% off 6+ bottle sale pricing. Or use it to get a discount on items they normally don't allow discounts on like Veuve Clicquot.

If you have questions on this feel free to drop me an email:
Or on Twitter: @RobertDwyer

I'd love it if you subscribed to the WWP for future updates.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

  © Blogger templates Newspaper by 2008

Back to TOP