Fall 2016: New Pinot Noirs from Sojourn Cellars

Monday, August 1, 2016

Sojourn Cellars is a small (5,000 case) Sonoma producer of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Founded in 2001 by Craig and Helen Haserot along with winemaker Erich Bradley, they've cemented themselves as one of my most reliably outstanding California Pinot Noir producers.

My affinity for their wines stems from 2 things:
  1. Their style is pitch perfect for my preferences. Fruit forward yet balanced. Delicious on its own yet great with food.
  2. They run one heck of a consumer friendly mailing list (free shipping on 6 or more bottles, free shipping plus 10% off on 12 or more)
Given they've only been around for 15 years, it's surprising how consistently their wines deliver. And since they're not so expensive that you have to save them for rare special occasions, I find myself happily cranking through my mailing list shipments with regularity.

Their appellation Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays sell for around $40, while their single vineyard wines go for around $60. Their Cabernets go for more, and while I've had and enjoyed their Cabs the Pinot Noir is where my experience lies.

I had a chance to taste through many of their 2014s slated to be released later this month. They're available now in their Sonoma tasting room so I thought I'd share my tasting notes in hopes that it might inform some of your purchase decisions if we tend to have similar tastes in California Pinot Noir.

Their Ridgetop Pinot Noir was the star of the lineup, as it has been in past vintages. A new vineyard debuts in this release and impresses: Riddle. Sangiacomo is outstanding as usual (and I think was available in the spring). The most expensive bottling in the release, Rueling is a bit of a divergence from the house style and for me wasn't a QPR success. But their 2014 Russian River Valley is a great entry point into their wines. 92 points for me (and Wine Spectator agrees) for $42 - a solid play.

Here are my notes...

2014 Sojourn Ridgetop Vineyard Pinot Noir 

94/100 WWP: Outstanding
14.4% Alcohol
250 Cases Produced
$59 Release Price

Ridgetop is always a favored Sojourn release and this one delivers, but in a different way than previous vintages. Medium-full bodied visually, with stunningly gorgeous aromatics that leap from the glass across the room. Unprecedented really. Textbook California Pinot Noir markers: strawberries, orange oil, bramble berries. Beautiful. The curve ball here is mouthfeel. Whereas you’d expect to be punched in the face with weight, the experience is ethereal. Cloud-like and silky. But with a long finish where the aromatics resonate. Quite intriguing and definitely special. Compelling. Wow.

2014 Sojourn Riddle Vineyard Pinot Noir

93/100 WWP: Outstanding
14.4% Alcohol
350 Cases Produced
$59 Release Price

Translucent magenta/ruby in color, about 30% opaque. Ready to go immediately upon opening. Clings to the glass. Gorgeous nose of pure, perfectly ripened fruit. Strawberries. A bit of red raspberry. Supporting briar patch notes give it varietally correct appeal. Very clean and attractive. The flavors on the palate get weightier with a hint of creamy vanilla notes in the background joining the otherwise elegant and precise fruit up front. Full mouthfeel with a long finish. Outstanding.

2014 Sojourn Sangiacomo Vineyard Pinot Noir

93/100 WWP: Outstanding
14.5% Alcohol
1,350 Cases Produced
$59 Release Price

Medium-full bodied visually and in terms of mouth feel. Fruit sourced from the Petaluma Gap.

Just a gorgeous array of aromas and flavors here. Rich red fruit and cinnamon on the nose. I get a bit of earth and a hint of vanilla on the palate. Just everything I'm looking for a fruit forward California Pinot Noir. Keeps inviting another sip, never gets heavy.

Of the 20014 single vineyards I've tasted this one is the most balanced between the feel and flavor profiles found in various Sojourn Pinots. For this it is a very successful offering and a delight to drink. Outstanding.

2014 Sojourn Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

92/100 WWP: Outstanding
14.2% Alcohol
650 Cases Produced
$42 Release Price

Classic Sojourn Pinot noir. Amazing depth of flavor given its relatively light color. Gorgeous brambly/fruity nose with distinct supporting Russian River Valley cola notes. Satisfying grippy on the palate. Absolutely delicious. If there is one knock on this wine it’s the short finish. But it only serves to invite another sip. A benchmark appellation California Pinot Noir.

2014 Sojourn Rueling Vineyard Pinot Noir

89/100 WWP: Very Good
14.4% Alcohol
275 Cases Produced
$69 Release Price

Light in color but full of flavor, true to the Sojourn style.
However this is leaner than most of their Pinots.

30% opaque visually, in classic California Pinot ruby hues.

Pretty floral notes with supporting chalky/stone notes in the background.

Pleasing on the palate but some acid and grip, but where this falls short of greatness is on the finish which is very long but unfortunately includes some distracting flavors. That lack of purity stops this from inviting another perfect sip.

A very good wine overall and quite enjoyable. But not my favorite Sojourn Pinot. Perhaps better suited for those looking for a more restrained effort.

Samples for review.

Bottom Line

This is another strong release from Sojourn. Ridgetop and Sangiacomo are always worthy of their price tags and Riddle is an intriguing new entry. The 92 point Russian River Valley bottling is a terrific wine to seek out if you're unsure whether you'll like the style.



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