2005 Sonoma Valley Pinot Noir
California: Sonoma County: Sonoma Valley
What We Say
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Mission Codename: Traditionally New
Operative: Agent White
Objective: Infiltrate Westwood Winery and acquire their Sonoma Valley Pinot Noir
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Westwood Winery
Wine Subject: 2005 Sonoma Valley Pinot Noir
Winemaker: John Kelly
The Sonoma Valley AVA is one of the oldest wine growing regions in California with the first vines being planted in the early 1800s. The AVA is located along California Route 12 and its eastern boundary are the southern end of the Mayacama mountains. The unique micro-climate with less rainfall and fog than other parts of the region along with its unique soil provides excellent growing conditions for Pinot Noir as well as Merlot, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Dark garnet with ruby red highlights that shine through its clear but intense core. Along the edges the color fades to ruby with orangish hues and when swirled, fast tightly spaced thin legs race down the side of the glass.
Smell – Bright aromas of red and black cheery and other black fruits with a touch of hot spice. Subtle earth, oak and herbal notes adds complexity.
Feel – Smooth and dry, this well structured medium to full-bodied Pinot has well developed tannins, lively but balanced acidity, a touch of minerality and spice.
Taste – Rich ripe and tart red and black fruit including cherry and cranberry meld with hot exotic spice; earthy and herbal notes; some sandalwood and oak; as well as tart citrus that hits at the mid palate.
Finish – Medium long in length with a touch of tart fruit that fades just before the lingering earth and herbal notes.
Conclusion – The 2005 Westwood Winery Sonoma Valley Pinot Noir is a very nice Pinot that shows its red and black fruit well with a touch of tartness that lingers into the finish. Its bright acidity and tannic structure makes this wine very food friendly.
Mission Report:WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER
SUBJECT: John M. Kelly
WINE EDUCATION: post-graduate degree in Biochemistry from UC Davis, on the job at a retail wine store
CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: Mansion Cellars, Davis – retail manager, R. H. Philips Vineyards, Winters – winemaking intern, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, Napa – asst. winemaker and research enologist/viticulturist, Duckhorn Vineyards, St. Helena – asst. winemaker
Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyards, Windsor – research enologist/viticulturist, Vinquiry, Healdsburg & Windsor – technical director, VERITAS Consulting – owner, Annadel Vineyard Partners, LLC – managing member & general manager
WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: Pre-emptive minimalism: respect tradition in light of modern understanding, don’t do anything in the vineyard or winery that forces me to take extra measures later.
WINEMAKER QUOTE: “How far down the rabbit hole do you want to go?” I guess I explain things pretty well – people end up asking me questions they had never thought to ask before.
FIRST COMMERCIAL WINE RELEASE: First Westwood release was a 1984 Pinot Noir from Lake County. My first vintage in control of Westwood was 1995.
AGENT RED: Greetings, John. Welcome back! We are thrilled to be showing your 2005 Sonoma Valley Pinot Noir today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.
JOHN: Glad to be with you, again, Agent Red.
RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?
JOHN: We always had good wine at the dinner table when I was growing up, but it was a trip to Napa Valley in the early 70s that sealed the deal for me. I was too young to taste at the wineries, but the vineyards, the smells in the cellars – they made an deep impression that never wore off. Plus my parents brought back a boatload of great wine – mostly reserve Cabernets – that we enjoyed for years after. It was working for Mansion Cellars – at the time the only fine wine shop in Davis – for a year (1986) that started my career.
RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?
JOHN: My archetype is probably my first taste of a decent Valpoilicella. Boillot red Burgundies from Volnay and Pommard, my first Vieux Telegraphe, a Clape Cornas, Acacia, Chalone and Calera Pinots… So I guess it was not “a” wine.
RED: Who do you make wine for?
JOHN: Our plan has always been to make wines I like, and then find the consumers who are as excited by them as I am. We don’t make a lot of wine – under 2,500 cases.
RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today.
JOHN: You asked for it! Here goes… Today your Operatives have the opportunity to sample my 2005 Sonoma Valley Pinot Noir. Ordinarily we only bottle vineyard-designated Pinots, but frosts and bad weather during berry set in 2005 shorted our crop really badly: we expected 14 barrels from our Los Carneros vineyard – got 5, expected 12 from Nicholson Ranch – got 2, hoping for 15 or so from our own Annadel Estate vineyard – got 4. Turns out the blend of vineyards was at least equal to the sum of its parts, so just this once that’s the way we went – a vineyard blend.
Followed my normal Pinot winemaking: fruit completely de-stemmed and lightly crushed, caps allowed to rise on native yeast in small fermenters, no active temperature control, inoculated with selected yeast toward the end of the ferments, used relatively infrequent punchdowns and long maceration, pressed in a traditional basket and sent wine to barrels without settling. We stirred until malolactic was complete and then left the wine on primary lees – no racking – for over 2 years before assemblage and bottling. No fining or filtration. We made 266 cases and released the wine late in 2009.
In his PinotFile newsletter, Rusty Gaffney wrote of our 2005 Sonoma Valley Pinot: “The Westwood wines… [a]re a revelation and like no other California Pinot Noir. This is a solid wine with every component singing in harmony marked by spicy aromas, an earthy undertone, and firm tannins offset by bright acidity. [Westwood] has quietly developed an impressive lineup of wines that offer the Pinot Noir enthusiast something different to explore. Highly recommended.”
Greg Walter of PinotReport wrote: “Medium ruby color; deep, stewed cherry aromas with smoky, clove notes; ripe, deep stewed cherry and earthy flavors with clove notes; some oak and tannin; good structure and balance; long finish. Smoky and earthy, this Pinot is drinking well now and should continue to improve. Smart Buy!”
RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?
JOHN: I’m liking grilled piquillo peppers stuffed with sausage and served with a sweet-sour cherry jus. The most surprising pairing was by chef Mark Gold of Eva Restaurant in LA, who served the 2005 Sonoma Valley Pinot with a sweet potato agnolotti – that’s a recipe I’m going to try to recreate. This is a versatile wine.
RED: In your opinion, what makes the Sonoma Valley so special?
JOHN: From the valley floor to the mountain tops and from San Pablo Bay up to the Annadel Gap at the other end of the appellation, we have the soils and mesoclimates to grow just about everything well. Not just grapes – other crops and livestock also. Unlike most winegrowing areas, we don’t just make great wine – we can feed ourselves, too (thanks to sommelier Chris Sawyer for that observation/quote).
RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?
JOHN: Barrel work, prepping for bottling, sweating the late harvest we are facing in 2010. No big.
RED: How would you recommend people approach your wines and wine in general?
JOHN: With an open mind! Leave aside expectations and preconceived notions. Especially with Westwood wines – our wines don’t fit the “California” profile. They are soil-driven rather than fruit driven.
RED: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
JOHN: Yes – a glass of wine. If you find yourself in downtown Sonoma, come see us!
RED: You know that I will! Thank you so much for your time. We learned a lot about you – and your wine. Keep up the great work, we are big fans!
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The location of the Westwood Winery tasting room, just off the square in downtown Sonoma, can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the Winery Says
About This Wine:
In the glass the wine shows a medium garnet-red color and good clarity. The aromas open to pomegranate and cherry, with overtones of earth, briar, oak, dried cranberry, orange rind and sage. In the mouth the wine shows medium body and a complex fruity and spicy palate, great acid structure balanced with grippy tannins, and a long woodsy-earthy finish. This 2005 Sonoma Valley Pinot is a one-time blend of our top-tier single vineyards. The wine is youthful, closed and disjointed at this early period in its development – rewarding to drink now but definitely worthy of longer bottle age.
Late frost and stormy weather during set of Pinot Noir in Sonoma Valley in the 2005 vintage really hammered the crop size. At the beginning of the year we were contracted for enough fruit from our Sonoma growers to yield 11-15 barrels from each vineyard. Harvest was so light that we ended up with just two barrels of Nicholson Ranch Vineyard Pinot (all clone 777; there was no clone 115 fruit available for us). We ended up with just five barrels of Los Carneros Pinot (clones 114, 115, 667 & 777). Our Annadel Estate Vineyard – clones 115 & 667 – was expected to give us at least twelve barrels; we got just four.
Fortunately a blend of the wines from these three unique vineyards was equal or greater than the sum of its parts. So we made the blend – all Dijon clones. The earthy component came from a cool, windy site with deep clay-loam soil (Los Carneros), depth and structure from a warmer site on a shallow sandy ash (Nicholson) and beautiful spicy aromatics from a cold site with a very rocky soil (Annadel).
About The Winery:
NEW WORLD WINES WITH TRADITIONAL STYLE: Westwood produces wines that satisfy desires for depth, structure, balance and finesse. Our wines are soil-driven and food-friendly. Westwood’s Annadel Estate Vineyard is planted to Dijon and heritage clones of Pinot Noir, several clones of Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Counoise and Tannat. Starting with the 2008 vintage our wines are all Estate-produced and -bottled.
We currently bottle one Estate Pinot Noir, a varietal Syrah, our proprietary redFOUR Rhône blend (Mourvedre, Grenache, Counoise, Syrah, and a hint of mystery), our 4-Part Rosé, produced as a saignée de cuve from Grenache, Mourvedre, Counoise and Syrah, and finally, a small amount of varietal Tannat. Our total annual production is around 2,000 cases.
A NEW WINERY WITH A SOLID PAST: The modern history of Westwood began in 2002 when the winery – founded in 1984 by Bert Urch and Betty Stoltz – was purchased by John Kelly and partners and moved to Sonoma Valley. Today John – a UC Davis-trained biochemist with over two decades of winemaking experience – is making Westwood wines from grapes grown on the Annadel Estate, a unique vineyard planted by the partners in 2001.
The Apprenticeship of John Kelly: John Kelly and Westwood go way back. He and Bert befriended each other while working together in the Department of Biochemistry at Davis, where John was pursuing his post-graduate degree. After Westwood was established as a commercial operation John began helping Bert out at the winery whenever he could.
When John decided to pursue a career outside academia he first took a job managing a high-end wine shop in Davis, and then interned in wine production at R. H. Philips Vineyards in 1987. In 1988 he landed an assistant winemaker position with the prestigious Napa Valley Cabernet producer, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars. At SLWC, John’s responsibilities grew to encompass viticultural research – which allowed him to put his training as a scientist to use.
John maintained his relationship with Westwood as his winemaking apprenticeship progressed, continuing to assist whenever he could. Then in 1992 he left Stag’s Leap for a short but instructive stint at Duckhorn Vineyards before moving on into a deeply rewarding research position at Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyards, Sonoma County’s famous Chardonnay producer in the Russian River Valley.
Late in 1994, while still at Sonoma-Cutrer, John took over winemaking at Westwood when Bert Urch suddenly passed away. In 1995 John put to use lessons learned from his associations with wineries successfully specializing in one grape – Chardonnay at Sonoma-Cutrer, Merlot at Duckhorn, Cabernet at Stag’s Leap – and decided to focus his attentions on Pinot Noir at Westwood.
A New Partnership: In 1998, John was working as Technical Director for the wine service laboratory Vinquiry and devoting nights and weekends to Westwood. Though fully engaged in these pursuits, when presented with an opportunity to form a partnership with investors to acquire potential vineyard land, he took it.
The partnership bought an undeveloped parcel located at the northwest end of the Sonoma Valley appellation, in the cool Santa Rosa Plain–Russian River drainage basin. They immediately set about improving and planting their unique site, taking the historic place name of the surrounding area to call their development the Annadel Estate Vineyard.
While the vineyard was being established the partnership approached Betty Stoltz, the owner of Westwood, with an offer to buy the winery. A deal was struck and closed in 2002, and in anticipation of working with the grapes from Westwood’s Annadel Estate the new owners determined to move the winery from its original Sierra Foothills location to the town of Sonoma.
The Move To Sonoma Valley: While waiting for the Estate vineyard to come into production, John secured contracts to buy Pinot Noir fruit from two very high quality vineyards, one in the Sonoma Valley appellation and one in the Sonoma Carneros. John and his partners brought Westwood to market in its new Sonoma Valley incarnation with these two Pinot Noir bottlings, along with the superb Haynes Vineyard Napa Valley Pinot Noir which Westwood produced from 1985 through 2005. Starting with the 2008 vintage, all Westwood wines are 100% Estate Bottled.
We have taken full advantage of the unique combination of soils and exposures at our Annadel Estate Vineyard, planting Pinot Noir in the coolest areas. Presented with a diversity of soils and meso-climates at the site we decided to expand the range of wines offered under the Westwood label. In the warmer locations we planted an unusual selection of red Rhône varieties: Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre and Counoise. We originally planted a small amount of the inky, aptly named Tannat to give us new blending options for our unique reds, but have since found it can make a really interesting varietal wine at our site.
The Future of Westwood: After several vintages the wines we have produced from the Annadel Estate have started to show a clear sense of place, a distinctive structure and minerality that will define the Westwood style going forward.
Ultimately Westwood will release two Estate Pinot Noir bottlings – one vinted from modern-era Dijon clones and a second Pinot assembled from our collection of California Heritage clones.
We will release four wines from our other Estate varieties: our redFOUR – a proprietary red wine blend, a dry pink wine we call our 4-Part Rosé, produced from saignée de cuve of our Grenache, Mourvedre, Counoise and Syrah grape lots, a varietal Syrah, and a small amount of varietal Tannat.
Westwood has embarked a new chapter in its history – in Sonoma Valley, where we will continue to produce distinctive artisanal red wines in our iconoclastic soil-driven style.