Paul Dolan Vineyards

2007 Mendocino County Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir

California: Mendocino County

Offer Expired:Oct 07, 2010 at 11:59 pm
Avg. Price

What We Say


Today’s special wine was made by wine industry legend and pioneer, Paul Dolan. Please read our full review – and interview – below for the full details on this remarkable man.


Today’s wine deserves special recognition, for it is a truly superior Pinot Noir, worthy of the numerous awards and accolades it has received.


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Mission Codename: The King of Mendocino

Operative: Agent Red

Objective: After a protracted surveillance of Paul Dolan Vineyards, in Mendocino County, send Agent Red to procure a stellar Pinot Noir for our deserving Operatives

Mission Status: Accomplished!

Current Winery: Paul Dolan Vineyards

Wine Subject: 2007 Pinot Noir

Winemaker: Paul Dolan

Backgrounder: Paul Dolan, the pioneer of organic wine farming, is a hero to most organic wine producers in the U.S. Paul literally wrote the books on sustainable wine production, with his
‘Code of Sustainable Wine Growing Practice’s for the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance, and the ‘Green Winegrowing Handbook’ which gives an overview of Sustainable, Organic and Biodynamic wine growing. As CEO, market-leading Fetzer Winery, Paul led the company to sustainability and profitability, proving that it was possible to deliver wine that benefit wine consumers, wine workers, local communities – and the planet. His experience at Fetzer is chronicled in his tome, Paul tome on sustainable viticulture, ‘True to Our Roots: Fermenting a Business Revolution’. Today, Paul acts as winegrower for his own label, in Mendocino County, where he continues his tradition of crafting “special wines that sustain our environment, the place where we live and the people who live here.”

Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

Look – This is a wonderfully unique looking wine! At its core, the wine shows off a brilliant red color that reminded us of cherry kool-aid. Between the core and the edge, it takes on a distinct peach color. At the edge itself, the wine shows off a glistening ring of nearly-clear pink.

Smell – Sweet cranberry, orange peel and fine baking spice initially. As the wine opens up, baked apples, kola nut and young strawberry present themselves. These are soon joined by vanilla, subtle green redwood needles, subtle resin and just a hint of burnt match-head.

Feel – Ultra plush and round on entry, the wine quickly shows a medium-weight that carries all across the entire palate. After a few moments, the wines soft but bracing acidity makes your mouth water.

Taste – Sweet mixed red berries with cherry, sweet cranberry, young strawberry and raspberry. These mingle with wild rose, cocoa powder, Rainier cherry, subtle boysenberry and soft cedar.

Finish – This wine initially finishes with red fruit and dried rose petals. After a moment, a chalky minerality appears, along with cedar and smoky vanilla – making the mouth water.

Conclusion – I had the pleasure to taste this wine with another prolific Pinot Noir producer, who said of this wine, “If I had blind-tasted this wine, I would have guessed that it was an ultra-premium Oregon Pinot Noir”, which was high praise from this Cali winemaker. We spent a long time with this wine, initially inhaling its varied aroma for what seemed like several minutes. As we swirled, the wine revealed additional aromas. The same was true when it came to tasting; the more we swirled, the more character and complexity seemed to leap from the wine. I found this wine to be a superior example of Pinot – from any region. The bright acidity present in the wine makes it an excellent companion for most meals. Paul Dolan is a modern hero in the wine trade, and one sip of today’s special Pinot Noir is enough to tell you why; The wine is exceptional!

Mission Report:


SUBJECT: Paul Dolan

WINE EDUCATION: As an undergraduate at Santa Clara University, Paul studied business and finance. Shortly before he graduated, he wrote a paper on the wine industry (advised by his winemaking uncle, Ed Rossi), and Paul’s family legacy came alive. In 1975 he enrolled in the Enology program at California State University, Fresno ultimately receiving a Masters Degree with honors.

CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: In 1977 Paul joined forces with the Fetzers, becoming the company’s first winemaker from outside the family. Together they grew the business to two million cases a year, regularly earning acclaim and awards for their wines. After the Fetzers sold their family business, Paul became president of the company under its new ownership. Paul was president for 12 years before partnering up with Tim and Tom Thornhill to form Mendocino Wine Company

WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: We are clear about what we want,” says Paul, “ … an environmentally and socially conscious winery making great wines from Mendocino. Our farming practices are based on a deep respect for the health of the environment in which live and farm. Paul, Assistant Winemaker Mark Beaman and Winemaker Bob Swain work with a constant focus on quality and expression of Mendocino terroir.

One of Paul’s great passions is winegrowing at his family’s Dark Horse Ranch, east of the Russian River in the foothills near Ukiah. He and sons Heath and Jason chose this location because of its diverse natural beauty, dramatic terrain and deep red soils. It has been a family project and a labor of love to convert 70 acres of grapes into a certified Biodynamic vineyard. An earnest student of Rudolf Steiner (the father of the Biodynamic movement), Paul embraces Steiner’s premise that each piece of land has its own unique expression. The Dolan family is nurturing the land to capture that expression in the Paul Dolan Vineyards wines.

WINEMAKER QUOTE: ”Every wine is a unique expression of a carefully nurtured piece of land, made manifest in each bottle”

FIRST COMMERCIAL WINE RELEASE: In 2004 Paul and his sons harvested the first Dark Horse grapes (Syrah, Zinfandel and Petite Sirah). The resulting wine, named Deep Red for the Red Vine soil series in which the vines grow, is a limited production, certified Biodynamic wine. “Dark Horse Ranch is my family’s home, where my sons and their children are 5th and 6th generation winegrowers in the mountains of Ukiah. We’re rooted here. I am part of the fabric of this place: the water, air, wine and food are part of me.”


AGENT RED: Greetings, Paul. It is a great honor to be speaking with you, today. We are thrilled to be showing your 2007 Pinot Noir today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.

PAUL DOLAN: Thanks for having us – we’re excited to be here!

RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?

PAUL: Love of wine is in my blood. I am a 4th generation winemaker. Edmond Rossi was my grandfather, and he ran the Italian Swiss Colony in Asti. I am also a part of the Concannon family heritage. Growing up, I would spend my summers with grandad in Asti, and during the rest of the year, he would visit us in Oakland. “At our family table you could always count on great food and wine, and stories of the old days.”

RED: Who do you make wine for?

PAUL: I wouldn’t be able to release a wine I wasn’t proud of or enjoyed, and I hope my consumers enjoy it too. I also hope that the wine I make and the vineyard, winemaking and business practices I employ can inspire others and other businesses to lead more environmentally, socially and sustainable lives.

RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today.

PAUL: The vineyards that produce this Pinot Noir are located on the remote, southwestern outskirts of the Mendocino National Forest. Here the soils are rich and deep, imparting flavors that hint at the nearby wilderness. Medium-bodied, this wine is a harmonious blend of flavors: wild berries, luscious cherries, and the spicy vanilla of toasted oak. It’s in perfect balance.

RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?

PAUL: We recently had a friend, Olin, bring his wood-fire pizza oven to the winery. I have to say that the pairings were delicious! There was a wild mushroom flatbread pizza that he whipped up that was an all-around smash-hit with the Pinot Noir

RED: In your opinion, what makes Mendocino County so special?

PAUL: Mendocino county is such a wonderful place. Not only is there a strong community of socially and environmentally conscious people (there are more organically farmed vineyards here than Sonoma and Napa counties – combined!), but there is such beauty here. I love growing grapes here with my sons at Dark Horse Vineyard. I have never quite known such a place, and the quality of the fruit across this county is really world class. I wish more people noticed.

RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?

PAUL: HARVEST!! We’re really just starting even though we’re a week into October.

RED: How would you recommend people approach your wines and wine in general?

PAUL: Slow down, sip, and enjoy.

RED: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

PAUL: Thank you for trying our wines!

RED: 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 approximate location of Paul Dolan Vineyards can be seen in this satellite photo.

What the Winery Says

Awards & Accolades:

91 Points & Best BuyWine & Spirits – "This hits the delicate side of Pinot Noir in its scents of spring roses, of freshly turned earth and light hints of strawberries. The flavors are long, savory and bright. Why can’t there be more wines in this style? Especially when there’s duck confit salad on the menu.”

About This Wine:

The vineyards that produce this Pinot Noir are located on the remote, southwestern outskirts of the Mendocino National Forest. Here the soils are rich and deep, imparting flavors that hint at the nearby wilderness. Medium-bodied, this wine is a harmonious blend of flavors: wild berries, luscious cherries, and the spicy vanilla of toasted oak.

This wine is the unique expression of a carefully nurtured piece of land, made manifest in each bottle. We do without conventional pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, treating the soil as a living, life-giving system. Our winegrowing practices create special wines, while sustaining our environment, the place where we live, and the people who live here.

About The Winery:

As a fourth-generation winemaker, farmer and father, I seek to leave the world in better condition for my children. They inspire me to craft special wines that sustain our environment, the place where we live and the people who live here.

Organic grape growing and wine making are approached as a partnership with nature instead of an exploitation of the land. This takes patience, requiring more time in the vineyard. There are no short cuts or quick fixes with organic farming, but the care invested creates healthy soil, balanced grapes, and elegant wines that are expressive of place.

About The Winegrower:

The Winegrower – Vineyard/Farm as a living, life giving system

“A sustainable farm should be a whole farm, like a whole person. It must have integrity. It must have a moral center. It must be connected to its values and the greater world. It must aspire to do what is right, not just for the bottom line, not just from a legal standpoint, but from a moral and ethical standpoint. It’s not only accountable, it’s responsible.” Adapted from Paul Dolan’s True to Our Roots, Fermenting a Business Revolution, 2003.

Winegrowers are nature’s partners. These farmers take a holistic approach and treat the soil and everything grown on it as a living, life-giving system. They are always thinking systemically about how their activities give back to the land. Farmers use nature’s own processes to restore nutrients to the soil, regulate water usage in the vineyard and create biodiversity to keep balance. The plant and animal kingdoms are connected.

By listening to the unique needs of the farm, winegrowers find creative, natural solutions to problems that arise.

Biodynamic winegrowers use the biodynamic calendar to guide the timing of their work: when to plant, cultivate and harvest crops. However, biodynamic farming is much more complex and encompassing than the calendar. Farmers must also eye changes in the weather, rely on common sense and use knowledge of the specific needs of their land to guide annual farm activities.

The farm is a healthy organism – an individualized, diverse ecosystem guided by the farmer. The ultimate goal is the creation of a completely self-sufficient biodynamic farm that produces everything it needs onsite: fertilizer, pest control and water management.

Biodynamic farming and winemaking produce wines that are authentic expressions of the vineyard and the passion of the grower.

Technical Analysis:




TA: 0.50 G/100ML

PH: 3.46



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