2007 Sonoma Valley Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir •Estate Grown

California: Sonoma County: Sonoma Valley

Offer Expired:Feb 03, 2011 at 11:59 pm
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What We Say


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Mission Codename: Living the Dream

Operative: Agent Red

Objective: Return to Canihan Family Cellars, a Wine Spies Operative favorite for Pinot Nor. Raid their cellars and return with their newest, limited-production, 2007 Sonoma Valley Pinot Noir

Mission Status: Accomplished!

Current Winery: Canihan Family Cellars

Wine Subject: 2007 Pinot Noir – Sonoma Valley

Winemaker: Bill Canihan

Backgrounder: 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 ideal growing conditions for Pinot Noir. Grown on their tiny estate vineyard, today’s wine is a special treat. Read Agent Red’s tasting notes, followed by his interview with Bill Canihan, below.

Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

Look – Pale garnet, with deeper garnet hues through the dense and somewhat opaque heart of the wine. Color remains concentrated, right out the the edge of the wine. After swirling, the wine settles quickly, revealing tall columns of skinny, wine-stained legs.

Smell – Earthy dark cherry and spiced leather, mingle with sweetwoods, forest floor, dark cranberry and smoky blueberry. Hints of dried herbs, black tea, dried meats and gunpowder round out the supple nose.

Feel – Softly grippy, right up front, then round across the mid-palate. After a moment, a crushed velvet feel spreads an easy dryness across the entire palate, eventually drying the cheeks and lips.

Taste – Balanced dark and bright flavors, blending red cherry, black cherry, cranberry and overripe strawberry. As these flavors sit on the palate for a moment, additional flavors of tomato stem, soft white pepper and flint make an easy appearance.

Finish – A long finish, with bright red fruit notes that slowly yield to white pepper, sweetwoods, fall leaves and flinty minerals – as the wine gradually dries the entire palate.

Conclusion – Once again, we offer major kudos to our friend, Bill Canihan. His 2007 Pinot Noir is a great follow-on to his previous vintages of this always excellent wine. This 2007 shows a brighter red fruit character with a bright acidity that make the vintage even more food-friendly than the 2006 that we highlighted last year. Like the previous vintage, this wine shows plenty of complexity and a fantastic feel. Aromas are somehow more meaningful this time around, with fragrances that encourage you to really inhale the wine and take in all of the wonderful information that it delivers. Pair with almost anything, as this flexible wine would play well with most foods. We love Bill’s wine and we give this wonderful Pinot Noir a very hearty Wine Spies recommendation.

Mission Report:


AGENT RED: Greetings, Alex Beloz. We are thrilled to be showing your 2007 Canihan Family Pinot Noir today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.

ALEX: Glad to share some info.

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

ALEX: Travels to Europe, specifically Italy, after university. Met some great families that taught me about wine appreciation. I got the wine bug right away. When I returned home I pursued a career in wine.

RED: And where did you learn the most about winemaking?

ALEX: My first crush position. There’s nothing like getting the hands-on experience.

RED: What is your winemaking style or philosophy?

ALEX: To make delicious, compelling wines from fruit grown under strong viticultural practices.

RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?

ALEX: I suppose it’s more a region, the North Coast, that has influenced me. It’s where I learned how to make wine and where I work on a daily basis.

RED: How long have you been making wine?

ALEX: About 13 years now!

RED: Who do you make wine for?

ALEX: For my clients. In the end I make delicious, compelling wines that my clients will enjoy. Ultimately it’s they who will sell the wine. If they like it and are proud of it, they will be successful.

RED: Tell me, what makes the Sonoma Valley so special?

ALEX: Bills wines are grown organically on a tiny vineyard in southern Sonoma. During the growing season it gets warm enough in the day to ripen fruit well and cool enough in the evenings to give the vine some respite. It’s a very ideal climate.

RED: What is one piece of advice that you would give to someone that is considering a career as a winemaker?

ALEX: Consider and research it well. Get plenty of hands-on experience before committing to a full-on career in winemaking. There is a lot of romance that blinds folks into pursuing such a career not knowing that there is a lot of inglorious hard work and sacrifice in making wine.

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

ALEX: Lab work on the new vintage. Putting the new vintage to bed. And preparing for a busy spring and summer of blending and bottling.

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

ALEX: The 2007 Canihan Family Pinot Noir is showing very well at this time. It’s bright and aromatic. It’s fruit driven on the palate with red cherry and raspberry notes. A nice hint of spice makes the wine compelling.

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

ALEX: I’d have to say some kind of goat cheese appetizer and perhaps grilled salmon as a main course.

RED: Please share one thing about yourself that few people know

ALEX: Wine is not my job. It’s my lifestyle.

RED:What is your favorite ‘everyday’ or table wine?

ALEX: No favorites. I like tasty, well balanced wines of all colors, varietals and regions…but it’s got to be good!

RED: How would you recommend that people approach your wines, or wine in general?

ALEX: Most of my wines are nice right out the bottle. They’re always better a year out from release. However, if one has little time or patience, as we all do sometimes, I recommend my wines to be uncorked a couple hours before tasting.

RED: If you could choose any one wine to drink (regardless of price or availability), what would it be?

ALEX: Corton-Charlemagne. Small production. Very pricey. Very good.

RED: What is the one question that I should have asked you, and what is your answer to that question?

ALEX: Do you love what you do? I would respond: “I’m one of the luckiest guys on the planet!”

RED: Thank you so much for your time. We learned a lot about you – and about your wine. Keep up the great work, we are big fans!

ALEX: You bet!

Wine Spies Vineyard Check:

The location of the NAME vineyards can be seen in this satellite photo.

What the Winery Says

Awards & Accolades:

90 PointsConnoisseurs’ Guide – Oct 09

About This Wine:

Our 2007 Estate Pinot Noir is the fourth vintage from our organic, dry-farmed Carneros/Sonoma Valley vineyard. It takes exceptional fruit to make award-winning wine. Our unique terroir, meticulous organic & biodynamic farming practices, and hands-off winemaking philosophy result in exceptional Pinot Noir.

VINEYARD NOTES: Our original 3.75-acre Pinot Noir block was planted in 1998, borders on Los Carneros and is comprised entirely of French Dijon Clones 115, 667 and 777. Our newer 3.61-acre block is comprised of Clone 2A Wadenswil, Pommard, Masson, Swan, and Dijon Clones 115, 667 & 777. These vineyards experience the full impact of San Francisco Bay’s cooling fog in the summer. Phil Coturri’s biodynamic vineyard management practices along with dry-farming and cane pruning result in small yields (less than 1.5 tons per acre) of the highest quality grapes. The vineyards are certified organic by CCOF.

TASTING NOTES: “Touches of cocoa, graham crackers and sweet earth sit lightly atop well-defined, black cherry fruit in the nose, and the wine’s deep, fully ripened flavors follow suit. A full-bodied and fairly fleshy version of Pinot, it is also balanced, and it manages to convey a fair bit of complexity. It shows fine stamina and strength at the finish, and it comes with the real promise of several years’ growth.”- Connoisseurs’ Guide to California Wine, October, 2009.

About The Winery:

The Canihan Family vineyards are ideally located in the Sonoma Valley, and because we border on the Los Carneros Appellation, the vineyards receive the cool evening breezes and early morning fog from San Francisco Bay that provide for perfect grape growing conditions. Biodynamic vineyard management practices, dry-farming, and hand-harvesting only at complete ripeness, fermentation with naturally occurring native yeast, and no fining or filtering result in flavorful wines expressive of our “terroir”.

Although our vineyards were first planted in 1998, we had nurtured the land for more than 30 years. William Canihan Sr. purchased the land from a Basque farmer in 1975. Because of our commitment to the land and organic practices, we let nature cleanse the soil for 23 years. We planted 1103 Paulsen, SO4, and 101-14 rootstocks, and the following spring we field grafted Pinot Noir French Dijon clones 115, 667 and 777, Syrah clone 1, and Cabernet Franc clones 4 and 7.

This year, our new four-acre Pinot Noir vineyard will yield fruit from clones including Pommard, Wadenswil (Domaine Romanee–Conti) 2a, Masson, Joseph Swan, and Hanzell.

Our vineyard manager, Phil Coturri is also currently managing the vineyards of Hanzell, Merus, Moon Mountain and Arrowood wineries. Mr. Coturri has an excellent reputation for his organic and biodynamic practices which are best judged by their results.

Technical Analysis:

Varietals: 100% Estate Grown, Certified Organic Vineyard, 80% Dijon Clones 115, 667 & 777, 4% Pommard; 5% 2A; 5% Masson, 6% Swan

Harvested: September 6, 2007

Sugar at harvest: 25.2 Brix

Aged: 20 months in 100% French Oak

Alcohol: 14.0%

Total Acid: 0.60g/100ml

pH: 3.72

Bottled: May 21, 2009

Released: February 14, 2010

Production: 290 Cases

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