The fifth annual West of West Wine (WOW) Festival convened July 31 – August 2, 2015 in Sebastopol, California, with functions occurring also in Windsor and Occidental. The West Sonoma Coast Vintners is an association of growers and wineries with a passion for farming along the extreme and mountainous western coastline of Sonoma County. At this latitude it is difficult to get much further west without boarding upon a boat and proceeding west on the Pacific Ocean. These vintners are known for their cool climate wines, especially Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. In this region the grapes struggle to ripen, thus tending to produce character, higher acidity, and possibly lower sugar. Conditions in which grapes struggle to ripen can produce excellent wines.
The West of West Wine Festival provides wine fans with an excellent opportunity to judge for themselves the effects of a cool climate on wine grapes, to acquaint with the WOW wineries and their offerings, to review newly offered vintages, and maybe to taste some wines not tried before. Over the three-day span in 2015 the festivities offered, lunches, dinners, live music, walking tours, seminars to boost wine knowledge, and two Grand Tastings. I attended the Grand Tasting held August 12 in Sebastopol.
My tasting notes
91, Viognier, Baker Lane Vineyards, Estate, Sonoma Coast, 2014, $45
This pale green-gold Viognier by Baker Lane Vineyards was produced from estate fruit in the fine 2014 growing season. Barrel fermented without a malolactic phase, the wine reached 13.5% alcohol. A slight, pleasant oily feel is evident, but without great viscosity. Herbal notes show on the palate of this light to medium bodied Viognier, and the wine has notable freshness. This is a pleasing and uncommon expression of Viognier.
91, Chardonnay, Charles Heintz Vineyards, Rachael, Sonoma Coast, 2014
The grapes for this Charles Heintz 2014 Chardonnay come from estate dry farmed vineyards about 40 years of age. The vines lie at 900 feet in elevation on the second ridge eastward from the Pacific Ocean on 24-to-36 inches of Gold Ridge Sandy Loam underpinned by clay. The wine’s aroma shows good purity with notes of shaved lemon rindand stone fruit. Contrasting the wine’s purity is a somewhat rich and creamy palate.
90, Chardonnay, Charles Heintz Vineyards, Searby, Sonoma Coast, 2014
The fruit for the Charles Heintz’ Searby Chardonnay also comes from the site 900 feet in elevation in a couple ridges from the Pacific on the Gold Ridge Sandy Loam soil. Some orange blossoms in the aroma and stone fruit on the creamy and rich palate. This Chardonnay has fine purity of fruit.
90, Pinot Noir, Pinot Hill, Sonoma Coast, 2013 Emeritus Vineyards
This wine reminds of a Burgundian style, in the richer sense. This is a full bodied, sizeable Pinot Noir. Cherries, red fruit, spicebox, and a nuance of black pepper form the signature of this wine. Emeritus Vineyards is Brice Cutrer Jones’ operation. Otherwise known for Sonoma Cutrer, Brice founded Emeritus in 1999 on a former apple orchard, the Hallberg Ranch, in the Russian River Valley. The site is a 115–acre parcel near Sebastopol on Gold Ridge which Emeritus dry farms.
90, Chardonnay, Ceritas Wines, Porter-Bass Vineyard, Sonoma Coast, 2013
This Chardonnay has a distinct refreshing quality with its elevated acid level. On the palate the wine is loaded with notes of mineral, stones, and gravel with just a touch of lemon peel, while the texture has a nice oily bias. The purity of the fruit and focus are notable.
90, Chardonnay, Failla Wines, Sonoma Coast, 2013
This medium-light golden, cool climate Chardonnay opens with bright lemon and just a touch of toasty oak in the aroma. Generous lush fruit follows on the palate wrapped in a nice texture. To reach this result, Ehren Jordan, former apprentice at Turley Wine Cellars whole cluster pressed into a mix of French oak puncheon and barrique, concrete eggs, and stainless steel for the native yeast primary and malolactic fermentations. The wine rested sur-lie for 9 months bottling unfined and unfiltered. Alcohol 13.9%
90, Chardonnay, Peay, Estate, Sonoma Coast, 2013
Lime zest and lemon aromas open this Sonoma Coast Chardonnay from Peay Vineyards. This inviting wine has a smooth touch and feel with a mineral character dominating the lengthy finish. Bright, focused, and firm from the elevated acid level.
90, Pinot Noir, Siduri, Pratt-Sexton Vineyard, Sonoma Coast, 2013
This Pratt-Sexton single vineyard Pinot Noir is one of a collection of 27 produced by Suduri, from single vineyards stretching from Oregon’s Willamette Valley to California’s Santa Barbara County. In addition to its harmonious character, the wine shows spice and red cherry components. This unfined and unfiltered Pinot Noir is an elegant offering showing smooth tannins.