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6 Wines You Need to Try from the Vinify Cooperative Tasting

Vinify is a winemaking cooperative located in a Santa Rosa industrial park. Among the labels making their wine at Vinify are heavy hitters such as Sojourn, Bjornstad, Russell Bevan, Olson Ogden and Baker Lane. But the cooperative aspect and relatively low-cost access to space, equipment, etc. provides an excellent opportunity to new labels and small, boutique producers too. Tasting at Vinify events is a great way to discover the new outfits with the potential to be stars in the coming years.

There’s a lot of good wine happening in that area overall. Other wineries not affiliated with Vinify but residing in the same industrial park include Carol Shelton, Inspiration Vineyards and Natural Process Alliance/Salinia. Pisoni and Donelan (formerly Pax) are there too, but don’t have tasting rooms. And Siduri is just a few blocks away. If you’re going to be in the Santa Rosa area, it would be well worth your time to make some appointments and hit the industrial park wineries.


Vinify held one of it’s semi-annual tasting and sales events on Saturday, June 11. I was a late arriver, but still managed to taste 40 or so wines. Here are three Pinot Noir and three Syrah I thought especially noteworthy, consider all of them Highly Recommended:

2008 Baker Lane Sonoma Coast Cuvée Syrah, Sonoma Coast $25
I’ve yet to taste a wine from Baker Lane that I didn’t like. They were pouring two Pinot Noir and two Syrah on Saturday, all reflecting cool-climate, a broad palate with plenty of non-fruit complexity and restrained use of oak. You may well have tasted their 2007 Syrah already, which has been very well reviewed. The new 2008 release is just as good. Look for dark purple color and rich berry fruit interwoven with herbal and peppery threads. Very good now, but ageworthy.

2008 Bjornstad Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast, Hellenthal Vineyard $40
Greg Bjornstad, too, had a whole lineup of reds that are worthy of your attention. Amongst them were very good bottlings from two of my favorite Pinot Noir vineyards, a 2008 Van der Kamp and a 2009 Keefer Ranch. The latter is not yet released. I’m going to single out the 2008 Pinot Noir Hellenthal Vineyard here though, because of it's unique profile relative to other Pinot Noir wines at the tasting. The vineyard is located in what Greg Bjornstad refers to as the “extreme Sonoma Coast.” The wine represents the location with higher acidity, tannins you can feel on your teeth and less glycerin-like viscosity than most North Coast Pinot Noir. There is plenty of ripe, red fruit on the nose and palate complemented by exotic spice and incense. Pair it with seared, Moroccan-spiced duck breast.

2008 Lattanzio Syrah Sonoma Coast, Fedrick Ranch $35
Justin Lattanzio worked Copain, Copain Custom Crush and Revana Family Vineyard before starting his own label at Vinify (of which he is also an owner). His wines are vineyard designates from cool climates. Fermentations rely on native yeasts and the final product is unfined and unfiltered. His 2008 Lattanzio Syrah Fedrick Ranch fermentation included 40% whole cluster and 100 pounds of Viognier. Its dark and complex, silky on the palate and peppery on the nose. The fruit is juicy and wreathed with purple flowers.

2009 Vaughn Duffy Pinot Noir Russian River Valley, Suacci Vineyard $39
Above I mentioned that Vinify is an incubator for new labels which may be future stars. Take note of Vaughn Duffy. If their future wines are as good as their first, you’ll be seeing the name a lot. Matt Duffy is relatively new to winemaking. But, he spent time at Siduri and has worked at Vinify for the past three years. His 2009 Pinot, along with a 2010 Rosé of Pinot Noir are the first wines he’s produced for himself. He made just two barrels of the 09 Vaughn Duffy Suacci Vineyard Pinot Noir. I know and am very fond of Pinot Noir from Suacci Vineyard and recognized that vineyard in my glass before being told what I was sipping. Tucked way back in the hills beyond Sebastopol, almost within sniffing range of the ocean, it’s a cool-climate spot where grapes ripen gently. Matt balanced the cherry fruit with tannins using 33% stem inclusion and complemented the Suacci herbal notes with delicate vanilla and sweet spice from half new, half once-used French oak.

2007 Westerhold Family Vineyards Syrah $42
I’ve drooled over this wine in articles before, but I’ll do it again. Made by Russell Bevan from Westerhold’s estate vineyard in Bennett Valley, it’s a tour-de-yum, if you’ll pardon my French. This wine won the “Syrah Shootout” at the 2010 Hospice du Rhone, owing in part to the dedication of John Westerhold who walked slowly through the vines wielding a leaf blower to dry the bunches, preventing late season fog and rain from creating rot. Much more efficient than using a ShamWow, but still quite an act of devotion. His efforts were rewarded with seriously good juice. It’s full of dark berries accented by earthy white pepper and a mélange of spice. It’s full-bodied, but not gooey. The fruit is rich yet balanced by well-integrated tannins. If you like this wine, set your alarm clock for Fall. That’s when the 2008 will be released. It’s shaping up to be equally good and won the 2011 Hospice du Rhone Syrah Shootout.

2009 Wren Hop “Siren’s Lure” Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast $54
Public walk-arounds aren’t ideal for serious tasting, let alone comparative analysis, but this Pinot Noir was the wine that got the most ‘+” signs in my notes on Saturday. So it’s good. Really good. Russell Bevan makes the wines for Wren Hop too and this one shows that he’s as skilled with Pinot Noir as with Syrah (and the Bordeaux varieties bottled under his own label). As Bjornstad’s Hellenthal shows the lean, taut personality of Sonoma Coast, Siren’s Lure shows its succulent side. The wine has structure, but the tannins are wrapped in silk. The acidity is ripe and and supportive rather than a focal point. The wine isn’t just a bowl of fruit either. It has subtleties and should reveal multiple layers of complexity with three or more years of bottle age.

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