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Freestone and Sonoma Coast Vineyards: New Releases - International Wine Review
Freestone Vineyards and Sonoma Coast Vineyards are two of California’s top producers of cool climate Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The reviews that follow are based on Mike Potashnik’s visit to Freestone Vineyards earlier in the year and subsequent tastings with Don Winkler at our offices in Mclean, VA.
The area known as the true Sonoma Coast is characterized by cool temperatures, shallow sand and clay soils, a long growing season, and very low yields. Cold fog from Bodega Bay brings cool night temperatures in the 40’s. The growing conditions are challenging, what with cool spring temperatures, heavy fog, abundant deer and gophers, and harvests that are later than Napa’s Cabernet Sauvignon. On the other hand, marginal growing conditions can translate to superb wines, a situation common to most the world’s premium wine regions.
Freestone Vineyards is a large scale, joint investment by Joseph Phelps and several partners that began in 1999 and has involved the acquisition of three vineyards totaling 187 acres (82 planted to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay) in the area of Freestone. It is located on the western edge of Russian River Valley some 5-8 miles from the Pacific Coast. A state-of-the-art winery was completed in time for the 2007 harvest. The project has had to overcome many challenges from gophers to weather conditions, but is now in operation and producing some excellent wines.
The visit to Freestone was hosted by winemaker, Theresa Heredia, who supervises Pinot Noir and Chardonnay production. Theresa has a background in biochemistry, viticulture, and enology and winemaking experience at Saintsbury and in Burgundy. A walk through the new winery shows how Freestone has adopted the widely accepted Burgundian minimalist techniques for producing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The winery includes four temperature-controlled barrel rooms used for storing wines at different stages of production.
The following are my tasting notes and rating of the Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs tasted during my visit. Wines tasted out of barrel are not rated, as they are not technically finished wines.
Freestone Vineyards 2006 Fogdog Sonoma Coast Chardonnay ($40) 89
The Fog Dog Chardonnay is a blend of estate and independent grower fruit. Barrel fermented in 60% new and 40% one to two year old French barriques, it is medium lemon in color and offers lovely aromas of melon, pear, apricot and toasty oak. On the palate it displays good acidity with minerals and flinty notes on the finish. This is a wine that’s easy to enjoy.
Freestone Vineyards 2006 Ovation Sonoma Coast Chardonnay ($60) 90
The Ovation Chardonnay is also sourced from estate fruit and other independent growers. More refined and elegant than the Fogdog, it is also barrel fermented with native yeast and aged in 70% new French oak barrels for 12-15 months. It displays lovely aromas of yeast and oak, pear and melon with notes of mine...
Freestone Vineyards: Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir and Chardonnay - International Wine Review
Freestone Vineyards was founded in 1999 when Joseph Phelps planted 100 acres of Sonoma Coast to Pinot Noir (82 acres) and Chardonnay (18 acres) following biodynamic principles. Its first vintage was in 2005. Located just five miles from the cold Pacific, the Freestone vineyards experience early morning fog that contributes to large diurnal swings in temperature and a very long growing season, allowing fruit to ripen slowly and achieve phenolic maturity.
Freestone will soon release its fourth vintage—2008, a year noted for its unusual September heat spikes. The International Wine Review once again visited with Freestone’s lead winemaker Theresa Heredia (pictured left) and tasted barrel samples for 2008 as well as the 2007 current releases. Our assessment of the 2007 releases confirms what we found in the barrel samples of those same wines last year. [See our earlier March 2009 article posted on this website.] We are pleased to report that Freestone has just reduced its wine prices….significantly, so what were already good values are now great ones.
Freestone produces Chardonnay under three labels—Freestone, Ovation, and Fogdog. Both an estate vineyard blend—the Freestone—and a single vineyard bottling—Pastorale Vineyard—are produced. These wines are aged 15 months in 70% new French oak. Ovation is a blend of estate Chardonnay and purchased fruit and aged 12-15 months in 70% new French oak. Fogdog is a blend of fruit from Freestone’s three Sonoma Coast vineyards and aged 15 months in 60% new French oak.
Freestone 2007 Chardonnay Pastorale Vineyard Sonoma Coast ($55) 94
This is a beautifully balanced wine showing smoky peach and mango on the nose. The seamless palate is full, creamy and elegant with a beautiful stony minerality and an amazingly complex palette of flavors. Produced from a special block of vines of mainly old suitcase clones.
Freestone 2007 Ovation Chardonnay Sonoma Coast ($45) 92
The elegant Ovation shows floral and citrus on the nose and ripe pear and stone fruit on a lovely, soft lush attack. The oak is beautifully integrated on a soft, creamy and rich palate. Finishes with beautiful hazelnut notes.
Freestone 2007 Fogdog Chardonnay ($35) 90
This is a real California Chardonnay showing butter, smoke, and rich, buttery tropical fruit on both the nose and the palate. It’s quite lush and creamy on a medium-bodied palate with good acid levels.
Freestone 2008 Chardonnay Freestone Vineyard Barrel Sample
Shows beautiful delicate aromas of melon and river stones with a mint note. There’s ripe stone fruit and mango on the palate with nicely integrated oak. Benefits from the use of lightly toasted 500 liter barrels. This wine doesn’t appear to have suffered from the September heat spikes of the vintage. Looks like a winner!
Freestone 2008 Chardonnay Pastorale Vineyard Barrel Sample
The Pastorale Chardonnay is a bea...
Quady Winery: California's Sweet Spot - International Wine Review
The International Wine Review recently had the opportunity to taste the portfolio of California’s Quady Winery . The portfolio includes California versions of Port, Sherry, and Vermouth, as well as Quady’s unique dessert wine creations. All Quady’s wines are well-made and excellent values.
Andrew and Laurel Quady are California’s foremost sweet wine producer bar none. Located in Madera in the central San Joaquin valley, Quady specializes in Port and Muscat –based wines. A graduate of UC, Davis, Andrew began producing Port in 1975, but the introduction of Essensia in 1980 is what really gave Quady world-wide recognition.
Quady Palomino Fino, Madera ($30) 90
Made from biodynamically grown Palomino grapes, the deep orange tawny Palomino Fino is an Amontillado style sherry made using the solera method. This is a very ripe and aromatic fino with a dried orange peal character, but it actually tastes more like an amontillado with its rich, complex flavors of nuts and caramel. This superb fino would do Spain proud.
Quady 2007 Electra Madera ($13) 88
Electra is made from Orange Muscat grapes vinifed to only 4% alcohol. Shows dried orange aromas and a spicy, crisp and refreshing palate with a touch of spritz. Perfect for Indian food.
Quady 2007 Red Electra Madera ($13) 88
This delicious moderately sweet and low alcohol (5%) wine has the appearance of a medium ruby rosé with aromas of rose petal, cherry and red berries. Delicious and ripe on the palate with a semi-dry finish. Perfect for the lover of sweet wine who wants to minimize alcohol intake.
Quady VYA Extra Dry Vermouth Aperitif, Madera ($20) 87
Vermouth is a fortified wine infused with aromatic plants. The VYA Extra Dry is made from a blend of Colombard and Orange Muscat grapes and dried herbs including lavender, angelica, and linden. It shows aromas of cinnamon and spice and strong herbs and is pleasantly rich on the palate with strong flavors. There’s a touch of bitterness on the finish, most likely reflecting the high phenolics of the Orange Muscat variety. Serve chilled with a creamy white cheese.
Quady VYA Sweet Vermouth Aperitif, Madera ($20) 88
The VYA Sweet Vermouth has a dark tawny color and aromas of cinnamon and clove, with touch of ginger. It has a rich mouth feel. This is a delicious aperitif for Indian food and is beautiful served well-chilled over the rocks. 16% alcohol.
Quady Starboard Vintage 1996 Amador County ($20) 89
Mde from traditional Portuguese varieties like Tinta Cao and Touriga Nacional, the dark tawny vintage port shows aromas of cinnamon, and clove with touch of ginger. Delicious with a rich mouth feel, and a great aperitif for Indian food.
Quady’s NV Batch 88 Starboard ($23) 92
This is Quady’s entry level non-vintage Port, although they can’t legally call it that. Has a powerful nose of dried plum, raisin and chocolate and a complex, layered palate with...
Wine 'Doggy Bag' Regulations in New Hampshire
Title XIII, Chapter 179, Section 179:27-a allows any person who has purchased a full course meal and purchased and partially consumed a bottle of wine with said meal to remove it from the premises provided (i) the person is not in a state of intoxication and (ii) such bottle is securely sealed and bagged by the restaurant to be in conformance with open container laws.