Monthly Archives: June 2017

Visit to Thomas Fogarty Winery – Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and some Nebbiolo from a beautiful spot in the Santa Cruz Mountains

At Thomas Fogarty Winery I met with the knowledgeable, friendly and very engaged Marshal White who gave me a good tour of both cellar and vineyards. We also had an extensive tasting including both different vintages and a wide range of vineyards.

At Thomas Fogarty Winery they also experiment with the Nebbiolo grape and I had a chance to try some of their vintages from the barrel. Being a fan of the Nebbiolo grape I found this very interesting and I am excited about their work with the grape. Personally I think their philosophy of how to manage the grape, with a hands-off approach and avoidance of oak influence, is good, and my initial impressions were positive.

A few short notes about how Thomas Fogarty Winery produce their wines

  • They use natural yeast for fermentation
  • The Pinot Noirs age 12 months in oak of which approximately 15-20% new oak.
  • The Chardonnays age 12 months in oak and 6 months in stainless steel.
  • They use approximately 35% whole clusters for the Pinot Noirs.
  • Acidity and alcohol are never adapted artificially and they do not use other additives than as little sulfur dioxide as possible
  • They do not have any certification for the work in the vineyards, but they are inspired by organic, sustainable, and biodynamic practices.

Tasting notes for the wines from Thomas Fogarty Winery

2012 Thomas Fogarty Chardonnay Portola Springs Vineyard

Intense tropical fruit where some sharp pineapple notes dominate but also citrus and some slight oak notes. There is a fresh lime acidity with good precision and this gives a mouthwatering finish to the wine.

2013 Thomas Fogarty Chardonnay Albutom Santa Cruz Mountains

The nose is elegant but rather restrained with fresh stone fruit and some lime. On the palate there are similar fruit notes but also a vibrant lime acidity. This is a very precise and well balanced wine that has a long life ahead.

2013 Thomas Fogarty Chardonnay Langley Hill Vineyard

Ripe pineapple and other tropical fruit notes but also some smoke and floral notes. The acidity is rather soft and with lemon notes. This is a generous and rather broad wine.

2013 Thomas Fogarty Pinot Noir Santa Cruz Mountains

High pitched and intense fruit notes with some floral notes as well. Has an acidic attack on the palate but of good quality and it complements the fruit that is rather dense on the palate. Nice personality on this entry level Pinot Noir.

2013 Thomas Fogarty Pinot Noir La Vida Bella Vineyard

From a vineyard near the coast, with sandy soil.

An abundance of strawberries, raspberries and marzipan on this fresh and rather forward wine. The tannins are very silky and the acidity careful. Straight forward and rather fruity Pinot Noir with a slim profile.

2013 Thomas Fogarty Pinot Noir Mindego Ridge

Planted 2009 with Dijon clone.

Rather dark fruit on this dense Pinot Noir with cherries and some blackberries but also some earthy notes and spices. High acidity and with a tannic bite. This wine has a Gevrey Chambertin touch to it. Will be interesting to see how this vineyard will develop.

2012 Thomas Fogarty Pinot Noir Will’s Cabin Vineyard

This is a rather slim and tight wine with young berry notes of mainly raspberries and strawberries. The acidity is rather high and the fine grained tannins have a sharp bite. Will be interesting how this wine evolves, but it will need some time to integrate. Right now it is slightly harsh.

2014 Thomas Fogarty Pinot Noir Will’s Cabin Vineyard

On both nose and palate the raspberries are in the front seat but there are also darker notes from blackberries, licorice and herbs. On the palate the acidity is soft and with a tingling sensation and the fruit gets a sweet touch. Very pleasant and easy to like Pinot Noir.

2013 Thomas Fogarty Pinot Noir Kent Berry Vineyard

Own rooted Mount Eden clone, planted 1990.

Quite careful nose but still with some dense cherries, blackberries and hints of marzipan. Nice acidity with a cool expression and fine grained tannins with some bite. On the palate the fruit is slightly tart. This wine is rather closed right now but has great potential.

2012 Thomas Fogarty Pinot Noir Rapley Trail Vineyard

This is an open and forward wine with cherries, dark berries and some herbal and spicy notes. The palate shows some fine grained tannic structure and a soft but precise acidity. Generous and easy to enjoy Pinot Noir.

Summary of impressions from the visit to Thomas Fogarty Winery

My impressions of the wines from Thomas Fogarty Winery are very positive. These are well balanced wines with nice transparency, beautiful multi layered fruit notes and good structure. Some of the wines show slight oak notes but these are not particularly dominant. This is a winery that focus much on their great vineyards and they have a rather hands-off approach in the cellar. For me the quality of their Chardonnays was a positive surprise.

The Chardonnays from Thomas Fogarty Winery are rather different depending on which vineyard they are from, but some common denominators are the tropical fruit and the citric acidity. My favorite was the 2013 Albutom Chardonnay that had a rather restrained profile but and amazingly precise and energetic acidity.

For the Pinot Noirs I had a chance to try wines from 2012 to 2014 and from several vineyards, and again the terroir and vintage shine through in the personalities of the different wines. Some general characteristics are a rather dense fruit notes that can range from slightly sweet strawberries to some intense blackberries. The acidity is of good quality and several wines has a clear tannic bite. My favourite was the 2013 Kent Berry Vineyard Pinot Noir.


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Visit to Calera – A true legend and part of Pinot Noir history in California

Introduction to Calera

In april I visited the Calera winery. During the visit I also had an opportunity to meet with Josh Jensen who is very friendly but also has strong and firm opinions. We had an interesting discussion about his search for the perfect region for Pinot Noir in California. He tells me that after discussions with friends in Burgundy they agreed that limestone was essential for producing top level Pinot Noir.

Eventually he found some land with a huge limestone deposit, close to Mt. Harlan in the San Benito district and in 1974 he purchased the land. The elevation is 2200 feet, making it one of the highest elevation vineyards in California. When he found the land he immediately knew this was the right place and there was not really any runners-up or other areas he considered before acquiring the property. Still it was a gamble to buy land where no one had planted vines before. The first three vineyards were planted in 1975 and then in 1982 he acquired further land close by which was planted the following years.

Tasting notes for the wines from Calera

2014 Calera Chardonnay Central Coast

Zesty expression with an abundance of citrus but also pineapple notes. There are some notes of flint and oak on the nose but it does not get dominant. Nice, juicy and well made Chardonnay.

2014 Calera Viognier Mt Harlan

For their Viognier they use the older barrels to ensure no oak notes reach the wine.

Layers of fruit notes from lychee, orange, lime and apricot on both nose and palate in this opulent but still balanced wine. For a Viognier the acidity is fresh and mouthwatering and stays in the finish of the wine, where there also is a slight bitterness.

2016 Calera Pinot Noir Vin Gris

An abundance of red fruit where raspberries dominate the palate but where we also get some grapefruit and lime. On the palate there is an explosion of fresh berries and a fresh lemon acidity.

2014 Calera Pinot Noir

This is a nice “basic Pinot Noir” with both red and black fruit and some herbal notes both on nose and palate. The acidity is rather careful but still enough to give some energy to the wine.

2013 Calera Pinot Noir Selleck

Beautiful nose with ripe raspberries, blueberries and some ethereal notes. A dense but not powerful expression on the fruit. The acidity is mouthwatering and the tannins are rather chewy for a Pinot Noir, especially in the finish. This is a masculine Pinot Noir with some attitude and complexity.

2014 Calera Pinot Noir Reed Vineyard

Even though the fruit is rather dense this is a fresh and energetic Pinot Noir. The palate is intense with blackberries, blueberries and some hints of raspberries and some notes of minerals. This is a rather fruit-forward wine with a pure expression.

2014 Calera Pinot Noir Jensen Vineyard

Very intense nose with mainly red fruit and with a dominance of raspberries, but underneath there are some soft dark fruit notes. There is a tannic bite in the finish and a hint of alcohol notes come through. Still this wine gets a precise and energetic expression because of the fresh acidity. A great Pinot Noir that will have a long life ahead.

Summary of impressions from Calera

Calera is truly a legendary winery in California and they have some amazing vineyards, resulting in an impressive line-up of single vineyard wines, especially for Pinot Noir.

Their Pinot Noirs have a rather masculine expression with layers of mainly dark fruit but also a fresh, cool acidity. These are wines truly showing a sense of place in their transparency to the terroir. The fruit notes were denser and darker than I expected but always with a good balance.

The white and the rosé all show an energetic acidity and some young fresh fruit notes. I also like the fresh citric acidity.

My favorites were the 2014 Pinot Noir Jensen Vineyard and the 2013 Pinot Noir Selleck.


You can also follow me on Instagram: @ultimatewinekick and Twitter on @uwk_andreas