Highly Rated Pinot Noirs | Spell Estate | Sonoma Pinot Noir



Reviews (by vintage)

  • 2016
    2016 Vin Gris of Pinot Noir Sonoma County

    The Corkscrewer Report, Johannes Marlena Score: 90

    Baby pink in the glass, the color of this rosé may mislead you into thinking this is a lightweight. But no, this is a surprisingly hearty pink wine, with weight on the mid-palate and texture round and supple. Cute to look at, but no pushover. Solidly structured, with fresh acidity cleansing the palate, the attractive, young red fruit flavor of the wine is restrained, coquettishly quiet. With proceeding sips from the glass, the sharp, bright bouquet of young raspberry, pomegranate, peach and pink roses reminds you this baby knows how to have fun too.

    International Wine Report Score: 89

    This pale colored Rose wine opens with a bouquet of rose petals, red cherry, strawberry and hints of cantaloupe. There are ripe flavors of white peach, orange rind, red cherry and strawberry starburst candy. This shows wonderful structure and a delicate texture (Best 2017-2021) – April, 2017 (OB)

  • 2015

    Wine & Spirits Magazine Score: 92

    From Stuart Bewley’s meticulously farmed vineyard in the rugged hills near Laytonville, this is warm and brawny in the best sense, with explosive red-cherry fruit and savory hints of tomato leaf and tobacco. The tannins are firm and mountainous, balanced by an enveloping, almost  grenache-like succulence. It’s gutsy enough to handle braised goat shanks.

    The Corkscrewer Report, Johannes Marlena Score: 95

    A brambly nose of wild black & blue fruit and wildflowers tells you immediately you’re in for a Pinot of lovely rustic personality. The fruit quality is so fresh, it’s like tasting fruit off the vine—and the acidity of dark cherries on the finish so refreshing on the palate. The wine has a large personality, largely chewy and concentrated, with a note of blueberry prominent. Powdery tannins add a dose of masculinity to what is otherwise a voluptuous wine. The voluptuousness is not a Mae West brashness but more Marilyn Monroe curves and roundness. Overall, a vivid beauty—a Pinot Noir painted in primary colors.

    Prince of Pinot - Rusty Gaffney Score: 92

    102 cases, Grapes sourced from the 3Tiers Block located at an elevation of 1,700 feet on a southeastern facing slope. Dijon clone 459 and DRC and Calera selections. Low-vigor, sandstone-based soils. · Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Wellappointed aromas of dark red berries and underbrush lead off. The fruit is vivid and juicy in the mouth, displaying a full-bodied load of fresh, wellripened black cherry and blackberry fruits. Although quite sappy, the firm tannic backbone keeps the fruit in line. There is an appealing Old World rusticity to this wine. The prominent fruit tannins combined with balanced acidity predict age ability.

    International Wine Report Score: 91

    Set roughly ten miles from the Pacific Ocean, the Alder Springs Vineyard has a range of Pinot Noir clones planted including Dijon clones 115, 667, 777, 459, DRC selection and Calera selection. This wine begins with aromas of black forest cake, strawberry, guava puree and suggestions of orange zest. There are ripe flavors of strawberry, guava, pomegranate, lemon rind and blood orange. This shows a lovely minerality and light tannic backbone as it is another outstanding Pinot Noir made by Spell Estate head winemaker Andrew Berge. (Best 2017-2027) – April, 2017 (OB)

    Connoisseur's Guide Score: 89

    Not wildly different from its companion from the Weir Vineyard and showing the solidity and structural firmness of a Pinot that clearly calls for age, this one similarly possesses a core of essential ripe cherry fruit but presently fights without quite the same degree of success to overcome its truncating, back-palate astringency. There is no question but that it will age into better, yet an extra year or two in the bottle may be needed before it fully sheds its finishing tannic bite.

    2015 WEIR VINEYARD Yorkville Highlands

    Wine & Spirits Magazine Score: 92

    Firm, spicy and powerful, this has the warm solidity of a rock face soaking up the sun. There’s plenty of fruit behind those mineral tannins, expressed for now in potent red-cherry and black olive flavors that will grow more nuanced and expressive with five years or more in the cellar.

    International Wine Report Score: 92

    The Weir Vineyard is located in the Yorkville Highlands where the the Pinot Noir planted on a south facing hill which boasts rocky soils, set at 850 and 1000 feet. The 2015 Pinot Noir is another outstanding showing from the team at Spell Estate as it opens with an inviting bouquet of red raspberry, spicebox and suggestions of wild blackberry pie. The palate is round and silky, showing flavors of black cherries, black raspberry, loganberry jam and ripe strawberry. This continues to impress with its gorgeous silky tannins as the smooth mouthfeel and wonderful poise show through. This wine will cellar marvelously for a decade or more. (Best 2017-2028) – April, 2017 (OB)

    Connoisseur's Guide Score: 90

    As much or more in need of patience than its siblings but a deeper and better filled wine on all counts, Spell’s Weir Vineyard Pinot is a well-extracted opus that, for all of its youthful angles and
    edges, never wavers of its expression of convincing, black cherry fruit. It is moderately full-bodied and built along fairly firm lines with mildly grippy tannins showing up at the finish, but it is never austere or severe, and, while not a wine that seems conceived with hasty drinking in mind and one much in need of patience, it has what it takes to emerge from its shell in fine form once some five or six years have passed.

    Prince of Pinot - Rusty Gaffney Score: 90

    150 cases, Clones are Rochioli Pommard selection, DRC selection and Wädenswil 2A. Aged in French oak barrels, 33% new. · Moderate garnet color in the glass. The nose entices with vibrant aromas of strawberry, black cherry and sweet grape. The glorious dark red cherry and berry fruits demand attention as do the muscular tannins. A supportive oak thread plies the background. The wine finishes with some astringency. Further time in bottle should mellow the tannins.

    The Corkscrewer Report, Johannes Marlena Score: 94

    Always the prettiest wine out of the Spell lineup. In 2015 this Pinot exhibits more robust fruit than usual—as if it were tired of just being the “pretty one” and is now stepping out and showing its flamboyant side, the wine being effulgent in ripe strawberry and cherry flavors and a note of allspice. Tannins are mild and sweet, and texture is broad and silky on the palate—with almost a weightlessness to the body. And when notes of tea leaf and anise emerge, the wine strikes a note of exoticism. Best Weir yet. Give it a few years, and you’ll see that this Pinot holds up to a cru Burgundy. In plain language, that makes this Pinot a steal.

    Private: 2015 CHARDONNAY Russian River Valley

    The Corkscrewer Report, Johannes Marlena Score: 93

    From an unfiltered straw-gold haze in the glass—to the bright citrus on the nose, as well as pie crust and honeysuckle—to a quiet touch of oak and orange marmalade on the palate—and ending on a very clean and bright finish, this is great artisanal Chardonnay. The fortitude of fruit-forwardness and elegance of structure are classic bearings of fine Russian River Valley Chardonnay, while the sense of balance achieved and delightful freshness is the art of the winemaker. Aesthetically, there’s very discriminating restraint on show here, and that adds a high level of class to a very approachable wine. Drink now or age for a decade, it’s all good.

    International Wine Report Score: 91

    This bright golden colored Chardonnay wine begins with heady aromatics reminiscent of creme brulee, heavy whipping cream, pineapple upside down cake and lemon blossom. Showing excellent mid-palate weight this reveals rich flavors of hazelnut, golden delicious apple, pineapple and vanilla cream. The long and creamy finish lingers. This is a superb effort by talented head winemaker Andrew Berge. I can see this Chardonnay picking up lovely secondary characteristics over the next decade. (Best 2017-2026) – April, 2017 (OB)

    Prince of Pinot - Rusty Gaffney Score: 88

    Sourced from the Dutton- Sullivan Vineyard located near Graton and planted in the 1980s to a heritage selection of Wente Chardonnay on its own rootstock. Aged in French oak barrels, 33% new. · Moderate golden yellow color in the glass. Very shy aromas of buttery citrus. More expressive on the palate, with flavors of yellow apple, nectarine and lemon. Nicely balanced, with good acid integration and brightness.

    2015 NICHOLE’S BLEND Sonoma County

    The Corkscrewer Report, Johannes Marlena Score: 90

    Bold but balanced, rich and rather intense, the powerful red fruit flavor gallops forward with the energy of a wild horse on the loose (14.4% ABV, fyi). Formidable tannins give the wine complexity, and, beneath it all, there’s a steady note of black Assam tea with spices. Deliciously bright strawberries and raspberries, however, win out at the end of the day—but not before one has discovered, in the glass, a California Pinot blend of unique character.

    International Wine Report Score: 91

    The Pinot Noir fruit sourced from this excellent wine comes from the Morris Vineyards as well as declassified barrels their vineyard designated Pinot Noir wines. This dense colored Pinot opens with inviting aromas of cola, sassafras, red cherry preserves and baking spices. There are ripe flavors of black raspberry liquor, boysenberry pie, black cherries, black olive and mint. This possesses wonderful underlying acidity and minerality to go with the dense fruit flavors. (Best 2017-2026) – April, 2017 (OB)

    Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate Score: 90

    Medium ruby-purple colored, the 2015 Pinot Noir Nichole’s Blend offers some stemmy notes over a core of black cherries and black raspberries with hints of garrigue, underbrush and fertile earth. Medium to full-bodied and firmly structured on the palate, it has a good amount of ripe, expressive fruit matched by the earthiness, finishing with great persistence.

    Prince of Pinot - Rusty Gaffney Score: 88

    445 cases. Sourced from Morris Vineyard and declassified barrels of Terra de Promissio, Umino and Alder Springs vineyards. Aged in French oak barrels, 40% new. Dark garnet color in the glass. Aromas of blackberry, black current, prune and spice lead off. A charge of sappy black fruits saturates the palate and finish. The dry fruit tannins are well-proportioned. Easy to drink and like able, but lacks nuance and uplifting acidity.

    2015 UMINO VINEYARD Russian River Valley

    The Corkscrewer Report, Johannes Marlena Score: 94-95

    Aromatic and deep intensity of black fruit and violets. Super smooth texture and alluringly mellow tannins. Sexy.


    The Corkscrewer Report, Johannes Marlena Score: 96

    Voluptuous fruit character while beautifully polished and finessed, and structured.  Silver yet eclectic – killer Pinot.

  • 2014
    2014 WEIR VINEYARD Yorkville Highlands

    The Corkscrewer Report, Johannes Marlena Score: 92

    Very forward red fruit though a delicate, pretty and earthy wine.  Anise and tea leaf accents. Quite Burgundian in character.

    International Wine Report Score: 92

    Sourced from the Weir Vineyard in the Yorkville Highlands, this lovely Pinot begins with an aromatic profile of Asian spices, red cherry preserves, black raspberries, guava and pomegranate all taking shape. The palate is lithe, currently displaying ripe flavors reminiscent of red cherry, red raspberry, cranberries and pomegranate with hints of baking spices. This is soft and round and ripe, having a slight salinity quality which makes it extremely appealing. While this is drinking beautifully today, I expect it will also evolve for at least another decade. (Best 2017-2027) – April, 2017 (OB)

    California Grapevine Score: 88

    Medium-light to medium ruby; ripe, earthy, cherry and red berry fruit aroma with hints of mocha and dried herbs; medium body; tight, red cherry and cranberry fruit flavors with earthy and black tea notes; medium tannin; lingering aftertaste. Highly recommended. 14.1% alcohol; 125 cases; 100% PN; released September 2016. (Group Score: 16.2, 0/1/2; My Score: 16.5 [88/100], tenth place)

    Wine Enthusiast score: 92

    Well balanced and moderately flavorful, this wine feels quenching and appetizing at the same time but needs time to round off its rough edges. It’s not overwhelmingly fruity or oaky, but has compact, concentrated red cherry and rhubarb and a good firm grip of tannin and fruit acidity. It will be best after 2019.

    Washington Wine Blog score: 92

    2014 Spell ‘Weir Vineyard’ Pinot Noir-This bottling has rather intense aromas of cedar, red raspberry and stew berry preserves. There are ripe flavors of black raspberry, blackberry pie, red cherry and guava puree. Lithe and delicious wine. Drink 2016-2024

    Connoisseurs' Guide score: 88

    Light-medium in volume and centered on ripe cherries as its first point of focus, this wine picks up roasted coffee and slight barky notes with a hint of a tangy edge to its aromatic proceedings. It is fairly full in body, slightly supple with a hint of a firm edge and keeps fruit in sight across the palate. Like its mates, it can grow a bit in the bottle, but is neither as deep nor as keen in aspect as to demand lots of aging.

    Prince of Pinot score: 94

    Rochioli selection Pommard, 2A and a DRC selection. Aged in 33% new, 33% once-used and 33% older French oak barrels. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Highly aromatic, with scents of cherry, exotic spices and potpourri. Plenty of flavor is packed into the mid palate and finish of this mid weight, captivating wine that features black cherry and black raspberry fruits embellished with a deft touch of oak and a bit of umami. Structured tannins are slightly astringent at this early stage. The finish is one to celebrate, with extraordinary black cherry aromatic persistence. This zesty wine is cause for celebration.

    Bill McNabb, Piedmont Post

    This is the second wine in this article from the Weir Vineyard in Yorkville Highlands – a spot to keep your eye on. A gorgeous expression of pure ripe fruit, this is fresh, lively and juicy, featuring an elegantly distributed mix of ripe blackberry and raspberry flavors. Full bodied, deep and persistent, without being heavy.  Should last for a decade.

    Mendocino County Fair Wine Competition GOLD MEDAL

    2014 UMINO VINEYARD Russian River Valley

    James Suckling Score: 91

    More fruit-forward style with dried cherry and watermelon character. Full body, round and silky tannins. Fruity finish. Drink now.

    The Corkscrewer Report, Johannes Marlena Score: 94

    All flavor all the time. Juicy and intense dark fruit with structure to rein it in.  Think Rolling Stones song: “Wild horses couldn’t drag me away…”

    California Grapevine Score: 92

    Medium-light to medium ruby color; attractive, forward, deep, intense, cherry and dark berry fruit aroma with hints of clove and dried herbs; medium to medium-full body; forward, rich, deep, elegant, red and dark fruit flavors with a velvety mouthfeel; medium to medium-full tannin; lingering aftertaste. Very highly recommended. Appealing to drink now and also shows aging potential. 14.3% alcohol; 128 cases; 100% Pinot Noir (PN); released April 2016. (Group Score: 16.6 of 20 points, 7 of 12 first-place votes/1 second/1 third; My Score: 17 [92 of 100 points], first place)

    Joe Roberts, 1winedude.com score: A-

    How deep can that cherry fruit go? I’m thinking Outer Core levels.

    Prince of Pinot score: 92

    This vineyard is owned and farmed by Dave Umino and is located in the Sebastopol Hills. Planted to Dijon clones 777, 667, 115 and 459 on a former apple orchard in 1995. Clones 459, 115 and 777. Aged in 50% new, 25% once-used and 25% older French oak barrels. · Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. On the nose, dark cherry fruit is embellished with scents of violets, oak spice and vanilla creme. Mid weight plus in style, with an array of earthy and mineral-toned darker fruits. The most concentrated of the 2014 Spell Pinot Noirs, yet refined and easy to like with structured tannins, a velvety texture, and a charge of sweet blackberry fruit on the big ending.

    Wine Enthusiast score: 91

    The vineyard source for this tasty wine is farmed by a fifth-generation Japanese-American originally from California’s Central Valley. Tightly wound in oak and tannin, it opens pleasantly to reveal a wealth of rose petals, earth and youthful ripe, dark cherry. With moderate acidity and body, it lingers on the palate.

    Connoisseurs' Guide score: 89

    On the whole, a bit brighter in balance relative to its cellarmates, the wine is fairly full in body and focused on red cherry fruitiness with touches of black cherry and rich coffee in the  background.  Its early suppleness teases with suggested drinkability, but even though the wine is not overly tannic, its acidity does firm things up in a way that three to five or six years of time in the cellar are bound to bring rewards to the patient.

    2014 NICHOLE’S BLEND Sonoma County

    James Suckling Score: 91

    Aromas of dried strawberry and flower follow through to a medium body, tight tannins and crisp acidity. Better in 2018.

    Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate Score: 88

    Pale to medium ruby colored, the 2014 Pinot Noir Nichole’s Blend is scented of kirsch, red currants and lavender with a touch of forest floor. Medium-bodied and structured with a lively backbone and chewy tannins, it has a pleasant earthy/stewed tea character on the finish.

    California Grapevine Score: 89

    Medium-light ruby; fragrant, forward, cherry and red berry fruit aroma with herbal notes and a hint of cocoa; medium body; fleshy, supple, red fruit flavors with spicy notes, bright acidity, and a hint of cola; medium tannin; lingering aftertaste. Highly recommended. 14.3% alcohol; 882 cases; 100% PN; released April 2016. (Group Score: 16.3, 0/2/1; My Score: 16.5 [89/100], sixth place)

    Joe Roberts, 1winedude.com score: B+

    Consider Nichole a tour guide for Sonoma County’s vibrant PN bounty.

    Prince of Pinot score: 90

    A blend from DeVoto, Terre de Promissio, Umino and Alder Springs vineyards. Aged in 40% new, 30% once-used and 30% older French oak barrels. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. A perfume of Bing cherry, strawberry and baking spices draw the nose to the glass. This wine aims to please with a mid weight core of juicy black cherry fruit balanced with the faintest oak and spice. Nicely weighted with integrated tannins and acidity, and some finishing intensity.

    Connoisseurs' Guide score: 89

    Pleasant and well-made, this medium-depth offering sports the inviting fruit that is part and parcel of the Spell quartet, and, if a bit direct overall, it is a wine whose focus and early accessibility
    makes it the one to drink while the other Spell offerings gain in maturity. There is a tendency to think that the wine is a bit soft in structure yet its underlying tannins do afford it a certain grip,
    and it is not going to fade anytime soon. Drink it up now or let it sit quietly in the dark for a few years.

    Wine Enthusiast score: 89

    International Wine Report score: 90

    The 2014 ‘Nichole’s Blend’ Pinot Noir is hard to resist right now. This crack and pour wine is delicious right out of the bottle and opens with aromas of cherry cola, red raspberry, nutmeg and smoke. There are flavors of red cherry, dill, red raspberry and cola in this delicious, forward style Pinot. Lovely weight here, with the right amount of stuffing and structure. (Best 2016-2024) – March, 2016 (OB)


    James Suckling Score: 92

    Very pretty fruit with dried strawberry, cherry and light spice character. Medium body, firm and silky and a clean finish. Drink now.

    The Corkscrewer Report, Johannes Marlena Score: 93

    Black tea, plum, tobacco and licorice to the profile.  Solid structure and build for aging – a Pinot of stoic character.

    Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate Score: 91

    Pale ruby-purple in color, the 2014 Pinot Noir Terra de Promissio Vineyard reveals a beautiful perfume of violets and roses over notes of crushed cherries and cranberries plus hints of fallen leaves, dried Provence herbs and fungi. Medium-bodied, the palate gives a great concentration of tightly wound fruit with a firm structure of chewy tannins and a long, earthy finish.

    California Grapevine Score: 90

    Medium-light to medium ruby; attractive, forward, deep, black cherry fruit aroma with hints of dried herbs and sandalwood; medium to medium-full body; rich, fleshy, earthy, cherry and red berry fruit flavors with good acid balance and a hint of cola; a bit tight on the finish; medium tannin; lingering aftertaste. Very highly recommended. 14.2% alcohol; 79 cases; 100% PN; released April 2016. (Group
    Score: 16.4, 3/0/1; My Score: 17 [90/100], third place)

    Joe Roberts, 1winedude.com score: A-

    Will get you drunk on purity, very likely both figuratively and literally.

    Prince of Pinot score: 92

    Aged in 50% new, 25% once-used and 25% older French oak barrels. · Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. The nose leads with aromas of black cherry, forest floor and subtle oak. Fairly concentrated and ripe fruited, with succulent flavors of black cherry, blackberry, spice and Hoisin sauce, backed by balanced tannins that make for easy approachability. The fruit really grabs hold to the long finish.

    Connoisseurs' Guide score: 91

    Nicely concentrated and noticeably juicy in direction, this young, outgoing effort smacks of ripe red cherries with a slight touch of dried violets to its aromas, and its flavors follow suit in their blending of ripe and zesty fruit buttressed by creamy oak. There is plenty of generosity here, yet the wine’s underlying energy does promise further refinement to come with three to five more years of bottle aging.

    San Francisco Chronicle Silver Medal

    2014 CHARDONNAY Russian River Valley

    The Corkscrewer Report, Johannes Marlena Score: 91

    Classic, hallmark RRV characteristics abound – oak, butter, almond, lemon zest, creme brulee and tropical notes. Very solid.

    Joe Roberts, 1winedude.com Score: A-

    Warmth, life, richness, texture, and flow… how much is this again?

    Wine Enthusiast score: 92

    Though not designated, the grapes for the white come from the Dutton Sullivan Vineyard, outside of Graton, planted to a heritage selection of Wente.  Wet stone and salty apple make for an inviting beginning, followed by a length of complex Mandarin orange specked in spice.  Andrew Berge is the winemaker. – V.B. October 2016

    International Wine Report score: 91

    The 2014 Spell Estate ‘Russian River Valley’ Chardonnay is showing beautifully right now. It is sourced from the Dutton Sullivan Vineyard was planted in 1982 with a selection of Wente clones. Aged in French oak (33% new), this begins with creamy aromatics of creme brûlée, wild mushrooms, bananas foster and heavy whipping cream. This leads to flavors of orange creamcicle, lemon zest, Gala Apple and brioche. Lovely balance with nice ripeness. Only 234 cases made. (Best 2016-2022) – March, 2016 (OB)

    Connoisseur's Guide to California Wine score: 89

    Smelling and tasting of very juicy red apples and tempering its proclivities to palatal plumpness and size with plenty of decidedly zesty acidity, this is the uncommon Chardonnay that successfully manages to be unabashedly ripe and reasonably well-balanced at one and the same time. It begins and ends with fruit to the fore even as a touch of heat peeks through in the finish, and, if it is hard to see elegance in its future, it is a rich, fairly flavorful offering all the same. One Puff.

    Wine Spectator

    This is fruity, offering mango, fruit cocktail, pineapple and spice notes, with an edgy texture and a finish highlighted by pithy grapefruit and citrus flavors. Drink now. 238 cases made.

    San Francisco Chronicle Silver Medal

    2014 Rosé Vin Gris Sonoma County

    Joe Roberts, 1winedude.com score: B+

    Background singer decked out in full-on glitter studded 70’s fun regalia.

    Wine Spectator

    A delicate style, with accents of strawberry and orange blossom. Drink now. 206 cases made. –TF

    Connoisseur's Guide Score: 89

    Very pale and barely hinting at pink and definitely more a Vin Gris than a Rosé in appearance, this engaging young wine leads with a big burst of fresh cherries on the nose and fully follows through on its promise with bright, well-composed flavors that feature lots of ripe, yet wonderfully zesty fruit backed by a trim touch of sweetness. It is exceptionally well-balanced with keen acidity providing plenty of brightness and snap, and, if sure to keep well for a couple of years, it is thoroughly delicious now. GOOD VALUE

  • 2013
    2013 UMINO VINEYARD Russian River Valley

    Joe Roberts, 1winedude.com score: A-

    Broad and soft of fruit, but also broad and focused of intellect.

    International Wine Report score: 93

    The 2013 ‘Unimo Vineyard’ Pinot Noir is a stunning bottling from this estate. The vineyard is comprised of Dijon clones 777, 667, 115 and 459 and is located southwest of Sebastopol at the top of Blucher Valley. The Pinot Noir has dense and earthy aromas of black truffle, anise, black cherry and ripe raspberry. This leads to ripe flavors of blackberry pie, cola, and black raspberry syrup. This is delicious and lively wine that has wonderful structure and mouthfeel. While this is hard to resist right now, it will cellar gracefully for at least another decade (Best 2016-2027) – March, 2016 (OB)

    Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate score: 91

    Lastly, the 2013 Pinot Noir Umino Vineyard (a Russian River site) displays a dark ruby color, rich plum and black cherry fruit, with a medium to full-bodied mouthfeel, and a velvety, lush, texture. To me, this is clearly the best of all these Pinots from Spell, a full-bodied, lavishly constructed and plush wine that should drink well for 7-8 years.

    Burghound Score: 91

    Notes of both red and dark cherry combine with those of plum, floral, dark tea and a hint of sandalwood. Like several of the wines in the range the medium weight flavors possess a sleek and well-detailed palate impression that continues onto the vibrant, intense and lingering finish where a touch of bitter cherry appears. This is clearly built-to-age and indeed it’s going to need at least a few years as the tightly wound backend is distinctly compact. This should be excellent if allowed a few years to mellow.

    Wine Enthusiast 91

    From a site in what is increasingly known as the Sebastopol Hills—one of the cooler neighborhoods of the appellation—this wine is big and juicy in cranberry and strawberry, nestled in spicy clove and forest-floor flavors. Structured tannins complete the picture, adding depth and concentration. — V.B. (12/31/2015)

    Connoisseur's Guide Score: 93

    By a small margin, the biggest and richest of the Spell Pinots, yet a wine that does not sell its soul to exorbitant ripeness and keys instead on very deep, black cherry fruit right from the first, this well-extracted effort is fleshy and full with a fine sense of juicy sweetness apparent throughout. It is firmed by a bit of very neatly fit back-palate tannin, and while that tannin ensures a good half-dozen years of development, it is so well-buffered by fruit that it does nothing to dissuade pleasurable drinking for those who simply cannot wait. Two Puffs.

    2106 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition Gold Medal

    Joe Roberts Score: A-

    Broad and soft of fruit, but also broad and focused of intellect.

    Prince of Pinot Score: 90

    14.5% alc., 121 cases, $48. Wine club exclusive. Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Very shy nose, even when checked two days after opening, revealing delicate aromas of black cherry, spice and toasty oak. A luscious wine, sporting earth-kissed black cherry fruit accented with oak. Fat and full but no excess sweetness. The captivating texture is very silky, plush and tres Pinot. A bit reserved and tight, the wine was better two days after opening when tasted from an re-corked bottle. Give this wine another year or two in the cellar.

    2013 NICHOLE’S BLEND Sonoma County

    Joe Roberts, 1winedude.com score: B+

    Nichole? Oh you’d like Nichole; she’s down to earth and very pretty.

    Burghound Score: 89

    Here the nose exhibits a stark contrast with that of the Alder Springs as this is all but mute and only aggressive swirling liberates more deeply pitched aromas of tobacco, tar and dark berries. There is good verve to the supple and rounded medium weight flavors that possess a velvety mouth feel while offering reasonably good length on the dusty and ever-so-mildly austere finale. This doesn’t have the charm or the elegance of the Alder but it is bolder and certainly more robust.

    Connoisseur's Guide Score: 90

    Here is a weighty, well-concentrated, solidly constructed Pinot Noir that leans to ripeness while keying on dried cherries as its principal theme. It is rounded and slightly supple in feel with a touch of glyceriny viscosity to start but stays in balance and firms up as it goes with fine finishing length. It avoids undue coarseness but will improve as it ages and is sure to show increasing polish over the next three to five years.  One Puff.

    Prince of Pinot Score: 90

    Noir 14.3% alc., 575 cases, $39. Sourced from DeVoto, Terra de Promissio, Umino and Alder Springs vineyards. Aged in 100% French oak barrels, 30% new, 30% once-used, and 40% older. Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Very fragrant aromas of black cherry, black raspberry, Asian 5-spice and a hint of peppercorn which build in intensity over time in the glass. Smooth and harmonious in the mouth, with flavors of dark red cherry and berry fruits. Very forward drinking, with minimal dry tannins and good intensity on the finish. This is the most approachable and easy drinking wine in the 2013 SPELL lineup.

    2013 WEIR VINEYARD Yorkville Highlands

    Wine Enthusiast score: 93 Cellar Selection

    This wine hangs muscular cherry and berry flavors on a big framework of firm acidity and taut tannins, ready for a long haul in the cellar or tackling a rich dish like Peking duck now. Light whiffs of spicy oak lead to tangy red cherry, raspberry and cranberry flavors. Best after 2020.

    Wine & Spirits Score: 93

    Bill & Susan Weir planted their first block of Pinot Noir on this remote rocky slope in coastal Mendocino in 1992. It’s a vineyard with no neighbors or exact peers and the best wines from here are pure energy; a buzz of nervous almost unsettled red fruit. In this 2013, winemaker Andrew Berge captures the vineyard at its best, in fruit that sparks with the electricity of red currants and grapefruit flavor and sandy tannins carrying a beetroot-like earthiness. All of the pieces are held in a propulsive tension.

    Connoisseur's Guide Score: 91

    Although not the most powerful or extracted wine on the Spell Pinot roster, this deep and very vital offering gets it right when
    it comes to vigorous, well-defined varietal fruit, and it is arguably the brightest and most refined of the bunch. It is not lacking in presence, yet is comparatively compact with the kind of careful balance and energy that make for optimistic keeping. While not so constrained by its youth that it cannot be enjoyed early on, it is not half as attractive now as it will be some four to six years hence, and we strongly recommend that it be given a chance to grow into its best. Two Puffs.

    Prince of Pinot Score: 90-91

    13.9% alc., 164 cases, $48. Aged in 100% French oak barrels, 43% new, 28.5% once-used and 28.5% older. Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Shy aromas of cherry, wood fern, and pennyroyal. Juicy, with vibrant red fruits framed by muscular tannins. Much better two days after opening when tasted from an re-corked bottle, showing more harmony and less astringency on the finish. Decant or hold for two years.

    Burghound Score: 89

    This resembles the Alder Springs with its elegant array of various red berry fruit scents that are nuanced by hints of spice, lavender and exotic tea. The palate impression is similar as well with its lilting, lively and almost delicate flavors that retain a lovely sense of delineation that also characterizes the dusty, clean and dry-in-the-best-sense finale that some may find a touch austere. I would again suggest cellaring this for a few years first in the hopes that the presently linear finale will further flesh out.

    2016 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition Silver Medal


    Wine Enthusiast score: 93 Cellar Selection

    This wine is massively fruity and grandly structured without being heavy or overpowering, but it will need time for the firm tannins to mellow. It smells and tastes like pure, concentrated black cherry and feels full of fine-grained tannins and sour-cherry crispness. It will be best after 2020.

    Burghound Score: 90

    An elegant, fresh, cool and airy array is comprised by notes of violet, tea and red pinot scents. Consistent with the elegance of the nose there is a lovely refined mouth feel to the delicious, supple and lilting middle weight flavors that deliver fine length on the dusty and sappy finish that is sneaky long. This is a lovely effort that is not super complex but the delivery and balance are impeccable. I would opt for allowing this a few years of bottle age such that more depth can develop but it is so pretty now that it might be hard to wait.

    Corkscrewer Report score : 95

    A fascinating aspect of anything involving artistic vision is that tastes change over time. Puccini’s opera La Boheme received tepid reviews when it premiered. It’s a Wonderful Life was a box office failure. When folk singer Bob Dylan played his song “Like A Rolling Stone” for the first time in front of a concert audience, they booed him. In the wine world, there was a time, not too long ago, when massive, highly concentrated fruit bombs were all the rage. These days, especially living in an age where everyone is in touch with their inner foodie, consumer tastes in wine are moving towards lighter, less alcohol level and more food friendly. Big and bold wines tend to dominate a meal, whereas lighter and silkier wines act as a companion to a fine meal.

    Here is a Pinot Noir on the lighter side, at 13.9% alcohol, that is so pretty it might as well be Maria in West Side Story singing, “I feel pretty, oh so pretty . . .” Start with the lovely nose of dried rose petals, bright dark cherry, raspberry and Chinese black tea. On the palate it’s all silky, somewhat creamy, texture gliding along to a lengthy, softly tannic, succulent finish. This 2013 SPELL Alder Springs Vineyard Pinot Noir is light on its feet but substantial and evocative. Lively acidity contrasts with vivid and expressive fruit character. Flavor notes weave in and out mellifluously, creating a classic rendition of Mendocino County cool-weather Pinot that gets more memorable with each sip, like a great piece of music that takes a third listen before you fall in love with it. Impeccable balance and control, where no aspect is in excess. Oh, it’s so pretty. –J.M.

    International Wine Report score: 92

    This impressive Pinot Noir begins with bright aromas of red cherry, red raspberry, teaberry and cranberry. This leads to flavors of dill, sage, cran-cherry, pomegranate seed which cascades alongside lovely minerality. (Best 2016-2025) – March, 2016 (OB)

    Connoisseur's Guide Score: 88

    Ever so slightly lighter in fruit than most of its mates and a little showier in its complement of creamy oak, Spell’s Alder Springs bottling makes up in youthful energy and drive for what it may lack in stuffing and is sufficiently deep to evolve for a few years. It is not a big wine, but it shows a trim of evident tannin, and a bit of patience is in order.

    Prince of Pinot Score: 88

    13.9% alc., 126 cases, $48. Dijon 459, 115, 667 and 777, and heritage clones of DRC and Calera. Low-vigor volcanic soils located 12 miles west of the Pacific Ocean. Aged in 100% French oak barrels, 43% new, 14% once-used, and 43% older. Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. Very shy nose, even when check two days after opening. Good attack of fresh cherry and cranberry fruit flavors with a hint of citrus, good cut and balanced tannins, but lacks mid palate intensity and finish.

    Private: 2013 TERRA DE PROMISSIO VINEYARD Sonoma Coast

    Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate score: 90

    The 2013 Pinot Noir Terra de Promissio Vineyard from the Sonoma Coast is a slightly more evolved garnet/ruby color, with more forest floor, spice box and baking spices, plenty of earth, plum and cherry fruit, a slightly deeper texture, more savory richness, and a longer finish. This is an impressive Pinot to drink over the next 5-7 years.

    Burghound Score: 90

    There is a hint of herbal tea sitting atop the otherwise very fresh and again deeply pitched aromas of violet, dark berries and plum. The supple, round and delicious middle weight flavors are quite sleek, indeed this glides across the palate yet the backend tightens up quickly on the dusty and moderately structured finale that also displays a mild hint of austerity. This should repay at least a few years of cellaring and I would opt to hold it for another 5 to 8.

    Sunset Magazine Gold Medal

    Vivid strawberry, blueberry, and cherry fruit takes on an earthy, mushroomy, black-tea nuance.  The flavors linger together on the long, bright finish.

    International Wine Report score: 93

    The 2013 ‘Terra de Promissio Vineyard’ is another fantastic new release wine from this estate. This Sonoma Coast Pinot begins with earthy aromas of forest floor, Shitake mushroom, black cherry and cloves. This leads to flavors of roasted fennel, forest floor, cola and black cherry. Spell has crafted an impressive effort which has an impressive range of profiles. (Best 2016-2027) – March, 2016 (OB)

    The Corkscrewer Report score: 94

    here’s a joy to not knowing. California’s Sonoma County, with its incredible diversity, is a place to be present with a mindset of inviting the unknown. The variety of wineries—from mom & pops to young iconoclasts to established legends and longtime consumer favorites—and the limitless mix and variations of terrain and terroir—from Carneros to the Petaluma Gap, Sonoma Coast, Russian River Valley, Knights Valley, Alexander Valley and Dry Creek Valley—is a kind of “call of the wild” to the willing wine explorer, for you will never know what to expect and what new discovery you might stumble upon just by traveling down any road in the vast county.

    SPELL ESTATE, established in 2007, is one of those under-the-radar wineries that any wine traveler should be overjoyed to stumble upon. Specializing in Pinot Noir, that finickiest of grape varietals, there is an adventurous spirit that’s clearly at work in each of their vineyard-designated bottlings. The winery has a knack for picking little-heard-of vineyards, mostly within Sonoma County, and coaxing out the special nuances of that particular site in the wine. Our favorite Sonoma-based bottling is the Terra de Promissio Vineyard from the Sonoma Coast. The 2013 vintage brought about a richly textured Pinot that is luscious, very fruit-forward, intense and complex. The wine’s mouthfeel is fulsome and velvety, coating the mid-palate with flavor and juiciness. That flavor is ripe strawberry, black raspberry and clove, with a touch of tobacco on the lengthy finish of succulent dark berries. This is a big but balanced Pinot of supreme purity, expressiveness, wholeness and wholesomeness. A real beauty with stately presence.

    The joy of not knowing is experiencing the thrill of realizing how little you know. In the Terra de Promissio, Spell brings about new knowledge of just how much there is to discover in the beautiful regions of Sonoma. –J.M.

    Joe Roberts Score: A-

    Making – and keeping – many seductive, lingering promises.

    Prince of Pinot Score: 92

    14.5% alc., 100 cases, $58. Vineyard is planted to clones 115 and 777 and is located in the Petaluma Gap region of the Sonoma Coast AVA. Primarily 115 with a tiny amount of 777. Aged in 100% French oak barrels, 50% new, 25% once-used and 25% older. Medium reddish purple hue in the glass. Fresh aromas of earthy black fruits. Aggressive attack of dark red and black stone and berry fruits accented with a hint of white pepper and spice. Very suave and definitely earthy, with a pleasing blackberry-infused finish which leaves a hint of heat in its wake.

    2015 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition Gold Medal

    2013 Rosé Vin Gris Sonoma County

    Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar Score: 89

    (made from juice that was bled from the grapes’ must, so not a free-run pink wine): Very pale pink, unlike most examples of saignee rose, which are usually much darker in color. Delicate scents of strawberry, white flowers and dusty minerals, with a white pepper note adding spiciness. Dry and incisive in the palate, offering tangy red fruit flavors and a touch of bitter orange zest. Finishes on a tangy note, with very good persistence and sneaky power. I was surprised to see that this lithe pink wine is carrying 14.2% alcohol. (JR)

    Wine Spectator Score: 89

    10 Refreshing California Wines to Celebrate Spring
    Crisp and zesty, offering a slight pink color and appealing flavors of spicy peach and watermelon. Drink now. 139 cases made. —T.F.

    2013 CHARDONNAY Russian River Valley

    Connoisseer's Guide Score: 88

    Finesse pretty much goes by the wayside here, and extremely ripe, hard-charging fruit becomes the wine’s dominant theme with sweet oak in ample supply. If not quite over the top, this broad and beamy effort is very near to it, but we nonetheless like its concentration and no-holds-barred richness. We also admit that it may be too much of a good thing for some, and it is most definitely one for drinking with dishes demanding the biggest Chardonnays.

    Prince of Pinot Score: 89

    15.0% alc., 98 cases, $38. Sourced from Dutton-Sullivan Vineyard planted in 1982 to a Wente selection of Chardonnay on its own rootstock. Aged in 100% French oak barrels, 25% new, 50% twice-used and 25% older. Moderately light golden yellow color in the glass. Delicate aromas of peach, pineapple and grilled lemon. Rich and luscious on the palate, with appealing flavors of peach, citrus, poached apple and caramel. The alcohol is well integrated, the texture is slightly creamy, and there is some finishing fruit persistence.

  • 2012
    2012 NICHOLE’S BLEND Sonoma County

    Joe Roberts, 1winedude.com score: A-

    Richly textured, with an insanely-likable and generous disposition.

    2012 WEIR VINEYARD Yorkville Highlands

    Joe Roberts, 1winedude.com score: A-

    Time & Patience are required to tend this herb, spice & berry garden.

    Affairs of the Vine - Pinot Noir Shootout Silver Medal

    Female: Strawberry and lime aromas lead to a pleasant palate of strawberry with back notes of mushroom. Lovely! 89
    Male: Ripe plum, black cherry, and smoked meats on the nose and in the mouth. Good depth and length. Balanced. 89

    Wine Enthusiast Score: 91

    Wine Spectator Score: 88

    This is marked by a firm, chunky core of cherry and plum-laced fruit, supported by gripping tannins, with a touch of savory herb and loamy earth. Drink now through 2021. 194 cases made. – JL

    Prince of Pinot Score: 91

    14.3% alc., pH 3.68, TA 0.60, 194 cases, $50. Rochioli and “DRC” selection, Pommard and 2A clones. Aged in 40% new, 25% once used and 35% older French oak barrels. · Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. The nose is initially closed for business, emerging very reluctantly over time in the glass to reveal aromas of Hoison sauce, soy and wet leaves. Mid weight core of luscious black raspberry and plum fruit, supported by balanced tannins, finishing with a thrust of fresh berry joy. When tasted the following day from a previously opened and recorked bottle, the wine had opened up considerably, offering copious fruit and spice aromas and flavors. This wine will require patience and understanding.

    Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar Score: 91

    Brilliant ruby-red. Smoke- and mineral-accented black raspberry and cherry-cola scents, along with a hint of rose oil. Sappy and expansive on the palate, offering bitter cherry and dark berry flavors that become sweeter with air. Shows plenty of heft but comes off energetic and precise, with excellent finishing energy, supple tannins and lingering smokiness. (JR)

    Wine & Spirits Score: 92

    German transplant Andrew Berge sources three selections of pinot noir from Weir Vineyard: Wädenswil and Rochioli, planted in 1991, and a DRC suitcase selection planted in 2000. The wine feels aggressive at first, an inviting waft of forest mushrooms complicated by some volatility and rough, gripping tannins. With air the flavors center themselves around a beam of red fruit, the tannins still brash but conveying a frisky woodland savor. What it lacks in polish, it makes up for in intensity.


    Meritdeth May, Tasting Panel Magazine Score: 95

    Seriously Smitten – The fruit for this tiny-production Pinot is grown east of Petaluma on a rolling hill in the Petaluma Gap, buffeted by cold maritime winds. The elegant red is savory-spicy with aromas of green brush, but softened on the palate with cherry wood. In fact, the wine’s perfume can cast a spell and cause you to believe you are lost in the woods. Nudged by cocoa powder, nutmeg and rose petals bitters on the finish, you awake from the reverie and continue to sip.

    Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Report Score: 91

    Vivid ruby. Pungent, mineral-tinged dark berry and cherry-cola scents are deepened by suggestions of mocha and black cardamom. Sweet black raspberry and floral pastille flavors expand with air and pick up suggestions of smoke and allspice. The spice and cola qualities carry through a clinging finish firmed by youthfully chewy tannins. This wine has a fairly high pH of 3.69 but I don’t detect any undue or unwelcome weight. (JR)

    Joe d'Angelo, International Wine Report Score: 91

    The 2012 Terra de Promissio Vineyard is a ripe, plush offering, made from Dijon 115 clones. This instantly opens with aromas of cherries and plum woven together with sweet spices, floral and a piney character. This possesses a wonderful plush texture with a wonderful touch of underlying acidity as it heads into the soft, round finish. Look to drink this over the next few years as it continues to gain some complexity. (Best 2015-2022) – June, 2015 (JD)

    Prince of Pinot Score: 90

    Moderately dark reddish-purple hue in the glass. Very appealing nose with highly aromatic raspberry coulis scent. Beguiling middleweight flavors of fresh, dark cherries and raspberries, enveloped in submerged tannins, finishing long and generous with zippy acidity. Highly satisfying and easy to drink now.

    Wine Spectator Score: 88

    Intense, with a rich, gutsy core of raspberry and blackberry. Firmly tannic, showing a mix of extracted berry and light cedary oak. Should improve with time. Best from 2015 through 2022. 148 cases made. –JL

    Affairs of the Vine - Pinot Noir Shootout Gold Medal

    Female: Medium ruby in color with a clear rim. Light cedar notes, cinnamon, red and black plum on the nose. Bright plum and cherry entry. Cherry with lovely earthy notes on the palate with violet, vanilla and graham cracker accents on the palate with a smooth but intense finish. 90
    Male: Blood red in color. Cherries and a touch of sweetness on the rich opening with tangy fruit mid-palate. Nicely balanced with a long linear finish. 87


    Joe d'Angelo, International Wine Report Score: 92

    The 2012 Spell Marimar Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir opens with ripe aromas of cherry, black raspberry and plum followed by spices, white pepper, spring floral and loam notes which all come together in this seamless wine. On the palate this has a wonderful rich, velvety texture, with soft round tannins that glide effortlessly into the plush finish. Today this is drinking excellent and should continue to do so for the next few years. (Best 2015-2023)

    Prince of Pinot Score: 90

    Sourced from the Dona Margarita Vineyard located in Freestone. Pommard 4 and Dijon 115 clones. Aged in 40% new, 25% once used and 35% older French oak barrels. · Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Fresh aromas of raspberry tart, cherry glaze and spice. A polished wine with broad flavors of black cherry and red raspberry with an earthy underpinning. The oak is nicely integrated and the tannins are modest and focused. About the same the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. Seems to need more patience.

    Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar Score: 91

    Vivid ruby-red. Sexy, oak-spiced cherry and black raspberry scents are lifted by smoky mineral and Asian spice nuances. Offers palate-staining dark berry and floral pastille flavors that become livelier and more aromatic with aeration. Dusty tannins build slowly on the finish, giving grip to the wine’s plush, sappy fruit.

    Wine Spectator Score: 88

    Tight, dry and tannic, with dried blackberry notes marked by a stemmy edge. A little bottle time should benefit this version. Drink now through 2020. 148 cases made. –JL

    2012 VAN DER KAMP Sonoma Mountain

    Wine Spectator Score: 90

    The aromas of wilted rose, wild berry, spice and lavender are sleek and elegant, restrained and refined, ending with delicate mineral- and earth-laced red berry flavors. Drink now through 2021. 149 cases made –JL

    2012 CHARDONNAY Russian River Valley

    Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar Score: 89

    Hazy, green-tinged gold. Smoke- and mineral-tinged citrus and orchard fruits on the pungent nose. Plush and open-knit on entry, then tighter in the mid-palate, offering bitter pear skin and Meyer lemon flavors and a hint of anise. The smoky quality comes back on the clinging finish, which shows a distinct mineral cast. This bottling weighs in at a full 15% alcohol, which I sense in its texture, not in any undue heat. (JR)

    Wine Spectator Score: 89

    Rich and full-flavored, with candied citrus, green apple, honeydew and white flower scents, ending with a graceful, supple texture. Drink now. 68 cases made. -JL


    Wine Enthusiast Score: 94

    Exotic fruit aromas and concentrated fruit flavors make this full-bodied wine an attention grabber at first sip. They hold the attention through a fine-grained mouthfeel and lingering finish. A focused core of black-currant flavor runs from first wiff to last impression. It needs time, so drink after 2017. Cellar SelectionJG

    Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar Score: 89+

    Brilliant ruby-red. Spicy black raspberry and cherry-cola on the fragrant, mineral-tinged nose. Offers intense dark berry and bitter cherry flavors that become sweeter and smokier with air. The mineral quality comes back strong on the finish, which is firmed by chewy, building tannins. Give this one some decanter time or a few more years of bottle age. (JR)

    Prince of Pinot Score: 89

    14.2% alc., pH 3.75, TA 0.58, 149 cases, $50. Dijon 459, 115, 667 and 777, Calera and “DRC” selections. Aged in 40% new, 25% once used and 35% older French oak barrels. Medium reddish-purple hue in the glass. Pleasant array of aromas including cherry, berry, forest floor and oak spice. Discreetly concentrated but intensely flavored darker red berries and black plums with an earthy bent. The wine offers a generous acid backbone and balanced firm, dry tannins with a smooth texture. Very typical of this vineyard in my experience. About the same the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle.

    Wine Spectator Score: 90

    Exuberant, delivering ripe, vivid blueberry, wild berry and raspberry flavors, with firm acidity and tannins. The clean, lingering aftertaste echoes the core fruitiness. Drink now through 2024. 149 cases made. – JL

    Burghound Score: 91

    A ripe but restrained nose features notes of black cherry, cassis and discreet spice nuances. There is good volume to the impressively vibrant and markedly delicious flavors that possess a velvety mouth feel as well as good mid-palate density before concluding in a complex, balanced and dusty finish. This is really quite attractive and fashioned in a style that will permit it to be enjoyed young yet age well too. Well worth a look as I very much like the depth and this is the best balanced wine in the range. 91/2017+

  • 2011

    Joe Roberts, 1winedude.com score: A-

    Bouncing effortlessly from sweet red berry goodness to herbal bite.

    Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar Score: 92

    Bright ruby-red. Vibrant red berry and cherry aromas are energized by zesty minerality and a touch of fresh rose. Impressively balanced pinot, with energetic red fruit flavors joined by deeper licorice and mocha. Silky tannins are smoothly folded into the fruit, adding shape and cut to the long, sappy finish. (JR)