There’s a lot to take in with this mailer. Given tiny quantities, we have decided to release all the Pinots and Chardonnays together this year (10 wines total) to hold on to the mixed two case allocation we’ve been offering the past couple years. The 2015 wines remind me of 2005s in more ways than lack of quantity. There’s a concentration to them that I think is unique to Pinot Noir in that it can only be achieved by naturally occurring low yields. We always talk about weightiness without heaviness and this seems to be the overarching characteristic of the vintage. There is plenty packed into every sip but the concentration doesn’t tire the palate. In this case, the heat of the vintage aided in the development of this quality by creating a shorter growing season and allowing the fruit to retain plenty of its natural acidity. It’s a nice condition to have though I don’t think we’d like to see a repeat in terms of production numbers any time soon. Pinot Noir was off 70% of early season projections and Chardonnay wasn’t far behind. We haven’t had this big of an allocation issue since the 2009 release. What’s being offered here is pretty spectacular, we just wish there was a little more to go around.
2015 Rivers-Marie Chardonnay Sonoma Coast
This is something new for us, a partial malo Chardonnay. Given the inherent richness of the vintage in warmer sites, we decided to block secondary fermentation in a few barrels of Lucky Well and Riddle Vineyard Chardonnays and we really liked the result. The wine has none of the apple-y character associated with full malo blocked whites but instead treads some kind of middle ground between flintiness and reserved tropical and citrus fruit notes. There are little pieces of Joy Road and Thieriot in here too that definitely help with complexity. A small, waxy, lanolin note creeps up in the end framed by lemon peel and a little fruit sweetness contributed by the vintage. This version is dense, more 2013 than 2014, with a completeness that hints at how successful all of our Chardonnay sites were in 2015.
2015 Rivers-Marie Joy Road Vineyard Chardonnay Sonoma Coast
The inherent bigness of the vintage is on full display in this wine. This wine is far more viscous than the Sonoma Coast bottling and also quite a bit longer. It is a firm wine for a white with a little complimentary reduction on the nose and a palate feel that actually has a little grip on the back end. The fruit profile of the site remains more citrus than tropical so it’s the palate weight that hints at the concentration. We did use a little new oak on this wine but it is completely covered by the fruit impact. Hazelnut and brioche notes help fill out the flavor profile to give some cut to the fruit concentrate quality of the vintage. This vineyard always holds a little in reserve so I think like in previous years, the wine will show better at 3-5 years than it will at release.
2015 Rivers-Marie B. Thieriot Vineyard Chardonnay Sonoma Coast
Every few years there is a wine we debate about keeping and drinking all of it ourselves. For 2015, it is the Thieriot Vineyard Chardonnay. This wine possesses all the characteristics we love about both domestic and French Chardonnays. There is mineral, white chocolate, citrus peel, gunpowder, a hint of tropical fruit, roasted nuts, brioche and a touch of salinity. The wine is remarkably consistent from aromatics to finish but it does broaden and concentrate as the experience unfolds. The completeness is really what makes it stand out. Like the Summa Old Vines bottling, I think vine age has something to do with the specialness of this wine every year. We make a lot of wines for a lot of people but I’d be hard pressed to find a three vintage vertical of any wine I have ever made that I like as much as 2013-2015 B. Thieriot Vineyard Chardonnay.
2015 Rivers-Marie Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast
We have sort of run out of things to say about this cuvee. From what we think are great parcels, containing a little bit of almost every vineyard we source from and coming from a great vintage, the 2015 Sonoma Coast Pinot should be on everyone’s radar. This version has a bit more of the red/orange profile than years past giving it a more tensile feel than either the 2012 or 2013. As always it is a good snapshot of the vintage as a whole. In this case it mirrors the single vineyard designates in its freshness, laser focus and abundance of fruit tannin. This is the smallest quantity of appellation Pinot we have produced since 2009 so we expect it will go quickly. As you can see from allocations, we have reduced the number available to each person to 3 bottles to try and spread this wine out as widely as possible.
2015 Rivers-Marie Summa Old Vines Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast
1.25 tons off of 1.75 acres, that’s the metric we keep coming back to. It has happened before but it still always takes us by surprise. Sadly, this isn’t even the lowest yield of the vintage (we will get to the regular Summa note in a minute). Quantity notwithstanding, the quality of the farming here continues to improve under the watchful eye of Ulises Valdez. The color, aromatic and flavor profiles of this bottling are much more intact and filled out at release than they were in years past. Everything in perfect proportion means this wine will drink better earlier than some of the past vintages like 2009 and 2010 which seem to still be searching for their fruit/acid balance. In addition to the normal red/orange profile, this edition has a pine-y, Christmas spice quality that translates as more savory than sweet. The lifted quality in the wine comes from the abundant natural acidity that is tamed nicely by the barely noticeable 100% new oak. Even with some accessibility, I still think this will prove to be one of the longest lived, most complete versions of Summa Old Vine to date.
2015 Rivers-Marie Bearwallow Vineyard Pinot Noir Anderson Valley
We can’t tell you how excited we are to offer this first Bearwallow wine to you. When Kevin Harvey at Rhys wrote to inquire as to whether we might want to buy some fruit from his estate vineyard in Anderson Valley, it took us a few minutes to digest the idea of venturing outside the Sonoma Coast. Once the lunacy of our reservation set in, I immediately emailed him back and told him we’d take everything he’d sell us. This wine comes from one of the blocks Kevin and his team planted after acquiring this parcel in what’s known as the “deep end” of the valley. Our first version is a bruiser. Similar to the Occidental Ridge bottling, there’s plenty of fruit tannin in this wine. The grip comes on early but is buffered quickly by high-toned fruit components of dark cranberry, cherry and pomegranate. There’s a slight smokiness to the palate as well. None of the rusticity of some of the older Pinot plantings in Anderson Valley comes through in the wine but it does have a wild berry, briary quality to the flavor. Not knowing exactly what to expect, I’d say we are elated with this first offering but do believe it will be a wine that needs some cellar time before completely unwinding. I personally like the muscle in this and see a long life ahead for this wine, and hopefully also, our relationship with the team at Rhys as well.
2015 Rivers-Marie Kanzler Vineyard Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast
This will be our last vintage of Kanzler as the family is retaining a little more of their estate fruit to help build their own label. We’ve enjoyed our relationship with the family and their commitment to quality for the past four vintages. This was always a site we’d walk, shrug our shoulders and leave knowing there wasn’t much in the way of adjustment we needed to ask for. In the cellar we’ve continued to up our whole cluster percentage to help balance the abundant dark fruit profile we see from this site. Like last year, the dominant notes are cola and darker cherry and raspberry. Though it is one of our warmer sites, there’s plenty of natural acidity to cut into the generosity of the fruit. This too has an ample amount of fruit tannin, something that appears to be a vintage character. We are sad to see this site go but certainly nice to go out on the best version to date.
2015 Rivers-Marie Summa Vineyard Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast
1 ton off of 3 acres, that might rival the historically low yields we saw in 2005. Walking the vineyard in the summer of 2015, it looked like everything had already been picked with several consecutive vines ripening zero fruit due to the abysmal set. On the positive side (and also similar to 2005), the resulting wine possesses enormous concentration without coming across as heavy or tiresome. The nose is very similar to the Old Vines bottling but with maybe a touch more fruit and a little less savory. The pine needle/forest floor component is there but the red/orange fruit profile sits on top of it making this feel even more accessible than its sister bottling at this stage. This wine is a little deeper at this point but not as broad. As the vines in this block have matured, this bottling has begun to rival the overall quality of the Old Vines. Tasting these side by side today, hard to say which I prefer but happy to be presented with such a pleasant dilemma.
2015 Rivers-Marie Occidental Ridge Vineyard Pinot Sonoma Coast
When I first sat down to write these notes, I purposely cracked both Summas and Occidental Ridge as a trio. Given how strongly the latter has shown the last several years, it certainly has taken its place as one of our most consistently great offerings. All this talk of 2005 makes me think of how well that first vintage for us is still showing. Given its high fruit tannin and natural acidity, we knew it was going to be an ager but we struggled to keep our hands off those first few vintages. It is hard to recall exactly what that 2005 tasted like at this stage but I imagine the 2015 might be even better due to improvements in the vineyard and our greater understanding of working with the fruit from this site. The pennyroyal mint note is there on the nose as usual along with a nice mix of red and black fruits, menthol and some wild herbs. The acidity lends coolness to the aromatic that follows through in the way of a mouthwatering freshness on the palate. In a vintage and site marked by fruit tannin, this already has a nice balance between fruit, acid and structure. This is still one of the wines that will need the most time to come around but hard not to appreciate its power and abundance right now.
2015 Rivers-Marie Silver Eagle Vineyard Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast
Pulling more blocks from Ulises Valdez’s arguably best estate Pinot vineyard has allowed us to become more selective about what makes it into this single vineyard bottling. This edition is focused primarily on VR and Calera clones with most of the 828 landing in the Sonoma Coast bottling. This selectivity plus a few tweaks to the winemaking (most importantly some whole cluster) make this the best Silver Eagle to date. There’s none of the reductiveness of the earlier vintages which allows the darker fruit profile to show through. The savory-ness from the stems and the high natural acidity combine with the inherent power to create the most complete Silver Eagle to date. The flavor profile here is made up of wilder notes, more savory than sweet, featuring smoke, tar, licorice, violets, pomegranate and darker berries.
With 2016, we saw a return to normal for yields in both Napa and Sonoma counties. As usual there were a few changes to the vineyard lineup across all three varietals. We added Platt Vineyard for both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and Herb Lamb Vineyard for Cabernet. We feel these are both super high quality sites, Herb Lamb especially given its historical track record, and we look forward to watching the wines evolve in barrel. This will be somewhat further down the road but we have also entered into a lease agreement with Max and Lexi Thieriot to plant 5 acres of Pinot Noir on their new home site in Freestone. This is an A+ neighborhood with several high profile neighbors littered across the surrounding hillsides. We will have vines in the ground this spring and anxiously await the first fruit from this new vineyard in 2019 or 2020. Since we are offering all the 2015 Chardonnays in this mailer, our summer release will feature only Cabernet Sauvignon based wines for the first time in several years. Early peeks (and press) seem to agree this is another very high quality Cab year. As usual, you’ll see that mailer the third Tuesday in July.
OFFER AND SHIPPING DETAILS
By initially assigning all of our 2015 production to the mailing list, we were able to keep this release at two mixed cases. Shipping for this vintage will remain at $3 a bottle in state, $4 a bottle out of state. We will look to begin shipping early March. If you have any questions, concerns or mag requests please contact Will Segui at email@example.com or by phone at 707-341-3127.
Thanks again for all the support,
Thomas Rivers Brown and Genevieve Marie Welsh