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  • Writer's pictureLearys Liquor Cabinet

Risk-taking and resilience produce the perfect Pinot Noir 🍷

For this week's pick our manager, Armando, has chosen

Wayfarer Vineyard Pinot Noir 2017 from Fort Ross-Seaview, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma County, California


Perched above the mist, keeping a watch on the stunning Sonoma Coast and the Pacific Ocean below, Fort Ross Vineyard sits in majesty. In 1988, Lester and Linda Schwartz decided to make this magnificent backdrop home to their first vineyard. It was a precarious business decision, but passion ruled the pocket, and wine lovers are all the better for it.

The Schwartz's purchase was indeed a risk, for academics told them what they dreamed of achieving in this section of virgin forest and grasslands in the elevated coastal crests of the Sonoma coast was impossible. Against all odds, these two risk-takers gambled and won.

Estate History

After experimenting for several years with assorted clones, rootstocks, and trellising systems, they concluded that the property had the potential to grow exceptional Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Told by academics that it was too risky to plant a vineyard on these cool, foggy coastal ridges so close to the Ocean, they were undeterred.

In 1994, after carefully sourcing exceptional heritage clones whose attributes they believed would reveal the terroir and varietal typicity, they began to prepare and plant the first vineyard blocks. Lester and Linda spent many days digging plant holes and planting vines as they meticulously laid out their 53-acre vineyard with roads, underground drainage, and irrigation systems while developing and building a reservoir and designing a custom trellis system.

In tribute to their South African heritage, they sourced Pinotage bud wood from the original founding blocks in that country and became the first private growers to import grapevine cuttings through the Foundation Plant Services that operates alongside the U.C. Davis School of Viticulture and Enology.

Winemaker Notes

This cuvée of 12 Pinot Noir clones, from our estate on the rugged Sonoma Coast, exhibits deep ruby and garnet color in the glass. Aromas of raspberry, strawberry, spiced cherry

pie, and stone fruit mingle with delicate floral notes of rose petal and violet, grounded by hints of forest floor and accented by flinty mineral

notes. Bright raspberry characters on

the palate are balanced by crisp acidity and delicate tannins. Notes of dark chocolate, tamarind, and powdery earth linger on the finish. This elegant wine will continue to develop complexity in the bottle over the next 10 years.

Critical Acclaim

James Suckling

95 Points

This has very complex aromas of primary fruit, wild herbs, blue fruit, and a spicy, meaty edge. Assertive oak meets rich fruit. The palate is impressively pure, supple, and richly flavored with blueberries and cherries. Such concentrated and delicious, darker-fruited pinot here.

Jeb Dunnuck

95 Points

The largest production cuvée based on a mix of clones, the 2017 Pinot Noir Wayfarer Vineyard was mostly destemmed and spent 15 months in 50-60% new French oak. It reveals a bright ruby-tinged color and offers a feminine style in its notes of raspberries, flowers, rose hips, and spice. It's fine, incredibly elegant, has fine tannins, and just glides over the palate.

Wine Enthusiast

94 Points

Smoky oak lies beneath thick tangy red fruit laced in high-toned acidity that takes on a quality of citrus in this bold and beautiful estate wine. Full-bodied, with plenty of power, it displays remarkable grace that contrasts and complements the firm structured tannin.

Robert Parker's

Wine Advocate

93 Points

The 2017 Pinot Noir Wayfarer Vineyard is made from the 11 different clones grown on the property. Medium ruby-purple, features crushed gravel, cranberry, sliced blueberry, rhubarb, moss-covered bark, and stewed black tea leaves with hints of classy new oak. Medium-bodied, it has an intense fruit core with earthy accents, a silky, rounded texture, and a soft frame of grainy tannins. It has juicy freshness and a long finish. This is a full, lush style with satisfying nuance and layering.

Wine Spectator

92 Points

Very creamy, featuring pastry notes to the inky red plum, sandalwood, and dried berry flavors. Mocha latte details show on the rich finish, with medium-grained tannins.

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