The pursuit of aromatic, elegant, red-fruited Pinot noir led us to the chilly edge of the West Sonoma Coast just 4 miles from the Pacific Ocean. Due to our cool, moderate weather we experience quite a long growing season that allows us to pick fruit that is ripe without the encumbrance of too much sugar (and resulting alcohol), yet retains the refreshing acidity and top noted aromatics that make Pinot noir so engaging.
We grow 35 acres of Pinot noir split in to 20-25 separate blocks based on clonal selection (13 and counting), aspect, elevation (600-775 feet) and various other factors. We pick them individually and vinify 20-25 Pinot noirs each vintage. The three estate blends (Ama, Pomarium and Scallop Shelf) are each a combination of 5-6 clones and blocks and do not represent a specific area of the vineyard but instead are an expression of Pinot noir from the vineyard. We make these blends without knowledge of how many cases of each wine we will produce, how much new oak is involved, or what clones are in which wine. This “blind” process keeps us focused on making the absolute best expression of that blend without any financial or other considerations. Any barrels that do not go into one of the estate wines are blended with wines made from neighboring vineyards to make the Sonoma Coast cuvee. That process is also blind and any remaining barrels are declassified and comprise the Cep Pinot noir.
Growing Pinot noir at Peay
2015 Scallop Shelf Estate Pinot noir, Sonoma Coast
The 2015 vintage created wines of poise, refinement and balance and the 2015 Scallop Shelf is not an exception. In the nose aromas of star anise and potpourri mingle with tarter red berries like lingonberry, Rainier cherry and blood orange. The fore palate is consistent with the nose and the ever-present earthy and forest floor flavors found in our wines frame the fruit. The Scallop Shelf is medium bodied and evolves smoothly as it carries to the back of the mouth with silky tannins present at this stage which encourages aging the wine a few years to soften and allow further cohesion. The finish is clean and quite persistent and overall the wine embodies what we desire from our Pinot noirs; body without weight, lift with ballast, refinement with power. I encourage you to drink a bottle in the first year after receiving it and to open a few bottles every few years to see how it evolves. It should shine and become increasingly more interesting, though more subtle, up to at least 15 years from vintage.
2015 Ama Estate Pinot noir, Sonoma Coast
The 2015 Ama is a masculine Pinot noir combining the refinement found in the Scallop Shelf with the dark fruited rusticity of the Pomarium. More than any other wine we make, this cuveé hits me squarely in the pleasure zone engaging my brain and my belly. The seductive dark cherry nose has elements of Chinese five spice rubbed smoked duck with a cherry compote. It is medium bodied and round with just enough juiciness in the mid-palate to make me reach for another glass. The finish is held together by our signature forest floor/bark flavors and refreshing acidity (lowest pH pinot we made in 2015.) The 2015 Ama is very enjoyable right now and will age well. Try a few bottles upon release and every few years to watch it evolve.
2015 Pomarium Estate Pinot noir, Sonoma Coast
The 2015 Pomarium is a gorgeous wine. Starting in the 2014 vintage Pomarium has emerged as a refined version of its previ- ous self with more nuance and complexity. This wine above all others we make is getting better and better every year by long strides. For those who know the scent, a character in the nose reminds me of Nag Champa incense (oh c’mon, you have been to a Dead show or head shop before, no?) Nag Champa has sandalwood, high tone floral (the champa flower comes from the Magnolia champaca tree) and sweet spice aromas and I think is what people mean when they say a wine has Indian spice aromas. This character is not overpowering but swirls magnificently around the dense core of fruit and fresh blood sitting deep in the aroma. On the palate all of these impressions are even more immediate. The wine is youthful right now and will benefit from a little time in the bottle to soften and integrate. For those of you who attend our wine din- ners, you will see this wine featured often over the coming years as I am saving as much as I can in our library as I think it will be a beauty for years to come.
2015 Savoy Pinot noir, Anderson Valley
This is the most exciting Savoy Pinot noir we have made. One of the special qualities of Savoy is the vineyard’s character is evident across producers and vintages, regardless of which blocks wineries buy, which clones they use in their blend, or what winemaking decisions they make (when they pick, oak use, stem inclusion, etc.) Vanessa clearly makes a more “Peay” styled Savoy that tends to be lighter on its feet and emphasizes nuance but the pleasing cherry and forest floor qualities of the Savoy vineyard still shine, perhaps shine even brighter, in the wine when not over-encumbered by a desire for power.
The 2015 Peay Savoy is vivid in character. The restrained nose has cherry but also cranberry and raspberry fruit aromas bal- lasted by copper and forest floor flavors. The mid palate is medium in weight with a long and persistent finish that is not heavy. It is delicious to drink now and will age for another 5+ years but hardly needs more time in the bottle to impress.
2015 Sonoma Coast Pinot noir, Sonoma Coast
As you know, the Sonoma Coast Pinot noir is made primarily from barrels that do not go into one of the three estate wines (Ama, Pomarium and Scallop Shelf) during the blending process. We have continued to focus on the estate nature of this wine and have reduced outside fruit sources for the 2015 Sonoma Coast to produce a Pinot noir that captures our vineyard’s expression, not just the character of the appellation. As a result, the 2015 Sonoma Coast is very, very appeal- ing. There is an exotic and heady floral and spice nose with musk, sandalwood, cardamom and cedar aromas. The wine is already quite cohesive with a focused progression from the front of the palate, where the fruit is featured, through the mid-palate, for texture, to the long and clean finish. There is a superb balance of fruit, earth, spice and floral notes. The acidity makes it energetic and not overly-weighed down or ponderous. On the finish, light tannins frame the wine and with 1-2 years more in bottle will soften and resolve. There is a lot of class and refinement at this price point.
2014 Peay Vineyards Scallop Shelf Estate Pinot noir, Sonoma Coast
The 2014 Scallop Shelf is quite aromatic with a core of wild berry and strawberry/rhubarb fruit bolstered by crispy pork belly and bay leaf aromas. It is high toned like the 2009 Scallop Shelf with some of the darker anise notes lingering underneath like the 2013. The flavors in the mid-palate are consistent with the aromas. The weight on the palate is medium due to moderate alcohol and the tannins are silky making it approachable now but also able to age for as long as you’d like. The finish has the dried pine needle and earthy quality present in all of our Pinot noirs. I would enjoy a bottle now to gauge it for your own palate and then open the rest over the next 10 years. A superb Scallop Shelf.
2014 Peay Vineyards Ama Estate Pinot noir, Sonoma Coast
Ama was the last of our estate cuvées to emerge from our 35 acres of Pinot noir and, as such, it often got short shrift from me. You think I would know better as the youngest child in my family. Ama needed to find its way, however, and the style bounced around a little as vintages were quite different. Well, in 2014 the Ama Pinot noir has become something very, very exciting. The nose has spicy cherry and toasty notes with a strong blood red orange streak. This Ama has the refinement and elegance found in Scallop Shelf with its own unique expression of our vineyard. There is great acidity as one expects from our vineyard and there is a litheness yet depth of flavor that makes great Pinot noir so compelling. I would drink one now to let your toes dance and then hold the rest of the case to enjoy from time to time over the next 10+ years.
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