Category Archives: Wine Variety

Texas Wine Party!

When the quality of Texas wine is  this incredible The Texas Wineaux has a TEXAS WINE PARTY!

Texas Wine!

My beautiful wife Margie and I love wine. Everyone that even remotely knows us understands this very well!

We were married in France and caught the “Wine Bug” while discovering the most romantic city in the world, Paris France. When we ran out of time and money, we returned to Texas and began the incredible adventure of learning about  wine and the wonders that it brings. Naturally we favored “old world wines” from France, then Italy and Spain. Then after a trip to Napa Valley with a close friend that was a Wine Rep for Glazier, we were thoroughly hooked after tasting the phenomenal wines of Napa and Sonoma Valley.

Wine became a  lifestyle by this time!

Anyone that knows me very well also knows that I am a born and bred Texan! When you grow up in Texas, we study Texas History right along side American History. The people of the Great State of Texas have a pride and love of our state that I have never experienced anywhere in the U.S.

So I have followed the Texas Wine Industry since I first tasted wine in Gruene, Texas in 1981. I do not remember much detail about what the wine tasted like, or who the producers were at that time, because I was primarily a beer drinker. But I do remember it really did not impress me much! It was sweet and red, and my girlfriend liked it. I walked over to the legendary Gruene Hall and got a beer at the “Oldest Dance Hall in Texas”.

Gruene Hall, Oldest Dance Hall in Texas!
Gruene Hall, Oldest Dance Hall in Texas!

Texas Wine production has changed a lot in the last 35 years. It was in it’s infancy back then, and everyone seemed to think Texas had to become ‘the next California’. If you remember, California wine scene was still exploding in popularity after the Judgment of Paris in 1976 where the wines of Napa and Sonoma bested the wines of Bordeaux and Burgundy.

But up until about 10-12 years ago the Texas Wine Industry was still trying to be the next Napa and Sonoma. In other words, they focused on Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot because that is what Americans were buying from California. But the varieties that do so well in Napa and Sonoma don’t necessarily do well in the arid and hot locations of Texas such as the Texas Hill Country AVA or the South Plains AVA near Lubbock. Check out great information here for Texas Wine Industry and Wine Growers in Texas!

Texas Wine has changed dramatically in the last 10 years, and even more great improvements in the last 5 years! The best of the best are no longer heading West to California to grow grapes and produce fine wine. Many have learned that if you grow the right grapes for our hot arid terroir in Texas, you can produce as fine a wine as anywhere in the world! I have become very impressed with the quality, the variety of grapes grown and produced, and the incredible commitment to the craft from the bright new producers that have really changed Texas wine.

Now don’t get me wrong… there is still a ways to go, and there are plenty of Texas wineries that produce simple and sweet wines that have little to offer the true wine aficionado. But trust me when I say that it is not just unique to Texas. I have found simple unimaginative wines in Virginia, Michigan, Arizona, and even  lot’s in California.

I have been excited about sharing my enthusiasm with the true quality of some of my favorite Texas Wines for some time. What better way to spread the word than to gather my wine club the Dallas Wineauxs for a fun Texas Wine theme at my home?

Here are some of the producers that so graciously sent me samples to share my excitement  over Texas Wine quality, and notes of the night:

Pedernales Cellars:  One of the few underground wine producing wineries in the Southwest. Frederik Osterberg is the Co-Founder and President, and David Kuhlken is also a Co-Founder and Winemaker. Pedernales produces a stellar Tempranillo that the variety seems to be perfect  for Texas terrior, and many consider to be the “Official Red Grape of Texas”. They also make a very impressive GSM, but my favorite is the Reserve Viognier which was named the Texas Top Wine and Gold Metal at San Francisco International Wine Competition! Think ripe white peaches, lemon drops, beautiful floral nose, and vibrant acidity that cleans the palate. But don’t forget the Albarino, dry white wine with notes of peach & citrus fruits & perfect acidity.

McPherson Cellars: Kim McPherson is the WInemaker and has a degree in Enology and Viticulture from UC Davis. Kim started his label in 2000 and he and his father “Doc” McPherson have been pioneers in the development of Texas Wine.  The Mourvedre is the star here! Strawberry, raspberry, ripe cherries, and rose petals with elegant structure, and perfect for grilled meats. We also agreed the Les Copains Blanc was one of our favorites. Blend of Rousanne, Viognier, Marsanne, and Picuepul Blanc. Lemony, citrus, honesuckle, clean and refreshing!

Brennan Vineyards: Brennan Vineyards produce some of my personal overall favorite Texas Wines. The winery in in the tiny community of Comanche, Texas and Dr Pat Brennan began planting first vines in 2002. He decided to produce wine soon afterward and hired  Winemaker Todd Webster. Todd has a minimalist approach to his wines  and is incredibly talented. In fact his Reserve Viognier may be my favorite Texas Wine! Dry, full bodied white wine, Honeysuckle, Meyer lemon, white peaches, floral notes, and an incredible limestone minerality that is very reminiscent of the wines I enjoyed in France. But don’t forget the Reds! The 2013 Tempranillo is outstanding. Deep Garnet in your glass, black cherry, black and blue fruits, slightly earthy, medium tannins and delicious.

4.0 Cellars: This is a Winery and Tasting Room in Fredericksburg, TX collaboration of Brennan Vineyards, Lost Oak Winery, and McPherson Cellars. Todd Webster of Brennan Vineyards produced a terrific Mourvedre and sent me a bottle, and was one of the favorites of the night as well! 78% Mourvedre and 22% Ruby Cabernet. Ripe red wine with notes of Smoky meats, root beer, raspberries, blackberry, and slightly earth. I need another bottle Todd! The 4.0 Tasting Room is a must stop when in Fredericksburg.

Wedding Oak Winery: One of the new kids on the block in Texas Wineries, they began producing wine in San Saba in the Hill Country in 2012 but have made a true name for themselves in a very short time with real quality wines. Wedding Oak sources  grapes from the Texas Hill Country and High Plains AVA. One of our favorites of the evening was the Hill Country Sangiovese. Winemaker Penny Adams blends a bit of Tannat and Petite Verdot for structure. Soft palate, ripe black cherry, tart strawberry, and a nice grip of tannins.

Spicewood Vineyards: Spicewood sent several yummy wines to sample, but the favorite was a truly special Rose of Mourvedre that was a big hit! Very light in color, floral on the nose with notes of strawberry, and tropical fruits on the palate. Juicy and vibrant with perfect acidity. This wine begs for BBQ on the patio or pool time! The Temranillo sourced from the High Plains AVA was impressive as well. Juicy red and black fruits, red plums, and med tannins. Ron Yates is the Owner, and President. and Todd Crowell is the Winemaker. His commitment to the great wines of Texas is very evident in his delicious wines.

A great time was had by all, and I want to thank all our close friends and the Dallas Wineauxs for bringing lots of terrific foods to nibble on during the night!

And a HUGE thank you to my beautiful wife Margie for setting a great table!

Texas Wine Party at the Texas Wineaux Home!
Texas Wine Party at the Texas Wineaux Home!

Here are a few pictures from the evening:

Texas Wines
Texas Wines
Wedding Oak Syrah
Wedding Oak Syrah

Video Texas Wine

A big thank you goes out to all the featured wineries for sending samples to share and to share the greatness of TEXAS WINE!

Thank you for reading my ramblings of a Texas Wineaux and check back from time to time for new articles.

Terry Hill

Please leave a comment!

Interview with Jeff Mangahas, Winemaker at Williams-Selyem

Jeff Manghas took over as Winemaker early 2015 at the iconic Williams-Selyem Winery after 3 years as the Assistant Winemaker working under the legendary Bob Cabral.

Jeff Mangahas has big shoes to fill at Williams-Selyem Winery

Because Bob Cabral is a living legend in wine… world wide

In 2007 Wine Enthusiast awarded Bob’s Litton Estate Pinot Noir a perfect 100 points. It is the first Pinot Noir in North America given 100 points by any major wine publication. Then in 2011 he was awarded Winemaker of the Year for 2011 by Wine Enthusiast Magazine. Bob follows fellow past honorees Genevieve Janssens of Robert Mondavi Winery (2010), Scott McLeod of Rubicon Estate & Francis Ford Coppola (2009), Margo Van Staaveren of Chateau St. Jean (2008), Carlo Ferrini of Italy (2007), and Olivier Humbrecht of Domain Zind-Humbrecht, France (2006).

As I said; Big shoes to fill.

Jeff Mangahas joined Williams Selyem from his position as Winemaker at Hartford Court, where he oversaw all aspects of winemaking for the ultra-premium Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Zinfandel producer. Jeff received his Master’s in Enology from UC Davis, in addition to his B.A. in Molecular Biology from the University of Washington. He began his winemaking career as a cellar hand at Artesa Winery prior to becoming the assistant to Dan Goldfield at Dutton Goldfield Winery, digging into the world of cool-climate Pinot wine growing. Then he was on to the role of Winemaker at Hartford Family Winery, specializing in Pinot Noir from Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast appellations.

So when he stepped down as Winemaker at Hartford Court to Assistant Winemaker at Williams-Selyem you had to read between the lines that he was being groomed to take over for Bob Cabral someday.

Not a bad move if you ask me…

So when I sat down to interview Jeff Mangahas back in March 2015, I was excited and curious how the transition and passing of the torch was going. Jeff was very gracious, well spoken, and is a terrific spokesman for this iconic winery.

Jeff and Wife Margie
Jeff and my wife Margie at winery

Terry: Bob Cabral helped define the style that is Williams-Selyem, and in the process achieved legendary status, not only in California but the world. These are big shoes to fill. How will you deviate if any from this style, and how will you make these wines your own?

Jeff: The realility is Burt Williams was the first Winemaker at Williams-Selyem and a lot of his philosophy… and we will take a tour and take a look at the tanks here, but Bert put in place the process that is Williams-Selyem. He sourced the best grapes throughout the Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast, sites of uniqueness, sites that have expressiveness that speak volumes about the process we have here at Williams-Selyem. Bob studied under Burt, and I studied under Bob. So the reality is the process is pretty much identical. Not to say we don’t do things a little bit differently, because we do. But the philosophy stays the same that Burt instituted.

Terry: How long did you work under Bob?

Jeff: I started in 2011, so it was a number of years, three years or so. So this process; down to the barrels and the same cooper, the same house toast that Burt used when he started the winery in 1981. Same barrels that Bob used, and the same barrels that I use today. The fermentation tanks that we use are really very unique. We use these dairy tanks so they are very non traditional. You think of tanks as round, upright tanks. Ours are horizontal and actually used dairy tanks that have the ideal ratio of skin to juice that really allow us to define our style. And whether you go from Burt to Bob to me, it is that wonderful texture which I’m sure you understand. And that is largely due to how we make our wines in these tanks. Most of our wines are in that 13.5 to 13.8% alc range. Coupled with the way that we make the wines, it makes for freshness and acidity that allows for longevity and elegance. There is something about what we do that has a unique texture. I mean I can always pick our wines out of a blind tasting.

Terry: So can I.

Jeff: Exactly, there is a signature to that. So to partly answer the question ‘what have I changed’?  I really haven’t changed anything.

Terry: As my grandfather used to say ‘If it ain’t broke don’t fix it’.

Jeff: Exactly, obviously we as winemakers are always going to have these small differences, but it never deviates from the philosophy of what Burt did.

Terry: Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are the primary varietals of Williams-Selyem, both were originated in Burgundy France. Although the terroir is obvioulsly different, in fact worlds apart. What can you tell me about how the wines of William-Selyem are similar and how are they completely different?

Jeff: It’s kind of a difficult question to answer because obviously the varietals are the same and the spirit of the wines are the same. But the climate is so different, and we make a little bit of zinfandel as well. But mostly pinot noir and a tiny bit of chardonnay. Arguably those two varieties  express the site very well. Obviously we have very different soil types here, more of a sandy kind of loam. In Burgundy it is more of limestone rich. Our heat units are a lot more consistent here in this region. So it is almost impossible to make those comparisons because we are making unique wines, just like they are making unique wines in Burgundy. Or in Oregon, as they are making unique wines because the soils are so different. What I love about what we do is we make 25 different pinot noirs on average, and about 19 of these are vineyard designate. And if one were to taste all those wines side by side you would find transparency in the sight. It is the nature of pinot noir. It translates that sense of place very well. And our wine making style is geared towards highlighting that sense of place in that we do. Everything exactly the same across all vineyard sights and each individual blocks. Same kind of  tanks, same kind of barrels, so when you are tasting the wines the uniqueness and expression of the flavor profile really becomes apparent. It is just hard to compare. The soils are different, the weather is different, more fog here than Burgundy, certainly more than Oregon and that has an impact on preserving acidity. So it’s all pinot noir in spirit. But what everyone has in common with pinot noir is it’s ability to be specific to the sight. I think that is what we all have in common.

Terry: William-Selyem has a rather large portfolio, especially considering your near cult status. Are you making too many wines?

Jeff: I don’t think so, I mean again just being able to go back and taste all the pinot noirs side by side, they are all very unique and different. We are making a small production for each one of those. I think it is great for our customers to have that education level. And we have five different Chardonnays and they seem to enjoy them and continue buying them. So no, I don’t think we are making to many wines.

Terry: As long as the quality is there they will continue buying them.

Jeff: Exactly

Terry: How do you assure such quality across the board? Because you do have a very large portfolio.

Jeff: We have a phenomenal team across the board, both in the cellar and the vineyards.  We work with great Vineyard Managers from all the vineyards we buy from, and our own Vineyard Manager here is great. But to be sure it isn’t easy. There is a lot of hours and a lot of precision work that goes into that. As much as anything as we start the growing season, and the shoots are a couple of inches at this point, I make regular rounds with the Vineyard Managers, and meeting with all to make sure everything is going as it should.

Terry: How often are you in the field?

Jeff: During the growing season definitely almost every day. Depending on my work on this ranch, then going up to Anderson Valley, then up to a vineyard called Ferrington Vineyard and work with that manager, so every day I’m in a different place. And yes, it’s almost overwhelming but keeping tabs on everything is the key.

Terry: Do you plans for a broader release of wines like a cabernet sauvignon or a sparkling?

Jeff: We do already produce a small amount of sparkling to people that visit the winery only. It is not available on the members list. It’s pinot noir, so it is a blanc de noir that we make. We dabbled in blanc de blanc but we settled on the blanc de noir. I want to say our first vintage was 2003, and it’s only 50-100 cases. Nothing on a commercial scale, it is simply to dabble and when we do events. It’s nice to be able to open a sparkling wine to start the evening. Beyond that no, we are not launching sparkling on a bigger scale. As far as the other varieties, this is Russian River, so we try and stay with what grows well here. Other wise we dabbled in a vineyard that has some limestone near Calera that we made a little Chinon Blanc that was very expressive of the sight. 150 cases, again only wines that are available if you visit the winery.

Terry: Kind of like Blue Bell Ice cream in the South; you “drink all you can and sell the rest”?

Jeff: Ha! Exactly!

Terry: Are you married?

Jeff: Yes I am.

Terry: Children?

Jeff: One 8-year old little girl.

Terry: I know the hours and commitment it takes to produce arguably some of the finest pinot noir and other varieties in the entire world has got to be very stressful. How do you balance these incredible responsibilities and still have any personal life?

Jeff: It’s difficult at times, but my wife Crystal is incredible supportive. This is my 15th year making wine and I’ve always been committed to work and have family. I’ve always wanted those two things and I am committed. And it is incredible to have someone that is so supportive. That is how I’ve been so successful in my life is that support at home.

Terry: I know it is more hours at different times of the year, sometimes I am sure  it is 18 hour days. How many hours per week do you typically work?

Jeff: It is really hard to quantify exactly, I pretty much work as much as I need to get the job done. Sometimes its in the winery, or at events or what have you. Sometimes I do travel, but an average day, even when not in harvest, I usually come in at 6:00 and leave at 6:30. There is a lot to do. And if you are going to meet with someone, you have to prepare for the meeting so you just have to do what needs to be done.

Terry: And I know how precious your time is so I really do appreciate this time you are spending with me.

Jeff: You are very welcome, glad to speak to you.

Terry: Jeff, I have a better than average palate with quite a few bottles of wine at the house. I keep so many bottles because I don’t always know what mood I will be in. Often the mood dictates what I will open. That is why I keep such a broad spectrum of wines on hand, from Burgundy to Napa Valley Cabs and lots of French wines, and everything in between. Even though I write about wines, sometimes it just comes down to “what wine makes me smile”. So what wines make you smile?

Jeff: I enjoy drinking our own wines, and we have a large library of older wines. So I have been able to taste through those after they have benefited from age, and I really enjoy those. Wines can often times be a difficult to describe, and sometimes I don’t actually feel like I need to describe them. You just think; oh my gosh this is great and you know you need to sit down and just enjoy it without putting much thought to it. Example of this; a couple of weekends ago I had the opportunity to drink a 1990 Williams-Selyem. It was 24 years old and still vibrant, fresh and I didn’t feel the need to pick it apart or to decide if the balance was perfect. It was just one of those times that I just enjoyed it, and it gave me a lot of pleasure. This was one of those moments. You know I am a student of the wines of the world and have traveled and I am a fan of Champagne. I love Burgundy, and I have tasted a lot of wines in my career, and even before getting into the wine industry.

Terry: Have you worked overseas?

Jeff: No I’ve never worked anywhere but here in Russian River but I feel like I am a student of the wines of the world because I have traveled to Burgundy, I’ve traveled to Italy, I grew up in Washington State and I’ve tried a lot of wines from Washington and Oregon, and obviously throughout California. I appreciate a great bottle of wine and you can almost taste that handcrafted style in the best wines of the world and those are the wines that I crave.

Terry: I’ve heard it takes a lot of beer to make a great wine. Is that true?

Jeff: Ha! Ha! It is! I actually make beer as well. In my off time I enjoy that, so yes that is absolutly true.

Terry: What kind of beer to you enjoy?

Jeff: I enjoy an IPA on occasion, but mostly I enjoy a softer and maltier beer, like red ales and Scottish ales. Slightly less bitter and are fun and interesting. We certainly have Russian River Brewing Company here in Santa Rosa and I enjoy a Blind Pig or a Pliny every now and then.

Terry: Do you get the Pliney the Younger?

Jeff: Ya know, I haven’t done it in many years. It used to be less popular, now it has become so popular but I just can’t stand in line for it for 3-4 hours. And it is great what they have done with making it so popular, but it just gets to the point with work and family there just isn’t enough time. I would rather be playing with my daughter. As fun as it would be to go try the latest vintage of Pliney, I’d rather be playing with my daughter.

Terry: You are very well known in certain circles, and have gained a certain celebrity status because of your job. Can you walk into a restaurant and people not know who you are?

Jeff: Absolutely. Obviously having lived in this community I know a lot of people, but I like that I have a certain unanimity still. It’s all good.

Terry: And finally, anything new and exciting that my readers should know about that will be coming from Williams-Selyem in the coming year?

Jeff: There are a few vineyards that have come on line in 2011, and working with those Vineyard Managers and Growers heavily for the improved quality. We are always looking for opportunities to improve, that’s how you get better for sure. There are a couple of vineyards that I am really excited about, they are performing really well and as the vines get older. We are looking for consistency. The 2014 vintage that we just finished blending, and so far is a phenomenal vintage, so I am definitely looking forward to that. It will be interesting to see how the ’12, ’13 and ’14 vintages; each super high quality, and hopefully the customers will be able to appreciate that it isn’t just a broken record, that it just isn’t this good all the time. There is a real precision that the ’14 wines have that I am really excited about. Unfortunately those wines will not be released until 2016, but that is definitely something that you can look forward to for sure.

Terry: 2011 was a very challenging vintage. Did you see some of your clientele not taking all of their allocation?

Jeff: No we sold out. It was also below average in terms of quantity. We produced less wine produced in that vintage. We had some issues with flowering because of the bad weather that reduced the crops by 1/3. So in a lot of cases we were down in production by 25-30%. So we sold out.

Thank you Jeff!
Thank you Jeff!

As I said, I found Jeff very gracious, intelligent, and a with real passion for what he does. More so; a realization how fortunate he is to have the reins of this incredible bastion of World Class Pinot Noir! He definitely knows the challenges he has in front of him and the legacy he is following with Burt Williams and Bob Cabral, but he knows what he is doing I assure you.

I went in to the interview with a certain amount of skepticalism and left with a sense that Williams-Selyem is in very capable hands. I believe that Jeff will keep this iconic winery producing some of the best Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Zinfandel in the entire world


Talking Wine and theory with Jeff Mangahas
Talking Wine with Jeff Mangahas

And I want to thank Jeff for spending so much time with my wife Margie and I (2-1/2 hours). I understand how precious your time is and I cannot express how much we both appreciate everything you did done for us and more importantly the time spent with us.

Congratulations Jeff Mangahas!

Custom French Oak Barrels $2700 ea!
Custom French Oak Barrels $2700 ea!




My 2015 Williams-Selyem Allotment!
My 2015 Williams-Selyem Allotment!





Thank you for reading the ramblings of Terry Hill, The TEXAS WINEAUX!


Celebrate Sonoma County

Sonoma County has a lot to celebrate. The most obvious is great wine. I am a believer that the most incredible Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Zinfandel in the ENTIRE world come from Sonoma County!

Sonoma Valley Grapevines
Sonoma Valley Grapevines

One of the best perks about what I do here as the Texas Wineaux, is I get invited to many incredible wine events throughout the year. A few years back Sonoma In The City rolled through Dallas promoting the incredible wines of Sonoma County. It was a first class event held at The Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek near downtown Dallas, and sponsored by Sonoma County Winegrowers, Vintners, and Sonoma County Tourism.

It was a open tasting event that featured some of the best wines in Sonoma County including legends such as; Patz & Hall, Ferrari-Carano, J Vineyards, Seghesio, Gary Farrell, MacPahil, Francis Ford Coppola, Jordan, Rodney Strong, Chateau St. Jean, Gundach Bundschu, Martinelli, and Ramey. But what I enjoyed most is tasting some of the not so well known producers such as Papapietro Perry (one of my favorites!), Benovia, Dry Creek Vineyard, and possibly my favorite; Davis Family Vineyards. I was able to taste my way through Sonoma County and celebrate the diversity of the wines.

I have since traveled to Sonoma County several times, and actually visited many of these vintners, wineries, and producers. Some have elaborate wineries and tasting rooms, while others are considered “Boutique Wineries”. This is a fancy word penned by the fine folks that are in charge of selling small wineries wines. Basically it means the wineries production is usually very small, and usually sold to restaurants or to wine club members only. Thus they cannot afford to build big elaborate tasting room. Often the tasting room is  simply a small building on the property and you taste from one of the family members! Other small producers will share a facility with 3-10 other Boutique Wineries. This can be very fun because you can taste several different producers’ wines side by side. One of my favorite spots for this is The Barlow in Sebastopol. You can taste local wine, buy local art, and enjoy local foods all in one location! I would encourage you to stop by next time you are in Sonoma County.

Well, back in early December Sonoma County Tourism partnered with Rodney Strong Vineyards and Davis Bynum to highlight the incredible diversity of Pinot Noir Clones. Once again, the Sonoma County Tourism doesn’t go cheap with the sites, as this wonderful affair was held for the media at the hippest spot in uptown Dallas; the Dragonfly at Hotel ZaZa in Uptown 

I knew it was going to be something special when we walked in and I saw Robert Larsen of Rodney Strong Wine Estates. I had met Robert a few times before at various tasting events including Sonoma In The City Dallas, and he is so witty and funny. Robert is very good at his job and is gifted with incredible communication skills. He can get down and dirty with the ‘wine geeks”  like myself and talk shop with the best of them. But he also has a admirable ability to “not talk over the heads” of the others in the room (media mostly) that might not have quite the so called wine knowledge. Whatever you throw at him he always has the perfect response, smiles, and makes you feel great for asking (“great question” he said more than once).

He was joined by Tim Zahner, the Chief Marketing Officer for Sonoma County Tourism. Tim is very good at his job as well, and keeps the program moving, interesting, and broadened the talk into Sonoma County in general, not just the wonders of wine.

Together they joined forces for one of my favorite and most informative wine events I have attended.

Clone Tasting Seminar Dec '14
Clone Tasting Seminar Dec ’14

We started out with seven glasses of wine, six with the typical  2-oz pours, and one with about 5-oz pour. It was explained by Robert Larsen that all the wines were produced by Robert Bynum and from Russian River, Sonoma County. They were all pinot noir wines made identically (same fermentation, same amount of oak, same vinifcation procedures, etc…), and all fruit was sourced from the same Jane’s Vineyard, but different blocks within the vineyard that are planted to each individual clone. Each of the first six wines was produced with individual clones only, and the final glass was the finished product blended from ALL the wines at different percentages of each clone.

These clones included; Clone 777, Clone 114, Clone 115 Pommard, Wadenville Clone 2A, and Clone 667.

Clone Tasting Seminar
Clone Tasting Seminar

As you can see from the chart above, different clones add different color, aromas, texture, tannins, and acid

Now for the wine geek that I admit to be, this was a fascinating seminar that highlighted the way the different pinot noir clones can taste, smell, and feel in the mouth, simply by blending different clones together. Blending the right clones together for the perfect pinot noir is an art, and should be considered such!

So…what is a clone?

A clone is a group of identical genes, cells, or organisms derived from one single ancestor.

Grapevine clones are those that have been propagated and grown from cuttings from one single “mother vine,” and were found to have an interesting or superior qualities.

Calwineries has a great explanation of why this is important here: Calwineries

Basiclly all 6 of the clone pinot noir were very nice wines on their own, and especially the 777 and the 114 clones were representative (to me) of what comes to my mind when I think “Russian River Pinot Noir”. But the way Davis Bynum winemaker blended the 2012 Jane’s Vineyard together was outstanding (see tasting notes below).

Davis Bynum has been making Pinot Noir in the Russian River valley for over 40 years. In fact, Davis was the first to produce a single vineyard Pinot Noir from RRV. The vintage was 1973, and the grapes were from Joe Rochioli’s now prized vineyard. In 2007 Davis sold to the Klein Family but he stays on as support. Now Davis Bynum is under the infamous Rodney Strong label.

2012 Davis Bynum Jane’s Vineyard Pinot Noir

Profile:  Bright med red in color. Aroma of oak (vanilla), cola, bing cherry, and cocoa. Med light body. In the mouth it is clean, delicate, and fresh, but with definite earthy and slight mushroom notes as well (possibly from clone 115?). Bright Cherry and Cocoa notes seem to change dramaticlly on the tongue, and a nice long oaky finish. This wine retails for $35 and is a strong buy from me. Great Russian River Pinot Noir at sub <$50 is difficult to find.

This is an elegant wine with med tannins and complexity that is the very reason I believe Russian River makes some of the best pinot noir made in the world!

2012 Davis Bynum Jane's Vineyard Pinot Noir
2012 Davis Bynum Jane’s Vineyard Pinot Noir

Well done gentleman, and thank you Sonoma County Tourism, Rodney Strong Wine Estates, and Davis Bynum Winery for this informative and entertaining event!

Thank you for reading my post. I would ask that you please leave a comment with your thoughts.

Terry Hill is the Texas Wineaux!

A blessed Holiday Season to all my Wineauxs!

Santas' Toast to you!
Santas’ Toast to you!

P.S. (Petite Sirah) I lOVE YOU!

Petite Sirah (PS) is incredible as a single variety wine. There I said it…

I know what you are thinking: “This Texas Boy has done wandered too far off the trail”. Well 1st of all that may be a little true on occasion, but let me say my piece before you stop reading further!


This is a real mans red wine. Brash, heart thumping, in your face, tattooed &  Harley-Davidson riding, deep dark devil of a red wine that if you are not prepared will slap you around, steal your lunch money, and leave you crying on the playground like a little boy missing his mommy.

This isn’t a wine for namby pambies that don’t like a big bold red wine. Go open a beaujolais if you don’t like a big wine, because this mamma jamma ain’t kidding around!

While PS can be very tough and tannic on its own, give it some bottle time you will find this black inky, teeth staining wine will tame down yet will still keep that bold, dense black-plum fruits and spicy black pepper that is so enticing.

Most people that have at least a basic knowledge of grapes and wine know that Petite Sirah began in France as a Bordeaux blending grape. PS is mostly used to add structure, tannin, and acids to blends of your favorite red wines, and that is true even today. It is known in many parts of the world as DURIF. While a derivative of the “syrah” grape the berries are much smaller (thus petite) and more intense, acidic, and tannic than its 3rd cousin syrah.

Brilliant winemakers in California began experimenting with this powerful and meaty red grape as a single variety back in the early 70’s.

In fact most of the best Petit Sirah in the world is grown and bottled in California today!

While back in the ’70’s very few winemakers  actually bottled much for retail, most was made in small batches and for themselves and close friends only. It did start a small cult-like following that has grown and there is even a name for the group called PS I Love Youthat has banded together to promote and spread the word about this incredible variety of grape.

If you have never had the pleasure of enjoying a PS as anything but a blending grape, “well son, ya just ain’t lived” as my Grandfather used to say.

For years many winemakers have gone the “ZIN LIKE” way of producing PS, because the grapes have a lot in common. In fact, a lot of foods that pair so well with a Zinfandel will often pair well with a Petite Sirah. These include grilled or BBQ Beef or pork tenderloin, lamb, venison, and Texas red chili.

Petit Sirah Dark as night!
Petit Sirah Dark as night!

But the winemakers I prefer are making the wines more like their Cabernet Sauvignon than their Zinfandel today. A great example of this is Girard Napa Valley Petite Sirah. They sell their PS for $30 and it is one of my favorite red wines…period. It is as dark and inky as you will find in a wine. Notes of blueberry and black fruits jump from the glass!  New oak is evident followed by fresh brewed coffee beans, dark chocolate, and a nice floral tone (lilac or Violet?). Silky smooth on the palate after a few years in the bottle to tame the tannins.

Turley Wine Cellars is one of the top producers, as  most of their vineyards are dedicated to either old vine PS or Zinfandel. They have several vineyard designated PS such as Rattlesnake Ridge, Turley Estate, Library, Hayne, and Pesenti. Larry Turley started Frogs Leap, but sold out and started Turley in 1993. The rest is history. If you are a PS or Zin fan like me you think Larry is WINE GENIUS!

Turley wines are exclusively Mailing List only and it will take about a year before they will even offer you wine typically, but it is worth the wait because Turly makes possibly the best Old Vine Petite Sirah in the world.

I hope you enjoyed the passion I have for this little known grape. Please leave a comment below and let me know your thoughts (good or not so good, it’s all good!).

Terry Hill is the Texas Wineaux