Failla Vineyards - New Pinot Noir Releases

Failla Vineyards

During my trip to California in mid-January, I had the opportunity to visit with Ehren Jordan and taste some of his new Pinot Noir releases. Ehren has been producing some wonderful wines at Turley Wine Cellars, Neyers Vineyards and Failla, which he jointly owns and manages with his wife, Anne-Marie. While Ehren has focused on big reds like Zinfandel, Syrah, and Petite Syrah---many of which the International Wine Review has previously reviewed, he has also been producing some exciting Pinot Noirs. Reviews of recent releases follow.

Failla sources most of its Pinot Noir fruit from vineyards which mainly lie along the Sonoma Coast. Until recently, Failla wines were made at Turley Wine Cellars, but now Ehren and Anee-Marie have their own winery and tasting room in Napa Valley. Ehren’s winemaking regime for Pinot Noir is consistent with those of California’s best Pinot pioneers like Josh Jensen (Calera) and Burt Williams (Williams-Selyem). He harvests fruit in small containers, carefully sorts bunches prior to destemming, uses open top fermenters (3-5 tons) and wild yeasts, and does punch downs of the caps. He transfers the free-run and pressed wine to French barrels, up to 1/3 of which are new.

Here are my tasting notes on Failla Vineyard’s new releases:

Failla 2007 Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast ($34) 90

This delicious Pinot Noir is a blend of young vines from the Hirsch, Keefer and smaller vineyards from which Failla sources fruit. Medium ruby in color, it exhibits aromas of ripe red berry fruit and baking spice and a soft attack with flavors of dark cherries, a touch of new wood and loam. It is also beautifully balanced with good acidity and a firm long lasting finish. Affordable and drinkable now.

Failla 2007 Pinot Noir Keefer Ranch, Russian River Valley ($45) 91

Dark ruby in color, the Keefer Ranch Pinot exhibits aromas of red and black fruit with notes of black pepper. Aged sur lie for 12 months in 1/3 new French oak, it is very ripe (almost “sappy”) but still has terrific natural acidity and good structure. The attack is smooth, and the flavors of black fruit and plum are rich and delicious with tannins completely under control.

Failla 2006 Pinot Noir Peay Vineyard, Sonoma Coast ($48) 92

A Pinot Noir with light and delicate raspberry aromas and a silky textured palate of richly flavored red berry fruit. The fruit is sourced from the Peay Vineyard, an extremely cold and remote site on the north Sonoma Coast. Produced with some ripe whole cluster fruit, the wine is elegant on the palate with soft tannins and a lasting aftertaste.

Failla 2006 Pinot Noir Hirsch Vineyard Sonoma Coast ($65) 93

Not surprisingly, this Pinot Noir-- sourced from one of California’s top cool climate vineyards-- is an outstanding accomplishment. It is a wine that comes closest to some of the best Burgundies, offering ripe high toned cherry and raspberry aromas with hints of mushroom and a silky textured palate of pure red fruit flavors that are simply delicious.

Failla 2006 Pinot Noir Occidental Ridge Sonoma Coast ($60 ) 92

This Pinot displays some of the same red and black fruit traits of the Keefer Ranch Pinot Noir, although this one includes some black pepper and spicy notes on the nose and has an attractive silky palate. It is a bigger wine than the Hirsch Vineyard but also displays beautiful balance and soft round tannins on the finish.

Failla 2006 Pinot Noir Estate Sonoma Coast ($75) 92

The Failla Estate Vineyard is located about 4 miles from the Hirsch Vineyard along the True Sonoma Coast. Its first vintage was in 2006 and this wine was well worth waiting for. Dark ruby in color, it boasts attractive aromas of black and red fruit with notes of pepper. It is soft on the palate with a somewhat earthy character, with attractive long lasting spiciness on the finish.

By Mike Potashnik, February 2009