Clarice is a new project by veteran winemaker Adam Lee. Adam and his partner and spouse Dianna Novy who have been crafting wine since the mid-1990s. They created the Siduri label in 1994 under which they produced first-rate Pinot Noirs from a wide variety of vineyards, primarily in Sonoma. For a comprehensive review of Siduri wines (see our Report # 44 The Wines of Sonoma County). In early 2015, Adam and Diana sold their highly successful Siduri Wines and Novy Family Winery to Jackson Family Wines. For the next three years Adam continued making Siduri wines under his sales contract, but in 2019 he launched the Clarice project, while Diana turned to making sparkling wine under the Flaunt label. At Adam’s invitation, we recently reviewed his new wines and the new Flaunt NV Brut. The results are summarized below.
In the Clarice project Adam continues his past practice of crafting Pinot Noirs primarily from finest vineyards in Sonoma County. However, his focus is now on the Santa Lucia Highlands. (SLH) where he had made a few wines for Siduri. The SLH is perhaps under the radar screen of many consumers, but it is in fact one of California’s finest regions for growing Pinot Noir (see our Report #20 The Santa Lucia Highlands). Not surprisingly, Adam has crafted his initial Pinots for Clarice from two of the SLH’s finest vineyards: Mark Pisoni’s Garys’ Vineyard and Gary Franscioni’s Rosella Vineyard. These two growers consistently produce some of the best Pinot Noir grapes from the SLH.
SLH grapes are generally considered “cool climate” in origin, yet they are distinctly riper, spicier and darker fruited than most of the wines of the Sonoma Coast and Russian River. In crafting the Clarice wines, Adam purposely selected grapes (from different parts of the vineyards) that were both ripe and distinctly less ripe, thereby producing wines that are lighter-bodied and more elegant than most SLH Pinot Noirs. At the same time, they are nicely structured and complex owing to the judicious use of whole clusters. Clarice wines are also made following a minimalist winemaking philosophy, fermenting in steel tanks with natural yeast, using only free run juice and only bottling selected barrels.
The Clarice wines are not being sold in retail stores or online. They are only being made available to an exclusive Clarice wine community. The cost to be a “Clarice Family Member” for a one-year subscription is $964.92. The community is limited to 625 members who receive annually in October a case of four bottles of each of three wines priced at $85 each. In addition, they are offered wine education from wine industry leaders and restaurant and travel opportunities. The wine community with its education and other offerings is a new twist on the wine clubs of small wineries that are increasing direct to consumer (DTC) approaches to selling their wine.
Clarice 2017 Pinot Noir Garys’ Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands 93 This Pinot Noir sourced from the highly regarded Garys’ Vineyard offers aromas of dark cherry and pomegranate. It is silky in the mouth with dark fruit, spice and earthy flavors on the palate. 54% whole-cluster fermented, this bottling displays complexity and a delicate touch that is often absence from other Pinot Noirs produced from Garys’ Vineyard.
Clarice 2017 Pinot Noir Rosella’s Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands 93 The 2017 Pinot Noir Rosella’s Vineyard is a bigger and more fruit forward wine than the Pinot Noir Garys’ Vineyard. Almost opaque ruby in color, it offers spicy black cherry fruit flavors with hints of cola and earth. 58% whole cluster fermented, it is mouth filling and leesy in character with firm tannins (firmer than Garys’), good acidity, and a persistent finish. At 14.4% alcohol, it is also a tad higher in alcohol than the Garys’ Vineyard.
Clarice 2017 Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands 94 The Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands is a blend of fruit from Garys’ Vineyard and Rosella’s Vineyard. It exhibits the best of both vineyards and some of the features of each of the separate bottlings., although it is blended primarily from the Rosella Vineyard. It is a strikingly delicious, ripe and seductive offering spicy dark cherry fruit with a medium-weight spicy palate. It is both earthy and savory with a long persistent finish.
Flaunt Brut is produced by Dianna Novy who has a distinguished career as a partner winemaker with husband Adam Lee at Siduri Wines and Novy Family Winery. In 2013 Dianna launched her own project to produce a sparkling wine under the Flaunt Wine Company label. Flaunt’s first release was in 2017 and was crafted from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes sourced from vineyards in Sonoma County following the methode champenoise. It is a noteworthy addition to California sparkling wine.
Flaunt NV Brut ($48) 92 Diana Novy’s new brut is delicious! A blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, it offers aromas of apple, citrus and toasted brioche. It is rich, creamy and full in the mouth with a lovely mousse and tiny tight bubbles. Following three years on the lees, it is sweet-fruited, with concentrated flavors in an elegant format. It’s a pleasure to drink.