Radio Coteau: New Spring Releases 2009

Eric SussmanLast December, Publisher Mike Potashnik visited Radio-Coteau winegrower Eric Sussman at his Russian River Valley winery. After tasting his 2009 Spring releases, all terrific tasting but still in barrel, Mike invited Eric to send the i-WineReview his bottled wines upon release so we could review them for our readers.

Eric Sussman is a talented winemaker who makes high quality, handcrafted wines in small quantities. Born and raised in New York, Eric studied agriculture at Cornell University in the late 1980s. He first learned winemaking in Washington’s Yakima Valley and spent time in Bordeaux at Chateaux Baron Philippe de Rothschild and at Domaine Jacque Prieur in Meursault (Burgundy) in the mid-1990s. Returning to California, Eric first worked at Bonny Doon in Santa Cruz and later became associate winemaker at Dehlinger in Russian River Valley in the late 1990s. Beginning in 2002 Eric launched Radio-Coteau and has gained well-deserved recognition for the quality of his wines.

Eric sources his grapes from low-yielding organic and/or biodynamic vineyards in Western Sonoma County and Anderson Valley. His winemaking is heavily influenced by Burgundian winemaking techniques which involve the use of native yeasts, whole clusters (if ripe), fermentation sur lie, light pressing with a basket press, aging in French oak (up to 50% new) and no fining or filtering. All this takes great patience and as Eric Sussaman says, “Sometimes the hardest thing to do is nothing at all.”

Our tasting of Radio-Coteau’s Spring new releases revealed fresh and elegant wines with purity of fruit and excellent balance. The success of these wines was somewhat unexpected, as the 2007 vintage looked to be problematic. There was cool weather in the spring and fall, warm and humid summer months, and threatening rain throughout the month of September. Fortunately, however, the good weather held until mid-October, allowing the fruit plenty of time to ripen, and the wines turned out beautifully, as the following notes show.

Tasting Notes:

Radio Coteau 2007 Savoy Chardonnay Anderson Valley ($45) 92

This Anderson Valley Chardonnay from the Savoy Vineyard exhibits a medium yellow gold color and offers a lovely, rich leesy nose of honeyed almonds, Asian pear and white flowers. On the palate, it is elegant and creamy with flavors of tropical fruit and melon, light hazelnut, and a touch of butterscotch. It is exceptionally well-balanced with good acidity and boasts a long flavorful finish.

Radio Coteau 2007 La Neblina Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ($42) 92

Dark ruby in color, the La Neblina Pinot Noir, sourced from several Sonoma Coast vineyards, reveals aromas of black cherry fruit with notes of herbs and wood spice. Aged for 16 months in 50% new French oak, the palate is very soft and ripe offering dark red cherry and mulberry fruit, herbal undergrowth, and earth. It is long, sweet and flavorful on the finish and, while drinkable now, will reward patience if aged for an additional year in the bottle.

Radio Coteau 2007 Alberigi Russian River Valley Pinot Noir ($50) 91

Produced from extremely low yields, this medium ruby-garnet Pinot Noir offers aromas of ripe cherry, earth, Asian spice and light toasted oak. It has a fruit-rich palate of pure cherry with notes of wood spice and earthy herbs. A beautifully integrated wine with purity of fruit and a long, ripe finish.

Radio Coteau 2007 Savoy Pinot Noir Anderson Valley ($50) Barrel Sample

When tasted out of barrel last December, the 2007 Savoy Pinot Noir was stunning—“absolutely gorgeous” according to my notes. Sourced from the same Savoy Vineyard that produces such lovely fruit for the Chardonnay, the wine revealed a lovely fresh aromatic character underpinned with ripe black cherry fruit and spice and a lush texture. Only time will tell how this one tastes after some time in the bottle. (MP)

Radio Coteau 2007 Terra Nuema Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ($50) 91

The Terra Nuema is sourced from low-yielding, biodynamic Sonoma Coast vineyards farmed by Benziger winery and exhibits cherry, raspberry and plum aromas with earth, spice and leafy notes. Aged in 60% French oak for 16 months, it displays an inviting palate of ripe and concentrated flavors of black cherry with a dusting of cocoa, youthful acidity and tannic grip on a long finish. Tight now, this wine should evolve nicely in the bottle.

Radio Coteau 2007 Las Colinas Sonoma Coast Syrah ($38) 92

This lovely opaque-purple Syrah (reminiscent of Côte Rotie) is beautifully focused, combining rich aromas of black and blueberry fruit with notes of roasted meats, black pepper and earth. Aged for 16 months in 30% new French oak, it is beautifully balanced with a purity of black currant fruit flavors and notes of bitter chocolate and toasted oak. Still young with ripe firm tannins and a long pure fruit finish.

Mike Potashnik and Don Winkler May 2009