Clouds Rest Estate Vineyards Pinot Noir

Clouds Rest EstateClouds Rest Estate Vineyards is owned by vintner John Saemann who has invested his time and money in pursuit of the Holy Grail of top quality Pinot Noir. Saemann’s vineyard is tiny, consisting of only one and three-quarter acres and is situated at 1,250 ft on Sonoma Mountain just above the coastal fog line. His vineyard is densely planted (about 10,000 vines/acre) on volcanic soils with a variety of Pinot Noir clones.

Clouds Rest Pinot Noirs are crafted by the talented enologist Tony Austin, a UC Davis graduate in enology with extensive experience producing Pinot Noir along the Sonoma Coast (see i-WineReview profile of Tony Austin Blog: December 30, 2008). Clouds Rest is Tony Austin’s most compelling Pinot project. The grapes are handled using minimalist winemaking techniques. The wines are aged for up to 24 months in 50% new French oak and 36 months in bottle before release. Only 600-900 cases of Pinot Noir are produced annually

The three vintages of Clouds Rest Pinot Noirs reviewed here exhibit rich and nuanced red fruit aromas and flavors and reveal excellent balance and acidity. Although similar in style, each vintage reveals different accents and complexities, in part due to differences in growing seasons and bottle age. From our tasting, the two older vintages are the most interesting and show that Clouds Rest wines improve with age.

Clouds Rest Estate Vineyards does not advertise and the wines are only available by mail. They are offered at a rather hefty price, equivalent to that of many fine Burgundies, but they are in the same league in terms of quality. To order call: 707-765-0841. For more information visit:

Clouds Rest 2005 Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast, ($100) 91

The 2005 Clouds Rest Pinot Noir is medium ruby in color and boasts aromas of morello cherry and toast. Soft on the attack, it offers fresh flavors of cherry, raspberry and pomegranate on the palate with peppery and earthy notes. High in acidity, it is razor sharp in focus and has a long lasting finish.

Clouds Rest 2003 Pinot Noir Sonoma ($110) 92

The 2003 Pinot Noir is one of our favorites. Also medium dark ruby, it is pleasantly aromatic with scents of ripe black cherry, loam and toast. It is soft and round on the palate with brambly red fruit flavors, good concentration, moderately high acidity and a long finish.

Clouds Rest 2002 Pinot Noir Sonoma ($120) 93

The 2002 is currently showing the best of the four vintages. Medium ruby, it offers attractive aromas of ripe and spicy red berry fruit and is soft and velvety smooth on the palate. It is beautifully focused with excellent acidity and earthy notes and finishes long.

Mike Potashnik and Don Winkler, June 2009