WesMar Russian River Pinot Noir

WesMar Vineyards WesMar Winery was started in 2000 by husband and wife Kirk Wesley Hubbard and Denise Mary Selyem, both of whom previously worked with Russian River’s famous Williams & Selyem Winery. Their winery is ultra-boutique, consisting of 1500 square feet and no employees. We met Kirk and Denise while dining one evening at the Underwood Bar & Bistro in Graton in Sonoma County, and they promised to send us some of their wines, almost all of which are Pinot Noir. The wines are mainly sold through their mailing list, and they often sell out fast, so go to their website www.wesmarwinery.com if you’re interested in purchasing.

Winemaking at WesMar is very much a hands on, artisanal operation. Fermentation is done in five ton open-top stainless steel milk shipping containers with punch downs done by hand. Between 20 and 40 percent of the fruit is fermented whole cluster, and pressing is done with a bladder press once used for apples. The wines are aged in French oak for 11 months; between 50 and 70 percent of the barrels are new. Winemaking is done by gravity flow, and the wine is not filtered.

While the WesMar Pinot Noirs reflect the terroir of the different vineyards from which they are sourced, there is a house style here of nuanced wines, velvet smooth on the palate with a feminine character, the kind of Pinot Noir we love to drink and that combines well with modern cuisine. This is the first time we’ve tasted these wines. It surely won’t be the last.

WesMar 2007 Pinot Noir Russian River Valley ($35) 89

There’s lovely purity of fruit in this wine from the nose to the finish. Medium light ruby in color, the wine is fruit forward with an attack of red cherries accompanied by a light earth note. The nicely balanced palate shows more pure red fruit and a touch of undergrowth, and it finishes very long.

WesMar 2007 Pinot Noir Balletto Vineyard Sonoma Coast ($40) 90

This medium light ruby colored is more focused than the Russian River Valley wine and has tannins that are a bit firmer. There’s red cherry fruit with vanilla spice and forest floor notes on the nose. The pure red fruit notes carry over to the softly textured palate, finishing with a light bramble-earth note. After a successful petitioning, the TTB recently agreed to extend the Russian River Valley appellation to include the Balletto Vineyard.

WesMar 2007 Pinot Noir Hellenthal Vineyard Sonoma County ($50) 91+

The Hellenthal Vineyard Pinot Noir shows more complexity than the others we tasted. It shows darker red fruit (plum, dark cherries) with uplifting red raspberry and earth notes on the nose; these same characteristics carry over to a superbly balanced and velvet-textured palate along with notes of loam and wood spice. It finishes with delicious lingering flavors. An absolutely beautiful wine! The Hellenthal Vineyard is located in the real Sonoma Coast, just five miles from the Pacific.

Mike Potashnik and Don Winkler