James MacPhail makes small lots of handcrafted Pinot Noirs from single vineyards in California and Oregon. His winemaking techniques let each vineyard express itself in the wine. In this article, we taste four of his outstanding Pinot Noirs from the Sonoma Coast and Anderson Valley in California. James is also winemaker at Sequana—we reviewed those wines in an article published earlier this year.
The four MacPhail Pinot Noirs we review are made in tiny quantities—less than 300 cases each. They are all crafted following rather similar winemaking regimes consisting of five days of cold maceration and 14 days total cuvaison, the use of natural yeast, 100% destemming, native malo, battonage (lees stirring) , aging in barriques (40 to 50% new) for 11 months, and bottling with no fining or filtering. The grapes are also similar–mainly Dijon clone 115, although a couple of the wines are also blended with small amounts of other Pinot Noir clones.
Although these wines are from different vineyards, they share certain characteristics in common. They are generally quite ripe tasting (less so in the case of the Ferrington Vineyard) with dark cherry fruit and are rich in floral, earth, minerals and cedar nuances. They also share a velvet texture, are round in the mouth, and have soft tannins. That said, these wines all have their own distinctive features which makes tasting them so interesting and satisfying.
The MacPhail Family Wines are still not widely distributed but can be obtained directly from the winery.
MacPhail Family Wines 2009 Pinot Noir Frattey Shams Vineyard Anderson Valley ($49) 91
The Pinot Noir Frattey Shams Vineyard offers spicy red raspberry and plum fruit aromas and flavors with generous oak and earth influences. Aged for 11 months in 100% French oak (40% new) and aged sur lies for 11 months, the wine is mouth filling with a velvet texture and has notes of minerals and toasted oak that come through on the palate towards the finish.
MacPhail Family Wines 2009 Pinot Noir Sangiacomo Vineyard Sonoma Coast ($49) 90
The 2009 Pinot Noir Sangiacomo Vineyard offers aromas of fresh red berries, earth and toasted oak. It is ripe on the palate with flavors of dark cherry and plum fruit and nuances of smoke and underbrush. The wine has soft round tannins and a pleasant finish.
MacPhail Family Wines 2009 Pinot Noir Ferrington Vineyard Anderson Valley ($49) 90+
The Pinot Noir Ferrington Vineyard displays an elegant mouth feel of cranberry and dark cherry fruit. It shows good structure and acidity with lingering notes of garrigue and wild underbrush. Aged in oak for 11 months and kept on the lees the same amount of time, it is well structured albeit one of the more light-boded wines in the series
MacPhail Family Wines 2009 Pinot Noir Wild Cat Vineyard Sonoma Coast ($49) 90
The Pinot Noir Wild Cat Vineyard is medium ruby in color and has a nose of black cherry, white pepper and hints of cedar. It is ripe and mouth filling on the palate showing considerable elegance and vibrancy on the finish.
Mike Potashnik and Don Winkler May 2012