The Wines of Donum Estate in Los Carneros

Artificial Rock No. 126 by Zhan Wang

Donum Estate is one of the finest producers of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in Los Carneros.   Founded in 2001 by Anne Moeller-Racke, a pioneer in the development of Los Carneros as a wine growing region, Donum Estate is currently owned by Danish investors who have expanded the estate’s vineyard holdings and made noteworthy improvements to the operation, including magnificent landscaping, artwork and sculptures by prominent artists. We last tasted the Donum wines while preparing our report on The Wines of Los Carneros; it’s a real pleasure to taste these fine wines once again. Our reviews follow. 

Donum consists of some 190 acres of which 91 are planted across several estate vineyards in Los Carneros, the Russian River Valley, and a leased vineyard in Anderson Valley. In addition, a new 18-acre vineyard is being planted in 2020-2021 in the hills above the town of Bodega a few miles from the Pacific Ocean in Sonoma County.  Donum’s Pinot Noir vineyards are planted to Dijon and heirloom selections and the Donum Selection, a mainstay Pinot Noir clone. Its Chardonnay is produced from the Wente clone.  The estate currently produces some five thousand cases annually., most of which are distinctive single vineyard bottlings.   Winemaking is in the hands of the talented veteran winemaker, Dan Fishman.  In the early years of Donum Estate, Dan worked under Kenneth Juhasz who also crafted the wines of the Auteur label.  Ken has since served as consulting winemaker.

Donum Pinot Noirs are beautifully crafted, heady ripe wines that exhibit the distinctive characteristics of their vineyard sources.  For the most part, they also share common traits. They are generally dark ruby in color with aromas and flavors of black cherry, raspberry and plum with hints of earthiness.  They reveal silky textures with good acidity and tannin structure with notes of toasty oak.  They are good food wines especially for lamb and a variety of big flavored and savory dishes.

Circle of Animals by Ai WeiWei

The Wines

Donum Estate 2017 Chardonnay Carneros ($65) 92   Medium yellow gold.  A selection of Old Wente Chardonnay, this bottling offers ripe notes of melon, baked apple and peach.  It is soft and expansive in the mouth and flavorful with hints of butterscotch and nuts and tropical yellow fruit. Well balanced considering its high alcohol.  Aged in 100% French oak, 40% new.

Donum Estate 2017 Single Vineyard Pinot Noir Carneros ($85) 91  Dark ruby.   Sourced from the best blocks of the Carneros Estate from the Pommard, Donum Selection, Dijon 667 and Calera clones. An herbal nose of dark fruit flavors with hints of vanilla.  Reveals nice brightness on the attack and good balance with earthy, herbal flavors.  Aged in 70% new French oak.

Donum Estate 2017 Pinot Noir Russian River Valley ($75) 92  Sourced from the Winside Estate Vineyard planted in 1997, this Pinot Noir offers a pure dark red cherry and pomegranate nose. A blend of Dijon and heritage clones, it reveals a lovely, full palate with very rich dense flavors of dark cherry and wood spice. Rich extract on the finish, too.

Donum Estate 2017 Pinot Noir Reserve Russian River Valley ($100) 92  The Pinot Noir Reserve is selection of the best barrels from the Winside Vineyard.  It displays a pure dark red cherry and pomegranate nose, and has a lovely full palate with very rich dense flavors of dark cherry and wood spice. Rich extract on the finish, too.  Aged in 90% new French oak.

Donum Estate 2017 Pinot Noir Mikado Tree Carneros ($100) 92 The Pinot Noir Mikado Tree is the newest addition to the Donum Pinot Noir line-up.  Sourced from low-yielding vines of the Swan clone, it offers red berry fruit with spicy, cedar and kirsch notes on the nose.  It appears to be fresher and brighter than the other Pinot Noirs in the line-up. It has nice rich dark red fruit, wood spice, and lingering rich extract.

Donum Estate 2017 Pinot Noir West Slope Carneros ($125) 93  Dark ruby. Sourced from a small block of the Donum Selection.  Spicy, dark fruited nose showing dark plum and cherry with dense tobacco nuances.  Fresh on the palate with dark, peppery spices. Finishes on a similar note with tobacco and spice. Good rich extract.  Aged in 100% new French oak.
Donum Estate 2017 Pinot Noir White Barn Carneros ($100) 93 Sourced from a block of the Wadenswil clone, the Pinot Noir White Barn displays a red cherry and briar nose.  It has a soft and delicate attack and is mouth filling with a lovely textured palate. Nice flavors with both earthy and fruit notes and a medium finish.  Fermented with some stems.

Donum Estate 2017 Pinot Noir Angel Camp Vineyard Anderson Valley ($125) 93 (Re-tasted)  The 2017 Donum Pinot Noir Angel Camp Vineyard is a big ripe wine offering aromas of spicy pomegranate with notes of soy and smoky underbrush. It has excellent concentration on the palate with dark red fruit married to sweet oak and a lush texture. Somewhat Syrah-like for those who like this style of Pinot Noir.

Donum Estate 2017 Pinot Noir Anderson Valley ($85) 92  Big on the nose. Dark red fruit, cassis and spice aromas. Suave on the attack and plush on the palate. A sensual, sexy wine in texture with good concentration. Finishes with a lot of sweet oak notes.




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