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12 Williams Selyem Pinots 87`-97` & 9 Pinots from others 54`-73`

Posted: Tue Jan 24, 2017 12:26 pm
by Blake Brown
A friend, who had a number of “older” Pinots to open up, along with his lovely winemaker partner, created a fabulous evening in their home to make this an extra special happening.

Fourteen of us enjoyed fantastic food catered from the local Hitching Post Restaurant personally prepared on site by the owners, Frank Ostini [also co-winemaker/ owner for the Hartley-Ostini Hitching Post label] and his wife, Jami and a competent helper. The Ostini`s were also part of the dinner group.

The wines featured 12 Williams Selyem Pinot Noirs from 1987- 1997. These wines were made by Burt Williams who was in attendance along with 6 of the best winemakers in the Santa Barbara County area. Also, there were 9 Pinots from 1954-1973 made by Inglenook, BV, Charles Krug, Hanzell and Martini. We had a great start with 2 champagne roses and an older ABC Chardonnay. The details:

2007 ROEDERER BRUT ROSE- magnum; 66% Pinot Noir, 34% Chardonnay; I was a bit apprehensive as to how good this might be from the vintage bashing I`ve heard, but it only took a brief nose and a small taste to prove me mistaken; this bottle was really good giving up pleasant toasty bright red cherry and red raspberry flavors, having crisp acidity along with an easy medium bodied weight and mouthfeel; it got better in the glass and repeated revisits confirmed it.

NV RUINART BRUT ROSE- our host, his other half and us have had a romance with this exquisite rose for a few years now; it has been a house bubbly for each couple although for us, it had been a couple of months since our last bottle; this picked up the slack much to our delight; the typical abundance of fresh, red fruit with a spicy accent satisfied out olfactory and taste senses; it was rich and full bodied and had some layers of depth to offer more complexity; another great palate prep on top of the Roederer for the Pinot Noirs to follow.

1988 AU BON CLIMAT SANFORD & BENEDICT CHARDONNAY- although this bottle had some oxidized color and notes, the true essence of the amazing bounty of the original product was still evidenced; this one had concentrated pear, apple, stone fruit and citrus notes along with some butterscotch and caramel which was transported in a smooth and lush texture all the way to the back end; still viable and enjoyable and for me a re-visit to one of my favorite all time Chardonnays from this producer.

First flight of 6 WS Pinot Noirs:

1987 WILLIAMS SELYEM SONOMA COUNTY PINOT NOIR- this blend contained some fruit from the little known Barnes Road Vineyard ??? which was never vineyard designated; the color was still free from any effects from age, the nose had really inviting spicy red fruit which continued on in to the taste profile along with some burnt toast, smoke and cola notes; as opposed to a quick hit and out, this just kept getting better and better in the glass; it had a lovely soft texture and enough stuff to stay on at the end; Burt said he was quite surprised at how well this entry level Pinot showed; it was one of my favs of the night as well as other`s.

1988 WILLIAMS SELYEM SONOMA COAST PINOT NOIR- 50% Russian River Valley, 50% Sonoma Coast; the aromatics had some leather, cedar and earthy notes almost suggestive of Brett that gave way to wonderful slightly sweet, lightly spiced red cherry; it was light and easy on the palate and on its own, a pleasant drink and not flawed.

1990 WILLIAMS SELYEM ROCHIOLI VINEYARD PINOT NOIR- Burt had mentioned to me before that this was a strange vintage which followed a few seasons of drought even though there had been some rain in late 1989; as such, he felt this wine didn`t have as much going for it in comparison to all of the consistently great Pinots from this vineyard which was planted in 1969; Burt commented “this was and my best vineyard”; this was a very good wine showing little signs of aging in the color or taste; it gave up wonderful clove enriched cranberry cherry fruit that was a bit briary; this bottle also got better with time and raspberry and red cherry came in late to embellish the experience; this wine was light and easy and silky smooth and preferred by some for WOTN.

1991 WILLIAMS SELYEM OLIVET LANE VINEYARD PIONT NOIR- unfortunately it was corked.

1992 WILLIAMS SELYEM ALLEN VINEYARD PINOT NOIR- amazingly youthful from its dark red purple color on, this bottle was lively, energetic and beautifully balanced; it had delicious spicy red and black fruit notes with black raspberry being most prominent; round and seamless, fantastic mouthfeel and length contributed to the greatness of this wine; my #1 WOTN as I vacillated between this and the 87` when it came to time to declare; a winner among many winners.

1993 WILLIAMS SELYEM RUSSIAN RIVER VALLEY PINOT NOIR- this was a strange bottle for me; after noticing the brown rim around the edge, the nose had a really offensive veggie character, but then the taste would have nothing of it and gave only pure pleasure; it was full bodied and equally full of tasty mature red fruit that just kept unfolding; past mid palate, there was more coming in and hanging on for a grand climax; I kept going back to check if the nose would blow off and it never did even a smidgen; I forgot the nose and drink it.

Second flight of 6 WS Pinot Noirs:

1993 WILLIAMS SELYEM OLIVET LANE VINEYARD PINOT NOIR- this vineyard was first planted in 1973-74; the color was a light to medium red and the nose offered very pleasant spicy red and black cherry fruit; again, the WS wines are hallmarked by wonderful mouthfeel and this one followed suit; a very mellow and graceful wine with enough goodness to please.

1994 WILLIAMS SELYEM SONOMA COAST PINOT NOIR- composed of fruit from the south Sonoma Coast, Hirsch and Summa Vineyards; dark red in color, this still has a youthful vitality and gets off in a big way with a serious dollop of spice and then bright red fruit; more spice builds on more spice, more so than I can ever remember any of the WS wines having although a spicy characteristic was certainly one of the common threads; fresh red fruit stood out as well as the silky soft texture; I loved this bottle and am happy to have some in the cellar as is the case for many of these other gems.

1995 WILLIAMS SELYEM SONOMA COAST PINOT NOIR- with a still youthful medium red color, the aromatics were simply magnificent; again, there was an abundance of cola and spice to support the red raspberry, red cherry and surprisingly some blueberry fruit showed up; it had lovely balance, feel and length; great bottle.

1996 WILLIMAS SELYEM HIRSCH VINEYARD PINOT NOIR- another still youthful wine with so much going on; for me, it was the KIND; it was just perfect in weight, fruit and spice compliments, feel and finish; there was a perfect blend of strawberry, red raspberry and red cherry all easily identified and hanging in there all the way to the back end; the soft and smooth texture added to the enjoyment of the tastiness; definitely, one of my favs on the night and a candidate for WOTN along with the 87` and 92`.

1997 WILLIAMS SELYEM HIRSCH VINEYARD PINOT NOIR- medium dark red color; talc and baking spices accent the red and black cherry with a strong hint of maraschino as well; there was a distinct difference between this and the 96`, both super good and different; this bottle was in beautiful balance, had that classic silky texture and a sustained finish.

1997 WILLIAMS SELYEM SONOMA COUNTY PINOT NOIR- comprised of a healthy percentage of fruit from the stellar Summa Vineyard, the nose on this bottle had an uncharacteristic mustiness that I kept going back to check in to see if it had dissipated and it did not; fortunately there was none in the taste profile which was redolent of fresh and ripe red and black fruit with black cheery most prevalent; my first thought about the mustiness was it was sulfur, but I`ve never had a Brut wine that did and when present, it usually blows off; I remember Burt has mentioned numerous times he used VERY little SO2 if any in his wines so I avoided asking the question and enjoyed the tastiness.

Third flight of 5 assorted aged Pinots:

As with all of the older wines that follow, there is something to be said about the magnificence of these wines in their own right; it just requires one to have greater appreciation for what that translates to and not expect them to be what we are so accustomed to in wines so much younger.

1954 INGLENOOK NAPA VALLEY PINOT NOIR- this vintage marked the 75th anniversary of the winery and was made during the years of John Daniel who during the celebration historically announced the motto, “Pride, not Profit’; this bottle showed its maturity with a quite aged brown purple color as well as almost beyond tertiary dried red and dark fruit accented with coffee and dark chocolate notes; I was proud to have a sip of this wine.

1965 BEAULIEU VINEYARD “BEAUMONT” NAPA VALLEY PINOT NOIR- I`m assuming this was made by the iconic Andre` Tchelistcheff as he did not retire until 1973; this bottle was almost maple in color, had a considerable amount of earthiness along with tertiary flavors of dried prunes and figs.

1965 CHARLES KRUG PETER MONDAVI FAMILY NAPA VALLEY PINOT NOIR- I did not notice the label to see if this came from their vineyards in Carneros, but I suspect it was since that was their primary if not solo source for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in those days; this bottle was quite aged from the color and taste profile which reminded me of a dry version of Welch`s grape juice commonly used for communion when I was a child.

1965 HANZELL VINEYARDS MAYACAMAS MOUNTAINS SONOMA PINOT NOIR- this was the year the Zellerbach family sold their winery to the Day family so I presume it was made by the original owner`s winemaker, Brad Webb; the vines were planted in 1953 using the Martin Ray [Mount Eden] clone; the fruit for this vineyard was first vinified in 1957; it had an impressive nose that suggested anything other than over the hill and out; the fruit was more of dried cranberry cherry with a bit of sweetness; by mid palate, the fruit started to dissipate and within a few minutes, it just disappeared and some funky stuff took over; at least I got an early nice dose.

1966 LOUIS M. MARTINI SPECIAL SELECTION CALIFORNIA MOUNTAIN PINOT NOIR- the nose was mindful of Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel with spice and pepper notes and there was a touch of blueberry present; it would have been a major stretch to call it Pinot Noir in a blind tasting.

Fourth flight of 4 aged Pinots:

1968 BEAULIEU VINEYARDS “BEAUMONT” NAPA VALLEY PINOT NOIR- this bottle had some briary and metallic character that stood out in the aroma as well as the taste; the fruit was more on the wild side with dried blackberry and black raspberry; it finished with more of the metallic notes.

1969 LOUIS M. MARTINI SPECIAL SELECTION CALIFORNIA MOUNTAIN PINOT NOIR- 12% abv.; a better offering than the previous 1966 in that everything is blown up and expanded with an immense amount of aromatics and tastes; decent tertiary plum, black cherry and blackberry fruit stood out.

1969 BEAULIEU VINEYARDS “BEAUMONT” NAPA VALLEY PINOT NOIR- more of the metallic, steely notes are apparent here as with the 68`; also, I got some chocolate, coffee laden dried dark fruit.

1973 CHARLES KRUG PETER MONDAVI FAMILY NAPA VALLEY PINOT NOIR- the youngster of the last 9 wines and it actually had more going for it than most of the others; it still showed its age in the color and taste, but gave up smoke inundated dried black currant, black cherry and cranberry fruit holding on for a longer finish.

This was q super night shared with some of my favorite people on the planet. A few of the other highlights on the evening included great, freshly prepared food, a well thought out table setting, expertly organized tasting, plenty of pours for each and enough good wines to make up for some that were not so great.

There were at least 6 of the 12 bottles of Williams Selyem Pinots that shined ever so brightly and 3 more that on their own would have stood up and been counted in any setting. To have Burt at the table was an added treat and for some of us, it provided a valuable dialogue for education and edification.