Willowbrook Cellars was founded in 2001 by Winemaker Joe Otos along with partners John Tracy and John Sillari. Their focus is on Pinot Noir. Specifically they've honed in on Russian River Valley as their primary region for sourcing Pinot Noir. However they look for fruit sources outside of that area that offer unique micro-climates and opportunities to make interesting expressions of Pinot Noir. Today I'll look at two of their current Pinots. Both of them are from outside the Russian River appellation. The 2006 Willowbrook Cellars DuNah Vineyard Pinot Noir is a single vineyard offering. The fruit was sourced from the DuNah Vineyard located in the Sonoma Coast. Fruit from select blocks was used. This offering was aged in French oak. A mere 190 cases of this wine was produced and the suggested retail price is $44.
The DuNah Vineyard Pinot opens with a nose of black cherry and vanilla. The palate is filled with plum, nutmeg spice and classic sour cherry throughout. Good spice, mineral and light truffle notes emerge in the finish accompanied by a bit of cola at the very end. This Pinot has tremendous acidity and nice balance.
This is an example of the style of Pinot Noir I like to sip on my deck while I'm contemplating life. A truly lovely wine made in a classic style.
The second Pinot Noir is also from 2006. The Marin County Pinot Noir was sourced from the northernmost part of Marin County. This selection spent 11 months in French oak. 245 cases of this wine were produced and the suggested retail price is $38.
With only 200 acres in Marin County under vine this wine is a window into what sort of wine can be made from this region. In fact this wine is the first that Willowbrook Cellars has released from this source.
The nose opens with wild raspberry notes along with mushroom and vanilla. In contrast to the DuNah which was ready to go immediately, this offering wants some air. A minimum of 45 minutes in the decanter makes a huge difference. The palate has rhubarb, black raspberry and white pepper notes. Compared to the DuNah the Marin County offering is more tightly knit with darker, slightly sweeter berry fruit. The finish brings on more prominent layers of mushroom and additional dark fruit flavors. It has nice acidity and a firm structure.
Both of these Pinot Noir's from Willowbrook Cellars are laudable efforts. Each is made within a style that strikes me as genuine for Pinot Noir. Choosing amongst them is going to come down to personal preference of course. Those looking for a delicate, gentle approach to Pinot are going to lean toward the DuNah Vineyard offering. Someone preferring a bolder selection with darker fruit and a bit more structure will go for the Marin County Pinot Noir. In each case you're getting an authentic expression of this grape that speaks to the fruit's place of origin.
Joe Otos also makes wine for Owl Ridge. I'll take a look at a couple of their Cabernet Sauvignons in the near future.
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