The noblest of grapes from the coastal extremes of Sonoma County.
Given how big our Pinot program is relative to our two other varietals, we have the ability to be very selective when determining what goes into the single vineyard wines. This has always made our Sonoma Coast bottling an incredible value given its price to quality relationship. Just like with the appellation Chardonnay, the goal here is zero to little new oak and a fresh fruit character that shows site and varietal first. Juicy and concentrated, this bottling drinks well out of the gate but time has shown it can easily age for 15+ years.
2021 Rivers-Marie Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast
Given the abundance of 2021, we were able to make some hard qualitative cuts and still have plenty of wine to satisfy our single vineyard needs. Whereas the 2019 was exclusively Riddle Vineyard, the 2021 features pieces of Joy Road and Bearwallow and small slivers of Summa and Occidental Ridge. This returns it more to an insight into the Occidental coast as a whole though it does skew stylistically toward the northeastern corner of that area. As I’m tasting this, it feels like a wine that will need a few years to fully open which could be a difficult trait for an appellation wine. We’ve never made this wine to be a lesser wine than the vineyard designates though. Our approach in the vineyard and winery is the same for all the lots that comprise a vintage. I think because of this, all the vintages of this bottling taste a bit differently. The 2021 leads with a medium plus color and a flavor profile featuring pomegranates, ground herbs, plum and black cherry. Smoke, loamy earth and spring flowers add a savory note to balance the fruit. There are some chewy tannins on the finish which reminds me of the 2013 and 2016. As usual there is very little new oak on this wine so the structure here is more fruit tannin than barrel.
2019 Rivers-Marie Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast
This is the first offering of our Sonoma Coast bottling exclusively from Riddle Vineyard. As we continue to grab more and more of this vineyard, the ability to craft a standalone wine has become pretty simple. We use a little bit of every clone from the site and position those components to complement each other. The Mount Eden is picked early to add elegance and aromatic finesse, the 828 fills the mid-palate with sweet red and black fruit and the Pommard provides the structure that frames the finish. The wine is tightly packed with a little nervous energy and some zippy acidity to add freshness. The fruit mix moves from black back to red as the high-toned notes kick in. The savory components come up in the finish with licorice and gravelly earth, all with a floral top note.
2018 Rivers-Marie Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast
As Riddle Vineyard goes, so goes this wine. With maturity this site has taken on a lot more density at much lower brix levels. Not only do we feel that provides a more accurate snapshot of Sonoma Coast but it also reflects the general development of the region. It wasn’t that long ago that every wine felt like it featured new vines freshly cultivated and variable in quality due to the challenges the coast provides. Now we feel we are routinely dealing with 15, 20, and 30 year old vineyards, young by old world standards of course, but stable and mature in this area. Riddle is a perfect example of this maturation. The wine is more concentrated without being heavy or tiresome. The fruit profile is varied, running from red to purple to black with an intense perfume that in younger years had to be pulled out with bottle age. In this vintage, tannins are abundant but ripe and round helped by small additions of most of the single vineyards.
2017 Rivers-Marie Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast
With such a strong vintage for quality and quantity, we were able to be incredibly selective in 2017. There is a piece of every single vineyard designate site in this wine. The base is still Riddle Vineyard, located in a warmer northeastern corner of Occidental, complemented here by young vines from Summa, some clone 667 from Occidental Ridge, clone 828 from Silver Eagle and one used barrel of Platt. This blend gives a great insight into what the vintage provided on the true Sonoma Coast. Riddle is naturally red fruited so this wine comes across as a little more accessible than the more brooding 2016 version. Plum, mineral laced red fruit and mint jump out first balanced by a mouthwatering acidity that comes in a little earlier than normal.
2016 Rivers-Marie Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast
This is a bit darker than previous editions. I’d attribute this to a lower natural pH in the wine which allowed us to extract and stabilize more color. The vineyard blend here is changed as well with the addition of some Platt Vineyard fruit. 2016 being the first year we bought grapes from this esteemed site in Freestone, it may take us a couple years to best understand how to make it so we’ve added it here to preserve our one shot at a first impression. To this, we’ve added three clones from the Riddle Ranch off of Stoetz Lane in Occidental and some clone 828 from Silver Eagle, also in the town of Occidental. The broody character of Freestone marries well with the more fruit forward character of these two warmer Occidental sites. The dominant fruit here is pomegranate which provides both a concentrated and fresh fruit character. The freshness cuts some of the weight of the wine without making the wine come across as lean or angular. As usual, this appellation bottling provides a lot of good early drinking opportunity at a price that doesn’t elicit regret once the cork is pulled.
Silver Eagle Vineyard
The introduction to this site kicked off our relationship with the amazing Valdez family. We’ve moved around a bit in this vineyard over the years but the meticulous farming has always remained a constant here. Early to harvest, this is usually the most forward wine in the single vineyard lineup. Black fruited and juicy by nature, a little whole cluster addition starting in 2012 has given this wine more texture and completeness in recent years.
2021 Rivers-Marie Silver Eagle Vineyard Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast
Silver Eagle was the only site for us that came in light in 2021 at just under 2 tons per acre. It is one of our earlier vineyards so there’s a chance it flowered in a period of erratic weather at the very beginning of the bloom cycle. We knew it was light from first glimpse seeing nice, open clusters and small berries. What this also meant in a warmer, drier harvest was an earlier than normal pick. All three of our blocks at Silver Eagle came in on August 30th, a full 10 days before we picked anything else. The wine is incredibly concentrated, not unusual for this vineyard, but there’s a fruit purity that stands out making this instantly recognizable as Silver Eagle. The spectrum runs from deep red to purple fruits with elements of plum, sweet black cherry, pomegranates and black raspberries. We went a little higher on the whole cluster percentage in 2021 to help balance the concentration and add some mid-palate texture and aromatic pop. Even at 20% though, it’s hardly noticeable through all the palate weight. Somewhere deep down I’m sure there’s impact. The wine’s trajectory stays very focused and the mid-palate has a savory, textural component that adds smoke, graphite, mint, orange peel, lavender and spice to the framing tannins on the finish.
2019 Rivers-Marie Silver Eagle Vineyard Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast
I love it when we achieve that backward, brooding Burgundian funk on the nose of our Pinots. Like the green tint in young Chardonnays, it is a sign of minimal handling, a quality which means all the youthful potential of a wine is perfectly preserved in bottle. One way we achieve this with Silver Eagle is through the addition of 10-15% whole cluster. I’m not sure if that’s the trait that aligns it with Occidental Ridge but they feel like companion wines in 2019. That little extra bit of structure and aromatic intrigue cuts through the primary fruit character inherent in the site. It broadens the entire experience of the wine. We have also been cutting back on the new oak percentage here landing at around 15% the last two vintages. The fruit profile here is blue, red and black packed with sweet red cherries, black raspberries and plum. There’s also a savory tilt toward gunpowder, dried herbs and mint. Like previous years, this wine will take a few years to unknit and I definitely think its best years are ahead of it. The cool, blue-fruited texture here lays on the palate for a full minute creating a very unique Pinot in 2019.
2018 Rivers-Marie Silver Eagle Vineyard Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast
With a line up of Calera, VR and Swan clones, Silver Eagle now has a firmer, less fruit forward character than years past. The addition of 15% whole cluster in this vintage also makes this the most structured wine in the line up. The wine leads with a savory edge of tobacco, grilled nuts and dried flowers. Sweet red cherries, plum, licorice, leather and spice dominate the palate. There’s only 10% new oak here so the character of the vineyard in this vintage really shines through. We’ve been at it here since 2009 and feel extremely fortunate to be presenting our 10th edition of this site from Ulises Valdez and his family.
2017 Rivers-Marie Silver Eagle Vineyard Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast
We noticed a real shift in quality for this bottling in 2016. This new edition takes things up another notch with the addition of some Swan clone and the declassifying of all the clone 828 into the Sonoma Coast. There’s a refined element to the wine that wasn’t in the early versions and we appear to have solved some of the reduction issues with the inclusion of 15% whole cluster. Coming from a warmer spot in Occidental, this still features the darkest fruit profile of all the bottlings but balanced by the high natural acidity of the vintage. This new clonal mix provides a lighter palate impact without sacrificing any of the density of the experience. Black cherry, cola, mint and wild herbs run from start to finish in this wine making it a good candidate to be the early drinker in the line up. We do however expect the stuffing in this wine to help with aging, the 2009 is just now entering its mature drinking window.
2016 Rivers-Marie Silver Eagle Vineyard Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast
This bottling just keeps getting better. Being more selective with the blocks we use and slowly refining our winemaking, the wine has retained its warmer climate weight while getting more focused and losing its early reductive note. The whole cluster percentage has been bumped up closer to 20% to add some savory-ness and balance to the exuberant fruit character of the site. Black cherry, black tea and smoke dominate the palate with a small stem added herbal character creeping in on the finish. This carries a lot of primary fruit still which I think lends itself to cellaring. Sometimes in the wine world this is a little counter intuitive (aging fruit forward wines as opposed to structured wines) but in this case I think it will bring out much more complexity and balance over time. A recent bottle of our first ever Silver Eagle bottling, the 2009, bore this out with the wine showing nice tertiary herbal notes and a refreshing lightness that wasn’t there at bottling.
Occidental Ridge Vineyard
Our co-flagship site just east of the town of Occidental has been a staple in our line up since 2005. Planted in 1998 to three different Dijon clones, Occidental Ridge always features the lowest pH and highest amount of fruit tannin each year. There’s also a pennyroyal mint aromatic that makes up a significant part of the unique signature of the wine. This wine ages very slowly given structure and acidity making it one for the cellar for the first few years of its life in bottle.
2021 Rivers-Marie Occidental Ridge Vineyard Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast
I feel like this is entering Summa territory where we have run out of original ways to describe the greatness of this site. Somehow this manages to be one of the most generous wines in the lineup every year while also having the greatest aging potential. Our last bottle of the inaugural 2005, consumed two months ago, tasted like it was two years old. As much as we talk about the acidity on the far west coast, this site slightly inland from the town of Occidental always has the lowest pH at harvest. In looking at the three individual Dijon clones, pick pHs ranged from 3.31 to 3.43, even with brix levels of 23 to 24.4. I’ve never understood how this happens but have always been thankful for what it contributes to the finished wine, a wine with great pliancy that retains a firm, textured mid-palate with a mouthwatering finish. Our goal is always weightiness without heaviness and no wine speaks to that every year like Occidental Ridge. Black raspberries, black cherries, pennyroyal mint, sage and underbrush dominate the nose and palate finishing with a healthy dollop of fruit tannin which seems to be a theme this vintage but also a quality this site imparts every year.
2019 Rivers-Marie Occidental Ridge Vineyard Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast
Every vintage I have a personal favorite in each varietal’s line up. Without question in 2019, it is the Occidental Ridge. It certainly has to do with how much I enjoy the wine but also the memories of the growing season at this particular site, the several walks throughout the year and the fermentation cycle all contribute to the details behind the pick. One of the usual contributors to this annual contest is how well the full potential of the raw material is captured in the finished wine. We find ourselves too often looking for the flaws in what we make, it’s what motivates us to improve our farming and winemaking every year. Here though, we allow ourselves to simply enjoy the wine for how good it is and give ourselves the slightest pat on the back before getting back to the small tweaks we seek to implement after another year under our belts. Completeness has a lot to do with our enjoyment of this vintage of Occidental Ridge, there are no holes in the experience even at this young age. Drinking this wine is a densely packed experience. The tannins never overwhelm the fruit, the acidity keeps the wine mouthwateringly fresh and the aromatics sing at first sniff. We’ve talked about this site as the co-flagship of the Rivers-Marie Pinot line-up and this edition of Occidental Ridge only reaffirms that.
2018 Rivers-Marie Occidental Ridge Vineyard Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast
This feels like an anniversary themed mailer as this vintage represents Summa Old turning 40 and Summa and Occidental Ridge turning 20. This past year I’ve been thinking a lot about how the next generation will routinely be working with 50-70 year old Pinot and Chardonnay vineyards throughout Sonoma Coast. I have to admit that makes me a little jealous as I do believe vine age makes a tremendous difference with those two varietals. We are just beginning to see it with Occidental Ridge and the regular Summa bottlings as the consistent excellence of these two sites shines through in diverse vintages. Occidental Ridge in particular continues to ratchet up its intensity level while preserving the cool fresh fruit character and naturally high acidity that has become its hallmarks. There’s more of everything here but all in equal proportion. Pennyroyal mint and pine needles contribute a savory edge to complement the mostly black fruits of the vintage. There is once again a 10% whole cluster addition that adds texture and cut to the mid-palate.
2017 Rivers-Marie Occidental Ridge Vineyard Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast
Writing this note is beginning to feel like writing the Summa Old Vines note. We have kind of run out of original things to say about the wine. This has been a consistently great site since we started with it in 2005. The color here is almost as saturated as Platt. Dark red berries, menthol, smoke, pennyroyal mint and violets provide the initial aromatic impression. The always low natural pH gives this wine a lightness that belies its initial intensity. We started using a little whole cluster in 2012 to cut into some of the candied mid-palate we perceived in the early vintages and here it not only provides cut but also texture. The mouthfeel takes on a tactile quality that balances the darker fruits that emerge on the finish. Abundant fruit tannin once again provides the structure and this wine, like the Platt, will take a few years in the cellar to reach full potential.
2016 Rivers-Marie Occidental Ridge Vineyard Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast
This has joined the Summa bottlings as a flagship wine for us. Like those wines, we’ve kind of run out of things to say about it. This once again has the most fruit tannin of all the 2016 wines. The consistency of this vineyard continues to amaze us. The nose and palate is full once again of baking spice, pennyroyal mint, pine needles and red and black fruits. The abundant natural acidity adds a mouthwatering freshness that keeps the wine light without cutting into its concentration. The 10% whole cluster provides balance and a nice lift to the mid-palate. We’ve been making a concerted effort to try back vintages of all our wines the last few months and we’ve been amazed how well all vintages of Occidental Ridge have held up. The 2016 edition should continue this trajectory with a wine that drinks well now but has at least 15 years of cellaring ahead of it.
Where it all started in 2002. Summa holds a storied place in the young history of the Sonoma Coast, connected to other great Pinot sites throughout Sonoma County due to its early inclusion in the original Williams-Selyem line up. This bottling represents the second generation of Pinot here, coming from a massale selection planted in 1998. Its red/orange fruit signature is a telltale sign when tasting Summa blind. It’s as much savory as fruity especially as it ages. This “normal” bottling has crept quietly toward the qualitative level of its old vine sibling.
2021 Rivers-Marie Summa Vineyard Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast
For me this forms a solid trinity with vintages 2012 and 2018, three years that featured abundant set out on the coast but came in fully developed due to long hang time and near perfect growing seasons. More so than even the other early fully formed wines in 2021, you could drink the regular Summa Vineyard from fermenter. There’s never been a sharp edge to this wine. Instead, time in barrel has added more energy and structure to the wine, allowing it to tighten up, focus and turn slightly reductive as we prepare to rack it for bottling. We always talk about making these wines as naturally as possible and the ultimate goal of that philosophy is allowing wines to find their center. This can take many forms, most involve taking an unpolished lot and letting it sort out its angular early stages. Very occasionally the center exists in the exact opposite direction when you have a wine so thoroughly developed as raw material, you want it to find some rough edges to add character and complexity. This is the case with the 2021 Summa Vineyard. The fruit spectrum veers from red to black to blue, reserving most of the orange elements for the Old Vines bottling. The palate is packed with higher toned elements of red cherries, redcurrants, kirsch and raspberries. The traditional savory features kick in early adding mint, rose petal and a crushed stone minerality. The tannins are very fine grained but still add a crunchiness to the red fruits creating an additional mouthwatering element to the finish.
2019 Rivers-Marie Summa Vineyard Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast
When I cracked this wine to write a tasting note, I poured a glass and walked away to grab my laptop and start jotting down thoughts about the 2019 vintage. Finally ready to write, I took a quick first sniff and was convinced I had mistakenly opened a Summa Old Vines given the aromatic intensity. It brought a smile to my face to grab the bottle and see that it was as originally intended, my first bottle of the regular 2019 Summa Vineyard bottling. This speaks to just how far this bottling has come over the last 5 years. It has narrowed the gap to an almost imperceptible margin when compared to the Old Vines version. The difference has manifested itself on the nose and on the broadness of the palate. This bottling has added some of the savory characteristics of its elder sibling while retaining the deep, rich core that differentiated it in the past. There’s the classic Summa orange/red fruit profile that runs throughout the wine but it’s now joined by pine needles, cut hay and sage. A sanguine note also comes out on the end adding a coastal salinity to the palate. The only thing this wine lacks in comparison is the ethereal quality of the Old Vines, something only time can contribute.
2018 Rivers-Marie Summa Vineyard Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast
I felt like this was the most complete wine in the lineup at bottling and that continues to be the case today. At 20 years of vine age, there is no longer an impression of this being the baby Summa bottling. Better farming and vine maturity have eliminated all the holes found in previous editions of this wine. It has also provided nuance that makes this wine more and more similar to its Old Vines sibling every year. This once again is richer and a little deeper than that wine but it is beginning to catch up on the ethereal side of things. There’s a lightness that cuts into the richness which provides a mouth-watering freshness to the palate. Red fruits, citrus peel, cut hay, sandalwood and clove complete the experience.
2017 Rivers-Marie Summa Vineyard Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast
The palate here is usually very deep compared to the Old Vines broad, initial appeal. With vine age, this wine is getting a little closer to its older sibling every year. It is still a more generous wine at release given its core of red fruit but all of the Old Vines elements are creeping into the palate. A savory edge has emerged the last few years that we think will only intensify with time. For all the dark cherry and plum, there are equal parts mint, licorice and pine resin. This bottling is still a more immediate drinker than Summa Old Vines but now at 20 years of vine age, the profile gap is closing. With more normal yields in 2017, we also were able to be more selective. Even so, we are happy to be able to actually offer some quantity of this wine to you. Most years, Mother Nature isn't so kind.
2016 Rivers-Marie Summa Vineyard Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast
It’s nice to have a reasonable quantity of this wine again. With increased vine age, the regular Summa has taken on increased seriousness over the past few vintages. As the block creeps up on twenty years of age, it grows closer in character to the Old Vines bottling. It still is a bit deeper than that wine but it has become less linear and more broad at release. It may still not have the ethereal character of its sibling bottling but everything else is there: red/orange fruit, forest floor, clove, cut hay and sandalwood. Given the extreme location of this site, the fruit always has the thickest skins of all the vineyards we work with. The structure here is definitely a direct result of this site condition. This, like the Old Vines, sees more oak than the other single vineyard wines to help round out some of its youthful, angular nature. The crop level in 2016 allowed us to hang the block out a little longer then we could in 2015 producing what might be the most complete wine in the lineup.
Summa Old Vines Vineyard
The crown jewel of Rivers-Marie across all varietals, the 550 vine block at Summa planted in 1978 represents everything we love about the wine business. The combination of history, ultimate quality and unique character make for the most distinctive Pinot Noir on the Sonoma Coast. When people talk of new world wines, the depth of fruit is commonly mentioned but this is always a wine of breadth and great intellectual interest.
2021 Rivers-Marie Summa Old Vines Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast
Nostalgia can be a paralyzing trait. As much as we love some of the older vintages of this wine, the current run is just better. I’m not exactly sure where to start that period but based on recent tastings, 2015 is a good jumping off point. All farming practices at Summa are now done with the express purpose of improving the finished wine. That wasn’t always the case when the vineyard was farmed to sell fruit or the transition phase during the early years of our ownership where the focus was on restoring the vineyard to full health. As much as we pine for the earlier, simpler days (when both the SKU count and corresponding mailer were shorter), this site needed changes to achieve what we’ve seen the last few vintages. The new practices include pruning individual vines based on last year’s brush weight, minimal tilling, zero herbicides and dry farming. We feel these have contributed a completeness to the Summa Old Vines bottlings that was lacking in early years. Those years needed bottle age to find balance. These newer iterations feel fully realized even early on in barrel showcasing greater color density, deeper mid-palates and more generous, kaleidoscopic finishes. We keep thinking we’ve seen the qualitative zenith in this bottling in each previous vintage but then along comes 2021.
2019 Rivers-Marie Summa Old Vines Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast
I’ve been writing notes for this mailer in pairs the last few nights. I have a case box with a bottle of each wine standing up waiting to be popped. It’s been amazing how the random drawing of wines has led me to perfectly appropriate vineyard pairings each evening. Tonight, it’s Platt and Summa Old Vines, the two most intense bottlings in the lineup. Though they translate very differently once finished, both sit at the extremes of what’s possible on the Sonoma Coast. I love the color of this Summa Old bottling, it’s decidedly red but so transparent and translucent. Its appearance would suggest a light wine but the palate experience is incredibly firm. We’ve talked about the aromatic fireworks in this wine for 17 vintages now, veering from candied orange peel to sweet red fruits to deep into the savory elements of a complex Pinot Noir, sandalwood, sous bois, pine needles, cut hay, mint and camphor. The wine smells dense at its core but the expansive aromatics keep it light and refreshing. The palate experience is very broad and again there’s an amazing weight that doesn’t come across as heavy or tiresome. This is a wine to cellar for sure but I can’t help but taking a lot of pleasure in popping and drinking this tonight.
2018 Rivers-Marie Summa Old Vines Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast
I could write a note on the aromatics alone for this wine. It literally features every aromatic descriptor we have ever used for this bottling: sandalwood, pine needles, black tea, orange peel, forest floor, pomegranate, violets and crushed rock. That’s a lot to take in on just the nose. The palate is its normal backwards self, another edition that will best be enjoyed with at least 5 years in the cellar. At 40 years old, the vineyard is still improving producing much more consistent wines even in more challenging climatic conditions. We have been replacing underproducing vines in this block every year since 2015 and have every intention of preserving this coastal jewel. There are occasional vintages where another bottling may outshine the Summa Old bottling but this will always be the flagship of the project.
2017 Rivers-Marie Summa Old Vines Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast
Here we could copy and paste our notes from the last few vintages. This wine has gotten so consistently good since Ulises Valdez and his crew took over farming. The color is more stable, aromatics are more explosive and the depth of the wine has increased starting with the 2014 vintage. The 2017 continues this trend and might be the best wine from this vineyard in that 2014-2017 vintage span. It would be easy to say every year that this is the best wine in the line up but I do truly believe it in ’17. It’s the completeness of the wine that best conveys this message. It will be one of those wines that drinks well now, 5 years from now, 10 years from now and until it decides to give out. The characteristics of the wine are pure Summa: red/orange fruit, cut hay, pine needles, purple flowers, crushed rock and wet earth. It has a lingering inner mouth perfume that pulls out more floral notes and a more pure red fruit profile. There’s the usual weightiness without heaviness at the finish complemented by the natural acidity of the site. As we move into the 40th year of these vines, we expect this lithe density to continue trending upward offering more mouthwatering power that only vine age can provide.
2016 Rivers-Marie Summa Old Vines Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast
This has a more pure red color than in years past. I’d attribute that to improved farming and the vintage in general. Nose is classic Summa though, full of Christmas spice, forest floor, clove, sandalwood and citrus peel. The acidity here is incredibly high, cutting through all the primary fruit this young vintage possesses. Structure comes up in the end as usual giving the impression the best years for this wine are well ahead of it. As good as we thought this bottling was the first 10 or so years we made it, the last three vintages have taken it to a level we didn’t see coming.
Planted to Swan clone plus a mix of 30 different field selections, Bearwallow’s expression is incredibly complex and a bit hard to pin down early. It is predominately red fruited, very floral and features soil driven notes of black tea and mint. This deep end Anderson Valley site is helping to rewrite the history of Mendocino County Pinot Noir and we’ve been excited to be a part of it since 2015.
2021 Rivers-Marie Bearwallow Vineyard Pinot Noir Anderson Valley
This is definitely the most backward of the 2021s. Usually it’s one of the extreme Sonoma Coast bottlings that needs the most time to unwind but here this deep end Anderson Valley wine features abundant fruit tannin and natural acidity. I think the 12.9% alcohol also has something to do with that, there’s no glycerol sweetness to balance all the rawness of the wine at this early stage. The lower ripeness level leads to a wine that is light to medium in color and is focused aromatically on bright red fruits and floral notes of freesia and rose petals. The traditional wildness of Anderson Valley pokes in on the palate with chalk, mint, roasted herbs and loamy earth. Even for all the restraint, there’s a mouthwatering character to the wine that makes it appealing now with food and promises a long life ahead.
2020 Rivers-Marie “Bearwallow Vineyard” Pinot Noir Anderson Valley
I should have started this mailer more specifically with thank goodness for Bearwallow. If there has ever been a debate about the value of geographic diversity, it has been answered in the affirmative with this wine in 2020. At barrel down, this was so much better than all the other Pinots we attempted to make. This wine was harvested September 10th and I don’t think any smoke had made it to the deep end of the Anderson Valley at that point. Given the warmth of the year, the fruit here is a bit darker than years past, leaning more toward black cherry, plums and dark currants. There is the usual Anderson Valley wildness on the palate with roasted herbs, black tea, loamy earth, sandalwood and violets. The tannins are firm but well integrated adding a warm, spicy note to the finish.
2019 Rivers-Marie Bearwallow Vineyard Pinot Noir Anderson Valley
We’ve been working with this deep end Anderson Valley site now since 2015 and have quickly whittled down our single vineyard bottling to one block. The E2 block is a mixture of over 30 clones all randomly budded throughout the block. We attribute the aromatic complexity to this abundance of raw material. We also like the diversity in berry size, skin color and flavor components this wild genetic mix contributes. Blood orange, rose petals, camphor, spice and mint make this decidedly different in the line-up of 2019s. It has a savory, savage side that we love about Anderson Valley. Cherry fruit, raspberries and wet stone fill out the palate leading to a kaleidoscopic finish framed like most 2019s more with tannin than acidity.
2018 Rivers-Marie Bearwallow Vineyard Pinot Noir Anderson Valley
We’ve been working with this deep end Anderson Valley site now since 2015 and have quickly whittled done our single vineyard bottling to one block. We have always loved the E2 section of the vineyard and focusing on this one area has provided what we think is our most complete Bearwallow to date. Addition through subtraction in this case has produced a high toned, more pure red fruited wine with notes of crunchy red apple skin, cherry compote and menthol. The aromatics are very developed with floral tones of rose petals and violets jumping out first followed by black tea and mint. Some of the savage nature of previous editions has been replaced by a more focused minerality on the finish.
2017 Rivers-Marie Bearwallow Vineyard Pinot Noir Anderson Valley
We love the wildness of the Anderson Valley wine profile. For all the talk about house styles in wineries, we feel this wine proves our wines are products of place first and foremost. We take grape growing very serious and we feel all the quality of our wines comes from paying very close attention in the vineyard. Truthfully, once the grapes hit the winery, we don't do that much to them. With this Rhys site, we never have much to contribute. Kevin and his team do such a great job of farming, we never have to ask for anything. We always head out to the site looking to make suggestions but usually we just take a quick walk, see that everything is perfectly dialed and then go have lunch. The two blocks that make up this bottling are especially fascinating in their clonal make up and corresponding cluster morphology. The wine these vines produce has a nice mix of red and purple fruit, white flowers, white pepper, baking spice, loam and licorice. The fresh fruit core has plenty of lift from acidity and fruit tannin. This wine, like the Platt and Occidental Ridge, will take a little time to unwind in bottle.
2016 Rivers-Marie Bearwallow Vineyard Pinot Noir Anderson Valley
We think this complements the 2015 nicely, possibly improving on that edition through the addition of another block and a better understanding of the site. It still reminds us a bit of the Occidental Ridge bottling in its abundance of fruit tannin. We’ve now seen the 2015 unwind over the past year so we see this doing the same but maybe needing an additional year due to the vintage. The complexion is a lighter red, more akin to the Summa bottlings. The red fruit profile is very fresh focusing more on pomegranate and cranberry. Coming from the newer plantings on the property, the wine lack some of the more rustic character associated with older Anderson Valley bottlings. To repeat what we said last year, we are very excited to be working with this site. You’ll see an equally exciting Bearwallow Chardonnay offered in February.
Joy Road Vineyard
Though the Pinot Noir was new to us in 2021, we’ve been working with this west Sonoma Coast site for nearly a decade. The Pinot side is three acres spread across 8 blocks. We have attempted to separately ferment as many of them as possible to get an overall impression of where the best quality lies. Given the complexities of this, it will take us a while to get a handle on the entire site but early indications show a crunchy, red fruited wine with high toned white flowers, sandalwood and spearmint.
2021 Rivers-Marie Joy Road Vineyard Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast
We coveted the Pinot Noir from Joy Road well before we even started working with the Chardonnay in 2013. Having spent many years walking the Chardonnay block before harvest and sneaking in for a little taste of the various blocks of Pinot fruit along the way, we felt we had a pretty good sense of the entire vineyard. The Chardonnay block here is only a third of an acre and most of the Pinot blocks aren’t much bigger so combining several blocks into one ferment was the pre-harvest goal. As we got closer to picking, we couldn’t get a handle on exactly how we wanted to blend blocks so we ended up fermenting everything separately, 7 lots across 3 acres. It was a lot more work but ultimately gave us great insight into the vineyard character, upper slope vs. lower blocks, same clone/different rootstock, Dijon vs. heritage clones, etc. There were a few surprises along the way but that also makes this first edition a much stronger wine. Surprisingly strong and surprisingly weak blocks in 2021 were properly slotted to this new single vineyard designate and our Sonoma Coast bottling. In character and proximity it is closest to Summa, red fruited and higher toned with a lifted white flower and sandalwood perfume and a crunchy, cranberry tinged palate. The acidity carries the finish which feels typical for this western Occidental neighborhood. We ended up bottling about 60% of the wine as this new vineyard designate, curious to see what we get with a little more knowledge and a fresh crack at it in 2022.
Bodega Thieriot Vineyard
Introduced in 2021, this leased Freestone site promises to be a significant part of Rivers-Marie for decades to come. Planted 100% to Calera clone, this 9 acre vineyard is surrounded by some of the most famous neighbors on the Sonoma Coast, Occidental Winery and Platt Vineyard. This will always be an intense bottling due to its thick skins, packed with color and tannin even in the coolest of years. Equal parts fruit and savory, the brooding nature of the wine fits the area’s personality perfectly.
2021 Rivers-Marie Bodega Thieriot Vineyard Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast
I’ve never seen a new wine in an established line up contend for wine of the vintage. We should have known when we planted this 9 acre plot in 2017 that greatness would come early given the Freestone neighborhood in which it resides. In hindsight, one of the smartest things we did was to plant the entire vineyard to the Calera clone. There are 5 blocks from this vineyard all fermented and barreled separately and it’s hard to create a pecking order. With neighbors like Occidental Winery and Platt Vineyard, the character of the wine comes as no surprise. It’s darker fruited and brooding packed with fruit tannin and vibrant acidity that give focus and lift. This wind buffered site comes with thick skins so color comes easily even at lower brix levels. The perfume is what grabbed us first: lavender, licorice, violets and wood smoke. As good as all this is, the best news might be that we have a lease in place for 2/3s of this site through 2050. I doubt I’ll have much to do with it at that point but it should be an integral piece of the Rivers-Marie line up for generations to come.
We’ve been on a good run here since 2017, seeing our little Calera clone block blossom into one of the strongest wines we produce every year. Production here is always small making allocating this bottling incredibly difficult. The wines feel like a much fuller, more mature version of Bodega Thieriot given current vine age difference. Texture is what sets this wine apart from everything else in the lineup.
2021 Rivers-Marie Platt Vineyard Sonoma Coast
I love this wine, I just wish there was more of it. This part of the Freestone bench is slowly becoming the greatest area for Pinot on the Sonoma Coast. Our success with Platt is what inspired us to pursue the lease at Bodega Thieriot so vigorously. The wine is its usual darker than average color given the thickness of the skins in this block. There’s a brooding, Burgundian funk on the nose that fills up the room when you pour the first glass. It’s an exotic, kaleidoscopic mix of scorched earth, violets, spearmint, wood smoke and plums. As explosive as the nose and palate are, what really sets the wine apart is the texture. Every year this is the defining characteristic of the wine. It’s a wine that you feel as much as you taste. It coats the mouth and holds on. This is mainly fruit tannin that veers in several different directions contributing a scratchy, three dimensional palate impression that also adds a volume to the red and black fruits. There’s plenty of acidity to cut through the brooding initial impression. The cut here keeps the wine light on its feet and extends the finish for as long as you’d like it to last.
2019 Rivers-Marie Platt Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
68 cases, I keep turning that number over in my mind. I thought 2018 would be about as small a crop as we’d see out here but 2019 came in at .7 tons/acre. We’ve seen that before out at Summa but never thought we’d see it here. In hindsight, the potential is there being up on a wind buffered ridge with direct line of sight of the ocean. We always talk about what naturally low yields mean to Pinot so we are seeing our third straight spectacular wine from this block of Platt. Quality is definitely trending in the right direction just need quantity to follow. This edition has more in common with 2018 than 2017. It’s a broader shouldered wine bolstered by formidable skin tannin and its always naturally high acidity. The aromatics are always the most Burgundian of the lineup featuring notes of sweet black fruits, smoke, candied peel, crushed stones and loam. Tannins poke in on the mid-palate contributed by the thick skins and tiny berries common in this Calera clone block. The finish is long and firm but stays succulent and juicy framed more by acidity than structure.
2018 Rivers-Marie Platt Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
Even we were a little late to realize how good the 2017 version of this wine was. Maybe it was the small case production and therefore lack of opportunity to open bottles that created this but we made up for it after realizing our mistake. Coming into this release, I’d say the 2017 Platt is certainly one of the top 5 Pinots we have ever made. The 2018 eclipses that wine. It’s the closest thing to Burgundy I’ve ever tasted in California and not in the way most people think. The nose is what takes me there, that little bit of brooding, Burgundian reductive funk that both promises early intellectual intrigue and long life in the cellar. It drinks like a wine that needs to be unwound. The palate is savory and gamey, with a really dark fruit profile. Tannins here are abundant due to the thick skins of this wind buffered block. The only thing missing in this wine is quantity.
2017 Rivers-Marie Platt Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
We are thrilled to offer our first vintage of Platt from what we feel is the best block in the vineyard. We had long admired Radio Coteau’s Platt offering (actually all of their wines) so we jumped at the chance to work with their block when it became available in 2017. The block is a little over an acre and a half and planted to the Calera clone. The wine has a density I have never really seen on the coast. The initial aromatic impression I only know how to describe as Burgundian reduction. It has a brooding, restrained perfume that we associate with high quality French Pinots. Though the color is dense, the wine is incredibly light on its feet veering from classic coastal notes of red berry, menthol, licorice and cloves to a tightly wound, structured finish. The tannin here is all fruit tannin and it is abundant. This wind buffered site produces berries with incredibly thick skins making for wines that will require some patience to unwind. I wouldn't quite classify this as an inward leaning wine but there is incredible potential here that will take a few years to come out.
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