Drinking California Pinot Noir history

sanford & benedict
On Sunday night I was lucky enough to drink two wines that are important bottles in the story of Pinot Noir in California. I was with Raj Parr, Sashi Moorman, Jasmine Hirsch and Jamie Kutch at Zuni, and these remarkable wines were brought out. It was an immense privilege to be able to drink them.

Sanford & Benedict Pinot Noir 1979 Santa Ynez Valley, California
This is from the famous Sanford & Benedict vineyard in what’s now known as the Santa Rita Hills, which Richard Sanford and Michael Benedict planted in 1971. 13.2% alcohol. Warm, sweet, textured and spicy, this is a generous wine showing sweet plums and black cherry fruit, with a lovely warm spiciness and a soft, broad mouthfeel. It has aged beautifully into a mellow maturity. 94/100

williams selyem 1985

Williams Selyem Pinot Noir Rochioli Vineyard 1985 Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
A celebrated wine in the history of Californian Pinot, a bit of internet research tells me that this was picked as the best wine at the state fair in 1987, and helped establish the reputations of Burt Williams and Ed Selyem. There was some disagreement in our small group about this wine: I really liked it, but others weren’t so keen. It shows vivid, bright cherry fruit with warm notes of herbs and spice, as well as hints of malt. But as well as the aged characters, it remains floral and fine. It is certainly still alive. 94/100

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