Pricey Pinot Noirs



Fel, 2015 Savoy Vineyard, Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, 14.4% alcohol, $70. ★★★★

What makes this a standout is its elegance. Refined and balanced, it has crisp acidity and bright, tangy fruit — an irresistible blend of cherry and pomegranate. The Fel has nice length and finishes crisp.


Gary Farrell, 2015 Russian River Selection, Sonoma County Pinot Noir, 13.9%, $45. ★★★1/2: This is a pretty pinot, weighted to red fruit, with notes of pomegranate, raspberry and strawberry. Notes of cola and cinnamon are in the mix. Finishes crisp.

Ramey, 2015 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, 13.5%, $50. ★★★★: This bright pinot has an earthy appeal. It has crisp red fruit coupled with notes of forest floor. It has depth and layered flavors. Top rate.

Belle Glos, 2016 Las Alturas Monterey County Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir, 14.7%, $55. ★★★1/2: This is a round, full-bodied pinot noir that’s concentrated with generous fruit. Aromas and flavors of blackberry, Bing cherry and vanilla. Bright acidity. Lingering finish.

Calera, 2014 Reed Pinot Noir, 14%, $70. ★★★★: This is a well-crafted pinot with aromas and flavors of blueberry, black plum and licorice. It’s well integrated and has firm tannins. Pretty.


Peg Melnik’s Tasting Room blog

“The only constant is change.”

That quote was a constant companion of Ryan Hodgins; it was framed on the wall when he was growing up.

“That pretty much encapsulates a winemaker’s day,” Hodgins said. “Just about every day is different; it’s impossible to get bored in such a dynamic environment.”

The winemaker is behind our wine-of-the-week winner — the Fel, 2015 Savoy Vineyard, Anderson Valley Pinot Noir at $70.

This pinot, weighted to red, has tangy fruit and rides on bright acidity. It has nice length and finishes crisp. The house style Fel is shooting for is “elegance because if pinot doesn’t have elegance, I’d rather not bother,” Hodgins said.

Elegance, he said, is a virtue of patience.

“In the vineyard you have to be meticulous, and in the winery you have to take a step back and trust the fruit will come into its own,” he said.

As Hodgins moves into the cellar, he counts himself among the fortunate in light of the devastating wildfires. He said Fel’s sister winery, Cliff Lede Vineyards, and its nearby Poetry Inn had a very close call, but they were saved by the heroics of the firefighters.

“All of our wine was already in tank when the fires started,” Hodgins said. “We have been very careful about moving the wine or doing any cellar activities to prevent smoke taint.”

The winemaker said the Labor Day heat spike actually worked in the winery’s favor, accelerating ripening and ushering in an early harvest that helped them dodge the firestorm. While there’s no shortage of compelling pinot on the market, Hodgins said he’s confident the Fel will continue to be in high demand because of its roots.

“I have the privilege of overseeing one of the most renowned pinot noir vineyards in California – the Savoy Vineyard. “I trust that the site will consistently produce truly exceptional wines year in and year out.”

Born in New Mexico, Hodgins, 41, lived in Colorado, Washington State and then Portland Oregon before studying at Oberlin College outside Cleveland, Ohio. He said his strength as a winemaker is not getting caught up in the minutia.

“I’ve always admired winemakers who take the time to meticulously document each vintage and take extensive notes on each lot, something I always hope to do, but usually gets lost in the chaos of harvest.”

Asked what’s the most gratifying part of making pinot noir, Hodgins didn’t hesitate: “Crafting something sublime.”

Peg Melnik can be reached at 707-521-5310 or