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Bailiwick’s not going to win any awards for delicacy. The Vais brothers have deployed a French trick of the trade to create a burly, wild heavyweight Pinot that makes the competition seem tooty-fruity and simple. Silver Pines is a rarely-seen site from a subzone that Kistler has explored for years. With densely layered fruit and exciting earthy complexity, this high color, high intensity Pinot is simply spectacular stuff.
About the wine
The Silver Pines Pinot is one of California’s most scintillating Pinots and draws comparisons to French Burgundy with its hard-to-describe “earthiness.” That special complexity that can make you fall in love with the grape. Tasters are treated to the scents of forest berries, underbrush and the coastal marine layer in a highly complex mélange of aromas. These multifaceted flavors are echoed on the palate with a silky, lengthy finish full of floral tones. The vineyard is a special one, up among the limited acreage on Sonoma Mountain (best known as a Kistler source) and with that fruit, the Bailiwick brothers deploy a Burgundian technique to add complexity. They do a third of the grapes as whole clusters in fermentation, meaning extra flavor and structure is drawn from the stems, a maneuver that has produced some of the most notable Pinot Noirs in French history. It is rarely a good enough harvest to allow ambitious winemakers to include ripe stems, but 2012 gave Bailiwick the bounty they’d been hoping for – and the resulting bottle is a showstopper.
Winemaker: Paul & Bryan Vais
Appellation: Sonoma Mountain
- 95 pts: Julie Tesar, Certified Sommelier
- 93 pts: PinotFile
- 4.7/5.0: Vivino Users
Grapes: 100% Pinot Noir
Vineyard: Silver Pines
Cooperage: 17 months in French Oak, 36% New
About the winery
Bailiwick surprised many with the strength of their debut releases, and earned some pretty nice low-to-mid 90’s scores from Pinotfile, The Pinot Report and Stephen Tanzer – tough but fair critics of West Coast Pinot. That sort of performance is uncommon for wineries with no track record – but it turns out that the Vais brothers had been making wine at home for the past 25 years! They’d refined their approach and held off on going pro until they had all the pieces in place. With the 2009 vintage, they had positioned themselves to make their first commercial releases especially noteworthy. They work with great vineyard sources, focusing on the late-harvesting zones of the Russian River, Marin and Mendocino. For lovers of wines like Copain, Littorai, Williams-Selyem and Hirsch, this is a winery to watch.
About the vineyard
Located at 900’ elevation overlooking nearby Bennett Valley, on the northwestern flank of Sonoma Mountain, Silver Pines Vineyard is well suited to yield Pinot Noir of uncommon complexity. Planted in 2000 by owners Norm and Carole Silverman, the vineyard has a cooler microclimate dominated by infusions of morning fog, followed by warm afternoons tempered with brisk afternoon breezes as the fog courses back in through the Petaluma Gap by nightfall.
About the winemakers
The unassuming Vais brothers spent the better part of their adult lives in the engineering and finance industries, while privately dreaming on a idyllic life as winemakers. It took 25 years of incremental improvement, as they vinted year after year in their garage, learning the real hard work that comes with artisan winemaking. If you were to look in on them today, you’d assume they were trained in Burgundy, judging by the sophistication of their technique: The grapes for all wines are hand-picked and sorted, 100% de-stemmed without crushing and fermented in open top containers. After a 3 to 4-day cold soak, commercial yeast is added to drive fermentation and highlight varietal aromas. Gentle punchdowns are performed three times a day. Post-fermentation maceration on the skins lasts several weeks. The wines are pressed off into French oak cooperage where they are aged for 17 months.
95 points, Julie Tesar, Certified Sommelier
"Bright, fruit-forward, and charming, this lovely Pinot Noir exhibits notes of cherry cordial, pink rose petals, red plum, persimmon, and toasty baking spice. On the palate, juicy red fruit flavors dominate with a delicate floral aspect and a spicy cinnamon and clove finish. Despite the ripeness of the fruit, this wine has a fantastic balance that can pair well with foods. Enjoy this charming Pinot Noir with grilled salmon or roasted chicken with root vegetables."