Peay Sonoma Coast 2018's: The Estate Blends
The wind-whipped Sonoma Coast is not a particularly hospitable location for growing wine grapes. Temperatures can fluctuate wildly, there is the ever-present threat of mold due to the humidity, and the sandy soils do not encourage vines to flourish.
Yet, since 2002, the team behind Peay Vineyards—Nick and Andy Peay, and winemaker Vanessa Wong—have endeavored to create wines of purity and finesse in this environment.
Their estate vineyard sits upon a rugged ridge just 4 miles from the Pacific Ocean and epitomizes this exceptional coastal terroir.
As all three will tell you, the AVA of Sonoma Coast is huge. It applies to a vast area of Sonoma. In fact, most of the AVA doesn't share the extremes that are found right near the coast: the cold, deep Pacific ocean and resulting inversion layer contribute to a truly unique micro-climate.
In response, Peay and their closest neighbors are pushing for a new AVA called "West Sonoma Coast".
It is in this newly proposed AVA that some of the most interesting and terroir-specific wines are being made.
Pinot Noir and Chardonnay dominate, as they both benefit from the long growing season and an intense diurnal shift.
But the Peay's have also found Syrah to be very well suited to their locale! This is news since Vanessa, Nick and Andy all enjoy the traditional Northern Rhone wines as much as Burgundy.
The 2018 vintage is shaping up to rival 2012 as the vintage of the century, here.
Classic coastal weather allowed the grapes to ripen slowly with small berries allowing for complexity, nuance and concentration.
These are qualities that the Peays, because of their unique site can muster even in the toughest years. But, in a vintage like 2018, the wines will have few rivals.
The Appellation blends were released at the end of last year and were spectacular!
But now, what we’ve been waiting for has finally arrived: the 2018 Estate Blends of Pinot Noir.
The Peay's grow 35 acres of Pinot. They split it into 20-25 separate blocks based on clonal selection.
Then, they pick them individually and vinify 20-25 Pinots each vintage.
The estate blends (Ama and Scallop Shelf) are each a combination of 3-6 clones and blocks. They don't represent a specific block in the vineyard. Instead, they're are expressions of Pinot noir from the vineyard as a whole.
They make these blends without knowledge of how many cases of each wine they will produce, how much new oak is involved, stem use, or what clones are in which wine.
This “blind” process keeps the focus on making the absolute best expression of that blend without any other considerations.
Any barrels that do not go into one of the named Estate wines go through the same blind selection process to make the Sonoma Coast cuvée.
Any remaining barrels are declassified and comprise the Cep Pinot Noir.
The one non-estate Pinot they produce is the Savoy Vineyard bottling from Anderson Valley.
Savoy started as a way to hedge their bets a bit. Growing in the harsh coastal zone the estate is in can be highly unpredictable.
Some years the yields are half or less of the meager 2 tons per acre they are shooting for.
Savoy is located in Mendocino’s Anderson Valley. The continental climate is more predictable and far easier to grow in. Yields are higher than on the coast. In tough years, this allows Peay to produce enough wine to eek out a profit.
But, the true reason they chose this particular vineyard was its reputation for producing wines driven by savory notes and minerality. Here there is restrained and high toned fruit. While Savoy may not be from their estate fruit, the family resemblance is unmistakable.
While each cuvee is an individual expression, they all share one thing: an ability to age and develop like only the world’s best Pinots can.
Exceptional farming and winemaking create Pinots with individual attributes that fit seamlessly together.
Even young they display these qualities. But, as they age the fruit recedes a bit to display even more of the mineral and savory qualities that are a hallmark of their wines.
Like great Pinots the world over, they are transparent expressions of vintage and terroir. When properly cellared, these wines will live and grow for decades.
Peay Vineyards, Sonoma Coast Estate Pinot Noir “Ama”, 2018
Their Ama cuveé is pure pleasure for both brain and belly. Cherry and rose aromas are joined by sandalwood and fresh pipe tobacco. Dark cherry, mushrooms, savory smoky notes, forest floor and bright acidity round out this medium bodied beauty.
Peay Vineyards, Sonoma Coast Estate Pinot Noir “Scallop Shelf”, 2018
The lightest and brightest of the estate cuvees, Scallop Shelf is their most elegant expression. It may be light on the body but certainly not in concentration. Nuanced and multifaceted aromas of raspberries and jasmine are complemented by freshly turned earth and fallen leaves. Focused acidity with red forest berries, pine needle and forest floor come through the lifted and mineral inflected finish.
Peay Vineyards, Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, Savoy Vineyard, 2018
If Anderson Valley had a Grand Cru, it would be Savoy Vineyard. This iteration is earthy on the nose, with notes of forest floor and spice, with medium red fruit continuing through the palate. Wines from Savoy can be brooding and dark but the Peay Savoy always has a little florality due to the block of old vine Calera that adds lift and delicacy.