Cool-Climate Pinot Noirs in California

I’ve been writing a lot about Oregon Pinot Noir lately, but the confirmation a few weeks ago of the newest California AVA—West Sonoma Coast—reminded me of just how cool cool-climate Pinot Noir vineyards in California can be. The Pinot vineyards of the West Sonoma Coast, for example, experience a colder climate than the vineyards of the Willamette Valley, and they are much more directly exposed to cold winds off the Pacific Ocean.

That’s also true for the California AVA that doesn’t get nearly the attention it deserves—Anderson Valley, which slants like a pants pocket in from the Mendocino Coast. Some of our favorite producers of Anderson Valley wines include Flowers, Littorai, and Peay.

Recently we tasted a silky, stunning FEL Pinot Noir 2020 from the Anderson Valley (96 points; $42) that was vibrating with delicious and complex flavors (sassafras, Chinese 5-spice, tea, cocoa, bing cherry, and more). FEL is owned by Cliff Lede of the eponymous winery in Napa Valley.


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