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2007 Anaba Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast

anaba_pn_sc_2007.jpgOne of my greatest pleasures remains my "discovery" of small new wineries, and the opportunity to watch them mature over time. Of course, three vintages isn't exactly a lot of time to watch a winery mature, but it's quite exciting to see the third vintage of a winery that seemed to hit it out of the ballpark with their very first release.

A couple of years ago some bottles showed up on my doorstep bearing the name Anaba in beautiful looping script. I was immediately intrigued to note that the first releases from this new Sonoma County winery were Rhone style blends -- far from the typical initial foray that most new wineries make in Sonoma County. I noted at the time my surprise that they weren't making a Pinot Noir, and received an e-mail note from the owner saying, essentially, "wait for it."

So, a year has gone by, and what should arrive on my doorstep last month, but a package of wines from Anaba, this time, including two very nice Pinot Noirs.

Anaba Wines, named for the anabatic winds (big points with meteorology geeks) that are so crucial to the climate of Sonoma's wine country, is a new label started by John Sweazey and his wife Kathleen in 2006. Sweazey fell in love with wine in college, and after graduating into a successful job selling IBM PCs in the early days of the industry, his first opportunity to take a sabbatical found him wandering the wine regions of France and Italy.

Sweazey continued his exploration of wine through a long career in real estate, and like many, at a certain point he began dreaming of owning a vineyard. Through all his travels to various wine regions with his wife, Sonoma county, and in particular the town of Sonoma, felt the most like home to him. So when the time was right, he struck a deal with Vic McWilliams, who had decided to unload the winery and 16 acres of vineyards known as Castle Winery in Carneros. Sweazey promptly renamed the label, started replanting, and purchased some grapes from vineyards like Sangiacomo Vineyard, Windsor Oaks, Ferguson Ranch and Bacigalupi Vineyard, to make the first wines under his new label.

For help with winemaking Sweazey turned to the young Jennifer Marion, a recent graduate of the U.C. Davis enology program, and most recently the assistant winemaker at MacCrostie Winery in Carneros as well as a technical vineyard consultant for agricultural management company Crop Care Associates. Marion, given her background in both viticulture and enology is responsible for everything that happens in the vineyard (both the estate vineyard that is being replanted and the contract vineyard sources) as well as the cellar.

Marion continues to do an excellent job with the wines, and seems to be maintaining the style she established with the winery's first two vintages: generally lower alcohol (though this wine doesn't exactly qualify), very little new oak, and pure fruit expression. This particular wine was fermented in small lots and aged for 17 months in French oak before bottling. The grapes came from a number of different sources throughout the Sonoma Coast appellation, spanning warmer, as well as cooler sites.

In addition to being one of the most promising new wineries in Sonoma, the Anaba seems focused on making sure it is relevant to today's, producing wines in the $20-$35 price point, which will make them quite attractive to wine lovers in search of a treat in these tighter times. This wine in particular achieves the remarkable feat of being a Pinot Noir, being under $30, and actually being really good -- something that for the past decade has been as elusive as a unicorn, but which may thankfully begin to be more common as the California wine industry adjusts to the new normal.

Full disclosure: I received this wines as a press sample.

Tasting Notes:
Medium ruby in the glass with a faint orange highlight, this wine smells of raspberry and red apple skin, with notes of sandalwood. In the mouth the wine offers bright raspberry and dark wet earth flavors welded to a beautiful cedar and pine bough aspect that is really charming. Faint leathery tannins emerge as the wine lingers with raspberry, apple skin, and orange peel aromas in a long finish. Impeccably balanced, with a very nice personality. 14.5% alcohol.

Food Pairing:
This is a great food wine that will go with most anything you want a nice Pinot for, but especially a nice bit of duck confit.

Overall Score: between 9 and 9.5

How Much?: $25

This wine is available for purchase on the Internet.

Comments (6)

John Krause wrote:
09.03.10 at 10:53 AM

Great article!
I just became a recent blog... I know, look-out! No!, I really do like this article on Anaba Pinot Noir. I have pretty much enjoyed Cab and Cab-blends last few years while living in San Diego County. However, upon returning to Nor Cal, I started exploring California Pinot Noirs a bit more. I have enjoyed a number from vineyards in Monterey and Central Coast, and a number from the Russian River area. Looks like I will have to make a trip to the Sonoma Coast as well.

Thanks for the great article. May I mention your article here on my blog?

Have a great 3 day weekend. I am off to do some wine tasting, but alas, not Sonoma this round. I have targeted a few smaller mountain wineries East of Redding this trip.


John K

clive wrote:
09.04.10 at 3:12 PM

being under $30, and actually being really good -- something that for the past decade has been as elusive as a unicorn,
Sad to read that all the wine ive been drinking this year is actually crap. Oh well, thank goodness for the perception is reality meme

thanks for sharing your thoughts about wine so well

Alder Yarrow wrote:
09.04.10 at 3:46 PM


In my opinion, finding a REALLY GOOD California Pinot Noir under $30 is tough. Just my opinion, though. As is everything on this site. Don't take it personally.


Karl Sherwood-Coombs wrote:
09.06.10 at 7:03 AM

Anaba also has a lovely outdoor tasting area overlooking one of their vineyards...a nice change from the old Castle venue

Karen Caruso wrote:
09.06.10 at 8:18 AM

Thanks Alder. I have tasted some of the Anaba whites but not this wine. Will make that a stop curing my October visit.


Tom Barras wrote:
09.17.10 at 9:25 AM

It's a late comment posting, but yesterday, 9/16/10, my wife and I drove from the SF Peninsula to Sonoma County to do some golfing. And as we were getting near the course, we drove my this tasting room with the name "Anaba" on it. I told her I thought I may have read about it on your blog, so we dropped in for a quick taste of 2007 Pinot and the 2008. Preferred the latter and purchased a few bottles. It's not likely I would have stopped there,for I don't do many winery "tastings." Thanks for the tip and review.


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