One 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.
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.
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.