There aren’t many wineries in California about whom I can confidently say that I’ve tasted pretty much every wine they’ve ever made. Even those wineries I claim to know very well, I may have missed a bottle here and there over the years. But among the few wineries for whom I could make such a claim, Peay Vineyards certainly would fit the bill. I’ve been tasting their wines made on the hills overlooking the Sonoma Coast for about 17 years.
Because I’ve written about the winery frequently over the years, I don’t feel the need to retell their story at the moment. If you’re unfamiliar with the winery, I’d direct you to my previous summary of their efforts, made when I tasted the 2014 vintage.
Nick, Vanessa, and Andy are still at it, working their same organically farmed 48 acres with their full-time crew of 8 vineyard hands, all with a view of the craggy Pacific coastline near Annapolis. This year marks the 20th year since their vines were planted in the remains of an old sheep ranch and apple orchard.
The wines continue to be some of the most nuanced and beautiful cold-climate wines made in California, thanks to Vanessa Wong, a winemaker who quietly cranks out deliciousness every year. While other winemakers of her talent have many consulting projects with various brands, Vanessa seems content to focus on the quality of what her plot of land can produce. And those of us lucky enough to enjoy the wines know, that is enough.
The 2018 vintage was nothing short of spectacular out on the Sonoma Coast. No real heat spikes or other major weather events compromised any part of the growing cycle. Yields were healthy after a very wet winter, and little stood in the way of the vines doing what they do best. It’s no wonder then, that these 2018 wines are tremendous, including both the wines from their “second label” Cep (which features non-estate fruit) and their entry-level wines as well.
2020 Cep Vineyards “Hopkins Ranch” Sauvignon Blanc, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Palest greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of green apple, lemon cucumber and wet stones. In the mouth, crisp green apple, cut grass and unripe melon flavors have a nice zip thanks to fantastic acidity. Lean, mean and green, this wine is flirting with the austere, but manages to lean, finally to mouthwatering. 12.6% alcohol. Score: between 8.5-9 . Cost: $20. click to buy.
2020 Cep Vineyards “Hopkins Ranch” Rosé of Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Pale baby pink in color, this wine smells of watermelon and strawberry fruit. In the mouth, tart hibiscus, watermelon, chopped herbs, and citrus peel all have a fantasically bright snap to them thanks to excellent acidity. Citrus pith and pomelo linger in the finish. 12% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $20. click to buy.
2018 Peay Vineyards “Estate” Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast, California
Palest greenish-gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon curd, white flowers, and just the barest hint of melted butter. In the mouth, exceedingly silky flavors of lemon curd, lemon juice, grapefruit, and a whiff of butterscotch all have an electric brightness thanks to very good acidity. Lovely, long finish. Delicious. 13.2% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $56. click to buy.
2018 Peay Vineyards “Estate” Viognier, Sonoma Coast, California
Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of apricots and a touch of malted milk and banana. In the mouth, lean apricot and citrus flavors have mouthwatering acidity and a zesty, pithy quality that is quite delicious especially with the saline kick that enters in the end. Phenomenal acids, here, really. In my experience, this wine will blossom for years in the bottle. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $48. click to buy.
2018 Peay Vineyards Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, California
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of raspberry and earth and cranberry fruit. In the mouth, wonderfully juicy raspberry and cranberry flavors are shot through with a deep herbal earthiness that is quite compelling, even as juicy and bright citrus-peel acidity makes the mouth water. Faint, powdery tannins hang in a haze through the back of the mouth as the salivary glands go into overdrive thanks to the acidity. Delicious. 13.4% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $45. click to buy.
2018 Peay Vineyards “Pomarium” Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of earth, cherry, and raspberry with a hint of cedar. In the mouth, gorgeous flavors of forest floor, raspberry, and cherry fruit are backed by supple, muscular tannins that linger with hints of citrus peel and dark earth in the finish. Slightly brooding, but give this a few years in the bottle and watch it shine. Easily drinkable today, however, and quite pleasurable. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $61. click to buy.
2018 Peay Vineyards “Ama” Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry and raspberry fruit. In the mouth, bright cherry and cranberry fruit flavors mix with raspberry and redcurrant. Wonderfully stony on the palate, with fine-grained but muscular tannins that definitely make their presence known. There’s a wonderful purity to this wine, with whispers of dried flowers in the finish. 13% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $61. click to buy.
2018 Peay Vineyards “Savoy Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, Mendocino, California
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells of raspberry and sour cherry and a hint of resinous herb. In the mouth, juicy raspberry, sour cherry, and redcurrant flavors mix with citrus peel and a touch of herbs. Excellent acidity keeps the saliva flowing as does a faint salinity. Delicious. 13.3% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $61. click to buy.
2018 Peay Vineyards “Scallop Shelf” Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of dried flowers, herbs, raspberry and redcurrant fruit. In the mouth, lean raspberry and redcurrant fruit is positively bursting with acidity. Gorgeous citrus peel and chopped herb flavors join the tart, expressive fruit in an impressively long finish. Fantastic, and just beginning its journey towards greatness. 13% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $64. click to buy.
2018 Peay Vineyards “La Bruma” Syrah, Sonoma Coast, California
Dark purple in the glass, this wine smells of blackberry and white pepper. In the mouth, unripe blackberry and black cherry flavors are shot through with white pepper and chopped herbs, as dried flowers and a citrus peel brightness linger in the finish. Mouthcoating, dusty tannins fill every nook and cranny of the mouth, lingering through the finish with hints of black currant and earth. Gorgeous, and likely to blossom into something even greater with time. 13% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $56. click to buy.
Images courtesy of Peay Vineyards.