Joseph Phelps has built quite the reputation for himself. The winemaking pioneer is responsible for one of Napa’s all-time most iconic red wines and has long been revered as one of the biggest names in the Napa Valley. But when you’ve done one thing for as long as Phelps has, you’re still going to have plenty of naysayers telling you it can’t be done– even if your name is Joseph Phelps.
That was the case in the late 1990’s when the surprised announcement was made that the winery had bought a significant amount of land in the little town of Freestone along the Sonoma Coast– a long ways away from their Napa home. People thought it was crazy — far too cold, wet and windy along the coast to make quality Pinot Noir. But Joseph Phelps had previously tried making Pinot Noir in Napa– so he emphatically disagreed, insisting that their Sonoma Coast property would be the perfect place for optimal ripening and acid retention for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. He was right.
One of the most extreme perches along all of the Sonoma Coast, Freestone’s steep slopes are an ancient seabed, comprised of sandy loam soils that offers both ample drainage and an easy path for roots to spider meters deep into the substrata. With the gentle breeze, temperatures in the summer rarely reach 90. When night falls, those temperatures drop into the 50’s. Those cool summer nights extend the growing season and make all the difference in the world for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
In the 2016 vintage, a vintage Antontio Galloni’s Vinous Media touted as “stellar” and “fabulous” in the Sonoma Coast, Joseph Phelps’ Freestone Pinot Noir is a perfect representation of just how good Sonoma Pinot can be. Garnet in color, infused with piercing aromas of black cherry, raspberry, and tobacco and lightly touched with new-wood vanilla. It’s super concentrated on the attack, but absent of any overripeness, with a core packed with crushed red fruit and dark cherry preserves, violets, and licorice, finishing with great persistence and length. Drink now-2030.
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93 Points, Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate
Medium ruby-purple in color, the 2016 Pinot Noir Freestone Vineyard leaps from the glass with an intense perfume of violets, red currants and black cherries with hints of black pepper, lavender, cinnamon stick and black tea. The palate is medium-bodied and very elegant yet wonderfully intense with a firm frame of fine-grained tannins and fantastic freshness, finishing long and fragrant.
93 Points, James Suckling
Very attractive baking spices and gently toasty oak across ripe raspberries and strawberries with light savory baking spices and bergamot. The palate has a bright crunchy red cherry-berry core. Tannins are succulent and the freshness is alluring. Drink or hold.
93 Points, Wine & Spirits
In 2000 and 2001, the Phelps family planted two vineyards in Freestone, eight miles from the Pacific coast. The two sites, Pastorale and Quarter Moon, contribute equally to this estate-grown pinot noir; both are planted on Goldridge soil, a well-drained sandy loam over sandstone, the remnants of an inland sea. The vines deliver a wine that’s fresh, with crisp lines. Spicy green edges in the tannins keep it firm and tight, then it ends on notes of cranberries and cool hints of jasmine.
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