The Tasting Panel magazine

July 2017

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24  /  the tasting panel  /  july 2017 SONOMA A s opposed to those working on many startup winemaking projects coming out of Northern California, the team at Westwood Estate has the great ability to use fruit they grow from land they own. The first years of Westwood Estate's existence were dedicated to the Annadel Gap Vineyard, founded in 1998—figuring out which grapes would thrive in the variegated soils of the property, then selling the fruit. Westwood dove into winemaking only four years ago, when a partnership was born between co-founder and Managing Partner Carl Stanton, legendary winemaking consultant David Ramey and winemaker Ben Cane. Using fruit only from the 37-acre Annadel Gap Vineyard allows them to own the entire process, from root to glass. This affords the team the ability to look at what they're doing through a holistic lens and highlight the unique characteristics of their site in Sonoma County's Annadel Gap. In this cool location in a narrow pass at the north- ernmost end of the Sonoma Valley, they honed in on Burgundy and Rhône varieties as those that performed best in the foggy and windy climate, specifically, several clones of Pinot Noir and Syrah, alongside Chardonnay, Viognier, Roussanne, Mourvèdre, Counoise, Tannat and Grenache, each adapted to the particular soil composition of its block. They pursue what they call "logical farming," heavily influenced by biodynamic practices. As Cane notes, "We are trying to bring out the essence of what makes this site great," with its concentration of various clones and soils. The results are pure, clean and classic expressions of each grape and blend. Cane notes that Westwood was "fully unrealized" in terms of its winemaking potential when he came on board in 2014—just six weeks before their first harvest as a winery. He acknowledges that some of the emerg- ing characteristics of their wines have been the results of happy accidents: a cleaner, more mineral-driven Chardonnay resulting from a stuck fermentation; acci- dental skin contact in the first vintage of the Roussanne, leading to a more voluptuous, silky texture; an evolving composition of red grapes in the flagship red blend, Legend. Managing Director David Green says that despite its longevity, Westwood still has the feel of a start-up: "It's been 20 years in the making, but a project can't come together until you get the right people on board. In my world, I'm more accustomed to consistency and getting better at one thing. That's just not wine—it's different every year. So, you have to trust your people. Here, consistency is in making the very best wine you can make every year." The results are showing that Westwood Estate is living up to its mission. Across a portfolio of lighter to fuller wines, the bright, elegant, mineral-driven characteristics speak to a vision that allows the character of this unique terroir to truly express itself. Expressing Terroir in the Annadel Gap Westwood 2015 Chardonnay, Sangiacomo Vineyards, Roberts Road, Annadel Gap, Sonoma Coast ($44) The first sensation on nose and palate is "fresh"— perhaps from hand-harvesting at night. The mouthfeel becomes the focal point: crisp, fresh, clean and bright with an acidity that grips. Summer pear, chamomile and crème fraîche combine for an exquisitely lean but expressive coastal Chardonnay. 94 Westwood 2015 Estate Pinot Noir, Annadel Gap Vineyard, Sonoma County ($44) Cherries and wild mushrooms perfume the glass. On the palate, rhubarb chimes in, with a serious broadening of pencil shavings not far behind. This becomes deeply earthy with spiced basil and sweet sage. Raspberries are ashy and tobacco drenched: a rumbling of bass notes. Acidity has a high pitch and leads the finish toward a coffee bean with snappy cinnamon. 94 Westwood 2015 Estate Syrah, Annadel Gap Vineyard, Sonoma Valley, Sonoma County ($56) Co-fermented with 3–7% Roussanne and aged on the lees for 16 months, this spectacular small-production red opens up immediately with gorgeous blue floral tones on the nose and a hint at blueberry pastry. Velvety and rich; grilled meat and dark chocolate are a unique pair of first notes. White pepper surges on mid-palate, but the satin mouthfeel and fine acidity also portray a noble structure. 98 Tasting Notes AT SONOMA'S NORTHERNMOST TIP, THE TEAM AT WESTWOOD ESTATE FINDS THE RIGHT SITE by Sarah Bray / photos by Alexander Rubin by Publisher/Editorial Director Meridith May Co-founder and Managing Partner Carl Stanton (left) with legendary consulting winemaker David Ramey at Westwood Estate. (left) Winemaker Ben Cane. (right) Managing Director David Green says, "You have to trust your people." Westwood's Annadel Gap Vineyard is set in the northernmost end of Sonoma Valley, a site with the climatic and geological elements necessary for extraordinary winegrowing.

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