Halleck Vineyard earned the recognition as the #1 Pinot Noir in the United States in 2002 with its first 2001 vintage, competing in the Pinot Noir Summit. We have never entered this wine into a competition since. We make too little. But there is one journalist to whom we submit for comment.
Dan Berger's credentials and integrity are unassailable.We respect his opinion. After tasting our 2009 Halleck Vineyard Estate Grown Pinot Noir, Dan looked me in the eye and said,
"I would challenge any reviewer who rates wines on a 100-Point Scale to take a single point away from this wine."
Dan does not use the 100 Point system, but instead writes about wine. His column is below. We are honored and humbled to have made this wine. It has just been released. It will be sold only to our Wine Club members.
2009 Halleck Vineyard Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, Estate Grown ($100): A remarkably complex, tart wine, and is probably the best from this tiny producer. Only 35 cases made. Should age nicely. For details see below. Tasted open.
Dissecting a Wine
Thirty or so years ago, I was prompted to laugh out loud when a wine writer described a Mersault and used at least 30 different descriptive terms to detail what he smelled.
Michael Pakenham of the Philadelphia Inquirer said the first whiff was like this, and then ten minutes later he noticed a few other things, and a half hour later there were nuances of that. The number of terms went on and on. I thought it hilariously affected.
But I'm not laughing any longer.
What Pakenham was saying, in effect, was that if you give a great wine the time it deserves (which is a lot more than a fast sniff-and-spit), the result can be a lot more rewarding than you can imagine.
With care in the analysis, one can make a more accurate judgement, and otherwise good wines can pale in comparison to the truly great ones.
Sure, Pakenham may have gone a bit overboard when he praised the Meursault. His effusiveness seemed excessive. Wouldn't the work "complexity" convey the same basic message?
Maybe, but 30 years after the fact, I think I now understand what he was getting at.
Take for instance the lead wine, 2009 Halleck Vineyard Estate Grown Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, a really great Pinot Noir.
On first whiff, I knew it was special. There was an earlier-picked (faintly under-ripe) tone to it, but the complexity was dramatic. There was, at first, hints of Burgundy and especially its red cherry with a faint underbrush note.
The spice element that showed up after 15 minutes in the glass was wild and fascinating. The faint earth quality I got at the start was then replaced by truffle and hints of black pepper.
As the wine gained its legs, the complexity overcame whatever delicacy there was there at the start and the whole was greater than the sum of its parts.
And the structure was near perfect, with an alcohol level (14.2%) that doesn't intrude. The acid and pH are there to help the aging, and the tannins are perfect.
Not all wines are this time consuming to unveil. Some wines' aromas are so lacking in varietal character, show dominant elements that are uninteresting, or have flaws that allow the evaluator to turn a thumb down within seconds.
However, this wine showed remarkable depth in its earliest delicate stage, even though its true greatness was only slightly evident at that point.
As it got air, it began to develop and it was most complex after 90 minutes. It still wasn't where it will be in a few years, the the wine's character was that much better than its brethren that it warrants special attention.
THE PINOT REPORT
MAKE ROOM IN THE CELLAR!
2004 Halleck Vineyard Estate Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast
"Amazingly deep and rich..."
Deep ruby color; complex aromas of spice, cola, forest floor
and black cherry; deep, rich and complex in the mouth with
beautiful black cherry, cola and anise notes; just the right touch
of sweet oak; great structure and balance, long finish. Ross and
Jennifer Halleck's Estate Pinot seems to get better and better
with this laser focused 2004. It's amazingly deep and rich with
40 cases made
HALLECK VINEYARD RECEIVES
THE PINOT PASSION AWARD FOR 2005
2005 Little Sister Sauvignon Blanc
From Allen Meadow's Burghound.com Oct. 2008
2006 Pinot Noir – Clone 828 red 90
2006 Pinot Noir – The Farm Vineyards red 90
2006 Pinot Noir – Hallberg Vineyard red 87
2006 Pinot Noir – Three Sons Cuvée red 89
2006 Pinot Noir – Three Sons Cuvée: (from Russian River Valley fruit aged in 30% new wood that produced 1,300 cases and was bottled at 14.7%; $42). Brilliant ruby. A high-toned and highly scented spice infused red pinot fruit nose introduces round, rich and nicely intense middle weight flavors that possess a dusty mouth feel and good detail on the solidly persistent finish that manages to carry its not insignificant alcohol without undue warmth. In fact, there is almost a delicate quality to the finish that confers a lovely sense of elegance to the overall impression. Worth a look. 89/2009+
2006 Pinot Noir – Clone 828: (from Russian River Valley fruit aged in 30% new wood that produced 266 cases and was bottled at 14.2%; $55). A highly scented and attractively spiced nose of pinot and red raspberry liqueur trimmed in the barest hint of toasty wood leads to utterly delicious middle weight flavors that also possess fine depth and impressive precision with no hint of finishing warmth, all wrapped in a sappy and beautifully balanced finish. Very fine quality here. 90/2010+
2006 Pinot Noir – The Farms Vineyard: (from Russian River Valley fruit aged in 30% new wood that produced 250 cases and was bottled at 14.1%; $55). An intense and relatively high-toned nose of raspberry, cranberry and a hint of blueberry liqueur merges into fresh, delicious and nicely rich flavors that possess fine depth and a silky mouth feel on the admirably intense finish. I like the complexity and there is better precision here as well as no obvious warmth. Worth a look. 90/2010+
2006 Pinot Noir – Hallberg Vineyard: (from Russian River Valley fruit aged in 30% new wood that produced 295 cases and was bottled at 14.9%; $55). Translucent ruby. A very pretty red pinot fruit nose is nuanced by hints of spice and a trace of underbrush that is also picked up by the supple, forward and nicely intense middle weight flavors that carry a distinct edge on the slightly warm but persistent finish. This has not yet knitted the individual structural components together and it’s not entirely clear that it will succeed in doing so. It does however carry its substantial alcohol without undue warmth, which is to say that while it’s noticeable, it’s not dominant. 87/2009+
I recently wrote a feature on Halleck Vineyards in the PinotFile (Volume 6, Issue 45). I recently tasted through the 2006 releases and I am happy to report that the wines are stellar. The winemaking here is very refined with tannins and alcohol well integrated. The velveteen texture that makes Pinot Noir so sensual and appealing are prominently featured in all of the Halleck Vineyards lineup of Pinot Noirs.
These are fruit-driven wines of robust intensity that will reward cellaring. The Three Sons Cuvee is the most approachable now. After tasting the wines, I sampled them all with a corned beef sandwich (it was the day after St. Patrick’s Day) and they all shined with the food, but the heightened acidity of the Three Sons Cuvee made it the best food wine of the lineup at this time. These wines are a true representation of California’s interpretation of Pinot Noir and they deserve every pinoaficionado’s attention.
These are pure artisanal Pinot Noirs, lovingly crafted in small quantities from a producer who welcomes fans to connect with the winery family. Production is 1,500 cases each year.
2006 Halleck Vineyards Three Sons Cuvee Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 14.7% alc., 1300 cases, $42. This wine is a blend of several vineyards in the neighborhood of the Halleck estate vineyard. The name pays homage to the Halleck’s three sons, Conner 14, Adam 13, and Quinn 10. The lightest in reddish-purple color of the lineup. Heady black cherry and new-sawn wood aromas leading to a dark fruit profile enhanced with herbs, oak and cinnamon spice. Silky on the palate and briskly acidic on the finish. The lightest wine in the lineup but not a weakling by any stretch of the imagination. While the other wines brood, this frisky youngster is offering considerable pleasure now.
2006 Halleck Vineyards Clone 828 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 14.2% alc., 266 cases, $55. From grapes grown near Annapolis four miles from the Pacific Ocean. 30% new French oak (the usual regimen for Halleck Pinots). This clone is rarely bottled as a stand-alone wine and is a newer Dijon clone planted only in recent years in California. The nose is rife with smoke, cigar box, and gingerbread. Soft, dark Pinot fruits including cassis and black raspberry, complimented by oak char and cookie dough create a feast of flavors. This wine is the darkest in nature of the lineup and the most unique. The tannins are reigned in but peak out at the finish and will soften with bottle age. Yummy.
2006 Halleck Vineyards Hallberg Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 14.9% alc., 295 cases, $55. From a Sebastopol vineyard that was once an apple orchard where the Hallecks purchased apples and apple juice. Wild berries, sen-sen, cherries and crusty bread aromas draw you in. The wine offers a solid core of dark Pinot fruits with a sidecar of oak and earth, a dusty texture, admirable acid backbone, and a slightly dry but persistent finish. No octane in sight. A lot of potential lingering in the background here which needs time to break out. Be patient with this one. Even better from re-corked bottle next day.
2006 Halleck Vineyards The Farm Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 14.1% alc., 250 cases, $55. From a 2-acre vineyard that was previously blended into the Three Sons Cuvee. Expressive nose of red and black cherry jam. Very fruity. Lovely red-fruits presented in an elegant, soft and silky style. A delight to drink and an idol in the making. The longest and most intense finish in the lineup. Already showing some leg, but will be more revealing with maturity. Keep this hidden from your relatives. Halleck Vineyards wines are largely sold through the faithful admirers on the mailing list at www.halleckvineyards.com. There is limited retail distribution.
Dan Berger Vintage Experiences
2006 Halleck Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Estate
Bright cherry/raspberry fruit with just the barest trace of oak and spice. Silky and loaded with flavor.
2006 Halleck Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Three Sons
Raspberry and strawberry, a tad simple now, but will open up in a few months. Good value. Note: 2 other Halleck vineyard-designated PNs (Hallberg and The Farm) also are superb; a wine with
the designation Clone 828 is brawnier. This wine is a bargain.
Very Highly Recommended
2006 Halleck Gewurztraminer, Russian River Valley: Simply dramatic aroma of roses, tangerine, clove and an Alsace lilt. Though the wine is bone dry, the texture is a tad soft, so serve well chilled and it’ll pair nicely with smoked trout.
The Wine Enthusiast
91 Halleck 2006 The Farm Vineyards Pinot Noir Russian River Valley
90 Halleck 2006 Little Sister Sauvignon Blanc Russian River Valley
90 Halleck 2006 Hallberg Vineyard Pinot Noir Russian River Valley
89 Halleck 2006 Clone 828 Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast
88 Halleck 2006 Three Sons Cuvée Pinot Noir Russian River Valley
February 18, 2008
92 (Two Puffs) HALLECK VINEYARD Pinot Noir Clone 828 Sonoma Coast 2006
Intense and concentrated yet so full of bright red cherry scents and the engaging smells of wild flowers, creamy oak and even a hint of berries, the aromas accurately presage the young, vibrant flavors that follow with great exuberance on the palate. Balance and precision are equal partners as well, and the wine does not let down anywhere from front to back. Withal, it is bit tight at this writing, and we would commend this wine to the cellar for several years while it grows into itself.
89 (One Puff) HALLECK VINEYARD Pinot Noir Hallberg Vineyard Russian River Valley 2006
The clear winner among its mates if ripeness and concentration is the first order of business, this expressive, full-bodied, fleshy-textured bottling has somewhat sweeter, deeper flavors than its mates and, not unexpectedly, is considerably more compelling for nearer-term drinking. The late-arriving heat is also expected, and it will not be a problem when this wine is served alongside savory beef roasts with a rich gravy.
91 (Two Puffs) HALLECK VINEYARD Pinot Noir The Farm Vineyards Russian River Valley 2006
The lightest of the Halleck four, this wine is an elegant, complex wine whose mix of sweet red cherry fruit comes with attractive notes of loam, cola and mild hints of cocoa. It is almost full in body but is also very well-balanced and has a nice lively quality to its ripe fruit and oak-enriched flavors. Those looking for more strength and sap in their Pinots need only choose either of the other Hallecks, but those in search of something to accompany a thick-cut veal chop will be happy.
(One Puff) HALLECK VINEYARD Pinot Noir Three Sons Cuvee Russian River Valley 2006
Just about equaling the Halleck Hallberg in ripeness, this wine is fairly concentrated at its heart and full on the palate. It is slightly less deep in fruitiness and, while it does not live up to its pals in sheer, outright reward, it is still a very likeable Pinot Noir from a producer that is joining the top ranks.
Don Gillette: The Napa Valley Wine Exchange
January 14, 2008
Worth Waiting For
I tried to coordinate schedules with Jennifer Halleck for six to eight weeks, but it never quite worked out. December has its issues, even more for a wine store than a winery, but this week we were finally able to get together at the store.
Last Spring, I and three other NVWE staff members visited the Russian River Valley to barrel-taste 2006 Pinots with Ross Halleck. There were five different versions and we tried multiple barrels of each. 2006 had elsewhere proven to be a vintage of high peaks, but occasional valleys, but the Halleck wines proved to be among the finest and most consistent examples we saw last year. As our customers had been extremely enthusiastic about the 2005 Halleck Pinots, we were anxious to get early bottle samples from '06.
We tasted and re-examined Jennifer's wines for close to 48 hours. They are certainly what I had hoped, although they are big, and their pace of development is a bit behind the 2005s. We tried the Three Sons blend, the Hallberg Vineyard, the Farm Vineyard, and a brilliant new Sonoma Coast bottling called (after its clone) the 828. Jennifer did not bring the 50 case production Estate Vineyard, which we will see later in the year, when it is released.
NVWE customers who purchased last years Three Sons have seen it grow dramatically in appeal over the last twelve months, so I get regular requests for release information on the 2006. Well the '06 appears to be a bigger, firmer clone of the 2005. It is absolutely lovely already and will have a fine future.
The 828 is a one-time bottling, as the fruit will be Estate Bottled by the vineyard owners beginning in 2007. This is too bad, as the wine is brilliant already and is just a puppy. The property is just north of Peay Vineyard and Hirsch Vineyard in the upper Sonoma Coast. Like Peay, it is a hilltop vineyard. Like Peay it combines deep blackberry, dark cherry and black tea fruit with a sinewy texture and impressive tannic structure. Very delicious now, it will only get better.
The Hallberg bottling took twelve hours or more to fully reveal itself. With airing, it showed the polish, richness and reserved strength of the outstanding 2005, yet the tannins are fuller and the oak is pushed more into the background by slightly more powerful fruit. As with the Three Sons, its development should closely parallel 2005.
The greatest contrast to 2005 lies with the Farm Vineyard bottling. So flamboyantly fruity, rich and floral in barrel as to seem an outright copy of the 2005, the 2006 is thus far extremely tight in bottle. It should be just fine, but can't be gulped at once, like the 2005.
The Hallecks bottle two lovely white wines as well and both the richly floral 2006 Gewurztraminer and the mineral-citric Sauvignon Blanc were poured as well. Surprisingly these beauties appreciated the airing as well, expanding in aroma, flavor and polish. Both are outstanding and both will, along with the four Pinots, be arriving this week. They were worth the wait!
Posted by Don on January 14, 2008 9:10 AM
Russian River Valley
Beautifully oaked and full of tightly coiled fruit strength, the nose of this clearly very youthful Pinot offers scents of sweet red and dark cherries, panetone, subtle smoky notes, vanilla and hints of white pepper in a focused and intriguing mix. It is tighter on the palate, but just as focused, with Bing cherry, panetone and lots of tobacconist shop spice. Needing three to six years to reveal all its dimensions, it will drink brilliantly within the next twelve to eighteen months. 295 cases produced.
Russian River Valley
Much tighter than the flamboyant 2005 Farm bottling, this one should prove bigger as well, and for the time being its aromas of floral-accented strawberry, dry rose and dried orange peel lag slightly behind its rich vanilla, smoke and earth notes. It is round, rich and firmly structured on the palate, showing polish and style, but plenty of tannin and strength as well. The finish is long and dense, with emerging cherry, boysenberry, vanilla and earth notes. This is a very fine and obviously ageworthy bottling, but it may take a year or two to become as forthcoming as last years version. 250 cases produced.
Deep, dark and impressive, the aromas of this distinctive Pinot are of boysenberry, red plum, cherry liqueur, minerals, black tea, smoke, earth and a panetone-like hint of bready-fruity spice. It is full and quite forthcoming on the palate and has a sinewy mouthfeel, as its flavors of black tea, minerally-earthy spice, crushed rose and boysenberry fan out on the palate. Super long and well braced with tannin, the finish reinforces the wines general impressions of deep flavor and coiled strength. It should be brilliant right now with a great beef roast, but will surely improve for several years. 266 cases produced.
Russian River Valley
This rich and lovely wine is clearly youthful, but it is already impressive to the nose, offering an aromatic display that includes smoke, dark cherry, strawberry, sumac, dried red rose, pencil shavings and cigar box spices. In the mouth it proves just as rich in body and full flavored as the aromas suggest. The finish is long and it reveals some tannic firmness, making it all too clear that this beauty is not fully evolved, although it is delicious enough already that present drinking will not be a sin. 1,300 cases produced.
Russian River Valley
If still a bit youthfully reserved, the aromas of this outstanding Sauvignon Blanc already show depth and class, as lemon zest, melon, peach blossom, mock orange and kiwi join some mineral notes and a hint of fresh green bean. The impression of genteel elegance carries through on the palate, where the mouthfeel is rich and silky and lemon zest, melon and mango flavors counterpoint some firming mineral accents to create a pinpoint balance. The finish is long, dry, polished and refreshing. 270 cases produced.
Russian River Valley
Gorgeously floral and impressively rich, the nose of this fine Gewurztraminer offers focused aromas of sweet honeysuckle, yellow rose, honeydew melon and lychee in a forthcoming and charming display. It is richer than expected on the palate, where Crenshaw melon, preserved lemon, white pepper and mineral accents push the honeysuckle into the background. The wine is still a bit youthfully tight, but the finish is long and bone dry, and the flavors expand nicely as the wine airs. A wonderful food companion, it is a pleasure to drink all by itself. 129 cases produced.
Dan Berger- Exceptional!- Superb pale cherry red color, bright lilting strawberry and raspberry fruit. Complex notes of clove and a freshness that indicates a better wine in two to four years. Will age a decade. Great structure!
Pinot Report- 94 Pts.-Complex, good structure and balance. Dark fruit, spice and earth, forest floor notes. Ripe red cherry with toasty oak.
Wine Enthusiast - 90 Pts. - The fruit brims in cherries, pomegranates, root beer, cola and new oak wrapped in a classically silky, seductive mouthfeel.
Dan Berger- Exceptional!- Darker fruit with a trace of black cherry. Seductive silky entry. A crowd pleaser with a future!
Pinot Report- 93 Pts.-Medim ruby color; deep red cherry, spice, earthy aromas; Ripe red cherry flavors. Good structure, balance, silky with long finish.
Wine Enthusiast - 90 Pts. - Here's a big, bold Pinot Noir, the kind that 's been much discusssed in critical circles over the years for not being "typical". No, it's not a Burgundy. It could almost be a granache, it's so rich and ripe in almost sweet cherry-filled chocolate candy flavors. But there is not denying the deliciousness factor, while the acidity is just right to make it clean and balanced.
Dan Berger- Exceptional!- Chewier and a bit more structure, this still elegant wine has more oak (but not over the top), graceful mid-palate, and a long deep finish.
Pinot Report- 93 Pts.-Medim ruby color; deep red cherry, spice, earthy aromas; Ripe red cherry flavors. Good structure, balance, Complex and earthy.
Wine Enthusiast - 93 Pts. - This is the most stucturally tannic of Halleck's current trio of Pinots, although it is easy enough to drink tonight. Those tannins frame ripe flavors of cherry jam, cola, rhubarb pie, mocha, new oak and Asian spice, and the texture is pure silk and satin. Deliciously gently, it's a wine that changes in the glass as it airs and warms.
Dan Berger- Exceptional!- Another dual personality wine with hints of both Graves (minerals) and the Loire Valley (steely herbality). Citrus and tropical notes to boot. Bone dry. Sure to age nicely for years.
Wine Enthusiast - 91 Pts. - Editor's Choice - This is a very fine Sauvignon Blanc. It reminds me of Rochioli's, so ripe and complex in apple, peach, citrus and melon flavors, although this one's sweeter. A touch of oak adds smoky crean vanilla. For the technically minded, the acidity is 7.7 grams per liter, which is quite high for a California wine.
Pinot Report - 96 pts.Halleck's estate Pinot seems to get better and better with this laser focused 2004. It's amazingly deep and rich with great complexity.
2004 Three Sons Cuvee
Pinot Noir Summit - 91.5 pts.
Male: Lovely aromatics - strawberry jam, potent black cherry, cola, licorice, and
forest floor. Luscious, concentrated jammy fruit…
Pinot Report - 94 pts.
Deep ruby purple color; complex, spice, cassis and black cherry aromas; full, rip and silky in the mouth with cherry and cassis notes, sweet oak…
Hanes Wine Review - 90 pts.
Pleasingly reflective surface laid over a deep crimson to purple core, dense brick red hued rims. The ripe, juicy nose just explodes…
Vinography - 9.5 pts.
In the mouth it has nearly perfect balance with excellent acidity and light, sweet tannins supporting flavors of cranberry, plum, and redcurrant … a lovely finish. http://www.vinography.com/archives/000820.html
2004 Piner Creek Ranch Dry Gewurztraminer
Avenue Vine - 90 pts.
I immediately went looking for oysters, sea food and sushi--the fruity highlights of the wine’s richness and dry acidity with the Uni is fantastical!
Atlanta Wine Review - 92 pts.
Medium-bodied dry white wine, pale yellow. Very attractive lychee nut
aromas, with a hint of jasmine/honeysuckle; ample, voluptuous fruit, lychee. A classic!
Vinography - 9 pts
….this wine has the most perfumed nose I've ever smelled … it is likely the best dry Gewurztraminer I've had from California.
Dan Berger’s Vintage Experiences- Rating: "EXCEPTIONAL"
"Dry": Superb rose petals and lichee nut aroma. It does Alsace one better with its freshness and lively acids, a trace of minerality, and a penchant for Japanese cuisine. http://www.vintageexperiences.com
2004 Piner Creek Ranch Sauvignon Blanc
Hanes Wine Reviews - 91 pts.
White to yellow straw in hue, for as light in color as it is presents a good deal of translucency. Full, stuffed grassy nose, gets up in there with little delay. www.haneswinereview.com
Dan Berger’s Vintage Experiences- Rating: "EXCEPTIONAL"
This superb wine is one that will be best understood by those who can imagine a bone dry wine that's half Graves and half Loire Valley. With subtle herbal notes, and a raciness that demands at least three more years in the bottle. Lean and best now with delicate fish.
2003 Estate Grown Pinot Noir
Pinot Report - 95 pts.
This Pinot has incredible depth and complexity of flavors and yet has a razor sharp focused black cherry fruit.
Vinography - 9 pts
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine has a nose of cranberry and soft red fruit with a slight hint of caramel. In the mouth it has a nice soft tartness.
Tres Pinot nose. Luscious red fruits slide down easily. Dusty tannins.
2003 Three Sons Cuvee
Robert Parker - 89 pts.
…Three Sons Cuvee will be enjoyed by Cabernet lovers. Concentrated, full-bodied, muscular, beefy, and chewy with loads of extract, tannin, and body.
2002 Estate Grown Pinot Noir
Robert Parker - 92 pts.
It’s deep ruby color is followed by a gamy meaty nose with aromas of compost, sweet cherries, plums, and currants, attractive layers of fruit, a heady, sumptuous finish. www.erobertparker.com
Dan Berger’s Vintage Experiences- Rating: "EXCEPTIONAL"
Exciting aromas of violets and black pepper; herbal, slightly Burgundian with hints of cinnamon and nutmeg. Just a tad shy now since it's so young, but truly a fine cool-climate effort.