Some of the most memorable Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays coming out of California are being made by Cobb Wines, a family-owned winery in the Sonoma Coast appellation.
All the wines are small-production, single-vineyard offerings that stand in marked contrast to the big-fruit, relatively high-alcohol style that has come to define California Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
In his Pinot Noirs, Ross Cobb, an owner and winemaker, strives for “a more complex, aromatic, lower-alcohol expression of the varietal picked at lower Brix [the sugar content of the grapes] and aged with a modest amount of new French oak,” according to Cobb’s website.
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This restrained, cool-climate style is abundantly evident in Cobb’s outstanding 2017 Pinot Noir “Emmaline Ann Vineyard,” one of five vineyards from which Cobb sources its fruit (including its own Coastlands Vineyard).
The wine is defined by its delicate red-fruit aromas and tastes, especially cherry and cranberry with a hint of blueberry, and background notes of dusty cocoa and earth. There’s a moderate layer of vanilla from 22 months of barrel aging, with only 30 percent in new oak.
All of that, combined with vibrant acidity and an almost unheard-of alcohol level of 12.4 percent, make this a vivid and refreshing lighter wine that’s among the more exciting American Pinot Noirs on the market. It’s $75 and available on Cobb’s website for shipping to most states.
Two other Cobb wines are also worth considering. The 2017 Pinot Noir “Docs Ranch: Pommard 114” is a slightly bigger $80 wine with dark-fruit notes of black cherry and grape jam, punctuated by baking spices and more grippy tannins.
And Cobb’s 2017 Chardonnay “Docs Ranch, JoAnn’s Block” is delicate and perfectly balanced with moderate alcohol (13.2 percent) and notes of green apple, white peach, nutmeg, lime, and a layer of cream on the long finish. At $70, it’s as close to high-end white Burgundy as you’ll find in this country, without a Burgundy price tag.