2014 Pinot on the River Tasting Favorites

Last month I attended, as a media guest, the 11th Annual Pinot on the River Festival in Healdsburg, California.  Pinot on the River is a Pinot Noir-centric event that offers an opportunity taste highly allocated, limited-production Pinot Noirs from up and down the West Coast.

There are a lot of stellar wine events held each year, but because of their size, none can offer the focused, intimate tasting environment we’ve created with Pinot On The River,” The combination of the small event size and opportunity to taste a focused lineup of specially selected Pinots Noirs creates the ultimate event for Pinot lovers.– Gregory S. Walter, co-founder/organizer of the event and editor of the Pinot Report newsletter

In addition to the tasting, the event included local artisan food vendors, raffle and silent auction.  Proceeds from food sales, silent auction and raffle benefit Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Sonoma County.

Favorites from the 2014 Pinot on the River Tasting
A gorgeous day on Healdsburg Square!

I’m a huge fan of Pinot Noir and this event has been on my radar for a few years but for one reason or another, I hadn’t gotten around to attending.

When I checked out the list of wineries pouring, it created what I’d call a “delightful dilemma”.

There were several wineries, whose wines can be a challenge to find in the marketplace because they are sold via a mailing list only, that have been on my “Wines To Taste” list for years…

There were plenty of wineries with big-time Pinot Noir reputations (some I’d tasted and many I hadn’t)…

And there were lots wineries whose names were new to me…

I typically go into such big tasting with a plan, but since this was an all Pinot, all the time event, I didn’t have a plan…Ok, well I didn’t have a plan other that hitting the wineries on my “Wines To Taste” list first!

Favorites from the 2014 Pinot on the River Tasting
Brian Mast of Waits-Mast Family Cellars

It was an absolutely perfect day for the event too!  Cellar temperature weather – sunny and in the upper 60s would be my guess.

Favorites from the 2014 Pinot on the River Tasting
Waits-Mast – a “new to me” producer that had an impressive line-up of vineyard designate wines…
Favorites from the 2014 Pinot on the River Tasting
Thralls Family Cellars is a very small producers (Ed still has a day job) that’s making some elegant, and harmonious wines
Favorites from the 2014 Pinot on the River Tasting
Littorai has been on my “Wines to Taste” list for years – The wines are available via mailing list only and tasting is appt only – so great opportunity to taste these world-class wines…Score!
Favorites from the 2014 Pinot on the River Tasting
Skewis – was another “new to me” producer that was quite a revelation. The wines were well-balanced, delicious and made for the table!
Favorites from the 2014 Pinot on the River Tasting
Failla is another producer that has been wine “To Taste” list for years. They produce mostly vineyard designate wines. Another mailing list only producer…The wines lived up to their considerable reputation…

The event was a walk-around tasting held in beautiful Healdsburg Plaza.  According to the event’s organizers there were about 100 wineries pouring.

It was pretty well-organized.  The wineries were mostly in alphabetical order, and there was handy tri-fold listing for taking brief notes and/or rating wines.

I’ve become fond of using a 1-5 scale for big event like this.  It makes it simpler for me to rate the wines, and consequently taste more wine.

I ended up tasting about 50 wines from about 40 wineries…far from a comprehensive tasting of all the wines available, but definitely a representative sample of the wines available.

My favorite wines (rated 4.25 or higher) from the event were:

  • 2012 Black Kite Pinot Noir Stony Terrace
  • 2012 Bruliam Pinot Noir Soberanes Vineyard
  • 2012 Failla Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
  • 2012 Failla Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir Hirsch  Vineyard
  • 2010 La Rochelle Pinot Noir Dutton Ranch
  • 2012 Littorai Pinot Noir Savoy Vineyard
  • 2013 Littorai Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast
  • 2012 MacPhail Pinot Noir Rita’s Crown
  • 2012 Skewis Pinot Noir Wiley
  • 2012 Skewis Pinot Noir Salzgeber-Chan Vineyard
  • 2012 Thralls Pinot Noir Bucher Vineyard
  • 2012 Waits-Mast Family Cellars Pinot Noir Oppenlander Vineyard

It was a fantastic “deep dive” into Pinot Noir (along with a few Pinot Gris and even a Pinot Meunier). I love it when you can try wines back-to-back and decide (though sometimes the answer is “all of the above”) which wines you prefer.  Especially if you’re trying to decide whether it’s worth signing up for wines only available via a mailing list.

It’s an experience I highly recommend!  I’m already looking forward to Pinot on the River 2015!


  1. Michael says:

    Very interesting, informative read!

    1. Martin D. Redmond says:

      Thanks Michael!

  2. Been a big fan of many on your list for years! Was Hank Skewis there? He is a really nice guy (and his wife Maggie is fantastic). You should make an appointment to visit Littorai–it is a great tour and they really walk through the Biodynamic process. Will have to try Waits-Mast (and Thralls for that matter–I have hung out with Ed a couple of times, but never had any of his wines)!

    1. Martin D. Redmond says:

      Hi Jeff..Yes, Hank and his wife Maggie were both there. Wonderful folks and Pinot Noir, and yes…I’ll have to make an appt to visit Littorai.

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