Thu 18 Aug 2011
Freestone Winery was founded by Joe Phelps and his son Bill, proprietors of Napa Valley’s justly renowned Joseph Phelps Vineyard, producer of the justly renowned Insignia cabernet sauvignon. Located in the Sonoma Coast appellation near the quaint old town of Freestone, the estate was launched in 1999 when father and son and their management company purchased about 100 acres in a cool-climate area rapidly becoming known as appropriate for pinot noir and chardonnay. Some 88 acres are devoted to pinot noir and 12 to chardonnay spread among four vineyards, Freestone, Quarter Moon, Pastorale and Ferguson (not to be confused with Robert Stemmler’s Ferguson Block in Carneros). The estate is operated on biodynamic principles. Freestone Winery makes three levels of wines: single-vineyard designated chardonnays and pinot noirs, sold only to its Wine Club at $100 a bottle; the “regular” bottlings that are blends of grapes from the three sites; and FogDog (not to be confused with Foghat, the British rock band that just keeps trying to keep on going forever) as the second, less expensive label. Winemaker is Theresa Heredia. I found these wines to be utterly classic in their ineffable melding of power and elegance and in their attention to varietal integrity and detail.
Tasted at a trade event.
FogDog Chardonnay 2008 & Freestone Chardonnay 2008, Sonoma Coast. FogDog Chardonnay 08: Impressive, beguiling, lovely purity and intensity, very nicely balanced; pineapple-grapefruit, touches of pear, cloves, quince, hint of honeysuckle; oak is very subtle and transparent; supple texture made lively by vibrant acidity and scintillating limestone element; pineapple-grapefruit flavors with hint of roasted lemon, long spicy, mineral-drenched finish. 13.5 percent alcohol. This encompasses only 14 percent estate grapes, the rest from local vineyards including Dutton Ranches and Bacigalupi. Very Good+. About $35.
In comparison, the Freestone Chardonnay 08 pushes the throttle of intensity and purity to an impeccable scale, with apple, pineapple and grapefruit scents and flavors pierced by penetrating minerality, and with crystalline acidity electrifying a texture that’s almost talc-like in density and allure; to a touch of quince add hints of ginger and cloves; to the overall package add far more than a touch of audacious limestone and shale. This ages 14 months in French oak, 65 percent new barrels, but the wood influence is somehow as gossamer to its own tenacity. A chardonnay beautifully poised in essential equilibrium among all factors. Drink now through 2014 or ’15. Alcohol content is 13.5 percent. Excellent. About $55.
FogDog Pinot Noir 2008 & Freestone Pinot Noir 2007, Sonoma Coast. The difference in style between these pinot noirs is more marked than any differences between the chardonnays cited above. Rather than just a contrast in the intensity and density of the chardonnays, the pinots can be experienced as exploits in depth and seriousness. The FogDog Pinot Noir 08 is just a dreamy, seductive version of the grape that grabs you from the beginning with its moderately rich and radiant ruby-magenta color and incredibly lovely notes of smoky black cherry, cranberry, sassafras and cloves. The wine aged 15 months in French oak, 45 percent new barrels, but you feel the oak primarily as a persistent yet almost languid support for red and black cherry and rhubarb flavors and vivid acidity. Wow, date this one. 13.5 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2013 or ’14. Very Good+. About $35.
On the other hand, the Freestone Pinot Noir 07, aging 15 months in French oak, 65 percent new barrels, is all briers and brambles, dried porcini, earthy and mossy elements, deep woody spice qualities — sandalwood, cloves, allspice — and then dried flowers, potpourri, lavender; fruit, now playing second fiddle, comes slowly as black and red cherries, cranberry and cola, all ensconced in an ultra-satiny texture enlivened by vibrant acidity. I would wait a year before opening a bottle of this wine, but the potential seems superb, certainly on a par with certain Premier Cru pinot noirs from Burgundy, so 2012 through 2015 to ’17. Alcohol content is 13.5 percent. Excellent. About $55.