Peay Vineyards farms on a ridge top above a river gorge in the northwestern corner of the “true” Sonoma Coast 4 miles from the chilly Pacific Ocean. A consistent afternoon ocean wind, placement in the cool inversion layer and ancient marine soils allow them to produce wines of elegance, intensity and focus.
Peay Vineyards is a family-run business started from scratch in 1996. They planted the first 30 acres of the 54 acre vineyard in 1998 with the remaining planted in 2001 and 2008. They grow and produce estate-only Pinot Noir, Syrah, Chardonnay, Viognier and Roussanne/Marsanne. 2002 was the first vintage. Peay Vineyards is a first generation family winery started in 1996. Husband and wife, Nick Peay & Vanessa Wong, grow and make the wine and brother, Andy Peay, sells the wine and runs the business. Vanessa Wong was formerly winemaker at Peter Michael Winery. They sell fruit to a handful of premier wineries, but a majority of their fruit goes into their own bottlings.
The Peay family farms organically and maintains their certifications for fish-friendly farming and integrated pest management. The health of the vineyard dictates these approaches to farming and making wine. They also run on bio-diesel at the vineyard and solar power at both the vineyard and winery.
Estate Viognier 2015 $59.99
Viognier was practically extinct as a grape variety 35 years ago when two Americans brought cuttings to California from the Condrieu region of the northern Rhône Valley in France. These were mostly planted in warm climates and made a lush and tropical style of Viognier. That is not what you will find in a bottle of Peay Viognier. Their hilltop is a very cold site and results in a crisp, focused, and clean white wine well-matched with food.
Estate Chardonnay 2014 $69.99
Vanessa cut her teeth as winemaker at Peter Michael Winery in the 1990s. It was there that she learned the craft of making superior Chardonnay from various sites with distinct personalities. She has adapted her approach to suit their cooler site and makes some of the most compelling expressions of Chardonnay in the U.S.
Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast 2011 $59.99
They grow 35 acres of Pinot noir split in to 20-25 separate blocks based on clonal selection (13 and counting), aspect, elevation (600-775 feet) and various other factors. They pick them individually and vinify 20-25 Pinot noirs each vintage. The three estate blends (Ama, Pomarium and Scallop Shelf) are each a combination of 5-6 clones and blocks and do not represent a specific area of the vineyard but instead are an expression of Pinot noir from the vineyard. They make these blends without knowledge of how many cases of each wine they will produce, how much new oak is involved, or what clones are in which wine. This “blind” process keeps us focused on making the absolute best expression of that blend without any financial or other considerations. Any barrels that do not go into one of the estate wines are blended with wines made from neighboring vineyards to make the Sonoma Coast cuvee.
Scallop Shelf Pinot Noir 2009 $55.99
Scallop Shelf is characterized by a floral, red-fruited profile with grace, elegance, and natural beauty. The blend is a majority of the Pommard selection which, in their vineyard, offers a distinct orange rind flavor not the deep cherry flavor you find in wines made from the Pommard clone in warmer climates. Dijon clones 115 and 777 provide the mid-palate depth and roundness with Swan and Mount Eden selections accenting the fruit flavors with high tone floral scents. Over the arc of the fifteen vintages they have made the Scallop Shelf Pinot Noir the winemaking has remained almost identical but the character of the wine has slightly changed. The bright, orange rind inflected nose and jasmine aromas remain. The elegant profile and brisk acidity that commands a second taste, and a third, persists.
Pomarium Pinot Noir 2015 $69.99
Pomarium is the more broad-shouldered, savory and dark-fruited cuvée with a floral whiff of San Francisco hippie. The fruit flavors lean to berry and plum skin notes. The presence on the palate is larger framed than our other Pinot Noirs, though not necessarily due to riper blocks in the blend but to silky tannins that ballast black fruit and earth- driven flavors. The distinctly earthy characteristics are somewhat akin to stepping on dried pine needles in a conifer forest mid-summer; or, smelling the scent of sagebrush and incense on Jim Morrison while he’s waxing poetic under the stars.
Their estate vineyard is one of the coldest vineyards in California growing Syrah – in the world, for that matter. When they purchased the old sheep ranch and apple orchard they were concerned that they would not be able to ripen Pinot noir, much less Syrah. Due to the moderating effect of our maritime climate and our latitude, however, the onset of wet and cold weather is late and gradual and we experience cool days with full sunshine in October. This allows them an additional month to ripen our grapes in comparison to other typical Syrah growing regions of the world. Importantly, that last month of ripening weather is cool and signature aromas of white pepper, game, iron and leather remain in the grape skins that would “bake” out in a warmer region.