Radio-Coteau is deservedly a true “cult” Pinot Noir. A “cult” wine is one produced in very small quantities by a very skilled and experienced winegrower and winemaker, sold and tightly allocated through a mailing list, distinguished by unique and special wines, and known only to the most dedicated wine geeks.
Owner Eric Sussman developed an interest in wine while studying agriculture at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. He ventured to Washington’s Yakima Valley where he spent several years managing the vines and cellar of a small artisan producer. He then moved on to France and spent the 1995 vintage in Burgundy at Comte Armand in Pommard and Domaine Jacques Prieur in Meursault. After returning to northern California, he worked one year at Bonny Doon and from 1988-2001 as the associate winemaker at Dehlinger. He crossed paths with Bill and Joan Smith, former owners of La Jota, and current owners of W.H. Smith Wines. They formed a partnership that became Radio-Coteau Wine Cellars in 2002. This was also the same time Eric discovered the biodynamically farmed Terra Neuma Vineyard before it had produced its first crop.
“Radio-Coteau” are two conjoined words derived from the northern Rhone region of France. The colloquial meaning is “word of mouth,” but the literal translation is “broadcasting from the hillside.” Eric first heard this expression from a friend while living and working in Burgundy. It refers to a commitment to community, to growers found by word of mouth, tradition handed down in the cellar, and friends helping at harvest.
The inaugural Pinot Noir releases in 2002 focused on vineyards in the true Sonoma Coast and Savoy Vineyard in the Anderson Valley. The wines were received by the wine press with considerable praise and quickly sold out. Andy Tan, noted sommelier and wine retailer said, “This estate is making the most exciting Pinot Noir from California.” After tasting through the 2003 lineup (PinotFile, Volume 4, Issue 44) I noted that all of the wines were superb: “A lot of Pinot and ton of Noir.” By 2017, vineyard sources included sites in the Sonoma Coast, Russian River Valley and Anderson Valley (map is on website).