Strawberry and red fruits jump from the glass in this multifaceted wine. Complexed with notes of sassafras and bergamot, aromas of dried rose petal are layered in the nose and offer up classic Pinot Noir perfume. In the mouth, the wine has a sense of roundness and harmony that is satisfying and refreshing. Dark red fruit flavors mix with hints of cocoa and wood spices. Sourced from various vineyards in the Russian River Valley including some younger blocks from the various Estate vineyards.
The 2020 growing season started out very dry with 60% of average rainfall. Dry winters usually bring early bud break, but the nights were colder than average and bud break was delayed. Early spring rains recharged the soil profile, but periods of extreme cold caused many frost events throughout the Russian River Valley. In some areas, frost was an issue and had the effect of lowering the crop. Bloom weather was overall very good, but was interspersed with a few cool periods with scattered showers which created a “hens and chicks” cluster morphology. Late spring yielded ample sunshine and moderate temperatures, and the plants responded very well with excellent canopy growth. Slightly looser clusters and excellent viticultural timing set the stage for good exposure of fruit for color and tannin development. The consequent wines for 2020 have deep color and very refined tannin owing to the early season sunshine. The season ended up approximately 12% warmer than average, and did not have any heat spikes until August. Shoots and stems were well lignified, and seeds were brown—these are all indicators of maturity. The warmer parts of the Russian River Valley were near harvest already so the decision to start picking was made. Harvest started in haste on August 12, ahead of an extreme heat wave. On the night of August 16, the weather changed and there was a rare dry lightning storm that sparked a fire on a hillside in remote west Sonoma County. This fire would later be named the Walbridge Fire. In the Russian River Valley, it took a number of days for smoke to settle along with that were concerns of smoke taint. Based on test results for smoke taint on the grapes, several vineyards were not picked due to the threat of tainted wine. These vineyards were mostly on the Coast. For the vineyards that were picked, either before the fire or before the smoke settled, the result was concentrated wines with a darker, more brooding complexion. The polish of the tannin, coupled with excellent concentration, should allow for a wide drinking window.
About Williams Selyem
Like most good stories, the history of Williams Selyem owes much to serendipity. If a grower with an abundance of fruit hadn’t given Burt Williams a few tons of free grapes in the 1970s, Burt might never have discovered his love and flair for winemaking. And if Burt and his partner Ed Selyem had been able to afford the French Burgundies they both favored, they might never have tried making their own Pinot Noir.
The two friends didn’t set out to produce wines for anyone but themselves. And they surely never imagined that their humble experiment in home winemaking would spawn a cult-status winery of international acclaim. Together, Burt and Ed set a new standard for American-made Pinot Noir, and elevated Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley to among the best wine growing regions in the world.