AWG Correspondent

Martin D. Redmond

Joseph Phelps - Freestone Vineyards Photos

Joseph Phelps - Freestone Vineyards Review

Regions: Sonoma Coast AVA, Sonoma County, California

Reviewed: August 14, 2013 by Martin D. Redmond
Published: August 19, 2013

My wife and I do more than our fair share of wine tasting. More often than not, especially when visiting wine country, we plan to visit at least a few wineries. However, we it find equally satisfying when we visit one or two wineries, as part of a larger experience. Whenever we seek such an experience, we head west to the beautiful Sonoma Coast. Aside from some great Sonoma wineries, its beautifully rugged coastline, beaches, hiking trails and proximity to redwood forests offer a multitude of opportunities for Pacific Ocean sightseeing, strolls on the beach, picnicking, and hiking among other things. Whenever we venture out to West Sonoma County, one of our favorite wineries is Joseph Phelps Vineyard (“JPF”) in Freestone.

Freestone is a small, historic community that dates back to 1853. It is located at the intersection of the Bohemian Highway and the Bodega Highway in the Sonoma Coast AVA, on the fringe of the Russian River Valley. It was Sonoma County’s first historic district, home to a number of classic western style buildings, which exude a mix of small-town charm and a western outpost feel. It is situated in a profoundly scenic valley with exquisite pastoral vistas and rolling hills. While there’s not a whole lot to do in Freestone, what there is to do is top-notch. More on that later...

The Winery:  In 1999, Joseph Phelps, of the eponymous Napa Valley winery, and his son Bill purchased a former dairy farm on 89 acres in Freestone. Even though Phelps’ vinous claim to fame is his iconic Insignia Bordeaux blend, he’s had a lifelong love affair with Burgundian varieties. The Phelps’ purchased the property with growing Chardonnay in mind. However, they soon discovered the Sonoma coast was also ideally suited for Pinot Noir. In 2000, they began a staged replanting of the property that lasted until 2007. In 2005, construction began on a new winery that was completed in time for the 2007 harvest. Today, their biodynamic estate vineyards are planted to 80 acres of Pinot Noir and 20 acres of Chardonnay. Beginning with the 2010 vintage, the winery brand was changed from Freestone Vineyards to Joseph Phelps Freestone Vineyards (“JPF”).

Joseph Phelps Freestone is a beautiful winery with a rustic, yet contemporary aesthetic. I think of it as Napa sophistication with a more casual and relaxed Sonoma County vibe.

When you walk into the tasting room that same charmingly rustic, yet sophisticated vibe is manifest in the interior. There’s a classy wine bar situated in the middle of the tasting room for those who prefer the traditional stand-up tasting. But on either side of the wine bar are two invitingly comfortable areas that offer a more relaxed and intimate seated tasting. There is an area on the left that features an elegant family style dining table that seats 6-8, while the cozy and comfortable area on the right side features a smaller table that seats 2-4 people. Either way, you’ll enjoy a wine tasting experience enhanced by the quality of service provided by the tasting room hosts, who are very knowledgeable, attentive and friendly.

The day we visited, our primary host was Stephen Pavy, the convivial Director of Hospitality and Wine Education for Joseph Phelps, but we were assisted throughout our tasting experience by a couple of other tasting room hosts who were just as convivial. They managed to share some interesting things about each wine, without coming across as "wine snobbish". It was a relaxed, fun and educational experience where I learned a thing or two. And I don’t often get to say that. Also, I appreciated the fact that all the wines were served at the appropriate temperature.

The Wines:  Without a doubt JPF is making some of the finest wines in the Sonoma Coast. The wines available for tasting include both Napa Valley and Sonoma Coast selections.

The Napa Valley selections included:

2012 Sauvignon Blanc – Floral and citrus aromatic with lively acidity, a creamy texture and citrus, melon and a hint of pineapple flavor Aged 7 months in French Oak.

2010 Cabernet Sauvignon – Still young, but with aromatic tobacco, black and blue fruit, and spiced vanilla, flavors. Slightly tannic with a long finish.

2011 Eisrébe - a delightful Eiswein-style dessert wine made from a grape you don’t see much outside of Germany and Austria, Scheurebe. The grapes were picked at 23 brix and flash-frozen (we don’t get freezing weather in Napa Valley often). It shows expansive honey, citrus aromas, and was sweet without being cloying thanks to its very good acidity.

The Sonoma Coast selections included:

2011 Fogdog Chardonnay – Entry level wine with apple, pear, vanilla, mineral and a kiss of spice aromatics and flavor with firm acidity.

2011 Freestone Chardonnay – Apple, pear, floral, and spice aromatics. It’s fresh, with a creamy texture, and apple, pear, citrus, and melon flavors and a long finish.

2010 Pinot Noir – Entry level wine with cherry, cola, and earth with a kiss of spice aroma. It’s shows bright acidity and cherry, and spice flavors and a lengthy finish.

2010 Pinot Noir, Quarter Moon – Single vineyard wine estate wine with billowing cherry, cranberry, and Asian spice aromas. Silky smooth with cherry, raspberry, spice and vanilla flavors. Long finish. My WOTD.

Insider Tip:  Be sure to check out Wild Flour Bakery - a wood fired brick oven bakery and garden for some of the best breads (including scones, sticky buns, fougasse you’ll ever taste, or if you’re looking for a unique a spa treatment check out Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary for their signature cedar enzyme treatment (my all-time favorite) and/ or a message. The Meditation Garden is the quintessential experience in tranquility. Both are within a 10-minute walk of the winery. Looking to do a bit of shopping. Check out the eclectic Enduring Comforts, a cozy boutique next to Wild Flour. They’ve got some great hats, along with jewelry, knick-knacks and gift items. And a short drive away is the new Freestone Artisan Cheese store.

Address & Contact Information: 12747 El Camino Bodega Freestone, California 95472. Telephone: 707-874-1010, website: Tasting Hours: May-Oct: 11:00-5:00; Nov-Apr: Thurs-Mon 11:00-5:00.

Overall Rating:  

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