Over in Sonoma County in the town of Sebastopol sits The Barlow. It’s a series of former warehouses that has found new life as an open-air mall of sorts. More than a mall, though, it’s a destination for shopping, eating, drinking ,and plain-old hanging out. There are many reasons to go there, but my favorite is the MacPhail Family Wines Tasting Lounge.
The focus at MacPhail is largely on pinot noir. They source fruit from distinct vineyards and use it to produce a wide range of wines. Most of them are single vineyard offerings, a few are region specific. There are several tasting options available at MacPhail, some of them require reservations; most of them do not. In my opinion, it’s always a good idea to make an appointment anywhere you go for best results. The atmosphere fostered by general manager and long-time Sonoma Wine Guy Jim Morris at MacPhail is welcoming, laidback, and informative. Be prepared to relax, hang out, and have a good time tasting wine. You’re sure to learn a few things, too. I recently visited and tasted through a whole array of their wines, here are some thoughts on my favorites.
MacPhail Family Wines Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 2012 ($35)
All of the chardonnay was sourced at the Gap’s Crown Vineyard on the Sonoma Coast. Pineapple and orchard fruit aromas dominate the nose here. The palate is studded with oodles of pure and unadulterated fruit flavors such as apples, peach, and pear. Minerals, continued bits of pear, and white pepper flavors are all in evidence on the clean, crisp finish. This is a genuine expression of chardonnay that allows all the beautiful, mouth-watering fruit to shine.
MacPhail Family Wines Sangiacamo Vineyard Pinot Noir 2011 ($49)
All of the fruit was sourced at the namesake vineyard on the Sonoma Coast. Red raspberry aromas light up the welcoming nose. Savory herbs such as sage ant thyme lead a palate studded with delicious red fruit flavors. Hints of cinnamon, along with red and black raspberry, are all part of the long finish, which also shows off bits of black tea. Pair this with mushroom risotto and culinary sparks will fly.
MacPhail Family Wines Pratt Vineyard Pinot Noir 2011 ($49)
All of the fruit came from the namesake vineyard on the Sonoma Coast. The nose here is big and almost boisterous, featuring a ton of spice and bright red cherry fruits. Pomegranate, sour black cherry, and cranberry dominate the deeply layered palate. Sweet berry fruit flavors lead the persistent finish which also shows off spice in droves and mineral elements. The bright acid profile this wine makes it a particularly natural partner for a wide array of foods.
MacPhail Family Wines Toulouse Pinot Noir 2012 ($49)
All of the fruit came from the namesake vineyard in the Anderson Valley. Earth-covered cherry aromas inform the nose. Savory herbs, spices, and red fruits galore are all part of a rich, round palate with a luxurious mouth feel. Red and black fruits are joined by continued spices and hints of chicory on the lengthy finish. This is an exceptional example of pinot noir that is loaded with varietal character and fruit without ever straying over the top. Quite frankly, it’s a steal at this price.
MacPhail Family Wines Rita’s Crown Pinot Noir 2011 ($49)
All of the fruit came from the namesake vineyard in the Santa Rita Hills. Red plum and raspberry aromas light up the deep nose. Bits of black fruit appear on the palate, but red flavors dominate the show. The finish is prodigiously long with earth, spices, and minerals, all in droves. Black tea notes play a supporting role. If you want to sit in the corner and contemplate life over a bottle of wine, this one would be a terrific choice. Decant it for an hour to allow all its charms to shine.
MacPhail Family Wines Mardikian Estate Pinot Noir 2012 ($85)
The fruit comes from their Estate Vineyard on the Sonoma Coast. This is the inaugural release from that vineyard. Oodles of red cherry burst from the big and inviting nose. Tons of sweet red fruit appear on the palate along with bits of tobacco and bay leaf. The finish is memorably long with lots of fruit, spice, minerals, and wisps of earth. This is an outstanding example of pinot noir, particularly since it’s the first from the vineyard. I look forward to what this vineyard brings as it matures. The Mardikian pinot is great now, but if you have the patience to lay it down for five years, you’ll be rewarded.
The MacPhail Wines do a wonderful job of showing off characteristics of a given region, vineyard site, and the conditions of the vintage in question. In other words these are wines that genuinely reflect the spot they were grown and the conditions of a given year. If that sounds like your idea of delicious (I know it’s mine), you need to check them out. When you go, you’ll have choices. One is to simply taste some current releases for $20. They waive a tasting fee for a three-bottle purchase. However, if you want to take a deeper dive (highly recommended), you can choose among Soil and Wine Pairing ($30), Single Vineyard Tasting ($30), or Library and Reserve Tasting ($50). In addition, they have monthly cheesemaker series, which allows you to add a cheese plate to your tasting for $12. If you’re a pinot noir fan, you owe it to your taste buds to head over to The Barlow and visit MacPhail Family Wines. It’s sure to be a delicious and relaxing experience in a welcoming atmosphere.