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Senior editor James Laube, Wine Spectator's expert on the wines of California, joined the magazine in 1983.
James Laube

An Up-and-Comer on the Sonoma Coast

Rivers Marie Occidental Ridge Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2006

James Laube
Posted: February 27, 2009

One expects big things—not necessarily in size, but in quality—from a winery with Thomas Rivers Brown at the helm as winemaker. (The Marie in the winery's name comes from the middle name of his wife, Genevieve Marie Welch.) Since 2001, Brown has made the stunning Schrader Napa Valley Cabernets, which are dollar for dollar the best of their ilk from Napa, and he's making wine for Schrader's Sonoma Coast Pinot project, Aston.

Rivers Marie also makes Napa Cabernet, from Howell Mountain; the excellent 2004 is a tight, rich and pure expression of Howell Mountain fruit. However, the main focus at Rivers Marie is on small-production Pinot Noir. The Pinots come from several Sonoma Coast sites, especially a six-acre vineyard called Occidental Ridge, which Rivers Marie shares with Failla. It's located near the town of Occidental, west of Sebastopol in the true Sonoma Coast.

The 2006 Occidental Ridge ($65 on the wine list at Bottega in Yountville) is the best Pinot I've tried from this up-and-coming winery. It's ripe and supple and offers pure cherry and berry fruit, delivering depth and body without weight or overripe tones. It also has nice acidity and should drink well over the next three years. 90 points, non-blind.

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