Log In / Join Now

what we're drinking now

Senior Tim Fish joined the Wine Spectator staff in 2001. His tasting beat includes Oregon, Washington, California Zinfandel and Rhône-style reds, and U.S. sparkling wines.
Tim Fish

Remembering an Old Friend with a Pinot Noir

Kenwood Pinot Noir Russian River Valley 2009

Tim Fish
Posted: May 18, 2011

When I moved to Sonoma County 20 years ago, one of the first winemakers I got to know was Mike Lee of Kenwood Vineyards. He had a touch with just about every wine, from Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay to Zinfandel. His Artist Series Cabernet Sauvignons of the mid-1980s were some of the best Cabs in California.

Mike was a good soul. I don’t think I ever heard a bad thing said about him, and Wine Country is rather catty at times. Well, Mike died May 2 at the age of 66. He was doing one of his favorite things: hanging out on the golf course with friends.

I was thinking about Mike a few days ago when I saw a bottle of Kenwood Pinot Noir Russian River 2009 ($16) on a retail shelf. Mike sold his stake in Kenwood in the late 1990s but remained as winemaker until 2003.

I knew Mike hadn’t made the wine, but I was feeling nostalgic and bought a bottle. It was the sort of Pinot he would have made: supple and balanced, with smoky cherry, sage and mineral notes. I rated it 88 points, non-blind. I drank a glass and thought about all those great wines Mike might have made and we’ll never get to try.

WineSpectator.com members: Read the blind-tasting reviews for recent vintages of Kenwood wines.

• Plus, get scores and tasting notes for recently rated Top Values among California Pinot Noir.

Mark Lyon
Sonoma, CA; USA —  May 24, 2011 10:25pm ET
Mike was one of the friendliest and approachable vintners that I've encountered! It is of great sadness to see him pass away. His accomplishments with the inception and winemaking at Kenwood Winery are amazing. I will miss his welcoming spirit. Thanks Tim for bringing his remembrance.

Would you like to comment? Want to join or start a discussion?

Become a WineSpectator.com member and you can!
To protect the quality of our conversations, only members may submit comments. Member benefits include access to more than 315,000 reviews in our Wine Ratings Search; a first look at ratings in our Insider, Advance and Tasting Highlights; Value Wines; the Personal Wine List/My Cellar tool, hundreds of wine-friendly recipes and more.

WineRatings+ app: Download now for 340,000+ ratings.