By The Wine Guys, Tom Marquardt and Patrick Darr
Peay Vineyards runs counter to what many Americans look for when purchasing wine today. Many American consumers look for bold, extracted wines that don’t require much thought as to their flavor profile. Even Burgundy, the source of highly nuanced wines in the past, is now crafting bigger wines from the onery pinot noir grape, thanks to the impact of global warming. Tasting Peay wines is not for the faint hearted. These wines demand scrutiny and patience to unspool their charms
Peay is located in Northern Sonoma County only 4 miles from the frigid Pacific Ocean near the town of Annapolis, now home to about 400 souls. Grown on the edge of suitability for grape growing, this very cool climate region is oftentimes fog shrouded and produces distinctive, small production wines.
Husband and wife team Nick Peay and Vanessa Wong and brother Andy Peay founded Peay Vineyards in 1998. Fifty-two acres are planted to pinot noir, chardonnay, syrah along with a micro-amount viognier and marsanne. Most releases are less than 100 cases.
We recently tasted five Peay wines and were really impressed with their understated elegance as well as their thread of minerality.
The Peay Estate Chardonnay Sonoma Coast 2019 ($60) is not for lovers of the classic California tropical fruit, heavily oaked wines that dominate the market. Pear notes dominate in a subtle mineral-driven wine that will only get better over time.
The Peay Estate Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast 2019 ($73) is another elegant, understated example of cool-climate fruit. Subtle cherry notes, soft tannins and a distinctive mineral streak are present in this wine that demands attention.
True to the Peay estate style, the Peay Les Titans Estate Syrah 2018 ($70) displays berry notes with a classic dose of black pepper and minerality. It will definitely improve and blossom with time, but we enjoy it now.
We also tasted two non-estate wines from Peay.
The Peay Chardonnay Sonoma Coast 2019 ($48) offered a very pronounced toasty oak nose and flavors of apple and melon.
The Peay Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast 2019 ($48) was our favorite for immediate drinking with pleasant wild cherry elements, an interesting gaminess and a layer of spice.
Both of these non- estate wines are drinking well now and can be enjoyed waiting for their estate wines to develop.
We first met Phil Long of Longevity wines via Zoom a little more than a year ago. We profiled Phil and described his leadership among Black-owned wineries and tasted his recently released Longevity chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon. Recently we caught up with Phil Long in person to taste his new Longevity releases as well as two new cabernet sauvignon offerings from Alexander and Napa Valleys.
Affable as always Phil displayed an overall love of wine and enthusiastically described his wine journey. He described how “wine creates a sense of place and time…where you were.”
Phil is enthusiastic about his relationship with wine industry giant Bronco Wine and its 45,000 acres of vineyards in California. They are the largest grape growers there.
“Access to the largest spice rack, bucket of knowledge and experience” is how Phil summed up his experience with Bronco. All of the Longevity wines are sealed with a helix cork which doesn’t require a corkscrew and is easily resealable and won’t leak when stored on its side after opening.
Phil and his 34-year-old son Phil Jr. are responsible for the blending of the Longevity and the Phil Long bottlings. They consult with Franzia’s grape growers on vineyard practices and harvesting decisions.
The Longevity Debra’s Cuvee Rosé of Pinot Noir California 2021 ($14) is one of the first of the season’s rosés that we have tasted. It is made in a more mellow, lower-acid style that makes for easy quaffing and can take a chill in the summer. Citrus and strawberry elements are present with a slight floral note.
The Longevity Cabernet Sauvignon California 2018 ($14) is another soft, round and accessible red wine that needed 20 minutes to blossom in the glass. Cherry and cassis dominate, just give this wine a few minutes to open-up and reveal its quality.
The star of the show was the Longevity Chardonnay California 2019 ($14). This is a classic in your face California style of chardonnay with big abundant tropical fruit, melon and citrus notes. A healthy dose of sweet oak balances with the fruit and creates an amazing package for the price. Phil stated this is “my style of chardonnay”.
Two new releases by Phil Long are the Phil Long Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley 2018 ($26) and the Phil Long Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 ($34). The Alexander Valley wine presents cherry and berry notes with a slight herbal note in a bright fruit package. A great price for the quality of the wine. The Napa Valley wine was soft and elegant with black cherry notes and a hint of cassis and also offers value.
Wines that give back
Stolpman Vineyards La Cuadrilla 2020 ($22). This tasty blend of syrah, grenache and sangiovese was brought to our attention by a reader. Thank you! The profits from this wine are given to the vineyard workers. It has a youthful appeal with bright red berry and cranberry notes and a dash of white pepper.
J. Lohr Carol’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 ($60). Winemaker Steve Peck has given this premium wine the producer’s Midas touch. Forward fruit style but also with good depth and structure, it has black cherry and plum character. A little petit verdot was blended with the cab this year. For every bottle sold, $3 is donated to the National Breast Cancer Foundation.