Wine Country: Failla

Posted by | Posted in Grape Adventures, Wine Reviews | Posted on 11-29-2010

Courtesy of Failla.

Day 2, Part 3. It’s no secret that I love the wines from Failla. In fact, I’m reasonably certain that I caught the wine bug on trip to Failla three years ago after tasting the ’05 Estate Syrah.

Failla was launched in 1998, when Ehren Jordan and his wife, Anne-Marie Failla, planted their first Estate vineyard on the Sonoma Coast and purchased fruit for their first releases — the ‘98 Alban Vineyard Viognier and ‘98 Que Syrah Syrah. (The winery was originally called “Failla Jordan,” but that ended after the 2000 vintage when Jordan Vineyards and Winery threatened a trademark suit.)

Ehren Jordan was a well-known winemaker before launching Failla. In the early 1990s, he worked on the business side of Joseph Phelps Vineyards, working his way up from a tour guide to the retail sales manager. He then left California for the Rhône Valley, where he learned to turn grapes into wine under famed winemaker Jean-Luc Columbo. Upon his return in 1994, Ehren’s former boss from Joseph Phelps, Bruce Neyers, offered him a job as the winemaking partner at Neyers Vineyards. That same year, he also landed a position with Helen Turley, helping make wines at both Marcassin and Turley Wine Cellars. Since 1996, he’s been the head winemaker at Turley, where he still works. Ehren is also a pilot, which helps him jet around wine country.

Failla’s portfolio mostly consists of Pinots. In addition to its Estate bottling, Ehren makes Pinots from the Russian River Valley’s Keefer Ranch and Appian Way; the Sonoma Coast’s Hirsch Vineyard, Peay Vineyard, Occidental Ridge, and Pearlessence Vineyard; and from Rancho Santa Rosa in the Santa Rita Hills. In 2001, Ehren even produced an Oregon bottling from the Willamette Valley’s famed Goldschmidt Vineyard.

Failla also produces two Chardonnays — one from its Estate Vineyard and one from the Keefer Ranch. And the winery produces several highly regarded Syrahs, from the Estate Vineyard and Napa Valley’s Phoenix Ranch.

Our tasting was led by Andrew Seagrave, who took us through six wines at Failla’s comfortable farmhouse/tasting room on the Silverado Trail:  2009 Chardonnay Estate Vineyard; 2008 Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast; 2007 Pinot Noir Peay Vineyard; 2007 Pinot Noir Hirsch Vineyard; 2007 Pinot Noir Occidental Ridge; 2008 Pinot Noir Occidental Ridge.

Failla's first release. Taken in my kitchen.

The Chardonnay was fantastic. It had all the citrus, minerality, and acidity that I look for in Chardonnays – but also had a creaminess that helped create an extraordinarily long finish.

With regards to the Pinots, the ’07 from Hirsch and the ’07 Occidental Ridge were my favorites. I last had the ’07 Occidental Ridge in May – and while it was certainly tasty then, it seemed a bit too big (with too many notes of candied cherries) and young. It’s certainly mellowed out in the past six months. As for the Hirsch – it had that unique anise nose I’ve come to expect from that vineyard, but had tons of fruit and was incredibly approachable.

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