Wine Spectator 88 points - Fresh aromas of boysenberry and raspberry lead to flavors that are still brooding, offering accents of fresh sage, white pepper and mineral. Best from 2017 through 2022. 533 cases made.
(Jun 15 2015)
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Williams Selyem Winery began as a simple dream of two friends, Ed Selyem and Burt Williams, who pursued weekend winemaking as a hobby in 1979 in a garage in Forestville, California, and made their first commercial vintage in 1981. In less than two decades, Burt and Ed created a cult-status winery of international acclaim. Together they set a new standard for Pinot Noir winemaking in the United States, aligning Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley in the firmament of the best winegrowing regions of the world. Today John and Kathe Dyson, who purchased the winery from Burt and Ed in 1998, carry on the passion for Pinot Noir winemaking without compromise.
Burt and Ed were neighbors in the Russian River Valley, living across the river from one another. They both held full time jobs, but were restless to delve further into the object of their mutual passionówine. Burt was a 26-year veteran pressman for the San Francisco Newspaper Agency, publisher of the San Francisco Chronicle and Examiner, and Ed worked as the accountant and wine buyer at Speer’s market in Forestville, in addition to making his own label called Hacienda del Rio. Burt had begun home winemaking on the weekends, and Ed had traveled the world without leaving Sonoma County by tasting and buying wines for the store.
As friends, they decided to make a go of winemaking together in a two-car garage on River Road. The concrete pad outside held the small dairy tanks that they used as fermenters. Through grower and winemaker Leno Martinelli, they sourced fruit for their first wines from the 84-year old Zinfandel vines of Jackass Hill, along with a small amount of Muscat grapes grown on the same property. Even though the winemaking equipment was very basic relative to some of the more modern wineries at the time, the combination of excellent fruit sourcing, hand harvesting in small forty-pound lug boxes, meticulous sorting at the winery and hand pressing of the grapes and skins proved to be a powerful formula in crafting intense wines of character and place.
The resulting single-vineyard designate Pinot Noir wines were truly distinctive in style and dramatic in their intensity. A small but growing cult following from a mailing list of friends of the winery bought everything they could make. They remained a well-kept secret until the 1987 California State Fair committee conferred upon the 1985 Rochioli Pinot Noir the title of sweepstakes winner, and the winery won Winery of the Year concurrently. Williams Selyem was thus thrown into the national spotlight and officially launched into the arena of world-class wines.
Today, the winemaking torch has been passed into the skillful hands of a carefully selected team headed by Executive Winemaker, Bob Cabral. They share a passion that requires a strong but intuitive approach, given the capricious nature of the varietal. These artisans respect and employ the original handcrafted approach to winemaking that has made Williams Selyem wines so sought after today.
Bob says there’s no other place he’d rather be making wine than in the Russian River Valley. Much like the philosophy of Burt and Ed, Bob has forged and fostered successful relationships with many of the growers who have stayed with the winery from its inception. By following proven traditions of respecting the individuality of the growers and vineyards from which they source their fruit, Williams Selyem wines continue to deliver their distinctive taste. On the standing commitment to extraordinary quality at the winery, Bob says, ”We respect the grower, the vineyard, we respect the fruit coming in and we take care of the process tenaciously with minimal interference. We exercise patience at every stage and I have to say, we are richly rewarded for that. We like to share those rewards with the people who love our wines.”
As for the wines…they just keep getting better and better.