The Wine Guy - Greg Walter


One decade and going strong

A local Sonoma wine venture that produces some of the consistently greatest Pinot Noirs on the West Coast is celebrating an auspicious anniversary. To be honest, I would not be surprised if many of you have not heard of this winery before. But if you love Pinot Noir, the name of this winery should be on your list.

That winery is The Donum Estate.

The Donum Estate was established in 2001 by Anne Moller-Racke who came to California from Germany in 1981 to manage the Carneros vineyard holdings of Buena Vista Winery, then owned by German beverage company Racke. During the 1980s and 1990s, she expanded and improved the Buena Vista vineyards on Ramal Road to include the adjacent Tula Vista Vineyard, now known as the Donum Ranch.

When Racke sold its interest in Buena Vista to Allied Domecq, then a British beverage company, it retained part of the vineyards and Anne led an effort to create what she thought would be the ultimate Pinot Noir project on the western portion of that Buena Vista property, and Donum Estate was born.

Today, Donum Estate is actually composed of four vineyards: The Donum Ranch on Ramal Road; the Ferguson Block, located very close to the ranch in Carneros; the Nugent Vineyard in Russian River Valley and the latest addition, Angel Camp Vineyard in the Anderson Valley.

The year 2002 brought in another key player in the project: consulting winemaker Kenneth Juhasz. With experience making Pinot Noir in Oregon, New Zealand and up and down the California coast with his own Auteur label, Kenneth was the perfect partner for Anne to develop the Donum Estate Pinots. Five Pinot bottlings are generally produced: the Carneros Estate ($72), the Carneros Estate West Slope ($90), the Carneros Estate East Slope ($90), the Russian River Valley Estate ($72) and the Russian River Reserve ($90). For the just-released 2010 vintage and as a commemoration, a special Tenth Anniversary bottling from the Carneros Estate was also produced.

In late 2011, the Racke group sold Donum Estate to Winside Inc., a partnership of Danish investors who share a love of fine wines and were also big fans of the Donum wines. Anne Moller-Racke remains as president and winegrower; Kenneth Juhasz continues in his role as consulting winemaker.

These are terrific, rich, complex, texture-driven Pinot Noirs and as I said earlier, easily among the best Pinot Noirs produced on the West Coast. To be sure, they are not inexpensive, but if you love great Pinot, they are worth every penny.

For more information, contact The Donum Estate at 707.939.2290 or info@thedonumestate.com. The winery’s website is Thedonumestate.com.

Greg Walter, a Sonoma resident for more than 20 years, has been in wine and food publishing for more than 30 years, 15 as a senior editor and later president of Wine Spectator magazine. Today he writes the PinotReport newsletter (Pinotreport.com) and publishes books through his Carneros Press imprint (Carnerospress.com).

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