Williams Selyem Eastside Road Neighbors Pinot Noir 2019


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“Medium ruby-purple, the 2019 Pinot Noir Eastside Road Neighbors explodes with particularly pure aromas of blueberries, pomegranate, cinnamon and bergamot, with accents of mushrooms, tree bark and aniseed. The medium-bodied palate has a grainy frame, and bursts of fresh acidity highlight its spicy fruits, finishing with great length. It could use another 2-3 years in bottle to fully unfold. Drink: 2022-2032. 94 points

I visited Williams Selyem in the spring of 2022 to taste the 2019s with winemaker Jeff Mangahas. It’s an exceptional vintage for the Russian River Valley, where the typical power, black fruits and higher alcohol style gave way to more elegant, energetic and expressive wines. Mangahas recapped the season. “Compared to the 10-year average, bud break in 2019 was a couple of weeks later, at the end of March, which is unusual—in 2015, bud break was in February,” he began. “2019 was a bit of a return to normal in the sense that there was about 64% more rainfall than average. There was a bit of rain in May during flowering and not a lot of millerandage. Then it warmed up, and as the season progressed, it got incrementally warmer, and the cycle caught up.” Despite the later bud break, harvest dates were nearly identical to those in 2018; Mangahas said a lighter crop load sped up ripening a bit. “It was a cooler vintage with an even growing season and balanced canopies, with a little heat toward the end of the season when we needed it,” he explained. “It was the balance of healthy plants, a modest crop and really good weather without challenges or pushes to bring the fruit in.” I asked Mangahas whether he preferred the concentrated, powerful 2018s or the elegant, energetic 2019s. “I would put 2019 slightly higher in my book than the 2018s. They have balance, power, integrated tannins and nice concentration. There’s a tiny bit of a step up even though the 2018s were great.” I agreed with his assessment and asked why he thought the two vintages gave such different expressions. “What I think is magical about 2019 is that growth and ripening across the board were even,” he said. “If you have bud break early, there aren’t enough sunlight hours, and the plants struggle to get going. They spend the growing season catching up, and the grapes ripen unevenly. In 2018 we were on the earlier side of bud break, a hindrance in my opinion, especially with Pinot Noir. So it’s not the only reason but a contributing factor as to why the 2019s are more polished.””

Erin Brooks, Wine Advocate (07/22)