MCF Rare Wine Ltd.


Peay: Clarity from the Coast

I had a nice lunch the other day with Andy Peay of Peay vineyards in the Sonoma Coast.

It was just me, Andy and Steven, my rep from his distributor.  When it comes to learning the whole story behind the wines, nothing beats a small lunch group.

Andy's a great guy, and he (business manager/salesman), his brother Nick (vineyard manager) and sister-in-law Vanessa Wong (winemaker) are responsible for some of my favorite Pinot, Chardonnay and (one) Syrah from the region.

Their story goes something like this.

In the '90s, during the heights of the CA extraction/power days, they set out to start a winery in the far northwestern corner of the western part of the Sonoma Coast AVA.

At the time, everyone they talked to had a very similar reaction to their plan...something to the tune of 'you guys won't be able to get ripe fruit that far north and at that altitude.'

Their response to such skepticism was basically 'that's all the reason we need to go exactly there'.

They bought an old apple orchard/sheep ranch in '96, planted the first 30 acres in '98 and, in 2001, Vanessa left her job as winemaker for Peter Michael to make their first wines.

The rest is history, I guess.

Nowadays, their wines are among the finest examples of precision, clarity, site specificity and balance as you'll find in Cali - a style that many now try to emulate.

As we worked our way through the wines and Andy showed me pictures of the hauntingly beautiful fog lazing among the vines, it was hard to not get that romantic feeling about blazing the trail in an under-appreciated part of California and having everything work out.

The current releases in today's offer were all showing beautifully.

As we finished our lunch, the conversation drifted from the trials of having kids and running a business and circled back to the wines.  Andy mentioned that he'd poured some of the 2013 Scallop Shelf Pinot at a dinner the night before and that it was singing.

Steven chimed in that he had a few cases of it, if I was interested.

'I'll take those too,' I said...


Chardonnay Sonoma Coast 2015 $48 -- fresh, lazer-focused and electric, this is Cali Chard with a razor's edge.

Chardonnay Sonoma Coast Estate 2013 $62 -- slightly weightier and with more breadth.  The complexity is really emerging here, but it still maintains that wonderful edge.

Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast 2015 $48 -- the 'entry' level Pinot (if it's fair to call it that) is classic SC, with highly toned, floral and spicy aromas, a silky dark fruit and an incredibly energetic finish.

Pinot Noir Pomarium Sonoma Coast 2015 $60 -- the edge and energy of the Sonoma Coast bottling, but with the density and complexity dialed up.  There is a lot of depth of character buried deep inside that will continue to emerge with cellar time.

Pinot Noir Savoy Anderson Valley 2015 $60 -- the one non-Sonoma bottling from the famous Savoy vineyard in the Anderson Valley.  This is always the darkest and richest of Peay's offerings and the 2015 is certainly that.  Deep and savory with great underlying spice, this is definitely the most powerful Pinot of today's list.

Syrah Sonoma Coast La Bruma 2014 $55 -- this is my sleeper favorite of the lineup.  It's easy to think of California Syrahs as big, dense, extracted wines, but this La Bruma is as elegant, precise and highly aromatic a Syrah as I've found outside of the Nothern Rhone.  It has all the telltale savory/perfumed notes that you might find in a classic Crozes-Hermitage, but it retains that lift and excitement that is a hallmark of Peay's wines.  Of all the wines on the table, this is the one I kept coming back to.

Matt Franco

MCF Rare Wine, Ltd
249 West 13th Street
NYC 10011