Joseph Phelps Freestone Winery

For many years, Joseph Phelps Vineyards have set rather than followed trends in Napa so it was no surprise when they began to look beyond the Napa Valley for their next venture. For us in Europe with smaller distances between cities, it is logical to consider California as one unified region, however nothing could be further from the truth. The differences between the warm to hot Napa Valley and Freestone Winery's location, the cooler Sonoma Coast, are striking, as are the differences between the Sonoma Coast and the very hot Sonoma County appellation further inland. Indeed, in wine growing terms, Sonoma Coast is considered marginal for Chardonnay, cool enough that consistent full ripeness cannot be taken for granted, with rolling banks of fog coming in from the sea giving damp, moisture-laden days which provide additional challenges for the vine growers.

Freestone is far from standing still, having embraced biodynamic viticulture in their 80 acres of Pinot Noir and 20 acres of Chardonnay. The vineyards are managed along organic and bio-dynamic principles, whilst a state-of-the-art, gravity-flow winery has been built in the middle of the vineyard to minimise both the effects of transport on the grapes and the Freestone carbon footprint.

The coastal location means that cold fogs roll in from the sea tempering the hot Californian sun, giving the grapes a long growing season and leading to aromatic, layered Pinots reminiscent of Burgundy. The chilly climate is almost too extreme for Chardonnay, which produces lovely sinuous, racy whites with firm acidity behind the plump white fruits. Given the youth of the vines, the intensity of flavour is already outstanding, and the wines are beginning to garner some serious critical praise. There are two levels of wine from the Freestone vineyard – the charmingly named Fog Dog wines which are for drinking soon after production and the top cuvées: Freestone Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

March 2014: Joseph Phelps Vineyards is pleased to announce the promotion of Justin Ennis to Winemaker at the company’s Freestone estate, located on the western Sonoma Coast. In his new role, Ennis will be responsible for all day-to-day winemaking activities at the Joseph Phelps Freestone winery, working closely with Vice President and Director of Winemaking, Damian Parker, in crafting all Sonoma Coast Chardonnay and Pinot Noir for Joseph Phelps Vineyards.

Ennis joined the Joseph Phelps team in 2007 as Cellarmaster in Freestone, after nine years as Cellarmaster for William Selyem Winery in Healdsburg, as well as Harvest Supervisor and Cellarmaster for wineries in New Zealand and Argentina, respectively. In 2011, Ennis was promoted to Assistant Winemaker in Freestone.

“This is a well-deserved promotion for Justin. He has a strong background in Pinot Noir and Chardonnay production and understands the cool climate growing region of the western Sonoma Coast,” said Damian Parker. “He is a talented winemaker with a wealth of knowledge.”

“I feel very fortunate to be working with such amazing vineyards. Pastorale and Quarter Moon Vineyard have developed into magnificent fruit sources,” said Ennis. “I couldn’t ask for a better team and look forward to continuing the Joseph Phelps winemaking legacy here on the Sonoma Coast.”

“Under [former] winemaker Theresa Heredia, Joseph Phelps’ Freestone Vineyard in Freestone, on the Sonoma Coast, turns out Pinot Noirs with Californian fruitiness and Burgundian minerality. Like other producers in this developing area, Freestone’s viticulture and winemaking have been works in progress, starting in 1999, and 10 years later finding the right clones and rootstocks for the environment. Freestone’s success, previously projected for the future, is now.”
Linda Murphy, Decanter Magazine

The Wines - please click here or call us on 01353 721 999 for current availability

Fog Dog Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast 2012
13.5% ABV
Bright gold with a nose of lemony white fruits, grilled and fresh, very neo-Burgundian in style, leading to a broad palate of buttery white fruit, with notes of citrus and marzipan and on to a tight, rich finish. Aged for 10 months in 25% new and 75% two and three year old French oak barrels, Fog Dog is certainly going out with a bang. Drink from 2015 to 2018

Fog Dog Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast 2012
13.5% ABV
Deep red black, limpid, with a gorgeously alluring nose of mouth-watering, strawberry infused Pinot fruit, succulent and fresh, leading to a palate of juicy red fruits, jammy and ripe, with supple tannins and a light herbal note – very classic in style with just a nod towards the new world. Despite spending nine months in a mix of 25% new and 75% second fill barrels, the wood is completely masked by fruit. Superb. Drink from 2015 to 2019

Joseph Phelps Freestone Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast 2012
14% ABV
Pale gold with a tightly packed nose of green stone fruits, surprisingly overt with hints of caramel and hazelnuts, leading to a really classic, taut palate of fresh white fruits, toasty and grilled with hints of new wood and again a hazelnut note, creamy and fresh, mineral too, going to a long finish. Aged in a combination of 35% new and 65% second and third fill barrels and puncheons (around 320 litres), this has delicious poise. Drink from 2015 to 2020

Joseph Phelps Freestone Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast 2012
13.5% ABV
Deep red black with a wonderfully restrained, intense nose of sweet, tarry black fruits, very Pinot but more brooding than the Fog Dog, with a note of cardamom and spice. Gorgeously open on the palate compared to the nose, with sweet, tarry, spiced black fruits, jammy and fresh, with fine, supple tannins behind and lovely fresh acidity to balance. Again, despite 35% new wood it is not visible at all on either the palate or nose. Beautifully poised. Drink from 2015 to 2021

A selection of comments on Joesph Phelps Freestone wines in the Press

Joseph Phelps Freestone Chardonnay 2011

The 2011 Chardonnay Estate Freestone Vineyard is bright, focused and highly articulate. Lemon,
crushed rocks, pastry and white flowers take shape in a layered, vibrant Chardonnay that impresses for its intensity and persistence. The 2011 Freestone is shaping up to be a winner. It is impeccably polished for such a young wine
. -A.G. Robert Parker's Wine Advocate 91-93 Points

What a roll Phelps has been on these past few cool vintages in this, its far Sonoma Coast vineyard.
The wine is bright in mouthwatering acidity, and tantalizing, with a subtle vein of lime, golden mango, orange zest and honeysuckle. Firm minerals are enriched by toasty oak.
-S.H. Wine Enthusiast 94 Points

Joseph Phelps Freestone Pinot Noir 2011

Gorgeous dark red cherries, savory herbs, licorice and mint are woven together in the 2011 Pinot Noir Estate Freestone Vineyard. Intense and rich, the 2011 is surprisingly rich for this year. Wilder, gamier notes appear later, adding complexity on the inviting finish. -A.G. Robert Parker's Wine Advocate 90-92 Points

Red berries, pungent brown spices, black tea and flowers on the nose, accented by peppery herbs. At once ripe and dry, offering moderate depth and complexity but excellent energy to the red fruit and spice flavors. Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar 90 Points

Joseph Phelps Freestone Pinot Noir 2009

I was deeply impressed with the wines I tasted from Joseph Phelpsʼs Freestone property on the Sonoma Coast. The 2009 Pinot Noir Freestone Vineyards bursts from the glass with an exciting array of sweet black cherries, herbs, dried flowers, licorice and tar, all supported by lively minerality. This focused, beautifully delineated Pinot is first-class all the way. Robert Parker's Wine Advocate 92 Points

Intense purity of fruit with blackberries and dried lemon skin. Dark chocolate and coffee. Full body, with a juicy, chewy and ripe palate with green pepper and jalapeño. Lovely fruit too. This with pulled pork would be mindblowing. James Suckling 95 Points

Fogdog Pinot Noir 2008
89 points
Firm, intense and vivid, with complex blueberry, wild berry, spice, fresh earth and spicy, cedary notes. Full-bodied, young... this is slow to unfold, but does so gracefully. - J.L.Wine Spectator, April 30th 2011

Fogdog Pinot Noir 2008
Year's Best Pinot Noir, 89 points and Best Buy
Dark in tone, this has a sweet, juicy raspberry rasp... Itʼs solidly built, lightening up in the end to match grilled salmon steaks. - Wines & Spirits, April 2011

Fog Dog Pinot Noir 2007
Offers a vivid array of blackberry, raspberry and black cherry fruit that's intense, ripe and rich without being heavy. Full-bodied, but light and delicate, gaining finesse and ending with a long finish of berry fruit. Drink now through 2016. 2,700 cases made.
- J.L. Wine Spectator, 90 Points

Freestone Pinot Noir 2007
A fresh, elegant and pure nose of extract of red pinot fruit that does carry a whiff of crushed leaf as well as a discreet spice component that is followed by suave, detailed and lightly mineral-suffused middle weight flavors that display a lovely sense of underlying restraint and excellent length on the dusty and sappy finish. This is more Burgundian in style as there is a touch of back end austerity that allows this to be quite food friendly. Worth a look. 91/2013+
Burghound, April 2010

Freestone Pinot Noir 2007
Good full red. Pungent herbs and spices lift blackberry and violet aromas. Juicy, ripe and spicy, with noteworthy energy to the red berry flavors. Nicely combines sweetness and grip, finishing long and bright, with suave tannins. 92 Points May-June 2010
Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar, May-June 2010

Freestone Chardonnay 2008
93 points
A stylish cool-climate Chardonnay, intense, crisp, vibrant and concentrated, with subtle citrus and pippin apple notes giving it a juicy sensation. Ends with slate and mineral notes that are firm and focused, reverberating on the finish. Drink now through 2018. - J.L. Wine Spectator Insider, 9th February 2011

Freestone Chardonnay 2008
Spry and sprightly, tight and well-fruited, so youthful that it could pass for a 2009... it shows keenly focused green apple, stony, citrus fruit tones and a carefully laid-on layer of rich oak. 95 points. Connoisseurs' Guide to California Wine, March 2011

Fogdog Chardonnay 2008
90 Points
Marked by big, sharp acidity, like biting into a lime, and clean, linear flavors of limes, green apples and pineapples... -S.H. Wine Enthusiast, March 2011

Fogdog Chardonnay 2008
Here is a firm and very vital young Chardonnay that shows the desired virtues to be had when measured ripeness is met by cool-climate structure. Keenly focused on appley fruit and enriched by a careful complement of sympathetic oak... It can be enjoyed now with sundry seafoods...
Connoisseurs' Guide to California Wine, March 2011

Freestone Chardonnay 2007
"Sleek and spicy, with a mix of tangerine, citrus and orange zest that's intense, vibrant, complex and earthy. Full-bodied, offering floral scents and a hint of mineral. Drink now through 2016." Wine Spectator, 91 points.

"These two Chardonnays, from the new Phelps-developed effort out near the Pacific Ocean in an area that seems certain to gain great fame for its deep yet tight and complex wines, are nothing short of stellar accomplishments. They have succeeded in being deep and layered without resorting to high ripeness, and they possess the enlivening acidity that has become part and parcel of the new Chardonnay paradigm in California. This wine comes with a slight haze in its appearance and, like the best efforts of that genre, its fruit is sweet and pulpy, deep and vital all at the same time. Long, fruity, tart and promising to gain greater range over time, this wine is about as good as it gets and joins a very select list of our favorite wines." the Connoisseurs' Guide to California Wine

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