Ernest was an entrepreneur, a risk-taker, and a role model for his grandson, Todd Gottula, who founded this winery with his wife, Erin Brooks, in 2012. Today, the “Ernest” in their name stands for more than one man. It’s about integrity in the fruit they use and the people they know. It’s about restraint, about how ego drives nothing they do.
Todd and Erin are not only co-founders and co-owners of the winery; they touch every aspect of the business. They connect with growers. They interact with distributors. They respond to customers. They deliver wines. They tackle the paperwork. Just about the only thing the couple doesn’t do is make the wine—they leave that to Ernest’s winemaker, Joseph Ryan. A byproduct of all this hands-on leadership is an acute personal connection to the people behind the brand. Neither Todd nor Erin plans to change that anytime soon.
Ever expanding their understanding of the Freestone-Occidental subregion, Ernest Vineyards added a new source into our existing blend in this vintage. Still a collection of their fruit-forward barrels from Freestone combined with the Petaluma Gap site, the new site offers a density of fruit and color while maintaining the aromatics they require from this bottling. Primary fermentation on native yeasts with a small amount of stem inclusion, this wine is aged in 228L French Oak barrels, 33% new, and bottled at nine months of élevage with a light filtration.
The 2019 Ernest Vineyards Pinot Noir was created through a combination of grapes from Grand Vent Vineyard, Clearly Freestone Ranch, and now a new site located within Ernest Vineyards – Joyce Vineyard.
Wind dictates everything at Grand Vent Vineyard, a 15-acre vineyard in Sonoma County. The parcel sits in the mouth of the Petaluma Gap, where a blend of unique terroir, cool climate, and consistent wind yields long hang times that allow flavors to mature slowly and steadily.
Cleary Freestone Ranch encompasses 14 acres of Ernest’s vines in foggy Freestone Valley. Only 7 miles from the Pacific, it is one of the coldest areas in all of west Sonoma Coast, with the marine layer lingering well into mid-day and returning late afternoon. Goldridge soil with clay peppering closer to Salmon Creek. The extremely cool climate allows for extended hang time before harvest delivering deep complexity.
And, finally, Joyce Vineyard is an incredible 3-acre property brand new to the Ernest family. This is the coldest site Ernest Vineyards have encountered on the West Sonoma Coast.
A beautiful and deep ruby color greets the eyes with nuances of purple and pink. On the nose, the red fruit notes are very assertive, with loads of red cherries and red plum aromas, followed by red licorice and a touch of cassis. The first impression is that of a fuller-bodied and fruity Pinot Noir, which is completely confirmed on the palate. The wine is drier than suggested, with a serious mid-palate grip. The tannins are ripe and complementary to the concentrated fruit and acidity of the wine. This is a serious example of an Appellation wine, and all the complex flavors and firm structure suggests it would benefit from aging, or if you are enjoying it sooner, a juicy steak would be an appropriate companion. When I tasted this wine with Kirk, the brand manager, I found it in an excellent balance and silky fruit that I immediately thought of pairing with a pork tenderloin and plum chutney.
One thing that struck me about this wine is the stunning artwork featured on its label. As it turns out, it’s the namesake himself – Ernest. Furthermore, this piece was painted by proprietor Todd Gottula’s grandmother, who was Ernest’s wife. This 2019 Ernest Vineyards Pinot Noir depicts the portrait in its entirety, and many of their other wines depict similar works – created by Todd and Erin themselves – that are inspired by this painting. According to Todd and Erin, the original portrait of Ernest is still displayed proudly in their home!