Joseph Jewell, Eel River Pinot Noir
Joseph Jewell, Eel River Pinot Noir

Joseph Jewell, Eel River Pinot Noir

California, United States 2021 (750mL)
Regular price$39.00
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Joseph Jewell, Eel River Pinot Noir

We’ve offered Joseph Jewell’s wines numerous times before, we’ve made multiple in-person visits to their cellar, and we’ve drained many bottles at our dinner tables. Yet they still surprise: in a recent office-wide blind tasting, more than a few of us pegged today’s “Eel River” Pinot Noir as a top notch Côte de Nuits bottling. It only underscored our belief that Joseph Jewell is one of the most underrated Pinot producers in California, ready to go toe-to-toe with the best from Sonoma, Oregon, and yes, Burgundy.

“Eel River” doesn’t hail from one of the blue chip Pinot AVAs, yet despite—or maybe because of—that, it serves as a single-bottle encapsulation of winemaker Adrian Manspeaker’s passion, talent, and vision. In this singular bottle fruit sourced from some of the most remote sites in California meets painstakingly precise winemaking. It’s suffused with sun-soaked fruit tones, mineral savor, and Old World structure in equal measure. In some ways it doesn’t seem right that this masterful stuff carries a sub-$40 price tag when similarly-performing bottles regularly command twice that. But we’re not complaining; we’re just hoarding as much of it as we can before the rest of the world catches on. We strongly suggest you do the same!

Humboldt County might not be a household grape growing name, but one day it will be. Dotted throughout its 2.3 million acres of Redwood groves and cattle pastures are 150 acres of vines with some seriously special terroir. Located north of Mendocino, not far from the California/Oregon border, vineyards in Humboldt plunge their roots deep into mineral-rich soils and get blanketed by early morning fog off nearby Eel River. It’s a viticultural situation familiar to any lover of California’s most balanced Pinots—warm daytime temps moderated by coastal influence and surprisingly cold nights. But harvest here takes place even later than in Sonoma, often stretching into October, and the cool autumn temps mean more phenologically ripe grapes at lower sugar levels. The resulting wines quiver with chiseled brilliance alongside ample fruit. I can say with absolute certainty that if Joseph Jewell’s labels said “Sonoma” instead of “Humboldt,” they’d be the apple of every critic’s (and sommelier’s) eye.

There may be no one working harder to get Humboldt onto the viticultural map than Adrian at Joseph Jewell. Adrian began the project in 2006, literally making two barrels of wine in his garage, and now sources fruit from some of the most esteemed vineyards in California. But he’s a Humboldt native, and he, more than anyone else, recognizes the potential of this special place. Adrian now bottles no fewer than five single-vineyard wines from Humboldt. “Eel River” is his homage to his home county, a barrel selection from some of the appellation’s prime sites: Phelps, Ryan, Elk Prairie, and Alderpoint vineyards. All of the fruit was destemmed and fermented for two weeks with daily punchdowns, before aging in 20% new French oak barrels. 

Imagine Santa Barbara generosity married to Chambolle elegance and you’ll have some idea of the beauty that is “Eel River.” The nose bursts with a cornucopia of red and purple fruits—ripe blackberries, Bing cherries, pomegranate, purple plum—alongside licorice, baking spices, leather, black tea, and vanilla. It’s medium-plus in body, mouth coating and completely free of hard edges, loaded with dark berry fruit before a wash of scintillating acidity makes way for the minutes-long, mineral finish. Decant for about 30 minutes and serve in a Burgundy stem and it is utterly delicious right now, but there is also plenty of structure to ensure a graceful development over the next five-plus years. Maybe by then, Humboldt will be getting the recognition, and prices, it deserves. Best to stock up now!

Joseph Jewell, Eel River Pinot Noir

United States


Columbia Valley

Like many Washington wines, the “Columbia Valley” indication only tells part of the story: Columbia Valley covers a huge swath of Central
Washington, within which are a wide array of smaller AVAs (appellations).


Willamette Valley

Oregon’s Willamette Valley has become an elite winegrowing zone in record time. Pioneering vintner David Lett, of The Eyrie Vineyard, planted the first Pinot Noir in the region in 1965, soon to be followed by a cadre of forward-thinking growers who (correctly) saw their wines as America’s answer to French
Burgundies. Today, the Willamette
Valley is indeed compared favorably to Burgundy, Pinot Noir’s spiritual home. And while Pinot Noir accounts for 64% of Oregon’s vineyard plantings, there are cool-climate whites that must not be missed.


Santa Barbara

Among the unique features of Santa Barbara County appellations like Ballard Canyon (a sub-zone of the Santa Ynez Valley AVA), is that it has a cool, Pacific-influenced climate juxtaposed with the intense luminosity of a southerly
latitude (the 34th parallel). Ballard Canyon has a more north-south orientation compared to most Santa Barbara AVAs, with soils of sandy
clay/loam and limestone.


Paso Robles

Situated at an elevation of 1,600 feet, it is rooted in soils of sandy loam and falls within the Highlands District of the Paso Robles AVA.

New York

North Fork

Wine growers and producers on Long Island’s North Fork have traditionally compared their terroir to that of Bordeaux and have focused on French varieties such as Cabernet Franc and Merlot.

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