Each autumn, the anticipation of the new vintage waiting patiently on the vine brings an atmosphere of excitement and joy to the vineyard and winery. With this fall 2023 offer, I am pleased to share that excitement by introducing exceptional wines from the past three vintages, including the return of ‘Point Rouge,’ ‘Clos du Ciel,’ and ‘Ma Danseuse.’

To the enjoyment of these vinous expressions of terroir: à votre santé.

By Robert Fiore, Winemaker


Harvest Notes

Knights Valley Winery Estate, Sonoma County

Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot

2020 saw the first February with no rainfall in recorded history. The rains eventually arrived, with some particularly late storms into May and even the very beginning of June, which resulted in a good water profile in the soil at the beginning of the growing season. The weather during bloom was temperate and resulted in good fruit set and fairly normal yields. During most of the growing season, 2020 was fairly cool, punctuated by a series of heat spikes in late August and early September, then fairly warm temperatures through harvest.

L’Esprit des Pavots

Cabernet Blend

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Oakville Estate, Napa Valley

Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot

A drier than normal January and February were followed by a May with just enough rain and cool weather to influence fruit set and drive yields lower than normal at the Oakville Estate. Overall, 2020 was a cooler growing season punctuated by a series of heat spikes in August and September. Harvest began the second week of September and concluded on September 25.

L’Esprit des Pavots

Cabernet Blend

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Au Paradis

Cabernet Blend

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Knights Valley Estate, Sonoma County

Chardonnay

Following some rain in January and February, the remainder of the 2021 growing season was dry, and the soil profiles in our Knights Valley Estate vineyards were drier than normal. This contributed to a slightly earlier than normal budbreak and bloom.

The drier conditions and earlier budbreak were followed by more variable weather during the Chardonnay blooming period, resulting in less fruit setting and low yields. Moderate summer temperatures allowed for a long, steady ripening period and ultimately yielded highly concentrated, expressive berries for the 2021 vintage. The Chardonnay harvest began on August 18 and was completed on September 20.

Mon Plaisir

Chardonnay

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Ma Belle-Fille

Chardonnay

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Seaview Estate, Fort Ross–Seaview, Sonoma County

Pinot Noir

The winter rains were less abundant than average, continuing two years of drier winters at the Seaview Estate. Despite some highly variable spring temperatures, the majority of the bloom period occurred under ideal conditions, resulting in excellent fruit set across all three vineyards. The 2021 growing season was exceptionally mild, with harvest spanning two weeks from September 13 to September 27. The 2021 Seaview Estate Pinot Noirs are vibrant, balanced, and classically styled.

Clos du Ciel

Pinot Noir

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Ma Danseuse

Pinot Noir

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Knights Valley Estate, Sonoma County

Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon

After December brought a respectable amount of rain, January and February were fairly dry, and budbreak occurred slightly earlier than normal. Cool and rainy weather in March, April, and the beginning of May resulted in less fruit setting and a lower-yielding year, very similar to 2021. While July was moderate, June and August both witnessed triple-digit heat spikes. The early September heat wave saw one day with temperatures over 110 degrees F (43 degrees C) in the last two Sauvignon Blanc blocks to be harvested. However, rain soon followed, and temperatures dropped significantly, allowing the Sémillon to gradually ripen to perfection in early October.

The Sauvignon Blanc harvest commenced on August 25 and finished on September 7, and the Sémillon harvest was from October 4 to 11.

L’Après-Midi

Sauvignon Blanc & Sémillon

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The sunsets display all the colors of fall over the Oakville Estate.


Tasting Notes

‘Ma Danseuse’ Estate Pinot Noir

Fort Ross–Seaview, Sonoma County

Estate: Seaview
Single Vineyard:
Ma Danseuse (“my dance partner,” an ode by Sir Peter in honor of Lady Maggie Michael)
Planted:
2006 to 2007
Soil: Rocky alluvial sediments, decomposing volcanic materials
Variety: 100% Pinot Noir
Exposure: East-northeast
Elevation:
1,000–1,500 feet (305–457 meters)

Winegrowing Notes

The vineyard Ma Danseuse, French for “my dancer,” is named in honor of Lady Michael by Sir Peter, who fondly remembers how they first met. Situated between 1,000 and 1,500 feet (305 to 457 meters) above sea level on steep mountain slopes, the vineyard faces east and northeast. It benefits from both the cooling influence of the Pacific Ocean over the ridges to the west and the mild sunny mountain climate. The soil of the vineyard is a composite of clay, silt, and volcanic gravels, which gives polished tannins, body, and a hint of graphite-mineral. Ma Danseuse is the most feminine of our trio of Pinot Noir vineyards.

Winemaking Notes

Hand-Harvested: September 13–September 27
Vinification: 100% naturally fermented using native yeast
Aging:
Sixteen months in 50% new French oak barrels from select artisan coopers
Bottled unfined and unfiltered: February 13, 2023
Alcohol:
15.0%
Release Date:
September 1, 2023

Winemaker’s Tasting Notes

With a shimmering, dark garnet hue, the 2021 ‘Ma Danseuse’ showcases a gorgeous display of rose petals, black cherry, strawberries, and black raspberries with subtle hints of clove, graphite, and vanilla. A polished, round entry builds to well-integrated tannins in the late midpalate and a soft finish. The wine is structured with impressive density and flesh with great length.

‘Clos du Ciel’ Estate Pinot Noir

Fort Ross-Seaview, Western Sonoma County

Estate: Seaview
Single Vineyard: Clos du Ciel (“vineyard in the sky”)
Planted: 2006 to 2007
Soil:
Rocky alluvial sediments, decomposing volcanic materials
Variety:
100% Pinot Noir
Exposure: East-northeast
Elevation: 1,000–1,500 feet (305–457 meters)

Winegrowing Notes

The name Clos du Ciel is a nod to the rare microclimate of this vineyard site. Situated nearly 1 mile (1.6 km) from the Pacific Ocean and among the trees on a ridge approaching an elevation of 1,400 feet (427 meters), this mountain vineyard receives the coastal influence along with ideal strong, sunny days. The soils of the vineyard are a composite of clay, silt, and volcanic gravels, which lend to polished tannins, body, and hints of mineral graphite. ‘Clos du Ciel’ traditionally presents the most full-bodied structure of our three Seaview Estate Pinot Noirs.

Winemaking Notes

Hand-Harvested: September 15–September 22
Vinification:
100% naturally fermented using native yeast
Aging:
Sixteen months in 50% new French oak barrels from select artisan coopers
Bottled unfined and unfiltered:
February 14, 2023
Alcohol:
15.4%
Release Date:
September 1, 2023

Winemaker’s Tasting Notes

The deeply colored 2021 ‘Clos du Ciel’ offers a highly floral nose with lavender, black cherry, and wild blackberries and expressive higher notes of red fruit and a hint of cinnamon and spice. The wine exhibits remarkable intensity, with dense, rich concentration, exceptional structure, and a full, round mouthfeel. This vin de garde will continue to develop for many years in bottle.

‘Point Rouge’ Estate Chardonnay

Knights Valley, Sonoma County

Estate: Knights Valley
Vineyards:
Belle Côte, La Carrière, Ma Belle-Fille
Planted:
1990
Soil:
Rocky, volcanic-origin rhyolite
Variety:
100% Chardonnay
Exposure:
South-southeast
Elevation: 
1,700–1,750 feet (518–533 meters)

Winegrowing Notes

‘Point Rouge’ (meaning “red dot”) references the red sticker our winemaker places on the top Chardonnay barrels from the vintage. These barrels are singled out for their exceptional quality and potential for long-term aging in the bottle. For the 2021 vintage, twelve barrels from Belle Côte, Ma Belle-Fille, and La Carrière vineyards were selected and blended in December 2022, creating the final cuvée.

Winemaking Notes

Hand-Harvested: September 6–September 20
Vinification:
100% naturally fermented using native yeast, 100% barrel-fermented in 100% French oak from select artisan coopers
Aging:
Barrel-aged sur lies for sixteen months with weekly bâtonnage
Bottled unfiltered:
February 2, 2023
Alcohol:
15.6%
Release Date:
September 1, 2023

Winemaker’s Tasting Notes

The light gold 2021 ‘Point Rouge’ bursts from the glass with a symphony of spring flowers, orange peel, dried rose petals, lemon blossom, and jasmine with supporting notes of vanilla bean and baking spices. The creamy, rich, mouth-filling entry gives way to a full-bodied, intense midpalate with great weight and gras and seamlessly resolves to a round, lengthy finish. This is a balanced, powerful wine exhibiting a sublime weightlessness and well-integrated acidity, which will reward extended cellaring.

‘Ma Belle-Fille’ Estate Chardonnay

Knights Valley, Sonoma County

Estate: Knights Valley
Single Vineyard: 
Ma Belle-Fille (“beautiful daughter-in-law,” in honor of Emily Michael)
Planted: 1999
Soil: Volcanic-origin rhyolite
Variety: 100% Chardonnay
Exposure: South-southeast
Elevation: 1,000–1,400 feet (305–427 meters)

Winegrowing Notes

At the highest elevation on the estate, the marine influence on Ma Belle-Fille is greater, resulting in cooler daily temperatures in the summer and autumn months. Situated far above the summer fog ceiling and exposed to the southeast, the vineyard receives the very first rays of sunshine each morning and remains sunny all day long. This full exposure, combined with cooler temperatures, causes the fruit to mature earlier than the rest of our estate.

Winemaking Notes

Hand-Harvested: August 18–September 20
Vinification:
100% naturally fermented using native yeast, 100% barrel-fermented in 100% French oak from select artisan coopers
Aging:
Barrel-aged sur lies for twelve months with weekly bâtonnage
Bottled unfiltered:
February 3, 2023
Alcohol:
15.1%
Release Date:
September 1, 2023

Winemaker’s Tasting Notes

The 2021 ‘Ma Belle-Fille’ flashes light yellow and gold in the glass, with a stunning array of yellow spring flowers, honeysuckle, jasmine, and honey forming a highly fragrant nose supported with notes of fresh peach, vanilla cream, and marzipan. The soft entry leads to a rich, multilayered midpalate with great depth and concentration. This is a focused, precise wine with a remarkable length that promises to reward cellaring for a decade but can be enjoyed young.

‘Mon Plaisir’ Estate Chardonnay

Knights Valley, Sonoma County

Estate: Knights Valley Winery
Single Vineyard: Mon Plaisir (“my pleasure”)
Planted:
1990
Soil:
Volcanic-origin rhyolite
Variety:
100% Chardonnay
Exposure:
Southeast
Elevation:
1,650–1,700 feet (503–518 meters)

Winegrowing Notes

Mon Plaisir is chosen from a specific parcel of our mountainside estate vineyards in Knights Valley planted entirely to the Old Wente clone. The vineyard is a perfect combination of full sun exposure and abundant cooling marine influences. This produces low yields and enhances the extracted perfume that makes ‘Mon Plaisir’ a pure classic style. Long, natural alcoholic and malolactic fermentations further develop this intense and complex bouquet while adding ample gras and a round mouthfeel.

Winemaking Notes

Hand-Harvested: August 30–September 8
Vinification: 100% naturally fermented using native yeast, 100% barrel-fermented in 100% French oak from select artisan coopers
Aging:
Barrel-aged sur lies for twelve months with weekly bâtonnage
Bottled unfiltered:
February 9, 2023
Alcohol: 15.1%
Release Date:
September 1, 2023

Winemaker’s Tasting Notes

The 2021 ‘Mon Plaisir’ shimmers light yellow in the glass as notes of honeysuckle, vanilla custard, and white lilacs accentuate the highly aromatic nose. Additional hints of white peach, brioche, and nougat add to the complexity of the bouquet. A generous, plush entry seamlessly leads to a broad, intense midpalate with a creamy mouthfeel and soft finish.

‘L’Après-Midi’ Estate Sauvignon Blanc/Sémillon Blend

Knights Valley, Sonoma County

Estate: Knights Valley
Vineyard:
L’Après-Midi (“the afternoon”)
Planted:
1995
Soil:
Volcanic-origin rhyolite
Varieties:
Sauvignon Blanc (Preston 70%, Musqué 30%), Sémillon
Exposure:
South-southeast
Elevation:
1,000–1,400 feet (305–427 meters)

Winegrowing Notes

The fruit for ‘L’Après-Midi’ is grown alongside our red varietals in the Les Pavots vineyard. The grapes were picked and sorted by hand, the whole cluster pressed and then naturally fermented in a barrel. No malolactic fermentation was conducted to preserve the fruity and zesty character of the Sauvignon Blanc. All lots were aged separately on their lees for nine months with gentle bâtonnage, then judiciously blended to compose the final cuvée.

Winemaking Notes

Hand-Harvested: August 25–October 11
Blend:
90% Sauvignon Blanc, 10% Sémillon
Vinification:
100% naturally fermented using native yeasts, 100% barrel-fermented in French oak from select artisan coopers
Aging:
Barrel-aged sur lies for eight months with gentle, biweekly bâtonnage
Bottled unfined:
May 9, 2023
Alcohol:
14.9%
Release Date:
September 1, 2023

Winemaker’s Tasting Notes

The light gold 2022 ‘L’Après-Midi’ rises from the glass with an array of lemon and orange blossoms, jasmine, pear, and yellow peach with flourishes of baking spices and lemon curd. A bright, expressive entry with juicy, well-integrated acidity gives way to a plush mouthfeel with apricot, passion fruit, and vanilla cream highlights. The exuberant 2022 ‘L’Après-Midi’ finishes with notes of mango, lemon zest, and lime blossom.

‘L’Esprit des Pavots’ Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Blend

72% Sonoma County & 28% Napa Valley

Estates: Knights Valley and Oakville
Vineyards:
Les Pavots and Au Paradis
Planted:
1990
Soils:
Volcanic-origin rhyolite
Exposures:
South-southeast
Elevation:
500-1,400 feet (152-427 meters)

Winegrowing Notes

‘L’Esprit des Pavots’ is French for “the spirit of the poppies.” First produced in the 2001 vintage, the wine was sourced solely from our Les Pavots vineyard and affectionately referred to as the “little brother” of our flagship wine. With the 2016 vintage, select lots from our Oakville Estate (Au Paradis Vineyard) were introduced to the blend. The wine is typically more fruit-forward and early-drinking than ‘Les Pavots’ or ‘Au Paradis’ but remains a true expression of the Peter Michael Winery style: balanced, elegant, and age-worthy.

Winemaking Notes

Hand-Harvested: October 4–October 24
Blend:
42% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Cabernet Franc, 29% Merlot
Aging:
Eighteen months in 100% French oak barrels from select artisan coopers
Bottled unfined:
May 10, 2022
Alcohol:
16.1%
Release Date:
September 1, 2023

Winemaker’s Tasting Notes

The vibrant 2020 ‘L’Esprit des Pavots’ leaps from the glass with a bright fanfare of ripe cherry, cinnamon, cassis, and red currant with supporting notes of black licorice, dark chocolate, and toffee. This beautifully balanced wine features silky tannins and a juicy, plush mouthfeel, with black fruit, black pepper, and black tea elements on the palate and a soft finish. The 2020 ‘L’Esprit des Pavots’ is approachable in its youth but will continue to develop for several years.


Au Paradis

“In the beginning, we explored nearby Sonoma Coast vineyards of contrasting terroir to inform the style of our current selection of Chardonnays, now crafted from our estate vineyards in Knights Valley. Later, we integrated the same diversity into our Pinot Noirs, offering our three Fort Ross–Seaview Estate wines alongside Pisoni Vineyards of the Santa Lucia Highlands. It seemed inevitable we would do the same with Cabernet Sauvignon—and the vistas from Les Pavots vineyard looked south toward Napa, guiding us to ‘Au Paradis’ in the red soils of Oakville.”
Paul Michael

Au Paradis Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

Oakville, Napa Valley

Estate: Oakville
Single Vineyard:
Au Paradis (“in heaven”)
Planted:
1984 and 2007
Soil:
Rocky red Boomer loam of volcanic origin; 40% clay, 30% silt, and 30% sand
Varieties:
Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot
Exposure:
South and southwest
Elevation:
500–600 feet (152–183 meters)

Winegrowing Notes

Located in the heart of the Oakville AVA’s famed red dirt in Napa Valley, Au Paradis is exactly where its name translates to: “in heaven.” Planted in the foothills on the east side of the valley on a raised, gently sloping plateau, the Bordeaux varietals develop into a classic style with silky tannins and deep red fruit. Between 500 and 600 feet (150–180 meters), 26 acres (11 hectares) of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot look down on the valley and across to the Mayacamas Mountains. The slope and hillside location provide ideal sun exposure during the day and help develop the lush, intense fruit one would expect from such a magnificent property.

Winemaking Notes

Hand-Harvested: September 9–September 25
Blend:
96% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Merlot, 1% Cabernet Franc
Aging:
Eighteen months in 100% French oak barrels from select artisan coopers
Bottled unfiltered:
May 11, 2022
Alcohol:
15.9%
Release Date:
September 1, 2023

Winemaker’s Tasting Notes

The ruby red 2020 ‘Au Paradis’ exhibits a complex floral and fruity nose of black currant, cassis, violets, black plum, and red raspberry. The wine showcases great structure with mouth-coating, velvety tannins in the late midpalate that resolve in a long, lingering finish. Black tea and dark chocolate accent this full-bodied, intense, well-structured edition of ‘Au Paradis.’