Sonoma 2021 Preview, January 2023

Antonio Galloni, Vinous

This is a stellar set of wines from Chris and Sarah Pittenger. I was so impressed with every wine I tasted. The 2021s have that combination of vibrancy and richness that is such a signature of the year. I also found much to admire in the 2020 Pinots, wines from a much more challenging vintage. Chris Pittenger typically employs some whole cluster (10-15%) on the Pinots, but in 2020 he opted to destem all the fruit out of an abundance of caution. Aging is on the longer side; the Pinots spent 16 months in French oak on gross lees. At Gros Ventre, the house style emphasizes freshness but never to the point of being austere or excessively lean, as is sometimes seen on the West Sonoma Coast.

2020 Campbell Ranch Pinot Noir, 94 points

The 2020 Pinot Noir Campbell Ranch is a very classy, polished wine. Crushed red berry, mint, chalk, white pepper and crushed rocks give the 2020 notable brilliance and focus. This translucent, nuanced Pinot is an absolute delight. All the elements are so well balanced. The Gros Ventre Campbell Ranch is one of the best wines of this very tricky vintage.

2020 Baranoff Pinot Noir, 93 points

The 2020 Pinot Noir Baranoff Vineyard is a dense, powerful wine that is going to need a number of years to come together. Dark, virile, and imposing, the 2021 is a serious, almost somber, wine. Black cherry, leather, licorice, tobacco and cedar add to an impression of muscle and gravitas. The drought and heat of the year are evident. The oak imprint is also stronger than most years, the result of a greater percentage of oak relative to a vintage with low fruit and juice yields.

2020 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, 93 points

The 2020 Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast) is a gorgeous appellation-level wine that shows just how compelling this vintage can be. Crushed red berry fruit, spice, mint and blood orange all race across the palate as this nervy, layered Pinot shows off its inimitable class. Vineyard sites are Baranoff and Campbell Ranch. Superb.

2021 High Country Red, 94 points

The 2021 High Country Red is a blend of Gamay from Rancho Coda and Pinot Noir from Dufranc, a sort of Sonoma Coast version of Passetoutgrains, on a very serious level. Dark, supple, and wonderfully inviting, the High Country Red is an absolutely delight. The purity and depth of the flavors is compelling. Juicy dark cherry, plum, spice, and new leather are all dialed up, with a touch of whole cluster savoriness to balance things out.

2021 Rancho Coda Fiano, 93 points

The 2021 Fiano Rancho Coda is another gorgeous, classy white from Gros Ventre. Creamy and layered in the glass, the 2021 is laced with orchard fruit, tangerine oil and light tropical notes. The combination of viscous texture and bright acids makes for a compelling wine that is quite frankly irresistible. I loved it.

Click Here to read whole article and other reviews

Click here to browse available wines from this review

October 2022

James Suckling

2019 Pinot Noir First Born, 95 points

A layered nose with an array of red berries, moss, bark, wet stone, chicory root and a hint of blueberry. Medium-bodied with silky, structured tannins. Vibrant and expressive, with berry fruit and mineral notes blending together beautifully. Complex, but remains approachable and will age wonderfully. Delicious wine. Drink or hold.

2019 Pinot Noir Campbell Ranch, 94 points

A rather svelte pinot with black-cherry, leather, bark and sauteed-mushroom character. It’s medium-bodied with fine and polished tannins and a long, flavorful finish. Some redwood and dried sea wood. Salted caramel, too. Drink now or hold.

2019 Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast, 93 points

A rather expressive nose with notes of hibiscus, blueberry, strawberry and wet stone. Medium-bodied with soft, fine tannins. Wet-mineral notes mix with the slightly blue-tinged fruit notes. Moss, too. Lovely mouth-feel. Drink or hold.

2021 Fiano Sonoma Coast, 92 points

Aromatic aromas of chamomile, lily, beeswax and a hint of jasmine. Medium-bodied with a silky-smooth texture. Focused and succinct, while remaining expressive. Refreshing tannins in the finish. Lovely. Drink now.

2021 Gamay Noir, 92 points

A rather expressive nose with notes of hibiscus, blueberry, strawberry and wet stone. Medium-bodied with soft, fine tannins. Wet-mineral notes mix with the slightly blue-tinged fruit notes. Moss, too. Lovely mouth-feel. Drink or hold.

Spring 2022

Vinous, Antonio Galloni

2019 Pinot Noir Campbell Ranch, 95 points

The 2019 Pinot Noir Campbell Ranch is fabulous. Complex and multi-dimensional, the 2019 is dynamic and super-expressive. Rose petal, lavender, spice, sage and mint play off a core of dark red/purplish berry fruit. This is a terrific Pinot from the northern part of the West Sonoma Coast.

2019 Pinot Noir First Born, 94 points

The 2019 Pinot Noir First Born is a blend mostly from Campbell and Robbins – Calera, 667 and 777 clones. Racy and exuberant, the First Born is impeccable. There is a bit more ripeness here (but still within the house style) and also a touch more new oak, a combination that works so well. Rose petal, orange peel, spice and a touch of whole cluster savoriness inform this wonderfully expressive Pinot Noir from Gros Ventre.

2019 Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast, 92 points

The 2019 Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast) is a gorgeous appellation-level wine. Effusive and generous, the 2019 is so expressive today. Crushed rose petal, mint, sweet red berry and chalk all meld together. There’s a touch of whole cluster influence, but it is minimal. Give this a year or so to soften.

2019 High Country Red, 92 points

The 2019 High Country Red is fabulous. Rich and ample yet also light on its feet, the 2019 has so much to offer. In this vintage, a good deal of the Pinot Noir comes from top Sonoma sites (as opposed to El Dorado in the past), and that really seems to have made a big difference. The 2019 is such a gorgeous wine. Bright red berry fruit, orange peel, mint, white pepper and chalk all race out of the glass. The 2019 was done almost entirely with destemmed fruit, but it is quite savory.

2019 Gamay Noir, 91 points

The 2019 Gamay Noir is bright, effusive and so expressive. Crushed red berry, cinnamon, orange peel, mint, cedar and new leather are all beautifully lifted in the glass. Medium in body, silky and light on its feet, the Gamay Noir a is stellar wine in this range. The 25% whole clusters are very nicely integrated.

2020 Chenin Blanc, 92 points

The 2020 Chenin Blanc opens with a burst of floral and citrus notes. Readers will find a vibrant, energetic white loaded with personality. All the elements come together nicely. This is an especially floral, savory Chenin.

2020 High Country White, 91 points

The 2020 White High Country is an intriguing blend of mostly Fiano and Arneis, with complementary dollops of several other white varieties. Orchard fruit, almonds and wild flowers all take shape in the glass. Drink this joyous, delicious white over the next few years.

2020 Vermentino, 90 points

The 2020 Vermentino is bright, focused and nervy, all qualities that will serve it well over the next few years. This crisp, refreshing Vermentino offers tons of varietal character. Green pear, lime, almond, sage, mint and white pepper linger. There is plenty to like.

February 2021

Vinous, Antonio Galloni

“I was once again quite impressed with this range from Chris and Sarah Pittenger. The wines are compelling, from the entry-level offerings, all the way up to the top Pinots that comprise the heart of the range. The wines are done in a style that emphasizes vibrancy and transparency. Aging for the Pinots is about 17 months or so, on the longer side for California, mostly neutral oak. Whole cluster influence is light.” – Antonio Galloni

2018 Pinot Noir First Born, 94 points

The 2018 Pinot Noir First Born, a selection of the best barrels in the cellar, is mostly Campbell and a bit of Baranoff, done with all destemmed fruit. It marries power with translucence beautifully. Darker shades of fruit and a touch of new oak are front and center. This is another fabulous wine in the range.

2018 Pinot Noir Campbell Ranch, 93+ points

The 2018 Pinot Noir Campbell Ranch has a lot of potential, but readers will have to be patient. A rich, deep wine, the Campbell Ranch is pretty packed in at this stage. Bright red/purplish fruit, orange peel, spice, mint, cedar and sweet pipe tobacco all run through the 2018.

2018 Pinot Noir Baranoff, 93 points

The 2018 Pinot Noir Baranoff Vineyard is fabulous. It captures all the intensity of the Russian River in a mid-weight, translucent style that is quite appealing. Crushed flowers, kirsch, hard candy, raspberry, cinnamon, mint and cedar give the 2018 striking aromatic brilliance. Understated and classy to the core, the 2018 is so inviting today. The 2018 was done with fully destemmed fruit. I would give it a few years to soften. There is a lot of wine here.

2018 Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast, 92 points

The 2018 Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast) is another superb wine in this range. It captures all the exuberance of the year in its forward, boisterous personality. Juicy dark cherry, plum, new leather, licorice and spice are amplified in this creamy, sensual Pinot from Gros Ventre. Vineyard sites are Campbell and Baranoff.

2019 High Country Red El Dorado, 92 points

The 2019 High Country Red is fabulous. Rich and ample yet also light on its feet, the 2019 has so much to offer. In this vintage, a good deal of the Pinot Noir comes from top Sonoma sites (as opposed to El Dorado in the past), and that really seems to have made a big difference. The 2019 is such a gorgeous wine. Bright red berry fruit, orange peel, mint, white pepper and chalk all race out of the glass. The 2019 was done almost entirely with destemmed fruit, but it is quite savory.

August 2020

Jeb Dunnuck

2018 Pinot Noir First Born, 94 points

The 2018 Pinot Noir First Born showed beautifully, with a complex yet elegant style that’s already approachable. Coming from a selection of the best lots and 90% destemmed and aged in 40% new barrels, it offers a great perfume of raspberries, orange blossom, violets, and dried flowers. With medium to full body, beautiful purity of fruit, and integrated acidity, it’s another classy wine from this estate that will impress over the coming 7-8 years or more.

2018 Pinot Noir Campbell Ranch, 94 points

From a site on the Sonoma Coast, the 2018 Pinot Noir Campbell Ranch was all destemmed and brought up 18 months in 20% new French oak. More strawberries, white flowers, orange blossom, and honeysuckle emerge from this beauty, which is medium to full-bodied and has a rounded, elegant texture, beautiful fruit, good acidity, and a clean, lengthy finish. It’s beautifully done and already drinking great. It should evolve for 5-7 years.

2018 Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast, 93 points

Fermented with 10% stems and aged 18 months in 15% new French oak, the 2018 Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast has a pretty bouquet of tart cherry and strawberry fruits as well as a distinctly floral character, notes of underbrush and orange blossom, medium to full body, a beautifully pure texture, and a great finish. It’s a richer, powerful Pinot Noir that still stays remarkably elegant and pure, with good acidity, polished tannins, and again, a great finish that keeps you coming back to the glass. It needs air to show at its best and is a beautiful, outstanding 2018 Pinot Noir that will drink well for a solid 8-10 years.

April 2020

Vinous, Antonio Galloni

“This is a gorgeous set of wines from Chris and Sarah Pittenger. There are a number of fabulous wines in this lineup, but one of the things I find most admirable is how reasonable prices are for what is in the glass. Readers who have not tasted these wines yet owe it themselves to do so.”

2017 Pinot Noir Cerise Vineyard, 94 points

The 2017 Pinot Noir Cerise Vineyard is a fabulous wine. Rich, creamy and expansive, the 2017 possesses tremendous resonance and fruit intensity. Bright red and purplish fruit, lavender, spice, mint and rose petals infuse a racy and exuberant Cerise with real presence and tons of personality. This is a wine of real distinction.

2017 Pinot Noir Baranoff Vineyard, 93 points

The 2017 Pinot Noir Baranoff Vineyard is gorgeous. Bright, tense and beautifully delineated, the 2017 is all about energy. Sweet red and purplish berry fruit, mint, spice, wild flowers and rose petals are all finely sculpted in this very pretty, nuanced Pinot. I would give the 2017 a few years to come together.

The 2017 Pinot Noir Campbell Ranch is powerful and dense, with quite a bit of fruit richness. At the same time, the 2018 feels a bit rustic and not particularly well put together, with notes of black cherry, plum, chocolate, licorice and spice. The Campbell Ranch offers quite a bit of weight, but also feels rustic, especially in its tannins.

2018 Gamay Noir, El Dorado, 92 points

The 2018 Gamay Noir is marked by terrific purity of fruit and striking depth. Sweet red cherry, red plum, tobacco, cedar and anise are nicely pushed forward. The 25% whole clusters and partial carbonic maceration are not especially evident. Instead, it is the wine’s varietal character that is front and center.

Click here to read all the Vinous reviews from this release.

December 2019

Wine Spectator

Sommelier Roundtable: Favorite Pairings for Holiday Roasts and Ham

For the festive classics of the season, 11 wine pros try everything from aged California Cabernet to an unusual Burgundy-style blend

Ryan Bailey, wine director at Best of Award of Excellence winner NoMad Los Angeles

Gros Ventre High Country Red 2018 from El Dorado would be ideal for ham. Winemaker Chris Pittenger took inspiration from the classic Burgundy style of Passe-Tout-Grains, blending 55 percent Pinot Noir and 45 percent Gamay to create a wine that is incredibly food-friendly. Ham is savory but kind of sweet at the same time, so a wine that is very versatile is key.

Click Here to read article.

June 2019

Vinous, Antonio Galloni

2016 Pinot Noir Campbell Ranch, 95 points

The 2016 Pinot Noir Campbell Ranch is a dark, brooding wine. Blue/purplish fruit, lavender and spice notes are pushed forward. There is a good bit of up-front fruit and overall intensity, but the 2016 could use another year or two in bottle to allow the tannins to soften. Even so, this Campbell Ranch is quite attractive. It is also one of the most compelling wines in a superb lineup from Chris Pittenger.

2016 Pinot Noir First Born, 94 points

One of the stars in this range, the 2016 Pinot Noir First Born is fabulous. Rich, textured and super-expressive, it offers serious depth and yet also stays light on its feet. Black cherry, plum, licorice, lavender, mint and a touch of French oak spiciness all flesh out in this mid-weight, super-expressive Pinot. The new oak (two-thirds) needs time to integrate, but this is a very pretty wine.

2016 Pinot Noir Cerise, 93 points

The 2016 Pinot Noir Cerise Vineyard is a gorgeous, translucent wine. Deceptively medium-bodied, it is wonderfully nuanced and complex. Rose petal, mint, crushed flowers and earth add shades of nuance to the bright red/purplish berry fruit.

2016 Pinot Noir Baranoff, 92 points

The 2016 Pinot Noir Baranoff Vineyard is bright and lifted and features a distinctive red-fruit character. Sweet cherry, pomegranate, mint and blood orange all develop in this pretty, gracious Pinot Noir, which is one of the more easygoing wines in the range.

2016 Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast, 92 points

The 2016 Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast) is a gorgeous, super-expressive appellation-level wine. Succulent dark cherry, lavender, rose petal, mint and spice all run through this medium-bodied and supremely gracious Pinot. A subtle touch (10%) of whole clusters adds aromatic nuance to an inviting, beautifully layered wine.

2016 El Dorado Gamay Noir, 91 points

Despite its mid-weight structure, the 2016 Gamay Noir is bright, punchy and bursting at the seams with flavor intensity. Silky on the palate, with expressive, perfumed aromatics, the Gamay Noir is a winner from Gros Ventre.

2017 High Country White, 91 points

The 2017 High Country White, Gros Ventre’s white blend, is gorgeous. Almond, dried pear, mint, sage and dried flowers are all nicely layered throughout. The blend is 38% Sauvignon Blanc, 28% Chenin, 12% Vermentino, 11% Fiano, 11% Picpoul, with the Chenin especially notable.

April 2019

April 2019

Wine & Spirits, Year’s Best Pinot Noirs

October 2018

Wine & Spirits, 2018 Winery to Watch 

Here are some of the new producers we discovered in our tastings in 2018, as well as a few established growers who surprised us with their latest releases. Watch for these 14 names in the year ahead.

Gros Ventre

Chris Pittenger recently left Skinner, where his Sierra Foothills Mourvedres earned him a place on our cover last February. He’s now devoted himself fulltime to the winery he founded in 2009. Look for his 2016 El Dorado County High Country Red, a blend of cherry blossom–scented pinot and the pomegranate flavors of El Dorado gamay, aged in neutral French oak, powerful and impressively structured. —J.G.

November 2018

James Suckling

2016 Pinot Noir First Born, 95 points

Dark color and dark fruit with assertive, toasty-oak influence, all making for a heroic impression on the nose with roasted coffee and dark chocolate. The palate has immense power and depth with dark chocolate-coated kirsch flavor, raspberry coulis and very plush, powerful, long tannins. Bold style. Give this some time. Try from 2022.

2016 Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast, 93 points

Wild raspberries and red cherries, delivered amid woody, savory aromas in
fresh mode. The palate has a neat, plush array of fine tannins that carry lithe and juicy, darker-cherry flavor in velvety, plush style to close. Drink or hold.

2016 Pinot Noir Campbell Ranch, 93 points

This has a vibrant array of ripe dark berries and cherries with ample structure and depth on the palate, delivering ripe, velvety-fruit presence with strong yet elegant, darker cherry flavors. Drink or hold.

2016 Pinot Noir Baranoff Vineyard, 92 points
Wild herbs, violets and sous-bois notes with small red fruit and a spicy,
saffron-scented edge to the nose. The palate has a fresh and quite crunchy
texture with crisp, bright, red-fruit flavors. Drink or hold.

July 2018

Vinous, Antonio Galloni

2015 Pinot Noir First Born, 95 points

The 2015 Pinot Noir First Born, a blend of six barrels from two coastal sites, is a total knock-out. Dense, powerful and super-concentrated, the 2015 possesses remarkable purity from start to finish. A rush of sweet red cherry, plum, rose petal, spice and licorice notes build in the glass, but it is the wine’s overall balance that really stands out. The First Born is unquestionably a big wine, but all of the elements are in the right place.

2015 Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast), 94 points

The 2015 Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast) is flat-out gorgeous. Bright red cherry and raspberry fruit pulse with energy from beams of supporting acids that give the wine its shape. Readers should do whatever they can to taste the Sonoma Coast Pinot in 2015, as it is exuberant and also a huge overachiever. Vineyards are Campbell Ranch, Baranoff and a third parcel that can’t be disclosed. The combination of sites works beautifully, that much is obvious.

2015 Pinot Noir Baranoff Vineyard, 93 points

The 2015 Pinot Noir Baranoff Vineyard is a very pretty, gracious wine. Sweet red cherry, star anise, orange peel and cinnamon give the Baranoff Vineyard much of its distinctive, exotic flavor profile. Pliant, resonant and expressive, the 2015 has quite a bit to offer. The new oak is a bit prominent, but that is a rather small critique for a wine that delivers so much pure pleasure.

2015 Pinot Noir Campbell Ranch Vineyard, 93 points

The 2015 Pinot Noir Campbell Ranch Vineyard is a powerful, super-concentrated wine with an unusual level of density for Gros Ventre. Then again, that is one of the signatures in so many 2015 Pinots. Black cherry, leather, menthol and spice flavors are all given an extra kick of intensity in a Pinot that is powerful, unctuous and brooding. I would give it a few years to fully come together.

2015 Pinot Noir Cerise Vineyard, 93 points

Gros Ventre’s 2015 Pinot Noir Cerise Vineyard is bright, floral and very nicely lifted. Sweet red cherry, raspberries, rose petal, cinnamon and mint infuse the Cerise with real character. There is a sense of energy to the 2015 that is compelling. The Cerise is not an especially obvious wine, but it is very pretty and full of allure. The 15% whole clusters are very nicely integrated. Sadly, yields are down a punishing 40%.

2016 Gamay Noir, 91 points

Despite its mid-weight structure, the 2016 Gamay Noir is bright, punchy and bursting at the seams with flavor intensity. Silky on the palate, with expressive, perfumed aromatics, the Gamay Noir is a winner from Gros Ventre.

2016 High Country White, 90 points

Gros Ventre’s 2016 High Country White is a blend of Chenin Blanc, Vementino, Sémillon, Muscat and Picpoul. On the palate, the Country White is surprisingly pliant and deep, with real persistence that gives the wine its shape. Melon and white flower overtones add shades of complexity. This is a very pretty wine.

June 2018

Sunset Magazine

“Western Unions”, Recommended Pairings, Gros Ventre High Country Red

“Enter Passetoutgrains, a Burgundian style of red that’s a blend of Pinot Noir and Gamay. While the former lends structure, acidity, and a savory side, the latter is fruit-forward and earthy. One of the only domestic wineries to make a Passetoutgrain is the husband-and-wife team behind Gros Ventre cellars, which bottles it in a way-too-easy-to-drink Gros Ventre High Country Red 2016.”

April 2018

The Wine Advocate, Lisa Perrotti-Brown

2015 First Born Pinot noir 95+ points
Pale to medium ruby-purple in color, the 2015 Pinot Noir First Born has pronounced notes of crushed black cherries, fresh raspberries and pomegranate with touches of roses, menthol, black soil and fungi. Medium-bodied and delicately crafted with a firm frame of very ripe, very fine-grained tannins and seamless freshness, the red fruit and earthy layers give way to a good, long, perfumed finish. 118 cases produced.
2015 Baranoff Pinot noir 95+ points
The pale ruby-purple colored 2015 Pinot Noir Baranoff Vineyard has a delicate nose of red currant jelly, rhubarb pie and wild strawberries with touches of potpourri, baking spices and forest floor. Medium-bodied with a firm frame of grainy tannins and just enough freshness, the tightly wound red fruit gives up loads of earth, floral and spicy layers with a very long finish.
2015 Campbell Ranch Pinot noir 94 points
The 2015 Pinot Noir Campbell Ranch Vineyard is pale to medium ruby-purple in color with fragrant notes of pomegranate, kirsch and violets with suggestions of cinnamon stick, milk chocolate and garrigue. Medium-bodied, plush and lively in the mouth, it features beautifully perfumed red fruit and a wonderfully spicy finish. 121 cases produced.
2015 Sonoma Coast Pinot noir 91 points
Pale to medium ruby-purple colored, the 2015 Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast is intensely scented of crushed wild strawberries, Bing cherries and rose petals with touches of wild thyme and black tea. Light to medium-bodied, very elegant and yet with great intensity and expression, it has soft, silken tannins and plenty of freshness, finishing long and perfumed. 179 cases produced.

February 2017

Wine & Spirits

The Future Is Mourvedre in the Sierra Foothills Cover article by Luke Sykora

Check out Chris on the cover of Wine & Spirits for the work he does for Skinner Vineyards, in this in-depth article on Mourvedre in the Sierra Foothills featuring Chris, Hardy Wallace, and several other local visionaries. This has nothing to do with Gros Ventre (we don’t make a Mourvedre) but everything to do with Chris – so we wanted to share this great piece of coverage for the region and Skinner Vineyards.

Read the Article

November 22, 2016

Huffington Post

5 Wines That Are Pretty Much Made for ThanksgivingFrom Chaîne des Rôtisseurs “World’s Best Young Sommelier” and Foot of the Bed Cellars Co-Founder, Martin Sheehan-Stross

Gros Ventre Pinot Noir ‘Cerise’, Anderson Valley, Mendocino 2014

Chris Pittenger spent time working in restaurants and enjoying life outdoors in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, right along the Gros Ventre River. After making the move to winemaking, he and his new wife settled in California and launched Gros Ventre Cellars. Gros Ventre, which means “Full Belly,” seemed like a fitting name, not just because it reminded Chris of many great days spent fly-fishing, but because he and Sarah welcomed their first born right when they were starting this endeavor. This Pinot is from a steep site that gives off intense red and black fruit, perfect to go along with that homemade cranberry sauce. There is a savory, herbal edge to the wine, that will take any stuffing recipe to the next level.

Read the Article

July 2016

Vinous, Antonio Galloni

Gros Ventre 2014 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, 92 points

“Gros Ventre’s  Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast) is terrific. Bright, fresh and beautifully nuanced throughout, the 2014 possesses lovely cut to balance the intensity of its fruit. The flavors are fresh and vibrant throughout in a Pinot that impresses with its superb overall balance. This is a delicious bottle of Sonoma Coast Pinot.” – Antonio Galloni

February 2016

Food & Wine

“12 Career-Changing Wines from Chicago’s Diana Hawkins,” by Carson Demmond


2012 Gros Ventre ‘First Born’ Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

“Chris Pittenger from Gros Ventre got his start as a snowboarder and occasional sommelier in Wyoming. When I met him, he glossed over the details on his conversion to winemaking, but I can totally understand the desire to see how wine is made once you’ve been working on the other side. He’s done harvests with winemakers from all over—New Zealand, Australia, California… This was the wine that stole the show for me at the West of West tasting a couple of years ago. It was as if all of the Pinots in the room had put their best qualities into this one bottle. It screams for duck. Pinot and duck: That’s classic for a reason. It’s also great with beluga lentils, which are these kind of rich, brown lentils that absorb so much flavor.”

Read the Article

January 2016

Loam Baby, Sonoma Coast Issue

“8 Days a Week,” by RH Drexel (Vinous)

Image-1 (1)“If you have all but given up on American pinot noir, well then, you haven’t been looking hard enough. The pinots of Gros Ventre are at once savory, fresh, racy, brooding and possessing of great, great, length and texture. Chris and Sarah Pittenger are grinders when it comes to fulfilling their ongoing dream of producing delicious, memorable wines that are well-suited to aging.”

December 2015

The World of Fine Wine, Issue 50

Wine without Words: Visual Communication, By Elaine Chukan Brown


“Over the past year, owner-winemakers Chris and Sarah Pittenger of Gros Ventre on California’s North Coast, for example, began to share photographic representations of their Pinot Noir that they call taste plates. Gros Ventre taste plates present a foraged collection of literal descriptors – raspberries, mushrooms, and dried herbs, for example – meant to capture the aroma and flavor profile of a particular Pinot Noir via a photograph. The effect is a photographic expression of a tasting note for their wine. The advantage of the Pittengers’ taste plates rests in their immediacy.”

September 2015

The Flavor of Cool: Tasting the Wines of the Western Sonoma Coast

By Alder Yarrow, Vinography

“If you haven’t had many of these wines, I highly encourage you to seek them out”

2013 Gros Ventre Cellars “First Born” Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast $60 (9 – 9.5)

Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of smoky, even meaty raspberry and cherry fruit. In the mouth cherry and orange peel flavors take on a tangy sour cherry note as they head towards the finish. Muscular tannins have a very fine grain, so the palate doesn’t object to their firm grip. Mouthwatering with excellent acidity.

Read The Article

June 5, 2015

Jancis Robinson: West Sonoma Coast, A Guide

By Elaine Chukan Brown

Gros Ventre 2012 Campbell Ranch Pinot Noir, 17.5 pts

Fresh red fruit, grilled medium-rare steak, light conifer accents and a long mineral crunch. Nice structural balance with a touch more angular tannin presence than the 2011 and still lots of mouth-watering length. Fresh, refreshing, delicious. (ECB)

Gros Ventre 2011 Campbell Ranch Pinot Noir, 17 pts

Subtle aromatics, followed by a lean body with succulent red fruit smudged by ginger, nutmeg and grilled rare meat. Moderate-plus acidity giving mouth-watering length in a long finish. Fresh, clean, wants age. (ECB)

Gros Ventre 2012 First Born Pinot Noir, 16 pts

Concentrated core of spice-smudged dark fruit with rocky mineral and iron elements. Hints of dark sweet fruit and cardamom. Apparent oak gives this wine a fuller frame – will integrate further over time, while keeping a sense of heft. Lightly angular tannin gives nice textural presence. This wine is for people who want a Pinot with bigger presence, while still well-executed with nice acidity and mouth-watering length. (ECB)

Read the Article and More Tasting Notes

June 2015

Wine Enthusiast Buying Guide

93 Points, Gros Ventre 2012 First Born Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast)

“Structured in firm tannins, this seamless wine offers juicy red cherry and strawberry most significantly, followed by dried herb and hits of baking spice. Layered without being overly concentrated, it’s made and owned by Chris Pittenger, who also makes Rhône-inspired wines for Skinner Vineyards in El Dorado County. The name honors wife Sarah’s rounded belly while expecting the couple’s first child.”

92 Points, Gros Ventre 2012 Campbell Ranch Vineyard Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast)

“Juicy, soft and sublime, this vineyard site sits on the extreme Sonoma Coast, near the town of Annapolis, approaching the Mendocino County line. Fine tannins and bright acidity combine for a memorable taste experience, marked in fresh strawberry, raspberry and black pepper.”

91 Points, Gros Ventre 2012 Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast)

“This wine was sourced from three vineyards along the West Sonoma Coast, from as far north as Annapolis and as far south as Sebastopol. Cranberry, raspberry and dark earth are on offer around a lilting, soft texture and medium-toned body. On the finish, expect black tea and minty herb, the acidity providing crispness.”

Read More

May 2015

Winemakers of West of West pt. 3

“Understated, eloquent, honest and sincere winemaker and wines…”

Read More

April 2015

Planet Jackson Hole: Friendly Ghost of Restaurant Past Returns

“What is sure to be one of the best meals of the summer.”

planetjharticle (2)

Read More

January 2015

Somm Journal: California’s Cote d’Or

“West Sonoma Coast Vintners are a band apart.”

Read More

Winter 2014/15

SNOW Magazine: Ski & Sip

“For California’s most extreme winemaking, head to the Sonoma Coast. This untamed area is California’s hottest winemaking region- and also the coolest… Some of the most notable bottles come from younger winemakers like Arnot-Roberts, and Sarah and Chris Pittenger of Gros Ventre Cellars…”

snow mag diptic

July 2014

Grape Nutz: A Visit to Skinner and Gros Ventre

“The first few vintages of Gros Ventre Pinot Noirs have produced some beautiful wines, with plenty of promise for the future. Chris’ winemaking displays balance and restraint that allows the cooler-climate vineyard sources to show through with subtlety and nuance. The wines share fine structure and show savory notes that complement the fruit.”

Read More

August 13, 2014

Los Angeles Magazine: Chef Michael Voltaggio’s Wine, Created in Partnership with Winemaker Chris Pittenger

“For those unfamiliar with this currently en vogue style of wine, it’s both the darling of hipster sommeliers and the product of a thousand-years-old tradition.”There’s a savoriness, there’s a dryness, there’s a strength and power to it,” said Brian Smith.”

Read more

August 16, 2014

Two Guys from Napa: Excellent Wines from the Sonoma Coast – Favorites from the West of West Festival

“In case you aren’t personally familiar with wines from this area, we thought we’d share what our favorites were at the Grand Tasting event so you can explore the region on your own. Gros Ventre Cellars (Somerset) – 2012 Campbell Ranch Vineyard Pinot Noir”

Read More

August 3, 2014

Discover Sonoma County Wine: The Evolution of California Cuisine & Wine

“The best pairing with the bay shrimp was the Gros Ventre Cambell Ranch which rocked black raspberries and spice with a lively acidity that made this pairing sing.  I need to try more of this wine – my first introduction to this vineyard is extremely positive.”

Read More

May 14, 2014

Stephen Tanzer’s Winophila: Interview with R.H. Drexel of Loam Baby

“Another project that I immediately fell in love with is Gros Ventre, owned by Chris and Sarah Pittenger. They have a pinot noir from the Campbell Ranch in the Sonoma Coast that haunts me to this day. It is so beautiful–like nothing I’ve had before. They absolutely found the voice of that particular site and captured it in this really humble way.” – R.H. Drexel, Loam Baby

Read more

February 19, 2014

Serious Eats: Drinks: Ask a Sommelier: Winemakers to Watch

“We asked 17 somms from around the country about the wineries they’re most excited about right now—wineries to watch and new bottles to seek out, both in the US and internationally.”

Read more

September, 2013

Delectable Blog: Meet a Wine Lover: Vinny Eng

“As the former Wine Director of San Francisco’s Bar Tartine, Vinny is a true wine champion and the best drinking companion one could have. Unearthing treasures from his own Bay Area backyard, Vinny shared with us the California wines and winemakers that fuel his fire.”

Read More

August 16, 2013

The San Francisco Chronicle (Jon Bonne)

“The best of the 2011 Pinots from the Sonoma Coast are radiant, almost iridescent wines; they quietly glow with their flavors more than directly state them, as the best Pinot Noir should..

2011 Gros Ventre Campbell Ranch Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ($54, 13.8%): Chris Pittenger (Skinner Vineyards) tapped this site for his own young label. Its aromas and flavors are either charming or disconcerting, depending on your tastes; there’s a maritime sense to it, reminiscent of salt and ice plants, with tart red fruit and a surprising dose of tannin.”

Read More

2011 First Born Pinot Noir named an “Outstanding” Wine of 2013 West of West Festival

August 14, 2013

Thanks to Rusty Gaffney (Pinot File) for including our 2011 First Born as one of “the wines that really caught my attention when I did some serious tasting. None of these wines are inexpensive because of the high farming costs, but they are at the top echelon of California Pinot Noir being produced today.” Click here to read more about the event and and the Fort Ross Seaview Appellation.

July 22, 2013

Hawk Wakawaka Wine Reviews
26 Hours in El Dorado: Visiting La Clarine Farms, Skinner, and Gros Ventre

“The Gros Ventre Pinots offer a beautiful delicacy with great structure and tension. The wines tasted consistently gave a beautiful center of focus with light touch winemaking, and flavor variation based on location. Beautiful.”

Read full article.

“This Week’s Picks,” August 12, 2013

The Press Democrat

Gros Ventre, 2011 “First Born” Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, 14.3 percent, $58.

A new kid on the block, of sorts, but this winery has what it takes to get noticed — an edgy pinot with a range of flavors. Notes of cranberry, cherry and herbs, with a great undercurrent of spice.

Read Article

February 4th, 2013

The San Francisco Chronicle: Chris Pittenger, Winemaker to Watch

“This year’s class is leading a new generation to produce some of California’s most compelling wines yet.”

Read Article

Gros Ventre Cellars, May/June 2013

Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar

2010 Gros Ventre Pinot Noir First Born Sonoma Coast
(raised in 50% new oak):  Bright red.  Nuanced aromas of musky red berries and Asian spices, with a bright blood orange nuance adding an exotic touch.  Vibrant and delineated in the mid-palate, with a sexy floral quality lifting the flavors of fresh raspberry and cherry-cola.  Pungent minerality adds cut and carries through the long, energetic finish.  (JR)

2009 Gros Ventre Pinot Noir First Born Sonoma Coast
Ruby-red.  Intensely perfumed bouquet of dark berries, cherry-cola, anise and rose oil, with notes of cola and white pepper in the background.  Fleshy and broad, offering unlikely energy to its deeply pitched cherry and black raspberry preserve flavors.  The floral and cola notes carry through the long, seamless, sweet finish.  (JR)


2010 Gros Ventre Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast
Deep red.  Fresh raspberry and cherry on the highly perfumed nose and palate.  Racy, focused and very spicy, with an exotic floral nuance carrying through the long, seamless finish.

2011 Gros Ventre Pinot Noir Baranoff Vineyard Russian River Valley
Vivid red.  Black raspberry, licorice and dried flowers on the highly perfumed nose.  Energetic and precise, offering vibrant dark berry flavors lifted by juicy acidity.  A smoky nuance comes up on the long and subtly tannic finish.  Nicely focused pinot that shows youthful structure and real energy.

2010 Gros Ventre Pinot Noir Baranoff Vineyard Russian River Valley
Vivid ruby.  Vibrant aromas of redcurrant, raspberry, allspice and potpourri.  Fine-grained, sweet and seamless, with strong spicy lift to its red berry and rose pastille flavors.  Finishes sweet and long, with a fine dusting of tannins, intense red fruit character and very good breadth and length.

2009 Gros Ventre Pinot Noir Baranoff Vineyard Russian River Valley
Deep red.  A heady bouquet evokes candied raspberry and cherry, with suave Asian spice and potpourri qualities gaining strength with air.  Sappy, palate-staining red and dark berry flavors show liqueur-like depth but remain vivacious and precise, with nervy acidity providing spine and lift.  Closes sweet and long, with excellent clarity and lingering floral pastille notes.

2011 Gros Ventre Pinot Noir Cerise Vineyard Anderson Valley
(made from fruit picked during the third week of September; 20% new oak):  Bright red.  Cherry-cola and pipe tobacco on the pungent, spice- and floral-accented nose.  Sappy and penetrating, offering chewy dark fruit flavors that gain sweetness with air.  A note of licorice comes up on the finish, which features gentle tannins and a hint of candied rose.

2010 Gros Ventre Pinot Noir Cerise Vineyard Anderson Valley
Medium red.  High-pitched aromas of red and dark berries, Asian spices and anise.  Concentrated and sappy but very lively, offering gently sweet raspberry and cherry flavors and suave rose pastille and allspice nuances.  Closes with very good focus and length, leaving a floral note behind.

2009 Gros Ventre Pinot Noir Cerise Vineyard Anderson Valley
Vivid red.  Darker in fruit profile than the 2010 but just as energetic, offering vibrant cherry and dark berry aromas and flavors and a touch of candied rose.  Supple, precise pinot with excellent spicy persistence.

2011 Gros Ventre Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast
Bright ruby-red.  Spicy redcurrant, cherry and dried rose on the nose, with a gentle allspice quality adding complexity.  Taut red berry and bitter cherry flavors show good depth as well as cut, with firm acidity providing lift.  Smoky cherry, bitter chocolate and a recurring floral note linger on the long, chewy finish.

2011 Gros Ventre Pinot Noir Campbell Ranch Sonoma Coast
Bright ruby.  High-pitched, smoke- and spice-accented aromas of red berries and dried cherry, with a peppery topnote.  Spicy and precise, with a tangy edge to its bitter cherry and star anise flavors.  Closes with good zesty cut and youthfully firm tannins.

Pinots to Covet

Prince of Pinot/Pinot File, July 2011, June 2012

“Gros Ventre Cellars – A new producer of small lot Pinot Noir from cool climate vineyards in Sonoma and Mendocino counties. The inaugural releases were from the 2009 vintage totaling 300 cases. The winery is off to a smart beginning.”

2009 Gros Ventre Baranoff Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.4% alc., 50 cases, $44. From a 3-acre vineyard in the heart of Sebastopol. This wine is a blend of the 7 Pinot Noir clones on the site: Calera, Swan, 113, 115, 459, 667 and 777. The clones were co-fermented and aged together on their lees. Unfined and unfiltered. • Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Aromas of dark red berries and black cherries with a hint of baking spices, oak and lavender. Even with decanting the wine is a bit closed, but opens some in the glass over time. Crisp and vivid core of Bing cherry and strawberry fruit with a swirl of cola and oak. Medium weighted with nice balance and finesse, and offering a lengthy finish. Drank beautifully two days later from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. No hurry on this one. Very good. Reviewed July 1, 2011 ARTICLE »

2009 Gros Ventre Cerise Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., 151 cases, $44. A combination of Pommard 5 (one-third) and 2A (two-thirds) clones from this steeply sloped vineyard overlooking the Anderson Valley. Unfined and unfiltered. • Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Brooding black fruits with a hint of sweet oak on the nose which opens slowly in the glass. Delicious core of perfectly ripe and well-bred black and purple Pinot fruits. A little savory, spicy and earthy. Ideal weight, balance and flavor intensity with a generous finish marked by brisk acidity. A complete wine that shows breeding. Decant if you open a bottle now, but patience will bring further rewards. Reviewed July 1, 2011

2009 Gros Ventre Cerise Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., 151 cases, $44. Pommard 5 and Wädenswil. 100% de-stemmed, native fermentations. Aged 10 months in 50% new French oak barrels. Unfined and unfiltered. • Well oaked with noticeable spice and savory accents. Generous purple fruit flavors with bright acidity on the elegant finish. Needs more time to integrate the oak. Very good (-). Reviewed June 24, 2012

2009 Gros Ventre First Born Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.4% alc., 101 cases, $50. A flagship cuveé representing the best lots of a vintage. This bottling is dominated by fruit sourced from an unnamed vineyard along the true Sonoma Coast. • Dark and densely colored in the glass. The nose leaps out from the glass with of scents of spiced black cherries, raspberries, plums and faint herbal oak. Rich and intense, saturating the palate with plush sweet fruits that find every nook and cranny in the mouth. Lively natural acidity maintains the wine’s vitality and supple tannins make for smooth, seductive drinking. This wine is a little too busty for me but it will find many fans. Decanting is obligatory. Very good. Reviewed July 1, 2011

July 1, 2013

Drink Cool Climate Wines

“The 2011 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir is from three vineyards located in the cool-climate West Sonoma Coast. The wine has a deep ruby color with aromas of black cherry, ripe strawberry, and black raspberry, with some herbal aromas combined with some floral hints. The wine is moderate to heavy with rich texture and tannins, which makes the wine drinkable now with aeration, but undoubtedly will improve after a few more years in the bottle. This is a great pinot noir wine, and with its complex aromas and flavors it is perfect for sipping, eating with cheese, as well as pairing with poultry, lighter red meats, and even steaks.

Available at top West Coast restaurants (such as: The French Laundry – Napa Valley, Michael Mina and RN74 – San Francisco, Chinois On Main – Santa Monica, Spago – Beverly Hills, etc.) or by ordering from Gros Ventre Cellars.”

Read More