You know that old parlor question…if you were stranded in the desert (my back yard) and had only one winery to pick from, which one would it be? My answer: I would try to negotiate more choices and one of them would be Williams Selyem.
Started in 1979 by friends Ed Selyem and Burt Williams, in a garage in Sonoma County. Originally, a weekend hobby, it quickly grew into a cult like status. By 1990, the wait list for the opportunity to just buy a few bottles was like two years. I personally waited over a year in the early 90’s for my “opportunity.” Their big break came with the 1987 Rochioli vineyard Pinot Noir that won the best red wine at the California State Fair, out of over 2000 wines. When living in California in the early 90’s, I was privileged to be a wine judge at the fair, and I know firsthand how intense the competition is and was.
Fast forward to 1998, and Ed Selyem and Burt Williams are ready to retire. They handpick John Dyson to pass on the now iconic winery to. His team slowly ramps up production, yet still keeps the quality incredibly high. What is the secret to their success? I think, it’s carefully selected superior vineyard sites, incredibly low yields, and high alcohol levels from very ripe grapes. Primarily a Pinot Noir specialist, but also they produce outstanding Zinfandel’s and Chardonnay’s. The wines are expensive, but isn’t it worth it every once in a while?
2014 Williams Selyem Pinot Noir—Weir Vineyard, Yorkville Highlands. The most approachable of all the wines presented here. Pretty and feminine, this medium bodied Pinot possesses nuances of dried berries, cinnamon, and a touch of Oak at $75.00/bottle.
2014 Williams Selyem Pinot Noir—Eastside Road Neighbors Russian River. This is a big boy Pinot. Maybe we’ll call it a Cab lover’s Pinot. This wine is almost brooding. Dense aromas of allspice, clean earth, and black cherries. Substantial Oak but this baby can handle it at $85.00/bottle.
2014 Williams Selyem Pinot Noir—Allen Vineyard, Russian River. This version of the Allen is juicy with forward fruit flavors of raspberry and bing cherry. A wonderful finish of smoky Oak and cedar at $95.00/bottle.
2014 Williams Selyem Zinfandel—Bacigalupi Vineyard, Russian River. The purity of this Zinfandel is just fantastic. Full bodied, (14.9% alcohol) complex, and showing voluptuous flavors of black currants, licorice and spice at $50.00 a bottle.