If I had to declare a favorite wine, without hesitation it would be Pinot Noir. There are a million other varietals that I love to drink but in my mind, nothing compares to an amazing Pinot. And this weekend I had the opportunity to visit one of my favorite California Pinot Noir makers, Williams Selyem.
The Williams Selyem Winery is perched on a gorgeous piece of property in the Russian River Valley of Sonoma, CA – a place where the delicate and often finicky Pinot Noir grape tends to thrive.
Williams Selyem has a deep-rooted history in the Russian River Valley. In 1979, friends Ed Selyem and Burt Williams started making wine in a garage in Forestville, CA using fruit from local vineyards. They called their winery Hacienda Del Rio until 1983 when they received a cease & desist letter from Hacienda Winery, asking them not to use the name Hacienda on their label.
In 1984, the winery was officially changed to Williams Selyem and over the few decades that followed, Williams Selyem grew into the iconic label it is today. Ed and Burt sold the winery to John Dyson in 1998 who then developed the first Williams Selyem Estate Vineyard, hired accomplished winemaker Bob Cabral, and constructed the winery’s ultramodern facility.
Access to Williams Selyem isn’t particularly easy. In order to purchase their wines, you must secure a spot on their mailing list – called the WS List – which currently has a wait of 9-12 months. A tasting at Williams Selyem also requires a spot on the WS List and an appointment that needs to be booked at least two weeks in advance.
However, this allows the winery to continue its legacy of offering superior, low production, handcrafted wines to its devotees, and makes for a very personal, intimate tasting experience. Quality is everything at Williams Selyem and it’s something they’ll never compromise for the sake of upping production. Often it means there isn’t enough wine to go around, but that’s what makes their wine truly exceptional.
When we arrived for our tasting, we were greeted by two incredibly kind and informative staff members who presented us with an original bottle of 1981 Hacienda Del Rio Sonoma County Pinot Noir. The bottle was empty of course, but I thought it was such a cool way to begin our tasting.
We then sat down at our own table where we tasted though the current portfolio, which included 3 Chardonnays (one was a special bonus – a 2000 Allen Vineyard Chardonnay!), 2 Pinot Noirs and 1 Port (another bonus treat!). Because the wines on the distribution list sell out instantly, the selection we got to sample were “tasting room exclusives” and only available to visitors. I was excited to add a couple more bottles to my ever-growing collection.
At the end of the tasting, we were given a tour of the state-of-the-art winery and breathtaking property. I’m already looking forward to returning in May for the next member pick up party.
I truly can’t say enough about wines of Williams Selyem. The Pinot Noirs are some of the best I’ve ever tasted and the rest of their wine portfolio is first-class. There’s a reason they’ve developed a cult following and a world-class reputation. If you’re Pinot fanatic and haven’t tried Williams Selyem, I recommend you get on the waiting list immediately. I guarantee you’ll fall in love too…
*** PLEASE NOTE: Winery is not open to the public. Tours & tastings are by appointment for WS List members only ***
7227 Westside Road
Healdsburg, CA 95448
Phone: (707) 433-6425
Email (tours & tastings for WS List members): firstname.lastname@example.org