Winery of the month: Canihan Family Cellars
Jocelyn Rose, SF Wine Examiner
October 19, 2011
In 1975, William Canihan Sr. purchased the land in the Sonoma Valley, on which the Canihan Family Cellars vines now grow, but rather than rush to plant, harvest and produce, the family held off planting the vineyards until 1998, allowing the land to rest and recuperate for more than 30 years.
This care for the land and dedication to quality is carried on by his son Bill Canihan, who oversees the production of wines using biodynamic farming practices, fermentation with native yeasts, dry farming, hand-harvesting, and no fining or filtering.
Rather than offer an extensive line-up of wines, a practice which can sometimes lead to the sacrificing of quality to quantity, Canihan Family Cellars chooses to focus on the pure expresion of a few varietals, namely Syrah, Pinot Noir and Cab Franc.
This dedication to the land and to the quality of the wines seems to be paying off: in a recent Vintners Club blind tasting in California, featuring wines from the Rhone Valley in France vs. California Rhone-style wines, Canihan Family Cellars' 2007 Exuberance Syrah came in 5th, above wines from J. Lohr, Shafer, Chateau de Beaucastel, and M. Chapoutier.
Additionally, the 2007 Syrah won "Best in Show-Red Wine" at the 2010 Sonoma Valley Wine Competition, and several of their other wines have won Gold, Silver and Bronze medals at various wine competitions nationwide.
The 2007 Pinot Noir is full-bodied with notes of black cherry, cocoa and earth; the 2007 Exuberance Pinot Noir is lush and velvety with ripe strawberry, cherry and rose petals along with pomegranate, vanilla and leather; finally, the 2007 Exuberance Syrah is redolent of boysenberry, blackberry, caramel and spice.
Wines can be purchased directly from the Canihan website, or through their Wine Club at a discount. Additionally, Canihan wines can be found in San Francisco at The Barrel Room in Union Square, The Winery Collective and Wine Impression in Laurel Village.