califusa header
Landmark Vineyards

I remember visiting the tasting room at Landmark back in 1994 or so, and leaving, shaking my head, and writing them off as "just another Chardonnay producer."

Enter Helen Turley.

Exit mediocrity.

Some change.

Landmark's Tasting RoomLandmark Vineyards was founded in 1974 by a partnership that included Damaris Deere Wiman Ethridge, the great, great granddaughter of John Deere, inventor of the steel plow. Originally located in Windsor, just north of Santa Rosa, the winery produced rather average varietal wines for years. When rezoning substantially raised the property taxes on the winery in 1989, Ms. Ethridge bought out her partners, and decided to build a new winery near the foot of Sugarloaf Ridge in Kenwood. The new winery was designed and built in the California Mission style, and when they realized the tasting room was too dark and solemn, it was renovated with a bevy of windows that bring the sunlight and beauty of the vineyards into the visitors' tasting experience. Claudia Wagner, a regional artist, was commissioned to create a mural as a backdrop to the tasting bar, and it gives the room a vibrant energy.

Michael ColhounMichael Deere Colhoun (right), Ms. Ethridge's son, is the winery's president, and his wife, Mary T. Colhoun, serves as Public Relations and Hospitality Director. Bob Cooley is Vice President of Sales & Marketing, rounds out the management team and has more than two decades of experience in the industry.  

But of course, none of this would be significant if the proof were not in the bottle. 

Believe me, it's there.

The key decision was made in 1993, when "pre-goddess" Helen Turley was brought on board as consulting enologist. Ms. Turley had founded her own Chardonnay label, Marcassin, and was quickly building a reputation as a woman with extraordinary drive and talent. Her arrival marked the beginning of a huge turnaround for the winery. 

Mary Colhoun The transition was not always an easy one, as Eric Stern remembers. With Landmark since 1989, he was promoted to Winemaker in 1993, and it was at his suggestion that Turley was considered. Even Bakke joined the winery in 1996, and since 1998 has shared a unique relationship with Stern as co-winemakers. While this arrangement may be confusing to some, nobody can doubt that the end result has elevated this winery well above the pack, creating one of the most amazing winery turnarounds in recent memory. 

Go right to the 
tasting notes

Left Coast Correspondent 


Tasting Notes from 
the Northern Ridge

Further Tasting Notes from the Ridge

Up the Coast
Domaine Serene, 
Domaine Drouhin
and Archery Summit

Syren Vineyards

More Tasting Notes from the Ridge

Jancis Robinson

Pax Mahle

Sean Thackrey

Robert Biale Vineyards

Havens Wine Cellars


Scott Paul Wines

Landmark Vineyards

Dashe Cellars

Tasting a Legacy
Wines of Stag's Leap

TN's From The Ridge & Beyond
Paul Draper and Monte Bello



"T" is for...
califusa ventures where the stags leap


A Day in the Dust

Premiere Napa Valley

Family Winemakers 02, 01, 98

Michael and Mary Colhoun (above) are obviously delighted with their success, as well they should be. I visited with them a few weeks ago, on the first day of crush for them. We tasted from tank and barrel, then sat in their conference room and tasted a few bottles.

From barrel:

The Damaris Reserve is a blended wine from a total of five sources - three Russian River, one Santa Barbara, and one Sonoma.

1999 Chardonnay Damaris Reserve - Cottonwood Canyon Santa Barbara County - lovely bronze color - hints of butter with pretty green apple and Comice pear aromatics - very smooth and pleasant in the mouth - the fruit is a little less forward than the nose would promise, but this sample is from a brand new barrel. 

Then a sample of the same vineyard from a one year old barrel - and it's easy to see the lovely balance of this wine - the acids are a little less firm, the oak not at all obtrusive - the fruit flavors are nicely balanced, and the wine has a smooth and lingering palate presence.

1999 Chardonnay Lorenzo Vineyard - initial aromatics of butterscotch and minerals - wonderfully balanced in the mouth with mineral notes, flowers and hints of tropical fruit - smooth and generous mouthfeel - a beautiful, beautiful wine.

From bottle:

All of these Chardonnays from bottle have a lovely golden hue.

1999 Overlook Chardonnay - fall release - just a hint of sulfur on the nose of this bottle - I'm sure it will fade away with a little time - wonderfully rich and smooth texture in the mouth - nicely representative Chardonnay fruit - 

1998 Damaris Reserve - elegant, honeyed, but restrained aromatics - very harmonious on the palate - smooth and mouth filling with a delicious sweetness from ripe fruit - clean finish.

1998 Lorenzo - again, beautiful golden hue - aromatically, not unlike the Damaris - somewhat restrained, lightly honeyed with hints of butterscotch - pretty Chardonnay fruit in the nose - excellent balance on the palate - clean and concentrated fruit well framed with unobtrusive oak - harmonious, smooth and rich on the palate - reminiscent of the monumental wines produced from the same source by Marcassin. Easily one of the better Chardonnays I have tasted in the last several years. 

1998 Pinot Noir Kastania Vineyard - although part of the Sonoma Coast AVA, the vineyard is located in Petaluma, a stone's throw from Highway 101. From a bottle opened yesterday - very pretty, ripe and true aromatics - sweet and lovely in the mouth with good acid structure and a hint of not unpleasant bitterness on the finish..

Second taste from a new bottle. Second sample has all that the first sample had plus a hint of earthiness and lovely aromatic nuances of culinary herbs - almost garrigue-like - very pleasant in the mouth, showing additional intensity and rounder flavors and a more complete texture. A very promising wine from a very young vineyard. 

1998 Pinot Noir Grand Detour Van der Kamp Vineyard Sonoma Mountain - typical aromatic profile from this distinctive property - sweet Pinot fruit aromatics with nuances of smoke, game meats and tomato - deliciously sweet in the mouth with a palate coating flavor presence - well balanced and expressive with a long finish - a very nice effort. 

And there is even more excitement on the horizon - a new 10-acre Syrah vineyard near the top of Sonoma Mountain that will soon come into production. 

Left Coast Correspondent for the Gang of Pour

Landmark Vineyards is open daily for sales and tasting.
101 Adobe Canyon Road
Kenwood, CA 95452
707 833 1144
800 452 6365


Allan Bree October 2000

Link to Gang of Pour Home Page

Link to Gang of Pour Site Index (Table of Contents)