Bohemian Severity? (Ross Cobb And Claypool Cellars Team Up To Make Serious Sonoma Pinot)

Vinted on May 1, 2012 binned in California wine, wine news

At this point, I think we can agree that Sonoma winemaker Ross Cobb now owes me some money.

Certainly I’ve reviewed and featured a few of his wines here, with quite favorable results – though that’s not, of course, why I think he should be paying me (really, we’ve had enough of that alleged behavior lately, haven’t we?).

No, I think he owes me money because I might have helped seal the deal on his latest gig. Finder’s fee? C’mon, a little slice off the top of that is kind of standard business practice, right?!??

[ Editor’s note: I do not actually think that this guy owes me money. ]

In all seriousness, I’ve been covering the recent trajectory of both Ross’ wines and those of his latest consulting client, Sonoma’s Claypool Cellars – so I’m happy to report that the two are now working together.

During my recent jaunt to Sonoma, I spent a few hours with Chaney Smith Claypool, wife of rocker Les Claypool and the driving force behind their up-and-coming wine venture. The Claypool Cellars wines are quite solid, and very good (in the case of their 2009 Hurst Vineyard “Purple Pachyderm” Pinot, very, very good), and what’s in barrel for their Russian River Valley Pinot Noir is already tasty and sporting a ton of exciting spicy, bright-fruited potential.

Despite the laid-back, bohemian carnival atmosphere of their brand, they make serious juice – and Chaney is serious about taking Claypool Cellars to the next level. One thing she told me stuck with me several days later: “I want a legacy that we can give to the kids… if they’ll take it!” This is coming from someone who’s tasting room is a caboose train car, by the way…

When Chaney asked me for my thoughts on the names they’d narrowed down on their list of potential consulting winemakers, I stopped her at Ross, because I think he may be the most talented winemaker now on the consulting circuit in Sonoma.

I ran into Ross at the In Pursuit of Balance tasting in NYC recently (more on that later this week), where I caught up on tasting the rest of his 2008 releases (the Rice-Spivak Vineyard Pinot Noir is pretty kick-ass, by the way), and he confirmed the gig was 100% go, and so Claypool Cellars will be the first client in his new consulting venture. It probably doesn’t hurt that Ross is a self-proclaimed “clean-cut skater punk turned winemaker” and that he’s a fan of Les’ music.

All of which is a long way of saying that I’m happy for both Ross and the Claypools, and I can’t think of a better match for helping them take the next step towards pursuing Chaney’s vision of the brand’s future. And yes, I did just use the term “vision of the brand’s future” when talking about a wine outfit owned by the guy who wrote Mary The Ice Cube and Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver (hey, both those tunes are great… I’m just saying that they aren’t the first things that come to mind when you’re talking about the rarefied world of high-end Pinot Noir…).

Hiring Ross is not a guarantee of turning very  good Pinot into great, world-class Pinot, of course. But the Claypools are already sitting on some promising juice, and so this pick up is as good a start as they’re likely to get (legally, I mean – otherwise they’d have to rob a bank and buy out Littorai), and any fans of Claypool Cellars reading this should be feeling optimistic hearing this news.


I just cannot shake the feeling that somebody owes me money out of all of this… maybe I should just be content to be paid in goodwill, friendship, and the chance to taste really good juice…?






  • John

    Happy to represent these wines in NJ!!

  • John

    Cobb wines that is….

    • 1WineDude

      Thanks, John!

  • Joel Ohmart

    Hopefully you did not get kissed in the head with an aluminum baseball bat or run into anybody whose name happened to be Mud on your tasting adventures at Claypool cellars. Sounds like good juice, will have to keep my eyes open, what is the distribution situation on these beauties?

    • 1WineDude

      Joel- not *yet* anyway :). Production is small so you’d likely need to contact them directly to get the best chance at trying their juice. Cheers!

  • chaney claypool

    Thanks, Joe! We appreciate and take to heart your invaluable input and advice. We also want to give our wine rep, Cinnamon, props for throwing Ross' name into the hopper and contacting him for us. She's awesome.

    • 1WineDude

      Thanks, Chaney – next time I'm charging you! ;-)

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