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Radio-Coteau

“World-class, it’s as simple as that”: Hillside Broadcasting from the Californian Coast
Radio-Coteau

In the 20 years since its foundation, Radio-Coteau has developed a cult-like following among those who prize purity, balance and finesse in their wines. Yet, while Eric Sussman’s wines sell out on allocation each year, he remains a salt-of-the-earth grower who shies away from cultivating an attitude of exclusivity. Crafted from the hillsides of California’s North Coast, the wines broadcast authenticity and a strong sense of place. They are born from great vineyards farmed with detailed care to maximise quality and expression.

Practically within sniffing distance of the famed Heintz Vineyard and bordering the Russian River Valley, the 17-hectare Radio-Coteau site is located on a ridge 240 metres above Occidental, just 12 kilometres from the coast. The property is home to a diverse agrarian platform; alongside the nine hectares of vines (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Riesling and Zinfandel), there are cover crops, owl boxes, raptor perches and beehives. Both organic and biodynamic practices are used, and the vineyard has been Demeter-certified since 2018.

With the muscle work done in the vineyards, Sussman aims to do as little as possible in the winery, again emphasising his “old-world technique with new-world fruit” approach. All fermentations are spontaneous, and there are no additions save for small amounts of sulphur. All red wines solely use free-run juice only, and the whites get only the lightest pressings. Maturation is long and slow, new oak use is minimal, and all wines are bottled unfined and unfiltered.

You perhaps know enough about the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay to know not to hesitate. Yet, as Antonio Galloni has said: “Very few wineries excel at seemingly everything. Radio-Coteau is among them.” For Sussman, Syrah is an unsung hero of the Sonoma Coast. “They’re dynamic and layered with so much depth,” he says of its wines. His bottle-aged Dusty Lane combines silky elegance with delicious, fruity vigour—it’s spot-on. Finally, we offer Sussman’s “captivating” old-vine Zinfandel from 1946 vines rooted in the Lemorel Vineyard. No matter the variety, Radio-Coteau’s wines count amongst California’s most vibrant and nuanced. They call it the Golden State for a reason.

The Wines

Radio-Coteau Sonoma Coast Wingtine Chardonnay 2021

Radio-Coteau Sonoma Coast Wingtine Chardonnay 2021

The Wingtine Chardonnay is named after a specialised cultivation tool, the wing tine shank. It is used by Radio-Coteau—and more broadly in the Sonoma Coast area—to cultivate their Goldridge (sandy loam) soils. Its unique design lifts and fractures the ground vertically and horizontally, reducing tractor passes while maintaining soil structure.

The cuvée is sourced from Radio-Coteau’s biodynamic estate vineyard and the Heintz Ranch vineyard, just a stone’s throw away in Occidental. The estate vineyard’s SeaBed plot is home to several of the Wente clones, the original of which arrived from Burgundy in 1912. Described by Robert Parker as “one of the greatest Grand Cru sites for Chardonnay in California”, Heintz Ranch is an organically farmed site with mature vines (30-plus years old) and an excellent diurnal range, ensuring fruit with rich flavours and balanced acidities. Sussman believes the balance of the two parcels delivers the most striking result.

The fruit was hand-harvested in early September from both sites, whole bunch-pressed and fermented in a combination of concrete egg, stainless steel and neutral oak. Long (16 months) maturation on lees followed with no stirring, and the wine went through full malolactic conversion before being bottled without fining or filtration.

Compared with Radio-Coteau’s Anderson Valley Savoy Chardonnay, the Wingtine has a more floral and mineral-driven style (the Puligny to the Savoy Vineyard’s Meursault?).

“The 2021 Chardonnay Wingtine is brilliant and finely cut from the outset. Hints of apricot, orange peel, mint and sweet spice lend an exotic flair to this delicate yet deeply flavored, perfumed Chardonnay. The Wingtine is a blend of Heintz and SeaBed done partly in cement, with no new wood.”
92 points, Antonio Galloni, Vinous
Radio-Coteau Sonoma Coast Wingtine Chardonnay 2021
Radio-Coteau Anderson Valley Savoy Chardonnay 2020

Radio-Coteau Anderson Valley Savoy Chardonnay 2020

The Savoy Vineyard in the Anderson Valley, Mendocino County, has established a firm reputation for producing some of the north coast’s most exceptional cool-climate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The 18-hectare, southwest-facing site lies 120 kilometres northwest of the Radio-Coteau estate. Sussman has a per-acre contract and pays a premium for his fruit, so he retains control over how those acres are managed viticulturally. Low yields, green harvesting and organic farming are a few of his requirements.

Like the rest of the Anderson Valley, Savoy enjoys a pronounced diurnal range—night-time drops in temperature can be as much as 25 degrees Celsius—which brings the signature tension of Anderson Valley alongside flavour ripeness in both the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. While a who’s who of the Sonoma wine scene sources Pinot Noir from this vineyard, just over two hectares are planted to Chardonnay, going only to FEL Wines and Radio-Coteau.

Sussman works with two Chardonnay clones within the Savoy site: the Wente clone vines (50%) have small clusters and berries and a mineral profile, while the Prosser clone (50%) lends a more tropical profile to the blend. The fruit was picked in late August and was whole bunch-pressed into barrel for wild fermentation. It underwent full malolactic conversion and enjoyed a 17-month maturation on lees with no stirring in lightly toasted, tightly-grained old French oak. The wine was bottled without fining or filtration.

Compared to the Wingtine, the style is more in the classic Californian vein: richer, with a creamier feel, yet supported by mouth-watering acidity.

“The 2020 Chardonnay Savoy is bright, floral and understated. Lemon peel, white pepper, mint and crushed rocks come into focus. There's good energy. Even so, this is an especially linear Chardonnay from Savoy, with a bit less depth than is customary. Even so, all the elements are well balanced, not an easy feat in 2020.”
91 points, Antonio Galloni, Vinous
Radio-Coteau Anderson Valley Savoy Chardonnay 2020
Radio-Coteau Sonoma Coast La Neblina Pinot Noir 2021

Radio-Coteau Sonoma Coast La Neblina Pinot Noir 2021

La Neblina means ‘the fog’ in Spanish, and this Pinot is drawn from three vineyards that thrive in the Pacific Ocean’s foggy summer mornings and the afternoon sunshine that follows. Alberigi Vineyard lies in the heart of the Russian River Valley, and its unique Goldridge loams—so particular to this area—are farmed organically. Then, Dierke Vineyard is a certified-organic hillside site on the western flank of Sebastopol planted in 2006 on Goldridge soils. The fruit from this site is famed for its powerful and expressive nature, complementing the more elegant and restrained Alberigi fruit. The Radio-Coteau estate vineyard in Occidental, just 12 kilometres from the ocean, rounds out the trio of western Sonoma’s coastal sources, contributing wild spice and silky, seductive textures. Across all three vineyards, a patchwork of clones (777, 114, 115, Mt. Eden, Calera and Burgundian Heirloom) lends further complexity.

Handpicked and fermented with 20% whole bunches, only the free-run juice was sent to neutral, tight-grained barriques and puncheons for 16 months’ maturation. The wine was bottled unfined and unfiltered. Capturing the misty forest floor and wild-berry fruit of the cool Sonoma Coast, the 2021 is a seductive and vibrant Pinot Noir: perfumed, elegant yet powerful with pitch-perfect texture and a lingering close. In the words of winemaker Eric Sussman: “It’s singing!”

“Made with 20% whole cluster fermentation and all used barrels, the ruby-hued 2021 Pinot Noir La Neblina has a floral and spicy perfume with a refined feel to its notes of candied roses, ripe red cherry, and fresh herbs. Medium-bodied, it has a refined tannin structure, a silky texture, and a good balance of fresh and ripeness. Pure, with raspberry and brambly herbs, it’s in a great place already and will do well over the next 6-8 years.”
94 points, jebdunnuck.com
“The 2021 Pinot Noir La Neblina is plump, juicy and ready to provide pleasure. Succulent red cherry, plum, leather, spice, dried flowers and mocha are front and center. Pretty floral and mineral accents lift the finish, adding palpable brightness. The Neblina is a blend from Alberigi, Dierke and the Estate.”
92 points, Antonio Galloni, Vinous
Radio-Coteau Sonoma Coast La Neblina Pinot Noir 2021
Radio-Coteau Sonoma Coast Belay Pinot Noir 2020

Radio-Coteau Sonoma Coast Belay Pinot Noir 2020

This single-vineyard wine is sourced from Radio-Coteau’s home vineyard in Occidental. Eric Sussman had been purchasing fruit from this 17-hectare site for years and didn’t hesitate when the opportunity arose to buy it in 2012. Practically within sniffing distance of the famed Heintz vineyard and bordering Russian River Valley, the site sits on the region’s fine, sandy Goldridge soils atop a ridge 240 metres above the town, just 13 kilometres from the coast. The proximity to the ocean and the moderating influence of rolling fogs provide cool coastal conditions and long, even ripening ideal for growing great Pinot Noir.

In a challenging year for most growers in California, Eric Sussman’s long-standing preference for early harvesting proved valuable. Sussman has always erred on the early side when it comes to picking. So, while his fruit made it safely into the winery in time to avoid adverse effects from the region’s devastating fires, many of his colleagues were not as fortunate. Handpicked and fermented with 52% whole bunches, only the free-run juice was sent to neutral, tight-grained barriques and puncheons (16% new) for 18 months’ maturation. The wine was bottled unfined and unfiltered.

“The 2020 Pinot Noir Estate Belay is terrific. Deep and dark, the. 2020 shows quite a bit of intensity for the year. Black cherry, lavender, cloves, leather and incense flesh out in a broad, ample Pinot. The 2020 is quite somber and introspective, but its balance is beyond reproach. It is, quite frankly, an impressive wine for the year.”
93 points, Antonio Galloni, Vinous
“Kirsch top note, cinnamon spice, hot iron tension/vibration, wet leaves, raspberries, sweet herbs. There’s power, drive and length here but also certain effortless that makes the wine quite lithe. Acidity runs deep with a minty aftertaste watering the mouth. Suede texture of tannins, energetic, it’s super tasty, lots of flavour lingering in the back and a touch of alcohol lingering too but the fruit handles it.”
94 points, Kasia Sobiesiak, The Wine Front
Radio-Coteau Sonoma Coast Belay Pinot Noir 2020
Radio-Coteau Sonoma Coast Dusty Lane Syrah 2016

Radio-Coteau Sonoma Coast Dusty Lane Syrah 2016

The Dusty Lane block lies in the certified-organic Dierke Vineyard, a hillside site on the western flank of Sebastopol planted on Goldridge soils by the affable and passionate John Dierke in 2006. Facing southeast, the site has excellent drainage and good exposure to coastal influences from the west. It is home to a “suitcase selection” of clones from northern Rhône and California and is famed for its powerful and expressive fruit. Sussman has a long-term contract with Dierke and has been working with the fruit from this site since 2008. The 1.5 acres of vines he works with are farmed according to Sussman’s specifications.

The fruit is handpicked and fermented as a combination of whole bunches, whole berries and crushed. The whole bunches contribute aromatic lift and spice, and in 2016, Sussman used 20% in the blend. Pumpovers are gentle, and as with all Radio-Coteau’s reds, only the free-run portion of the juice is used. The wine matured for 18 months in 500-litre puncheons (one-third new). The wine was bottled unfined and unfiltered. 

“The 2016 Syrah Dusty Lane has started to come around beautifully since I last tasted it in barrel. Dark and unctuous on the palate, the 2016 has more than enough fruit to stand up to its formidable tannins. But that is just the beginning. Black cherry, chocolate, leather, licorice and spice all build as this ample, full-bodied Syrah gains volume in the glass. Wonderfully complete and memorable, the 2016 is deep, persistent and exceptionally beautiful from start to finish. In a word: superb.”
96 points, Antonio Galloni, Vinous
“From the same vineyard as the Dierke Pinot Noir, the 2016 Syrah Dusty Lane comes all from the Alban clone and was brought up in one-third new barrels. It's another Côte Rôtie styled wine that has lots of raspberry fruit, some savory herbs and pepper, and a hint of graphite. Medium-bodied, silky, and elegant on the palate, with ultra-fine tannins, it has plenty of structure and will benefit from short-term cellaring.”
93+ points, jebdunnuck.com
Radio-Coteau Sonoma Coast Dusty Lane Syrah 2016
Radio-Coteau Sonoma Coast Lemorel Zinfandel 2018

Radio-Coteau Sonoma Coast Lemorel Zinfandel 2018

Named after his property’s original winery, built in 1906, Radio-Coteau’s Zinfandel hails from a small block of old Zinfandel vines planted in 1946. These gnarly old gobelet vines give extremely low yields, with crops of less than a tonne per acre the norm. As any Californian grower worth their salt will tell you, Zinfandel is notoriously difficult to grow, with wildly variable ripeness within the bunches. Hence, sorting in the vineyard and winery to remove underripe and overripe berries is an essential part of the process.

Handpicked fruit was destemmed and fermented in small open-top fermenters. Vinification was gentle, and only the free-run juice was used. The wine matured in puncheons and barrels for 20 months, with a negligible portion of new oak. Sussman finds barriques and bottle-aging essential to soften the assertive nature of Zinfandel’s tannins. In contrast to the more opulent, heady Zinfandel wines from warmer zones, Radio-Coteau’s Zinfandel is cast in the coastal mould: higher in acid, bone dry and with stuffing and structure to improve for years.

“The 2018 Zinfandel Estate Lemorel is every bit as captivating from bottle as it was from barrel. The aromatics alone are so enticing. As always, Lemorel is an incredibly distinctive Syrah that offers a striking combination of savory and earthy flavor to play off a core of dark Zinfandel fruit. Sweet floral notes, spice and pipe tobacco linger. The Lemorel emerges from the oldest Zinfandel vines on the estate, which were planted in 1946.”
94 points, Antonio Galloni, Vinous
Radio-Coteau Sonoma Coast Lemorel Zinfandel 2018

“Radio Coteau stands out in the Sonoma landscape for wines of exceptional purity, transparency and pedigree. I cannot recommend them highly enough. By any measure, Radio Coteau is world-class, it’s a simple as that.” Antonio Galloni, Vinous



“Radio-Coteau is another great success story, with proprietor Eric Sussman producing small–lot, handcrafted wines. Everything is fermented naturally, there are no enzymes, acidulations, very low SO2 is utilized, and the wines are bottled in–house, with neither fining nor filtration. This is always an exciting line–up of wines that remain fairly priced.” Robert Parker, The Wine Advocate



“This is a compelling set of wines from Radio-Coteau. Low-ish yields and weather conditions produced wines of notable depth and textural intensity. The 2021 Pinots immediately stand out for their density, darkness and power. Some of the wines are quite rich, uncharacteristically so. The Savoy and Belay come to mind as especially potent in this vintage. As is the case at many properties, the Chardonnays are especially fine in 2021, but they are also wines that need quite a bit of air to blossom.” Antonio Galloni, Vinous

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