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Hillside Broadcasting from the Californian Coast

In the 20 years since its foundation, Radio-Coteau has developed a cult-like following among the cognoscenti of The New California. Eric Sussman, winegrower and proprietor at Radio-Coteau, lives by the tenet, “The best fertiliser is the farmer’s shadow”. With his small team, he makes some of California’s most exciting, nuanced and fresh cool-climate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from a range of coastal-influenced vineyards in western Sonoma County and Anderson Valley.

Sussman has led a storied career spanning four decades and two continents. A New York native, he studied Viticulture and Agricultural Science at Cornell University, focusing on organic viticulture. Two formative years in France followed, apprenticing at Comte Armand and Jacques Prieur in Burgundy and Mouton Rothschild in Bordeaux. These seasons in France solidified Sussman’s interest in organic and biodynamic farming, low-intervention winemaking and crafting wines that speak of place. He returned to the States in 1997, working at Bonny Doon and Dehlinger before starting Radio-Coteau in 2002. The name loosely translates to ‘broadcasting from the hillsides’ or, idiomatically, ‘word of mouth’—a phrase that stuck with Sussman since his time in France.

For 10 years, Sussman sought fruit from the great north coast vineyards. In 2012, the opportunity arose to purchase one of his source vineyards. Practically within sniffing distance of the famed Heintz vineyard and bordering Russian River Valley, the 17-hectare Radio-Coteau site is located on a ridge at 240 metres above the town of Occidental, just 13 kilometres from the coast. 

“The fruit is the forefront of the expression and character of our wines so that people can connect to the season and the sites through the fruit, not heavy-handed winemaking. If the wine speaks of place, season and people, then I believe we’ve achieved what we set out to do.” Eric Sussman, Radio-Coteau Winegrower

The property is home to a diverse agrarian platform; alongside the nine hectares under vine (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Riesling and Zinfandel), there are cover crops, owl boxes, raptor perches and bee hives. Both organic and biodynamic practices are used, and the vineyard has been Demeter-certified since 2018. The soils are fine, sandy Goldridge loams, which provide excellent drainage and moderate fertility. The roots extend deep into the subsoil, facilitating dry farming. Proximity to the ocean and the moderating influence of rolling fogs provide a cool coastal climate and long, even ripening. 

In addition to the estate vines, Sussman also sources fruit from the Heintz Vineyard, described by Robert Parker as “one of the greatest Grand Cru sites for Chardonnay in California”. To the north, the Savoy Vineyard is another highly regarded site in Anderson Valley AVA in Mendocino. From this site, Eric Sussman has made a single vineyard Pinot Noir since Radio-Coteau’s genesis in 2002 and a Chardonnay since 2005 (one of only two producers to do so). Compared to the more moderate conditions on the Sonoma Coast, the Anderson Valley experiences very pronounced diurnal shifts, often with temperature swings of 20 degrees or more, resulting in signature tension in the wines. Both sites are managed organically. 

With all the hard work 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. Fruit is usually picked at about 13 to 14% potential alcohol, all fermentations are spontaneous and there are no additions save for small amounts of sulphur. All Pinot Noir wines are free-run, and the whites get only the lightest of pressings. Maturation is long and slow, new oak is minimal and all wines are bottled unfined and unfiltered.

The Range

“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

“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



Primary Region

Sonoma Coast, California


Winemaker: Eric Sussman



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