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How does a hobby become a passion and a passion become a legend?

 Like most good stories, the history of Williams Selyem owes much to serendipity.

If a grower with an abundance of fruit hadn’t given Burt Williams a few tons of

free grapes in the 1970s, Burt might never have discovered his love and flair for

winemaking. And if Burt and his partner Ed Selyem had been able to afford the

French Burgundies they both favored, they might never have tried making their

own Pinot Noir.The two friends didn’t set out to produce wines for anyone but

themselves. And they surely never imagined that their humble experiment in

home winemaking would spawn a cult-status winery of international acclaim.

Together, Burt and Ed set a new standard for American-made Pinot Noir, and

elevated Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley to among the best wine growing

regions in the world.

The rolling hills of a former cattle ranch outside the town of Hollister in San Benito

County are now planted to Pinot Noir. The Dyson’s believe this is “a very special

area for Pinot Noir and aromatic white wine.”

John states that the key attributes are climate and soil: a long, cool growing

season and rock, gravel and pebbles, laced with calcium carbonate lenses and

a lot of lime, promoting good drainage. This vineyard continues to deliver

exceptional quality Pinot Noir worthy of the Williams Selyem vineyard designation.


Varietal: Pinot Noir

Clones: Bruce, Pommard, Calera and Dijon clones

Rootstock: Restrictive


Number of acres: 12 acres

TopographyRolling hills

Elevation: 700 – 1000 feet

Soil type: Well drained gravelly loams, with severe limestone fractures

Trellising: Smart Dyson and bilateral cordon

Irrigated: Yes

Cover crop: Native grasses, including oats and rye

Directly east of better-known Monterey County, on the other side of the

Gavilan Mountains, San Benito County boasts four recognized AVAs

(Cienega Valley, Paicines, Lime Kiln Valley and Mt. Harlan). This complex

maze of mountains, canyons and valleys, some running east-west rather

than north-south, channels substantial marine influence into San Benito

from the Pacific Ocean, only 20-30 miles away. The most attentive care

is given to this vineyard to produce stellar Pinot Noir. The restrictive

rootstock used ensures the maximum ripeness and flavor development.

Winemakers Notes

The 2017 offering exudes textbook Gewurztraminer aromatics of jasmine
flowers, rose oil, and stone fruits. Vanilla and nutmeg, imparted from
fermentation in French oak barrels, mingle with these intoxicating aromatics
 to excite the senses. Beautifully balanced on the palate, the sweetness is
offset by an excellent tannin structure and sound acidity. Hints of chalkiness
on the finish add an additional layer of complexity in this elegant offering.
Serve with a stone fruit tart or frangipane.
Harvest Notes
It was an auspicious start to the 2017 growing season with steady rain followed
by dry spells which allowed for the soil profile to fill up progressively. The
waterworks kicked into high gear in January at which point over 20 inches of rain
had accumulated. That’s nearly double the historical average. 2017 was epic in
many respects and at one point the Russian River waters touched Westside Road
and the winery was waterfront property! As the waters receded and the soil
dried up, temperatures moderated, and bud break ensued by mid-March. Steady
rain through the vegetative cycle was balanced with days of brilliant sunshine
which helped to grow green, healthy plants. The weather was very fine in May
for the flowering period and ideal for the fruit set. As the season progressed
there were periods of heat that occurred with some regularity. With plenty of
water in the soil profile, the plants did not stress too much and physiological
maturity continued at an accelerated pace. Due to the diversity in our vineyard
sources, there is normally a natural spread in the pick dates. However, in 2017
there was compression of the harvest and many of the vineyards were ready in
a short period of time. The process was nearly complete by the time the intense
Labor Day heat wave hit and, thankfully, had concluded before the devastating
wildfires in October. Through a Herculean effort in the vineyards and at the winery
we were able to pick the grapes at the optimal time and preserve the freshness
and acidity of the vintage. The consequent wines show a refinement to the tannin
structure which will allow for early consumption but will age gracefully with mid-term
cellaring. Through and through, the 2017 is an excellent vintage.


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