Spring 2020 Newsletter

Burt Williams 1940 - 2019

Burt Williams 1940 – 2019

As some of you may already know, our founder Burt Williams passed away on December 11, 2019.

Burt was a pioneer of Pinot Noir in the Russian Valley and has been credited with putting both on the map—today, Pinot Noir is the most widely planted red grape variety in the county.

Burt and Ed Selyem started out making wine for themselves in a garage in Fulton. In 1984, they released the first vintage of the Williams Selyem label. Just three years later, their Rochioli Pinot Noir won the California State Fair Sweepstakes Prize for top red wine, besting 2,136 wines from 416 wineries.

At the Allen facility, the pair continued to utilize dairy tanks as fermenters, a hold-over from their bootstrapping days—these tanks were much less expensive than wine tanks and they provide for an excellent skin-to-juice ratio which results in the signature Williams Selyem texture. The men continued to focus on single-vineyard bottlings and highlighted the names of the growers on their labels.

Burt was born in 1940 and grew up in San Francisco. After high school he went to work for a news agency where he set type for the printing presses. He’d always loved to cook and was an avid reader. Burt was generally a self-taught winemaker, spending lots of time studying old-world winemaking techniques.

He was also an avid outdoorsman who enjoyed fishing, hiking, and diving for abalone. It’s an understatement to say that Burt had a true passion for life and his interests never dwindled, especially when it came to wine.

We are proud to continue to work with so many of the same growers, and to carry on the tried-and-true traditions of Burt’s winemaking. We’re honored to be the stewards of his legacy—a winery which seeks to make the best wine, from the best grapes, from the best growers.

We invite you to join us in remembering our founder Burt Williams. Raise a toast and share your stories of Burt, Williams Selyem wines, and Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley. We will be collecting stories and remembrances of Burt and ask that you share through whichever medium you feel most comfortable, whether it’s via social media, phone, or in-person.

What to expect in Sonoma County #GatherInSonoma

Another reason to come and visit us and #GatherInSonoma is to see the amazing beauty of the area. You are likely aware of the Kincade fire which affected parts of the North Bay area in October 2019. Thankfully, this fire was far from the winery and mostly confined to remote areas. In the media, however, the story was intensely covered and images of fire with the words Healdsburg, Sonoma County, and Wine County emblazoned across the headlines, leaving many people to believe that the area was badly damaged. This is not the case. Now is the time to make an impact and help the area recover from bad press. While you’re here be sure to stop in to see our neighbors, and our friends in the restaurant business and join the community in celebrating the bounty that the Russian River Valley and Sonoma County have to offer. (Tip: use the hashtag across all social media platforms to find out what people are saying and doing in Sonoma County.)

2018 Vintage Summary by VP of Winemaking Jeff Mangahas

The winter months were very dry with unseasonably warm weather in the early part of the season. By mid-February the rains had returned; nearly doubling the total rainfall and staving off early budbreak. The much-needed rains continued through March resulting in budbreak for the larger part of Westside Road by month-end. The remainder of the spring saw additional rainfall with spates of warm weather interspersed. The plants responded well under these near-perfect vegetative cycle conditions. Flowering commenced in June under ideal temperatures. Subsequently, below-average temperatures ensued for a week and a half which extended the bloom schedule. The net effect of the cooling trend created a looser cluster and some millerandage or “hens and chicks,” a highly desirable trait for many reasons including better phenolic development and better air flow through the cluster to prevent mold. Heading into the season, crop loads were near-historic averages with great vine balance. Harvest started on the 16th of August under ideal conditions with moderate, consistent temperatures. Vintage highlights include site specificity and elegance, while displaying concentration and balance—another great Williams Selyem year in the making.

2020 Spring Release Tasting Notes by VP of Winemaking Jeff Mangahas

Pinot Noir – Elegant

2018 Central Coast Pinot Noir – San Benito County 13.3% alc. $39

Notes of strawberry, plum, black cherry, and cool herbs combine with woody spices like nutmeg and allspice. Hints of citrus and cedar offer an airiness to the wonderful aromatics. There is good weight throughout the palate and the wine offers a strong impression of chalky minerals that are overlaid with berry fruits, citrus, and hints of elderberry.

2018 Sonoma County Pinot Noir – Sonoma County 13.9% alc. $39

Strawberry and cherry notes mix with subtle notes of allspice and clove. The palate offers softer tannins with hints of black tea and seamless acidity. Sourced from our outstanding vineyards in the Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast AVAs, the Sonoma County always represents an outstanding value. Something to enjoy on the early side as you wait for the vineyard designates to mature.

Pinot Noir – Medium-Bodied

2018 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir – Russian River Valley 14.1% alc. $58

Red fruited at first nosing; the wine showcases a floral character beloved in Russian River Valley Pinot Noirs. There is an earthy, dried herb component mixed with a touch of bergamot which adds to the complexity to the kaleidoscope of aromas. A burst of red fruits mix with flavors of Earl Grey tea on the round but well-balanced palate, and the acidity keeps the wine fresh on the tongue.

2018 Terra de Promissio Vineyard Pinot Noir – Sonoma Coast 13.9% alc. $65

The beautiful color immediately draws in the senses and the nose certainly does not disappoint. Pinot Noir typically has a perfume-like quality and Terra de Promissio typifies that. A knockout nose of carnation, red cherry, and dried strawberry combine with citrus peel, while a touch of dried herbs add another layer of complexity. On the palate, the wine is layered with berry fruits and creates a wonderful texture that is round and seamless. The acidity is harmonized with supple tannins to give perfect balance along with a hint of earthiness on the finish.

2018 Westside Road Neighbors Pinot Noir – Russian River Valley 13.7% alc. $75

A gorgeous nose of red fruits and red rose jump from the glass. Orange peel adds a wonderful refreshing lift to the aromatics while a touch of star anise adds depth; the oak is beautifully integrated. Broad at the entry, the wine showcases red fruits and minerals. Texturally, the wine is like velvet and saturates the palate. The tannins are refined, and subtlety drive the palate along.

2018 Olivet Lane Vineyard Pinot Noir – Russian River Valley 14.1% alc. $78

This 2018 offering showcases the greatness of older vines. Planted to the Martini selection, notes of leather come through along with a touch of fennel seed while the signature Russian River Valley perfume of red fruits shines through with a hint of rose petal. The palate has excellent energy with red fruits and a citrusy complexion along with well-defined tannins. A touch of nutmeg on the finish rounds out the wonderful flavor profile.

Pinot Noir – Full-Bodied

2018 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir – Sonoma Coast 14.1% alc. $58

Dark berry aromas mix with a touch of dried herbs and notes of lavender in this Coastal Pinot Noir offering. The oak is perfectly integrated with subtle tones of vanilla and wood spices. Musky undertones complete the wonderfully dark and brooding aromatics. Muscular in the mouth, the tannins are of a different place, with mineral undertones and nice acidity to carry to the finish.


2018 Papera Vineyard Zinfandel – Russian River Valley 15.0% alc. $65

A knockout nose of blackberry and boysenberry mix with notes of anise and bramble. The nose is saturated with all sorts of berry fruits and underlying elements of vanilla and wood spices. The palate is equally as exciting, with flavors of blueberry, blackberry, and cranberry. The hallmark zesty acid profile keeps the palate inbounds and provides a sense of balance and zen.

2018 Fanucchi-Wood Road Vineyard Zinfandel – Russian River Valley 15.1% alc. $65

A basket of summer berries comes to mind upon nosing this exuberant wine. Planted in 1895, these old vines are producing at the top of their game. Highlights of stone fruits mix with berry and blueberry notes to offer a dramatic aroma, while darker pitched elements of anise and allspice add additional layers. Vibrant and refreshing on the palate, the wine offers berry fruits, citrus peel, and wonderful minerality. For as powerful as this wine is, the palate retains a balance due to the zesty acidity and sheer extract from these old vines.


2018 Unoaked Chardonnay – Russian River Valley 13.6% alc. $39

The color is a beautiful yellow with a green glint. Notes of lime and quince are immediately apparent at first nosing, but then hints of flowers and smoky minerals emerge. Green apple rounds out this wonderfully aromatic wine, and the palate is no less interesting with zesty lime and Granny Smith apple flavors. A rather full-bodied palate, even without the oak, owing to the excellent vineyard sourcing and lees stirring. Minerals and an impression of iodine on the palate add depth and interest, while the finish is snappy and clean.

2018 Heintz Vineyard Chardonnay- Russian River Valley 13.9% alc. $65

Aromas of apple and pear jump from the glass followed by undertones of lime, nut spices, and musk melon. With additional aeration, white flowers and quince emerge in this classic and exciting Heintz Chardonnay offering. The palate showcases pear and apple flavors along with a minerality and dustiness, which comes from the Goldridge soil in which the vines grow. Rolled up in the fruit is a streak of citrus peel which highlights a tannic tension that completes the wine. Enjoy with roast chicken or sea bass and matsutake mushrooms.

2018 Olivet Lane Vineyard Chardonnay – Russian River Valley 14.8% alc. $65

Notes of apple galette and baking spices come to mind in this fragrant old-vine Chardonnay, while hints of lemon verbena and Shiso leaf add layers of complexity and intrigue. The palate exhibits a powdery texture that showcases yellow apple flavors and is punctuated with a quinine sensation on the finish.

Late Harvest Gewurztraminer

2018 Vista Verde Vineyard Late Harvest Gewürztraminer – San Benito County 8.0% alc. $40/375mL

Rose water and lychee nut aromas jump from the glass while baked stone fruit, with a touch of vanilla and nutmeg, add a depth to the exotic nose. The palate is wonderfully balanced with seamlessly integrated acidity that adds energy and provides shape. Flavors of poached stone fruits, along with wood spices combine with a lift of jasmine on the finish and round out the enticing flavors. This wine is completely barrel fermented in new barrels, which is a good treatment given the structure and weight of the wine—the oak adds texture without heaviness. My favorite pairing with this wine is a stone fruit tart drizzled with honey and toasted almonds.

Important Dates

  • March 8 | Release Closes
  • March 9 | Shipping begins – Hot States (AL, AZ, FL, GA, LA, NC, SC, TN, & TX), weather permitting March 23 |
  • Shipping begins – All other areas, weather permitting
  • April 17- 19 | CA Pick Up Weekend
  • April 20-26 | Post-Pickup Period
  • April 28 | Ship unclaimed CA PU orders, shipping charges will apply
  • May 8-10| NY Pickup Weekend

Ordering Information

-Online ordering is strongly encouraged! To access your allocation, use the customized hyperlink in
the email we’ll send to you on the opening day of the release. Or, sign in via our website using your user credentials.
– Orders are filled on a first-come, first-served basis. Allocations are not guaranteed; they represent the number of bottles available to you until the wine sells out (which is often before the last day to order). Please place your order as soon as possible for best order fulfillment.

– For bottles beyond your allocation, please use the wish list column. These requests will be filled, if possible, after the close of the release on March 8. You do not need to include payment for wish list wines; we will charge or invoice your account later if the request is filled.
– While online ordering is strongly encouraged, you may fax your completed order form to

(707) 431-4862. If paying by check, please send via mail to 7227 Westside Rd, Healdsburg CA 95448
– Order confirmations will be sent via email. Please verify your email address!
– Faxed or mailed orders submitted without payment will not be filled; phone and email orders are not accepted.


-Wines will begin shipping on Monday, March 9 for orders shipping to (AL, AZ, FL, GA, LA, NC, SC, TN, & TX), weather permitting. Orders shipping to all other states will begin on Monday, March 23, weather permitting.
– Some states do not permit direct wine shipments, or they may limit the amount of wine we can ship to you. Please see the back of your order form for more details and shipping/handling fees.

– We require a shipping address where there is someone 21+ years of age available to sign for the package during regular business hours.

Wine Pickup

– If you intend to pick up your wine at Williams Selyem Winery, make your selection of 6 or more bottles and choose the “CA Pickup” option on your order.
– Our Spring 2020 Pickup Weekend will be Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, April 17-19, from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM, at 7227 Westside Road, Healdsburg, CA 95448
– Winery pickups are available by appointment at Williams Selyem from April 20-26 between 10:00 AM and 3:00 PM.
-Please call or email at least one day in advance to schedule a pickup date and time: (707) 433-6425 or tours@williamsselyem.com
– Orders not picked up by Saturday, April 26 will be shipped, at the customer’s expense, to the billing address listed on the order on Tuesday, April 28.
– If you prefer to have a third party to pick up on your behalf, please select this option from the drop- down menu in your shopping cart or note it on the ship-to section of your order form. Note that the following require an account to be established prior to order pickup. Any shipping arrangements must be made directly with the third party of your choice. Third party vendors are solely for storage or shipment—no pickups available from their physical location.

  • 55 Degrees Napa Valley, in Napa (707) 963-5513
  • All Ways Cool, in Santa Rosa (707) 545-7450
  • Fitch Mountain, in Healdsburg (707) 433-1247
  • Oeno Vaults, in Santa Rosa (707) 595-3612
  • Vinfolio, in San Francisco (800) 969-1961

– If you intend to pick up your wine at Millbrook Winery, select the “NY Pickup” option on your order.
– The Spring Pickup Weekend Event at Millbrook Winery will be held Friday, Saturday and Sunday, May 8-10.
– Daily winery pickups are available May 8 – July 31, between 12:00 PM and 5:00 PM; no appointment necessary.

Address: 26 Wing Road, Millbrook, NY 12545 | Phone: (845) 677.8383 ext. 21
Email address: millbrookwinery@millwine.com | Website: www.millbrookwine.com