Must-Try Wine of Week: 2012 Failla Keefer Ranch Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

Failla (pronounced FAY-la) was originally founded as Failla Jordan in 1998, taking its name from the husband-wife team of winemaker Ehren Jordan and his spouse Anne-Marie Failla. Legal issues over the use of the word Jordan (as in Jordan Winery) forced them to settle on simply “Failla.”

Ehren Jordan’s biography reads like something out of a Ken Kersey novel. As a young adult, he studied art history and archeology at George Washington University, taking a part-time job in a retail wine shop to support himself. He then fled to the West, settling in Aspen, Colorado, where he skied, waited tables, and eventually became a sommelier. Armed with the experience from his retail and restaurant exposure, he set off for Napa Valley, where he became a tour guide at Joseph Phelps Winery, advancing to cellar work and winemaking.

After a stint making wine in France’s Rhone Valley, he returned to Napa Valley and became the winemaker at Turley Wine Cellars in 1996, where he produced a long string of noteworthy zinfandels. His real passion became pinot noir and he set his sites on cool climate sources in the North Coast region of California. He recently left Turley Wine Cellars to fully concentrate on the Failla label that specializes in pinot noir and chardonnay.

The 2012 Keefer Ranch Pinot Noir really shows off the terroir of this cool Green Valley vineyard. The Green Valley, which is defined by fog, is usually the first place where it comes in through the Petaluma Gap, and the last place it burns off, making it the coolest and foggiest part of the Russian River Valley.

The wine offers vibrant aromas of fresh cherries, baking spices, and sandalwood. The mouth-feel is both juicy and crisp, like biting into an iced cherry. Subtle touches of spice, earth, and oak add interest. The wine is very forward and easy to cozy up to, with a long, acid-driven and mineral-laced finish. This poster child for cool climate pinot noir ages beautifully.

Pair this special pinot noir with a bacon-stuffed mushroom appetizer, or main courses such as grilled King Salmon, bacon-wrapped scallops, or Peking duck. Pinot noir loves beets also, and a lightly dressed beet salad with goat cheese is a killer match.

The wine is available locally for $43 to $50 at,, and Irvine’s Cucina Enoteca Restaurant wine store. Upscale producers such as Freeman, Kosta Browne, Loring, and Siduri also produce excellent pinot noirs from Keefer Ranch Vineyard.

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