Last updated on December 13, 2022
You do not often think of Humboldt County as a location for wine. Just north of the Anderson Valley, the area is thriving with agriculture, so why not wine. In comes Adrian Manspeaker, who grew up in Benbow, a town in the southern part of Humboldt County. After moving to Sonoma and starting his winery, he decided that this area might be the next place to discover Pinot Noir. Adrian’s winery Joseph Jewell proves that any Pinot lover should not miss out on discovering a hidden gem in the Humboldt County Pinot Noir.
Adrian came from a background of construction, which took him to Sonoma, where he discovered wine. You might say Adrian started from the ground up or from the garage upward. Like many a winemaker, he began making wine in his garage in Windsor. Adrian studied winemaking and viticulture through UC Davis’ extension program and took classes in business management during this time.
Today he compares the process of building a house to making wine. The challenge is the process, but the end product is something very exciting, whether it be the finished home where all the parts to construct come together or the bottle of wine that reflects the vineyard from where the grapes came, the weather conditions of that particular vintage, and to the process of making the wine.
Joseph Jewell Label
The name Joseph Jewell combines the middle names of Adrian and his partner at the time. Jewell is a long time surname in Adrian’s family and ideal to convey the concept of portraying a very classical image for the winery’s branding. The emblem for the Joseph Jewell logo is very traditional and befitting of the winery name. Its symbolic reference to a coat of arms or family crest with the symbolic lion hints at the elegance that lies within the bottle.
Adrian’s focus is creating elegant styled small-lot Pinot Noir. The question was finding a niche that would ultimately make him stand out from others. Going back to his roots was the ideal solution because he was familiar with Humboldt County; its cool- climate and terroir fit his variety of choice, Pinot Noir. As a relatively unknown region, this became the perfect location for vineyards to add to his portfolio of wines. Currently, 30% of the wines Adrian makes come from grapes grown in Humboldt County.
Humboldt County Pinot Noir
We sampled three Humboldt County Pinot Noir. These examples gave us an excellent picture of the quality of grapes coming from Humboldt County.
Joseph Jewell 2018 Pinot Noir Alderpoint Vineyard
This wine, by far, was my favorite of the three Humboldt County Pinot Noir tasted. I found a lighter Martini clone Pinot Noir which is more to my liking due to many trips to Oregon. The wine delivers aromas of tea and cherry, yet one senses the smell so typical of Pinot Noir. The wine also exhibits soft tannins with flavors of cherry and raspberry. Although earthy, a nice minerality enhances the wine. The finish is delicious due to a sweet undertone.
Joseph Jewell 2018 Pinot Noir Ryan Vineyard
This wine has a definite connection for Adrian because of the vineyard’s location near Benbow. One immediately notices that this Pinot has a darker color. The soils in this vineyard are Colluvium derived from sandstone and earth flow deposits from schist. The berries from clones 115, 777, and 667 are tiny, forcing the grapes to be more concentrated. This wine provides a bold presence, yet elegance prevails at the same time. Flavors of dark cherry dominate this Pinot Noir.
Joseph Jewell 2018 Pinot Noir Eel River Valley
Adrian describes this wine as a kind of cuvée. The composition utilizes five vineyards that lie in proximity to the southern portion of the Eel River. The vineyards include Ryan predominately with clones 115,777 and 667, Elk Prairie and the Martini, Pommard and 115 clones, Alderpoint Martini clone, Fruitland Ridge Martini clone, and Miller Creek with clones 216 and UCD 18. It is lighter in structure compared to the Ryan. Like a cuvée, the flavors are a potpourri of different berries. Think berry compote with earth notes.
Of the three wines sampled, you might say the Alderpoint Vineyard is the Oregon-influenced Pinot Noir. At the same time, Ryan represents the bigger and bolder style of California Pinot Noir, and the Eel’s River represents a combination of the two. All three are excellent; it is just a matter of your particular palate.
Note: Common to the wine industry, this writer received a hosted wine tasting. While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure.