A First Generation Family Winery

How far would you go in pursuit of a dream? To the ends of the Earth? Perhaps not. But pursuing a winemaking dream led the folks behind Peay Vineyards to plant a vineyard in the rugged, weatherbeaten, and remote northwest corner of Sonoma County, which, if not the end of the Earth, can certainly feel like it!

Peay Vineyards is a small family operation established by brothers Nick and Andy Peay, and Vanessa Wong (who is married to Nick), with the aim of creating Burgundian-styled “wines of place.” Comprising 52 acres of vines, the estate lies within Sonoma County’s newest AVA, the West Sonoma Coast, where the Pacific Ocean provides a constant source of cool marine air that helps to moderate temperatures throughout the growing season. This cool climate allows for a longer growing season and slower ripening of grapes, resulting in wines with more intense and complex flavors. The estate features steep hillsides and rocky soils that stress the vines and concentrate the flavors and aromas in the grapes. Compared with the nearby Fort-Ross Seaview AVA, which stipulates that vineyards must be planted at higher elevations above the fog line, Peay’s vineyards, at 600 ft (183 m) are often blanketed by fog. The challenging conditions mean that the harvest usually starts in late September (lasting into November) and yields tend to be low (around 1.7 tons per acre). They cultivate 34 acres of Pinot noir, 7 acres of Chardonnay, 1.8 acres of Viognier, 0.4 acres of Roussanne, and 0.2 acres of Marsanne. They also make a Pinot noir from the famed Savoy Vineyard in Anderson Valley.

Andy is responsible for sales and marketing, while Nick oversees wine-growing and Vanessa is the winemaker. Born and educated on the East Coast, the Peays had only a passing interest in wine. But one night, a mind-blowing cool-climate Syrah started a conversation, and the brothers, for good or ill, decided they would make wine together. Soon, Nick enrolled at UC Davis and began a series of stints at Schramsberg, La Jota, and Storrs Winery in Santa Cruz, while Andy pursued an MBA, and took jobs in wine retail as well as in wineries. In 1995, Nick and Andy traveled up and down the West Coast searching for the perfect location for a vineyard. After driving through Santa Barbara, Mendocino Ridges, Sonoma Coast, and Eastern Washington, they discovered a scenic viewpoint with vineyard potential in Gualala, Sonoma County. Just four miles from the Pacific Ocean, the location featured a cool, foggy climate and nutrient-poor soils that were perfect for the style of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir the Peay brothers had in mind. The only problem? Vines had never been planted there before, and it wasn’t clear that grapes would even ripen.

20+ years after the first harvest, Peay’s wines have proven the doubters wrong, vintage after vintage. About Peay Pinot Noir, Anne Krebhiel (MW) has written, “Whoever tastes Peay Pinot Noir blind would be hard pushed to associate it immediately with California; there is too much verve, too much brightness, too much slenderness for the usually more sun-warmed offering. Yet those who have explored California’s rugged and remote north Sonoma coast will find this landscape reflected in their glass.”

Wine Maker

Vanessa Wong





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Wines from this Winery

PEAY Chardonnay West Sonoma Coast

One of the first Peay Wines to carry the West Sonoma Coast AVA on the label, the 2021 vintage was almost entirely sourced from Estate Vineyard (95%) with a few bins added from a neighbor’s vineyard. The depth, shape, minerality, and overall polish are not dissimilar to the Estate Wine. The wine has baked lemon, coconut, lime oil, and flint aromas, a silky mid-palate with biscuit and wet slate notes, and a bright, fresh finish with a long after-taste. Despite its youth, the oak flavors are well-integrated and hardly noticeable. It is a great Chardonnay that will age well.

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¥12,100 (incl. tax)
PEAY Chardonnay Estate Sonoma Coast

The 2020 Estate Sonoma Coast Chardonnay captures the silky texture of the New World and the structure of the Old World, resulting in a well-balanced and seductive Chardonnay with intensity, nuance, and depth. Complexity and nuance arise from traditional Burgundian winemaking methods, including primary fermentation in barrel, malolactic fermentation, leas stirring, and bottling unfined and unfiltered. The wine has lemon meringue and buttered brioche aromas with a hint of flint smoke, and baked lemon and crème brûlée notes on the palate. The texture is silky, and the various aromas are harmonious, finishing with a freshness and a hint of saltiness. The wine is ready to enjoy now and develops more minerality with age.

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¥14,300 (incl. tax)
CEP Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast

Cep is a second label made from barrels of estate wines that didn't fit into the Estate or single vineyard Pinot Noir. Hence it is grown and vinified to the same exacting standards but priced to be enjoyed without needing a special occasion. The 2020 Cep Pinot Noir delivers a smooth, round texture with a high-toned nose of raspberry and anise notes. It’s a crowd-pleaser with fruit leading the show. It can be consumed now or in the next 5 years.

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¥9,130 (incl. tax)
PEAY Pinot Noir West Sonoma Coast

Generally, an appellation wine will draw heavily on vineyards beyond a producer’s estate. However, Peay Vineyards Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir is sourced entirely from the estate, from the same vineyard blocks that produced the Scallop Shelf, Pomarium, and Ama cuvées. Because of the expectations for these wines, there will inevitably be some barrels that don’t make the cut. Nevertheless, the Peay West Sonoma Coast is 100% estate fruit and free run juice, with no press wine, made to the highest standards. The nose of the inaugural West Sonoma Coast Pinot noir is seductive with red fruit and floral aromas that swirl above an earthy note at the core. There is refinement and balance with loads of flavor and depth but the wine is not over-burdened and sluggish due to excessive ripeness or alcohol.

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¥12,100 (incl. tax)
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PEAY Pinot Noir Savoy Vineyard

The Savoy Vineyard lies not on the Sonoma Coast but further north, in Mendocino’s Anderson Valley. It was planted in 1991 by Richard Savoy, a retired bookseller-turned-devotee of cool-climate Pinot Noir. Over the years, it developed a reputation for outstanding Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Today the vineyard is owned by Cliff Lede, and fruit is purchased by several respected wineries, including Littorai. In 2020, Peay produced only 340 cases of Savoy Vineyard, a wine that’s deep, layered, and brooding. Hints of sage, lead pencil and earthy notes emerge alongside the cherry, blackberry, and plum flavors.

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¥16,500 (incl. tax)
PEAY Pinot Noir Estate Sonoma Coast

Peay’s Estate Pinot Noir is crafted as an expression of the special terroir of the entire estate. Because of certain characteristics of the 2020 vintage, Vanessa decided to make one estate wine instead of the three cuvées named Scallop Shelf, Pomarium, and Ama. The wine has notes of bing cherry and raspberry and is balanced with moderate alcohol and fresh acidity. It has a mid-palate of red fruit and sage notes and a finish of cocoa powder. The wine is approachable upon release and will continue to be for at least the next 5+ years.

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¥17,600 (incl. tax)