Xander Soren

Xander Soren is the mind behind a radical wine venture that’s been years in the making: developing a high-end Pinot Noir designed specifically to pair with Japanese cuisine. After a career in Silicon Valley that included over 20 years with Apple, where he worked on such iconic products as the iPod, Garageband, and iPhone ringtones, he turned his attention to a more genteel set of passions: wine, Japanese culture and Japanese cuisine. Yet his vision and business model are a far cry not only from fast-paced Silicon Valley but from what’s typical in California wine as well. For in addition to honing his brand to appeal to Japanese connoisseurs, he’s decided to limit his production to around 600 cases per vintage - a boutique wine business for sure!

For Xander’s style of Pinot Noir, he is focusing on cooler appellations, especially the Santa Rita Hills, which, because of its unique terroir, can produce wines that rival those of Burgundy. Xander sources fruit from historic vineyards such as La Encantada, Sanford & Benedict, Sierra Mar, and Olivet Lane. He is also honored to use grapes from Yuki Vineyard, owned by Japanese producer Akiko Freeman on the Sonoma Coast.

Xander’s winemaker is Shalini Sekhar, a rising star (2015 Winemaker of the Year at the San Francisco International Wine Competition, the San Francisco Chronicle’s 2019 Winemaker to Watch) who has made wine at Williams Selyem, Stag’s Leap, and her own label called Ottavino. She also produces wine - especially Pinot Noir — for a number of small boutique labels through her custom crush operation. Winemaking at Xander Soren is non-intrusive and labor-intensive, which necessarily results in limited production. Not only vineyard blocks but clones are elevated and aged separately in carefully-selected French oak barrels and blended before bottling to ensure excellent balance. Refreshing acidity, bright flavors balanced by darker notes and character, and, above all, lower levels of alcohol are necessary to pair with sukiyaki, wagyu, tempura, and, perhaps, even sushi. Many of the wines are produced in amounts of less than 100 cases.

Wine Maker

Shalini Sekhar





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Wines from this Winery

While Xander is labeled as a Santa Barbara County appellation wine, it is really an expression of a small corner of the Sta. Rita Hills AVA. This is because the three vineyards from which it was sourced – Sanford & Benedict, La Encantada, and Fiddlestix – are neighbors along the Santa Rosa Road that runs through this end of the Santa Ynez Valley. It is so cool here that daytime temperatures in summer rarely rise above the low 20s C. But the cool climate is the secret behind this elegant Pinot Noir, so full of grace, tension, and lift. Fresh aromas of raspberries and red cherries delight with accents of rose petals. The medium-bodied palate is refreshing but deep with layers of red and dark fruit set off by exotic notes of anise, licorice, and mint. Silky tannins and acidity contribute to a long, textured finish.

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¥12,100 (incl. tax)
XANDER SOREN Pinot Noir Central Coast

Xander Soren’s Central Coast Pinot Noir is sourced from two vineyards in the Central Coast, La Encantada and Sierra Mar. Located in the cool Sta. Rita Hills, La Encantada experiences an extended growing season that produces fruit with high acidity and vibrant flavors. Sierra Mar, a site 300 m in elevation in the Santa Lucia Highlands, is sunnier if not a lot warmer. Blending the two makes for a complex but juicy wine that expresses delicate red berry notes, minerality, as well as riper, concentrated flavors, and a rich mouthfeel. The 2018 offers aromas of ripe red cherries, rhubarb, eucalyptus, sage, and roasted shiitake mushrooms. The palate is soft, opening with fresh cherry and raspberry fruit and hints of cherry blossoms. Fresh acidity and soft tannins lead to a spicy finish with notes of cinnamon and licorice.

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¥17,600 (incl. tax)
XANDER SOREN Pinot Noir Yuki Vineyard

Yuki Vineyard is an organic site owned and managed by Freeman Winery’s Tokyo-born winemaker, Akiko Freeman. While the label says, “Sonoma Coast,” the Yuki Vineyard is actually located in Sonoma County’s newest sub-appellation, the West Sonoma Coast. Like most vineyards in this extreme coastal topography, the vines are planted along a ridge at an elevation of about 400 m. Surrounded by an old-growth redwood forest, the vineyard is subject to the mercy of the Pacific Ocean and its winds, rains, and fogs - as well as sunshine and cool temperatures. Challenging conditions make for a vibrant and energetic wine. Moreover, at 13.2% ABV, this wine is a great food partner, emphasizing vibrant, fresh, and exotic flavors and mouthwatering acidity.

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¥17,600 (incl. tax)
XANDER SOREN Pinot Noir Olivet Lane Vineyard
XANDER SOREN Pinot Noir Sanford & Benedict

Ludeon is Xander Soren’s luxury cuvée, a blend of three vineyards - La Encantada, Fiddlestix, and Sanford and Benedict - and six clones of Pinot Noir. While all three vineyards are located in the Sta. Rita Hills AVA, they differ greatly in maturity. La Encantata and Fiddlestix were planted in the late 1990s, while Sanford and Benedict has vines over 50 years old. Fermented on both cultivated and natural yeasts, the wine was aged in 20% new French oak. The nose exudes aromas of red cherry, clove, licorice, sandalwood, and vanilla. The palate is energetic and precise with notes of red and dark fruit, fresh acidity, velvety tannins, and a long and complex finish.

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¥29,700 (incl. tax)