Topel Winery Serendipity Vineyard

By: The Wine Spies

Mission Codename: Looking in a haystack for a needle and discovering a great Pinot

Operative: Agent White

Objective: Visit Topel Winery and acquire an allocation of their delicious and newly released 2008 Monterey County Pinot Noir.

Mission Status: Accomplished!

Current Winery: Topel Winery

Wine Subject: 2008 Serendipity Vineyard Pinot Noir

Winemaker: Donnis Topel


The first grapes were planted in the Salinas Valley as early as the late 1700 by the Spanish missionaries. With its storied history, the region has nearly 6000 acres under cultivation. The cooler climate, ocean fog from Monterey and wine; alluvial soils and aspect of the region favor the Burgundian varietals of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The Serendipity Vineyard is located adjacent to the famed Santa Lucia Highlands AVA and the entire region is best known for cooler ocean climate and ideal soil for Pinot Noir.

Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

Look – Brilliant clear garnet burgundy in color with ruby highlights though its deep core. Along the edges, the color becomes burgundy-violet and when swirled mildly tinted legs ring the glass.

Smell – Medium in its intensity with a soft fresh quality of cherry and other red fruits integrated with aromatic floral rose and a touch of forest floor earthiness. Soft and subtle hints of herbal, savory and sweet spice and smoke round out the nose.

Feel – Approachable and soft, this dry medium bodied wine has velvet smooth finely grained tannins and medium acidity that remains fresh but doesn’t overpower the palate.

Taste – Soft and rich with fresh flavors of red and black cherry, strawberry and other red fruit are layered with soft earthy notes, vanilla bean, cola and subtle soft herb and floral components.

Finish – Light and fresh and medium in length with lingering ripe cherry, earthy and vanilla notes that fade softly and invite another sip.

Conclusion – The 2008 Topel Winery Serendipity Vineyard Pinot Noir is a delicious example of the fine Pinot from Monterey County. Rich and flavorful, without being too concentrated, lighter red fruit, great floral notes as well as other complex flavors. Approachable, fresh and fun, this wine is perfect for enjoying at brunch, lunch or an afternoon get together.

Mission Report:


SUBJECT: Mark Topel

DATE OF BIRTH: January 11, 1945

PLACE OF BIRTH: Chicago, Illinois

WINE EDUCATION: Self-taught. Audited courses at UC Davis, mentored by some of the finest CA winemakers who are good friends, and OJT.

CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: Winemaker, Topel Winery 1996 – Present

WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: Minimal intrusion. Let the grapes express themselves.

SIGNATURE VARIETAL: Cabernet Sauvignon

CAREER HIGHLIGHT: Tremendous positive feedback from satisfied customers

WINEMAKER QUOTE: ”Each vintage is like a new and unique poem—handcrafted and polished to perfection.”


AGENT RED: Greetings, Mark. We are thrilled to be showing your exceptional 1008 Pinot Noir today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.

RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?

MARK: 1962/63 Penfolds Grainge Hermitage, discovered while I was in Australia, trying a legal case.

RED: And where did you learn the most about winemaking?

MARK: From my co-winemakers whose families had been working with grapes from our area for five generations.

RED: What is your winemaking style or philosophy?

MARK: Minimal intrusion to allow the grapes to express themselves in the most profound manner possible.

RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?

MARK: Three; The aforementioned Penfolds Grainge Hermitage style, Harlan’s Red Table Wine—Merlot/Cabernet Blend, and Chuck Wagner’s Caymus Special Select.

RED: How long have you been making wine?

MARK: Since 1993

RED: Who do you make wine for?

MARK: Simply, ourselves and our customers

RED: What is one piece of advice that you would give to someone that is considering a career as a winemaker?

MARK: There are no shortcuts, no tricks, only hard work, long hours, and dedication to perfection.

RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today

MARK: The ‘08 Pinot Noir is a blend of four clones. About 50% is Pommard, with the balance made up of 115, 667, and 777. I love the earthy tones of Pommard and like the complexity given by the others—especially the floral accents.

RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?

MARK: These are my wife’s suggestions: In summer, when the Pinot is very slightly chilled, either grilled pork or lamb tenderloin is awesome. Also, wood-fired oven pizzas with caramelized onions/thyme/Gorgonzola are incredible. In the Fall/Winter, all slow cooked, braised meat and poultry preparations, done in a country savory style. Try short ribs, or roast chicken. Dynamite combinations.

RED:What is your favorite ‘everyday’ or table wine?

MARK: 2006 Topel Estate Blend

RED: We’ll have to feature that one, soon! How would you recommend that people approach your wines, or wine in general?

MARK: In a not-too-serious, but appreciative mode, reflecting an understanding that they are about to experience a very pleasurable product, which has resulted from lots of loving and joyful careful preparation.

RED: In your opinion, what makes the Monterey County region so special?

MARK: Northern Monterey (Chalone and Santa Lucia Highlands) are the best Pinot grapes in the State. It’s cool and the fruit ripens with plenty of acid.

RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?

MARK: Ramping up our “Whites” program with two Chardonnays, Viognier, and dessert Orange Moscato.

RED: Thank you so much for your time. We learned a lot about you – and about your wine. Keep up the great work, we are big fans!

MARK: Thank a lot, Agent Red. We are sure that your Operatives will love our Metitage.

Wine Spies Vineyard Check:

The location of Topel’s Healdsburg tasting room where today’s wine and other great wines can be tasted can be seen in this satellite photo.

*Local Food And Wine *


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