Williams Selyem 2018 Wines

November 03, 2020

If you're a fan of elegant Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, here's an overview of Williams Selyem Winery.


Like most good stories, the history of Williams Selyem owes much to serendipity. If a grower with an abundance of fruit hadn’t given Burt Williams a few tons of free grapes in the 1970s, Burt might never have discovered his love and flair for winemaking. And if Burt and his partner Ed Selyem had been able to afford the French Burgundies they both favored, they might never have tried making their own Pinot Noir.

The two friends didn’t set out to produce wines for anyone but themselves. And they surely never imagined that their humble experiment in home winemaking would spawn a cult-status winery of international acclaim. Together, Burt and Ed set a new standard for American-made Pinot Noir, and elevated Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley to among the best wine growing regions in the world.


The 2018 winter months were very dry with unseasonably warm weather in the early part of the season. By mid-February the rains had returned; nearly doubling the total rainfall and staving off early budbreak. The much-needed rains continued through March resulting in budbreak for the larger part of Westside Road by month-end. The remainder of the spring saw additional rainfall with spates of warm weather interspersed. The plants responded well under these near-perfect vegetative cycle conditions. Flowering commenced in June under ideal temperatures. Subsequently, below-average temperatures ensued for a week and a half which extended the bloom schedule. The net effect of the cooling trend created a looser cluster and some millerandage or “hens and chicks,” a highly desirable trait for many reasons including better phenolic development and better air flow through the cluster to prevent mold. Heading into the season, crop loads were near-historic averages with great vine balance. Harvest started on the 16th of August under ideal conditions with moderate, consistent temperatures. Vintage highlights include site specificity and elegance, while displaying concentration and balance—another great Williams Selyem year in the making.



Every bottle of wine is born in the vineyard. That’s why the Winery is so particular about the way it sources grapes. The grapes must be exceptional, or no amount of knowledge, effort, time or craft will turn them into exceptional wine. 

Buying grapes.

In the beginning, all of our grapes were purchased from existing vineyards, based on deals sealed with nothing but a handshake. Thirty-five years later, nearly all of those “handshake agreements” are still in place—a testament to the loyal, personal relationships our founders established with the region’s most respected grape growers. Over the years, the Winery added in new sources when it found the prefect location, growing grapes in the manner  required to make amazing wine.

There is no doubt that success was built on partnering with the various growers. Some are neighbors, located in the Russian River Valley. Others tend vineyards in Sonoma and Mendocino counties. Each has something unique to contribute; all are committed to producing wine grapes without peer.

Growing grapes.

As the popularity of the wines grew, the growers were unable to keep up with the increased demand. The next logical step was to start growing grapes.

In 1998, the winery purchased the Drake property in Guerneville—a riverside orchard which had once provided apples for Gerber baby foods—and started cultivating Pinot Noir grapes on the land.

In 2009, Wine Enthusiast Magazine awarded the 2007 Litton Estate Pinot Noir a score of 100 points, marking the first time a major wine publication gave a California Pinot Noir a perfect score. The Winery takes great pride that this prestigious honor went to a wine made entirely with grapes from one of it's own Estate vineyards.

For more information, or to purchase the 2018 Williams Selyem Wines, visit the Williams Selyem Collection.

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