Phil Baxter is native to California, growing up in the central valley where he studied winemaking at Fresno State. He moved to the Napa Valley just before 1969 when he started his career under the tutelage of Bill Bonetti at the Charles Krug Winery. Phil oversaw the development of the Souverain Napa operation and was the head winemaker at Rutherford Hill Winery for the first ten years. He then moved to the Dry Creek Valley as the winemaker at Domaine-Michel. In 1989 Phil started his own business with the Philippe-Lorraine label in honor of his maternal grandparents, Philippe and Lorraine Segrais. Direct descendants of France, but more recently from the isle of Mauritius, they were the source of much of his love of wine and the old world. Now, together with his youngest son, he focuses most of his energy on Philippe-Lorraine and Baxter their new single vineyard label.
Phil Jr. grew up in St. Helena running around the vineyards of Rutherford Hill and Domaine Michel. After high school he enrolled at UCDavis where he spent five years studying viticulture and enology, one of which was in France. After finishing school in 2002, Phil once again ventured to France, this time to work the harvest. He worked at two domains owned by Boisset. Domaine de la Vougeraie in Premeaux, produces wine from 33 different vineyards from Musigny and Bonne Mares to premier cru and village wines. During the thick of harvest Phil also helped the crew at Domaine Raymond Launay in Pommard. They made many Pommard wines as well as several grand crus from elsewhere on the Cote. Upon his return Phil decided to work for his father and the family business. Perhaps due to Phil Jr's Burgundian influence, in 2003 father and son started the Baxter label focusing on premium vineyards and old world techniques, including little or no new oak elevage for Pinot Noir.
The Baxters have now consolidated all winemaking at their family farm in Elk, CA. The estate lies in the Mendocino Ridge appellation on top of Greenwood Ridge between Philo and Elk. This father and son team work together as the only employees to create both Philippe-Lorraine as well as the smaller lots of Baxter wines and now Pipo.
Pinot Noir has been sourced from Toulouse Vineyard in the Anderson Valley and Oppenlander Vineyard in Comptche, just north of the Anderson Valley in Mendocino County, but vineyard sources have included those in Mendocino Ridge, and have varied over the years. The wines are sold online through the winery's website.
A modern tasting room is located in Philo on Highway 128 across the street from the Lemons Philo Market.
Planted originally in 1982 for sparkling wine production, the four-acre Langley vineyard is planted exclusively to California heritage clone Martini. Located in the heart of the Anderson Valley just north of Boonville these vines provide winemaker Phillip Baxter with a unique and lively expression of Pinot Noir.
This wine is made using old world methods and a completely natural approach to vinification. Harvest by hand on September 30th each clone was fermented separately in small open-top tanks using native yeast. After a 6-day cold soak, the grapes were punched down by hand for 18 days, then pressed in a basket press. The wine is aged to perfection for months in 100% neutral French oak barrels before being bottled.
This wine’s heritage clone is easily identifiable thanks to it’s vibrancy, brightness, and structure. Exotic and expressive, the nose is full of Cranberry, boysenberry, and violets. The mouth is fresh and round with flavors of Bing cherry, raspberry, and pomegranate. The finish is long and smooth with a lingering freshness and intensity. This clone produces a brighter and more delicate style of Pinot Noir that highlights the varietal’s elegant characteristics.