So, after “setting the table” via the Melville wines, we then moved on to taste interesting, top caliber Pinot Noirs produced from different heritage/heirloom plant material, grown in different appellations.
The first wine was the 2013 Knez Pinot Noir “Demuth Vineyard” out of the Anderson Valley. The Navarro River snakes itself through this valley & ends up emptying into the Pacific Ocean further north. That cut in the hills allows the cold air from the ocean creep into the valley & chill it. Where most of the early noteworthy vineyards of the Valley were mostly flatland & some benchland vineyards, we are now seeing more & more vines being grown up in the hills boxing in the valley. If one stands in Booneville, for instance, & then faces east, up on that 800 to 1200 foot hillside, is the home of 4 of the valley’s most revered vineyards–Abbey Harris, Cerise, Demuth & Savoy. Demuth has the oldest vines, having been planted over 30 years ago–Pommard & 2A vines grown in mainly bear wallow soils. The 2013 saw roughly 50% stems & was aged in oak for 12 months, 30% new. The next wine was the 2012 Neyers “Roberts Road”, which is planted along the Petaluma River & farmed by the iconic Sangiacomo family. This parcel is Swan selection & a basalt-clay gravel soil which is very cold even during the Summer. The 2012–50% stems & 10 months in oak, 30% new.
The next duo of wines are produced from Martini heritage vines planted in 1989, 90 & 91 on a wind pounded mesa, 5 minutes closer to the ocean than Bien Nacido in the Santa Maria Valley. The vineyard is named Gold Coast & the soils are a sandy loam with tiny seashell bits scattered here & there. The 2013 CF Pinot Noir saw 8 pickings of fruit, had stems included in only 1 barrel out of 8 & sees NO new oak whatsoever. Thank you to Gary Burk of Costa de Oro for producing this wine for us, every year, since I believe 2002. The 2013 Paul Lato “Duende” sees NO stem inclusion & spends 15 months in oak, 50% new. Here is the difference between lovely, elegant, lighter & ethereal & the more dramatic, highly vinous, mesmerizingly layered “trophy style signature to Lato. What a really cool comparison!
The next duo started with the 2013 Domaine de la Cote “Bloom’s Field”–Swan, Calera & Mt Eden vines, planted actually out of extreme west Santa Rita Hills. 100% stem inclusion, 20 months in oak, 10% new. 2013 Tyler “Sanford & Benedict Vineyard”–this is truly THE single vineyard for Chardonnay & Pinot Noir, (Mt Eden selection planted in 1971 on its own roots!!!!!!) This 2013 sees 15% stem inclusion & spends 14 months in oak, 40% new. The final wine of this flight was the 2012 Patz & Hall “Pisoni Vineyard”, a monumental, very masculine, vinous stud from the Santa Lucia Highlands of Monterey. Superstar grape grower, Gary Pisoni made quite the media splash back in the day for suitcasing what was believed as cuttings from the iconic La Tache vineyard of Vosne Romanee in Burgundy, France & planting them in his namesake vineyard. This wine came from the older vines, saw 15% stem inclusion & 50% new oak. (We also slipped in a couple of unnamed, highly acclaimed, BIG name players blind, just to provide yet another perspective.)
The first wine was the 2010 Scherrer Pinot Noir “Russian River”, which listed 30% clone 828, 12% 777 & 58% Elite clone (which I suspect is a spin off of a Dijon clone). This tasty, classy, very elegant & balanced, newly released 2010 had NO stem inclusion & spent 19 1/2 months in oak, 1/3 new. My experience with the Scherrer wines over the past few years has been eye opening for me. While many wines can age, the Scherrer wines are incredible & get so much more interesting with bottle age. I suspect this will be yet another in a long line real jewels along those lines. (go to archives & check out previous Scherrer wine posts to better see what I mean). The next wine, 2012 Neely Pinot Noir “Picnic Block” hails from the Spring Ridge Vineyard, located 500 to 1000 feet up a hill from the Stanford University golf course in Palo Alto. The Varner brothers, Jim & Bob produce small lots of highly acclaimed Chardonnay & now equally as acclaimed single parcel Pinot Noir under the Varner….& the Neely labels. Picnic Block was planted in 2000 to Dijon clone 777. The resulting Pinots are have a dark, masculine character but are still well textured & well balanced. This 2012 saw only 2% stem inclusion & spent 12 months in oak, 25% new. Unfortunately, this wine was corked. The third wine of this flight was the 2013 Rivers Marie Pinot Noir “Silver Eagle”. This is the handiwork of superstar Napa Valley Cabernet maker Thomas Brown of Schrader fame. The gorgeous & generous 2013 was produced from clone 828, a Vosne Romanee selection & Calera, all planted in 2004 out on the Sonoma Coast. 10% stems & 10 months in oak, 25% new.
The next wine, 2011 WH Smith “Maritime Ridge” is also from the Sonoma Coast, actually a blend of 2 main vineyards with smidgeons from 2 other sites. the composite is clones 115, 667 & 777, NO stems, 18 months in oak, 50% new. Owner/winemaker Bill Smith was the founding winemaker of La Jota & helped usher the Howell Mountain appellation & grape varieties such as Viognier & Cabernet Franc, in addition to his massive, masculine, power packed, “mountain grown” Cabernets until he sold the project to Kendall jackson in the early 2000’s. I started carrying his WH Smith labeled, Sonoma Coast Pinot Noirs with the 1988 vintage, because of their incredible, intoxicating perfume. Because the earlier bottling had such light, translucent colors, somewhere along the line, Bill morphed their style to much more masculine & dark colored. The next Pinot in this line-up was the 2012 Anthill Farms “Comptiche Vineyard”. Located in the northern & therefore cooler end of the Anderson Valley at higher elevation, the Anthill trio get 50% Swan & roughly 50% Pommard/115 with a small dollop of 667 & use 50% stems inclusion in 2012 with 16 months of oak aging, 25% new. I first tasted their wines at the Russian River Pinot Noir Forum & was absolutely mesmerized with their elegant, refined, lovely renditions. These guys are really in stride now. Unfortunately, this wine also had a corkiness. The final wine of the flight was the 2012 Chapter 24 Pinot Noir “Fire”, a relatively new standout Pinot project up in Oregon under the watchful eyes of Mark Tarlov & superstar French winemaking consultant Louis Michel Liger-Belair. I can go on & on about this project, as there is a lot to discuss, but I would instead suggest you go to the archives of this blog & look up the interview I previosuly did with Mark Tarlov about their mission & schtick. I think you will find it interesting, even though his thoughts are quite controversial to other wine professionals.