Mumm’s the word

Mother’s Day is coming up, and hopefully you are able to spend some time with your mom to celebrate her.  What better way to celebrate mom putting up with your crazy than some bubbly?

Recently, I visited Mumm Napawith Vindulge’s Mary Cressler, my partner in crime and bubble buddy who was visiting the Bay Area.  While there, we took the tour through the production facility, which includes a taste of the still wines that will become the magical sparkling wonder – made in the traditional way, Méthode Traditionnelle.

On the way to the winery, we stopped by the demonstration vineyard and heard more about the varietals Mumm uses in their sparkling program.  While many producers focus only on the classic chardonnay and pinot noir grapes for their bubbles, Mumm adds in Pinot Muenier (“Little Miller”), a grape that I think is underused in both still wine and sparkling wines in the US.

pinot meunierPinot Meunier tends to have less sugar and a higher acidity, and is harvested earlier ,which lends a brightness and cleaness to the wines made from it.  Mumm has between 40-60 unique growers that they work with, including their own vineyards, which allows them to select from the best grapes to make the best sparkling wine.  

As we toured through the facility, we stopped to taste the still component wine, and play wit the blends.  This has to be the best part of being a sparkling winemaker.  As we had two glasses of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir (white juice, no skin contact), we played with the blends that make up the largest percentage of Mumm’s production.  using the component wine, which is not at all like a finished still wine, we created our own blends and began to see how the flavor profiles develop in the sparkling.
After our blending fun, we walked through the now famous permanent collection of Ansel Adams works.  This is the largest single collection and is truly breathtaking.  In addition to the permanent collection, currently Mumm is showcasing The Golden Decade Photography at the California School of Fine Art, 1945-1955.  These works capture the post war boom and growth in California and is a wonderful way to enjoy a glass of sparkling wine.
As we emerged in to the bright sun, we were escorted to the Oak Terrace by our wonderful guide Charles.  Waiting for us was a beautiful table, ready to taste through the sparkling lineup.  We also had the artisan cheese plate to pair with our wines ($25) which I highly recommend.  Tastings on the Oak Terrace are $40 per person, and include two glasses of your favorite library wine – which is a wonderful value.  With some library selections going back several years, this is a great opportunity to taste older sparkling wines, magnums, and rare production wines which aren’t generally available.Mumm Oak Terrace
As there were three of us, we were able to taste and share just about everything.  This is also a great way to do Mumm – bring a few friends, and order something different.  The generous tasting pours make it easy to share your favorites.  There are so many options to taste, I am going to highly my favorites:
  • 2001 DVX – this library selection of the flagship tête de cuvée honors the work of Guy Devaux, who founded Mumm Napa in 1979.  This rich golden oldie is full of brioche, yellow peaches, vanilla custard and baking spice.  Made with only 11 select lots of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, this special selection had 15% barrel fermented to add richness and depth.  Sitting quietly for 13 years, this was a special treat.  $85
  • 2007 Santana – yes, it’s that Santana.  Carlos Santana and Mumm Napa have had a partnership going back several years, and every year the legendary local musician creates a new blend.  The 2007 was soft and lush, with deep red fruit and figs.  With a hint of Syrah added to the mostly Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, this is a fun wine that benefits the Milagro Foundation.  $56
  • Brut Reserve Rose Magnum – there is something special about wines in large format bottles.  This non vintage bottling of a classic Pinot Noir & Chardonnay blend was my favorite, with bright cranberry, raspberry, and cherry flavors.  It was completely different than the 750 bottling, which we also tasted and was a great way to show off how wine ages differently in different size bottles.  $68
  • Sparking Pinot Noir – a rare sparkling red, this dry red wine created in the traditionally champagne style is something totally different and fun.  Ripe plums, baking spice, blackberry pie and chocolate all in one, this unique wine leaves you thinking and wanting more.  $34

Mumm Napa is open 7 days a week, and is located on the Silverado Trail in Rutherford, just north of the city of Napa.  Treat your mom to a special Mother’s Day and stop by next Sunday!  Mumm is also widely available in your favorite wine shop or retail outlet and offers excellent value in sparkling wines.

A special thank you to Charles, our tour host and conversationalist, and Kate Regan at Folsom & Associates for arranging this visit!

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From Blogger to wine maker – Thralls scores a home run

Thralls Family Wine - Luscious LushesIt’s enough to make a make for TV movie, or at least – a great article in the Sunday food section.  You know the story, small town boy, goes to the big city to live a dream and makes it big.

In this case, this is the story of a little blogger who could.  When I first met Ed Thralls, he was part of the first handfull of bloggers that were a group, around wine country, figuring out what this social media thing was all about.  Ed was also one of the finalists for the now infamous Murphy-Goode lifestyle (which is another story – for another blogger – who also makes wine.  But more on that later).

Interning at Holdredge Wine (who, as it happens, is someone I have known for over 10 years, and also makes world class Pinot Noir) as cellar rat, Ed sucked up as much knowledge about winemaking as he could.  Realizing that he couldn’t possibly leave this wonderful world of delicious Pinot Noir and juice, he made the leap and moved to wine country full time.  While working a full time job in the wine business, he tested, crafted, experimented, and made wine.  Thus, the Thralls Family Wine label was born.

These days, Ed has created a line of four distinct, terroir driven Pinot Noirs from around Sonoma and Mendocino counties.  Each wine expresses a different piece of personality that makes Pinot Noir such an amazing wine.

Thralls Wine

Ed Thralls – Photo by Thea Dwelle

First up, the so called entry level 2012 Russian River Pinot Noir.  This juicy, balanced, and bold example is everything I love about Russian River Valley.  Not overblown like so many Russian River Pinots can be these days, the bright cherry, cranberry adn red fruit sing out with bold flavor and juicy fruit.  Using 1/3 new French oak gives this wine those beautiful hints of baking spice, without overwhelming it.  This is a fantastic everyday drinker for $32.

Next, moving in to a single vineyard showcase, the 2012 Bucher Vineyard Pinot Noir is one of my favorites.   With a deeper cherry flavor base, Bucher shows more black cherry, dark raspberry, and forest floor than the brighter Russian River.  The nuances of cedar and white pepper on the finish leave you guessing for more after the first sip.  This is a wine that gets better with time, so try it over a couple of days, and see what develops!  $40

Moving further west, the 2012 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir takes a step away from the bolder 667 and 777 clones of the Russian River bottlings.  Bringing in some bright 115 and 114 froim the cool, foggy Sonoma Coast, this Pinot Noir has alpine strawberries, cranberry, bergamot smokiness and amazing acid.  This wine goes native, using all wild yeast with 10% whole cluster fermentation to give it a bit of a wild thing note.  Yum!  $36

Finally, for the Pinot Noir geeks in the group, the 2012 Roma’s Vineyard Pinot Noir from Anderson Valley is one for the ages.  100% Pommard clone goes in to this unfined and unfiltered gem, which looks a bit like cloudy cherry Kool-Aid but tastes like a dream.  Roma’s Vineyard sits at about 1800 feet in elevation, high above the valley floor, which creates a sunbelt in a cool climate.  This beauty is popping with mushroom, pine needles, bright cherry cider and rhubarb pie.  It’s bright and has brilliant acidity, and will pop with any mushroom dish or creamy cheese.  $42  (Editor’s Note:  Another fabulous Roma’s Pinot, make in an entirely different style, can be found in Cartograph’s Anderson Valley Pinot Noir.)

The 2012’s are Thralls’ third time out of the gate, with the 2008 Syrah being his first attempt at going it on his own.  Beginning with the 2011 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, Ed fed a passion for pinot, and intends on continuing this tradition of small lot, hand crafted premium pinot noirs while also sourcing chardonnay for his next release.

I can’t wait to see what comes next for the Navy Brat from Atlanta, who came to  Sonoma County to pursue a dream!

Hats off to you Wine Tonight, and cheers!

 

Running up that hill – Cardiac Hill

Kramer VineyardsWe interrupt this armchair travel series on Rioja with a short trip to the Willamette Valley for two different Oregon Pinot Noirs, brought to you by Kramer Vineyards.

First up, the 2010 Cardiac Hill Pinot Noir, which is from the steepest part of the estate vineyards that Kramer sources fruit from.  Planted in 1995, with rich red soils and ribbons of clay running through the slopes.

Hand harvested blocks due to the steep slopes were treated to a 25% new French oak treatment, and slept for 18 months, where it was then bottled unfined and unfiltered.  The resulting wine is bright and slightly cloudy, with tangering, cranberry, wild strawberry and brilliant acid.  I love the woodsy note on the nose, and the earthy violets in the glass that opens up to tart cherries and cinnamon spice on the finish.  I loved having the comparison to the next wine, but the Cardiac Hill can go on for days, and belies the more traditionally bolder, bigger style of many 2010 wines from the region.  $40

In contract, the 2010 Rebecca’s Reserve comes from just over the field from the Cardiac Hill, but was planted with a higher density.  The grape clusters here are smaller, and tighter, creating wines with more depth and complexity.

Also harvested by hand, the fruit is given the same oak treatment as Cardiac Hill but had an extra month on oak before bottling.  The result is bright red fruit on the nose, with strawberry, crushed raspberry, berry jam, and rich brown sugar.  It is more lush and rounded, with a burst of lemon zest and blood orange on the finish.  I love the baking spice on the palate along with vanilla and cola, with a long lingering finish.  $35

Check out Kramer’s Wines for great examples of Pinot Noir from Oregon’s Yamhill-Carlton region.  Small and mighty, winemaker Kimberly Kramer continue to impress with each passing vintage, be it still or sparkling.

Cheers!

These wines were provided by the winery for a live twitter tasting, always a raucous good time.  Check out #drinkkramerwine and #tastekramerwine for off the cuff commentary!

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Masut Estate Pinot Noir – those Fetzer boys strike again!

Jake and Ben Fetzer have a big name to live up to.  Third generation wine royalty, they grew up as members of the Mendocino powerhouse Fetzer family.  Now, they are making their own name with some great Mendocino pinot noir.

The winery is located in the tranquil hills of Mendocino, in a barn that their father, Bobby Fetzer, build from recycled redwood.  Now, this barn serves as a rustic backdrop full of family memories, for their winery.

Clinging to winemaking’s past, Masut makes small production pinot noir with all the benefits of the modern world.  Hand punch downs and the use of a fair bit of native yeast give the wines a different flavor profile than one might expect.

Founded in 2009, the property was planted in 1997 by Jake, Ben and Bobby and has 23 acres in 13 blocks, of 777,115, and 113 clones.  With the cool coastal weather

Masút Vineyard and Winery produces estate Pinot Noir from grapes grown on a hillside vineyard in Mendocino County’s coastal mountains. Brothers Ben and Jake Fetzer are the owners, growers and winemakers.

The 2011 Estate Pinot Noir is a blend of all 13 blocks.  2011 was another cool growing season for

masut block map

pinot noir, something that I love, because I think it produces a clearer, crisper, acid laced product.  Hand sorted and destemmed, the Estate spent 11  months sleeping in 35% new French oak.  One of the signatures of Masut, the wine sat sur lie for an extended time, and was bottled unfined and filtered.  A gorgeous deep ruby, the nose is jumping out of the glass with sour cherry and spice.  Rich, but full of bright red fruit, there is an underlying note of root beer and forest floor, covered with green peppercorn and baking spice.  A baby, this wine has huge potential and I can’t wait to taste it again in 6 months.  Well balanced and integrated.

I will admit, I was not the biggest fan of the first two vintages – The 2009 was full of oak (at 55% new French I am not surprised) that totally killed the fruit.  The 2010 was more integrated but just wasn’t…there yet.  I am going to go wine spelunking to see if I can find the vertical, to see how they are developing!

Block 1 – is dense, bold, and full of dark cherries.  Touches of rhubarb and cherry pie filling round out this workhorse.  All clone 115, red fruit and aromatic floral delight.

Block 7 – The Block 7 bright, with zesty cranberry and bright red fruit.  I love this wine!  The 115 adds complexity and acid to the bold cherry notes, and hints of root beer and white pepper are showing through, and even though it’s aged in 100% new oak, it’s well integrated and I don’t find it overpowering (which is surprising given my adversity to oak).  While you can sense the heavy oak on the nose, the palate is full of spice and orange pekoe tea.  This will only get better.

The Block 11 comes out bold and rich, with Bing cherry and cola.  It reminds me of Santa Lucia Highlands, wearing acid wash jeans.  The tiny 1.75 acre block is planted with 100% 113, and this is another 100% new oak treatment.  It’s a bruiser at 14.3% ABV, and shows brambley dark red and purple fruit.  This wine is a good base for the Estate, but it’s not my favorite on it’s own.

2011 Block 13 is all earth, spice and mushrooms.  All 777, it’s all oak, all the time (100% new oak for 11 months, like the Block 7 & Block 11).  This wine grew on me; when I first opened her up, she was a bit quiet, and full of blackberry coulis.  Tannic and bold, she mellowed out and became a velvety painting that was a beautiful companion to Downton Abbey.

All in all, I love where these wines are going.  I’m impressed at the single block offerings, and while surprised at the use of a large oak tree in each barrel, Jake & Ben know how to make good use of that wood.  The flavors are well integrated and will only get better.  The Estate blend takes the best part of each block and creates a single masterpiece, where each block can sing her praises in harmony.

Happy drinking!

These wines were provided for review by the winery.  I thank you and cant’ wait for more!  Oh wait, I mean the next release.

Stepping over Stones to Oregon

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of the Cornerstone wines.  I’ve visited the tasting room in Yountville several times, and every new release is something to be savored.  Now, Craig Camp and Tony Rynders, a well known Oregon wine making star, have teamed up to create something new:  Cornerstone Oregon.  It’s also probably no secret that I am in love with Oregon wines, particularly pinot noir.  Cornerstone Oregon is a new baby and boy is she tasty.

After my whirlwind 10 days in Portland for the Wine Bloggers Conference and wine tasting, I was missing the Oregon terroir a bit.  Luckily for me, the Cornerstone Oregon wines showed up just as fall was rearing her ugly head.

A collaboration between former Oregon resident Camp and Rynders, Craig’s passion for pinot was ignited when he was meandering around the wilds of Burgundy.  Rynders has been the winemaker at Domaine Serene for 10 years, a well known Oregon powerhouse of pinot.  With Craig playing Batman, and Tony as trusty sidekick Robin (who usually does the heavy lifting anyway),these wines are sure to be amazing.

First off, I tasted the 2010 Chardonnay.  No really!  Normally, this is not my first pick for white wine, as I’d rather go for the delicious Oregon Pinot Gris that dapples the Willamette, but this was a departure from the expected.  Similar in style to a French Chablis, this chardonnay was full of bright citrus, nutmeg and nectarines   2010 was a cooler growing season, which created lively, bright wines.  This was a wonderful wine for a warm late summer evening and I look forward to future bottles.

Next up, the 2010 Cornerstone Willamette Valley Pinot Noir – this is the second vintage of this wine, and I have to say I prefer the 10 to the 09.  It was a cool year, which gives these wines a great acid profile and wonderful bright red fruit without being heavy.  Tons of classic cherry and raspberry flavors, with tell tale Willamette earth, spice, and smoke.  with 68% Yamhill-Carlton fruit, and bits from 5 other sub AVAs, it blends together perfectly.  62% new French oak meshes perfectly with the fruit without overpowering it.  This is an absolutely beautiful Oregon Pinot Noir that shows the best of the region.  It is soft and supple with a piquant wild strawberry finish that just makes my taste buds so happy.  At $50 it’s a bit pricey  but on par with most higher quality Willamette Valley pinot noirs.  Considering the dynamic duo behind this project, it’s priced perfectly to fit with both the Cornerstone line, as well as the product.

Finally, the second label, 2010 Stepping Stone Pinot Noir – while the Stepping Stone label was created to be fun, creative, and affordable, more every day wine.  This pinot noir however, is nowhere close to everyday.  Very much a departure from the Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, the Stepping Stone is big, ripe, and red.  The bulk of the fruit is Yamhill-Carlton and Eola-Amity, which can sometimes producer bigger fruit flavors.  Lots of big strawberry and raspberry flavors in there with cherry fruit roll up.  A delicious wine, it is definitely a bolder style but is still full of Willamette leather, spice and earthy notes.  Spicy figs and macerated berries pop through with some lovely rose petal aromas.  $30 is a steal for this baby!

Bottom line, you really can’t go wrong with Cornerstone!  I am a lucky blogger to have received these wines as samples, and unlike some of my blogger brethren I am hard pressed to hold these wines for very long.  Go out and buy some for yourself!   you will not be sorry.

It's the pinot stupid!

While attending Carlton’s Walk in the Park, I was lucky enough to meet Ken Morrison of K&M Wines.  Clearly passionate about Oregon wine, he began his winemaking career 15 years ago with the grapes on the vineyard property he lives on.  With 6 acres planted  and 3 more in process, K&M produces about 500 cases annually.

Initially Ken’s hobby, he and his partner Mauro Hernandez (the M) have grown this hobby in to a small business, pursuing their dream of food, wine, and entertaining.  I was excited by Ken’s 2007 Pinot at the Walk in the Park, and little did I know that I would be seeing quite a bit of him over the next day and a half!

As the Blitz Carlton Crew split up in to two smaller groups on Monday morning, you’ve already heard about my adventure up the hill to Luminous Hills.  Later that afternoon, after we rolled out of Cuvee’s delicious lunch, we walked around Carlton and did speed tastings in several tasting rooms.  The first was K&M.

I was delighted to see that I would get the opportunity to taste more of Ken’s wine in a more focused (but fast) environment, and it confirmed that I did indeed like the wine very much.

First up, the 2010 Chardonnay, 50% Alchemy Vineyard Estate fruit and bursting with sandlewood, hazlenuts, and smoke.  Fermented sur lie, in 100% neutral oak, this is gorgeous example of an Oregon chardonnay.

The 2009 Alchemy Cuvee Pinot Noir is the a blend of the estate vineyard and Dundee Hills fruit, and is a classic, bursting with cherries and red fruit.  Dense and smoky, it is full of dark raspberry with soft, silky tannins.  With only 25% new oak, it has a subtle finish that is much appreciated.

My favorite of the tasting was the 2007 Alchemy Vineyard Pinoit Noir, a special treat Ken was pouring at A Walk in the Park.  Panned by critics, loved by pinotphiles, this is a very good example of the Oregon Pinot Noirs from this year.  Raspberry, pomegranate  strawberry and creamy vanilla, it is a classically elegant Pinot that K&M held back for a few extra months in oak to give it a long silky finish.  Yum!

K&M Wines keeps prices affordable, and you can afford to splurge on these little luxuries.  With the Reserve Pinot Noir topping the charts at $35, even the most budget minded wine lover can taste the Oregon terroir.

Thanks again Ken for the great wines and the entertaining ride back to Portland!

K&M Wines is located in Carlton, Oregon.  Make sure you say hi if you make the trip!

Heart like a Lion

2008 Pinot Noir, Sonoma CoastWhen I first met Leon Glover, winemaker, owner, bottle washer, and mad scientist at Lionheart Wines, several years ago at Crushpad, I knew he was going to make some special wines.

Recently, I had the chance to catch up with him and see how things were going.  WIth the wines resting (ok under lock and key and held hostage but the powers that be at the form Cr***p&%, but who’s counting), I thought they deserved some extra love.  Getting them out of the warehouse was a challege that required some patience, but it was worth it to taste Lionheart’s wines.

First up:  The 2008 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir from Gap’s Crown Vineyard.  This is one of my favorite locations for Sonoma Coast pinot.  Typically, you think of the Sonoma Coast as a region that develops bright acid, cranberry and juicy red fruit.  2008 however was an odd year.  High temperatures for a long summer as well as bad fires in Mendocino led to a big dark and dense wine, with spikes of acid.  That tell cranberry, black cherry, cola, and black raspberry came out to dance on my tongue   The mellow use of only 1/3 new oak balances out this wine without overpowering it.  $42

Lionheart makes several other wines, and I will be sharing those one by one.  I hope I tantilize you with my tastes, and that you run over and buy some for yourself!

The hills are a glow with…

Pinot!

Luminious Hills

On our Blitz Carlton tour of the Yamhill-Carlton wine region, I was lucky enough to visit the Luminous Hills vineyard sight.  I have tasted the wines of Byron Dooley a few times before, as he owns the Seven of Hearts and Luminous Hills labels, but this visit was special.

Byron Dooley tells us about the wine, the site, and how much bees like corked wine!

Joe Power of Another Wine Blog really enjoys his pinot!

Piling in to the trusty Subaru wagon (legally required if you live in Oregon), we trekked up a rough and ready road to the beautiful rolling hills.  The steep slopes of the site are hidden from the main road and are a beautiful hollow in the hills where the cool air pools in the valley.

The vineyard is located in the southwest corner of the Yamhill-Carlton District, in a uniquely high elevation site full of both Jory and sedimentary soils.  The two soils, which are very different, combined with the specific clones that Byron uses to make these wines, create some delicious and complex Oregon Pinot Noirs.

 

Like many vineyards in the area, the bulk of the plantings are Pommard, with blocks of 777, 667,

Bloggers stop at nothing to tweet! Do you have a signal? I have a signal. Where is the signal!

and 115 also planted to add terroir and variety.  The property is dry farmed, which maximizes the site’s terroir, although emergency irrigation is possible if needed in a difficult vintage   Sustainable farmed, the three Pinot Noirs from Luminous Hills are each distinct, wonderful, and full of character – much like Byron himself!

Luminous Hills producers four wines.  I will let you taste them

for yourself, but the details are:

Rose of Pinot Noir – This is such a delicious refresher, with 70% purpose made from Pommard and 777, and 30 Saignee.  The clean, crisp flavors jump out of the glass, and the bolder style is perfect to tuck away in your cellar.

Estate Grown Pinot Noir Yamhill-Carlton – This affordable luxury contains all four clones from the property,  and is a clear picture of the location.

 

 

Estate Grown Pinot Noir – Yamhill-Carlton LUX – this wine is only Pommard and 777, with the richness of the Pommard overlapping the bright spikes of the 777.  The higher elevation of the vineyard produces brighter, elegant fruit.  This is my fave!

Robbin Gheesling of Vineyard Adventures looks longingly at the Rose

Snack time of local cheeses!

Estate Grown Pinot Noir – Yamhill Carlton- Utilizing the 667 clone from the top of the vineyard and the 115 from the bottom, the Astra has more whole cluster fermentation and is a rich, bold wine.

I hope you will stop by the tasting room in Carlton when you are in the Willamette Valley!  Byron, Lena and the chocolate will be waiting for you!

 

 

 

Attack of the clones

One of my favorite interactive sessions at the Wine Bloggers Conference was a component tasting of clonal selections of Pinot Noir, hosted by Erath Winery.  As a wine geek, I love tasting each piece of the puzzle that makes up a final blend; in the case of Oregon Pinot Noir, it is frequently the case that a specific vineyard block is planted to more than one clone.  What is also true is that blocks might be clone specific but the final wine is a blend of those clones.

First, a bit about Erath.  Erath Winery was established in 1967, with it’s first vintage in 1972.  They were one of the early pioneers in the Willamette Valley.  They were, in fact, the first winery in the Dundee Hills AVA, focused on Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Piot Blanc.  Dick Erath was inspired to create wine in 1965 after some garagiste experiments   After leaving an engineering career behind, he attended UC Davis, and relocated to Oregon in 1968. In 1969, Erath planted the Dundee Hills’ first vineyards, with 23 varieties   With Pinot Noir flourishing, he had producted his first commercial vintage in 1972.  While the original plantings were from his Davis roots and California bred clones, he watned to experiment with French clones, and imported them to Oregon in 1974.  Today, Erath uses Pommard, 115, and 777 clones to create world class Pinot Noir.

Now, let’s look at each of the Pinot Noir clones that were part of our tasting.  Of course, there are many more clones used in Oregon, but Erath focuses on these three.  Grape clones are developed for specific reasons, flavor profiles, color, and body.  There are Dijon clones, the Pommard clone, and the Wadinswil clone, widely usd in Oregon.  Erath uses three clones for their wines, 115, 777 and Pommard.  All of the clones and the blended wine resulting from them are from Prince Hill Vineyard, in the Dundee Hills.

The Pommard clone has become most widely known as the distinct Oregon style.  Pommard is often used alone, while the Dijon clones are classically blended.  Pommard gives Pinot NOir powerful fruit notes, spicebox and a rich body.  In the 2009 Prince Hill Pommard Clone, the oldest vines on the property are used.  The bright classic cherry flavors were obvious, with earth hiding underneath.  I loved this wine, with the bright acid and root beer notes, and a touch of herbal notes.  I really enjoyed this single clone, however, I found it lacking in some interest with just the Pommard.

Dijon clone 115 can have vegetal flavors, with rose petals edges.  It is a deep colored grape, with rich aromas and red fruit flavors.  With the strong tannins it’s a good choice for a wine you plan to age long.  The 2009 Prince Hill 115 Clone Pinot Noir had lovely earth, and dark red fruit with a bit of a nutty finish.  This clone brings cedar and earth, and adds a nice backbone.

Clone 777 also has more earthly vegetative flavors, with the classic mushroom and forest floor notes.  True to Erath’s restrained style the 2009 Price Hill 777 Clone has strong aromas of perfume and flowers, with mushrooms, brown sugar and figs followed by rich berry fruit.  It’s a bolder style, with silky textures.  The overwhelming note was strawberry, and this is the clone that brings the fruit tot he party.

There can be up to 15 selections put together to make the final wine, the 2009 Prince Hill Pinot Noir.  The backbone is the old vine Pommard, which brings the baking spice notes.  The fruit comes slowly, building on Bing cherry, rhubarb and cranberry, with stewed fruit and meat at the end.  There was a delicious umami note, with subtle, big red fruit.  The finished product is a subtle, elegant wine full of cherry flavors with great acid, lighter in style with a touch of earth.  The 15 months in 40% new French oak is a bold choice, but it is well integrated.

Componant tastings like these are fascinating since you can see what each single clone brings to the party.  With so many other clones of Pinot Noir out there, it’s going to be a great study!  Windsor Oaks Winery in Windsor, California makes several blends, of 2, 3, 4 and five clones for their customers to study and enjoy.  I think I’ll open some tonight!

Turn left at the coast

Early in my trip to Oregon in August, I took a day and a half long detour through the southern Oregon region surrounded Salem.  One of our stops was Left Coast Cellars, located in the Eola-Amity appellation, Left Coast is situated on a rolling hill, where they can catch the strong Van Duzer breezes that flow through the gap to the coast, cooling off the area and the precious grapes.

Our hostess, Ivy Hover, was dedicated to showing us a great time.  A ball of energy and a social media guru, Ivy get sit.  She is connected, and invested in engaging with the blogger audience.   Throughout the conference later that week, Ivy was tweeting up a storm and an active participant in the discussions around engagement and interaction.

The winery is located on the 45th parallel, and has 306 acres of steep hills that form a natural amphitheater with a spring fed lake.  The vineyard, which is sustainably farmed, is naturally irrigated via a gravity flow system.  With vineyards planted primarily on the southern facing slopes, the remained of the property is kept as an ecological preserve, with old growth White Oaks, orchards, as well as natural lakes, streams and meadows.

Left Coast, like many Oregon producers, is committed to sustainability and is one of 14 wineries that completed the Carbon Reduction Challenge.  With a focus on being completely carbon neutral, Left Coast has installed two large solar panels.  The first provides 100% of the power for the guest cottage, and front gate, the irrigation system, and landscaping needs.  Another solar panel on the winery roof generates most of the electricity needed to operate the production facility.  With a large spring fed lake in which rain water is collected, the gravity flow irrigation system is fed.  Add in some bio-diesel winery vehicles and you have a very green operation!

But now, let’s talk about the wine.  As our hosts for dinner, Left Coast set up under the Tree House, a large open air gazebo just above the winery in the woods.  Here, in the shade of the hot summer day, we could sip Pinot Noir Blanc and look out at the beautiful hills around us.

I hit the jackpot when I saw that they were pouring an 07 Latitude 45 Pinot Noir!  07 you say?  07 I say!   Widely panned by critics but much loved by Pinot drinkers, the 07s are in short supply these days but what is left is amazing.  With a low 13.5% ABV, the spice and minerality shows off the best of the vintage.   With Dijon clones 114, 115, 667 and 777, it is a well balanced wine with great black pepper and acid balance.   It’s a big wine for 2007, but not big over all and I love it.  $30 buy now if you can.

To beat the heat, the 2011 White Pinot Noir was surprisingly delicious.  I admittedly scoff at “white” Pinot Noir, questioning why you wouldn’t make a delicious rose instead, but there are several examples in Oregon of White Pinot Noir that are lovely.  This one is produced from free run juice, and has a floral note with delicious green apple and cranberry.  Fermented in stainless steel, it’s a crisp refreshing wine with just a kiss of pink.  $20 a great summer sipper

It’s little sister, the 2011 Pinot Noir Rose, is a salmon pink Pinot rose with classic notes of watermelon and strawberry.  Again, the low ABV of 13% makes this a great wine to enjoy with your picnic.  At $16, you can afford it everyday.

While there are many more wines of left coast to enjoy, these were my favorites.  I can’t wait to get back up and visit!

 

Youngberg Hill Winery

Driving up to the inn & winery, past the rolling hills south of McMinnville, through the farmlands, you feel like you are on top of the world.  Turning in to the driveway of the winery, and you realize why the current owners, Wayne Bailey and family choose to purchase this particular spot.

in 2003, the Baileys purchased the property, and proceeded to radically change the way the vineyards and winery were managed.  The vineyard was moved to organically farmed grapes, and they are still lint he process of being more biodynamically farmed as we speak.  Today, Youngberg Hill is a small, family owned winery that produces Oregon Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris (as well as a renegade Pinot Blanc).  Today, an inn operates on the vineyard property, offering luxurious accommodations with sweeping views of the McMinnville hills.

The winery sits on 50 acres, on top of a hill, surrounded by the estate vineyards.  It’s easy to have Wayne’s infectious enthusiasm rub off on you, and I sat on the deck of the inn, nibbling on a light lunch, tasting the delicious wines.  Wayne’s dream was to create a winery that produced distinctive wines, while respecting the environment and local climate accordingly.  For 22 years, the vineyard has been producing these lovely wines, while maintaining a green philosophy that is so dominant in Willamette’s wine making industry.

With 20 acres planted to 3 blocks of Pinot Noir and one block of Pinot Gris, each block is unarmed for one of the Baily daughters – Natasha, Jordon and Aspen, as  well as the Camelot block that was planeted in 2008.  Natasha is 7 acres, and is the largest of the Pinot blocks.  At 600 feet, it sits on marine sediment from the sea that once covered this area.  Jordan is 4 acres, and is on a steeper slope that is volcanic soil, at 800 feet.  Both of these blocks are planted with 60% Pommard and 40% Wadenswil, from the original vineyard planting in 1989.  The third pinot block, Camelot, is smaller at 3 acres and sits between the two sisters, with a blend of volcanic and marine sediment.  This is planted to 777, and was a more recent addition in 2008.  The Aspen Pinot Gris is dry farmed, and is between 525 and 600 feet.

The vineyards are all hand harvested and field sorted before the secondary table sorting begins.  Youngberg Hill does not use whole cluster fermentation, and all of the fruit is destemmed.  Traditionally, they use a native yeast fermentation, but as most wineries do, there is an emergency box with commercial yeast, to assist when things get stuck.  The importance of native yeast cannot be stressed enough – since it’s a complex blend that comes in from the vineyards, as well as the house style in the cellar.  Replacing that with a single staring with do a disservice to to the wine, and as Youngberg is striving to be sustainable, organic and local, they shy away from those practices.

Some of the other sustainable practices in place today include reducing soil erosion with cover crops, a primary focus of biodynamcis.  The winery also uses alternative pesticides such as biodegradable oils, soaps, and plant extracts, and is aggressively pursuing the goal of 100% sustainability in its vineyard.  In 2005, they earned their LIVE and Salmon Safe certifications, two key sustainable organizations in Oregon.  In 2010, Youngberg Hill was certified by the Oregon Wine Board as sustainable.  The latest goal is to be biodynamically certified.

It was a beautiful afternoon and I can’t wait to go back and visit!  The inn is on the isolated hilltop, and is the perfect place to bring a book or three, and disconnect for the weekend.  The staff will be sure to take excellent care of you as you sip on the wines below, gazing out at the stunning views below.  I know I will be planning a weekend as soon as I can!

2011 Aspen Block Pinot Gris – The 800 foot elevation gives this Pinot Gris a brilliant and bracing citrus acidity that is well balanced and delicious.  Lots of grapefruit and Granny Smith apple.  This is a beautiful porch pounder for your early fall sipping!


2011 Pinot Blanc – The Pinot Blanc is the only non estate wine in the line up, and is from the Larkins Vineyard in the Eola Hills.  The nose has bright grapefruit and lime citrus, with luscious stone fruit and cream on the palate.

2009 Estate Pinot Noir – this is a blend of the 2 older blocks of Pinot, Natasha and Jordon.  It has an earthy dust, mushroom notes and flavors of the forest floor, with a nice acid profile with bright cherries and spicebox.  A hint of minerality with cinnamon dusted plum to finish.

2009 Natasha Block Pinot Noir – This is the 24th leaf of the block.  There are richer cherry cola notes, and lots of Dr. Pepper, prune, and rhubarb notes.  A darker one but wonderful.

2008 Jordan Block Pinot Noir – This is the upper block, on volcanic soils.  It producer more intense black cherry, brambleberry, and fig notes.  There was a lot of root beer, with nice earth and bark finish.  The Jordan uses 20+25% new oak, that gives it a great balance.

Thank you Wayne for hosting, and I look forward to visiting again soon!

The dirt on Willamette Valley terroir

With all of this wine tasting all over the Willamette Valley that I did before, during, and after the Wine Bloggers Conference, I thought we should visit the different AVAs as well as the soil types.  Since the combination of these two plus a little magic creates a terroir, it is important to note what variables can impact the wines that you love.

Now I am no geologist, or an enologist, but I do know something about soil and the mechanics of it.  That said, this is just my opinion.  You should go out and form your own but tasting wines from all over the Willamette!  Using Pinot Noir as my baseline, since it seems to show the characteristics of the terroir the most clearly, here is a bit of dirt from the Willamette.

Coming from a state that has over 100 distinct AVAs, many of which are widely known for their Pinot Noirs (Santa Lucia Highlands, Russian River Valley, Carneros, Anderson Valley to name a few), I have acquired a particular taste for elegant, earthy, austere wines.  The Willamette Valley while offering a wide variety ina  small region, offers several different and distinct regions, all of which have an overwhelming style of wine that is produced in each.

First, the Willamette Valley has six sub-AVAs within the greater Willamette Valley AVA.  The larger AVA was established in 1984, while the first vineyards were planted around 1965.  The rebels that really started the Willamette trend planted in the mid 1970s.  Each of the 6 sub-AVA has a primary soil type, which can produce vastly different results when combined with the weather patterns.  The sub-AVAs today, with more proposed (roughly North to South) are:

Chehalem Mountains – the newest AVA, was established in 2006 and is the closest to the metro area of Portland.  The mountains were formed when the seabeds were uplifted, filling with lava beds and overblown with silt.  This gives the area quite a diverse soil base.

Dundee Hills – the most well known, with the largest amount of wineries.  Established in 2004, it is the oldest AVA geologically, they were formed 15 million years ago when lava flows from eastern Washington flowed down the Willamette.  Then, earthquakes and tectonic shifts created the Coast Range, and further shaking created the Dundee Hills.  During the Missoula Floods, when the glaciers melted in weather patterns over thousands of years, layers of sediment were repeatedly poured over the area creating rich sedimentary layers.  The deeper underlying Jory soils poke up through the hills above the flood plain.

Ribbon Ridge – is a short ridgeline that contains mostly ocean sediment, created from tectonic uplift.  With finer and more uniform sedimentary soils, it is unique enough to warrant their own AVA, established in 2005, it is a smaller AVA contained within the Chehalem Mountains.

McMinnville – Also established in 2005, the McMinnville AVA rises from 200 to 1000 feet in elevation.  When the Coast Range was created, fingers of lava flowed in to McMinnville, leaving basalt fingers, that are oddballs in the area of mostly marine sediment.  McMinnville also benefits from the cool Van Duzer winds, which flow through from the coast, that cool down the vineyards and help dry the vines, preventing mildew during humid summer days.

Yamhill-Carlton – Established in 2004 addition, this AVA ranges from 200 to 1000 feet in elevation, and is in the rain shadow of the Coast Range.  A horseshoe shape, the rural landscape hides most of the wine making activity here.  Coarser grained marine sediment soils are some of the oldest in the region, and they provide excellent drainage, perfect for vines.  The vines here tend to ripen earlier and more completely thanks in part to this excellent drainage.

Eola-Amity – the furthest south, Eola-Amity was created in 2006, and stretches from the hamlet of Amity in the north, to the city of Salem in the south.  The Van Duzer winds are steady, which cools the summer temperatures.  Eola-Amity sits on a basalt plateau, which is on top of the marine sediment layer.  The plateau has been rippled and wrinkled thanks to tectonic activity, and the Eola-Amity hills are part of this wrinkle pattern.

Now that we have the lay of the land, we can start to look at what soil types are in each region.  Soil types impact growth patterns and drainage, which in turn impact ripening patterns and base flavor profiles.

Jory is the primary soil type in the Dundee Hills.  A volcanic soil that is mostly basalt, Jory is found in most vineyards in Dundee Hills.  Filled with iron and clay, it is lush and full of nutrients.  Jory is also a wet soil, and it will stick together if you compact it in your hand.  Formed when massive lava flows covered most of Washington and Oregon with a layer of basalt, Jory grown Pinot Noirs tend to have a classic cherry and red fruit profile, with a strong minerality component.  Jory is found in the Dundee Hills, and produces classic cherry, red fruit and spicy Pinot Noirs.

Willakenzie – a sedimentary soil, formed when western Oregon was once 8000 feet under the sea.  When the Coast Range and the Cascade Mountains were formed by tectonic shifts, the seabed was exposed, leaving Willakenzie soils made of marine sediment.  In some places, this exposed seabed is covered by a layer of volcanic soil.  The dry and brittle soil forces vines to reach deep in to the crust, which creates dark wines with structured spice and cola flavors.  More black than red fruit, Willakenzie is found in McMinnville, Ribbon Ridge, and Yamhill-Carolton.

Loess (Laurelwood) – is a silty loam soil, and is a very thin layer, unlike the Jory or Willakenzie which form a more substantial layer of soil.  With Loess, there is always another soil type underneath the thin layer, as it is primarily windblown.  A dusty sedimentary soil, it is fertile and drains well.  Pinot Noirs from Loess tend to be bright red fruit, with an underlying earthy flavor, and a sprinkling of white pepper.  Loess is particularly found in Chehalam Mountains.

Soil types, weather, style, and seasons all impact the terroir of a wine growing region.  Many of these factors are said to be similar to Burgundy.  I am not particularly well versed in the wines of France, so I can’t say for sure, but I do know that there is something very special about Oregon, and Oregon Pinot Noir in particular.

While every winemaker has their hand in creating every wine, and a house style, the terroir of a vineyard creates the baseline for these wines.  My personal taste has shown me that I am a big fan of the 2007 vintage, with 2010 comign hot on the hells.  2008 is turnign out to be a very interesting vinetage as well, alhtough I find it bigger and bolder than the 2007s or 2010s.  2009 on the other hand?  The jury is still out.  I also know that I love the bright fruit and tangy earth from the Dundee Hills and Ribbon Ridge, and that I’m not a fan of the wines from Eola-Amity, which are bigger, bolder, and dark.

There were a few wines I just plain didn’t care for, but overwhelmingly, the wines from the Willamette Valley, Pinot Noirs, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and further south, Syrah, as well as renegade wines produced in the middle of Pinot heaven are showcases of the region.  With the average winery in Willamette producing less than 1000 cases, it’s rare to find a producer that has a homogeneous style that they try to repeat year over year.  Even the larger producers, such as Willamette Valley Vineyards, strive for uniqueness and terroir driven wines.  This makes it a very special place indeed.

I’m looking forward to tasting more and seeing what happens in Oregon in the coming years!

Anderson Family Vineyards – Oregon wines of distinction

Before the mayhem of the Wine Bloggers Conference began earlier this month, I took some extra time to explore the different AVAs of the Willamette Valley in Oregon, known for Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris.  One winery that came up in conversation over and over again was Anderson Family Vineyards.  Recommended by several friends, I was excited to see what all the fuss was about.

Sitting on top of a hill, the sweeping views of the Dundee Hills AVA are breathtaking.  Just below the estate vineyards, a hazelnut orchard sits on the flats.  Set up an armchair, and I could sit there for days!  The Anderson family started off as growers of premium Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay, selling these grapes for over 20 years.  After a while, they wondered why they weren’t’ using some of the amazing fruit for themselves, and the winery was born.  Currently, Anderson Family sells 1/3 of their grapes to area wineries, and uses the remainder for their own label.

Cliff Anderson began his search in the 1980s for land that would produce grapes that would rival the great wines of Burgundy.  His belief that vines that struggle and need to reach for water, becoming deeply rooted, become amazing wines led him to the heart of Oregon wine country – the Dundee Hills AVA of the Willamette Valley.  Situated in the rolling countryside outside of Newberg, they found a property with steep hillsides full of broken stones and basalt.  In 1992, the vineyard was planted.

Organically farmed, the Anderson Family creates wines in small lots with native yeast, in a gravity flow winery.  Carefully taken care of each small batch of wines, they move a little slower here.  While many larger operations have already released the 2010 vintage, Anderson Family is holding back; there will be no wine before it’s time!

We had the opportunity to taste through the current releases with assistant winemaker Jonathan Riekert, a rising star of the area who is passionate about Pinot Noir as well as the Oregon terroir.

2009 Pinot Gris – There is something special about Oregon Pinot Gris.  I can’t quite describe it, but it combines the creamy nature of Gris with the crisp acidity of a Pinot Blanc in a beautiful swirl.

2009 was a warmer vintage for Oregon, but it was peppered with cool nights, as well as a few cooler days which helped keep the acidity in this wine.  With no malolactic fermentation, and 100% stainless steel fermentation, there are beautiful green apple, grapefruit and Asian pear notes.  With a dusting of nutmeg and a nutty finish, this is what I love about Pinot Gris.

This wine was a bit of accident, as the vineyard was thought to be planted to chardonnay, I am glad they found this hidden gem!

Next, we tasted a vertical of Chardonnay.  Much more European in style, these are lean and racy.  Just what I like!

2007 Chardonnay – 2007 had a longer growing season than some other years, which gave the grapes time to develop on the vine.  Unpredictable rains and a mellow season produced balanced flavors and bright fruit.

A blend of 50% barrel fermented and 50% stainless steel, with 60% malolactic fermentation, it is full of hazelnuts, lemon curd and apple flavors.  It’s a richer chard, but not buttery and has a lovely minerality with a pear finish.

2008 Chardonnay – 2008 had a cool season with late blooms, with warmer days in October.  This leads to a longer hangtime, which brings bigger, fuller flavors to the wine.  In the case of chardonnay, it means big ripe flavors, but maintaining a bracing acidity.  This year had a brighter citrus base, with a touch of butterscotch and meyer lemon, with more spice.

2009 Chardonnay – 2009 was a very hot year.  With a series of unpredictable heat spikes dotted with cooler days and nights, the fruit was very ripe, with a touch less acidity than 2008.  This developed in to a clear citrus, blood orange, and higher acid wine with a long wet river rock finish.

Finally, the core of any Oregon wineries line up – Pinot Noir.  With a classic style full of spice and earth, the Anderson Family Pinot Noir’s did not disappoint.

I was thrilled when the 2007 was still available; widely panned by critics at the time of release, it’s always been one of my faovrite years for Oregon Pinot Noir.  Now, of course, the critics are back peddling and saying how nicely it’s developed in teh bottle  Whatever, it’s simply delectable!

2007 Pinot Noir – The big deal about 2007 is that it was a cool, wet year.  This made a wine with bright acid, clean fruti notes, and earthy underpinnings.  Classic flavors of cola, baking spice and red fruit with a lighter body are the makings of a great year in this bloggers mouth.  mind.  I found notes of dried berries, rhubarb, and spices, especially cloves.  It was classically 2007 with mushrooms and earth, followed by a mineral rub.

Left in the barrel for longer than normal, this wine has intense aromas with tons of baking spice.  The 115, 667, 777, Pommard and Wadenswil clones in the final blend give it the powerful fruit base of the Pommard with the spice and earth of the 115 and 117.  Yum!

2008 Pinot Noir – A bigger vintage in general, there is more dark fruit than red fruit.  The hot season needs time to simmer down.  The late summer forced longer hangtime of the fruit, which I think gives it a bolder feel.

2009 Pinot Noir – While 2009 set a new record for warm days, the summer was finicky with hot days and cool days.  There was a narrow window when the fruit ripened; I currently prefer the 09s to the 08s, because the cool days provide some lovely acidity along with the big red and black fruit.

It’s a deeper bolder Pinot than the 07, but not as big as the 08.  I found lots of pomegranate, bright berry and classic cherry fruit, followed by baking spice.  Less earthy overall, this will be a crowd pleaser.

Thank you Jonothan and Cliff for taking the time to show me the wines!  If you are in Newberg, please be sure to call Anderson Family Vineyards for a visti you will not soon forget.  I brought home the Pinot Gris and 2 of the 07 Pinot Noirs.  I can’t wait to revisit them!

Don't rush this pinot!

No pinot should be opened before it’s time!  In this case, it’s been sleeping for a few years, so I think the 2009 David Bynum Russian River Valley Pinot Noir is safe to be consumed.

This is what I consider to be the now classic Russian River Valley Pinot Noir.  It i big and rich, and full of chewy black cherries.  After a pass through my trusty Soiree however, the wine opened up to some sarsaparilla and pomegranate notes and was much calmer.

While this is a large and robust pinot, RRV is tending that way.  I think there are two primary reasons for this:  Firstly, the global climate shift has changed weather patterns and made the area have more degree days than in previous years.  Secondly, the palate of the masses likes a bolder pinot, tending towards syrah.  This is similar to areas like the Santa Lucia Highlands, as well as the Santa Ynez Valley, made famous by Miles & Jack.  There is a lightness of raspberry and bright red fruit hiding under all of that chewy cherry, but it’s dampened by the bitter quinine finish.  The baking spices are strong, especially the clove notes which numb the tongue a touch.

This is certainly a candidate for decanting, as well as aeration, but could use some serious opening up time.

For $30, it’s averagely priced, but I’d like to see this about the $20 range.  At  14.9% AVB it’s also going to knock your socks off if you’re not careful!  If you can find it for less than retail, and you enjoy a larger pinot, you should TRY THIS!

 This wine was provided by Rodney Strong, paretn company of Davis Bynum, for consideration and sipping.  It’s been hiding in my cellar so it’s aged to perfection!

This is no shrinking violet!

Belle Glos Pinot Noir are wines made for Cabernet lovers.  While each of the three vineyards used to make these wines is coastal, they all produce very different wines.  The Wagner family is well known for their contributions to thee wine industry in Napa, through their efforts at Caymus Vineyards.  Going back to the 1800s, the family has deep California roots.

The family has been making wine in California since 1972, when Caymus was founded.  Now, while the family seat is at Caymus in Napa, the additions of Mer Soleil Chardonnay, run by son Charlie Wagner, Belle Glos run by son Joseph Wagner, and Conundrum, a blend mastered by longtime employee, and new places for daughters Jenny and Erin to learn the business, the family of wine has grown.

There is a history of experimentation and creativity, which led Belle Glos to break the traditional mold of California Pinot Noir.  Joseph’s passion for farming and viticulture is well known.  His early experiences with this Italian Grandmother helps guide his future as he expanding the success of the Belle Glos line, that he has managed since 2002.  Belle Glos, featuring single-vineyard Pinot Noirs from Sonoma, Monterey, and Santa Barbara counties was named for Joseph’s grandmother, he has selected three of the coolest growing regions for the Pinot Noir.  farmed in small lots, the grapes are left to hang longer than normal, to create intense and complex flavors.  In this manner, they are creating bold, flavor packed Pinots that are setting Belle Glos apart from more traditional styles.

There are three single vineyard Pinots from Belle Glos:  Clark & Telephone, Taylor Lane and Las Alturas.  Each one is slightly different, but all three are made in a big, bold style.  A Pinot meant for a Cabernet lover!

Clark & Telephone Vineyard is located in the Santa Maria Valley, which is cooled by the wind and fog blowing in from the Pacific Ocean along the Santa Maria River inland.  Planted on its own roostock, the vineyard is planted to 100% Martini clone, something that is rarely seen today.  This wine was a mix of sweet ripe red fruit and spicy notes, with a nice acid balance.  It was my favorite of the three, and had a lot of cinnamon, baking spice, and ripe blackberry notes.

The Taylor Lane Vineyard Pinot from the Sonoma Coast, is less than 6 miles from the ocean.  Known for the heavy fog, it’s a particularly good place for classic Pinot due to the cool climate, but harder if you are trying to ripen the fruti for a stylistic change.  The Dijon clones in this vineyard held a lot of cedar and cola, with Bing cherries and a hefty 60% new French oak treatment.  This would have been my pick but because of the oak it was just too overblown for me.

Finally, the Las Alturas Vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands.  Located in a world famous Pinot Noir growing region in the Central Coast area, each slope of the vineyard was planted in a different clone.  This dense, dark and chewy wine had a lot of earthy notes, tons of vanilla, and cherry pie filling.  The key note was a slightly artificial hint, in that canned filling that we all know (and don’t always love).

ALl in all, these were interesting wines; however, they were, to me, over extracted and manipulated.  I prefer a less extracted, less oaked, more subtle wine.  These are solid, well made wines that are in a bigger style.  I think that the Santa Maria would be a great entree in to the world of Pinot for someone who is used to the larger fruit profile of a Napa Cab or a Sonoima Zinfandel.  If you enjoy a big, bold, dynamic and cherry driven Pinot Noir, check these out.  They might surprise you!

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Wagner Familiy, with Grandma in the center

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