Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Bearboat Pinot Noir Russian River Valley 2007


Mac and Zeke
When I taste a wine I like in a restaurant or bar, I always look forward to learning more about the winery.  It’s such a great feeling to discover a new boutique winery or a winemaker I had not known before.  On the opposite end of that emotional spectrum is the feeling I get when I open a winery’s site and find a cartoon of two bears in a rowboat.

Wine experts constantly remind us to steer clear of wines featuring animals and/or cartoons on their labels.  Those “critter label” marketing tricks are used to make ordinary wines sell better by catching people’s eyes as they scan the wine shelf at the supermarket.  The thinking is: people will pass up any number of informational-looking images without noticing them, but everyone stops and looks at the kitten playing with a ball of yarn.

I don’t like “cute” in my wine, and when I ordered Bearboat Pinot Noir at Wood Ranch in Los Angeles, I felt that I was setting myself up for disappointment.  Seeing those cartoon bears on every web page, spouting off "humorous" dialogue between them, confirmed that feeling.  The above image is one of several from the Bearboat website.

This wine is is made under the corporate umbrella of Rémy Cointreau.  It’s a blend of 95% Pinot Noir grapes from Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley and 5% “old-vine Gamay Beaujolais.”  Huh?  Well, that’s a new one on me.  It seems that the fact they are blending French Gamay with Sonoma Pinot is the story here, but in the online materials for this wine, the company just glosses right over that fact, as if we didn’t notice.

It’s particularly odd in that the tasting notes provided online go into such detail about the "cool-climate, destemmed, hillside fruit" and the four different kinds of "tightly grained oak" used in the aging process.  But there's not so much as a "Waiter, there's a Gamay in my Pinot" joke from those bears in the rowboat.

The wine is dark and moody, which I like a lot.  There’s a hint of forest floor here - actually vineyard floor - along with the nice blackberry fruit.  It’s tasty enough to have collected a small hipster hat full of points, stars and medals from various publications and competitions.

I must imagine that Alsatian winemaker Raphaël Brisbois probably never saw his career arc winding up in a rowboat with a couple of bears.