Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Cool Pinot Noir Blows In From Sonoma's Petaluma Gap

Bottlenotes launched a new live tasting event series on Twitter in October.  The first tasting event was hosted by noted wine writer Karen MacNeil and focused on 2012 Sonoma Pinot Noir wines.  I was provided with Pfendler Vineyards 2012 Pinot Noir and invited to participate.

Pfendler Vineyards was founded by Kimberly Pfendler (left) in 2007 with the goal of producing world-class Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from her family’s mountain property in the Petaluma Gap region of the Sonoma Coast AVA.  Representatives of windy Petaluma Gap are currently trying to get the grape rolling for an appeal to establish AVA status for the subregion within the enormous Sonoma Coast AVA.

Pfendler’s late husband Peter planted the family’s first vineyard in 1992 - he opted for Bordeaux varieties at that time.  Although the grapes struggled to ripen, he was inspired by the Petaluma Gap’s potential, and over the next 15 years, he experimented in planting various Pinot Noir and Chardonnay clones  As it turns out, they thrived in the cool-climate, maritime-influenced area.

Kimberly Pfendler is as sold on the Petaluma Gap’s potential as her husband was.  “There is no other area in California I can think of that offers such great new potential for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay as the Petaluma Gap,” she says.  “The region is like a wind tunnel, with the mountains funneling in cool Pacific breezes and ocean fog.  Our vineyards extend from the mountain top to its base, allowing a tremendous variety of sun and foggy climates.”

Sonoma Pinot Noir guru Greg Bjornstad (right) is Pfendler’s winemaker.  “I’ve always been a fan of Greg’s wines,” Pfendler adds, “and I am most impressed by his talent for making wines that express a sense of place.”  Bjornstad takes a hands-on approach in the four estate vineyards and adopts a minimalistic approach in the winery.

This 100% Pinot Noir utilizes destemmed grapes of the Joseph Swan, Calera and Pommard clones.  It is aged eleven months in French oak, half of which was new.  For eight months the juice sits sur lie - in contact with the spent yeast used during fermentation.  This gives the wine more weight, a bigger mouthfeel.  It carries an alcohol level of 14.4% abv.  Only 350 cases were made and the wine retails for $45.

Fairly darkly tinted, this Pinot looks like it means business, and it does.  Aromas of black cherry and coffee grounds dominate the nose and continue building on the dark theme.  The flavor is dark, too, with black raspberry, black tea and black cherry providing plenty of power.  Speaking of power, the business end of the tannins are not shy.  It's pretty enough for pork, brawny enough for beef.