Monday, September 3, 2018

California Pinot's Savory Side

California Pinot Noir is a curious beast.  Most bottles will be nothing like what you expect, maybe even want, from Pinot.  The really Burgundian examples are few and far between due in part to the ripeness the grapes can achieve in the Golden State.  Like it or not, Cali Pinot is usually bold, not bashful.

Niner Wines has a fantastic facility in Paso Robles - tour it if you get the chance - but the grapes for the Niner 2016 Pinot Noir came from Jesperson Ranch, their cool-climate Edna Valley estate vineyard.  There was some whole cluster fermentation and French oak aging, with about a third of the barrels new.  It's labeled as 100% Pinot Noir, carries an alcohol level of 14.1% abv and retails for $35.

This wine is medium dark in the glass, a bit more opaque than usual for Burgundy, a bit less than usual for Cali Pinot.  The nose carries some really dark blackberry aromas, with not a hint of sweetness.  There's a little black tea coming in beneath the earthy minerals.  I get a slight note of bramble or sagebrush, too.  Savory rules the palate, too, with tar, dark berries and earth all over the place.  As I so often find in California Pinot Noir, I'm overwhelmed by the heft and depth of the wine.  It may not be my style, but when the savory angle takes charge I can forget that it seems like I'm drinking Syrah.  Bring on a ribeye steak for this one, or a porterhouse if you can handle it.

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