Showing posts with label California Pinot. Show all posts
Showing posts with label California Pinot. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

A Bargain Pinot From The Russian River Valley

California wine négociant Cameron Hughes owns no vineyards and has no official winery.  He sniffs out good wine which has already been produced by established makers, then buys it on the cheap with an agreement not to reveal the source.  He then sells the wine online through his wine club - he calls it a wineocracy - bringing top-shelf wines to lower-shelf wallets.  Hughes says he keeps prices low by removing the middleman, the distributor and retailer through which store-bought wines must pass.

One of his latest finds is a Russian River Valley Pinot Noir from a top Sonoma County estate which discontinued its Pinot program. Hughes says it is one of his best acquisitions of the year. 

Lot 947 Pinot Noir is of the 2018 vintage, carries alcohol at 14.5% abv and sells for $19.

This wine is medium dark garnet. The nose is made up of raspberry and plum aromas, with liberal dollops of clove, tobacco and spice. Expected notes of tea or cola were noticeably absent. A slight cola note appears on the palate, along with ripe, dark fruit and oak spice. The acidity is zesty. This is not a brawny Pinot, but it is a bit too rambunctious to be considered elegant. It is, however, a very nice sip and a wonderful pairing option with meats of all kind.

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Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Dark, Complex Pinot Noir From Russian River Valley

Healdsburg winery Ten Acre made a "strictly limited production" of their 2019 Twenty Leaf Pinot Noir. The grapes were grown in Sonoma County's heralded region for Pinot, the Russian River Valley, where the afternoon breeze blows in the fog along the banks to give the fruit the cool climate it craves.

The wine - named to showcase the 20th vintage of the Jenkins Vineyard - is oak-aged in both French and American barrels, new wood. Several clones of Pinot Noir grapes went into the fermenter, mostly 115 and 667, for the grape nerds among us. The winemaker says the original floral notes on the wine are colored darker and earthier by the oak treatment. Alcohol sits at 14.4% abv and it sells for $68. 

There is a medium-dark tint to this Pinot and a complex nose that intrigues from the first sniff. In addition to the expected aromas of cherry, cola and tea, much darker, earthier tones arise. Sage is particularly noticeable, with leather, trampled leaves and nutmeg also appearing. The palate is somewhat muscular - to be expected, it seems, in California Pinot - but not so much that its elegance is obliterated. The acidity is fresh and invigorating and the tannins are gentle. The finish is lengthy and has a hint of eucalyptus in it.

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Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Lodi Pinot Noir

The tiny town of Murphys, California is home to one of the nation's biggest wineries.  Ironstone Vineyards is located east of Lodi in Calaveras County, in the Sierra Foothills.  It may be out-of-the-way, but there's a better than average chance you've had some of their brands, or at least seen them on the supermarket shelf.

The Kautz Family are fourth-generation growers, not unusual in that part of the state, and the family-run winery’s corporate officers are known simply as John, Gail, Kurt and Jack.

Ironstone Pinot Noir Lodi 2017

The 2017 Ironstone Pinot Noir shows as almost medium-dry on the back label scale.  The wine spent only three months in new French oak, hits 13.5% in alcohol and sells for $14.

This Lodi Pinot colors up medium dark ruby n the glass.  The nose features black cherry, tea and light spices, while the palate is borderline bold, with cherry, raspberry, clove and cola. It's a bit brawny for my taste in this grape, but it is easy drinking with light tannins and a smooth dark finish.  The winery suggests you try it with cedar plank salmon, mushroom dishes, pork, lamb or game birds.

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Monday, May 20, 2019

Anderson Valley Pinot Is A California Masterpiece

The winemaking team of Jeff Lenamon and Bob Pepi have an Anderson Valley Pinot Noir that rivals anything Burgundy has to offer.  The Négociant Pinot Noir 2013 blends three Burgundy clones of that finicky grape, grown in the cool-climate Anderson Valley in northern California's Mendocino County.

That fruit is grown where the ocean fog rolls in along the Navarro River, between steep mountains.  The 100% Pinot Noir was aged for ten months in French oak barrels, a third of which were new.  Négociant is made under the Eponymous umbrella, hits 13.8% abv in alcohol and sells for $50.

This Anderson Valley Pinot Noir is a California masterpiece. 

Négociant colors up to a medium-dark ruby, showing some browning along the edges.  The nose offers lavender and tea aromas, while the palate is simply elegant.  Beautiful, muted dark fruit is joined by gentle savory notes and easy tannins.  It's a wonderfully balanced wine that finishes lovely and floral.  Pair it with salmon, goat cheese, lamb or mushrooms.

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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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Friday, September 1, 2017

California Pinot Noir From Dierberg

Jim and Mary Dierberg feel this wine is one that is worthy of their "250-year plan." The couple owned a winery in Missouri and looked at properties from France to the Napa Valley before deciding that Santa Barbara County was right for them. The Dierberg Vineyard is home to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vines, while the warmer Star Lane vineyard in the Santa Ynez Valley has Bordeaux varieties.

Winemaker Tyler Thomas says he is "thrilled" to be working with fruit from Happy Canyon, the Sta. Rita Hills and the Santa Maria Valley.

This Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir is medium-dark in the glass. It brings aromas of earthy raspberry and black cherry, with coffee grounds and a heavy mineral angle. On the palate, it has a boatload of acidity and tannins, with dark berry flavors and hints of black tea. It's a huge Pinot with a distinctive flavor, probably a bit brawnier than my taste likes, but still has an elegant side. It is unapologetic in its California-ness, even from a cool-climate region like the SMV.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Kosher Pinot Noir Misses Mark

Oxnard may not spring to mind immediately when you start riffling through your mental Rolodex of California wine regions. The Ventura County town is home to Herzog Wine Cellars, under the umbrella of the Royal Wine Corporation. The winery's story is one of immigrant grit and determination.

The Herzog website says the company goes back to "Philip Herzog, who made wine in Slovakia for the Austro-Hungarian court more than a century ago. Philip’s wines were so appreciated by Emperor Franz-Josef, that the emperor made Philip a baron."

Philip's grandson Eugene had to move his family around quite a bit during World War II to hide from the Nazis, only to be run out of Czechoslovakia by the communists. He brought his family to New York in 1948 and started working for a kosher winery that paid him in company stock. Within ten years all the other stockholders had given up on it, leaving Eugene as the last man standing. He and his sons then formed Royal Wines as a tribute to Philip.

Expansion to Southern California happened in 1985, but it was a couple of decades before they would build their present state of the art facility. Head winemaker Joe Hurliman leads the kosher facility and produces wines in the tradition of the Jewish people.

The 2015 Baron Herzog California Pinot Noir is a dark ruby in color, with light just barely getting through the glass. Its nose is straightforward - black fruit and a smoky layer on top. It's not terribly complex, but it is rather savory and pleasant. The wine is quite light in the mouth, which is surprising given the dark aromas. The tannins and acidity are both on the scarce side, leaving a Pinot Noir that is mainly just a sipper. Its light feel and rather thin flavor don't translate to elegance, so there’s not a lot to recommend it.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Pinot Noir That's Tough, Elegant

In the 1970s, an Italian immigrant in California’s Bay Area taught his grandson how to make wine. Fred Cline took the information and ran with it, starting a winery and eventually moving the operation to Sonoma County's Carneros Valley.

Cline Cellars now has sustainably-grown ancient Zinfandel and Rhone varieties in Oakley, more Rhone grapes in Carneros and Pinot Noir in the Petaluma Gap.  Winemaker Charlie Tsegeletos produces wines that, according to Cline, "express the unique qualities of California fruit, and their specific sense of place."

Baseball fans may want to know that Cline partners with Wines by Design on a San Francisco Giants Pinot Gris. It’s sourced from the winery's Sonoma Coast estate vineyard, and they say it’s a "hit."

Cline Estate Pinot Noir 2015

The wine was aged for seven months in new, medium toast French oak barrels and clocks alcohol at 14% abv. It retails for just $15.

The nose of this medium-dark wine is beautiful, all ripe and red, with notes of vanilla and tobacco woven into the fruit. A high minty element makes things interesting. On the palate, it walks the tightrope between elegant and muscular. The alcohol is somewhat restrained and the acidity is refreshing. There is some brawn there, but it stops just short of being the kind of California Pinot that tries to masquerade as Syrah.

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Friday, June 23, 2017

Onward's Mendocino Pinot

A recent BrandLive virtual tasting featured the wines of Napa-based Onward Wines. They are what the PR department calls, "single-vineyard, site-driven wines crafted by one of the most exciting winemakers out there." They’re talking about Faith Armstrong-Foster, whose "mantra" is, "I could never make a wine I couldn’t afford to enjoy myself." She grew up in British Columbia, a good little Canadian girl who went to school every day in a tiny boat called - wait for it - the Onward.

She says her wines are site-driven, and she owes part of her success to the growers with whom she has partnered - Hawkeye Ranch, Cerise Vineyard, Capp Inn Ranch, Casa Roja Vineyard, Ledgewood Vineyard, Knox Vineyard and Babcock Vineyard. A smaller part of her success could probably be attributed to that little boat. Onward Wines was created in 2009 and she has another line, called Farmstrong.

Hawkeye Ranch Redwood Valley Pinot Noir 2013

Hawkeye Ranch is where these cool-climate Pinot Noir grapes originate, grown by Peter and Stephen Johnson, fifth-generation winegrowers in Mendocino County. The grapes come from vines that were planted in the 1970s, some of the oldest in the vineyard.

The wine was aged for a year in French oak, 20% of which was new. Malolactic fermentation was encouraged, and the juice sat on the spent yeast cells - both practices add to the rich fullness in the mouth. It sells for $38.

It's a dark wine, dark in color, dark in aromas and dark in flavors. The nose offers abundant blackberry and black raspberry notes with an earthy base. There is an element of smoke at the top of the glass. The palate is deep and rich, dark fruit joined with a sense of black olives and tea. It leans toward savory, but not without taking the fruit with it. The wine finishes with a little raspberry tartness and a lot of berries that stay for a medium length. It's not too much of a bruiser as far as Pinot goes, rather elegant. It's also easy on the alcohol, a treat for California Pinot. Let your kitchen staff know you’d like a grilled pork chop for dinner.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Not Lazy, This Pinot Has Been Working Out

Burgundian technique in the winemaking process does not necessarily make a Burgundian wine. Even in the cool Anderson Valley, the grapes get far too ripe for that sort of expression. It’s the main reason California Pinot Noir is so different from that of Burgundy.

Lazy Creek Vineyards a subsidiary of Healdsburg's Ferrari Carano Winery. It’s located about an hour north, in Mendocino county's Anderson Valley. It is at this facility is where the company's full Pinot Noir production is centered.

A recent online tasting session introduced the latest Lazy Creek Vineyards vintages to a group of wine writers, myself included. We were all provided samples of the wine for review. The session was moderated by publicist Chelsea Kurnick and featured winemaker Christy Ackerman. You can see the Ustream broadcast page here.

Ackerman makes all of the Lazy Creek Vineyards wines, and all of the Pinot Noirs for Ferrari-Carano. She says she feels "very lucky" to work with Pinot Noir in general, and especially the grapes from the Lazy Creek estate vineyards.

Owners Don and Rhonda Carano describe Lazy Creek Vineyards as one of the smallest, and oldest wineries in the Anderson Valley. They bottle a Gewurztraminer and the rosé, but all the rest are Pinot Noirs.

The Lazy Creek Vineyards Lazy Day Pinot Noir 2014 is a well-made, although brutish, wine that strikes the California alcohol level of 14.5% abv and retails for $35.

Lazy Day is a medium dark ruby red in the glass and is scented with dark raspberry, earth and some fairly serious smoke. The cool climate of Anderson Valley put its stamp on this one. Flavors are dark, but fruity, with an anise and eucalyptus note. The palate is loaded with earthiness and acidity. It's a bold one, so if you like California Pinot, try it. If you prefer a more elegant approach, this may not be your cup. But if you like a bit of brawn, sign up and call it a $35 bargain.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Big, Badass California Pinot Noir

Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery was founded in 1981 on a small patch of land in Sonoma County's Dry Creek Valley. Don and Rhonda Carano started small, but kept thinking big as they snapped up grapevines over the years. They say they now have 19 estate vineyards in six different California appellations. The company operates as a Certified California Sustainable Vineyard.
Winemaker Christy Ackerman makes all of the Pinot Noirs for Ferrari-Carano. She says she feels "very lucky" to work with Pinot Noir in general, and especially the grapes from the estate vineyards.

The Heritage and Dijon clones of Pinot Noir grapes for this wine came from their Anderson Valley ranches.  Steel fermentation started things off, and French oak aging for ten months took place in 38% new oak, 62% older barrels. The wine underwent full malolactic fermentation, offering the benefit of a creamy and full mouthfeel. It costs $38 retail.

This dark, brooding 2014 Pinot Noir is bigger and badder than I like my Pinot to be, but I’m going to pretend it's something else - say, Syrah - and just enjoy its powerful assets. The black and blue berry aromas show off the cool-climate origin of the grapes with notes of forest floor, motor oil and black olives. The savory show continues on the palate. Big, dark fruit turns to one side and lets the leathery, musty flavors mix with tea and coffee. Happily, the cola note is too shy to get through the door. Big wine, big finish, with the fruit outlasting the savory, but not by much.

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