Sat 14 Jun 2008
Brian Loring, owner and winemaker of Loring Wine Company, is a confessed pinot noir fanatic. In 1999 he began making small lots of pinot noir wines using grapes purchased from highly regarded and carefully chosen vineyards. For 2006, he produced 7,000 cases of pinot noir from 14 vineyards in California, averaging 500 cases for each vineyard-designated wine. “I’m not trying to be Burgundian,” Loring told me a couple of weeks ago, when I tried three of his pinots, and indeed you would not mistake these wines for the classic refined and elegant character of the best Burgundian models. On the other hand, you would not necessarily assert that these are typically Californian either; the Loring wines I tasted revealed none of the over-ripe, cloying brown sugar, stridently spicy elements that mar so many pinot noirs from The Golden State.
“Fruit is everything,” said Loring, and “What happens in the vineyard determines the quality of the wine,” two sentiments with which I heartily agree. The result of this philosophy — and of treating all the grapes in similar manner, whatever their vineyard of origin — is pinot noirs that reek of deep, dark, unabashedly fruity qualities bolstered by a tremendous earthy, minerally character.
The Loring Durrell Vineyard Pinot Noir 2006, Sonoma Coast, offers an entrancing color where purple shades into magenta that fades out with a ghostly blue rim. The bouquet smolders with bright, vivid black cherry, black currant and plum scents permeated by roses and violets and a hint of face powder. The wine is substantial, solid, tense, ravishing with intense black fruit flavors deeply etched with vibrant acid; the earthy aspect comes in as strata of brambles and briers and moss with underlying minerality. The texture is like liquid satin, with satin’s sense of coolness and warmth. Drink now through 2012 or ’14. The alcohol level is 14.3 percent. Excellent. About $45 to $55.
The black fruit on the Loring Russell Family Vineyard Pinot Noir 2006, Paso Robles, is spicier, more elevated, even brighter than on the previous wine. This one is tremendously lively and vivid and resonant, feeling almost sentient in the mouth, though after a few minutes in the glass, brooding aspects of earth and minerals begin to assert themselves. The wine remains exquisitely balanced, however, an edifice rolling on finely milled tannins and subtle, tasteful oak. Drink now through 2011 to ’13. The alcohol level is 14.6 percent. Excellent. About $45 to $50.
Distinguished by the slightly macerated and roasted nature of its black currant and plum scents and flavors, the Loring Clos Pepe Vineyard Pinot Noir 2006, Santa Rita Hills, stops short of being overwhelmingly sensuous. While the bouquet is subtly floral, the intense black fruit flavors, hinting at spice cake, are wrapped around a core of crushed violets, lavender, licorice and minerals. The wine is robust and vigorous, and it regally drapes the tongue and palate. Of this trio of Loring pinot noirs, the Clos Pepe is the least earthy, though the finish brings in rooty, mossy, briery elements. Drink now through 2012 or ’14. The alcohol level is 14.7 percent, but the wine does not feel “hot” or in the least over-ripe. Exceptional. About $45 to $55.
These label images, taken from loringwinecompany.com, which could seriously use some up-dating, are from previous vintages of the Loring Gary’s Vineyard pinot noirs.