Fri 11 Nov 2011
Black Kite Cellars traces its origins to 1995, when Donald and Maureen Green bought a 40-acre parcel by the Navarro River just west of Philo in Mendocino County, in a cool area eight miles from the coast. They replanted an old vineyard with pinot noir vines and developed two more blocks on a hill above the river. The first crop was harvested in 2003, and the decision to retain a portion of the grapes to make their own wine brought the concept of Black Kite Cellars, named for a bird indigenous to the region, to fruition. Jeff Gaffner became winemaker in 2004; the first wines he worked on comprised the 2005 bottlings of distinct blocks within the estate. I rated the Black Kite River’s Turn Pinot Noir 2007 as Exceptional and made it one of the “50 Great Wines of 2009.”
These were samples for review.
The color of the Black Kite Kite’s Rest Pinot Noir 2009, Anderson Valley, is medium ruby with a slight blue-magenta cast. Scents of leather, briers, intensely ripe black cherries and plums, damp earth and a hefty dose of cloves segue to a wine of lovely heft and substance, with a satiny texture enlivened by vivid acidity; it’s quite spicy, bursting with black and blue fruit flavors revealing hints of cola and cranberry and rounded by soft tannins and moderately polished oak, from 11 months in French barrels, one-third new. Great charm and allure. 1,000 cases. Excellent. About $42.
The Black Kite Stony Terrace Block Pinot Noir 2009, Anderson Valley, is almost immodestly dense and intense, spicy and floral. At first, it seems all cloves and sassafras and sandalwood; then it seems all rose petals and violets, perhaps with a flush of lilac; then, however, it takes on firmness and body, it comes close to being sturdy for an Anderson Valley pinot, packed, as it is, with cranberry and leather, root beer and cola, red and black currants and blueberries, ensconced in tannins that feel like tissues and oak that’s lithe and supple; the wine is ultra satiny, deep, a bit muscular even, and it finishes with a touch of wild blueberry. The wood regimen is 11 months in French barrels, two-thirds new. 14.9 percent alcohol. Now through 2014. Production was 230 cases. Excellent. About $52.
What accounts for these differences except for minute fluctuations of geography that somehow result in nuances that shift from wine to wine? Though the Black Kite Redwoods Edge Block Pinot Noir 2009, Anderson Valley, receives the same oak treatment at the Stony Terrace and the River’s Turn — 11 months, French oak, two-thirds new barrels — my palate perceives Redwoods Edge as slightly more influenced by oak, as being a bit woodier in the sense of displaying more dried, woody spiciness and a few degrees more austerity on the finish. Other than that aspect, the wine offers a classic dark ruby-mulberry color and attractive aromas of smoky black cherry, rhubarb, cranberry, briers and sandalwood. In the mouth, the story is density, intensity and slightly roasted black and red currants flavors touched with blueberry, and still that pervasive oaky factor diminishes a bit the full suave, savory pinot effect. 14.7 percent alcohol. 170 cases. Drink through 2014 or ’15; let it mellow a bit. Very Good+. About $52.
The color is radiant medium ruby, but what really entices one’s senses in the Black Kite River’s Turn Block Pinot Noir 2009, Anderson Valley, is the knock-out bouquet of spiced and macerated black cherries, plums and rhubarb wafted on notes of cloves, cinnamon and sassafras, all with undertones of briers and graphite; the impression is not only of a panoply of delights but of supreme confidence, balance and integration. Give the wine a few minutes in the glass, and it draws up hints of mint, iodine and lilac, qualities that remind you that while there’s plenty of winsome detail to the wine, it also possesses more serious dimensions of minerality, vivid acidity and tannic-oaken structure; it’s powerful and profound but lovely, elegant, so lithe that it’s almost ductile. A few more minutes produce black and red fruit flavors that are slightly stewed, smoky and fleshy, and a long finish that feels supple and transparent. Great winemaking here. 14.8 percent alcohol. 160 cases. Drink through 2014 or ’15. Exceptional. About $52.