Mon 5 Dec 2011
It’s not easy to find inexpensive, well-made, varietally authentic pinot noir; the sensitive grape rarely reveals its allure for cheap-seats treatment. Such a good one, however, can be had in the Estancia “Pinnacles Ranches” Pinot Noir 2010, Monterey County. Estancia began in 1986 as a Franciscan Vineyards label for moderately priced wines from Sonoma County’s Alexander Valley. After the Franciscan owners bought acreage in Monterey County, however, and built a winery, eventually all activity centered on Estancia’s Pinnacle Ranches vineyard in Monterey, that is, until 1999, when vineyards in Paso Robles were also acquired. Franciscan was a troubled winery that between its founding in 1973 and 1979 went through four ownerships; it only began to prosper when Agustin Huneeus took over in 1985. It’s interesting that the websites for Franciscan and Estancia don’t mention that the wineries have been owned by Constellation Brands since 1998; in fact, Constellation’s fine wine division was called Franciscan Estates until 2005, when that segment of the business was renamed Icon Estates.
Anyway — the tangled workings and ravelings of the California wine industry aside — the Estancia Pinot Noir 2010 is a child of whole-cluster fermentation, native yeasts and gravity-flow systems, which is why, I assume, that the label asserts that the wine was “Handcrafted” and “Artisan Grown,” though I find the latter designation pretty nebulous; one imagines the artisans in their smocks and berets lightly treading the rows and gently snipping grape clusters one by one. Anyway — sorry — the Estancia Pinot Noir ’10 derives from the producer’s Pinnacles vineyards and also from its vineyards in Santa Lucia Highlands. Attractive aromas of smoky black cherry, cranberry and rhubarb are woven with notes of cola and cloves, while a satiny, supple texture testifies to 10 months oak aging. Lip-smacking viscosity, pert acidity and fine-grained tannins support ripe black cherry and plum flavors suffused with slightly earthy elements of moss and brambles, with a hint of graphite in the background. Actually, despite my quips and quibbles, this is a model of an inexpensive pinot noir with a gratifying amount of personality for the price. Alcohol content is a sensible 13.5 percent. Drink through 2013. Very Good+. About $16.
A sample for review.