Mon 12 Nov 2012
Mount Eden Vineyards traces its origin to the early 1940s, when Martin Ray left his job at Paul Masson in Santa Clara and launched a winery under his own name in the Santa Cruz Mountains, south of San Francisco Bay. Ray was destined to become one of California’s most out-spoken and controversial winemakers, and his often superb though equally as often erratic wines reflected his individuality and irascibility. In 1972, after a series of conflicts, Ray’s investors ousted him from control, and his family was left with a small, lower vineyard while up in the hills the former Martin Ray winery was renamed Mount Eden. Jeffrey Patterson was hired as assistant winemaker at Mount Eden in 1981 and within 18 months he was named head winemaker and general manager. In 1986, Patterson and his wife Ellie, a horticulturalist and textile artist, acquired significant shares in Mount Eden, and finally, in 2008, Jeffrey and Ellie Patterson and their children Sophie and Reid, took on the majority ownership. What a long time they worked and waited!
This succinct history of one of California’s archetypal vineyards and wineries serves as prelude to today’s Wine of the Week, the Domaine Eden Pinot Noir 2010, Santa Cruz Mountains. The “Domaine” wines, distinct from the “Mount Eden” wines, derive from a 1700-foot elevation 55-acre site that the Pattersons purchased in 2007, the former home of Cinnabar Winery in the Saratoga foothills. The Domaine Eden wines sell for about $20 less than the Mount Eden wines.
Domaine Eden Pinot Noir 2010, Santa Cruz Mountains, aged for 12 months in French oak barrels, 50 percent new. Nothing opulent or obvious here; this pinot noir continues in the venerable Mount Eden tradition of Burgundian-style pinots that emphasize structure over ripeness but sacrifice nothing in the way of freshness, purity or intensity. The wine at first feels muscular, lithe and sinewy, but gradually the texture of cool satin unfolds, and flavors of brambly black currants, plums and mulberries (with hints of rhubarb and pomegranate) broaden across the spectrum; in the nose, the black and red fruit scents become generously laden with cloves and sassafras, violets and potpourri. Tannins are fine-grained and slightly dusty, borne by supple oak and vibrant acidity, and they frame the wine firmly and indelibly but without blatant proclamation. In the end, the wine is a potent marriage of elegance and power. 13.5 percent alcohol. Now through 2015 to ’17. Excellent. About $35 is the suggested retail price; it’s $33 in my neck o’ the woods and can be found around the country as low as $28.
Tasted at a distributor’s trade event.