Pinot noir


leyda rose
Winemaker Viviana Navarette fashions the Leyda Pinot Noir Rosé 2016, from Chile’s cool seacoast Leyda Valley, from purpose-grown and -harvested grapes lightly pressed and fermented in stainless steel, where the wine remains on fine lees for seven months. The attractive light cherry-watermelon hue somehow embodies the scent and flavor profile of this fairly savory rosé, because cherry and watermelon characterize its effects in nose and on the palate. There’s more, of course; notes of orange glaze and cloves, a slightly tea-like and fleshy aura, with a hint of tomato skin and dried strawberry; a few moments in the glass produce aromas of lilac and heather. Weekly stirring during aging lends this rosé an almost creamy texture, though that aspect is more than balanced by bright crisp acidity and a burgeoning and vivid edge of chalk and flint minerality. 13.5 percent alcohol. A very satisfying rosé that I would not hesitate to sip with duck and rabbit terrine, fried chicken, cheese toast and popcorn. Now into 2018. Excellent. About $16, representing Real Value.

Imported by Winebow Inc., New York. A sample for review.

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It’s a beautiful Spring day in our neighborhood, and I hope that’s the case in your neighborhood too. You can tell that it’s a beautiful Spring Day because the lawn mowers and leaf-blowers fired up about 7:30 this morning. Beautiful Spring days — and Summer also — call for crisp refreshing rosé wines, and my candidate today is La Crema Winery Pinot Noir Rosé 2016, from Monterey County, the first produced by this winery that has been part of Jackson Family Wines since 1993. Appropriately made all in stainless steel, this delightful wine offers a lovely coral-smoky topaz hue and delicate aromas of orange rind and pink grapefruit with a hint of strawberry, opening, after a few moments in the glass, to almond blossom and a hint of heather. Bright acidity keeps this sleek rosé lively and appealing, while the finish brings in a welcome note of bracing limestone and seashell salinity. 13.5 percent alcohol. One need not ask for anything more from a thirst-quenching porch-patio-picnic wine. Very Good+. About $20.

A sample for review.

The Finger Lakes AVA is New York state’s largest wine region, comprising about 11,000 acres of vines. The area south of Lake Ontario was formed about two million years ago when glaciers scoured the geography and created long narrow bodies of water from former creeks. The Finger Lakes consist of 11 of these features, splayed out pointing roughly north to south like fingers on hands. These are among the deepest 13PinotNoirlakes in America; Cayuga is 435 feet deep, while Seneca reaches down to 618 feet. Cayuga and Seneca hold their own sub-appellations within the larger Finger Lakes AVA. The warmth stored in the lakes is released in winter and helps to moderate the climate along the shores, where most of the vineyards are planted.

Our Wine of the Day, No. 251, is the Thirsty Owl Wine Company Pinot Noir 2015, which carries a Finger Lakes designation; the winery sits on the west side of Cayuga. The color is a delicate, transparent ruby-garnet; initially, it’s a light yet loamy pinot noir that offers notes of spiced and macerated black and red cherries and currants that open to hints of briers and raspberry leaf. The wine gains substance and heft in the glass, along with elements of leather and graphite, all nestled in a sleek, burnished, satiny texture, leading to a finish that’s bright with a wild cherry tone. With three grams of residual sugar, this pinot noir feels succulent and crunchy from mid-palate back, with a bit of candied berry around the circumference. 12.8 percent alcohol. A charming and tasty pinot noir, far different than West Coast models, as you would expect from the differences in terroir and climate. Very Good+. About $18.

A sample for review. The label image, taken from the winery website, is several vintages behind.

Here’s a purpose-built rosé wine that lovers of the classic style don’t want to miss. By “purpose-built,” I mean that the Gary Farrell 15_ROSE_PRODUCT1Russian River Selection Rosé of Pinot Noir 2016, Russian River Valley, was not made as an after-thought or a quick decision to bleed-off some juice to help concentrate another red wine. The grapes were hand-harvested, from two Dutton Ranch vineyards in the Green Valley sub-appellation, specifically for this wine, at a point to keep the acidity vibrant, whole-cluster pressed and racked off to a stainless steel tank to ferment. After a few days, 40 percent of the juice was transferred to neutral French oak barrels for two weeks. After blending, the wine spent four months in stainless steel. The result is an ethereal rosé whose delicate nature is reflected in its beautiful pale coral-petal pink hue and its ethereal scents of strawberry, peach and blood orange wreathed with lilac and watermelon. This rosé displays lovely tensile strength, while bright acidity cleaves through a texture almost talc-like in softness; no push-over on the palate, though, the wine also embodies a line of slightly dusty river rocks and limestone minerality. The whole package is clean, refreshing and delightful, all permutations of its exquisite elegance. 13.2 percent alcohol. Perfect for Spring and Summer sipping with various sorts of patio and picnic fare — fried chicken, deviled eggs, cucumber and watercress sandwiches, shrimp and chicken salad. Winemaker for Garry Farrell Vineyards & Winery is Theresa Heredia. The eponymous founder of the winery sold it in 2004; it is now owned by The Vincraft Group. Production was 393 cases. Excellent. About $32, and Worth a Search.

A sample for review.

The last time I posted an entry in this series was October 10, 2016, and, coincidentally, that post involved the Sarah’s Vineyard Estate sarahChardonnay 2014 and Estate Pinot Noir 2014, from Santa Clara Valley, 28 acres in the cool climate “Mt. Madonna” district of the southern Santa Cruz Mountains. Today it’s the turn of the winery’s straight-forward Santa Clara Valley offerings from 2014, a pair that is less expensive than the estate wines and produced in fairly larger quantities. This line was previously called the “Central Coast Series,” and still carries a Central Coast appellation. Owner and winemaker Tim Slater, who acquired the winery from founders Marilyn Clark and John Otterman in 2001, practices minimal intervention, especially in the barrel program, where new oak is kept strictly in the minority position.

These wines were samples for review, as I am required to inform My Readers at the bidding of the Federal Trade Commission. This injunction does not apply to print writers, because they obviously are more trustworthy than bloggers.
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Aged 11 months in primarily neutral French oak barrels, the pure medium gold-colored Sarah’s Vineyard “Santa Clara Valley” Chardonnay 2014 is effusive in its classic pineapple-grapefruit scents and flavors that feel slightly baked, a little crisp around the edges in its crystalline clarity and purpose; notes of white flowers, cloves and a hint of mango flesh out the effect. A very subtle oak patina bolsters the richness on the palate, while bright acidity and an element of limestone minerality keep the wine on an even keel, allowing a lovely tension between juicy flavors and dryness. The finish opens to touches of ginger and quince and a coastal shelf of flint. 13.9 percent alcohol. Now through 2018 or ’19. Production was 459 cases. Excellent. About $20, marking Good Value.
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The Sarah’s Vineyard “Santa Clara Valley” Pinot Noir 2014 aged 11 months in French oak, only 10 percent new barrels. The color is an entrancing limpid medium ruby hue, transparent at the rim; the wine is both woodsy and meadowy, by which I mean that it partakes of elements of forest floor and dried mushrooms as well as heather and potpourri, these aspects winsomely supporting notes of black and red cherries and currants infused with cloves, sandalwood and sassafras. This pinot noir is supple, lithe and sinewy on the palate, animated by acidity that cuts a swath and a clean mineral edge under tasty cherry flavors opening to notes of cranberry and pomegranate. The finish is spare and elegant. 14.2 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2019 or ’20. Production was 1,211 cases. Excellent. About $25.
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It’s well-known that the principle grapes of Alsace, the most Germanic region of France, are riesling and gewurztraminer, but the area also produces, in an achievement of brilliant rarity, wine from all three “pinot” grapes: pinot blanc, pinot gris and pinot noir. That line-up could be reproduced, perhaps, in Oregon’s Willamette Valley and other cool regions, but the microclimates would have to be fairly specific. Anyway, here are reviews of a pinot blanc, a pinot gris and a pinot noir, made by a trio of venerable estates in Alsace. Very interesting is the oak regimen, because there’s scarcely any oak here, especially not new oak, and certainly none was needed. These products, each 100 percent varietal, are delicious and appealing transition wines from Winter into Spring, marrying the savor of the chilly months to the delicacy of the vernal equinox.

These wines were samples for review.
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Domaine Paul Blanck dates back to the 17th century. The vineyards are tended by organic principles and see no chemicals. The estate’s entry in this roster, the Paul Blanck Pinot Blanc 2015, Alsace, was made all in stainless steel. The color is shimmering pale gold; what a lovely amalgam of fruit, flowers and spice this is, displaying notes of pear and quince, golden raspberries and yellow plums, green apple, apple blossom and cloves, in a seamless relationship flowing between nose and palate. The texture is lithe and lively, buoyed by bright acidity and a gently burgeoning element of limestone minerality. Really pretty. 12.5 percent alcohol. Very Good+. About $16, representing Good Value.
Imported by Skurnick Wines, New York.
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Many wineries boast about the age of their vineyards, saying, for example, that such and such a wine came from 40-year-old vines. In the case of the Domaine Zind Humbrecht Pinot Gris 2014, Alsace, the wine aged in 40-year-old barrels, for eight months. I would like to see those esteemed elders among oak barrels; can you imagine the great wines they nurtured over the decades? Anyway, this estate’s origins lie in 1620; it is now operated on biodynamic principles. This whole effort feels purely golden, from its attractive burnished gold hue to its scents and flavors of slightly baked peaches and pears and quince, accented by ginger and cloves; though a completely dry wine, it feels a bit honeyed in its juicy richness and a bit smoky, but remains spare and elegant overall, enlivened by bright acidity and given just a hint of a limestone edge on the finish. A beautiful wine. 13.5 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2020 to ’24, if the wine is stored well and undisturbed. Excellent. About $26.
Imported by Kobrand Wine & Spirits, Purchase, N.Y.
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The Schlumberger family purchased this estate in 1810; it is now operated by the sixth and seventh generations. The Domaines Schlumberger Les Princes Abbés Pinot Noir 2014, Alsace, aged eight months in old wooden foudres, being large barrels of variable capacities but often 500 hectoliters or more, which is to say, about 13,200 gallons. Don’t look for a dark, rich Burgundian style pinot noir from this effort. The color is a transfixing transparent ruby-garnet; delicate aromas of red raspberries and cherries, lightly spiced, open to notes of potpourri and violets, dried currants and sandalwood; it’s an Audrey Hepburn of a wine that exhibits fine bones, a dry, lean and spare texture, a slightly resinous aura and a finish awash with hints of graphite, smoke and underbrush. Consumed with pork schnitzel and cucumber salad, we loved it. 13 percent alcohol. Drink through 2019 or ’20. Excellent. About $26.
Imported by Maison Marques & Domaines USA, Oakland, Calif.
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Domaine Jessiaume must be unique in Burgundy. Its owner, Keith Murray, is a Scot. Its director, Megan McClure, is American. And the cote de beaunewinemaker is a Frenchman with a Belgian surname, William Waterkeyn. The domaine, headquartered in Santenay (population 836), consists of 9 hectares of Premier Cru and Village vineyard– slightly more than 22 acres — located in Santenay, Beaune, Pommard, Volnay and Auxey-Duresses, all in the Côte de Beaune region. Côte de Beaune is the southern half of the narrow ridge that is Burgundy, the northern part being the Côte de Nuits. Because the soil of the Côte de Beaune is more varied, more white wine is made there than in the Côte de Nuits, which is about 90 percent red. The grapes, of course, are chardonnay and pinot noir. The Murray family acquired Domaine Jessiaume from the seventh generation of its founders in 2007. The work to improve the estate includes eliminating the negociant arm and gradually shifting into total organic farming. Only native yeasts are employed, and new oak is held to a minimum. These three wines — samples for review — represent what I love most about the pinot noirs of Burgundy, a sense of delicacy married to purity of fruit and intensity of structure. The prices are irresistible. When many Premier Cru wines, admittedly from illustrious appellations, now cost $75 to $200, these models can be had for $42 and $45. They are more than worth the prices. The wines of Domaine Jessiaume are imported to this country by MS Walker, Norwood Mass.
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Domaine Jessiaume Santenay Premier Cru La Comme 2014 aged 12 months in French oak, 33 percent new barrels, followed by 3 months in santenaystainless steel tanks. It displays an absolutely beautiful limpid, transparent medium ruby hue and scents and flavors of red cherries and currants; it’s quite dry but juicy with spice-inflected red fruit and enticing with an ethereal presence that does not discount a burgeoning tide of brambly-foresty tannins and fleet acidity that cuts a swath through the lithe, supple texture. The balance is lovely, with an emphasis on spareness and elegance. 13 percent alcohol. Production was 73 cases. Now through 2021 to’24. Excellent. About $42.
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Slightly less oak goes into making the Domaine Jessiaume Auxey-Duresses Premier Cru Les Ecussaux 2014 than was used in the previous auxeywine, that is, 12 months, 29 percent new French barrels, following by three months in stainless steel. The color is a totally transparent medium ruby hue; the wine features notes of red and black cherries and currants, lightly inflected with cloves, briers and brambles and a hint of loam. The wine is bright and lively, offering pert black and red fruit highlighted by touches of melon and sour cherry in a lithe, sinewy, vibrant structure. The sense is of innate energy and dimension held in check by the limitless powers of charm and delicacy. 13 percent alcohol. Now through 2019 to ’22. Production was 174 cases. Very Good+. About $42.
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For three more dollars, you get, in the Domaine Jessiaume Beaune Premier Cru Les Cent Vignes 2014, a wine that I consider the epitome of beaunethe Burgundian style. Nothing over-extracted here, nothing emphatic, fat or fleshy or overdone, but the perfection of balance between power and elegance, between the ethereal and the earthy. The wine spent 15 months in French oak, 25 percent new barrels, followed by two months in stainless steel. The color is a ravishing, ephemeral ruby-mulberry hue; red and black cherries and currants feel permeated by notes of briers, brambles and loam, with a hint of cloves and a touch of ground cumin that lends an air of intrigue. The wine is lithe, sinewy and silky smooth on the palate, where acidity cuts a swath and it flirts with a ferrous-sanguinary character. A sense of the granitic vineyard pulses through the wine, giving it a quality of precisely measured and honed dynamism that animates the finish. 13.5 percent alcohol. I could drink this one every night, but only 300 cases were produced. Best from 2018 or ’19 through 2028 to ’30. Excellent. About $45.
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If you can find a well-made, delicious and authentic Sonoma County pinot noir for $20, clasp it to thy bosom with gratitude and fervor. Such a one -tah-dah! — is the Olema Pinot Noir 2014, from Sonoma County but with generous contribution s from the more specific and pinot-friendly AVAs of Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast. Olema is the second, less expensive label of Amici Cellars. The wine aged 12 months in French oak, 35 percent new barrels. The color is a lovely, transparent medium ruby hue with a delicate, almost invisible rim; this is a clean and fresh pinot noir that offers an essential loamy underpinning as support for notes of rhubarb and sassafras, red cherries and smoky plums and just a hint of shy forest flowers. On the palate, the Olema Pinot Noir 2014 feels warm, spicy and inviting, dry, to be sure, but juicy with red and black fruit flavors highlighted by new leather, cloves and black pepper. The wine builds subtle layers in the glass, so after a few minutes, you notice elements of briers and brambles and graphite, all fixed in place by bright acidity and nuanced, slightly dusty minerality. 14.2 percent. A truly engaging pinot noir for drinking through 2018 with roasted chicken or coq au vin, smoked turkey, game birds and grilled leg of lamb. Excellent. About $20, representing Good Value.

A sample for review.

A rosé wine can be made in one of three ways. First, mix red and white wine, just a touch of red. Voila, it’s pink! Generally, this method is avoided in making still rosés, and in fact is primarily used in the production of brut rosé Champagne and sparkling wines. Second, and endless crushmost common, is maceration, in which the skins of red grapes macerate with the juice for a brief period, usually two to 20 hours, and then the juice is removed from the vats when the desired lightness or depth of hue and flavor is reached. (The color of red wine, whether medium ruby or motor-oil purple, derives from the skins; grape juice itself has no or little color.) Third is saignée, a French term meaning “to bleed.” The process involves siphoning or “bleeding off” some of the juice from the macerating tanks before it becomes too dark, a step that helps concentrate the “real” wine as well as produce a rosé. The rosé wine considered today was made by maceration of grapes grown especially for this wine, not as an after-thought or coincidental product bled off from a more important wine. The Inman Family “Endless Crush” Rosé of Pinot Noir 2016, Russian River Valley, was made from organic grapes grown in the winery’s Olivet Grange vineyard and picked in August last year. After a few months in stainless steel tanks, the wine was bottled on December 7, making it all of about six months old. The color is very pale petal pink; oh, this is a delicate and ethereal wreathing of strawberries, red currants and watermelon that opens to a fine web of honeysuckle and lilac, orange rind and grapefruit, all encompassed by a slightly earthy undertone of damp and slightly dusty tiles and river stones. Tensile strength emerges with the wine’s bright, lip-smacking acidity and mouth-watering juiciness and the contrast between its crisp nature and an almost lush texture. 11.9 percent alcohol. Drink through the end of 2017. Production was 672 cases, and it goes fast. A superior rosé wine that feels like a kiss from Spring and a caress from Summer. Exceptional. About $35.

A sample for review.

Valentine’s, the most fraught day of the year, when everybody in America is going to be as romantic as hell or die trying, and what’s more loveromantic than that? In case you — meaning any person of whatever gender fluidity, age, religion, political stance, food preference or IQ — forgot to lay in a bottle of Champagne or sparkling wine, here is a brief roster of examples, all Brut Rosés, that register at various levels of delectability on the palate and dent-free on the pocketbook; in other words, delicious and not too expensive. (I understand that “expensive” is a relative concept.) Though actual Champagne is not included here, that is, bubbly made exclusively in the Champagne region of France, these models are produced in the famed “Champagne method” of second fermentation in the bottle, the same bottle it will be sold in, after some length of time resting on the lees in said bottle before being finished with the cork and wire. The process is a tad more complicated, of course, but I’m into simplification today so I can get a bottle of sparkling wine into your hands before it’s too late. Two of these selections are from France — Loire Valley and Burgundy — and two from California — Russian River and Napa-Carneros. So, drink up, have fun, dance a step or two and give him or her or him/her a smooch for me.

Credit: Leslie Barron, Big Love, acrylic and mixed media on panel, 24 by 48 inches. Courtesy of L Ross Gallery, Memphis, Tennessee.
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De Chanceny Brut Rosé nv, Crémant de Loire, is a product of Alliance Loire, a cooperative founded in 2002 to take advantage of vineyard 17385--de-chanceny-cremant-de-loire-rose-brut-label-1426983098connections that range from Muscadet in the west to the appellations of Touraine in the center. This is 100 percent cabernet franc, aged on the lees at least 12 months. The color is an attractive pale copper-salmon hue, enlivened by a steady stream of tiny bubbles. Aromas of strawberry and raspberry are touched with the slight astringency of mulberry, fleshed out by orange zest and a hint of cloves. This Crémant de Loire is dry, crisp and lively, animated by pert acidity and a deft limestone edge. 12.5 percent alcohol. Truly charming. Very Good+. I paid $15 locally, but prices around the country vary from about $13 to $19; don’t pay that much, My Readers.

Signature Imports, Mansfield, Mass.
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Founded in 1831, Domaine Albert Bichot produces Burgundy wines that encompass the complete geographical and hierarchical aspects of the region. Today, however, we look not at any of the domaine’s Premier Cru and Grand Cru wines but at its quite satisfying non-vintage Albert Bichot Brut Rosé Crémant de Bourgogne, composed of chardonnay, pinot noir and gamay grapes. The color is pale copper-pink, the essential bubbles active and energetic. Notes of blood orange, cloves, tangerine and red cherry are given a serious touch by an element of limestone minerality. It’s quite dry but displays lovely bones and a deceptive quality of tensile strength. 12 percent alcohol. Excellent. About $25.

European Wine Imports, Cleveland, Ohio. A sample for review.
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The J Vineyard Brut Rosé nv, Russian River Valley, is a blend of 66 percent pinot noir, 33 percent chardonnay and 1 percent pinot meunier; it aged two years en tirage, that is, on the lees in the bottle. This is all flushes, blushes and nuances, from its very pale copper-sunset hue, to its slightly fleshy, subtly ripe notes of orange zest, raspberry and lemon rind touched with almond skin, to its steely, chiseled structure. The bubbles, however, are nothing discrete, being a dynamic upward surge like a fountain. This sparkling wine is elegant and fine-boned, finishing with an intriguing hint of grapefruit bitterness. 12.5 percent alcohol. Excellent. About $45.

A sample for review.
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The Frank Family Vineyard Brut Rosé 2012, Napa Valley-Carneros, a blend of 76 percent pinot noir and 24 percent chardonnay, offers a pale copper hue flushed with rose-petal pink; the tiny bubbles teem like a glinting tempest in the glass. This is a focused and intense sparkling wine that displays burnished notes of blood orange and tangerine, red raspberries and currants wrapped in a package of lightly toasted brioche and limestone steeliness, managing to be both generous and austere. Lip-smacking acidity and effervescence and scintillating minerality keep it appealing and dynamic, while innate elegance makes it lithe and attractive. 12 percent alcohol. Production was 500 cases. Drink through 2019 to ’21. Excellent. About $55.

A sample for review.
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