Pinot noir

Maggy Hawk is an interesting name for a winery. It comes from the name of a racehorse owned by Barbara Banke, chairman and proprietor maggyof Jackson Family Wines and widow of Jess Jackson, the founder of it all who died in 2011. The property lies in the remote “deep end” of Mendocino County’s Anderson Valley and is one of this sub-AVA’s closest vineyards to the Pacific Ocean. The property encompasses 57 acres, much of it in redwood forest, with 22.55 acres planted to vines. That acreage is divided among five vineyards, planted in 2000, that vary in size from a tiny 1.23 acres to a relatively expansive 10.03 acres. These five vineyards are named for off-spring of Maggy Hawk: Jolie, Unforgettable, Stormin’, Hawkster and Afleet, the latter a Belmont Stakes and Preakness winner. Maggy Hawk is one of the wineries that JFW counts among its Spire Collection of elite estates, though nothing fancy or luxurious there draws the Grant-Douglasvisitor. This is a place where vines, grapes and winemaking prevail over tasting rooms, winemaker dinners, tourism and wedding events. Winemaker is Elizabeth Grant-Douglas, pictured here, also the director of winemaking at La Crema, another JFW property, acquired by Jess Jackson in 1993. The soil on this hillside, where the elevation varies from 300 to 500 feet, is decomposed sandstone, offering little nutrition for the vines but terrific drainage, an ideal situation for growing excellent grapes. Morning fog, combined with warm afternoons and a wide diurnal swing in temperature, also provide salubrious conditions.

I tasted the 2012 versions of Jolie, Stormin’, Hawkster and Afleet — Unforgettable was not made in 2012 — back in March with Grant-Douglas at lunch in Sonoma and this month at home with review samples. It was interesting to observe that eight months built some weight into the now three-year-old wines as well as adding to their layering of fruit, flowers, spice and minerality. These are serious pinot noirs, thrilling to taste and drink, each a projection of the wine’s roots in the earth of a specific site. They should drink beautifully until 2020 or so.
Maggy Hawk “Hawkster” Pinot Noir 2012, Anderson Valley. This wine aged 14 months in French oak, 63 percent new barrels. The grapes derive from the estate’s Blocks 12, 13 and 14, adding up to 6.18 acres. The color is an uplifting transparent medium ruby hue; the complex layering of fruit, spice and minerals is beautifully knit and evocative, with notes of red and black currants, a hint of red cherry and touches of cranberry and pomegranate. Back in March, I wrote in my book that “Hawkster” was “the most spare — most slender in frame” of this quartet, though seven months have filled it out nicely, but, damn, it feels light as a feather while being supple and satiny and delivering a definite graphite-loamy edge. Sweet cherry fruit laden with cloves and smoke, briers and brambles slide across the palate with delicacy and nuance, while subtly dusty tannins and keen acidity provide support and staying power. Alcohol content is 14.5 percent. Production was 268 cases. Drink now through 2019 to 2022. Excellent. About $66.
Maggy Hawk “Jolie” Pinot Noir 2012, Anderson Valley. This wine comes from the steep slopes of 10.03-acre Block 7, by far the largest on the property; it aged 14 months in French oak, 64 percent new barrels. Here’s my impression from back in March: “Cloves and sassafras — spiced and slightly macerated cherries & currants — lovely fruit, loamy quality — spare, with a streak of vivid acidity.” This month, I would say: Fairly dark ruby shading to a lighter magenta rim; dominant elements of ripe black and red cherries and currants are permeated by notes of cranberries, pomegranate and cloves — there’s that consistency — though this is a more full-bodied wine than its cousins, but while it flirts with a lush texture, it pulls up plenty of graphite minerality and dry tannins, and exercises power that comes close to being muscular and sinewy. On the palate, it’s characterized by deeply spicy black and red fruit flavors and electric acidity. Alcohol content is 14.5 percent. Production was 312 cases. Drink now through 2020 to 2023. Excellent. About $66.
Maggy Hawk “Afleet” Pinot Noir 2012, Anderson Valley. Afleet, the smallest production of this pinot noirs from 2012, comes from the Maggy Hawk estate’s Block 4 vineyard, measuring only 1.23 acres; it aged in French oak for 14 months, 43 percent new barrels. Seven months put a little weight and depth on this wine from when I tasted it in March. Initially, I was impressed with its spareness and elegance, as well as its dusty, loamy quality and its smoky, spicy cherry and plum fruit. Presently, I was taken by a beautiful transparent medium ruby color; by its notes of red and black currants and cherries permeated by hints of cloves and pomegranate; by its deep, dark, spicy rooty character and its foundation in the earth, because this Afleet is a pinot noir that feels as if it’s still drawing nourishment from the soil and bedrock of the vineyard. The texture is almost powdery graphite and talc-like elements, though energized by (ahem) fleet acidity. Alcohol content is 14.5 percent. Production was 156 cases. Drink now through 2022 to 2024. Exceptional. About $66.
Maggy Hawk “Stormin'” Pinot Noir 2012, Anderson Valley. This Stormin’ pinot noir saw the least new oak of this foursome, meaning 41 percent, aging for the standard 14 months; the grapes derived from the estate’s 3.47-acre Block 6 vineyard, adjacent to the Jolie Block 7. Despite its lovely transparent medium ruby-magenta hue, almost an expression of lustrous fragility, the wine seethes with elements of leather and loam, with wild and briery red and black currant and cherry scents and flavors, and an array of domestic and exotic spices ranging from cloves and sassafras to allspice and sandalwood. Mainly, though, this is a resolutely vibrant and structured wine that reveals remarkable purity and intensity of the grape and its feeling for a patch of land; a few minutes in the glass bring out more delicate touches of violets and lilac and hints of tobacco and bitter chocolate. 14.5 percent alcohol. Production was 223 cases. Drink now through 2019 to 2022. Excellent. About $66.

Do I have to defend the right or necessity to drink rosé wines all year around? Do I have to man the barricades, go to the wall, belly up to the bar to convince nay-sayers that a shimmering, scintillating, beautiful rosé wine — dry, vibrant, fruity, subtle: not sweet — is appropriate in every month and season? If I have to do that, then my case may be hopeless, as far as the die-hard opposition goes, but those who have followed this blog for a considerable period will require no further persuasion, gentle or not. A clean dry rosé may serve as a refreshing aperitif in December as well as June, and few wines go better with fried chicken, for example, or various terrines or the egg-based dishes that front the sideboard for big family breakfasts during the upcoming holidays. Thanksgiving dinner itself is a good test for rosé wines. No, friends, do not neglect the rosé genre, from which I offer 10 models today. The Weekend Wine Notes eschew detailed technical, historical and geographical data (which we all adore) for the sake of incisive reviews ripped, almost, from the very pages of my notebooks, though arranged in more shapely fashion. These eclectic wines were samples for review. Enjoy!
billa haut
Bila-Haut Rosé 2014, Pays d’Oc (from M. Chapoutier). NA% alc. Grenache and cinsault. Pale copper-salmon hue; orange zest, strawberries and raspberries; a pleasing heft of limestone minerality with cutting acidity; juicy and thirst-quenching, but dry as sun-baked stones; a finish delicately etched with chalk and dried thyme. Very Good+. About $14.
An R. Shack Selection, HB Wine Merchants, New York.
blair rose
Blair Vineyards Delfina’s Vineyard Rosé of Pinot Noir 2014, Arroyo Seco. 13.3% alc. 117 cases. Bright peach-copper color; ripe strawberries macerated with cloves, raspberries, hints of tomato skin and pomegranate; paradoxically and deftly fleshy and juicy while being quite crisp and dry and tightly tuned with limestone and flint. A superior rosé. Excellent. About $22.
Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare 2014, Central Coast. 13% alc. 35% grenache, 18% mourvedre, 16% grenache blanc, 12.5% roussanne, 8% carignane, 8% cinsault, 1.5% marsanne, 1% counoise. Very pale onion skin hue with a topaz glow; quite delicate, almost fragile; dried strawberries and raspberries with a touch of peach and hints of lavender and orange rind; gently dusty and minerally, like rain-water drying on a warm stone; a note of sage in the finish. Elegantly ravishing. Excellent. About $18.
bridge lane
Bridge Lane Rosé 2014, New York State (from Lieb Cellars). 11.9% alc. Cabernet franc 63%, merlot 21%, pinot blanc 8%, riesling 5%, gewurztraminer 3%. Ethereal pale peach-copper color; delicate notes of peach, strawberry and raspberry with a touch of watermelon and spiced pear; a hint of minerality subtle as a river-stone polished with talc; incisive acidity for liveliness; develops more floral elements as the moments pass: lavender, rose petal, violets, all beautifully knit. Excellent. About $18.
heintz rose
Charles Heintz Vineyards Rosé of Pinot Noir 2014, Sonoma Coast. 13.5% alc. 250 cases. Beautiful salmon scale-light copper hue; blood orange, tomato skin, strawberries and raspberries, hints of violets and lilac, a note of cloves and damp limestone; red fruit on the palate with an undertone of peach; quite dry and crisp, lithe on the palate, but with appealing red fruit character and an element of stone-fruit and chalk-flint minerality. A gorgeous rosé. Excellent. About $19.
cornerstone corallina
Cornerstone Stepping Stone Corallina Rosé 2014, Napa Valley. 13.1% alc. 100% syrah. Very pretty pink coral color; strawberries and raspberries, hint of pomegranate and a fascinating note of spiced tea and apple peel compote; a few minutes in the glass bring in touches of tomato aspic and red currants; full-bodied for a rose, with a texture that would be almost lush save for the bristling acidity that keeps the whole package energized. Drink through 2016. Excellent. About $18.
Crossbarn Rosé of Pinot Noir 2014, Sonoma Coast (from Paul Hobbs). 12.5% alc. Pale copper-salmon color; intriguing musky-spicy note, crossbarn roselike rose hips, camellias, pomegranate, cloves and sandalwood macerated together; strawberries and orange rind; hints of pink grapefruit and peach; lively and crisp, with a chalk and flint edge to the supple texture; gains a fleshy and florid character on the finish. Very Good+. About $18
loomis air
Loomis Family “Air” Rosé Wine 2013, Napa Valley. 12% alc. 41% grenache 36% mourvedre 13% counoise 10% syrah. 125 cases. Light copper-salmon hue; dried strawberries and raspberries, notes of lavender and red cherry; hints of watermelon and cloves; incisive acidity and limestone minerality bolster juicy red fruit flavors and an elegant and supple texture that retains a crisp chiseled character; a fillip of grapefruit rind and lemongrass provide interest on the finish. Drink through 2016. Excellent. About $18.
Santa Cristina Cipresseto Rosato 2014, Toscano IGT. 11% alc. Sangiovese, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, syrah. (An Antinori brand since 1946.) Light pink-peach color; delicately floral and spicy, notes of raspberries and red currants and a hint of dried thyme and heather; clean acidity and limestone minerality offer gentle ballast for tasty but spare red fruit flavors. Very Good+. About $14.
stinson rose
Stinson Vineyards Rosé 2014, Monticello, Va. 13% alc. 100% mouvèdre. 175 cases. Classic onion skin hue with a tinge of darker copper; pink grapefruit, rose petals, cloves; raspberries and strawberries delicately strung on a line of limestone minerality and bright acidity; from mid-palate back notes of cranberry, pomegranate and grapefruit rind leading to a tart finish; lovely balance and integrity. Excellent. About $19.

While no one would try to assign a date to when vineyards were first planted in Tuscany or Burgundy, Rheinhessen or Bordeaux, it’s a pretty safe assertion that grape-growing in the Willamette Valley began in 1966, when David Lett came from California to Oregon and planted pinot noir vines in the Willamette Valley, specifically in the Red Hills of Dundee. Lett was followed two years later by Dick Erath, who also planted pinor noir in the Red Hills. (Lett had planted pinot noir vines further south, near Corvallis, in 1965, and transplanted them the next year.) Both of the pioneering wineries they launched — Eyrie Vineyard and Erath Vineyards (originally Knudsen-Erath) — thrive today, as well as about 400 more. Willamette Valley, lying between the Oregon Coast Range to the west and the Cascade Mountains to the east, stretches from just north of Portland to south of Eugene and is influenced by Pacific winds that flow through gaps of the coastal mountain ranges. Few of the wineries, mostly family-owned, produce more than 20,000 cases a year, with many releasing numbers well below that, facts that contribute to the general feeling in the region that they’re more authentic and artisanal and less greedy than their counterparts in California. The primary red grape, by far, is pinot noir. Chardonnay was widely planted in the 1960s and ’70s, usually in the wrong sites, and was replaced by pinot gris and riesling, though chardonnay is making something of a comeback, more carefully sited.

In addition to the broad Willamette Valley AVA (American Viticultural Area), approved by the federal government in 1983, the region encompasses six smaller and more geologically and geographically focused AVAs: Yamhill-Carlton (approved in 2005), Ribbon Ridge (2005), McMinnville (2005), Dundee Hills (2005), Chehalem Mountains (2006) and Eola-Amity Hills (2006), all north of Salem. Of the nine wines considered in this post, seven carry Willamette Valley designations and two more specific AVAs. All display, to greater or lesser degree, an element that to me is a constant and essential feature of Willamette Valley pinot noirs, and that is a vein of deeply rich brambly loaminess that ties the wines to the earth whence they came.

I received these wines as review samples in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of David Lett’s first planting of pinot noir vines, a bold and visionary act that launched an industry.
The grapes for the Adelsheim Elizabeth’s Reserve Pinot Noir 2012, Willamette Valley, were drawn 70 percent from eight Printestate vineyards, with the remaining 30 percent coming from selected vineyards throughout the Willamette Valley. The wine aged 10 months in French oak barrels, 31 percent new. The color is medium ruby with a magenta-mulberry tinge. At first, the impression is of something delicate and ethereal, tissues of nuances; as moments pass, however, the wine takes on weight and character, deepening and broadening its appeal with elements of spiced and macerated black and red cherries and currants and notes of smoke and loam, cloves and sandalwood and some exotic rooty tea. This sense of dimension and detail is shot through with vibrant and fairly tart acidity that keeps the wine lively and alluring, while moderately dense graphite-laced tannins contribute to overall structure. …. percent alcohol. Production was 2,261 cases. Drink now through 2019 to 2022. The winery produced its first vintage in 1978. Winemaker is Dave Paige. Excellent. About $60.
The Broadley Vineyards Pinot Noir 2013, Willamette Valley offers a radiant transparent medium ruby hue and shape- broadley-vineyardsshifting scents of underbrush and loam, cranberries and raspberries and hints of black tea, sassafras and cloves. The wine aged nine or 10 months in neutral French oak barrels, meaning that the barrels had been used during enough wine-making cycles that the wood influence is not just minimal but subliminal, a sculpting rather than a dominating influence. This is a lean and lithe (and tasty) pinot noir in which acidity cuts a swathe on the palate and mineral elements build through the finish. 13.5 percent alcohol. Production was 3,000 cases. I think that this is a terrific pinot noir, and the price makes it irresistible for drinking through 2018 to 2020. Excellent. About $20, so Buy It by the Case.
The winery was founded in 1982 by Craig and Claudia Broadley. Winemaker is their son, Morgan Broadley.
The Chehalem Ridgecrest Vineyards Reserve Pinot Noir 2012, Ribbon Ridge, brings out the exuberant and forceful aspect of chehalemthe grape. The wine aged 11 months in French oak barrels, 39 percent new, 39 percent 1-year-old and the rest, uh, older, I guess. The color is dark ruby-mulberry with a lighter magenta rim; this is all loam-infused black and red cherries permeated by cloves and black pepper, touches of sandalwood and lavender and a potent edge of graphite. The wine is very dry, intensely smoky, woodsy and mossy, with a super satiny, supple texture that doesn’t conceal a thoughtful interpretation of pinot noir’s robust and powerful side. 14 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2019 or 2020. Production was 440 cases. First vintage was 1990. Winemaker is Wynne Peterson-Nedry. Excellent. About $50.
The Cooper Mountain Pinot Noir 2012, Willamette Valley, made from organic and biodynamic grapes, displays a brilliant deep ruby hue shifting to mulberry-purple. The wine aged in French oak, 32 percent new barrels for an unspecified amount of time. It’s a very — perhaps even excessively — dark, rooty, loamy and spicy pinot noir that sacrifices nuance and finesse for earthy power, feeling a bit too syrah-like for its own good. A year or two of aging may bring this wine to rights. Production was 2,800 cases. Winemaker was Gilles de Domingo. The winery’s first vintage was 1987. Very Good. About $28.
The Lange Estate Winery & Vineyards Reserve Pinot Noir 2012, Willamette Valley, spent 11 months in neutral oak lange labelbarrels, so the focus is on the grape’s purity and intensity, which this wine possesses in spades. The color is dark ruby shading to transparent magenta at the rim; notes of cloves, sandalwood and sassafras permeate elements of black cherries and plums that feel slightly macerated and roasted, while a few moments in the glass bring in hints of loam, mocha, tobacco and tea leaf. This is one of those pinot noirs that so dexterously melds delicacy, elegance and power — luxury married to spareness — that you wish it would take up residence in your mouth forever, though you have to spit it out or swallow eventually. Paradoxically, despite this sensual appeal, the wine is quite dry, fairly bristling with touches of rooty, mossy underbrush and bright acidity. 13.7 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2019 to 2022. Winemaker was Jesse Lange. The winery’s first vintage was 1987. Excellent. About $35.

Founded in 1974, Ponzi Vineyards is one of Willamette Valley’s stalwart pioneers. Grapes for the Ponzi Pinot Noir 2012, Willamette Valley, were drawn from sustainably farmed estate vineyards as well as a number of other sustainable vineyards in the region. The wine aged 11 months in French oak, 35 percent new barrels. Winemaker is Luisa Ponzi. The color is dark ruby with a mulberry-magenta cast; the first impression is of an exotic amalgam of cloves, sandalwood and sassafrass, pomegranate and rhubarb, all supporting high, bright scents of red and black fruit etched with slightly dusty graphite. The wine is fairly substantial on the palate, delivering a sleek, satiny texture that’s almost plush, while quite engaging and animated by clean acidity; a few moments in the glass bring in notes of briers, brambles and underbrush, leading to a finish pretty dense with roots and leather, though the wine is never less than deft and dexterous, but more untamed than elegant. The alcohol content is 13.5 percent. Production was 8,000 cases. Drink now through 2019 to 2022. Excellent. About $40.
rex hill
Gratifying largess and dimension characterize the Rex Hill Pinot Noir 2012, Willamette Valley, though there’s also pinpoint focus on detail that feels chiseled in stone. The color is a beguiling transparent medium to light ruby — nothing extracted here — while the wine practically smolders in the glass in embers of lavender, loam, sandalwood and spiced and macerated red and black cherries and plums; it’s all quite fleshy and meaty, almost feral in its primal dynamic, its piercing elements of briers and brambles and graphite-tinged tannins, yet in that lovely equilibrium of the best pinot noirs, it displays a balancing sense of delicacy and filigree, all this in a wine that aged 14 months in French oak, 28 percent new barrels. 14 percent alcohol. Production was 9,518 cases, so there’s plenty to go around. Drink now through 2019 to 2022. Rex Hill’s first release was from the 1983 vintage. Winemaker is Michael Davies. Excellent. About $35.
Let’s say upfront that the Saint Innocent Freedom Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir 2012, Willamette Valley, is a great pinot innocentnoir wine that delivers all the power and elegance, the earthiness and airiness that we expect from Willamette Valley in an excellent year. The color is medium transparent ruby; first come the loam and underbrush, deeply rooted, then more frangible layers of spiced and macerated black and red cherries and currants imbued with notes of moss, lavender and graphite. This is a lovely, lively, lithe and highly structural expression of a grape and vineyard that offers something essentially piney and and briery, as well as a fairly tannic element burnished with dusty graphite. It’s neither dense nor chewy, however, as the presence of tannins often implies, being, instead, dynamic and light on its feet. 14.5 percent alcohol. Production was 948 cases. Drink now through 2020 to 2022. A delightfully detailed wine worthy of meditation. Winemaker was Mark Vlossak. Exceptional. About $42.
When I read that a pinor noir wine underwent 16 months aging — as it happens in 40 percent new French oak — my heart sinks and the words “uh-oh” form in the thought-cloud above my head. Readers, that’s a lot of wood. However, the Sokol Blosser Pinot Noir 2012, Dundee Hills, managed to absorb that oak influence and emerge superbly sleek, satiny and supple. The color is a radiant, transparent light ruby hue; notes of cloves, sassafras and rhubarb are woven with elements of red cherries and raspberries, briers, moss and loam, the latter earthy qualities burgeoning in nose and mouth as the minutes pass. Despite the sleek and suave texture, this is a wine that offers a rigorously structured character and a demanding finish that seem to require some time to become more balanced and integrated, so try from the end of 2016 or into 2017 through 2021 through ’23. 14.5 percent alcohol. Production was 800 cases. Excellent potential. About $38.
The Sokol Blosser family planted five acres of grapes in 1971 and produced its first wine in 1977. The second generation operates the winery today, with Alex Sokol Blosser as winemaker.

I appreciated the style of this pinor noir wine from Australia’s Adelaide Hills appellation. In contrast to pinot noirs from various wakefield pinotregions of California and Oregon, which can be immodestly plush, luxuriously spicy and thoroughly oaked to a fare-thee-well — no, not every one all the time — the Wakefield Pinot Noir 2014 offers a spare, lean and lithe interpretation of the grape that satisfies the minimalist in me. The color is medium ruby; initially aromas of mint, tobacco and slightly resinous rosemary dominate the bouquet, followed by delicately spiced and macerated black and red currants and cherries that open to hints of cranberry and pomegranate. The wine aged in one-and two-year-old French hogshead barrels, a size generally (or sort of) agreed upon to equal about 63 U.S. gallons, slightly larger than the standard 59-gallon barrique in Bordeaux. (That’s your Fact of the Day.) The briery-brambly-underbrush elements come up quickly, and acid plows a furrow on the palate, all making for a pinot noir of essential liveliness and gradually burgeoning earthy dimension that doesn’t neglect pert currant and cranberry flavors. The texture is satiny and supple without being opulent or blatant, and the finish concludes on a tart, chiseled, minerally note. 14.4 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2016 into 2017. very Good+. About $17, representing True Value.

Imported by AW Direct, Novato, Calif. A sample for review.

Looking for a pinot noir that takes an approach more intense and brooding than elegant and elusive? While I am extremely fond of the pncc13 front proofelegant and elusive manner, I’ll offer a candidate for the intense and brooding position in the CrossBarn by Paul Hobbs Pinot Noir 2013, Sonoma Coast. Hobbs is well-known as a producer of pretty intense wines across the range for his eponymous label. CrossBarn is a distinct label with separate vineyard sources and a different winemaker — Greg Urmini — and is no slouch in the intensity category either. The CrossBarn Pinot Noir 2013, Sonoma Coast — there’s a cousin pinot noir from Anderson Valley — aged 10 months in French oak, only 10 percent new barrels. The color is a beautiful deep ruby-mulberry hue, entrancing as a glass of red wine in a Dutch still-life painting. Aromas of spiced and macerated black and red currants and plums are infused with notes of cloves and sassafras, pomegranate and cranberry, and after a few minutes elements of loam, oolong tea and new leather rise like a dark tide. Not surprisingly, this pinot noir is firm and dense on the palate, suoer-satiny and supple in texture and riven by incisive acidity and an underbrush quality; tannins feel etched by dusty graphite under the spare blandishment of tasty though subdued black cherry, currant and plum flavors. All in all, perfectly balanced and integrated for the earthy, thoughtful style. 14.1 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2018 or ’19. Excellent. About $35.

A sample for review.

You know what they say about the miracle of turning water into wine? Well, Ron Rubin turned water into tea and tea into wine. Rubin, pictured below, ron-rubin-240x300went to work for his family’s wholesale wine and liquor business in Illinois in 1972, putting in 22 years managing distribution to 48 counties. In 1990, he started New Age Beverages, a company that was the master licensee for Clearly Canadian Sparkling Water in a 10-state area of the Southeast. Four years later, he sold the wholesale concern and bought The Republic of Tea, a young company based in Novato, Calif. The rest, as they say, is history, because you can find those distinctive cans of herbal, floral, black and green teas all across America — in tea bags and loose — to the tune of more than 200 products. Rubin studied viticulture and enology at UC Davis and in 2011 purchased the River Road Family Vineyards and Winery, in the Green Valley appellation of Russian River Valley. (In May, Rubin passed the reins of the company to his son Todd B. Rubin, now president of The Republic of Tea; Ron Rubin remains as executive chairman and Minister of Tea.) Hence, the two wines under review today. Winemaker for The Rubin Family of Wines is Joe Freeman. I’m sorry to say that what occurs today, as we pick up this series after quite a hiatus, is what often — too often — happens in tasting chardonnay and pinot noir wines from the same producer: I like, even dote upon, the pinot noir and dislike the chardonnay. That’s the case here. These wines were samples for review.
The Ron Rubin Pinot Noir 2013, Russian River Valley, went through a gentle oak regimen of eight months in small French barriques, only Rubin_RRV_Pinot_FACE15 percent of which were new barrels. The wine is composed of grapes from estate vineyards plus grapes from five other vineyards in Russian River Valley. The color is a lovely transparent medium ruby-cranberry hue; scents of red currants and black cherries are permeated by gradually unfolding notes of cranberries and pomegranate, sassafras and sandalwood, briers and brambles and loam, all encompassed in an aura that feels deeply spiced and macerated yet fleet-footed, delicate and elegant. Super-satiny on the palate, this pinot noir displays surprising weight and texture for the finely-wrought nature of its bouquet; in fact, it’s saved from being sumptuous by a clean line of bright acidity and a fair amount of dusty tannic rigor, giving the wine a stones-and-bones structure upon which to drape delicious black cherry and plum flavors. The whole enterprise gains shading and darkness after some time in the glass, say, 30 minutes, lending an air of strangely graceful and somewhat enigmatic earthiness. 13.7 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2018 to 2020 with a roasted chicken, grilled lamb or veal chops. Excellent. About $25, a Remarkable Price for the quality, the depth and dimension.
I’m sorry that I cannot be as enthusiastic about the Ron Rubin Chardonnay 2013, Russian River Valley, as I am about its pinot noir Rubin_RRV_Chard_FACEstablemate. Like its cousin, this chardonnay was produced from estate vineyards and a selection of other vineyards in the Russian River appellation. It underwent 66 percent barrel-fermentation, in 15 percent new French oak barrels, and also saw complete malolactic or secondary fermentation; the other 34 percent was fermented in stainless steel tanks. Somehow that combination did not make a balanced or integrated chardonnay. The color is pale gold; aromas of roasted lemon and spiced pear, with hints of mango, clove and quince and high notes of lime peel, grapefruit and limestone, culminate in touches of jasmine and camellia; eminently attractive, yes, and so far so good, but a dried baking spice/spiced tea quality burgeons in the mouth and brings an element of stridency to a very dry, dense texture that feels hollowed out at mid-palate and leads to a grapefruit pith finish. 13.7 percent alcohol. Perhaps this imbalance will resolve itself in a year or two, but I wouldn’t take the risk, even at the price of $20.

Valençay, a small region of the Loire Valley, received AOC status in 2003. Located on the banks of the Cher river, a tributary of the Loire, and hanging, as it were, from the southeast edge of the large Touraine appellation, Valençay is unusual for two features. It was the first AOC in France designated for two products, wine and cheese — the latter a distinctive goat’s-milk cheese dusted with charcoal and produced in the form of a small truncated pyramid. And, second, the grapes allowed to be grown and blended seem unique. An example of the second element is our Wine of the Day, No. 55, the Jean-François Roy Valençay Rosé 2014, a blend of 60 percent pinot noir, 30 percent gamay and 10 percent malbec, or côt as the grape is known in the Loire Valley, where cabernet franc is the dominant red grape. Nowhere else in France would you see such a blend, at least not one that was permitted an AOC label. The Burgundian purists are shuddering — at least those who don’t surreptitiously add a few drops of Côtes du Rhône to their pinot noir to bolster color and body. Anyway, the color of the Jean-François Roy Valençay Rosé 2014 is a very pale copper-salmon hue; pull out the cork and be greeted by a burst of orange zest and orange blossom, with hints of strawberries and raspberries and touches of pomegranate, dried red currants and damp stones. This is a subtle and charming rosé, more spare than ripe in its feeling of slightly dried red fruit flavors, and taut with bright acidity and limestone minerality, yet lovely too its modestly lush texture. 12 percent alcohol. Serve as an aperitif or with picnic fare. Very Good+. About $16, a local purchase.

A Steven Berardi Selection for Martinicus Wines, Beverly Hills, Fla.

A sort of milestone, I suppose, the 50th post in a series, and on this momentous occasion I offer for your delectation and edification the Amici Cellars Pinot Noir 2013, from Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley AVA, a trove of fine pinot noir and chardonnay if they’re not messed about with excessively in the winery. This one was not. Winemaker for these friends is Joel Aiken, who spend almost 30 years as winemaker for Beaulieu Vineyards and now has his own brand as well as making the wines for Amici. The Amici Pinot Noir 2013 has the deft touch of a veteran all over it. The wine, which is “cellared” rather than “produced,” derives from a number of vineyards in Russian River Valley — in other words, very simply put, it’s not an estate wine — and aged 12 months in French oak, 40 percent new barrels. The color is medium ruby shading to a transparent magenta rim; an enticing bouquet of black and red cherries and raspberries is suffused with subtle notes of cloves and sandalwood, blueberries and rhubarb and a tantalizing hint of cocoa powder. This pinot noir is super satiny and supple on the palate, mixing ripe, spicy and moderately juicy black and red berry flavors with undertones of loam, briers and brambles and a touch of heather. While moving through the mouth with sensual allure, this pinot noir is neither opulent or obvious, letting its energy — propelled by brisk acidity and slightly dusty tannins — dictate a more delicate, elegant and nuanced approach. 14.2 percent alcohol. Production was 1,650 cases. Drink now through 2018 to 2020 with a roasted chicken, seared magret of duck or a veal chop grilled with rosemary. Excellent. About $35.

A sample for review.

Way back on July 11, as Wine of the Day, No. 29, the Foursight Wines Charles Vineyard Pinot Noir 2012, Anderson Valley, Mendocino County, was the topic of concern. Today, I want to look at a unique product issuing from the same winery — where Joe Webb is winemaker — the Foursight Charles Vineyard Unoaked Pinot Noir 2013, Anderson Valley, a red wine made entirely in stainless steel tanks; not a smidgeon of oak affects the impression of the grape’s purity and intensity. The color, a deep ruby-purple shading to magenta at the rim, will remind My Readers of Beaujolais-Villages or even a cru like Fleurie of Julienas, and indeed this wine offers some of the complicated fresh/earthy/funky/fruity character of the best examples of those genres. The ripeness and generosity of the ripe red and black currants and red and black cherries are unassailable, though that fruity aspect is permeated by notes of leather and loam, oolong tea and some dark rooty elixir; a few moments in the glass bring in tantalizing hints of raspberry (a little raspy), rose hips, dried fruit and potpourri. Scintillating acidity makes for a lively drink, while a background of graphite minerality and dusty yet silky tannins, from a portion of whole clusters, provides foundation and framing for structure. A lovely wine with a serious edge, not profound but with lots of appealing personality. 14.1 percent alcohol. Now through 2016 or ’17. Production was 125 cases. Excellent. About $25 and Worth a Search.

A sample for review.

The primary sparkling wines that issue from Schramsberg Vineyards are vintage-dated, I’ve just been tasting the releases from 2012. The venerable winery, founded in 1965, also offers a non-vintage sparkler called Mirabelle, a product that has steadily improved — and increased in price — over the years. The current version of the Scramsberg Mirabelle Brut is a blend of 83 percent 2011 and 17 percent reserve wines held back from previous years. The designation is California, because grapes are drawn from these counties: Sonoma, Monterey, Mendocino, Santa Barbara and Marin. It’s a combination of 52 percent chardonnay and 48 percent pinot noir. The color is medium straw-yellow, enlivened by a potent upward stream of finely honed bubbles; aromas of green apples and lime peel open to notes of quince and ginger, with hints of lightly buttered cinnamon toast and limestone; the overall effect is savory and saline, like heather, marsh grass and seashells. Squinching acidity contributes crispness and animation to this sparkling wine, which delivers flavors of roasted lemon, toasted hazelnuts and a touch of toffee; it’s quite dry and seems not to attempt the ethereal and elegant realms that Schramsberg’s vintage sparklers do; instead, this is about substance, moment and momentum on the palate, with a lively and dense character. Alcohol content is 12.6 percent. Drink with a variety of flavorful appetizers, especially revolving around grilled shrimp, smoked salmon and crab. Excellent. About $27.

A sample for review.

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