Tom and Rebecca Birdsall, devotees of Burgundian pinot noir and chardonnay, launched Black Kite cellars in 2003, on land that Rebecca’s parents, Donald and Maureen Green, had purchased in 1995. This land comprised 40 remote acres in Mendocino Country’s Anderson Valley, overlooking the Navarro River. The estate vineyard is Kite’s Rest, with three blocks receiving separate treatment and bottling: Redwoods Edge, Stony Terrace and River Turn, selected by differences in elevation and exposure. The Birdsalls also purchase pinot noir and chardonnay grapes from vineyards to the south, Gap’s Crown in Sonoma Coast, and Sierra Mar and Soberanes in Santa Lucia Highlands. The rows of vines they purchase are tended to their specifications. Home wines receive black labels; “away” wines get blue labels. Winemaker for Black Kite Cellars is Jeff Gaffner, who has his own celebrated winery. Saxon Brown. I have been a fan of these wines since I first encountered them in the 2007 vintage. Seldom do I find California pinot noirs that so exquisitely balance the ethereal and the elegant with power and might. In the next day or so, I’ll post similar reviews for the 2016s.

These wines were samples for review.

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Black Kite Sierra Mar Vineyard Pinot Noir 2015, Santa Lucia Highlands. 14.3% alc. 91 cases. 12 months French oak, 50% new barrels. Totally transparent medium ruby color shading to an ethereal rim; exotic, seductive; black and red cherries and plums, fleshy and meaty; a spicy compote but structured with a ferrous and sanguinary edge; iodine, graphite and forest floor; acidity that plows a furrow; cranberry and sassafras, touches of cumin and allspice; a dry finish of briers and brambles. Graceful, expressive, eloquent, leaning toward profound. 2022 to ’27, if stored properly. Exceptional. About $50.

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Black Kite Soberanes Vineyard Pinot Noir 2015, Santa Lucia Highlands. 14.3% alc. 219 cases. 12 months French oak, 50% new barrels. Limpid medium to light ruby-magenta hue; rhubarb, sassafras and beetroot; blueberry, black cherry and raspberry; hints of loam and graphite, and, on the palate, a touch of slightly dusty tannins; depths of baking spices and foresty-meadowy elements — savory, feral and floral; a pinot noir that’s lovely and multi-dimensional in every sense. Through 2021 to ’24. Excellent. About $50.

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Black Kite Gap’s Crown Vineyard Pinot Noir 2015, Sonoma Coast. 14.2% alc. 221 cases. 11 months French oak, 50% new barrels. Fairly dark ruby color shading to a transparent mulberry rim; a marinated macedoine of black cherries and raspberries, spicy and minerally; subdued, reticent, with touches of leather and loam; super sleek with a slightly roughened texture as if lightly sandpapered; very gradually unfurls more spice and a floral element. Now through 2022 to ’25. Very Good+. About $60.

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Black Kite Kite’s Rest Pinot Noir 2015, Anderson Valley. 14.7% alc. 1,362 cases. 10 months French oak, 1/3 new barrels. Medium transparent ruby with a rim like an infinity pool, fading into the ether; opens slowly and gathers intensity; black and red currants and cherries, talc and lavender, notes of sandalwood, sassafras and rhubarb; super satiny texture slightly roughed by the delicate sandpaper of tannin and bright acidity; a long fathomless finish. Through 2022 to ’24. Excellent. About $50.

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Black Kite River Turn Pinot Noir 2015, Anderson Valley. 14.9% alc. 198 cases. 16 months French oak, 2/3s new barrels. Transparent medium ruby-magenta; succulent and generous, expressive and expansive; deep, dark and exotic; black cherry, cranberry and pomegranate; rose petals and violets, sassafras and rhubarb; platonic satiny texture with real heft on the palate; a backbone of vibrant acidity and sleek, dusty tannin. Through 2021 to ’24. Excellent. About $60.

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Black Kite Stony Terrace Pinot Noir 2015, Anderson Valley. 14.3% alc. 195 cases. 16 months French oak, 2/3s new barrels. Transparent medium ruby-magenta hue; black cherry and currant compote, infused with rhubarb and cranberry and the whole exotic spice box — sandalwood, cloves , cumin; hints of new leather and potpourri; quite dry but seductively satiny, ethereal but displaying potent graphite minerality; finish brings in notes of black raspberry, raspberry leaf and smoke. Through 2021 to ’23. Excellent. About $60.

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Black Kite Redwood’s Edge Pinot Noir 2015, Anderson Valley. 14.2% alc. 194 cases. 16 months French oak, 2/3s new barrels. Medium transparent ruby color; concentrated, tight and structured; intense notes of black and red cherries and currants; forest floor, briers and brambles, acidity that cuts a swath on the palate; spare and lithe; slowly gather an intense floral perfume. Through 2021 to ’23. Very Good+. About $60.

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