Located in the heart of downtown Healdsburg is a casual, fun, if not a bit hipster, tasting room: Banshee Wines. It’s basically a Sonoma Valley startup by three friends from various sectors of the wine industry. Well, their collective knowledge has cultivated some of the most notable new wines — new wines with an Old World refinement. Banshee Wines Marine Layer Pinot Noir displays such maturity, speaking exclusively of the vineyards’ time and place in Sonoma, that you’d think the winemaker had decades of traditional training.
Please Note: Due to a contract-related conflict, a full review of Banshee Wines will come at a later date on another site — exact link will be listed when available. Cheers!
About the Wine: Banshee Wines Marine Layer is made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes harvested from 5 different vineyards along the Sonoma Coast (Coastlands, Rice-Spivak, Jack Hill, Hellenthal and Thorn Ridge Vineyards). The grapes from each vineyard were hand picked and sorted. Primary native yeast fermentation took place in small, open-top vats. The juice was then gently pressed and completed natural malolactic fermentation. The wine spent 15 months in French oak barrels (20% new).
Flavor Profile: Love the smell of this wine. Love the absolute seaside funk I get even as I’m just pouring the wine from bottle to glass. When I close my eyes and take a whiff, I can picture myself standing atop a cliff on the edge of the ocean on a day so dense with fog, I can only hear the waves crash. The earth is damp, seaweed has rolled up, and there’s some sweetness to the saltiness that hangs in the air.
Swirl and sniff again. The fog clears up, the sun shines down, and there are definitely some fruit elements in this wine: strawberries or cranberries (maybe even pomegranate) — specifically macerated strawberries or cranberries.
The palate is a calming combination of all those elements. Primary flavors include those berries, but there’s a solid dose of acidity that keeps them fresh and lively. There’s an herbaceous quality to the wine as well — dark leafy greens come around about mid-palate. But (and I do really mean this), it’s that marine layer that reigns from start to finish — that essence of fresh fog, that sandy or beachy minerality, that almost humid dew. It keeps the tasting altogether intriguing but refreshing.
The finish is… Can I say that there is no finish? There is no finish (there I said it). It’s the same sensation as staring into the vast sea — you can see no end, so you reach again (or sip again). The joy is in the experience.
Food Pairing: I don’t want to sound obvious or cliché, but I paired my bottle of Banshee Wines Marine Layer Pinot Noir with homemade cioppino. Was it the perfect pairing? I’d say so. While the fresh herbs in the dish pulled out some of that herbaceousness hidden in the mid-palate of the wine, I feel like the actual seafood in the stew counteracted with the maritime elements in the Pinot Noir and thus let those fruit flavors shine. This gave the food and wine pairing experience a much-needed suppleness in that fruit gave both body and a new life to the palate.
Now I must add that while I was cooking I did taste the wine with a piece of raw calamari. So, if you are looking to enhance those marine-esque flavors that is the way to do it. This wine would pair beautifully with a platter of raw sashimi.
More Info: I purchased Banshee Wines Marine Layer Pinot Noir during my visit to the tasting room (Price: $50).
Because I cannot yet post a full review of Banshee Wines, please do visit the Banshee Wines website for more information about their wines and how to plan your visit.
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