As I mentioned in my review of the Emeritus Vineyards 2015 Hallberg Ranch Pinot Noir, this is my first time tasting from this winery. One of the things that intrigued me about Emeritus Vineyards is their story surrounding dry farming. According to the winery, dry farming Pinot Noir is common in Burgundy, but rare in California. But because of the Goldridge soils found in Emeritus’s Hallberg Ranch vineyard, located in the Green Valley AVA of Sonoma County, owner and vintner Brice Cutrer Jones decided to dry farm his vineyards since he purchased the land in 2007, planting the original apple orchard to grape vines.
The Goldridge soil with the underlying clay loam forces the vines to dig deep (nearly 20 feet) into the soil for water. This is something you may have read about in conjunction with the heartier Bordeaux varieites (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, even Petit Verdot and Malbec), but is — at least to me — a funky concept for the delicate Pinot Noir grape. According to Jones, this actually gives his Pinot Noir more complexity, a noteworthy minerality, and also allows the grapes to develop fully matured flavors at a lower Brix. Jones’s partner, Kirk Lokka notes, “Most growers pick at higher sugar levels because modern irrigation practices dilute the grapes with an excess of water. This is not the case with dry farming.”
The Pinot Hill Vineyard, located in Sebastopol, is also dry-farmed. And, again according to the winery, once Jones and Lokka purchased this property and instigated their dry farming methods on this Pinot-centric plot of land, Emeritus not has the largest dry-farmed estate in Sonoma County “and possibly California.” There are 107.76 acres planted on Hallberg Ranch, 30.68 acres planted on Pinot Hill.
Ok, that was a lot of talk about soil and stuff. But what does that all taste like in the glass?
About the Wine: The Emeritus Vineyards 2015 Pinot Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir is made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes harvested from Pinot Hill Vineyard, located in the Sebastopol Hills area of the Sonoma Coast AVA in California. Here the grapes are grown in Goldridge sandy loam soil, underlain with Los Osos clay.
The wine aged in 100% French oak barrels (35% new) for 10 months.
Flavor Profile: Open the bottle of the Emeritus Vineyards 2015 Pinot Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir and be welcomed with scents of a chilly oak cellar, damp forest floor, plums, blackberries, prunes, and dates. This Pinot Noir is an edgy maroon-rouge on the pour, settling into the glass with just the same hue in the center, fading out to a rouge-pink perimeter.
Initial aromas are of cranberry, cherry, pomegranate, and pink rose petal florals. Swirl and release more perfume mixed with just ripe red berry fruits—they’re tiny, they’re tight, young, with delicately maturing flavors.
The palate of the Emeritus Vineyards 2015 Pinot Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir is soft, smooth, with a thin backbone of texture and an amplifying acidity that leaves a tingling tartness on the tongue. Yet the wine maintains an overall softness through and through. Dominant flavors are of black cherry, a hint of cola, hint of anise, basil, with those perfumey notes just lingering in the background. Swirl the wine around in the mouth, hold it in the center of the tongue, swish, hold, inhale, exhale, and you’ll find the minerality—a cliffside minerality reminiscent of the rocks far enough off and away from the beach, the sand, the water, that they are just kissed with the fog of elevation.
Food Pairing: I paired the Emeritus Vineyards 2015 Pinot Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir with a mushroom, garlic, truffle pizza seasoned with fresh basil and tarragon. I loved the way those fresh herbs amplified the savory notes in the wine. Meanwhile the cheese and oils highlighted that subtle texture, making it more prominent (near drying) on the tongue, adding another dimension. And the funky combination of truffle and mushrooms actually elevated the floral notes that, upon tasting the wine on its own, took more of a background role. Lovely pairing.
More Info: I received the Emeritus Vineyards 2015 Pinot Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir as a sample for review. (Cheers Miriam!) Price: $67. For more information about Emeritus Vineyards, their farming practices, wines, and to purchase wine directly, please visit the Emeritus Vineyards website.
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