During my latest tour of Sonoma County wine country, I got a sneak peek at the new winery and tasting room for Flanagan Wines. They’re a boutique business that is certainly booming at the moment. After tasting a full line-up of their current releases, I can say from experience that this success is absolutely due to the fact that each bottle contains a specific vineyard’s story.
Once Upon A Time, there was a Pinot Noir from Sonoma Stage Vineyard…
About the Wine: The Sonoma Stage Vineyard is probably one of the last vineyards in Sonoma as you go east towards Napa. It’s location, just south of the Highway 116 (the main highway that separates the two major wine regions), is on a slope positioned in such a way that it gets the cool winds from both the San Pablo Bay and the Petaluma Gap (which sucks in the cool air from the San Francisco Bay). Thus, Sonoma Stage Vineyard is also one of the coolest vineyards in the area.
The other thing to note is that the vineyard is, as I said, on a slope where the soil is quite austere. These two conditions allow for very little water absorption (when it actually rains in the increasingly sunny California) and causes the grapes to struggle to survive. These terroir conditions combined with the chilly microclimate results in buds that are small, dense, and their juices, concentrated.
So why plant Pinot Noir, one of the pickiest and most delicate of the grape varieties on a struggling plot of land? Because when the conditions are just so that the vines do prosper, when there’s a vineyard owner who knows how to keep the land fertile, when a winemaker can highlight this complexity in his final product — then it is worth every struggle those vines went through.
The 2014 vintage is Flanagan Wines first vintage from the Sonoma Stage Vineyard. The harvested grapes were whole cluster fermented in open top tanks for 11 days. The wine was then aged in oak (57% new, Francois Freres, Boutes, and Rousseau barrels) for 12 months, then bottled just before release.
Flavor Profile: Now, I spent some time on the lay of the land because it really does affect the flavor profile of the wine. This is not your typical Pinot Noir by any stretch. I’ve tasted Pinots of this style before, but mostly from the Santa Cruz area where cold and craggy mountain seems to be the norm. Well, here’s a Sonoma County player bringing in the big and the bold — but with enough refinement and restraint to still pay proper homage to the NorCal wine region.
The initial aroma of Flanagan Wines Sonoma Stage Vineyard Pinot Noir is a bit deeper than a stereotypical PN with scents of dark fruits like black cherries, plums, maybe even currents. Swirl and sniff again and you’ll get subtle dried flower notes, so straight-away you get a sense of earthiness.
The palate starts with pleasantly light aromatics, almost as if you’re still smelling the wine. But let the wine linger a bit longer and suddenly there’s a build up — a rising action if you will — that culminates in a burst of full-on fruit flavors, namely those sensed on the nose. Then the falling action, again, a seamless transition from the climax to the finish, which brings the tannins more forward along with some savory elements like dried herbs and maybe even smoke.
Of course you can’t read a good story — or drink a good wine — without being affected by it somehow. Here, I urge you to pay attention to the aftertaste. What do you get? Me, I got the subtlest scent of toasted nuts (I’m thinking pecans here because they, too, are dry, savory, and somewhat herbaceous yet smokey). But you have to really be paying attention.
Food Pairing: To say this is a versatile wine would be a cliché — and I don’t want to tell you to pair this with just anything because this wine is more special than that. It deserves more than that. So when deciding what to pair this wine with ask yourself this: What is your favorite element? What do you want more of from this wine?
If you like the initial calmness, the sheer potential the wine displays in the foretaste, then go for something light, but herbaceous — perhaps a seafood pasta in a light tomato broth. If you like that explosion of dark, dried fruits in the center of the wine — go for a juicy burger made from you minced meat of choice. And if you, like me, love the finish and the lingering aftertaste — I must recommend a grilled salmon with a simple salad side. The natural oils of the salmon will cut through the tannins giving the wine a silkiness from start to finish, while the char on the skin will amplify that bit of umami and smoke in the aftertaste. I would choose a salad, preferably herb-based, because I would want to bring some freshness to the dish as well as celebrate the herbaceous subtleties in the Pinot which, in my mind, is what brings the story of the wine to a completed full circle.
More Info: If you haven’t yet read my review of Flanagan Wines, please visit Winery Review: Flanagan Wines. I did receive the Flanagan Wines Sonoma Stage Pinot Noir as a gift. Of course, for more information about the winery, their wines, where to purchase, or to purchase Flanagan Wines directly, please visit the Flanagan Wines website.
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