My first experience with Halcón Vineyards was a taste of their estate Syrah — the great Rhône grape produced in the classic Côte-Rôtie style is what Halcón has built its reputation on. So enamored was I by this Syrah that I am saving it for a week-long series on California Rhônes as a prime example of what our great state can do with these grapes from my favorite region of the wine Motherland. (Sorry, folks, you’ll have to wait a bit longer to hear more…)

I mention this because, having spoken to a lot of Rhône winemakers from various California regions, I’ve heard one comment quite a bit. And that is that many Pinot Noir producers are, in fact, intrigued by Syrah: with its broad style-spectrum, highly dependent on terroir, it is often referred to as the “Winemakers Grape,” highly mis-understood by consumers, but the passion of many a wine-producer. In this case, Paul Gordon has flipped that switch the other way — a passionate Rhône producer who’s taken on the “Winemaker’s Headache Grape.” 

About the Wine: The Halcón Vineyards Wentzel Vineyard 2015 Pinot Noir is made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes harvested from the Wentzel Vineyard in California’s Anderson Valley AVA. This vineyard sits at about 600 feet of elevation above the valley floor, and consists of mixed Dijon clones. According to winemaker Paul Gordon, it is Wentzel’s north-western orientation, it’s exposure to the “full force of the cool Pacific Ocean influence,” that makes this an idyllic Pinot Noir planting ground, as it allows for extended growing seasons.

The grapes were pressed with 35% whole-cluster inclusion. The wine aged in French oak barrels (20% new). There was no inoculation for primary fermentation and the Pinot Noir did not go through secondary fermentation.

12.8% ABV

Flavor Profile: Open the bottle of the Halcón Vineyards Wentzel Vineyard 2015 Pinot Noir and breathe in refreshing scents of blackberry juice, fresh currants, and dried-rehydrated plump plums. As the wine flows from bottle to glass, it is a light, watercolor-shade of violet red, settling into the glass with a hint more brown — yet you can gaze right through it like a tinted window. Initial aromas are of roses, river water, minerally soil, chocolate, red cherries, and strawberries. Swirl and release more flowers — a variety of flowers, a whole field of flowers — and their fragrant, lady-like perfume. The cherries and strawberries are still present, adding to them just a bit of that minty-meets-anisy scent of fresh basil.

The palate of the Halcón Vineyards Wentzel Vineyard 2015 Pinot Noir is light in body but solid with its flavoring due to a consistently level use of acidity. The tannins are present, but act like pointillism on the tongue, delicately dotting the portrait of this Pinot Noir. They do not linger; they do not overwhelm. Dominant flavors are of strawberry, cherry, cedar bark, green herbs, milk chocolate, and caramel.

The finish is solid with tannins that settle like a thin blanket of snow on the tongue. Lingering flavors are quite earthy — those berries, those flowers have fallen to the ground, now covered in a thin coat of soil.

Food Pairing: I paired the Halcón Vineyards Wentzel Vineyard 2015 Pinot Noir with a very simple homemade pizza. Yes, this wine is certainly elevated enough to pair with something someone may call more “fancy.” But this evening we delighted in the lightness of this wine and the fact that we could enjoy it casually with our favorite food and a movie. “This is what a Pinot Noir should taste like,” said my partner in wine crime. Indeed the distinct fruitiness structured around the earthy elements, and the overall “airy” quality made this the perfect pairing for, well, life.

More Info: I received the Halcón Vineyards Wentzel Vineyard 2015 Pinot Noir as a sample for review. (Cheers Paul!) Retail: $35. For more information about Halcón Vineyards, their available wines, and to purchase wines directly, please visit the Halcón Vineyards website.

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