After experiencing the van der Kamp Pinot Noir I was excited to try J. Cage’s expression of the same varietal from a different vineyard. In conversing with proprietor Roger Beery, he said, “Single vineyards should be the lead singer..not the winemaker.” True, very true. A good winemaker lets the vineyard tell the story. And it’s amazing tasting the two so close together how one can taste, not a winemaking style, but the disparate style of two different pieces of Sonoma. “Let these outstanding vineyards and winegrowers have a voice,” Beery said. And so they do.

About the Wine: The J. Cage Cellars 2016 Hallberg Vineyard Pinot Noir is made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes, a combination of Dijon clones, 667 and 115, harvested from the Hallberg Vineyard located in the Green Valley sub-appellation of the Russian River Valley in Sonoma, California. According to proprietor Roger Beery, this vineyard is completely dry-farmed, which allows for deeper root structure and mature fruits with low sugar levels.

Grapes were destemmed then cold-soaked for four days before beginning initial fermentation using a combination of native and commercial yeast. The wine was aged in 100% French oak barrels (25% new) for 10 months, where it does undergo a certain amount of secondary, malolactic fermentation. The winery uses mainly Boutes and Gamba barrels.

14.2% ABV

Flavor Profile: Pop the cork on the J. Cage Cellars 2016 Hallberg Vineyard Pinot Noir and breath in brooding aromas of smashed blackberries on the fertile forest floor. Yet, breathe again, and find there’s an aura of milk chocolate. This Pinot Noir is a deep, but see-through rouge on the pour, settling into the glass softer, almost rose-petal red, with hints of violet as it fades out towards the perimeter into ultimate clarity.

Initial aromas are of cranberry, red cherry, min, wild strawberry, and a certain acidity. Swirl and the wine releases fresh green herbaceous scents, almost like spearmint meets tarragon. There’s also a subtle hint of perfume, and that waft of milk chocolate, and just a touch of fresh oak wood.

The palate of the J. Cage Cellars 2016 Hallberg Vineyard Pinot Noir is smooth and soft with a delicate acidity that sneakily increases, hugging the perimeter of the palate, warming the palate and the heart at the very finish. Tannins only act as the faintest outline to this Pinot-picture. Dominant flavors are of oak wood, cumin, marionberry, a meaty savoriness, a hint of potpourri.

As the wine opens up it does become more plushy in texture, but still soft on the palate with that vibrant acidity.

Food Pairing: I paired the J. Cage Cellars 2016 Hallberg Vineyard Pinot Noir with a cioppino. I love how the spice and acidity of the tomato broth brought out the voluptuousness of the fruit, while the smooth texture of the fish and shellfish highlighted the smoothness of the wine. The sea-saltiness of the dish makes you feel a bit more of those tannins — but that’s absolutely a lovely sensation.

More Info: I received the J. Cage Cellars 2016 Hallberg Pinot Noir as a sample for review. (Cheers Roger!) Price: $45 For more information about J. Cage, their wines, and to purchase wine directly, please visit the J. Cage Cellars website.

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