I knew this wine was going to be high class the moment I read the vineyard name. As J.Cage Cellars proprietor Roger Beery says, van der Kamp Vineyards is a coveted piece of land amongst winemakers. Sitting at 1,400 feet of elevation along the north-facing, eastern slope of the Sonoma Mountains, the Pinot Noir that grows here enjoys ample sunshine, but cool temperatures. That, along with the loam and volcanic soils, give the grapes a unique vivaciousness, the wines intense in aromas and flavors. The van der Kamps farm their vines biodynamically. And if you’re of two minds about what that means in regards to tasting, I can say from experience that when biodynamics are in place, wines speak of place.
About the Wine: The J. Cage Cellars 2016 van der Kamp Vineyards Pinot Noir is made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes, a blend of six different clones, all harvested from the van der Kamp Vineyard, located on the eastern side of the Sonoma Mountains in Sonoma, California. 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.
Flavor Profile: Open the bottle of the J. Cage Cellars 2016 van der Kamp Vineyards Pinot Noir and breathe in intense aromas of ripe, plump blackberries, boysenberries, and a most tropical forest floor. This Pinot Noir is a faded purple on the pour, settling into the glass the very definition of rouge: the purple has all but disappeared, but the wine maintains a soft presence, the hue completely penetrable.
Initial aromas are of strawberries, red cherries, boysenberries, chocolate, and damp fertile soil. Swirl and bring out the vibrancy of those fruits and add to that fruit basket a bit of red apple. Deep breath in reveals a floral perfume as well as a bit of savory florals, as if from a squash blossom.
The palate of the J. Cage Cellars 2016 van der Kamp Vineyards Pinot Noir is (to quote my own tasting notes) “straight up smooth.” The tannins create just a film of a backbone — an x-ray image if you will. The acid is delicate at first, amplifying toward the mid-taste, and then subsides. It reminds me of the build up, the roll, the crash, and the pull back of my Pacific Ocean’s waves.
Dominant flavors are black cherry, blackberry, blood orange zest, dusty earth, a hint of black olive, a hint of terragon, a hint of ground coriander, a hint of dust of chili (yes a lot of hints to this complex Pinot Noir), and finally with a finish of baking spices left on the after breath.
Food Pairing: I paired the J. Cage Cellars 2016 van der Kamp Vineyards Pinot Noir with a pan grilled salmon along with a salad of roasted, caramelized red beetroot, radish, black mission figs, dressed with pine nuts, goats cheese, and a fig balsamic. Perfect pairing full stop.
The fig dressing, as well as the figs themselves, brought out the plushyness of the wine’s fruits — those utterly soft tannins, the wine’s body and structure. The innate oiliness of the fish, again highlighted the wine’s smooth texture, but also accented the crescendo of acidity. The sweet and salty flavors of the beets brought out some of those earthy herbs as well as the ripeness of the fruits. And the goats cheese just rounded everything out — in flavor and texture, both in the dish and in the glass.
More Info: I received the J. Cage Cellars 2016 van der Kamp Vineyards 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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