Kenwood Vineyards Six Ridges line is named after the mountain ridges that border the Alexander Valley, Dry Creek Valley, Russian River Valley, Sonoma Valley and Sonoma Coast. I had the opportunity to taste and talk with Kenwood Vineyards winemaker Pat Henderson about the Six Ridges Pinot Noir. Here are our collective tasting notes.
About the Wine: Kenwood Vineyards Six Ridges Russian River Pinot Noir is made from 97% Pinot Noir and 3% Syrah from (you guessed it) the Russian River Valley. An interesting geographical note about the Russian River, for those who are unfamiliar with the area, is that the river itself carves a gap in the Sonoma County mountain range, allowing for damp morning fog and cool afternoon breezes. These mild temps are perfect for that oh-so-delicately skinned grape Pinot Noir.
After a hand-picked harvest, the grapes were de-stemmed into stainless steel tanks where they were first fermented with the skins intact. After three weeks of primary fermentation, the wine was then pressed off the skins and further aged in European oak for 12 months.
From Pat: You may wonder what the significance of the “Six Ridges” is (I certainly did). In the 1980s there was a severe outbreak of Phylloxera in California wine country (you may have heard of this in association to the 1860s outbreak that literally killed French wine). Well, with the death of the vineyards, winemakers were forced to replant everything. But because of that, they were no longer tied to growing exactly the same wines in exactly the same place. And this worked out for the best because, in the case of Kenwood Vineyards, they had learned that their best Pinot Noir had always come from the Russian River Valley. So that’s where they replanted to.
This particular vintage of Six Ridges Pinot Noir contains 3% Syrah — something, Pat says, is not consistent from year to year. He’s a very hands-on winemaker in that he tastes his grapes during every stage of growth and fermentation and makes his decisions based on the tastes and textures he experiences. So one year it may be 1%, another year it could be blended with Merlot. It’s all about crafting a well-rounded wine that still speaks of his beloved Sonoma terroir.
All of Kenwood’s red wines go through primary fermentation in 100% stainless steel because it’s easier to control the temperature and experience the natural flavors of the grapes’ juices. And with something as light and bright as a Russian River Valley Pinot, you want to preserve as much of that natural fruit as possible. The stainless steel fermentation will also help guard agains the wine absorbing too much of that woodsy flavor from the oak barrels, which will ultimately hide any acidity and thus those cherries and berries we so love in our Pinots.
Flavor Profile: The initial aroma, just from opening the bottle is light, and bright, like the freshest bushel of berries. But despite that scent, the Six Ridges Pinot Noir pours quite rouge in the glass, though admittedly a pale one. There’s no denying, as you stick your nose in the glass, you’re about to sip something special. There’s a bit of an earthy quality that comes through — think fertile soil, greenery damp with dew, wet stones kissed with fresh river water.
And on the palate it is that freshness that takes over, emitting, at first, very little fruit flavor. But swish and swirl and you’ll find, deep within, a few little boysenberries that are just under-ripe. This Pinot Noir has a strong dose of acid that comes through from about mid palate to the finish and leaves a bit of a tingle on the tongue and a warmth down the throat. The tannins, which don’t make a presence until the finish, are medium to low — just strong enough to conclude the tasting most elegantly.
Food Pairing: According to the spec sheet, Kenwood Vineyards Six Ridges Pinot Noir pairs well with a broad range of foods “from roasted meat dishes to wild salmon.”
From Pat: Pat emphasizes salmon. Specifically Alaskan Copper River Salmon — somewhat of a special treat in his house, he admits, as it can be hard to find and quite pricey.
To my palate, I think a pan seared salmon would go perfectly. But maybe it’s because we had a deliciously long conversation about it…
More Info: I received Kenwood Vineyards Six Ridges Pinot Noir as a sample for my one on one tasting with Kenwood Vineyards winemaker Pat Henderson. For more information about Kenwood Vineyards and to order wines directly, please visit the Kenwood Vineyards website. Cheers!
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