This is another story about an iconic winery that I’ve always wanted to taste and finally have. Ladera Vineyards is the passion project of Pat and Anne Stotesbery who purchased their first Napa acreage atop Mount Veeder in 1996 with the intention of becoming grape growers and sellers. They replanted their hillside vineyard, which was predominantly planted to Chardonnay, to Cabernet Sauvignon, focusing on the grape they knew thrived best in this area — and a grape they loved. As these stories often go, the Stotesburys were so pleased with what they were producing, they began making their own wines, eventually establishing their own line under the Ladera label. Today Ladera Vineyards has a prestigious reputation for crafting some of Napa’s best Cabernet. But their most recent experiments have taken them to the vineyards of Sonoma’s Russian River Valley where they now grow and produce some of that regions strongest grapes — Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

About the Wine: The Ladera Vineyards 2015 Pillow Road Pinot Noir is made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes harvested from Ladera’s Pillow Road Vineyard located in the Russian River Valley AVA of California’s Sonoma County. The grapes were hand-sorted then de-stemmed into open-top fermenters for a five day cold soak prior to fermentation. The wine was then drained without pressing into French oak barrels (75% new) where it aged for 11 months prior to bottling.

14.2% ABV

Flavor Profile: Open the bottle of the Ladera Vineyards 2015 Pillow Road Pinot Noir and breathe in fresh boysenberries on the bush on a cool summer night. As the Pinot pours from bottle to glass, it is a dark but luminescent cranberry shade. Once settled in the glass, the wine appears a little duller, a little rouger — though completely penetrable even at its very core. Tilt the glass, and see the wine then fades to a pink-rouge at the outer-most perimeter.

Initial aromas are of mint, black cherry, wet wood, rain water, and moss. Swirl and find more fruits: wild strawberry, raspberry. Pull the nose slightly away from the glass to find a scent like wet earthiness almost reminiscent of damp sand.

The palate of the Ladera Vineyards 2015 Pillow Road Pinot Noir is light and smooth with climbing tannins that only slightly coat the edges of the outer tongue toward the finish. The acidity is quite strong, almost taking over completely, but ultimately gives way to the fruit flavors in the wine. Dominant flavors are of saw dust, tart black cherry, under-ripe plums, fresh parsley, and thorny bush branches.

Food Pairing: I paired the Ladera Vineyards 2015 Pillow Road Pinot Noir with a homemade pizza topped with mushrooms, tomatoes, and a mix of cheddar and mozzarella cheese. Who doesn’t like a Pinot and pizza party? I loved how the tomatoes brought out the riper fruit flavors while the mushrooms brought out some deeper aromas not initially sensed when sipping the wine on its own (like chocolate). As the evening progressed, the wine did open up a bit as well, giving way to some rounder, plumper fruit notes and an even more seamless texture.

I absolutely enjoyed this wine, but I could also see this wine aging and developing even within the next year or two.

More Info: I received the Ladera Vineyards 2015 Pillow Road Pinot Noir as a sample for review. (Cheers Miriam!) Retail: $50. For more information about Ladera Vineyards, their wine, and to purchase wine directly, please visit the Ladera Vineyards website.

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