Raeburn is a name you’ll see on the shelves of your local grocer — but did you know that the name Raeburn comes from an Olde English word meaning “the river where one goes to drink?” And so I think it is fitting that this Pinot Noir represents the Russian River Valley in my Pinot Noir style spectrum. Characterized by its cool, maritime climate that’s funneled in through the Petaluma Gap from the Pacific Ocean, the Russian River is an idyllic place for picky Pinot. The AVA is also home to some unique soil types, including the Goldridge Soil (volcanic rich soil), Sebastapol Soil (clay rich soil), as well as alluvial soils along the benchland — meaning the Russian River, itself, can have an interesting range of Pinot Noirs.

About the Wine: Raeburn Winery 2016 Pinot Noir is made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes harvested from the Russian River AVA in Sonoma County. After the grapes were hand-picked, they were destemmed before going through an initial cold soak. Initial fermentation took place in open-top containers with twice daily punch downs. The wine was then pressed, racked, and transferred to barrels. The wine aged in 100% French oak barrels (25% new) for 11 months.

14.5% ABV

Flavor Profile: Open the bottle and become enticed by the aromas of dark chocolate, damp grass, black cherry compote, and fig jam. Out of that bottle flows clean blood — a jewel-like, pure-red. In the glass, the wine settles much darker: the blood has aged, scabbed, showcasing a tinge of brown around the perimeter. And yet, you can still see through it’s core and follow the gradient transition toward the pinkish-rouge perimeter.

Initial aromas bring your mind back to life with scents of bright strawberries, raspberries, and black cherries. There are some herbaceous notes: a hint of mint, basil, and an almost parsley-like greenness and freshness. The only darkness lingers in the background in the form of that dark chocolate. There is a clear line of acidity, enticing you to swirl; so swirl. Swirl, and release the backbone of damp oak wood; swirl and release the energy, the vivaciousness of those fruits; swirl and bring alive the herb you were missing to tie this all together: the unmistakable scent of lavender.

On the palate, the Raeburn Winery 2016 Pinot Noir is quite light, but texturally strong with a good, solid use of oak. That assertive line of acidity sensed on the nose is stable throughout the palate as well. Dominant flavors are of black cherry, peppercorn flakes, oak wood, dried lavender, powdered dark chocolate, and in the very back those vivacious fruits, namely raspberry and strawberry. The finish is a solid one for the palate, with just the most delicate lingering after-breath reminiscent of sipping cherry liquor in the midst of a fresh herb garden.

Food Pairing: This was another homemade “pizza and pinot” pairing for me. And what I loved about this pairing in particular was that the sauce — perhaps because of its own acidity and herbs — brought forward the brightness of those berries and even rounded out the palate a bit. My pizza was vegetarian, topped with mushrooms, broccoli and olives. You’d think that the broccoli might overpower the palate because of its somewhat cruciferous nature, but it actually played nicely with the tannins, and evened out the overall food and wine pairing by pulling on those darker elements — so the wine wasn’t just a huge fruit bomb.

If drinking this wine again, I’d want to try something different. But, in all honesty, I think I’d stick with a vegetarian dish — there’s just so many “nature notes” to this Pinot Noir that I’d want to highlight, not hide that.

More Info: I received the Raeburn Winery 2016 Pinot Noir as a sample for review. (Cheers Susan!) Retail: varies. For more information about Raeburn winery, their wines, and to find your local retailer, please visit the Raeburn Winery website.

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