After experiencing the sophistication of Lombardi Wines 2014 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, I had nothing but high expectations for Tony Lombardi’s Pinot Noir. Rightly so since the Lombardi family has called Petaluma — host to the cool climate Petaluma Gap district of the Sonoma Coast — home since 1947. And since 2012, when Tony first started his label, he and his team have been sourcing small lot Pinot Noir grapes from the prestigious Griffins Lair, Sonoma Stage, Spring Hill, and Terra de Promisso Vineyards.
What I love — what I really love about boutique wineries is that “single vineyard” is (often) a norm. And, I don’t want to be a wine snob or anything, but I’ve had the opportunity to taste the difference between an “appellation series,” a “vineyard series,” and “single vineyard series” as it pertains to the same winery and same varietal. And I have to say, the attention to detail given to the single vineyard series — whether from a major player or an up-and-comer — is astronomical. So you can imagine that when a small-lot winery, like Lombardi wines, stakes its whole business on two varietals (PN and Chard) that those vineyards are going to be quality sources and that the winemaker is going to take the utmost care to respect the fruit during production. So then it becomes — what I really love about boutique wineries is the quality of wine.
Bailiwick Wines is a fun little secret discovered by a friend at a local supermarket. What this small-lot producer’s wines were doing at a South Bay grocer, I do not know, but I am thankful that it happened. And as much as I like keeping a good secret all to myself, I also believe that good wine is worth sharing. So, I’m going to share my bottle of Bailiwick Wines Sonoma County Pinot Noir with you…but you have to promise to keep this secret between us.
About the Wine: Bailiwick Wines is a very small-lot winery, producing as little as 40 and no more than 470 cases per bottling. It’s owned and operated by brothers Paul and Brian Vias who, after years of making “basement wine,” finally left their high-tech careers to focus on Bailiwick Wines full time as of 2009. They source their grapes from all over California but use Old World winemaking techniques they learned while traveling and studying abroad. And what they produce are classically-styled wines that express the flavors of the New World — it’s an aesthetic balance that’s hard to execute, but they’ve seemed to master the art (at least when it comes to this Sonoma County Pinot Noir).
The Bailiwick Wines 2013 Sonoma County Pinot Noir is made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes harvested from 4 separate vineyards: Juul Vineyard (Green Valley AVA, Sonoma County), Silver Pines Vineyard (Sonoma Mountain AVA, Sonoma County), Chileno Valley Vineyard (Marin County), and Kendrick Vineyards (Marin County).
The grapes were harvested and fermented separately, blended just before barrel aging. The wine aged in French oak barrels (37% new) for 17 months.
Flavor Profile: From the bottle the Bailiwick 2013 Sonoma County Pinot Noir emits immediate scents of purple grapes, red strawberries along with a bit of burnt rubber in the background.
In the glass, the wine looks like a true fall flower: a dusty rose with light-yellow petal perimeter. The initial aromas are a fun combination of cherry candy, red flower perfume and that warming sensation from a good hit of alcohol. Swirl and sniff again, some of that initial alcohol will blow off and you’ll get the most subtle essence of a fog-filled ocean breeze.
For all the fruit and floral on the nose, this Pinot Noir is quite earthy — dusty earthy, like sinking into the warm sand at the beach. Let the wine linger and the mid-palate will bring forth some beautiful baking spices (I’m thinking nutmeg, cardamom, and hints of vanilla), which leads to a finish reminiscent of fresh baked cookies. In fact, after you swallow, if you close your lips and breathe through your knows, you’ll get a internal scent of blood orange and chocolate chips that perfectly complement those baking spices. On the palate, the wine leaves a twinge of heat (you know adding a dose of chili is all the choco-chip rage), which gives the finish its solidity.
Tannins here are medium, never over powering the flavor or texture; acidity is a thin, thin line from start to finish, but present enough to pull forward all the different flavor elements.
Food Pairing: I enjoyed the Bailiwick 2013 Sonoma County Pinot Noir with a cedar plank salmon glazed in a homemade honey-ginger balsamic, served alongside an her-based salad dressed with mandarins, feta, and dried cranberries.
What I loved about this pairing was how the fruit elements in the salad pulled those fruit aromas, sensed on the nose, forward on the palate. Meanwhile, the very light, dusty-earth texture of the wine perfectly cut through the fats and oils of the salmon, perfectly balancing the weight of the meal as a whole.
More Info: I received this bottle of Bailiwick Wines 2013 Sonoma County Pinot Noir as a gift. (Cheers Dave!) Suggested Retail: $36. For more information about Bailiwick and to purchase wines directly, please visit the Bailiwick Wines website.
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There was a time when I was very much intimidated by the name Grgich Hills, thinking I was not worthy of the wines produced. After all, there’s a lot of Napa fame and history behind the label. But I dipped my toe, sunk my teeth, no — wetted my palate with the 2014 Fumé Blanc, was taken aback by the 2013 Estate Chardonnay, and pretty much threw a party in honor of the 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon. What I’ve come to learn is that Grgich Hills can and does produce fun and affordable wines. And Grgich Hills 2012 Zinfandel is one such gem.
While attending the Crux Winery GSM Blending Trial, co-owner and winemaker Steve Gower said to us “Mourvèdre is a hard varietal to describe. If you can think of a good way to do it, let us know.” Challenge accepted, Steve.