Tag: Sonoma

Emeritus Vineyards 2015 Pinot Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir

As I mentioned in my review of the Emeritus Vineyards 2015 Hallberg Ranch Pinot Noir, this is my first time tasting from this winery. One of the things that intrigued me about Emeritus Vineyards is their story surrounding dry farming. According to the winery, dry farming Pinot Noir is common in Burgundy, but rare in California. But because of the Goldridge soils found in Emeritus’s Hallberg Ranch vineyard, located in the Green Valley AVA of Sonoma County, owner and vintner Brice Cutrer Jones decided to dry farm his vineyards since he purchased the land in 2007, planting the original apple orchard to grape vines.

The Goldridge soil with the underlying clay loam forces the vines to dig deep (nearly 20 feet) into the soil for water. This is something you may have read about in conjunction with the heartier Bordeaux varieites (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, even Petit Verdot and Malbec), but is — at least to me — a funky concept for the delicate Pinot Noir grape. According to Jones, this actually gives his Pinot Noir more complexity, a noteworthy minerality, and also allows the grapes to develop fully matured flavors at a lower Brix. Jones’s partner, Kirk Lokka notes, “Most growers pick at higher sugar levels because modern irrigation practices dilute the grapes with an excess of water. This is not the case with dry farming.”

The Pinot Hill Vineyard, located in Sebastopol, is also dry-farmed. And, again according to the winery, once Jones and Lokka purchased this property and instigated their dry farming methods on this Pinot-centric plot of land, Emeritus not has the largest dry-farmed estate in Sonoma County “and possibly California.” There are 107.76 acres planted on Hallberg Ranch, 30.68 acres planted on Pinot Hill.

Ok, that was a lot of talk about soil and stuff. But what does that all taste like in the glass?

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Passaggio 2016 Heringer Estate Mourvedre

Earthy, muddy, murky, funky. These are the words I think of when I think of Mourvedre and the qualities that endear the variety to me. Even in its rosé form, there’s something rustic, even animalistic, about it.

As my winemaking friend Larry Schaffer of Tercero Wines notes, “Warner always produces a darker, more brooding style of Mourvèdre…this ‘funks’ the wine up a bit and gives it spice and structure.”

And yet my winemaking friend Steve Grower from Crux Winery said, “I’ve been tempted to say ‘Mourvedre has a je ne sais quoi‘ to avoid having to actually describe it.”

Indeed to pin Mourvedre down to a single style — well you shouldn’t tame a wild thing I suppose. All I can say as an introduction to this Mourvedre based on my experiences…

Now for something completely different…
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Passaggio 2016 GSM Red Blend

I don’t often write about wines I relive, but some winemakers’ wines are just too good not to talk about. And it’s amazing the difference a vintage can make. But one thing that remains consistent year after year is Cindy Cosco’s ability to craft the most delicate, nuanced wines from even the heartiest of red wine grapes. So keep reading to learn about the Passaggio 2016 GSM Red Blend, and if you haven’t already, take a look at what the Passaggio 2015 GSM was like. Both offer up their own subtleties, but I paired them with wildly different cuisines. Enjoy!

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Emeritus Vineyards 2015 Hallberg Ranch Pinot Noir

Emeritus is a new winery for me, but has a 10-year Sonoma-based history. Emeritus was founded in 1999 by Brice Curtrer Jones after he purchased the 115-acre parcel named for previous owners, Don and Marcia Hallberg. The land was planted as an apple orchard, but Curtrer knew the value of the land in terms of grapegrowing and saw the potential for beautiful Pinot Noir.

Hallberg Ranch is located in the cool, Green Valley region of the Russian River Valley—an AVA that, in my opinion is an up-and-coming one, and one that is producing some of Sonoma’s most interesting Pinot Noir as of late. 

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Benziger 2015 Bella Luna Pinot Noir

Being a biodynamic wine producer is not easy. There’s so much detail that goes into both the farming practices and the winemaking methods. So for a family like the Benzigers who have their fingertips in vineyard locations throughout the Sonoma region, the ability to maintain that integrity, those high standards, is admirable.

From the winery:

“On the far East side of the Russian River Valley, just on the border of the Green Valley AVA lies Bella Luna, one of our four Estate Biodynamic vineyards. Bella Luna is planted with 100% Pinot Noir vines, and with its rolling hills, surrounding pine trees and bright, clear nights, it’s no wonder that we named this special place ‘Bella Luna’ which means ‘Beautiful Moon.'”

About the Wine: The Benziger 2015 Bella Luna Pinot Noir is made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes harvested from the Benzigers’ estate vineyard, Bella Luna. The 9-acre vineyard is planted completely to Pinot Noir, clones 115, 667, and 777, and enjoys Goldridge and fine sandy loam soils.

Bella Luna is Demeter certified biodynamic.

14.5% ABV

Flavor Profile: Pop the cork of the Benziger 2015 Bella Luna Pinot Noirand find decadent aromas of chocolate and black cherry jam. This Pinot Noir is a vampiric red on the pour, settling into the glass a clear jewel-like red-violet that fades to an almost pink hue along the perimeter. Initial aromas are of cranberry, pomegranate, milk chocolate, and thyme. Swirl and find the juiciness, the roundness, the freshness, of those scents.

The palate of the Benziger 2015 Bella Luna Pinot Noir is light, but full, round. The oak is present on the palate and the acid hits about ¾ of the way through, waking up the tastebuds before a slightly tannic, drying finish. Dominant flavors are of oak wood, vanilla bean, red cherry, pomegranate, cranberry, and a bit of basil.

Food Pairing: I paired the Benziger 2015 Bella Luna Pinot Noir with an herb crusted rack of lamb, pea puree, and a side salad. Well, I must say this was a fantastic meal with a fantastic wine. So much so that I did not take any specific wine notes during the course of the meal. But what I can say is that the vivacity of the meal perfectly contrasted the heartiness and richness of the lamb, while simultaneously complimenting the herb components in both the puree and the salad.

More Info: I received the Benziger 2015 de Coelo Pinot Noir, Terra Neuma Pinot Noir as a sample for review. Price: $75. For more information about Benziger, their wines, and to purchase wine directly, please visit the Benziger Family Winery website.


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