Welcome to the latest collection of wines for your Total Locals Wine Club,
"Winter Pinot Warmth!"
The goals of the Total Locals Club are two-fold: first, to give you a chance to enjoy wines from all of our artisan wineries on a regular basis, and second, to offer interesting comparisons of varietal flights within each collection.
For this collection then, we offer an assortment of outstanding Sonoma County Pinot Noirs. More to the point, these are Russian River Pinots, grown in a climate which is unique in the world, and producing truly remarkable wines. We have selected wines which we know will exceed your expectations for quality and value.
Pinot Noir is one of the oldest grape varieties to be cultivated for the purpose of making wine. The ancient Romans knew this fruit as Helvenacia Minor. It originally was bred from wild vines, and came to the Burgundy area of France when the Romans invaded in the First Century A.D. The French Gauls innovated by storing their wine in wooden casks rather than the clay vases the Romans used, adding the influence of barrel flavors that we so appreciate nowadays. The Burgundy area is still most closely identified with this varietal, where growing conditions are thought to be perfect.usually on well-drained soil in sloping vineyards, providing exposure to the sun but protection from too much afternoon heat. We often see similar vineyard sites here.
Pinot noir is difficult to grow, ripen and produce wine from as it is extremely sensitive to variations in environmental factors. It is used in the making of fine sparkling wine and light dry red table wine. As a sparkling wine, it is clear to slightly pinkish.
Bright, forward fruit defines Russian River Pinots, which are like no other Pinots in the world, including those of the nearby Carneros area. We are the hottest successful Pinot Noir growing area in the world.our moist coastal air, along with sunshine abbreviated by fog and cloudiness, combine with flashes of more extreme heat during the sunny hours. These factors all come together to produce remarkable, unique wines with a bright forward fruit flavor that is unique to the Russian River.
Generally, Pinot Noir matches with less hearty fare, such as fish (salmon is a great match), slow-roasted fowl or perhaps pork in a sweet preparation like a plum sauce or served with a sweet chutney. Big heavy spices are out, as they overwhelm the more subtle flavors and lighter body of this wonderful varietal.Pinot Noir does not enjoy great longevity in the bottle. The varietal is generally most enjoyable 3-5 years from vintage. After that, the fruit flavors generally deteriorate, though the wine may still be drinkable.
Most Americans are now aware of the developing knowledge surrounding the health benefits of red wine, but recently science has given us another one - a chemical called reserveratol. It's found in red grapes grown in cool climates, and researchers think it could help you live longer and aid in preventing cancer. Pinot noir often contains more of it than other red wines!
It is always interesting to compare and contrast the different outcomes of matching the varietal with the unique microclimates of Sonoma County. See what flavors you think are different, and in common, in these outstanding wines from the Russian River area. Ed ora peril vostra godimento!*
*And now for your enjoyment!
Crane Canyon Cellars 1999 Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley ($19.99 / $15.99). Alcohol 14.2%. 1150 cases produced.
This wine was served at the White House, a testament to its quality and perfect maturity. The dark, vibrant color of this Pinot offers a glimpse of the rich, slightly earthy bouquet to come. A sweet hint of violets surrounds the flavor of dense rich cherry that lingers in the mouth. Sip some of this light and lively Pinot and consider it as your favorite candidate!
Crane Canyon Cellars 2000 Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley ($25 / $20). Alcohol 14.1%, 875 cases produced.
This wine starts with a remarkable fruit bouquet, so characteristic of the Russian River Appellation. Smooth, rich fruit fills the palate, mingling with a rich honey flavor, delighting the taste buds. A delicious smoky finish lingers and lingers. Try it with your favorite sweet pork preparation, maybe Chinese pork spareribs?!
Eric Ross 2001 Pinot Noir, Saralee Vineyard ($24 / $19.20). Alcohol 14.2%, only 425 cases were produced.
The remarkable fruit for this wine comes from the Saralee Kunde Estate west of the Sonoma County Airport. In this wine, that bright Russian River fruit is complemented by a soft, earthy tone that is more unusual for the area, but more typical elsewhere. The fruit and earth aspects combine for a wine that offers notable finesse and a distinctive com-plexity. The nose is filled with black cherry, plum and cranberry, with subtle French oak in the background. The mouth offers that remarkable complexity, with silky smooth tannins and a soft, lingering finish.
Eric Ross 2001 Pinot Noir, Poule D'Or (Golden Hen) ($28 / $22.40). Alcohol 14.2%, 575 cases produced.
Vineyard blending adds diverse complexity to this light but lively Pinot Noir. Saralee fruit is blended with fruit from the Klopp and a third Forestville area vineyard. The aromatic nose offers hints of spice and smoke, followed by the flavor of earthy currants and mouth-coating tannins, leading to a ripe, long finish.
Hawley Wines 2001 Pinot Noir, Oehlman Vineyard, Vine Hill ($28 / $22.40). Alcohol 13.9%. 217 cases.
The grapes for this Pinot come from the Oehlman vineyard on Vine Hill, overlooking the Russian River Valley near Forestville. This ultra cool location is ideal for the develop-ment of the temperamental Pinot Noir grape. The renowned Dehlinger Pinot Noir is also from Vine Hill. The vines grow on a steep southeast facing slope, and are trained to a vertical trellis to maximize sun exposure to the grapes. Much handwork is required in the vineyard to remove leaves, allowing sunlight on the developing grape clusters, and to thin the crop to about 3 1/2 tons per acre.
The delicate fruit is harvested by hand. Heavily toasted French Burgundy barrels enhance the complexity of flavors dramatically. The wine itself offers the bright, jubilant fruit flavor for which Vine Hill, and the Russian River, is famous. Unusually deep in color, it has complex aromas of cherries, spice, raspberries, dried flowers, coffee and vanilla. In the mouth the wine is rich and opulent, with generous, ripe, fruit flavors, and a long, silky-smooth finish.
Martin Family Winery 2001 Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, ($28 / $22.40). Alcohol 14.5%. 300 cases.
The fruit for this wine comes from a small property owned by the Martin Family, located near the Hop Kiln Winery at the upper end of the Russian River appellation. The vines are 25 years old. The cool climate which nurtures this extraordinary vineyard allows extra hang time, packing the wine with lush fruit flavors. This fruit was harvested before sunrise on a foggy, cool, autumn morning.
The wine presents bright extracted color, along with aromas of berries, flowers and spice. The bouquet leads into complex and enticing flavors of fresh red fruit and vanilla. The lovely balance of sweetness and acidity with velvety richness on the palate provide for a long elegant finish.