Pinot Noir Vineyards
All of our Pinot Noir vineyard efforts are concentrated in Sonoma's ‘West County’. Original home of the Gravenstein apple, many of these old orchards have been replanted to grapes. We feel this cool area/soils/clones combination or terroir is ideal to produce Pinots with concentration and yet maintain elegant varietal character which can rival any in the world including Burgundy. Most of these vineyards are being planted to Burgundy’s Dijon clones; however, we are also using field bud wood originally from Burgundy.
At harvest our processing is unobtrusive. The fruit is fermented in small lot one-ton fermenters. To achieve carbonic complexity some whole clusters are added to the bottom of the fermenter. To increase color and concentration by increasing solids to juice ratio a portion of the juice is siphoned off during destemming and goes into our Vin Gris. To maximize extraction and minimize astringency the ripe fruit is destemmed, not crushed to maintain integrity of the berry, after which the must is chilled down to ‘cold soak’ for several days using chiller plates (below, left) in order to extract water soluble compounds. When fermentation begins, via indigenous yeast, a ‘submerged cap’ regime is employed to maximize extraction of alcohol soluble compounds using screens (below, left) to hold the fermentation cap below the fermenting juice. The screens are lifted every morning for gentle punch downs every two hours and replaced overnight. As the wine is gently pressed off in a basket press and barreled down, Chardonnay lees from the previous vintage is added for color stability, to fine out unwanted tannins and add an extra layer of complexity.
The property for this vineyard is owned by the Cleary family and is another farmed by the Dutton family. It is located in the town of Freestone on the western border of the Russian River Valley. We are working with an acre each of Dijon 115, 114 and 777 clones. This is a typical ‘west county’ vineyard with harvest coming in late October and a yield of about 1.5 tons to the acre. This wine consistently has notes of red/black cherry/current, yellow rose, roasted grain, pink peppercorn, smoke and sweet vanilla with sumac and other hints of Asian spice.
Jim Pratt ambitiously planted the Cornerstone Vineyard in 2000 to multiple Dijon clones, of which we selected the 114 for its flavor and weight. The vineyard is located 500 feet above the town of Freestone on Sexton Road. The cool breezes coming in from the coast allows this vineyard to ripen late allowing hang time for flavor development. The Russian River Valley has been expanded so this vineyard now fits into this appellation. Sweet cherry, red raspberry, pomegranate, rose petal jelly and pink peppercorn are the common characteristics of the wine coming from this vineyard.
Dave Umino owns and farms this 11 acre vineyard, one third of which is purchased by Chasseur, located on rolling hills southwest of the township of Sebastopol on Blucher Valley road. At this writing the Russian River Valley has extended its boundary to include this vineyard. Dave is a third generation farmer from the Central Valley of California leaving to pursue a career in forensic metallurgy. With a desire to return to the land Dave retired and purchased this current property. Against the advice of local farmers and consultants he planted the property to Dijon clones 115 and777 (which Chasseur purchases) among others in 1997. It was the belief at the time that this site was too cold for grapes. It is to our benefit that Dave paid no attention to this advice. 2006, our first vintage from this vineyard, was some of the finest quality fruit brought to the winery. In fact we have dedicated a vineyard designate to this vineyard starting with the 2006.
Most of the ‘Soft Asylum’ blend comes from a vineyard whose bud wood comes from the great La Tache vineyard in Burgundy. The proprietary name is derivative from lyrics of the 1960’s musical group The Doors of whom I was a fan in my youth.