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William Hunter
 
November 29, 2016 | William Hunter

Finding Both Elegance and Power in a Pinot

Thanks to all who were able to come to the open house on the 5th of last month, it seemed a good time was had by all.  Two more Chardonnays and two more Pinots are ready for the secondary fall release just in time for your Christmas goose.  They were previewed at the open house by everyone and much interest was shown and I feel they could be the most important to date, especially the Pinot’s.  Starting with this 2014 vintage two proprietary bottlings were put together one for a Chardonnay called ‘Sanctuary’ whose bud wood comes from the great Montrachet vineyard.  The other a Pinot Noir called ‘Soft Asylum’ whose bud wood comes from the even greater La Tache vineyard.  The proprietary names are derivative of lyrics of the 1960’s music group The Doors of whom I was a fan in my youth.  I’m also releasing the Freestone Station Pinot Noir and the Graton’s Choice Chardonnay at the same time… 

Since these Pinots are close in style to the Cote de Nuit in Burgundy, I feel a need to speak to the misconception that elegance is a euphemism for light and thin (although it can be by some in California) and that elegance and power are mutually exclusive. I’ve addressed this subject in the past and obviously I feel passionately about it. With the recent movement towards lower alcohol wines in California ‘elegant’ and therefore lighter wines are becoming more common.  But make no mistake this is also not an advocacy for heavy handed over-ripe Pinots either. Pinot Noir has a reputation as being a difficult wine to grow and produce and one of the reasons, among other things is a narrow harvest window.  Depending on picking ripeness the spectrum can run from under-ripe with notes of light strawberry making ‘elegant’ but light and typically thin wines all the way to the other end of the spectrum where over-ripeness runs towards heavy handed plum to prune which moves quickly away from elegance.  The best California Pinot’s are in the middle of the spectrum, black cherry/raspberry. Burgundies (classified growths) typically don’t develop those overripe qualities because they’re picked before they get that ripe due to cooler weather ‘hang time’  but they still develop weight and concentration from that hang time and are able to maintain their varietal character and elegance.

However, the over-ripe movement in California which has been around longer can be just as off putting to a Pinotphile.  Many wineries pick so ripe that the final wine contains residual sugar due to stuck fermentations from too much alcohol (they then often need to be dealcoholized) or they use Syrah as a compliment in blending for darker color both of which are cheap tricks to gain weight causing these wines to lose varietal character, and it is the pure Pinot character of which there is nothing like in wine.  Although California can’t make Burgundy it is this style that they should be striving for.  Pinot is a delicate grape and the best wines lack manipulation. After trying the aforementioned wines I think you’ll agree that Chasseur fits that bill.

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