January 13-California Pinot Noir

I can not go very long in this blog without mentioning the beloved wine movie, Sideways. If you haven’t seen it, the lead character, Miles, has a devotion to Pinot (cuz he ain’t drinking any fucking Merlot. More about the impact of that single movie quote on the wine industry some other time). His romance with Pinot is the result of understanding how temperamental Pinot Noir can be to grow. It’s the goldilocks of wine grapes. The reason I selected California Pinot is because it has a distinct juxtaposition to Willamette Pinot. Willamette Pinot tends to have more ripe red fruit and earthiness. Sonoma has juicier, more luscious red and blue fruit. The key defining feature between the two regions is the climate. The areas in California that grow Pinot are influenced by their close proximity to the ocean, just as in Oregon, but Sonoma and Santa Barbara have warmer climates during the growing season. This warmth imparts increased fruit notes, lower acid, and more alcohol than that of cooler climates of and Willamette. California pinot grapes are protected from overheating by the ocean winds and morning fog layer. Oregon Pinot will be coming at the end of March, so take good notes now to compare later!

The wine I selected to sample this week is from my personal collection! It came from a trip to Napa a couple years ago. Since it was my inaugural trip to Napa, I had to do the touristy thing and see ‘The Castle’. Castello de Amorosa (Castle of Love) was built when Dario Sattui, owner and a 4th generation winemaker, decided he wanted an authentic Tuscan castle, to honor his Italian heritage, in the middle of Napa Valley. He spent millions of dollars and 15 years to construct this meticulous gem. He even hired freemasons from Europe that could do the traditional work to build his dream castle. The owner spared no expense or detail in this masterpiece (it even has a moat with a drawbridge). His intended 8,500 square foot project morphed into a 121,000 square foot, authentic jewel. Stepping foot inside transports you back in time and to a whole different country. 

This week’s wine was a 2016 Morning Dew Ranch Pinot Noir. When I poured the tasting, I saw a clear, ruby that I could see through. The smell of toasted wood left from the glass but as I put my nose into it, I could also smell notes of red cherries, red currants, pomegranate, and vanilla. As we let the wine sit, the toasted wood faded and the fruit notes became more prominent. The light tannins and bright acidity carried the toasted oak, ripe red cherry and cola flavors over the tongue. As the toasted oak waned, wet forest floor dominated the finish. This wine would’ve been lovely with a bit of smoked salmon.


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