2008 Pinot Noirs: tasting notes and blending by valleyfog
Blending session for 2008 Hein Vineyard Pinot Noir

Blending session for 2008 Hein Vineyard Pinot Noir

We’re coming up on that time of year when things get a little crazy on the winemaking side. Final blending and bottling of last year’s harvest happen this month and then soon enough the next crop comes in, headed for barrels.

Today, Jennifer and I did a tasting and review of our 2008 Pinot Noirs and went through some final blending before we bottle them. We’re extremely happy with these wines. 2008 was a challenging year — known as the year of “fire and ice” (forest fires in the late summer, frost in the spring) — but overall, the climate up and down the coast was dry, producing wines of a similar ripeness and intensity as 2007.

In 2008, we have three different vineyard-designate wines: Hein Vineyard from Anderson Valley, Amber Ridge Vineyard from Russian River Valley and La Encantada Vineyard from Sta. Rita Hills in Santa Barbara County.

We sat down with our winemaker Chris Nelson and tasted the Hein Vineyard Pinot Noir first. Due to the fires in Mendocino, this wine was 100% free run juice, no pressing (to avoid the smoke), but surprisingly, the resulting wine has a beautiful deep ruby/purple color. The brightness and acidity of this 115 clone Pinot Noir really shine through, showing the classic characteristics of that “old-fashioned Anderson Valley Pinot Noir” that we like so much.

Against this 115 “control” we tried six different samples, blending varying amounts of other clones we had at our disposal, Pommard and 777 (both from Hein Vineyard). In the end, we went with a blend of the 115 clone and 777 to round it out and bring out the best of the wine: wonderful floral notes on the nose and bright cherry and strawberry on the palate that finishes clean and bright. The wine is lovely now, and it will develop layers as it ages in the bottle.

Tasting notes from the day

Tasting notes from the day

Our next wine, from the Amber Ridge Vineyard in the Russian River, took a little less head-scratching, as we only tried two different blends. This Pinot Noir was co-fermented with both 115 and 777 clones and right off the bat is highly drinkable.

The nose shows strawberry and red cherry and a little baking spice. On the palate is the classic Amber Ridge that we love (and have missed – the last time we made this wine was in 2005): sweet cherry, lush fruit, and a smooth finish.

To add a little more structure, we blended in some 667 clone from the same vineyard and it really hit the mark. The 667 enhanced the aromatics with a touch of earth, livened the mid-palate with more structure and rounded out the finish with a bit of creaminess.

We also took a quick look at our 2008 La Encantada. This is our most intense wine. Well, as intense as our balanced style of Pinot Noirs goes. The hillside placement of this vineyard in the Sta. Rita Hills and the proximity to a mountain gap that exposes it to coastal fog and winds produces a low-vigor environment that delivers a lush cherry, raspberry and dark berry mix. We’ll be back with a post on final tasting notes for this wine, but at first glance, it will be another great, lush representation of Richard Sanford’s wonderful organically farmed vineyard.

Brian puts his nose to work

Brian puts his nose to work

All three of these wines will be bottled this month. Release dates have yet to be determined, but keep a look out for a release this Fall. We walked away from today’s session very excited about our 2008 vintage and feel they will be incredibly layered and delicious Pinot Noirs.  We’re enjoying them now and feel that they will continue to develop beautifully in the bottle over time. Stay posted for release dates and final tasting notes and specs, as well as our first harvest reports in September.


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