2018 Pinot Noir 'Placida Vineyard'
No wine seems to demand more attention from the winemaker than Pinot Noir. The variety has vexed producers in California for years, and it’s safe to say that it still puzzles many winemakers today. A successful producer in Burgundy, I was once told, understands the soil where his Pinot Noir is planted, and makes a wine consistent with the capability of that soil. That sounded a little Zen at the time, but after 50 or 60 trips to Burgundy over the past three decades, it finally makes sense to me. Talented winemakers like Tadeo Borchardt develop an understanding of what to expect from the Pinot Noir grapes they harvest almost before they pick them. A winemaker in Burgundy never expects their Bourgogne Rouge to stand up to wines from their Premier or Grand Cru vineyards. Each is made from grapes grown on different soils. The talented producers will still manage to get the most out of each vineyard. So it is with California Pinot Noir, we’ve learned, as we now have several years of successful wines behind us and can look objectively at different growing conditions and the results from each.
These grapes, from the Chuy Ordaz vineyards in the Russian River Valley, regularly give us a dark wine - which seemingly combines intensity with elegance. The aroma is powerful, and the flavors are complex, with hints of ripe blackberry and coffee bean. Temperatures here are cold through most of the growing season, and the grapes ripen late. The soil is Goldridge Clay, a sandy, well-drained soil loaded with small pebbles. It provides the grapes with little nutrition and curtails the vine’s natural vigor.
After almost a decade of working with these grapes, we understand what kind of wine to expect, and we try not to stray from our intended path. We are attracted to the charm we get from the wine we make from these grapes, and in 2018 we find ourselves looking at those singular characteristics all over again, but each time from a slightly different angle.