In 2004, a warm late winter coupled with mild spring and summer weather and several late-season heat spells produced an early harvest in Mendocino County’s cool-climate Anderson Valley, a haven for top-flight Pinot Noir. The early start to the season and lower-than-normal crop loads produced small-berried grape clusters that at harvest attained optimal maturity and flavor development, resulting in wines with deep color, great concentration, full, ripe tannins and firm acidity.
Eighty percent of the grapes for this wine came from our vineyard west of Boonville in the southern end of Anderson Valley, a celebrated cool-climate district that follows the Navarro River as it drains into the Pacific Ocean at Albion on the Mendocino Coast. (Subsequent vintages will be 100% estate-grown.) The vineyard is planted to six different, high-quality French Pinot Noir clones (115, 667, 777, 375, Pommard and Swan) that are well-suited to Anderson Valley’s cool climate and produce small clusters of small-berried grapes with complex, powerful flavors and excellent tannin structure. In 2004, our Anderson Valley grapes were harvested between September 2nd and 13th at peak maturity.
Our regimen for producing world-class Pinot Noir includes gentle handling of the fruit, moderate fermentation temperatures, and minimal manipulation of the wine during barrel aging. Prior to fermentation, a three-day cold soak gently extracts stable pigments and tannins from the must (unfermented juice and skins) while promoting a fruit-forward character. After the cold soak, we inoculate with a cultured yeast strain to instigate fermentation. In 2004, we fermented with 15% whole clusters to enhance complexity and spicy aromatics. In traditional Burgundian fashion, the juice fermented in open-top tanks with gentle punch-downs of the cap. After fermentation completed, the wine macerated on the skins for another two weeks, with daily monitoring to assess color and tannins. After draining the wine off the skins, we transferred it to French oak barrels, 50% new, where it aged undisturbed for 15 months before blending and bottling.
Our 2004 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir boasts seductive aromas of dark plum, ripe blackberry and sweet black cherry fruit coupled with an intriguing scent of rose hips tea. On the palate, its deep, lavish fruit flavors are balanced by full, ripe tannins and firm acidity, culminating in a lengthy finish mingling succulent black cherry fruit with a pronounced tea-leaf spiciness. Delicious to drink now, this luxurious Pinot Noir will benefit from another 3-5 years of bottle aging.