In 2004, a warm late winter, which resulted in unusually early bud break, was followed by mild spring and summer weather and several late-season heat spells to produce one of Napa Valley’s earliest harvests on record. The early start to the season, coupled with generally light crop loads, yielded grapes with concentrated flavors, ripe tannins and bright acidity, a recipe for red wines of impressive depth and structure. The grapes for our 2004 Carneros Pinot Noir were night-harvested at perfect maturity between August 18th and 30th.
Our Pinot Noir grapes come from several outstanding vineyards in the Carneros district of southern Napa Valley, a renowned cool-climate region profoundly influenced by breezes and fog from nearby San Pablo Bay. These prized sites, including our own Foster Road vineyard, are planted to several French Dijon clones of Pinot Noir. For this vintage we are using Dijon clones 667 and 115. Flourishing in a long, cool growing season that encourages slow, even ripening, these superb clones produce small crops of Pinot Noir grapes with impressively concentrated flavors.
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. In 2004, our Carneros fruit was cold soaked for 72 hours prior to fermentation to extract more color from the must (unfermented juice and skins). We then inoculated the must with a cultured yeast strain, controlling tank temperatures to ensure a slow, active fermentation. In traditional Burgundian fashion, a number of the lots fermented in small, open-top tanks with gentle punch-downs to thoroughly macerate the juice and skins. After fermentation completed, the wines continued macerating on the skins for several more weeks, checked daily for color and tannin levels. They were then drained from tank, inoculated for malolactic fermentation and put into French oak barrels, 48% new, where they aged undisturbed for 14 months before blending and bottling.
Our 2004 Carneros Pinot Noir displays a lovely red-cherry color and a complex, perfumed bouquet of wild black cherry and red plum fruit accented by scents of sandalwood, brown spices and sweet, toasty oak. On the silkily textured palate, the wine’s succulent, concentrated, black cherry, plum and blackberry flavors acquire a zesty, tea-leaf spiciness in the long, savory finish. Delicious now, this classic Carneros Pinot Noir will develop additional complexity with several more years of bottle aging.