Prince’s Excellent Adventure at WOPN
Every March, several hundred pinot geeks converge on the small seaside community of Shell Beach, California
and revel in their beloved passion. Over 190 producers of Pinot Noir and several importers provided samples
to the seemingly insatiable throng. This was the Eight Annual World of Pinot Noir (WOPN), and the event truly
lived up to its worldly theme. There were Pinot Noir producers from every corner of the earth including British
Columbia, Chile, France (Burgundy), Germany, Italy, New Zealand, Switzerland, and Tasmania. Although California
dominated the winery participants’ roster, Oregon was well represented as well.
As I attended the informative seminars, walked the tents and sampled the wines at the Pinot Noir by
the Sea Tastings, and interviewed several wine personalities, I made several general observations.
This is a terrific event and all of the suggestions to follow are meant to be constructive.
(1) Many producers at the walk-around tastings are pouring their latest vintage (2006) and in some
cases, even barrel samples, but the wines that really show the best , are the ones from recent vintages
which have some bottle age such as those from the 2005 vintage. Producers should hold
back some of their wine for these events so the consumer can see what the wines are capable of
with a little bottle age. In defense of some wineries, a few offered small verticals.
(2) Walk-around tastings are not a format that lends itself to seriously tasting wine. There are simply
far too many distractions (smells, noise, and laughter). It is a whoop-up meant for enjoying Pinot
Noir and not critiquing it. For me, these events are more about renewing friendships, making new
ones, and becoming better acquainted with the people behind the wines. As Master of Wine Tim
Atkin has said, “The character, ambition and talent of the person who made it is highly relevant to
how the wine tastes. I want to know about these things, just as I want to know about vintage conditions,
personal eccentricities, and a winemaker’s take on the world. All of these things make wine
different; all of these things make wine special.”
(3) The program listed the producers and most relevant information, but there was no inclusion of the
specific wines they poured, including case production, alcohol %, price and winemaker. Trying to
write this information down while holding a stem, a spit cup, a program, a pen, and a notepad requires
at least another arm.
(4) At the end of the walk-around tasting, it would be nice to be able to check off from a complete list
of wineries those that you wish to receive mailings and offerings from. This would avoid repeatedly
writing your name and address at each winery’s pouring station.
(5) Serving the wines at the proper temperature is a real challenge, especially since the days were
rather sunny and warm. Warmish Pinot is never enjoyable. Anyone want to donate 200 coolers?
(6) The crowds descended on the Kosta Browne, Sea Smoke and Pisoni/Lucia/Roar wine booths and
they were out of wine before the sessions ended.
(7) There are few millenials attending the seminars other than winemakers. Perhaps we need to put
more fun and conviviality into some seminars, attracting younger people and encouraging them to
fawn over Pinot Noir so its surge in popularity will continue. Young people are refreshing for they
are more adventurous and tend to underestimate their wine knowledge, unlike many older pinot
geeks who often stick with the tried and true and overestimate what they know.
(8) When will wine events enter the this century and adapt the use of modern presentation tools such
as Power Point presentations and video to complement their seminars?
(9) At the end of an extended walk-around tasting, it is always surprising to look down and see your
purple-stained fingers used to hold your wineglass throughout the afternoon. It is almost a badge
of recognition and honor.
(10) The buzz from many winegrowers was that the 2007 vintage in California was one of the best in
recent memory. Everyone seems to think the wines are great, with considerable depth of fruit and
structure that will hold up well for many years.
New Faces at WOPN
Anglim Winery A small family-owned winery in Paso Robles
which was launched in 2005. Winemaker Steve Anglim produces several
varietals including a Pinot Noir from the Fiddlestix Vineyard in the
Santa Rita Hills (2005 sold is out at the winery, 2006 will be released in
the Spring). The website is www.anglimwinery.com.
Anthony Dell Cellars Joy Dell Means and Douglas Anthony Drawbond started their winery in
1996 and released their first Pinot Noir in 2002. Located in McMinnville, OR. The website
Asuncion Ridge Vineyards Winegrower Philip Krumal has a small
estate Pinot Noir vineyard at 2000 ft in the hills above Atascadero and released his
first Pinot Noir from the 2005 vintage. I sampled the inaugural release last year and
was quite impressed. The website is www.asuncionridge.com.
Derby Wine Estates This new producer was pouring their inaugural 2006 Pinot Noir from the
Derbyshire Vineyard in San Simeon. The vineyard is just 1¼ miles inland from the Pacific Ocean
(photo below). 62 acres are planted to clones 115, 667 and 777 of Pinot Noir (2002) and 11 acres to
Pinot Gris. Yields here are extremely low. The website is www.laurasvineyard.com.
Owner David Rossi’s background was in food marketing. He began his winemaking
career at home over ten years ago and his success in amateur winemaking competitions led
him to launch Fulcrum wines. Christinna Rossi assists David with the sales and marketing. David has a
admirable philosophy: produce wines that are balanced with respect to acid, tannin, alcohol, fruit, oak,
and age-worthiness. A fulcrum is a point of balance for a lever and his goal is to leverage the best
wine out of the best grapes while maintaining balance. That is what Fulcrum is all about. He crafts his
wines at Crushpad in San Francisco. His years of marketing experience are reflected in the impressive
presentation of his wines. Each bottle is carefully wrapped in tissue and encased in a paper collar
that has a seal depicting an acrobat juggling. This image embodies David’s guiding theme of balance
(see photos next page). Six bottles are presented in a handsome engraved wood box - very classy.
2006 Fulcrum Wines Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., 100 cases, $52. From three vineyards,
Akins, Hein Family, and Wentzel. Clones are Pommard, 115, 667 and 777. Aged 10 months in 41%
new French oak (Francois Frere and Seguin Moreau).
The wine leads off with aromas of cherries, raspberries,
herbs and newly mowed hay. Darker fruits dominate the flavor profile, with hints of raisin, spice and
wood. Plenty of acid, even a little tart on the finish, which also displays a fruity raspberry flavor. A very
respectable effort first time out.
In 2007, Fulcrum Wines will also release Pinot Noirs from the Sonoma Coast, Santa Rita Hills, as well as
Anderson Valley. The very informative website is www.fulcrumwines.com.
Talk about Pinot Noir now being international. Dag Johan
Sundby discovered Pinot Noir (Burgundy) while living in Norway. Subsequently, he
visited the United States and was struck by Oregon Pinot Noir. He purchased a
unique 65-acre vineyard in the Van Duzer corridor west of Salem, Oregon. The initial
vintage was 2005 and production is 1,000 cases. The website is
Lucienne Vineyards This new winery produces estate bottled Pinot Noir sourced from Hahn
Estates vineyards in the Santa Lucia Highlands. Lucienne takes its name from two sources: Nicky
Hahn’s middle name, Lucien, but in the feminine form to honor Santa Lucia, the patron saint of light
who is known for bringing light to the darkness. The 2005 vintage is the inaugural offering of a Santa
Lucia Highlands appellation Pinot Noir and a Lone Oak single vineyard designated Pinot Noir crafted
by winemaker Paul Clifton. The website is www.luciennevineyards.com.
McIntyre Vineyards Steve and Kim McIntyre have been involved in
the wine industry for 28 years including growing grapes for many well-known
wineries through their vineyard management company, Monterey Pacific.
Together, they decided to start their own label, sourcing Pinot Noir from
Arroyo Seco and the Santa Lucia Highlands. They also craft a sparkling wine
labeled “L’homme qui ris” (the man who laughs). The website is
Olson Ogden Wines Located in Sebastopol, Sonoma County, this newer winery is a partnership
between Tim Olson and John Ogden and crafts Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley. A small
feature on this winery and tasting notes were featured in a recent PinotFile (Volume 6, Issue 51).
Prodigal Wines A new face in the Santa Rita Hills that released a
Santa Rita Hills appellation Pinot Noir and Estate Quinta Santa Rosa Vineyard
Pinot Noir in 2005. Stephen Russell, along with wife Mary, are the
smiling faces behind their new venture. I re-tasted both wines at the
WOPN and enjoyed both for their elegance and demure fruit flavors.
The winery has been prominently featured in past issues of the PinotFile.
The website is www.ProdigalWines.com.
Rhys Vineyards Rhys vineyards consists of seven different small Pinot
Noir plantings in the Santa Cruz Mountains appellation. Planting and farming
these vineyards has been a challenge, and only recently (2007) have estate
wines been barreled from each separate vineyard. A second label, Alexia,
offers Pinot Noirs from purchased grapes in the Sonoma Coast, Chileno Valley,
and Russian River Valley. This was the first estate Rhys Pinot Noir I had sampled
and it created quite a buzz at the event.
2006 Rhys Vineyards Alpine Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
Most of the wine’s
“clones” are heritage selections such as Calera, Hyde, Swan, Wente (a total of 16 different clones).
a baby with plenty of tannins to shed, but the fruit core is strikingly pure and satisfying. Richly layered,
sturdy on the palate, and possessing a suave texture.
Rhys Vineyards wines are sold through a mailing list. The website is www.rhysvineyards.com.
Surh Luchtel Cellars Owners and winemakers Don Surh and Gary Luchtel have been producing
wine under this label since 1999, but their first Pinot Noir was released in 2003. Most of their
production has been Bordeaux varietals. Don was pouring a 2005 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
which was a bit subdued (Don said it drank much better in barrel and hadn’t recovered), and an excellent
2005 Garys’ Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir.
Surh Luchtel Cellars is located in Napa. The website is www.surhluchtel.com.
Thorne Wine Group The Thorne family has owned the Rio Vista Vineyard property in the
Santa Rita Hills for over 50 years. Bobbie and Gramer Thorne planted 26 acres of Pinot Noir in 2001
and another 38 acres in 2006. There are seven winemakers sourcing Rio Vista Vineyard fruit including
Thorne Wine which debuted their initial 2005 offering at this year’s WOPN. Www.thornewine.com.
Cream of the Crop
With so many Pinot Noirs to taste, I could only sample a small number of them. The following wines
really impressed me and are worth searching out for your own cellar.
2005 Etude Wines Tremblor Carneros Pinot Noir
This is Etude’s second vineyard
designate Pinot Noir.
A complete wine that displays Tony Soter’s genius. Beautiful
spiced cherry and strawberry aromas and flavors perfectly weighted with demure tannins
and perky acidity.
2005 Frogmore Creek Tasmania Pinot Noir
Bright and pure nose of cherries,
strawberries and roses. Cola and cherry flavors with a nice woodsy tone and edgy acidity. A flat-out stunning
wine that reminds me of Chambolle Musigny in style and character.
2005 Ketcham Estate Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
From a vineyard on Eastside Road near J
Winery in the Russian River Valley. Crafted by Michael Browne (Kosta Browne). Sold only through a
This is a marvelous wine which shows a softer and more reserved Michael Browne style.
Typical Russian River Valley pedigree with Bing cherry, cola and spice. Very showy and fruity and a delight
2006 Lynmar Terra De Promisso Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
This is one of the newer vineyard
designate Pinot Noirs from Lynmar (unreleased).
Winemaker Hugh Chapelle poured me a good
slug of this and I drank it all. Displaying that coastal minerality and tenacity, this Pinot Noir will knock
your socks off. Plenty of Pinot fruits, baking spice and juicy tang, with a silky texture to boot, this will be a
2005 Mayro-Murdick Carneros Pinot Noir
A top scoring Pinot Noir in a
San Francisco Chronicle tasting. I featured this small producer in the PinotFile in the
past, and all of the Pinot Noirs under this label are recommended. The winemaker,
Michael Cox, is also the winemaker at Schug in Carneros.
Plenty of elegant pinotosity
here with plum, wild berry and earthy flavors and admirable balance.
2006 Penner-Ash Wine Cellars Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
$35. Lynn and Ron Penner-
Ash craft their Pinot Noirs in a newly-constructed gravity flow winery located on
80 acres in Newberg, OR. Lynn, whose career began at Rex Hill Winery, has a touch with Pinot Noir
and her wines have received well-deserved praise from the wine press.
This is one of those wines that
can best be described as a beautiful woman in fine red lingerie. Full of charm and attraction, this was one
of the best Pinot Noirs I tasted all weekend.
2004 and 2005 Quails’ Gate Estate Vineyard Okanagan Valley British Columbia Pinot Noir
I spoke with winemaker Ted Lemon of Littorai some time back, he mentioned that British Columbia
might be the next great region for Pinot Noir. Since Canadian wines are rarely exported to the United
States, we have had little experience with the Pinot Noirs from this winegrowing region. I first tasted
Quails’ Gate Pinot Noir at the International Pinot Noir Celebration two years ago and was very, very
impressed. Both of the 2004 and 2005 wines confirmed my first indoctrination. Quails’ Gate has been producing
Pinot Noir since 1989 from their 125-acre estate vineyard on the shores of Lake Okanagan. Mostly Spätburgunder
clone from Germany.
This is a world-class Pinot Noir of great distinction and sophistication.
It's beautifully composed with delicate cherry fruits, subtle spices, admirable oak highlights,
and silky textures. The balance is so perfect the wine is almost ephemeral. Too bad we can’t get our
hands on some of this juice.
2006 Red Car Zio Tony Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
Red Car is expanding its offerings to three vineyard designates from the Sonoma Coast
and Russian River Valley.
Where once they were known for a California Neuvo style (that
is, heavily extracted and endowed), the wines have taken on more elegance and complexity.
Barrel samples are always tricky, but the Zio Tony was very showy with luscious black
2005 Rippon Vineyard Central Otago New Zealand Pinot Noir
comes from the most photographed vineyard in the world, Rippon Vineyard on
the western shores of Lake Wanaka. The property has been in the Mills family for
four generations and current winemaker Nick Mills is crafting superb Pinot Noir
reflective of his extensive training in Burgundy. (Imported
by Station Imports in Colorado Springs, CO, 719-633-2184).
More restrained and reserved
than many heavily-oaked and strongly-fruited Central Otago Pinot Noirs, this is a
classy wine that will have a wide fan base. Pure red Pinot fruits, nicely spiced and
set off by brisk acidity, this is a food wine that has a long life ahead of it.
2005 Saintsbury Brown Ranch Vineyard Carneros Pinot Noir
Winemaker Jerome Chery
has acquired a sensibility about Pinot Noir from his years with Ted Lemon, and this wine from the winery’s
flagship vineyard, is a vin de garde for the Carneros appellation.
Brown Ranch wines (the
2006 was a barrel sample) show marvelous purity of fruit with all kinds of layered interest such as spice,
earth, forest floor and animale.
2006 Saintsbury Brown Ranch Vineyard Carneros Pinot Noir
Winemaker Jerome Chery
has acquired a sensibility about Pinot Noir from his years with Ted Lemon, and this wine from the winery’s
flagship vineyard, is a vin de garde for the Carneros appellation.
Brown Ranch wines (this was a barrel sample) show marvelous purity of fruit with all kinds of layered interest such as spice,
earth, forest floor and animale.
2003 Talisman Wines Thorn Ridge Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
I am a fan of
Scott Rich’s wines as they are quite distinctive and built for beautiful aging. Scott was
pouring several other very good Pinots including the 2005 Hawks Hill Russian
River Valley Pinot Noir.
This wine is just hitting its stride with pure ruby color, dried cherry and berry
flavors, complimentary earthiness and sauvage, and lively acidity.
Seminars at Domaine Alfred Winery
Old Clones/Old Vines vs New Clones/New Vines
Moderated by Patrick Comiskey, Senior Editor of Wine & Spirits Magazine
Panelists & Tasting Order
Amity Vineyards, Willamette Valley, Oregon, Myron Redford - Winemaker
1999 Amity Upright Clone Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
From older clones with upright
growth pattern - Gamay Beaujolais planted in 1970, Ponzi clone (?Martini) planted in
Old wine patina. Cigar box and wet leaves on the nose. A rustic wine with dwindling
fruit and plenty of acidity.
Ancien, Carneros, California, Ken Bernards - Winemaker
Laetitia Vineyards & Winery, Arroyo Grande Valley, California, Eric Hickey - Winemaker
Thomas Fogerty Winery & Vineyards, Santa Cruz Mountains, CA, Nathan Kandler - Winemaker
Handley Cellars, Anderson Valley, California, Milla Handley - Winemaker
Dutton-Goldfield, Russian River Valley, California, Dan Goldfield - Winemaker
Each of the panelists spoke at length about Pinot Noirs made with old clones versus new clones and
old vines versus new vines. Here is a summary of the comments and conclusions. Definitive statements
are difficult because there are so many variables such as site, rootstocks, and farming practices.
* There is no clear definition of an old vine. It seems to vary with the site. Freddie Mugnier
says he notices changes after his vines are 30 years old. Myron Redford said one definition
is “when you walk through a vineyard and look at each other and your hair is turning
gray, the vines are getting old.”
* It is difficult to taste vine age in Pinot Noir as the effect of site often predominates.
* Old clones are actually field selections and heterogeneous.
* Old clone Pinot Noirs are more layered and interesting. The wines have more depth,
more subtleties and nuances, and are not as upfront. Tannins are more balanced. New clone
wines are more vibrant, expressive and exuberant with more grip and tannins.
* Old vine Pinot Noirs seem to age better.
* Old vines become infected with viruses causing the resulting wines to have less color.
* Old vines have better balance and produce grapes with physiological ripeness at lower Brix.
* New vine grapes ripen quicker. accumulate sugars faster, and generally have less acidity.
* New clone/vine fruit is more consistent.
Latitudes & Longitudes - A Global Perspective
Moderator Fred Dame, MS
Panelists & Tasting Order
Andrew Hood - Tasmania
Tasmania is a small island, about 190 by 150 miles in size. Wine production is less than 10,000
tons per year, about ½ % of Australia’s total output. Tasmania is located at about 40° longitude,
about the same as New Zealand. It is probably known more for its sparkling wine output, but
Tasmania is an outstanding source of still Pinot Noir.
2005 Frogmore Creek Reserve Tasmania Pinot Noir
150 cases. The winery is owned by
Andrew Hood who also makes wine for several other Tasmania wineries.
Very nice wine with plenty of red cherry and spice, light on its feet and elegant with a good acid
backbone. This is delicious.
Ernst Loosen - Germany
Pinot Noir has a long tradition in Germany. It was brought to Germany in about 1885. There are
75,000 acres planted in Germany, second only to Riesling, and Germany has the second largest
planting of Pinot Noir in Europe behind France. In 1996, Ernst Loosen took over the J.L. Wolf
estate so that he could make powerful, traditionally crafted Pfalz wines to complement the light
and elegant Dr. Loosen Rieslings from the Mosel. The Pfalz region lies between the Haardt
Mountains and the Rhine River, directly north of France’s Alsace region. As in Alsace, the
mountains protect the area from harsh Atlantic weather, making it one of the warmer and drier
area of Germany. All of the Burgundy grape varieties have a long tradition in the Pfalz region,
which is known for its full-bodied and fruit-driven Pinot Noirs.
2004 J.L. Wolf Alte Reben, Pfalz Pinot Noir (Spätburgunder)
This wine comes from a parcel
of old vines (“Alte Reben”) that was planted in 1968 with a mix of German clones. This parcel is
in a vineyard called Forster Musenhang, which was rated as a “second growth” in the 1828
vineyard classification done by the Bavarian government. The fruit was harvested at 13.0%
potential alcohol. Cold maceration was followed by traditional fermentation in 400-liter bins.
The wine was aged in 40% new French oak barriques for 16 months. Total production was 116
Mahogany-tinged color. Leafy, asparagus aromas. Light red fruit, with tangy acidity.
2005 Dr. Loosen & J. Christopher “Appassionata” Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
This wine is a collaboration between Ernst Loosen and Jay
Somers, owner of J. Christopher Wines in Oregon. The two met some
years ago at the International Pinot Noir Celebration. This wine is a
barrel selection of several different clones including Wädenswil,
Pommard, and Dijon 114, 115. The wine spent 20 months in 30% new
French oak barriques. Production was 99 cases. The wines has not been
released because it has not reached its peak maturity. The long term
plan for “Appassionata” is to secure vineyard contracts or leaseholds so
that Jay and Ernst can have better control of viticulture. With the 2007 harvest, the first such
dedicated parcel, in the Bella Vida vineyard, was contracted and more will follow in 2008.
Very New World with a dark purple color. Rich, deep black cherry scents leading to substantial
dark fruit intensity, extended tannins and a long, dry finish.
Nick S. Mills - Central Otago, New Zealand
The story of Rippon Vineyard in Central Otago has been told before in the PinotFile (see also
page 7). Rippon’s vines are some of the oldest in the region. The estate Pinot Noir is from 15-25
year-old vines planted over 40 acres. Farming is organic and biodynamic. The wines spend two
winters (16-18 months) in barrel and are cellared for one year in bottle before release. $45.
2005 Rippon Vineyard Central Otago Pinot Noir
Killer nose of black cherry, blackberry and
spearmint. Dark in color, but elegant in presentation. Precise and focused fruit with a lovely silky
texture and perfect balance. Beautifully crafted for the dinner table.
Sergio Muttura - Italy
The Mottura family is originally from the Piemonte region of Italy, where
there is a village bearing the Mottura name close to Turin. Here, traces of
the family can be found dating back to the early 1500s. Sergio’s uncle,
Alessandro, bought Civitella d’Agliano in 1933, the large estate the family
now owns. At the age of 20, Sergio took on the management of the family
farm and moved from Turin to Civitella, where he has remained ever since.
The Maottura estate grows vines, olives and various grains and has an
‘agriturismo’ hotel (La Tana dell’Istrice or The Porcupine’s Lair) where
guests can enjoy the farm produce and the farm’s celebrated wines.
Sergio is committed to organic farming and crafting small-scale, handcrafted
wines using traditional local grape varieties. The Magone Vineyard
is a hi-denisty planting begun in 1962. In 1980 it was regrafted to Pinot Noir
and the first Pinot Noir was released in 1990. The wines are 100% Pinot
Noir. Alcohols are 13.5%, $25.
2004 Magone Lazio Rosso I.G.T.
Dark purple color. Ripe, dark fruited
aromas with hints of tar aand chocolate. Chewy dark fruits with healthy tannins
and a dry finish. Reminds one of Sangiovese.
2005 Magone Lazio Rosso I.G.T.
Similar to above wine but more elegant
with more pinotypicity. Still a big and heardy fruit-driven California Nuevo
Matthias Gubler - Switzerland
Pinot Noir is the most planted red wine grape in Switzerland.
The country has a thirsty appetite for Pinot Noir - 35% of Grand
Cru Burgundy is consumed in Switzerland. Clos Martha is very
small, producing 200 cases per year, and sold directly to locals
only. Winemaker and owner Gubler is Swiss-born, but
California-based. The estate vineyard is located in the Basil AVA
which consists of 250 acres of vines. Steeply situated at 1,200
feet, Clos Martha is surrounded by a wall to keep the soil and
2006 Clos Martha Pinot Noir
Smoke and toast lead off.
Attractive wild berry fruit attack with plenty of finishing acidity.
These wines are quite unusual and will appeal to the adventurous.
Are We Losing Our Regionality?
Moderator - Peter Neptune MS
NOTE: The following two seminars were held at Tolosa Winery concurrent with the two seminars I
attended at Domaine Alfred Winery. Obviously I could not attend both. A reader, Russell McCandless,
was at Tolosa Winery, and he offered me his notes on the two seminars. I have reproduced them here
with some editorial modification and addition with his permission.
Panelists & Tasting Order
The seminar included producers extending from the Western Hemiphere’s Okanagan Valley in British
Columbia to the Southern Hemisphere’s Casablanca Valley in Chile Most wine grapes on this planet
are grown between the 33rd and 48th parallels, with stretches to between the 31st and 50th parallels. A
majority of the panelists in this seminar were from California which is between 39 and 33 degrees north
latitude. British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley is at 49 degrees north, while Chile’s Casablanca Valley is
at 33 degrees south. The most southerly Pinot Noir winegrowing region is New Zealand’s Central Otago
located at 45 degrees south latitude. (For reference, Oregon Pinot Noir is within a few miles of the 45th
parallel, Burgundy’s Cote d’Or is between 47 degrees 20 minutes and 46 degrees 55 minutes)
Grant Stanley - Winemaker
Steven Rogstad - Winemaker
Adam Lee - Owner & Winemaker
2006 Siduri Garys’ Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
Highly forthcoming Xmas
spice nose. Delicious glycerol-laden fruit, dark fruit spectrum, very aromatic finish. Superb.
Although Sidur single vineyard Pinot Noirs are too big, too alcoholic, too sweet for me (Russell)
more often than not, the ones that don’t cross that line, including this example, are wonderful. (I
agree with that statement).
Christian Roguenant - Winemaker
Norm Yost - Owner & Winemaker
Evelyn Vidal - Winemaker
2006 Kingston Family Vineyards Alazan Casablanca Valley Pinot Noir
Note: I tasted both the 2002 and 2005 Alazan Pinot Noirs in the walkaround
tasting. I felt the wines were a bit rustic, veering toward “Burgundian” austerity. The
2002 wine, however, had taken on secondary flavors of earth, tobacco and game and was quite
enjoyable. Because of their prominent acidity, they do not easily catch a taster’s fancy in a
walk-around tasting stocked with many fruit-forward wines, but they would do just fine on the
dinner table. The wines are exported to the United States
Lovely nose, silky
mouth entry, balanced fruit, sound acid structure, tasty. Aromatic finish and good length. A lovely
wine that needs a little time.
The point of the whole seminar was to see if Pinot Noir is losing its regionality. It is clear from the
tasting notes that the answer is no, especially if you compare Pinot Noirs from different countries as in
this and other seminars. There are many similarities for sure, especially when the same clones are
used, but the experienced taster can recognize the subtle reflections of site differences that Pinot Noir
offers. It’s the dirt that matters, and the dirt varies significantly from region to region.
Exploring Oregon’s New World Burgundy
Moderator - Harry Peterson-Nedry, Chehalem
The Willamette Valley was Oregon’s first formal American Viticultural Area (AVA), created in 1984.
Unofficially, it is divided into north and south halves along the 45th parallel. There are now 15 AVAs in
Oregon and 6 sub-AVAs in the Willamette Valley (McMinnville Foothill, Dundee Hills, Ribbon Ridge,
Yamhill-Carlton District, Eola-Amity Hills District, and Chehalem Mountains). The sub-AVA
designations started appearing on wine labels (replacing “Willamette Valley”) with the 2004 and 2005
The AVAs are largely characterized by their soils and generalizations regarding flavors and styles of
Pinot Noir can be made for the appellations based on the differences in soil type. The AVAs with Jory
soils (red volcanic basalt soil), including the Dundee Hills, Eola-Amity Hills, and parts of Chehalem
Mountains and McMinnville, tend to produce Pinot Noirs with bright red fruits including cherry and
raspberry, and are softly textured. The Pinot Noirs from AVAs with Willakenzie soils (brown marine
sedimentary soils) including Yamhill-Crlton, Ribbon Ridge, and parts of Chehalem Mountains and
McMinnville, typically offer more dark fruit, spice (cola, anise), and wet leaf flavors and tend to be more
tannic and structured.
The wineriesparticipating in this seminar were from Yamhill-Carlton and Ribbon Ridge (Willakenzie -
Soter Vineyards, Penner-Ash Wine Cellars, Elk Cove Vineyards, Chehalem and Beaux Freres) and Eola-
Amita Hills (Jory - Bethel Heights Vineyards, Cristom Vineyards). The challenge was to discover those
characteristics that are expressed or not expressed differently by each AVA. Despite the panelists best
efforts, Russell reported that he was not able to come away with any appellation-speicific characteristics
that he could clearly discern. I attended a similar seminar a few years ago at an event and I was left with
the same feeling afterwards. I think Oregon winemakers can make distinctions through years of
comparative tasting, but the general consumer may find such differences frustratingly beyond their
The Wines of Domaine Jacques-Frédéric Mugnier
Moderator - Allen Meadows, Burghound.com
Each year, one of the highlights of the World of Pinot Noir is the Saturday morning tasting of Burgundy
from a well-known domaine. Allen Meadows, one of the world’s acknowledged authorities on
Burgundy, offers colorful commentary and background information making the event highly popular
and eagerly attended by lovers of fine Burgundy. I have divided this report into two parts. Part one
includes the comments of Allen Meadows about Frédéric Mugnier and his wines and the remarks of
Frédéric (his friends affectionately call him “Freddy”) Mugnier about his domaine and wines. Part two
offers a discussion of the three featured bottlings sampled with tasting notes of the wines. Meadows
(vest) and Mugnier are pictured below during an interview by the Grape Radio crew.
In Burgundy, the stars are the vineyards, not the winemakers. Many centuries of careful study by the
Cisterian monks led to a definitive demarcation of the terroirs of the Cote d’Or. As a group, these
monks were very atuned to their environment and they did not have to make wine for a living - two very
important facts that explain the evolution of the Cote d’Or viticultural mileu. With the French Revolution,
rich owners replaced the church owners and the vineyards were subdivided many times over, but the
“groundwork” for the Burgundian terroir-based viticultural system was firmly established.
Frederic Mugnier’s philsophy is summarized very simply: let the message in the vineyard come
through. Mugnier’s background is engineering and he was a commercial pilot who came to wine as a
second career. He started crafting wine while still a pilot and released his virst vintage in 1985 from 4
hectares of Chambolle Musigny vineyards (including.53 hectare of Les Amoureuses, .36 hectare of
Bonne Mares, and a little over 1 hectare of Musigny - second only to Comte de Vogue) that had been in
his family for generations and mostly leased to others. By his own admission, he didn’t know anything
about winemaking initially. He attended viticulture school in Beaune and experimented a lot. Over time
his experience has served him better than formal winemaking education. He continued to work as a
pilot until 2000. In 2004 his Domaine changed dramatically when Faiveley’s lease of the Mugnier
family’s 9.55-hectare Nuits St. George 1er Cru Clos de la Maréchale expired. This more than tripled the
size of Mugnier’s vineyard holdings to 13.5 hectares. With the assuamption of the largest monopole in
Burgundy, his Domaine became quite large, and he was forced to build a winery and hire several
workers to assist him.
Mugnier’s wines are among the purest in Burgundy and Meadows can think of only one other domaine
that is in the same classs and that is D’Angerville. The wines are unadorned and unadultered. They do
not overwhelm - the drinker must listen. Most people want volume turned up in wine, but Mugnier’s
wines are more subtle and the drinker must make an effort to really appreciate them. The wines
require plenty of bottle age. Meadows quoted Matt Kramer, who said the distinguishing signature of
Mugnier’s wines was “the absence of a signature.” As noted in the first sentence on this page, its not
about the winemaker, its about the vineyards and “it is what it is.” Meadows emphasized his admiration
for Mugnier’s ability to keep his hands off and let the vineyard and vintage speak.
Mugnier is a charming but painfully shy gentleman who said that his wines were an expression of
“someone who likes beauty,” more than wines “seen through the eyes of an engineer.” Interestingly,
he remarked that his vineyards do not have the ideal clones and rootstocks that he would choose today,
but the vine age (many over 50 years old) obscures the quality of the plant material. Mugnier has
farmed nearly organically since 1990, using only non-organic sprays for odium control, avoiding the
use of copper sulfate (an organic treatment) which he feels accumulates in the soil and leads to
undesirable adverse effects on the vines.
Meadows made a number of pertinent comments about recent vintages in Burgundy. He pointed out
that the much-misaligned 2001 vintage is just now beginning to blossom and the wines are very terroirdriven
(transparent) with good acidity and outstanding in quality. There has been considerable hype
about 1999, 2002 and 2005, but the2001 Burgundies wines will truly reward those who had the foresight
to buy and cellar them. This was evident in the tasting of the Chambolle Musigny and Musigny wines of
Mugnier where the 2001 vintages were clearly the stars. The 2003 vintage was the hottest since 1893
(the modern parallel was 1947). The wines from this vintage are “power Burgundies,” but are
becoming more interesting with age. The 2004 vintage was a difficult one with hail and mildew
pressures. There are a number of good wines with respectable fruit. Meadows is still touting the 2005
vintage as possibly the best since 1978, ripe and structured, classic old style and built for the long haul.
However, the wines are now closing down and those who taste them currently may be disappointed.
Meadows advised buying as much 2005 Burgundy as you can afford with good faith from producers you
trust and lay the wines down for several years. Drink the 2004 and 2006 vintages in the meantime.
2006 is a “pure, pretty vintage,” much like 2001 in that the terroirs show through, but showy early on.
For the complete story of Domaine Jacques-Frédéric Mugnier and a vertical tasting of Mugnier Musigny,
refer to Burghound.com (www.burghound.com), 3rd Quarter, Issue 19, 2005 (subscription only).
Chambolle Musigny is a villages-level wine of great quality from Mugnier because of the little known
fact that 45% of the grapes come from declassified 1er Cru vineyards. The recent vintages have sold for
a little more than $50 in the United States, an incredible value considering the pedigree. These wines
have great purity of fruit and are extremely good with food. I chose to take the 2001 vintage to lunch
after the tasting and was very pleased. Meadows said these wines have “tension, minerality, and
2001 Frédéric Mugnier Chambolle Musigny
Color matches the 2004. Not especially rich, but very appealing
red Pinot fruits with spice and plenty of vim. Still some tannin to shed. Outstanding with duck at lunch.
Clos de la Maréchale
Clos de la Maréchale is located in the more southerly portion of Nuits St George where there is more
sand in the soil. The result is additional elegance and sophistication compared to more northerly wines
from Nuits St George such as Le St George Vineyard. The Clos de la Maréchale is a walled vineyard
that has been in the Mugnier family for over 100 years and is the largest single-family owned vineyard
in the Cote d’Or. The wine from this vineyard is vinified in the same fashion as the Chambolle Musigny.
New oak is usually limited to 20% A small portion of this vineyard has been grafted over to
2004 Frédéric Mugnier NSG Clos de la Maréchale 1er Cru
The green character in this wine brought on a lengthy discussion at the tasting. Mugnier noted that
green notes do not detract from a wine in general if the greeness is in the flavors and does not extend to
the tannins. Just how detracting this green character is will vary with the individual with some savoring
the green accents and others finding it displeasing. Greeness or herbal characters can come and go in
Burgundy and Mugnier has observed them to be most noticeable in the Spring. Stems are primarily
responsible, but as the wine ages, the green characters dissipate and, according to Mugnier, disappear
completely in wines over ten years of age.
A green note to the aromatics (grassy, new-mown hay). Fruit
tends a little more toward red spectrum with cherry and cranberry evident. Slippery, but evident tannins.
Musigny is one of the three greatest terroirs in the Cote d’Or, the others being Romanee-Conti and La
Tache. In Musigny, the soils are shallow with rocks near the surface. The soil drains well and the
vineyard in general is less dependent on the weather. The wines from Musigny personify the
expression, “power without weight,” or as others have expressed, “an iron fist in a velvet glove.”
Musigny needs at least ten years of aging in the bottle. Mugnier says that Musigny is an “integrated”
wine, meaning you can’t point out specific elements and it defies description. When it is young you can
sense the intensity, but it is impenetrable. You can perceive the richness early on, but it takes more
than ten years before it shows the explosion of fruit.
2004 Frédéric Mugnier Musigny
Plenty of appealing smoke and toast on the nose. Lovely raspberry core and a finish that
lasts and lasts. Still some tannin to lose, but the balance here is impeccable.
2003 Frédéric Mugnier Musigny
Very showy ripe dark fruits front and center with unbelievable persistance. Layers and
layers of fruit and spice. Powerfully structured, but still showing restraint and not flabby in any way.
Absolutely delicious now and should astonish with more bottle age.
2001 Frédéric Mugnier Musigny
Just starting to open. Very sexy aromatic profile which changes constantly in the glass
from red to black fruit expression. Still reticient and somewhat austere on the palate with plenty of lift and
lively acid on the finish. Velvety texture with well-integrated, but evident tannins. The sweet Pinot
elements persist on the finish for an eternity.
I did a quick search on the internet for Mugnier wines and all of the above wines (except 2006) were
available. Chambolle Musigny $54-$60, Clos de la Maréchale $60-$70, Bonne Mares $175-250, Les
Amoureuses $300-400, and Musigny $450-550. You know the old saying, “Burgundy is a fine drink,
especially if you can get someone else to buy it.”
More on Quails’ Gate
According to John Schreiner’s magnificent book titled British Columbia Wine Country (2004), in 1981
there were 14 wineries in British Columbia, most of which were trying to produce off-dry wines from
hypbrid grapes. By 2002, British Columbia had 71 licensed wineries, with many others pending.
Extensive plantings of vinifera grapes followed the Free Trade Agreement of 1988 (which eliminated
price discrimination that had favored cheap hybrid-based British Columbia wines) and the wine
industry in British Columbia reinvented itself. In 1991, the Vintners Quality Alliance program was
begun which further strengthened the quality of wines from the region. The annual Okanagan Wine
Festival began to draw large crowds and by 2001 there were twice the number of vinifera vineyards
planted as existed in 1981. By 2006, there were 132 wineries and 5,462 acres planted to vineyards. One
of the biggest factors in holding back international recognition of British Columbia wines has been the
inability of producers to export their wines due to customs and duty regulations. For example, you
cannot purchase Quail’s Gate wines in the United States.
British Columbia does not have an appellation system but there are roughly thirteen regions. Quails’
Gate is located among the vineyards of Mount Boucherie in the Okanagan Valley (map, page 23). The
125 acre lakefront estate is located on the historic home site of Okanagan pioneers, the Allison Family,
who settled in Kelowna in the 1870s. The vineyards are planted in a mixture of volcanic rock and clay
situated on south-facing slopes above Lake Okanagan and below the extinct volcano Mount Boucherie.
The pioneer of the current proprietors, Ben and Tony Stewart, was Richard John, who emigrated from
Ireland to Canada in 1908. With his brother Bill, they formed Stewart Brothers Nurseries Ltd. in 1911 in
the Kelowna area of British Columbia, growing fruit trees, shade trees, and potatoes. One of John’s sons,
Dick, along with three friends, purchased 65 acres where Quails’ Gate Winery is now situated and
planted a vineyard. Additional land purchases brought the total land holdings to 125 acres. The grapes
were consigned to St. Michelle Wines in Victoria. In 1970, Dick bought out his three partners in the
vineyard and renamed the company Boucherie Mountain Vineyards. The main varietal grown on the
property was Chasselas. Pinot Noir was first planted in 1975, with additional plantings throughout the
years as part of an extensive planting program to supply St. Michelle with a wider range of grape
varietals. With the passage of the Free Trade Agreement in 1988, Dick’s son, Ben, co-founded and
incorporated Quails’ Gate Estate Winery in 1989, and together the family has brought it to where it is
today. Quails’ Gate now employs more than sixty people and the winery produces 40,000 cases of wine
a year. A new hospitality center was completed in June of 2007 which includes a modern tasting bar in
the Wineshop, and a first-class, highly-awarded restaurant, the Old Vines Restaurant headed by Chef
Today the vineyards consist of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Old Vine Marechalk Foch, Riesling, Chasselas,
Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Blanc, Merlot, Optima, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Gamay
plantings. Of all of its wines, Quails’ Gate is best known for its Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The 2004
Family Reserve Pinot Noir won Gold Medals at both the 2007 San Francisco International Wine
Competition and the 2007 Grand Harvest Awards in California. The Quails’ Gate Pinot Noir has recently
been the top rated Pinot Noir in Canada and maybe Canada’s top overall table wine.
Quails’ Gate has had a long line of Australian winemakers including Jeff Martin, Peter Draper, Ashley
Hooper, and since 2003, Grant Stanley. Stanley is breaking new ground and focusing the wine practices
at Quails’ Gate in pursuit of terroir-specific wines. I interviewed him at World of Pinot Noir and that
videocast should be posted soon at www.graperadio.com.
The Quails’ Gate website, www.quailsgate.com, offers further information and breathtaking photographs
of the estate. This winery is a must visit for anyone venturing to the Okanagan Valley.
There are a number of other wineries in the Okanagan Valley pursuing Pinot dreams as well and the
potential shown by Quails’ Gate Pinot Noirs bodes well for success with this varietal in the Okanagan.
Quails’ Gate is located at 3303 Boucherie Road, Kelowna, BC, Canada VIZ 2H3. The phone is 250-769-
4451, toll-free 800-420-9463.