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Saintsbury 2006

Since its beginnings in 1981, Saintsbury has a long and storied tradition in Carneros where they currently have more than twelve vineyards under contract, primarily on the Napa side of Carneros. Owners Dick Graves and David Ward have not rested on their laurels, however, and have constantly evolved and progressed to improve their lineup of wines. The winery has been outfitted with solar and is now able to supply all of the winery’s electrical power off the grid during sunny daytime hours. Saintsbury is one of eight premium North Coast wineries participating in a new urban tasting venue now open in San Francisco called the Press Club, underneath the Four Seasons Hotel at 120 Yerba Buena Lane. Winemaker Jerome Chery, a protégé of Ted Lemon, came on board with the 2004 harvest, and has directed production of a new line of single-vineyard Pinot Noirs to complement Saintsbury’s reliable Carneros and Garnet bottlings of Pinot Noir (the Reserve bottlings were discontinued). I sampled the 2006 lineup of Saintsbury Pinot Noirs and found the wines from this challenging vintage likeable, but not exceptional. The wines are currently shy and withdrawn despite the fact that they were bottled nearly a year ago, and they need at least another year in bottle to really blossom. If you drink them now, decant, and serve with suitable food to blunt the immature tannins.

2006 Saintsbury Brown Ranch Vineyard Carneros Pinot Noir

This is the prize in the Saintsbury lineup and consistently the most outstanding Pinot Noir. The vineyard is planted to Pommard and Dijon 115, 667, and 777 clones on four different rootstocks with many soil types and exposures. Yields range from 2.25 to 3.5 tons/acre. It is the only vineyard over which Saintsbury has complete control. The wine typically shows plenty of earthiness and more black than red-fruit character and its finishing persistence is most characteristic. The wine has a label quite distinct from the other Saintsbury wines. The 2006 vintage has not been released, but Jerome Chery gave me a taste at the Pinot Days event in San Francisco in late June, 2008. · Terrific mouth filling presence with red and black fruits that cascade over the palate in waves leaving a lasting impression. Precocious and pleasing at this early stage.

2006 Saintsbury Carneros Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., 24,445 cases, $35 (available at $28 some retail sources). Clones Pommard, Swan, 115, 667, 777. Multiple vineyard sources. 5 days cold soak, 15 days tank time, 9 months in 30% new French oak. · The aromatic profile is of interest, offering black cherries, oak, herbs, white pepper and a whiff of alcohol. Packing plenty of berry and cherry fruit with a little earthy bent, and a mildly dry finish, the wine seems bigger than previous recent vintages of this bottling.

2006 Saintsbury Cerise Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

14.0% alc., 255 cases, $45. This vineyard of 37 planted acres is on the steep slopes of the southwest facing hills just north of the town of Booneville. Shallow gravelly loam soils provide excellent drainage. Yields are 1.5-2.5 tons/acre. The second vintage of this vineyard-designate. 7 day cold soak, 16 day total maceration. 11 months in 40% new French oak. · The aromas are subdued and slow to evolve but some pleasant cherry, wild berry and dark chocolate appear with swirling. This is a richer and more tannic wine than the Stanly Ranch with a pleasing punch of black cherry fruit, a velvety texture and a very long finish. Cellaring is advised to meld the oak and tannins.

2006 Saintsbury Lee Vineyard Carneros Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 155 cases, $45. Ira and Shirley Lee first planted their vineyard on Los Carneros Avenue in 1967. Saintsbury has been using fruit from Lee Vineyard since 1982. 100% Pommard clone. 4 days cold soak, 9 day total maceration. 11 months in 40% new French oak. · The darkest colored and darkest flavored wine in the lineup. Needs plenty of swirling now to bring forth the muted fruits and temper the astringency. Black fruits throughout and very woodsy, earthy and primal. Give this one a year or two and then get down and dirty with a big grilled steak.

2006 Saintsbury Stanly Ranch Vineyard Carneros Pinot Noir

14.0% alc., 495 cases, $45. Dijon 667 (65%) and 115 (35%). 4-5 day cold soak, 11-14 days total maceration varying with lots, 11 months in 40% new Francois Frères and Taransaud (same barrels used on all Saintsbury Pinot Noirs) oak barrels. Saintsbury has purchased fruit from the historic Stanly Ranch since 1984 and this vineyard has been a significant source for the Carneros Pinot Noir and Reserve Pinot Noir bottlings. The current Dijon 115, 667, and 777 and Pommard clones were planted in 2001 with modernization of the vineyard including spacing and vertical trellising. · Bright red cherry and herb garden with a hint of spice and oak on the nose. Light and elegant in the mouth, flavors of dried cherry, wild berries, and savory herbs are wrapped in relatively soft tannins. The healthy acidic spine is the most noticeable of any wine in the lineup.

2006 Saintsbury Toyon Farm Carneros Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 304 cases, $45. 100% Dijon 777. 5 day cold soak, 13 day total maceration. Aged 11 months in 40% new French oak barrels. This property was originally a horse ranch. Purchased by Ed and Camille Penhoet in the middle 1990s, and the property was transformed into a dressage training facility. Toyon Farm Vineyard was planted in 2000 and 2001 and is located 500 meters east of Saintsbury’s estate Brown Ranch Vineyard, separated from it by the famous Hyde Vineyard. Located in the northeastern corner of Carneros, the weather is warmer here and soils of volcanic origin mix with the more typical marine sedimentary clay-loams. · The lightest in color and weight in the lineup. Expressive and alluring aromas of cherries, Asian spices, ginger, and baked cookies. Redder fruits in the mouth with a grassy tone and subtle sidecar of oak. Light on its feet with mild to moderate tannins. The most approachable wine of the lineup now.

Saintsbury wines are offered for sale on the website at www.saintsbury.com, and through widespread retail distribution. The main production facility is located at 1500 Los Carneros Ave. in Napa. The phone is 707-252-0592. Annual case production is 60,000. Excellent Chardonnays are produced as well. As noted above, tasting is available in San Francisco at the new Press Club opening this summer (www.tastepartners.com). Tours and tasting at the winery are available by appointment only.

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