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Auteur

Kenneth Juhasz (YOU haas) and his wife and partner Laura have fashioned a cult label concentrating on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Growing up in North Carolina, Juhasz worked his way through college working in fine restaurants and a local wine retailer. He first developed his winemaking talents in Oregon’s Willamette Valley working with veteran winemaker Ken Bernards. He also spent time in the Central Otago region of New Zealand’s South Island helping to launch Hinton Estate. In 2002 he settled in Carneros as the winemaker for both the Robert Stemmler label and The Donum Estate.

Doug Wilder, a wine critic for Vinfolio, an online fine wine retailer, has been a fan of Auteur wines since the label’s beginning with the 2003 vintage and Wilder has created considerable stir among pinotphiles. Wilder exclaims, “Kenneth Juhasz is creating what are likely some of the most important Pinot Noir in America, yet he seems to be doing it with relative ease and I hasten to add, a great deal of humility. I told Kenneth that he should be required to make wine with one hand tied behind his back.”

The word Auteur is the French translation for author and composer. The orange color of the label reflects the adventurous spirit of the Juhaszs and the organic nature of their winemaking. The focus of Auteur is on cool microclimates in Oregon and California and vineyard-designate wines. Juhasz’s winemaking philosophy is “to maintain the dualism between the varietals’ masculine and feminine character.” Grapes are currently sourced from the Willamette Valley (Hyland Vineyard and Shea Vineyard), Sonoma Coast, Los Carneros and Mendocino Ridge.

I tasted through four recent Auteur Pinot Noir releases and came away impressed by both of the 2006 bottlings in particular. The style will appeal those who prefer bold and intense wines packed with fruit. Despite their showy volume, they retain a modicum of elegance.

2007 Auteur Ophelia Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., 279 cases, $35. An unusual combination of Pinot Noir fruit from both Oregon (85%) and California (15%) vineyards. 30% whole cluster. · Needs time to open in the glass eventually revealing raspberry, herbs, oak toast and a feral note. Wild berry fruit flavors are at the forefront augmented by oak with a grainy texture and very nice balance. A decent but not exceptional wine.

2007 Auteur Sonoma Stage Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.4% alc., 247 cases, $60. 50% Calera and 50% Swan selections. 10% whole cluster fermentation. · Native yeast. Aged in tight grain 50% new French oak. Dark violet in color. Very ripe fruit aromatic profile showing off raisin, roasted nuts, marzipan, mature grapes and seasoned wood. A touch of alcohol peeks out on the nose. The rich dark red fruits are somewhat subdued and augmented by flavors of roasted fruit and nuts ending in a dry finish. I could not warm up to this wine.

2006 Auteur Hyland Vineyard Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

14.3% alc., 291 cases, $45. This vineyard has some of the oldest vines in Oregon, dating to the early 1970s. The vineyard sits in the McMinnville foothills in the Van Duzer corridor. Pommard and Wädenswil clones planted in volcanic Jory and Nekia soils. 25% whole cluster, 10% saigné, native yeast fermentation, 50% new French cooperage. · Very dark reddish-purple color. Complex and enticing nose touting dark fruits, underbrush, oak toast, fresh-roast coffee, redwood and a touch of alcohol. This wine is infused with flavors of blackberries, black raspberries and plum. Rich and fruity, yet retaining admirable finesse, it shows off a slippery texture and comes together nicely for a very pleasurable drinking experience.

2006 Auteur Shea Vineyard Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

14.7% alc., 313 cases, $75. Grapes were harvested from the special Back Block which is allocated only to Auteur and Shea Wine Cellars. Yields were 1.75 tons per acre. 100% Wädenswil clone.11% whole cluster. Native yeast fermentation. Aged in 55% new French cooperage. · Darkly colored and darkly flavored, this beauty is awesome. Aromas of rich dark stone fruit and berries, brioche, dark chocolate and tobacco smoke are echoed on the palate. Luscious and juicy, the tannins are fine and silky and the mouth feel is all satin. A WOW! wine that demands attention. Hard to believe something this good could come from a grape.

To acquire Auteur wines, join the mailing list at www.auteurwines.com or check various wine retailers including www.vinfolio.com. The winery is not open to the public. 707-696-8949.

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