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Couloir Wines & Straight Line Wine

Winemaker Jon Grant attended college in the heart of the Finger Lakes wine region in New York, but his real introduction to wine occurred while living and working in Snowbird, Utah, at Snowbird Ski Resort. His first job was in the beverage department at Snowbird working for Vicky Martinez who was to become his first mentor and opened his eyes to the world of wine. Also, Snowbird hosted the only wine festival in Utah and it was at these events that Jon was able to mix with members of the wine industry including winemakers, winery owners and distributors.

Grant eventually found his way to Napa Valley, landing a job at Robert Mondavi Winery as an ambassador for the winery. He was afforded cross-training in viticulture and winemaking and attended extension classes offered by University of California at Davis and Napa Valley College to further his winemaking and winegrowing knowledge. Jon later worked at Corison, PlumpJack and Turley Wine Cellars, and became part of the Napa wine community. Each new position added to his experience, leading him to find a personal style of wine that most suited him.

He chose to make Pinot Noir because he wanted a variety that was terroir-driven, that was a good partner at the table, offered aromatic intensity and responded to minimal intervention. Although he has now worked eleven years at Turley Wine Cellars, which specializes in Zinfandel, he produces Pinot Noir, Tempranillo and Syrah under his Couloir Wines and Straight Line Wine labels. Combining his passions for skiing and wine, the word, “Couloir,” refers to a steep mountainside gorge. Both of his labels are under the Grant Family Wines umbrella company.

Jon believes in the judicious use of whole cluster, spontaneous fermentations, and a gentle touch of French oak. He avoids racking, fining and filtering as he finds this winemaking regimen leads to bright, fresh flavors and complex, harmonious flavors. The goal is aromatic and flavor intensity without concentration.

I was impressed with Jon’s Pinot Noirs from the first taste of 2007 barrel samples at the 2008 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival. I recently sampled the 2009 lineup of Couloir Pinot Noirs as well as the 2009 Straight Line Pinot Noir which offers solid value-priced drinking. Jon has top notch vineyard sources and he knows what to do with the fruit. All the wines show off their terroir beautifully with a distinctiveness that is welcoming. Jon is a young Pinot Noir turk that is turning out remarkable wines after only three vintages and the entire lineup is very impressive. Like Jon, I am a devotee of whole cluster vinification.

Jon’s vineyard-designated Couloir Pinot Noirs are sourced from the following Mendocino County vineyards. Londer Vineyard is located in the Deep End of the Anderson Valley, tucked away in a forest of conifers with a combination of well-drained sandy loam over clay loam. Monument Tree Vineyard was planted in 1999 to Dijon clones and is now owned by Twomey Cellars located in the Russian River Valley. The low-vigor site has a desirable northeastern sloping exposure with 300 foot elevations. Roma’s Vineyard is located at 1,850 feet. Pommard clone is planted in Goldridge loam soils and is organically farmed. Oppenlander Vineyard has a heavy clay loam soil unique to the region. Situated north of Anderson Valley and eight miles from the Pacific Ocean, this vineyard has a significant maritime influence. Pommard and Dijon clones are planted. A single Marin County source is Chileno Valley Vineyard located on the southern edge of the Petaluma Gap. The vineyard is heavily influenced by the Pacific Ocean along Marin’s west coast and San Pablo Bay on Marin’s eastern flank. The cool maritime climate leads to a very long growing season. Soils are eroded sandstone and Steinbeck series. The vines are a mix of Pinot Noir selections and clones.

The wines are sold through the online store at The website is very informative. The 2009 Couloir Londer Vineyard Pinot Noir is sold out. Be sure to seek Jon out at this year’s Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival Grand Tasting, May 21 ( The label and packaging of the wines is striking. Prices are sensible.

2009 Straight Line Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

13.9% alc., pH 3.76, TA 0.58, 660 cases, $28. 40% whole cluster. Sourced from Monument Tree, Roma’s, Londer and Oppenlander vineyards. · Moderate ruby color in the glass. Deep aromas of dark red cherries and raspberries. Medium-weighted core of juicy red cherry, berry and plum fruits wrapped in mild dry tannins, augmented with subtle spice and oak, and sporting bright acidity. Good.

2009 Couloir Chileno Valley Vineyard Marin County Pinot Noir

13.2% alc., TA 0.57, 90 cases, $38. 33% whole cluster. · The nose initially offers scents of black cherries, mixed berry jam and spice evolving over time in the glass to reveal more intense fruit aromas and hints of grilled mushrooms and brioche. Tasty cherry and cranberry flavors on a medium frame with a faint earthy, tarry note, brought to life with vibrant acidity that leads to a refreshing finish. Toasty oak plays a supportive role in the background. A well-crafted wine that was even better the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. Good (+).

2009 Couloir Londer Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

13.6% alc., pH 3.75, 117 cases, $38. 33% whole cluster. · Deeply colored in the glass. Subdued, but pleasing aromas of fresh berries, spice, oak and grilled mushrooms. Noticeably intense and concentrated with a tasty array of red and black fruits underlain with an earthy, savory, sassafras tone. A bit closed, but grows on you over time in the glass. Well-proportioned, softly coating tannins. Very smooth on the palate, ending with an hi-tone mixed berry note. Balance is spot on.

2009 Couloir Monument Tree Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., pH 3.71, TA .54, 143 cases, $38. 33% whole cluster. Dijon 777, 667 and 115. Aged in 33% new French oak barrels. · The aromas are striking showing off perfectly ripe black cherries, black raspberries and a hint of pine. Strikes a chord from entry to finish, with a vivid core of cherry and berry fruit that is just plain delicious. The moderate tannins are beautifully proportioned, the mouth feel is delicate and sensual, and the wine is impeccably balanced. This sexy, irresistible wine has the whole package.

2009 Couloir Oppenlander Vineyard Mendocino County Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., pH 3.52, TA 0.61, 118 cases, $38. 50% whole cluster. 50% Pommard and 50% Dijon 115 clone. · Aged in 40% new French oak. I have never had a bad wine from this vineyard and this Pinot Noir is no exception. Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. Black cherry and blackberry aromas which are subdued. Impressive essence of dark plums and berries with some soul and grip, encased in plentiful grainy tannins, and persisting on a fruit-filled, earthy finish. The tannins should smooth out over time, but this will always be a firmly structured wine. The key to enjoying this wine is pairing it with hearty food and I had this wine with my home made buffalo chili the next day from a previously opened bottle and the match was heavenly. Very good (+).

2009 Couloir Roma’s Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

14.0% alc., TA .56, 145 cases, $38. 50% whole cluster. Pommard clone now approaching 20 years of age. · Flamboyant aromas of red Bing cherries and sandalwood. Plenty of red cherry flavors, clove, other spice and everything nice. The lightest weighted wine in the lineup with less concentration but still packing plenty of flavor. Supple tannins, faint oak, and an appealing citrus note in the background. Totally different from the other wines and isn’t that perfect? Very good (+).

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