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Black Kite Offers Stunning Wines in 2010

The 2010 vintage is not a pleasant memory for Anderson Valley vintners. Spring was very cool with plenty of rain and the summer was cool throughout. There were challenges with botrytis and mildew. There was a mid- August heat way that caused some baked fruit, particularly in vineyards that had thinned out the canopy, causing losses of up to 30 percent in some sites. Generally there was less ripeness when harvest arrived in late September and I have tasted a number of Anderson Valley Pinot Noirs from the 2010 vintage that show this inadequate ripeness. For Black Kite Vineyard, this was not the case.

Black Kite Cellars is a family owned producer of Pinot Noir named for the beautiful but endangered Black Shouldered Kite (now called the White Tailed Kite) that is native to the Anderson Valley. These hawks can frequently be seen circling the skies over the Black Kite Vineyard which is located in the cool, “deep-end,” portion of the Anderson Valley, only eight miles from the Pacific Ocean as the crow flies. The site is in a valley overlooking the Navarro River just west of the town of Philo. The 12-acre vineyard was first planted in 1999 and has been managed since 2004 by Paul Ardzrooni who is experienced in Anderson Valley vineyards. The first commercial vintage from Black Kite Cellars was 2003.

The highest elevation part of the vineyard, Redwood’s Edge, is planted with Dijon 114 and 115 on 3309 rootstock. The middle portion, Stony Terrace, named after the nature of the soil, is located where the hillside is naturally benched, and is planted to Pommard clone on 3309 rootstock. The lower riverside portion of the vineyard, River Turn, is named after the bend in the adjacent Navarro River. It is the most vigorous part of the vineyard and is planted to Pommard clone on 3309 rootstock. Yields are typically 1.5-2.5 tons per acre.

As the vines have developed, different portions or blocks have yielded different flavors and characteristics. As a result, a blend of the vineyard blocks is bottled as Kite’s Rest and the separate blocks are bottled as block specific wines (Redwood’s Edge, Stony Terrace and River Turn)

The winemaker since 2005 has been veteran Jeff Gaffner, who has over 25 years of experience in winemaking.

In the 2010 vintage, a Pinot Noir was added for the first time from a non-estate vineyard. A program has been launched to produce small lots from vineyards with compelling locations, farmed by dedicated growers. The Soberanes Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands bottling in 2010 is farmed by Gary Franscioni of Garys’, Rosella’s and Pisoni vineyards fame.

The 2010 vintage Black Kite Cellars Pinot Noirs are among the upper echelon of wines tasted from this vintage from Anderson Valley. The wines are consistently stellar in every department: aromatics, check; flavor intensity, check; balanced tannins and acidity, check; dreamy textures, check. Black Kite Cellars wines are sold through a mailing list at with limited retail and restaurant distribution. Although not specified on the winery’s website, tours and tasting are probably available to pinotphiles by contacting the winery at 415-923-0277. Look for the wines at this year’s Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival. Information at

2010 Black Kite Cellars Kite’s Rest Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., pH 3.50, TA 0.66, 541 cases, $45. · Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Intense aromas of fresh black cherries with a hint of cardamom spice. Mid weight flavors of black cherries backed by balanced fine-grain tannins, offering some length on the bright finish. A suave mouth feel adds to the pleasure. Very good.

2010 Black Kite Cellars Redwoods Edge Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

14.6% alc., pH 3.50, TA 0.67, 149 cases, $55. · Medium reddish-purple hue in the glass. Charming perfume of black cherries, blackberries and wooded forest, penetrating and possessing staying power over time in the glass. Bigger, riper, more structured, and more intense than the estate vineyard bottling yet still crisp and lively offering an enticing velvety texture and a monumental finish flush with fresh berry flavor that will not let go.

2010 Black Kite Cellars Stony Terrace Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

14.6% alc., pH 3.60, TA 0.66, 153 cases, $55. · Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. The nose is very pleasing initially, offering scents of dark fruits, soy, sassafras, forest floor and cedary oak. Tasty core of red cherries and berries with a note of pine in the background. Crisp, with tame tannins, a touch of classy oak, and some length on the finish. Even better the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. Very good (+).

2010 Black Kite Cellars River Turn Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

14.6% alc., phj 3.60, TA 0.61, 150 cases, $55. · Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Lovely aromas of cherry pie glaze, baking spice and sandalwood. This wine is all about spicy, red pie cherries. Supple tannins, bright acidity, and good length on the finish. A very pleasing red fruit festival that is the most feminine wine in the lineup and the epitome of pinotosity.

2010 Black Kite Cellars Soberanes Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir

14.6% alc., pH 3.50, TA 0.60, 149 cases, $55. · Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Alluring aromas of dark cherries and dark berry jam with a hint of mesquite. A delight to drink with middleweight flavors of black cherries in harmony with supple tannins and complimentary acidity. The soft mouth feel is captivating. This wine lacks the vibrancy of the Black Kite Anderson Valley bottlings but is very typical of the Santa Lucia Highlands and is quite charming in its own right. Very good.

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