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Pinot Briefs —Newsletter 6.54

Perfect Pinot I was asked by a custom crush facility in Sebastopol the following question: “If you were to make your perfect Pinot Noir, what would it be?” My answer was as follows. Russian River Valley fruit from a vineyard farmed organically and/or biodynamically. Fruit picked early in the morning by hand at 23°-24° Brix with perfect fruit and phenolic ripeness. Clusters harvested with scissors, hand sorted in the field and again at the winery. 30-50% whole cluster. Basket pressed. Short cold soak. Native yeast and native MLF bacteria. Open-top stainless steel fermentors with temperature control and hand punch downs. Pommard, Swan clones. 13.6-14.0% alcohol. No de-alc or acidification. Gentle handling, no or very gentle pumping, gravity driven, no or single racking. Aged 13-18 months on the lees in 3 year-old seasoned French oak, 33% new, tight grain, medium toast. A little Hungarian oak ok. Aged in barrel in caves. Bottled in light weight environmentallysensitive bottles with 2-21/4 inch real top grade cork. No additives, no monkey business. No wax on top! No added Syrah! No Brett! Powerful charm like Maria Sharapova. Winemaker’s name, case production, acidity, alcohol, vineyard source(s) readable on back label. Attractive, distinctive, stylish label with vintage and appellation clearly readable. 300 cases, priced at $40-$50.

Vineyard Tour with Gary Pisoni A vineyard tour like no other with Gary Pisoni on a wild jeep ride through Pisoni Vineyards is posted on the In Wine Country website ( Highlights of the six minute piece also include interviews and a family barbeque that prompts a happy dance over Jane Pisoni’s mouthwatering apricot pie. The Pisoni Vineyards video is also available as a free podcast via iTunes on in the Wine Country section.

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Wineries Lack Marketing Skills I love the article Josh Hermsmeyer wrote in this months Wines & Vines (February, 2008) titled “Direct Packaging is Lame.” I could really identify with this criticism of direct-to-consumer wine packaging. I am sure you have had the experience of ordering a half a case of a special Pinot Noir priced at $60 a bottle, only to receive a dented plain cardboard box with a partially fragmented Styrofoam shipper and nothing inside to indicate your order or a thank you note for your patronage. As Hermsmeyer says, “The message that the consumer receives is … once you’ve forked over the cash, we’d like to keep it in our pocket. Enjoy the wine, because that’s what you paid for, not some pretty package.” In defense of some producers, the lack of creative wine packaging is not universal. Some take the time to wrap the bottles in tissue paper to protect the label. A new producer, Fulcrum, even provides a paper wrapping for each bottle with an emblamatic sticker underneath the stylish purple tissue paper which encloses each bottle (refer to photo). At Gypsy Canyon, the boxes come with a stylish embossed logo attached to the outer box with a tasteful cord sealing the box. Pisoni Estate wines come shipped in an embossed wooden box. As a consumer as well as a writer, I really appreciate the small touches some producers take to make their packaging distinctive and rewarding. Much of the enjoyment of wine is the presentation, the chiarisma, and the experience and this can in part be traced to the packaging that cradles the wine that arrives on our doorstep.

Big Bottles are Controversial I am not a big fan of heavy, wide-bodied bottles. Sure, they look cool and they convey a sense of exclusivity and shout “expensive stuff inside.” But they require two hands to manage and they do not fit into traditional single bottle wine cellar racking. Oz Clarke, speaking at the 2008 Climate Change and Wine Conference in Barcelona, Spain, said that the use of heavy bottles was a “big nonsense” and environmentally irresponsible. Standard weight bottles are preferable to me for a number of reasons including lower shipping costs and less glass waste.

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X Publishing now Score Mongers A couple of years ago X Publishing, which is based in Santa Rosa, California, had a short publishing run of Wine X Magazine that was directed at the millennial wine-drinking group (“wine, food and intelligent slice of vice”). It was edgy and hep and the wine reviews were clever, avoiding scores and offering descriptive phrases like, “More body and spice than Tyra Banks on a Victoria Secret runway,” and “Fresher than a hickey from a strawberry blond.” The magazine ceased publication and now exists only in digital form on the website ( X Publishing has reversed their stand and turned to promoting scores as guidance for wine purchases. They send out a weekly e-mail blast called justwinepoints, “because nothing else matters.” ( They promote the fact that, “You never settle for less, and you’d prefer never to drink another wine that has scored less than 90 points. Don’t let your lifestyle be compromised by drinking sub-90s wines.” They only list wines with scores of 90 and above proudly touting “Numerical scores without all the flowery descriptive baggage.” The wines chosen are fine, but the scores are ridiculously high. For example, 2005 Amisfield Central Otago Pinot Noir ($34), 99!, 2005 Bogle Russian River Valley Pinot Noir ($13) 95!, and 2006 Kim Crawford New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc ($17) 96!. The digitized Wine X Magazine is a hoot and worth reading for sure, but avoid the justwinepoints e-mail blast unless you can’t function without “90+ wines.”

Carneros Heritage Fest The 3rd Annual Carneros Heritage Fest will be held Saturday, May 31, 2008 at The Donum Estate (24520 Ramal Road in Sonoma) from 12-4. The Fest will feature the Carneros Lamb BBQ, tastings of Carneros Wine Alliance Premium and Ultra Premium Wines, a young chef competition, musical entertainment, sheepherding and falconry demonstrations, vineyard tours, and sustainable agriculture exhibits. Participating wineries previously have included, Acacia, Artesa, Bouchaine, Buena Vista Carneros, Ceja Vineyards, Clos Du Val, Cuvaison Estate Wines, Etude, Gloria Ferrer Caves and Vineyards, Havens Wine Cellars, Madonna Estate, MacRostie Winery, Merryvale Vineyards, Nicholson Ranch, Patz & Hall, Ravenswood, Donum/Robert Stemmler, Saintsbury, Schug Carneros Estate Wines, Talisman Wines, and Toad Hall Cellars. The Friday evening before the event, May 30, a series of dinners will be held at wineries and restaurants throughout the region. Multicourse lamb courses will be paired with Carneros wine selected for the dinners. For information and tickets, visit, or call 707-253-2678

Ceja Vineyards Opens Tasting Room Ceja Vineyards was founded by Napa’s first generation of Mexican-American producers. The winery opened a tasting salon in Downtown Napa on February 9 at 1248 First St. The family-owned winery produces more than 10,000 cases of multiple varietals including Pinot Noir. The website is

Recycling Corks in Oregon ReCork America is a program sponsored by supplier Amorim Cork America in association with Willamette Valley Vineyards and SOLV that plans to recycle 1 ton of natural wine corks this year. Cork collection sites have been set up in Oregon at wineries, retailers, restaurants and markets. There are a number of potential uses for recycled corks including flooring, insulation and green building materials, craft materials, soil conditioner, and sports equipment. More information is available at

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