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2007 Vintage: You’re The One That I Want

“The crop size was down, but we harvested beautiful, beautiful fruit this year (2007). If someone’s not making great wine from this vintage, they are in the wrong business”
Winegrower Steve Dutton

2007 was one of those exceptional vintages when the wines were stellar all over California. There were challenges for sure, as rainfall was decreased early in the season in many areas, the resulting clusters and grapes were small leading to limited yields, and rain did intervene briefly at harvest in some areas. What was special about this vintage was that even ripening was the rule and phenolic ripeness was achieved at reasonable alcohol levels.

Vintage charts abound among the wine press. In a cursory look at the web, I found several examples that rate each vintage using a 100-point scale. The different vintage charts show some variance in vintage scores but some years dating back to 1990 in California consistently stand out (all scoring 90 or above): 2007, 2005, 2003, 2002, 2001, 1999, 1997, 1995, 1994, 1991, 1992 and 1990. Wine Spectator provides the only vintage charts which break down the vintage according to specific regions in California producing Pinot Noir (Anderson Valley, Sonoma, Monterey, Carneros, and Santa Barbara are highlighted). Internet subscription is required to access the Wine Spectator charts.

Was 2007 the vintage of the decade? A look back at the vintage charts for the preceding seven vintages of the decade would not support such a claim because the 2001 and 2002 vintages received higher scores (Wine Spectator has yet to release its 2007 vintage score). That said, Pinot Noir viticulture and winemaking has progressed dramatically over the past 5 to 6 years, creating, if not better wines, a larger number of great wines compared to 2001 and 2002. For example, some outstanding producers featured in this issue such as Rivers-Marie (2002), De la Montanya (2003), Eric Kent Cellars (2003), Cima Collina (2004), Pali Wine Company (2005), and Foursight (2007) were not even producing Pinot Noir as recently as 2001. J Winery & Vineyards, whose Pinot Noirs are strikingly good in the 2007 vintage, made a serious commitment to Pinot Noir beginning with the 2006 vintage. Several wine regions such as Carneros and Santa Cruz Mountains have made remarkable strides over the last six vintages. I believe it is safe to say that no other vintage in this decade surpasses 2007 for breadth of quality Pinot Noir throughout California.

There are many California Pinot Noirs to recommend from the 2007 vintage and several of them are reviewed in the pages to follow. My cellar is crammed with California Pinot Noir from 2007 and I plan to buy considerably more. To hell with the recession! The 2007 vintage was more challenging in Oregon than in California, yet many adroit winemakers made excellent wines. The 2007 Oregon Pinot Noirs will be reviewed in the next issue.

A final note about the word vintage. According to History of Wine Words, “Although a wine’s vintage is the year in which it was grown, and although the English word age is right there inside the word vintage, the etymology of vintage actually has nothing to do with the year of the wine or its age.” Vintage literally means “harvesting of the grapes.”

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