A week or so ago, we were discussing what wines to include in this club shipment, and after we selected them, we realized we hadn’t tried any of them since bottling! It happens- we go directly from bottling to harvest to raising the next vintage, and other things (life) can keep us too busy to check in on them (we don’t have a shortage of wine in our cellar). So, we put a great dinner together, and opened these wines for the first time in a year. The “conversation”, such as it was the first few minutes, was pretty much occasional short phrases like “wow”, “oh my”, “whoa”…. You get the drift. We were both captivated by these wines- it was like being reunited with a friend who had gone through a personal transformation during their absence.
Bottom line- you are going to love these! 2015 was truly an exceptional year- the harvest had a huge emotion about it, it just seemed to have a soft glow about it, paired with nature’s steady determination. I think these wines all show that emotion- there is a thread running through all of them (you’ll have to read this whole thing to find with what I mean- I’m such a tease!). All these are ready to drink- I asked one of the growers if he had tried the wine he grew from the case I had dropped off- and he looked at me like I was from Mars and said “uh, I drank all of them!” So apparently we’re late to the party - but fortunately, it’s really just getting started!
Holdredge 2015 “Rolling Thunder” Russian River Valley Pinot Noir - New Release!
Only 98 cases made.
$50 ($42.50 club members)
This was the first mountain site we took Pinot from, and in the 8 years I’ve worked with this fruit, I’ve always been struck by how consistent the wine is from year to year. Of course, there are always differences between vintages, but the voice of this place comes through year after year. We work with obsessive growers- and Jim Riddle, the grower for this wine, is as obsessive as any of them. Walk the vineyard and there’s not a leaf, a berry, anything, out of place, farming is meticulous, and nature is provided every opportunity to give her best.
There has always been a big note of boysenberry in the wines from this vineyard, and 2015 is no exception. But not in a monolithic way- other bright fruit aromas dance around the core. The biggest lesson I’ve had to learn at this vineyard is tannin management (usually not an issue in Pinot, but mountain sites are different), and this vintage shows what a difference that can make. Carri and I both felt there was a surprising elegance in the wine- we started to characterize it as feminine, but the wine is simply too big to really fit that moniker. It just continued to open up in the glass and reveal more layers- and every time I started to think “this is powerful”, that elegance stepped back in. It really is quite wonderful. Drink now until 2026.
Holdredge 2015 “Judgment Tree” Russian River Valley Pinot Noir - New Release!
Only 100 cases made.
$70 ($59.50 club members)
One day during the 2015 harvest, I dropped by the Rochioli vineyard to tell Tom that although I had been planning to pick in a couple days, I had decided to wait a little longer. Tom said that he had made the same decision, and we began discussing the year in general. Tom said he thought it was the best year since 1994 (a legendary year among winemakers), and my decision to wait could bring great rewards, and in retrospect, I think we were absolutely right.
The Rochioli Sweetwater vineyard presents the same challenge as the Rolling Thunder does- tannin management. It’s a steep, hillside vineyard, and planted to 100% Rochioli “West Block” clone (some Pommard clone we used to take is being replanted). Whether it’s the soil, the clone or whatever, we always have more tannin to deal with in this vineyard. But with the extra hang time nature allowed in 2015, the tannins became super ripe and very fine and silky. Some of the past vintages of this wine have needed time for the tannins to smooth out- not this one.
It is driven by darker red fruit notes, and in the mouth, the tannins are super-fine and just part of a seamless elegance. We both feel this has a “polished” character- indeed, it is a very focused wine- tons of depth (but not ponderous), but the acidity and fine tannin keep the palate focused. I hate it when winemakers say “this may be our best yet”- I have no idea what “best” means- but we both think this is by far our favorite wine from the Rochioli vineyard at this stage. You can open it right now- tonight if you like- or enjoy it over the next 10-12 years.
Oscuro 2015 Dry Creek Valley “Montepulciano - New Release!
Only 69 cases made.
$38 ($32.30 club members)
My quest to bring this noble and often overlooked grape to America’s dinner tables is proceeding at a solid clip of about 60 cases a year. At this rate, the grape may remain under most American’s radar- but not yours! We continue to become more fascinated by this grape each year- both for its distinctive flavors and structure, as well as its fabulous food versatility. Any food you’d serve with Cab, Merlot, Syrah, Zin, etc., will be a great fit with this wine, the grape just seems made for pairing with dinner.
The 2015 has the traditional flavor profile of the grape (notably dark black fruit), but like the other wines in this shipment, the story is one of elegance. The tannins in this wine, usually massive and needing some real time in bottle to resolve, are just about as fine as they can be. The wine has great structure front to back, and yet, we both kept coming back to the same descriptor: “elegant”. Despite being a dark, powerful wine, this too carries a certain elegance about it, it’s just a delicious and fun wine to enjoy with dinner. Best now and for the next 5-7 years.
John & Carri Holdredge