With this release, we unleash one more 2014 Pinot. This shipment also marks the release of a wine from our other brand –OSCURO which is devoted to wines made from grapes of noble Italian lineage. Did we save the best for last? You be the judge. We loved this vintage and we love these wines, we hope you do too.
This was our third year to get fruit from the Rochioli “Sweetwater” Vineyard on Westside Road, southwest of Healdsburg (about ¼ mile south of the Bucher Vineyard). Anyone who knows me knows how special I feel this place is; and how fortunate I feel to be one of the very few winemakers to get to work with fruit from this vineyard, which is almost entirely Rochioli “West Block” clone.
The 2014 bears a strong resemblance to ‘12 and ‘13, except in two ways. First, the flavor profile of the fruit is darker and deeper. This came about because I was striving for more tannin ripeness (the “west Block” clone tends towards a bigger tannic profile), so I let the fruit remain a touch longer than I had in prior years. As a result, it already shows more refined tannin development in the bottle, and is more generous at this stage than our prior wines. My feeling is it is going evolve for another 5-8 years in a big way- it has the fruit and the structure to do so. But this has been in bottle a year already and it is a wine we are really enjoying.
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I don’t think I’ll ever be able to adequately describe the emotion of this vineyard, which sits at the convergence of the redwoods and the Pacific Ocean, but the place is undeniably distinct. So is this wine. 2014 again gave us a little late season warmth- just enough to stave off the heaviest fog and ensure we got some incredible flavor development. From tasting in the vineyard, to fresh juice, to barrel and finally to bottle, we really liked this wine a lot.
And yet, it still completely blindsided us- we weren’t prepared for the transformation it has shown in the year it has rested post bottling. It has evolved into such a complex wine, with layers of goodness, far beyond what I ever hoped for (and I had very high hopes). It stands out from all our other Pinots- not qualitatively, but in terms of its voice. Which is as it should be- I expect the Russian River Pinots to speak of the overall appellation as well as the specific vineyards, but this is from a very different place and speaks of it. While always a very popular wine for us, this one is a real stand out already. I rarely urge people to “buy more”, but were it me, I’d get after this one. It’s easily got 6-9 years of development ahead of it, but I’d hate to have to wait that long to enjoy it.
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When we began making Pinot (long before “Sideways” made it fashionable to do so), our Russian River Valley Pinot was our largest production wine; about 300 cases, which a huge winery would lose to evaporation in a year. While we make more than we used to, it still is under 1000 cases, almost all of which is sold to restaurants in Las Vegas, California, and New York. It’s always represented our take on what the vintage meant for the appellation as a whole, as opposed to one single place.
In 2014, nature was exceedingly generous, and this wine reflects that generosity. It maintains a nice balance between red and black fruit, has great weight, but carries enough acid that the wine is surprisingly nimble, and decidedly food friendly. How food friendly? We’ve had it with food ranging from Ahi poke with tempura avocados, to steak with foie butter and mushrooms, and a lot of stuff in between. And, the fact that it’s in darn near every resort property in Las Vegas (or seems that way), means a lot of other people are having it with dinner too. We’ve sold out of it, but have a very small amount for our club to enjoy. You could wait to drink it, but I don’t think you’ll regret enjoying it immediately.
The Oscuro brand is my homage to my Italian heritage, and Montepulciano is a grape grown throughout southern Italy (except in the area of Montepulciano, where they grow the Sangiovese grape. Italians, go figure). Montepulciano tends to be more of a mass produced wine there, but more producers are treating it with the care and devotion of a noble grape. It is akin to the difference between growing grapes for jug wine and growing for artisan wines.
These grapes are grown at about 900 foot elevation on rocky volcanic soils above the Dry Creek Valley. We strive for authenticity, and this bears the trademark black color and blackberry flavor profile of the grape. It also carries a low alcohol, and stunning tannins. This grape has a long and noble pedigree in Italy. We believe this grape deserves to be treated with deference to those noble origins, and we feel this wine does so. The tannins will carry this wine for a long time, but it can be enjoyed now, and for the next 7-9 years.
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John & Carri Holdredge