2018 Holdredge Steiner-Drystack Sonoma Mountain Pinot Noir - 94 points
Sonoma Mountain is an iconic feature of Sonoma County’s topography; there are a surprising number of well-regarded vineyards nestled about the mountain, among them a few gems. The Mountain has a very different voice than the Russian River or the Sonoma Coast, and I wanted to make a wine from there since I started making wine. This wine tells a story from rich soils at the top of the mountain to the rock-strewn lower slopes.
Steiner Vineyard sits at 1200 feet in elevation on the east side of the mountaintop, situated in highly prized “Goldridge” soils. We take Pommard clone, Swan clone, and clone 667, and first began working with it in 2012, which led to a wine some may recall: Indigo Dreams, which we did for several years. It was a powerful and potent wine. As much as I liked the wine, I always wondered what it would be like if I could add another dimension to it.
That opportunity came my way with the 2016 vintage- when I finally got my hands on a vineyard along the lower slopes of the mountain (technically a “Bennett Valley” address) known as “Dry Stack”. Discussion of soil here always gives way to a discussion of the huge amount of fractured rocks in the vineyard- it is the type of place that makes a winemaker’s pulse quicken. The term "dry stack" was used in the British Isles to describe walls made of rocks piled up without mortar to hold them in place, and indeed, this property has such walls surrounding it. I had tasted other wines from here over the years I had really liked- in part because all of them had a very tightly focused core. We take Calera, Swan, and Pommard clones from here.
The wine is a blend of the best of both vineyards- the plushness of Steiner and the minerality of Dry Stack. We usually pick Dry Stack ahead of Steiner by a week to ten days; the wines are dramatically different from the get-go.
I may have spent more time walking these two vineyards than any we worked within 2018. Both are a 45+ minute drive from the winery, so I tend to visit both at once to the extent possible. The Dry Stack really showed some profound differences in ripeness and flavor from the top of the slope to the bottom, which meant I had to either pick the top portion separately, or wait, and I decided to wait. Meanwhile, the Steiner was far more uniform but uncharacteristically stubborn about getting to where we thought the flavors should be. But patience really pays dividends, and the Dry Stack flavors evened out, and the Steiner flavors just exploded.
Although we usually pick these grapes 7-10 days or so apart, we picked the 2018s on consecutive days. From a “Lab” standpoint, the grapes were remarkably similar in Brix, acid, and pH, and their fermentations were remarkably similar (we pressed them the same day). I usually look to the Dry Stack to show a brilliance – as though it were bathed in bright light, while I expect the Steiner to be more somber. But in 2018, the Steiner showed a surprising level of that “brilliance”, and while I had anticipated a very different final blend, it ended up being 83% Steiner and 17% Dry Stack. It’s a pretty complete wine right now, and will easily age another 8 or more years with real dignity.
102 cases made; 94 points – Jeb Dunnuck