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2018 Holdredge Pratt-Sexton Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir -95 points
One of the neighborhoods I’ve always wanted to work with is around Freestone. It’s an extremely cold area- it’s a pretty straight shot from Bodega (and the ocean) to Freestone and there is an amazing maritime influence on that area. That cold weather defines the wines that come from that area- with more modest alcohols and brilliant acidity (grapes don’t respire as much acid in cold air as they do in heat). The grower is Jim Pratt- a guy who quietly oversees some very special places. Jim and I talked about working together for years (actually I talked and he listened politely as I told him why he should sell me grapes). In any event, in 2018, it finally happened.
Jim has some great sites- among them this vineyard on Sexton Road (hence the name Pratt-Sexton). Sexton runs south from Bodega Highway (it’s the second road east of Freestone). The vineyard itself sits around a hillside at around 950-foot elevation, with very well-drained Goldridge soils, and in that cold climate, Dijon clones thrive and express incredibly well. It would be difficult to paint a more perfect cold-climate vineyard description, and the wines from this place exemplify that pedigree in many ways. Perhaps the most distinctive aspect of this vineyard is the pronounced savory character in the wines it produces. Ours is no exception.
We picked the 2018 after pretty much everyone else there did. I waited because the acidity was incredible and was holding, and I wanted to see if we could get a little more physiological ripening. Finally, a significant rain event was moving in, and we called for the pick. We’ve waited through rains before, and though it’s risky because sugars and acids can drop dramatically, it can also be very worthwhile. But in a really cold climate like this, you can’t count on sugars coming back even to where they were before the rain, and acids, once gone, don’t naturally come back. So we pushed it out until the last day before four days of rain swept in, and never regretted it for a moment.
The savory character I mentioned above defines this wine. There is an expression in France “sous bois”, which translates to “forest floor”, but not in reference to soil- but in reference to the aromas of a varying mélange of plants and underbrush, etc. In this instance, there is a pronounced note of pine needles and notes of dried herbs– imagine walking across a forest floor on a bed of pine needles- your boots never touching the soil, your jeans brushing against wild herbs.
But for me, it’s less about what I smell as I walked through that “forest” – it’s what I feel. Deep conifer forests have a quiet and patient voice, and this wine has that character. While it is a medium-bodied and medium-weight wine, there is a depth to it that reminds me in a way of the massive power of the Pacific, and how I feel when I standing by it, even on a perfectly calm sunny day. And since it’s pretty much right over the next set of hills, I guess that’s hardly surprising.
I think this is ready to go, and that savory character is going to present a really interesting counterpoint to a lot of dishes- cheeses, vegetable dishes, and perhaps especially savory casseroles and the like. It’ll be fun to watch develop, especially over the next 6-8 years, but it’s really drinking well right now. 105 cases made. Drink now until 2027