2019 Holdredge Petits Cadeaux Russian River Valley Pinot Noir - 95 points
This wine comes from the “Maratella” Vineyard, which is located on the “Laguna Bench” - a slightly elevated section of land that sits in the middle of the Russian River Valley floor, generally between River Road and Piner Road. The soils are known as “Huachica”, which is a clay-loam series. While some winemakers decry clay loam soils for Pinot, the simple fact is that well-drained clay soils can offer a remarkably deep flavor profile. The combination of well-drained clay soils doesn’t occur often in nature; in this instance, it is the result of an amazingly complex system of engineered subsurface drains. But this technical aspect pales in comparison to the meticulous farming- there isn’t a single leaf out of place.
Friendship makes for the best wines- in addition to loving the voice of a place, it is very important that our growers are people we like- it’s how the whole thing comes together. In part, what makes this vineyard special is the talent of my friend Mike Sullivan (winemaker and part-owner of Benovia Winery which owns the vineyard), who farms with a zeal that pushes the limits. Mike’s vision was to plant the clones a winemaker would want, including some very rare clones. I take different clones from a few blocks, but my two favorites make up the backbone of this wine- both are reputed to have originated in the French village of Chambertain, and are distinctive in that they produce incredibly tiny clusters; barely the size of the palm of your hand. These tiny clusters have tiny berries- so there is a lot of skin relative to juice- and skin is where all the good stuff like flavor and color comes from.
For a winemaker, these clusters are “little gifts” from nature (hence the name “petits cadeaux”; they are pretty much the structure every winemaker is thrilled to have cross their sorting table. I only wish there were more.
We take multiple clones from this vineyard and typically do two different picks a couple of weeks apart. This year, we used only the fruit from the first pick, which were the tiniest berry clones (90, 96, and Hanzell). That means a massive skin to juice ratio, which can lead to gloriously massive structure. But that doesn’t just happen on its own, and we did a ridiculous mount of hand punch downs to extract everything we could from those grapes. It was pretty much a textbook example of my “ideal” fermentation, and we ended up with 20 days of skin contact before pressing.
We always keep our “press cuts” separate from the free run juice, and we make our first cut at a very low amount of pressure. For context, our first cut is at a point many wineries consider “free run” juice, and we completely stop pressing at a point many wineries consider the beginning of press fractions. In 2019, I wanted a little more mid-palate structure, so we used 5% of the lower press cut which had just a little more grip (still “free run” by most winery standards).
The 2019 is slightly more high-toned than recent years, but still has its hallmark dark fruits (black raspberries, baked plums and really ripe strawberries), with a little note of crushed violets. It’s pretty and powerful, and I really like that combination.
We recently gave it a “test run” with seared Scallops in sage brown butter with a butternut squash gratin, and it was pretty amazing. We tend to drink this wine a bit sooner than some of our others, but this will continue to develop for another 8-9 years without any difficulty..
Drink now - 2031. Only 127 cases made. 95 Points Wine Enthusiast, 94 points Jeb Dunnuck