2022 Holdredge Rolling Thunder Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
“I woke last night to the sound of thunder.
How far off, I sat and wondered?
Started humming a song from 1962
Ain’t it funny how the night moves?
When you just don’t seem to have as much to lose
Strange how the night moves
With autumn closing in.
- Bob Seger, “Night Moves”
I first made this wine in 2009; the name was inspired by a massive thunderstorm that started as we were partway through picking the grapes. Around here, thunderstorms are pretty rare, and this was the biggest storm in the 40 plus years I’ve lived here. It was at once awe-inspiring and exhilarating beyond belief. The wine that year was powerful and expansive and rolled over the palate much like that storm rolled over the high slopes of the Sonoma Coast that night, making the name a no-brainer. Ironically, a couple nights before I opened a bottle to taste this and write these notes, we had some thunder pass through – maybe a coincidence, but it seemed fitting.
There is something about harvest that drives home the point of the frailty of life; maybe it’s just that it coincides with the days shortening and the nights lengthening, and the realization the vintage is ending. It’s a microcosm of our own existence I suppose. Rather than making me feel melancholy, I find myself inspired by the fact that this end is a beginning as Nature allows me a chance to start something new, to craft a wine that maybe, maybe, will stand the test of time. There’s a synchronicity to it I’ve always found appealing.
I loved the 2009 Rolling Thunder, and in the ensuing 13 years I have chased that flavor profile through vineyards up and down the Sonoma Coast. It’s not something that happens easily, or happens every year - there was no 2021 for the simple reason nothing I made sang that particular tune. The things that seemed to lend themselves to this profile were higher altitude vineyards, usually with a backbone of “old school” clones like Swan and Pommard. Patience in picking the wine is a prerequisite, as is the willingness to occasionally roll through autumn rains, although thunder hasn’t played a part since the first year.
The lengthy trek to this particular vineyard, situated on a ridge top just a few miles south of the hamlet of Annapolis, affords a lot of time to think about these things. Maybe it was the finality of knowing this was the last chance I’d have at making this wine, maybe I’m just getting old, but those drives seemed punctuated by echoes of my past. It’s hard to believe that I was once a kid from Michigan, whose car broke down in California and after almost five years of traveling found myself in a place that felt more like home than any place I’d ever been. How blessed can a man be, to have found a home, a woman who loves him, start a family, and build a dream that afforded the chance to experience the joy of being in service to Nature? I thought a lot about the moments I’ve had making this wine, especially how many customers have expressed their love for it. Those thoughts always ended with a smile and gratitude as those conversations flood back to my memory.
Because I’m usually the last one to pick the vineyards I worked with, its not unusual to find myself alone during an early morning vineyard check, in the morning hush, with the air cold enough to see my breath, the leaf canopy ravaged by some frosty nights, and the grape skins are showing that little bit of “pucker” that usually converges with a flavor profile I seek for this wine. I love that solitude, and the feeling that I’m about to start a journey that has an unscripted ending.
The morning I called the pick for the 2022 vintage had all those elements. I left home well before dawn, and arrived at the vineyard just as the sun started creeping up in the east. The air was cold, and it felt like no one had been there for a good while (I later learned the last pick there was 9 days earlier). I walked that block for a good while, just reveling in my final visit to that place to taste fruit. The flavors were astounding, the grapes were in excellent shape, but, like all my picks, it was really a matter of what I felt about the place, and what Nature was telling me.
I’m glad I waited- this was a shining star from the start. It reminds me a lot of the 2012 vintage. I went through my notes from that year and found a sentence that read “electric Kool-Aid red raspberry bunnies on acid”. I still have no idea what that meant, but this wine sure brought that back. Perhaps it is less “electric” and there’s certainly no rabbits, but it is packed with an array of red fruits that show a brooding depth not often found in wines with this flavor profile. And, like all its predecessors, it has that expansive mouthfeel that just rolls across the palate. I think it needs at least a year to start showing what it truly is about, and I think this one could go 12-15 years- there’s just that much to it. In other words, I don’t expect autumn to start rolling in on this wine for a long time. Only 150 cases made.