Monday, June 30, 2008

A few brief notes from Pinot Days

Yesterday saw the fourth Pinot Days event at Fort Mason in San Francisco. This very well organised event seemed larger than last year - the full list of participating wineries is here. There were a lot of new wineries that I'd never heard of before. However the number of participating wineries from the Santa Cruz Mountains was way down; several well known names were missing, such as Windy Oaks and Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard. Overall nothing really excited me; there were very few "wow" wines and no real revelations. Here are a few brief notes from the event - I would be interested to hear what you thought if you were there.

Richard Alfaro was pouring four 2006 wines from Martin Alfaro and Alfaro Family.
The Deer Park vineyard shows good fruit with earthy notes.
The Garys' vineyard was very rich, as is typical from that property.
The Schultze vineyard was delicious, my favourite of the line-up.
The Lindsay Paige is very structured; lots of tannin and acidity. Needs at least 3-5 years to really show.

Cathy and Craig Handley of Pleasant Valley Vineyards were pouring the 2005 and were previewing the unreleased 2006 Dylan David. The 2005 is light with an earthy finish. The 2006 was also light, showing much more fruit. The 06 seems good to go (though it won't be released until September); the 05 probably needs a year or two.

Craig informs me that for 2007 they also sourced fruit from the nearby Deer Park vineyard. They will have about 125 cases available, and it will be priced somewhat lower than the Estate, probably around $60. If all goes well they hope to make 250 cases in 2008.

Silver Mountain had the 2004 Miller Hill vineyard. This is from the land next to the winery and technically meets the criteria to be classified as Estate. It had a nice raspberry flavour to it, with good acidity. They were also pouring the 2005 Tondre's Grapefield (which I tasted but neglected to make a note) and the 2005 Muns Vineyard. This highly structured wine comes from the highest Pinot vineyard in the appellation at 2600 ft above sea level. It needs 5 years in the cellar to really show.

In contrast, at the next table Tony Craig was pouring his Sonnet 2006 Muns Vineyard. This is somewhat richer than the Silver Mountain and was generating something of a buzz - at least four other people asked me whether I'd tried it. Give it another year to let the oak integrate properly.

Sonnet also had three other Pinots from other regions, but unfortunately I neglected to taste them. Close by, Savannah-Chanelle were also pouring a couple of their wines, but neither was from the Santa Cruz Mountains and I neglected to take notes.

Brandon Brassfield was pouring the 2005 and 2006 Heart O' The Mountain releases.
The 2005 is excellent as I've said before, though it seemed more tannic than the last time I tasted it at the Vintners Festival. There are around 20 of the 180 cases left. The 2006 is scheduled to be released in September. It's a little softer than the 2005, but still very good. 500 cases were made. So far only half of the six acres are producing; there are two more acres suitable for planting, but the rest of the 150 acre estate is canyons and wilderness. They expect to be producing around 1200 cases in a few years.

Thomas Fogarty were pouring three wines:
The 2006 Corda vineyard from Marin County showed distinct notes of cherry cola.
The 2006 Santa Cruz Mountains is a blend from 5 vineyards of which 2 are part of the Fogarty estate. Very good value at $25, it had plenty of fruit and nice acidity.
In contrast the 2005 Michaud Vineyard had lots of tannin and not as much fruit.

Hallcrest were pouring a pair from 2004.
The 2004 Belle Farms has good dark berry, bing cherry and cranberry flavours. The fruit is sourced from a small family farmk in Watsonville.
The 2004 Barrel Select is a blend of 5 different vineyards. Though it has plenty of tannin it's rich and surprisingly easy drinking.

The sole representative of the Santa Clara valley was Sarah's Vineyard. Tim O'Kelley was pouring the 2005 Estate and Reserve. Both are rather good, with spicy cherry flavours. They also will be producing a Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot soon, from purchased fruit.

As I noted earlier, there were many others from outside the region, too many to name. David Dain Smith continues to produce beautiful wines on the Dain label. Freeman and Kanzler were both pouring great stuff. And Flying Goat had a very nice estate Pinot that was new to me.

If you're on a tight budget, there wasn't much for you, but I did enjoy 42 Degrees South from Tasmania that was being poured by The Jug Shop, and the 2006 Carmel Road from Monterey - both under $17.

Overall a very good event. Mark your calendar for next year.