Monday, September 1, 2008

Great Blue Heron Vineyard

When Paul and Robin Smith built their home in Woodside about 10 years ago they approached Bob Mullen of Woodside Vineyards for suggestions on what to do with their estate. Bob recommended planting Pinot Noir; he oversaw the first phase of planting and took the fruit from the early vintages.
Later vintages were custom-crushed at Thomas Fogarty by Michael Martella, but Fogarty needed the capacity for their own use so Paul set up a winery in his three-car garage under Martella's supervision.

A group of us met at the vineyard last weekend. Wes had arranged a tour calling at Ridge for their "Taste of Monte Bello" event and at Woodside for their open house, but I had other commitments and was only able to make this event. I was accompanied by my one-year-old son which made taking notes impractical, so this is from memory.

The vines are now fully mature and produce enough fruit for 100 cases of Pinot Noir. Paul would like to increase production, but as ever it's a question of sourcing suitable fruit. The wine is sold at Roberts of Woodside for around $21 and is also at a few local restaurants, as well as being available directly from the winery. Unusually for Pinot the wines are bottled in Bordeaux-style bottles. This was done to give more space for the bottle label; the plan is to have a different label every year with artwork from local artists. The name Great Blue Heron comes from one of the resident wildlife who apparently helped keep the area clear of gophers when the vineyard was planted.

The first vintage was 2005, and was scored 86 by Wine Spectator. We tasted the 2006 and the newly bottled 2007. The painting that graces the 2006 label was the first to be commissioned by the winery and depicts a heron sitting on a lake. The wine had a reddish-brown colour reminiscent of an older wine; on the palate there was some candied fruit and a character I couldn't immediately pinpoint. On the way home I wondered if the wine was slightly madeirized.

The 2007 on the other hand had a more vibrant purple colour and really nice, rich cherry and chocolate flavours. I purchased a couple of bottles and plan to let them stand for a few weeks before sampling again; I'll probably end up going back for more. The label has a photograph of two herons in flight.