Pursuing Perfect Pinot

I had an opportunity to sample nearly 100 pinot noir wines from 50 wineries last weekend and discovered in that ocean of red a few special bottles that would be worth re-visiting.

The event was the 5th annual Pinot Days at Fort Mason in San Francisco where more than 200 wineries were offering samples to more than a thousand imbibers.

My favorites came  from a pair of wine families with a history of success — Belle Glos Wines and Scherrer Winery –plus a couple of smaller producers like Enkidu Wine and Kastania Vineyards, whose fame hasn’t skyrocketed… yet!

Caymus Connection

Belle Glos Pinot Noir

Belle Glos Pinot Noir

Belle Glos winemaker Joseph Wagner made a pair of winners in the 2007 vintage from Taylor Lane on the Sonoma Coast and Las Alturas in the Santa Lucia Highlands in Monterey County. The Taylor Lane  was round, full-bodied and lip-smacking good while the Las Alturas was a bit lighter, racier and more whimsical.  Both have a suggested retail price of $60.

The winery is named for Joseph’s grandmother, who, herself, was a co-founder of the family’s much better known Caymus winery in Napa where their world-renowned cabernet sauvignon is produced. Click here for a video visit to Caymus.

Scherrer Sure is Good

Fred Scherrer has been working around wines all of his life. I’ve been especially fond of his zinfandels, but it’s the pinots that are now also in the spotlight. Fred started making wine from his family’s vineyard and then later honed his pinot production skills at Dehlinger, where he was winemaker for a decade.  By 1997, Scherrer formally started his namesake winery and it’s been his show ever since.

Scherrer Vineyard

Scherrer Vineyard

Fred poured three wines for me — a pinot triple play. I immediately fell in love with his fruit forward 2006 Sonoma, a $35 ready-to-drink, red brick colored mouthful of great pinot fruit. The Russian River bottling ($40) features red cherry flavors and a bit racier profile. The third sample was a wine called Big Brother-Sonoma Coast ($50) which had a more brooding character, slightly deeper color and overall an impression of greatness  that would unfold over the next few years.

There is no formal tasting room, but if you sign up for the winery’s mailing list, you will be invited to one of the three annual open houses held each year. The next Scherrer open house is set for the first weekend in August.

Starting Small with Big Flavors

I’d never heard of Enkidu Wines before I wet my lips with the 2007 vintage from the Tina Marie Vineyard in the Russian River Valley.  This $40 wine tasted of spicy strawberries with a hint of citrus on the nose. Very refreshing.

Winemaker Phillip Staehle takes a minimalist approach, preferring to let the fruit shine through with as little manipulation as possible. He does get a little help from the winery pooch, whose name is also Enkidu.

Phillip Staehle and Enkidu

Phillip Staehle and Enkidu

I thoroughly enjoyed the Enkidu 2007 Kiambrell’s, sourced entirely from a 1.5-acre vineyard near Sebastapol. This $45 wine tasted of mixed cherries and cranberries with a pure pinot nose that only hinted at the seamless, round taste. For a lower cost treat, try the $28 Sonoma Coast, a blend of several vineyards with a softer approach and sweeter cherry/berry flavor profile.

Enkidu gets its name from a character in an ancient Sumerian tale called “The Epic of Gilgamesh”. The tasting room, in Kenwood, offers samples daily except Tuesdays.

Blink and You Might Miss It

I’ve literally driven by the Kastania Vineyards winery — located on a hillside along Highway 101 just south of Petaluma — hundreds of times, but never stopped to check out what was happening. Now I’m kicking myself because I missed such an obvious jewel.

The 2007 Kastania Proprieter’s Reserve ($45) is a delicious pinot wine — like a liquid fruit pie with a dusting of cinnamon — made from grapes grown on the property by owners Linda and Hoot Smith. The winery, which makes 800-1000 cases of wine annually, is open for tasting, but only on weekends.

One Response to “Pursuing Perfect Pinot”

  1. Pretty in Pink « Wine Country Insider Says:

    […] Wine Country Insider Just another WordPress.com weblog « Pursuing Perfect Pinot […]

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