Ten years ago, we bought 40 acres of cow pasture and turned it into the vineyard we call the Brown Ranch. The name comes from the family that had owned it for more than a century. In 1991 we planted it to new Dijon selections of both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
The first harvest at the Brown Ranch was 1995. As soon as we tasted the wines, we knew we had something remarkable on our hands. The Brown Ranch has turned out to be a wonderful site for both cultivars.
Because all of our vineyard lots are fermented and aged separately we are able to track their progress in the cellar as individual wine lots. From the Brown Ranch there are eight different lots: three different clones are grafted to different rootstocks on two different soil types.
The ranch has a combination of typical Carneros clay loams as well as some more volcanic soil types and steeper hillsides. Yields typically range from 3 to 4.5 tons/acre (45-65 hl/ha). Though each has unique character, overall, the eight lots from this ranch show more rich earthiness and black fruit than the more red fruit characters of other lots in our cellar.
Late in 1996, tasting through the barrels, we decided to blend and bottle by itself a small amount from the very best of these lots. This became our first bottling of the "Brown Ranch" Pinot Noir. The wine is offered in six-bottle wooden cases, with a new package design that pays tribute to George Saintsbury.
We look forward to continuing the tradition of this bottling honoring both our namesake and the vineyard so integral to the future quality of Saintsbury wines.
Saintsbury specializes in Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The Chardonnay is fermented and aged in barrels coopered in Burgundy. Three styles of Pinot Noir are produced: "Garnet" is a fresh, lively wine full of cherry and raspberry fruit; the wine simply called Carneros Pinot Noir is a more classic rendition; and the Reserve Pinot Noir is the richest and most fully flavored of the vintage.
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Technically a part of Napa Valley, the Carneros region straddles both Sonoma & Napa counties. It's the Napa region closest to the San Francisco peninsula and the San Pablo Bay, which is instrumental in controlling the climate of the area. The winds from the San Pablo bay create a cool weather pattern ideal for growing Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
Both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from Carneros are delicate, yet complex, with firm structure and acidity. And while the pair are the most popular varieties of the region, some winemakers have branched out, particularly with Syrah. The cool climate Syrah of Carneros is well structured and stylistically similar to Syrah from the Northern Rhone, though often fuller-bodied.
It's not rare to see a wine's country of origin listed as "California." A country into itself in the wine world, California makes enough varieties and styles to match many European wine countries. It produces a diverse range of wines that span the quality spectrum.
The most famous of the California wine regions is Napa Valley, and these wines are certainly outstanding – but it's not as broad and diverse as its larger neighbor, Sonoma County. Down south, Santa Barbara's Santa Maria Valley is well-known for its Rhône blends, as well as cool-climate varieties like Pinot and Chardonnay. The Central Coast, the largest California AVA, has many different microclimates that lead to a wide range of wines with many sub-AVAs.
Most wine ranges from 10-16% alcohol by volume. Some varietals tend to have higher (for example Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon) or lower alcohol levels (Pinot Noir and many white varietals), but there is always some variation from producer to producer. Some wine falls outside of this range, for instance Port weighs in closer to 20%, while Muscat and Riesling are usually a bit below 10%.
Wine Style Guide
Light & Crisp
Light to medium bodied wines that are high in acid and light to medium fruit. Typically no oak.
Fruity & Smooth
Light to medium bodied wines with lots of juicy fruit, typically medium acid and medium oak.
Rich & Creamy
Full bodied wines that have typically undergone malo-lactic fermentation and/or spent time in oak.