Belle Glos Las Alturas Vineyard Pinot Noir 2017
Deep garnet in color with an aromatic medley of black cherry, marionberry, ripe plum and a hint of anise. Dark fruit on the palate with flavors of wild berries, caramelized oak and cacao nibs complemented by subtle notes of vanilla, cedar and a hint of lavender and forest floor. Rich and unrestrained, this wine’s abundant fruit is beautifully balanced by firm acidity and layers of red and black fruit.
Belle Glos showcases distinctive Pinot Noirs produced from top growing areas along the California coast: the Santa Lucia Highlands of Monterey County; the Sonoma Coast, Sonoma County; and the Santa Maria Valley, Santa Barbara County. The climate differences are significant, depending on the amount of fog, wind, sunlight and soil type at each site.
Winemaker Joseph J. Wagner is a fourth-generation winemaker from a family with farming and winemaking roots in the Napa Valley since 1906. The name Belle Glos (pronounced BELL GLOSS), honors Joseph’s grandmother, Lorna Belle Glos Wagner, a co-founder of Caymus Vineyards.
Perhaps the most highly regarded appellation within Monterey County, Santa Lucia Highlands AVA benefits from a combination of warm morning sunshine and brisk afternoon breezes, allowing grapes to ripen slowly and fully. The result is concentrated, flavorful wines that retain their natural acidity. Wineries here do not shy away from innovation, and place a high priority on sustainable viticultural practices.
The climatic conditions here are perfectly suited to the production of ripe, rich Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. These Burgundian varieties dominate an overwhelming percentage of plantings, though growers have also found success with Syrah, Riesling and Pinot Gris.
One of the most finicky yet rewarding grapes to grow, Pinot Noir is a labor of love for many. However, the greatest red wines of Burgundy prove that it is unquestionably worth the effort. In fact, it is the only red variety permitted in Burgundy. Highly reflective of its terroir, Pinot Noir prefers calcareous soils and a cool climate, requires low yields to achieve high quality and demands a lot of attention in the vineyard and winery. It retains even more glory as an important component of Champagne as well as on its own in France’s Loire Valley and Alsace regions. This sensational grape enjoys immense international success, most notably growing in Oregon, California and New Zealand with smaller amounts in Chile, Germany (as Spätburgunder) and Italy (as Pinot Nero).
In the Glass
Pinot Noir is all about red fruit—strawberry, raspberry and cherry with some heftier styles delving into the red or purple plum and in the other direction, red or orange citrus. It is relatively pale in color with soft tannins and a lively acidity. With age (of which the best examples can handle an astounding amount) it can develop hauntingly alluring characteristics of fresh earth, savory spice, dried fruit and truffles.
Pinot’s healthy acidity cuts through the oiliness of pink-fleshed fish like salmon and tuna but its mild mannered tannins give it enough structure to pair with all sorts of poultry: chicken, quail and especially duck. As the namesake wine of Boeuf Bourguignon, Pinot noir has proven it isn’t afraid of beef. California examples work splendidly well with barbecue and Pinot Noir is also vegetarian-friendly—most notably with any dish that features mushrooms.
For administrative purposes, the region of Beaujolais is often included in Burgundy. But it is extremely different in terms of topography, soil and climate, and the important red grape here is ultimately Gamay, not Pinot noir. Truth be told, there is a tiny amount of Gamay sprinkled around the outlying parts of Burgundy (mainly in Maconnais) but it isn’t allowed with any great significance and certainly not in any Village or Cru level wines. So "red Burgundy" still necessarily refers to Pinot noir.